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Swiss Family Robinson


fredbaetz
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I was watching "Swiss Family Robinson" on TCM a few weeks back and got to wondering what ever happened to the 1940 version. It starred Thomas Mitchell, Edna Best, Freddie Bartholomew and Tim Holt. It seems Walt Disney bought the rights to the original and then destroyed all the prints, there's some VHS copies floating around and on You tube a terrible print. It is Orson Wells first film, he serves as off screen narrator.It vastly differs from the Disney, no pirates or kidnapped girl like the Disney version. It deals more with the wife who is very unhappy and the boys wanting off the island and more of their struggle against nature and the island. Unlike the Disney, which I really enjoyed, it doesn't become a Disneyland attraction. I hope someone has some more info on the lost film.

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*I do hope some prints may have survived in the hands of private collectors. Sooner or later, the film should be in the public domain, right?*

 

Not if Disney owns the rights to the version Fredb is talking about. Disney rarely lets anything fall out of copyright.

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I had a good friend (sadly, he's no longer with us) who was a serious film collector with a very large collection. He had a pretty nice 16mm print of the original version which I got to see many years ago and it was an excellent film. I remember him telling me that in all his years as a collector and with all his contacts, he never came across anybody else with another print. When he passed away, he left his collection to the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. I assume that print went with the others. If so, then we know that there's at least one print in good hands.

 

As for being it public domain, it doesn't really matter if there isn't any prints of it. Personally, if Eastman House does have a print, I'd much rather see somebody come up with the money to have it restored (which could then be copyrighted) and have a proper DVD release done. I hate the thought that horrible PD copies would be the only way to see it.

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Hi Fred,

I hope your wish to see a restored *Swiss Family Robinson* (1940) comes true, but if you'd like to see the public domain version, which is very entertaining and a bit closer to the *Johann Wyss* book than the wonderfully rousing Disney version, you can do so on youtube at this link below. Despite the flaws in the print and soundtrack, the story is well told and the cast, led by *Thomas Mitchell* and *Edna Best* is very good:

 

*http://tinyurl.com/qhcmx2*

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Thanks for the info,I'll check it out. It's so sad to think of all the films either lost forever or locked in a vault somewhere and never seem. I remember years ago while I was working at Warner Bros., I was talking to one of the editors they assigned to me and he had worked at Fox years earlier and he said he remembered one day he came to work and they had a dump truck at one of the buildings and they were throwing reels of films in to it and he ask what was going on and some new exec.said they were getting rid of a lot of these old movies no one wanted to see any more and they needed the space. Bill said he just shook his head and felt like crying...

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> {quote:title=fredbaetz wrote:}{quote} ...and some new exec.said they were getting rid of a lot of these old movies no one wanted to see any more and they needed the space.

 

It's sad to say that there have been stories of similar incidents around for years. The worst one I ever heard was that in the late 40's Universal cleaned out their New York City warehouse and tossed all their silent films into the Hudson River to be used as fill for some building project. Again, the excuse was "nobody wanted to see silent films anymore."

 

Yet, these were the very studios that in the 1970's, were having the FBI raid collectors' homes and seize their films for copyright violations. Most of those prints, ones the studios wanted destroyed to save space, had been saved by editors and other people concerned with our film heritage. The studios didn't want them, but sure didn't want anybody else to have them either.

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*Yet, these were the very studios that in the 1970's, were having the FBI raid collectors' homes and seize their films for copyright violations. Most of those prints, ones the studios wanted destroyed to save space, had been saved by editors and other people concerned with our film heritage. The studios didn't want them, but sure didn't want anybody else to have them either.*

 

Mark,

Word! Didn't they try to prosecute Roddy McDowell for having a collection?

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In 1974 his home was raided by the FBI and 160 16mm prints and over 1000 video cassettes were seized, No charges were ever filed, but I bet they didn't return them. All the studios had tunnel vision in those days and it hurt them and film lovers all over the world. I just watched "Swiss Family...." and found it to be a very good film with the entire cast in top form, especially Thomas Mitchell. It's not the Disney version but in all likely hood follows the book closer.

 

Message was edited by: fredbaetz

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Lynn, Fred is correct he wasn't prosecuted, but did lose his collection. There were others, but I don't recall any names, mostly behind the scenes people as I recall. In Roddy's case, he was well known and I think it all was mainly for show with the idea of putting the fear into other collectors. It worked, collectors from coast to coast were terrified that the next knock on the door would be the FBI.

 

Another thing I recall was that the feds would pose as both dealers and collectors and would advertise in film publications like The Big Reel and Classic Film Collector (which is now Classic Images). Anybody replying would most certainly get visitors at the door and could kiss their collections goodbye. I think unless they were big time dealers they got off with just having their collections seized and weren't prosecuted. Those were bad days for film collectors.

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