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Studios Open Their Vaults—Even Wider

Even as film buffs bemoan the downsizing of the DVD market, major studios are making more of their vintage titles available in other ways. Paramount has just launched a YouTube channel on which, amazingly, they are streaming a diverse assortment of pictures from the 1950s and ’60s—for free—from Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Artists and Models to Elvis Presley in King Creole. A variety of film clip packages cover movies of the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond. The studio’s inventory includes titles from Republic Pictures, like John Wayne in The Fighting Kentuckian and the Batjac library, including Budd Boetticher’s terrific Western 7 Men From Now, with Randolph Scott. When you sample one of these films you discover even more that are available, like Here Comes the Groom and Riding High with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope in Casanova’s Big Night, and Jean Arthur in The Devil and Miss Jones.

The-Miracle-of-Morgans-Creek-1944-TWKParamount 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.

Rochelle Hudson and Will Rogers in John Ford’s 'Doctor Bull' (1933)

Rochelle Hudson and Will Rogers in John Ford’s ‘Doctor Bull’ (1933)

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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