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Saturday, August 12, 2006


An On-Set Break During Life With Father


Here’s an illustrious gathering from the Warner Bros. 1947 hit Life With Father. From left to right --- director Michael Curtiz, production supervisor Steve Trilling, Jack L. Warner, Irene Dunne, William Powell, and the authors of the Broadway play from which the picture was adapted, Russell Crouse and Howard Lindsay. With a negative cost of $4.7 million, Life With Father was the most expensive of all Warner Bros. projects as of that year (beating the previous record of $4.4 million for Night and Day) and though it did sensational business ($6.4 million in worldwide rentals), the eventual profit was only $131,000. The present day ownership of Life With Father remains a little cloudy. Some would claim it resides in the public domain. As to the negative itself, I assume Warners has custody. Competing claims and/or underlying literary rights may have delayed its appearance on DVD, though it would certainly be a welcome title for most collectors. I seem to remember CBS running it years ago as one of their prime time network movies. Otherwise, the only sightings I can report have been confined to super market bargain bins where Life With Father can be had for as little as one dollar. You can imagine the quality of those transfers. Until the rights question is (hopefully) settled, this will probably remain an orphan title…

4 Comments:

Anonymous Dean said...

Funny you should mention "Life with Father". Last night at 10 PM I was with my son at Wal-Mart to get a fishing license when I spied a rack of $1 DVDs near the check out register. I bought a double feature “My Man Godfrey” and “Life with Father” put out by DIGIVIEW Productions. Although they are both obvious transfers from someone’s private print, the quality is more than acceptable. I only quickly screened them this morning as I am waiting for my son to pick me up (he should have been here at 4:30 AM!) and I saw only a very few scratches from the dup print. The color (for “Life with Father”) could be better as well as the contrast for both features, but I have seen much worse transfers on cheap bin DVDs. The sound is fine. I believe I have seen the Criterion DVD for “My Man Godfrey” but compare that price with my $1 special and you can see the value of my purchase!

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Griff said...

I can't recall where I read this -- possibly in an article years ago on the then-burgeoning public domain video market -- but I'm given to understand that Warners' costly deal for the FATHER rights apparently included a rights reversion clause; after a certain number of years, ownership of the picture itself would revert to the playwrights. Accordingly, the story went, the legal responsibility for copyright renewal for the film rested with the authors, and -- as happened far too many times with movies that had changed hands for one reason or another -- the renewal papers were never filed.

I wonder if the above was actually the case; I've never seen this detail discussed anywhere else.

At any rate, I like FATHER -- with Powell and Dunne, and that script, what's not to like? -- but it may not have been the ideal Warners production. For some reason, every time I see it, I find myself wishing that the Fox artisans who made Lubitsch's HEAVEN CAN WAIT such a ravishing period piece had handled the physical production. At the same time -- with the grestest respect to FATHER's Michael Curtiz, who helmed so many different pictures with skill and energy -- I kinda wish that someone like Clarence Brown had directed it. Anyway, it's still a good movie.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Jack said...

Warner was good enough to release TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY on DVD, in a very good transfer from the original negative, and that one is everywhere on cheapo public domain discs, so maybe there's still hope for LIFE WITH FATHER.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish Warner would release this movie - it's such a classic! Rescue it from public domain hell, please.

In the meantime, I sure would like to find that DIGIVIEW cheapie DVD than Dean mentioned... I searched Amazon.ca and the only double feature of Life With Father & My Man Godfrey that came up, was a version supposedly released by Pop Flix. Says Pop Flix on the front cover art too. Is that the right one?

10:37 PM  

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