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Frank Capra's "Its A Wonderful Life."


blackandwhite11208
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The movie is NOT lost or destroyed. For many years, the copyright had run out on the film and it was in what is called "public domain". In the 1990's, NBC snapped up rights to the movie and now they are the ONLY ones who can show it, which they do twice every year during the holiday season. They've also licensed out home video rights to ONE company...but because NBC basically owns the film no one else can show it or release a video of it.

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Thanks. That's a very interesting piece of information. I have Frank Capra's book, "The Name Above the Title," and I would highly recommend it to any fan of his movies. It's fascinating. His knowledge and creativity were phenomenal. He had a chemical engineering background and had worked his way up in film, learning to cut film when he was quite young and moving on from there. His description of creating the underwater scenes in "Submarine" was awesome, done with a scratched-up aquarium, toy submarines and toy divers and creating the bubbles with sodium. He hated makeup and phony hairpieces on actors and wouldn't let them wear them, which was a huge departure for his time.

 

One thing I remember well from the book is his saying that "It Happened One Night" was more fun than anything. He said Gable was exactly like that character in the movie. Brash, fun-loving, and very down to earth.

 

His relationship with Harry Cohn is surprising. He insisted on having his, Capra's, name above the title on every movie, and Cohn caved on that, and dealt very fairly with him during their years together. He respected Cohn and didn't dislike him as so many did.

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As I recall, NBC's deal was for something like 20 or 25 years with the right to renew the contract for another similar length of time. Since it's become a "cash cow" for the network because of it's relatively low cost (when compared to the cost of new programming) and the fact that sponsors are lining up to their get commercials in it, I doubt NBC will be giving up those rights anytime soon.

 

As I've told people before, if you want to see it without commercials, within the next couple of decades, you better buy the DVD. I know a number of people who would never think of buying a movie but made an exception for "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

 

There is a bright side though, as you pointed out, all those horrible PD copies are gone. While I'm not sure I like the circumstances the movie really did deserve better than those.

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>Dothery said: I have Frank Capra's book, "The Name Above the Title," and I would highly recommend it to any fan of his movies. It's fascinating.

 

Yes, it is a fascinating read, but I understand that's because much of it is fantasy.

Don't get me wrong-I love Capra and he led a very interesting life and accomplished many things. But as it's an autobiography, you must take it with a grain of salt. Point of view may be skewed and memories embellished over time.

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> {quote:title=SonOfUniversalHorror wrote:}{quote}The movie is NOT lost or destroyed. For many years, the copyright had run out on the film and it was in what is called "public domain". In the 1990's, NBC snapped up rights to the movie and now they are the ONLY ones who can show it, which they do twice every year during the holiday season. They've also licensed out home video rights to ONE company...but because NBC basically owns the film no one else can show it or release a video of it.

NBC does not own the film, they merely lease it from its permanent owner, Republic Pictures, in the same way that ABC has kept renewing the broadcast license to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS from Paramount for over thirty years (the DeMille film is, in fact, the only vintage film (excluding silents, of course) never to be syndicasted to local stations).

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> (Capra's) relationship with Harry Cohn is surprising. He insisted on having his, Capra's, name above the title on every movie, and Cohn caved on that, and dealt very fairly with him during their years together. He respected Cohn and didn't dislike him as so many did.

Harry Cohn was rude, crude and brutal. Not someone you'd want to work for or whose company you'd seek, or even tolerate for long but, like Dickens's Scrooge, no one ever said he was dishonest. If he made an agreement, even if only verbal, he'd honor it, though he'd drive the hardest bargain possible (and be rude, crude and brutal while doing it). Still, he also respected people who stood up to him and fought him just as hard. Frank Capra wasn't afraid to battle Cohn, and that's why they were able to work together for as many years as they did.

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ginnyfan wrote: Of course if I remember correctly, that PD period when every PBS local started showing the film during the holidays is really what built the film's modern popularity.

 

Good point, ginnyfan. And in turn, without all those public domain showings which increased it's popularity, NBC wouldn't have taken the great interest that they have to take possession of the film for yearsd to come as far as television is concerned. On the other hand, it is avaialble on DVD, in a sparkling restoration, and what are the chances of such a great restoration if it wasn't for the film beings re-discovered.

 

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*Bugs Bunny had it right in 1946*

 

"Did you ever have the feeling you was being watched?"........courtesy of Hair-Raising Hare.

 

Speaking of idiots, take a look at 'Collusion' if you use Firefox. HOLY COW! When you see with whom the sites you visit communicate, the hair on the back of your neck will raise up.

 

Again, if you use Firefox, go to

 

Tools----------->Add-ons---------->Collusion--------->Enable.

