20th Century-Fox recently released six classic MGM films on Blu-ray. Except that none of them are originally from 20th Century-Fox, or MGM.
Three of the films were originally released by United Artists: Annie Hall, Manhattan, and The Apartment. United Artists and MGM merged in the early 1980s, and for a long time was called MGM/UA. A few years after the merger, the company sold the MGM library to Ted Turner (along with the RKO and Warner Brothers library–long story), but kept the UA one. And at some point the company started calling itself MGM, again.
Actually, two of the other films, Rebecca and Spellbound, were also originally released by United Artists, but that was in the 1940s, when UA seldom owned the independently-financed and -produced films it released. Producer David O. Selznick owned these ones. Somewhere along the way, ABC acquired the rights. And now ABC has licensed them for home video to MGM, which is releasing them through Fox.
The final film, Notorious, has the strangest history. It started as a Selznick production, but Selznick sold the package to RKO in pre-production. He eventually bought the rights back, and it’s generally considered a Selznick film. So it too now belongs to ABC. I’ve owned DVDs of Notorious released by Anchor Bay and Criterion. The packaging for all of these discs have ABC copyrights in small print.
Such are the ways that classic movies move from one owner to another.
Some additional thoughts and facts about these movies:
I give my rare highest grade, A+, to two of these films, Annie Hall and Notorious.
Rebecca, Spellbound, and Notorious are three of the four films that Alfred Hitchcock made for Selznick. I don’t know why the fourth film, The Paradine Case, was left out, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the movie sucks.
Three of the six films won Best Picture Oscars: Rebecca, The Apartment, and Annie Hall.
All six films were originally released with mono soundtracks. MGM and Fox have wisely released five of them with the original mono transferred in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. The sixth, The Apartment, has been remixed for 5.1, and doesn’t include the original mono. Five out of six is pretty good.
I’ll be writing reviews of at least three of the six discs. Stay tuned.