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New York Times (09/Jul/1980) - 5 Hitchcock films may surface



5 Hitchcock films may surface

Alfred Hitchcock's death two months ago at the age of 80 may mean that five of his movies - "Rear Window," "Vertigo," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "The Trouble With Harry," and "Rope" - will once more be available to filmgoers.

Mr. Hitchcock, who owned the five films, took them out of circulation five years ago for what his agent, Herman Citron, would only describe as "private reasons." Despite hundreds of requests each year, primarily from college film societies and revival cinemas, he refused to allow the movies to be shown. Now, said Mr. Citron, who handles the Hitchcock estate's movie affairs, "I think they'll go back into circulation."

Mr. Hitchcock's ownership of the five movies is almost unique. "Rope" (1948) was financed by Warner Bros., the other four films by Paramount during the 1950's. The rights reverted to Mr. Hitchcock eight years after the films were released. The rights to "Psycho" (1960) also reverted to Mr. Hitchcock, but he then sold the film to Universal.

Others Also Had Ownership

"For the rights to a studio-financed film to revert to the director is almost unheard of," said Karla Davidson, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's general counsel. "If a studio puts up 100 percent of the financing and takes 100 percent of the risk, the studio keeps the rights." "North by Northwest," which was made by Mr. Hitchcock for M-G-M immediately following the four Paramount movies, is owned by M-G-M.

During Hollywood's early days, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin owned their films. The situations are not comparable, because they also owned the studio that made the films. In a similar recent case, George Lucas owns "The Empire Strikes Back" because his Lucasfilm financed the movie.

Almost the only people to own studio-financed movies are Mr. Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Cary Grant.

A Different Tax Situation

Mr. Preminger confirmed that the rights to two movies he directed, "The Moon Is Blue" (1953) and "The Man With the Golden Arm" (1956), reverted to him approximately 15 years ago. The rights to "Indiscreet," released by Warner Bros. in 1958, plus the rights to a series of films made at Universal in the late 1950's and early 60's - "Operation Petticoat," "That Touch of Mink," "The Grass Is Greener" and "Father Goose" - reverted to Cary Grant "after six or eight years of distribution," Mr. Grant said. He added: "Most of the revenue was exhausted by that time. In those days the tax on earned income was up to 94 percent, so we tried to spread the income out. Nowadays most actors like to take their money up front because the maximum tax is 50 percent."

Mr. Citron would not elaborate on why he arranged for the rights to the five Hitchcock films to revert to Mr. Hitchcock, beyond saying, "The only deal I would make with Paramount was a license for eight years."