 

Click on the icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen and prepare to be scared.smiley-surprised.gif

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> {quote:title=willbefree25 wrote:}{quote}

>

> Speaking of idiots, take a look at 'Collusion' if you use Firefox. HOLY COW! When you see with whom the sites you visit communicate, the hair on the back of your neck will raise up.

>

> Again, if you use Firefox, go to

>

> Tools----------->Add-ons---------->Collusion--------->Enable.

>

> Click on the icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen and prepare to be scared.smiley-surprised.gif

You have to have that add-on installed first before you can use it...I don't have it.

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Some history on this *ballet of the copyright* regarding "It's a Wonderful Life" taken largely word for word from the Wikipedia:

 

Liberty Films was an independent motion picture production company founded in California by Frank Capra and Samuel J. Briskin in April 1945. It produced only two films, It's a Wonderful Life (1946), originally released by RKO Radio Pictures, and the film version of the hit play State of the Union (1948), originally released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

 

 

Liberty Films was purchased by Paramount Pictures, and remained a subsidiary until 1951. In 1955, M. & A. Alexander purchased the movie.This included key rights to the original television syndication, the original nitrate film elements, the music score, and the film rights to the story on which the film is based, "The Greatest Gift". National Telefilm Associates (NTA) took over the rights

to the film soon thereafter.

 

 

A clerical error at NTA prevented the copyright from being renewed properly in 1974.Despite the lapsed copyright, television stations that aired it still were required to pay royalties. Although the film's images had entered the public domain, the film's story was still protected by virtue of it being a derivative work of the published story "The Greatest Gift", whose copyright was properly renewed by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1971.The film became a perennial holiday favorite in the 1980s, possibly due to its repeated showings each holiday season on hundreds of local television stations. It was mentioned during the deliberations on the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998.

 

 

In 1993, Republic Pictures, which was the successor to NTA, relied on the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Stewart v. Abend (which involved another Stewart film, Rear Window) to enforce its claim to the copyright. While the film's copyright had not been renewed, Republic still owned the original film elements, the music score, and the film rights to "The Greatest Gift"; thus the plaintiffs were able to argue its status as a derivative work of a work still under copyright. NBC is now licensed to show the film on U.S. network television, and traditionally shows it twice during the holidays, with one showing on Christmas Eve. Paramount (via parent company Viacom's 1998 acquisition of Republic's then-parent, Spelling Entertainment) once again has distribution rights for the first time since 1955.

 

 

Due to all the above actions, this is one of the few RKO films not controlled by Turner Entertainment/Warner Bros. in the USA. It is also one of two Capra films which Paramount owns despite not having originally released it — the other is Broadway Bill (originally from Columbia, remade by Paramount as Riding High in 1950).

 

 

 

 

 

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> If it's a Public Domain film, how can NBC have "exclusive rights" to it?

 

FredC,

 

It's no longer in the Public Domain. Republic Pictures took the case to court and was able to prove (according to Wikipedia):

 

While the film's copyright had not been renewed, Republic still owned the original film elements, the music score, and the film rights to "The Greatest Gift"; thus the plaintiffs were able to argue its status as a derivative work of a work still under copyright.

 

They were rewarded the copyright by the courts and since they own the copyright, they can license the film to NBC.

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Thanks for the information.

 

I think the new copyright laws passed during the past 20 or so years allow for things like this, and I think they allow for people and companies to re-copyright material going back many years, even if it has been in the Public Domain for a number of years.

 

And I also think that's the reason there are so many film "rights issues" in the courts today.

 

These can involve the film itself, the music, and the original rights to the original book or play or short story.

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Paramount only owns a few cues of the IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE score. Most of the score is published by Volta Music, Tiomkin's own publishing company, administered by his widow Olivia Tiomkin Douglass. Other cues are actually owned by Warner Bros. as music was tracked in from RKO Radio's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, composed by Alfred Newman. The replacement of Tiomkin's original music for George's revelation, and the removal entirely of other cues earlier in the score, caused an irrevocable rupture in the relationship between Tiomkin and Capra.

 

While I think replacing the revelation music was a mistake, the music in the earlier sequences (such as Mr. Gower slapping back young George's ear etc) was out of place and hurt the stark, realistic effect Capra had attained with his camera and actors.

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> {quote:title=willbefree25 wrote:}{quote}As if anyone would watch it on NBC.

>

> You'd have to be an idiot to do so.

 

 

 

It may suprise a lot of people here, but those of us who prefer to watch movies uncut and commercial free are in the minority. The vast majority of TV viewers grew up with commercials and frankly just they don't think twice about it.

 

Just look at AMC. It went from an uncut and commercial free format to running heavily edit films with five minutes of commercials every ten minutes. What happened? Was there a public uproar? A boycott? Did the villagers storm their gates with torches and pitchforks? Nope. The only thing that happened was AMC's ratings went up and they've made a boatload of money. The average viewer just doesn't seem to care.

 

 

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