Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Roddy McDowell anecdote of the day

As the news hit this morning of the passing of Elizabeth Taylor (adios, Martha), being the curious movie buff I am I once again looked at the trivia page on IMDb for Cleopatra, the legendary fiasco that starred Taylor, Richard Burton, and Roddy McDowell (yes, Cornelius from Planet of the Apes).  The first thing listed in the trivia was that McDowell was denied a best supporting actor nomination for the film due to a "clerical error", and directed me to his bio page to get the rest of the story.

Right after it in the bio, I read this (which gave me more facial-expression-reactions than anything since Kirk Douglas at this year's Oscars):

"In 1974 the FBI raided (McDowell's) home and seized his collection of films and TV series during an investigation of copyright infringement and movie piracy. The collection consisted of 160 16mm prints and over 1,000 videocassettes. The value of the films was conservatively assessed at $5,005,426 by representatives of the movie industry. The actor was not charged and agreed to cooperate with the FBI. There was then no aftermarket for films, as the commercial video recorder had not been marketed, and studios routinely destroyed old negatives and prints of classic films they felt had no worth. Film buffs like McDowall had to purchase 16mm prints of films from the studios, or movie prints on the black market, or from other collectors.

He claimed that he had once had as many as  337 moviesin his collection, but at the time of the investigation he was not sure how many were still in his possession. He had bought Errol Flynn's movie collection, and had acquired other films through purchases or swaps. McDowall told the FBI that he had transferred many of his films to videotape in order to conserve space and because tape was longer-lasting than film, and subsequently had sold or traded the prints, plus other prints of movies he had lost interest in, to other collectors.

He said that he collected the films due to his love of the cinema and to help protect the movies' heritage. McDowall also said that being in possession of prints of his own films allowed him to study his acting and improve his craft. One of the films he had purchased, from American-International Pictures, was The Devil's Widow (1970), a movie he himself had directed. He explained that he believed that he was not in violation of copyright, as he was not showing the films for profit, nor trying to make a profit when selling his prints as he charged only what he remembered as the price he himself paid.

He believed he had purchased some of the films outright from 20th Century-Fox, but learned subsequently from his lawyer that his agreement with Fox meant the studio retained ownership of the prints, and that he was forbidden to sell, trade or lend them out. McDowall was forthcoming about the individuals he dealt with on the black market, and also named Rock Hudson, Dick Martin and Mel Tormé as other celebrities with film collections."

So, in short:

BAD MOTHER-shut your mouth!  I'm talkin bout Cornelius

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