Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Very Early in the Morning

with 5 comments

I usually get up just about an hour from now.  Today,  however, I have been up since 1:30, having gone to bed at ten, because–well, whatever.  I have cats.  Two cats, to be exact.  Tonight, one of them decided I needed to be awake.

Of course, once I was awake, he paid no more attention to me at all, but that’s how that works.

So right now, being completely whacked out, I want to ask a very simple question:  what brings companies to decide to put old movie onto DVD, or not?

There are, out there, two  movies I desperately, desperately want to own:

Take Care of My Little Girl, a postwar Jeanne Crain thing about college sororities and returning veterans.

The Girl He Left Behind a  movie with Natalie Wood in it (in a feather cut, of all things) but before the days of her stardom, about a guy who is completely irresponsible, ends up drafted, and gets turned around.

Now, these are not secretly wonderful, unacknowledged screen gems.  They’re essentially A- to B+ features that I just happen to like a lot.

And I don’t own them–it’s been nearly 30 years since I last saw Take Care of My Little Girl.  I saw The Girl He Left Behind about a month ago because it showed up on TCM or Antenna TV or one of those channels.

But the simple fact is that I want them, and I don’t own them, because they are not available to own in any legitimate way.  You can get pirated copies of Take Care of My Little Girl, but–

Well, let’s face it.  I own hundreds of copyrights.  I don’t buy bootleg DVDs, not only because it’s a form of theft, but because I want other people respecting my right to my own intellectual property.

So all I want to know is this:  why aren’t these movies available for sale on DVD?

I know all the usual answers, but they don’t really hold up.  Yes, of course, more popular movies are more likely to be offered on DVD than less popular ones, but lots and lots of small movies have made the transition and are on offer.

Both Natalie Wood and Jeanne Crain are actresses with followings.  Both of them were released as A films.  Neither of them is smaller or less important than, say, Magnificent Obsession or half a dozen other forgetable movies you can pick up any time you want.

And, quite frankly, either one of them would be wonderful to have right this minute, when I know I’m not getting back to sleep again  until nearly dawn, and I’m far too messed up to read John Locke or watch anything serious.

Even Bach’s Concerto in D Minor is too difficult for me to listen to when I’m this tired, and that’s my favorite piece of music in the world.

This is not, obviously, a Really Serious Problem.  It will not cure unemployment or cancer or the epidemic of cheating by teachers and administrators on standardized tests.

It’s just that–I mean, sheesh.

This is what capitalism is supposed to be–and usually is–good at.

And here I sit, at four o’clock in the morning, totally bereft.

Maybe I’ll go watch Too Big To Fail, a movie that was nominated for 11 Emmys for simplifying the hell out of the nonfiction book of the same name, and making Hank Paulson a hero.

The mind may boggle, but it does not require a lot of linear thought.

Written by janeh

August 22nd, 2012 at 3:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses to 'Very Early in the Morning'

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  1. I never thought that capitalism was particularly good at providing a variety of goods to a variety of markets. Like democracy, perhaps, better than the alternatives, but not good in any real sense. It is especially not good at providing for people who have minority tastes in small markets. Its representatives are really good at explaining why you can’t have X or Y because ‘there’s no demand’ when obviously you have a demand for them, it’s just not big enough to make a profit on (or, OK, sometimes, especially in transportation, break even, but even I don’t expect a capitalist to go broke bringing me the kind of entertainment or clothing or other items I want).

    The internet has been a godsend in the way it opens up opportunities for me to get what I want – sometimes, and if I can afford it.

    Other times – well, maybe the rights are tied up in some legal problem, or maybe the potential profit isn’t quite high enough.


    22 Aug 12 at 8:53 am

  2. I’d have said the capitalism and manufacturing parts work pretty well–as witness those huge and cheap collections of old public domain movies and TV shows for sale cheap in Target, and the century-old POD books at Amazon.

    But if the copyright holder isn’t interested or can’t be found, that’s another matter. Of the 40 books I still can’t download to my kindle, six are Orania Papazoglou copyrights. (I understand the two of you are very close. Perhaps you could speak to her? I know. Someday.) Sometimes laws or corporate bureaucracies raise the minimum sales necessary to make release worth fooling with. We probably can’t help the bureaucracies, but we ought to be able to streamline the law.
    In particular with the “can’t find/don’t know the copyright holder problem,” I see two possible solutions. One would be the ASCAP model, used for broadcast music. Up to a certain number, if you need or want something, just make the copies and send a check to an agency whose job it is to sort out who owns the rights. The other would be the real estate model: tax a copyright holder one cent per copyright per year, payable no more than five years in advance, and from that have a list of names and addresses of copyright holders, so we can find out whether someone still protects a particular work, and appeal to them for release or offer to buy the rights. (The Author’s Guild, of course, has no interest in either, and has fought every effort to make “orphan books” available.)

    But if Disney values their corporate reputation more than the potential sales of EARTH STAR VOYAGER, or Georgette Heyer thinks FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK wasn’t up to her standard, then we’re pretty much stuck, and maybe rightly so.


    22 Aug 12 at 9:25 am

  3. Well, I’m talking about movies, not about books, which are not part of the same copyright issues. Studios own them, and the studios in question are still in business.

    And from what I hear, all 5 of the Pay McKenna novels will be ebooks within the year.


    22 Aug 12 at 9:28 am

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