Paramount no longer owns its pre-1948 titles, having sold them to MCA (now Universal) in the late 1950s, although there is one happy exception: they held back Preston Sturges’ Miracle at Morgan’s Creek because Jerry Lewis was remaking it as Rock-a-bye Baby. That’s why the classic Sturges comedy is now streamable free of charge. (Paramount was also the last major studio to make its films available for syndicated television use; by the time they dove in the pool there was little interest in such early ’50s black & white movies as Dear Brat and Darling, How Could You!. Sure enough, they are part of this YouTube channel today.)
Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has announced a year-long program of releasing one hundred vintage titles in the digital format, including ten films that have never been released on home video before: Raoul Walsh’s The Red Dance (1928), The Cock-Eyed World (1929), the rowdy, politically incorrect The Bowery (1933) with Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper and George Raft, Hello Sister (1933), which was begun by Erich von Stroheim, and the very funnySailor’s Luck (1933); John Ford’s Men Without Women (1930), Will Rogers and Janet Gaynor in the little-seen State Fair (1933), Shirley Temple in Mr. Belvedere Goes to Washington (1949), the Marilyn Monroe documentaryMarilyn (1963) and opera star Laurence Tibbett in Metropolitan (1935), the first official release from 20th Century Fox.
You can check out the first batch of films at www.itunes.com/foxfilm, which features a handful of John Ford titles: Doctor Bull with Will Rogers, Drums Along the Mohawk, My Darling Clementine, The Prisoner of Shark Island, Young Mr. Lincoln, The World Moves On, Tobacco Road, and The Seas Beneath as well as an eclectic selection of more recent selections including Alien Nation and Romancing the Stone. The rental price is a modest $3.99.
Sony has been supplying titles to a number of cable and satellite channels but also has its own outlet, Get TV, which my provider doesn’t yet offer, sorry to say. Where else can I revisit Hugo Haas’ Strange Fascination or I Love a Mystery? In its early days Get TV featured B Westerns from the early 1930s with Tim McCoy and Buck Jones, but now they’re scheduling TV series from the Columbia library as well as episodes of The Merv Griffin Show, vintage filmed series like Laredo, and Judy Garland’s variety hour from the early 1960s. If you want to learn more, go to www.get.tv.
For movie buffs, these encouraging developments means we have access to films that have been difficult to see, in any format. Anything that unearths dormant titles from the 1920s onward is good news as far as I’m concerned.