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Alan Smithee (also Allen Smithee) is an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project, coined in 1968. Until its use was formally discontinued in 2000,[1] it was the sole pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) when a director dissatisfied with the final product proved to the satisfaction of a guild panel that he or she had not been able to exercise creative control over a film. The director was also required by guild rules not to discuss the circumstances leading to the move or even to acknowledge being the actual director.[2]

Contents

History

Before 1968

Prior to 1968, DGA rules did not permit directors to be credited under a pseudonym. This was intended to prevent producers from forcing them upon directors, which would inhibit the development of their résumés.[1] The guild also required that the director be credited, in support of the DGA philosophy that the director was the primary creative force behind a film.[2]

First usage

The Smithee pseudonym was created for use on the film Death of a Gunfighter, released in 1969. During its filming, lead actor Richard Widmark was unhappy with director Robert Totten, and arranged to have him replaced by Don Siegel. Siegel later estimated that Totten had spent 25 days filming, and he had spent 9-10, and each had roughly equal footage in Siegel's final edit. But he made it clear that Widmark – rather than either director – had effectively been in charge the entire time.[2] When the film was finished, Siegel did not want to take the credit for it, and Totten refused to take credit in his place. The DGA panel hearing the dispute agreed that the film did not represent either director's creative vision.[1]

The original proposal was to credit the fictional "Al Smith", but that was deemed too common a name, and in fact was already in use within the film industry. The last name was first changed to "Smithe," then "Smithee,"[1] which was thought to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion, but without drawing attention to itself.[2] Critics praised the film and its "new" director, with The New York Times commenting that the film was "sharply directed by Allen Smithee who has an adroit facility for scanning faces and extracting sharp background detail,"[3] and Roger Ebert commenting, "Director Allen Smithee, a name I'm not familiar with, allows his story to unfold naturally."[4]

Following its coinage, the pseudonym "Alan Smithee" was applied retroactively to Fade-In (also known as Iron Cowboy), a film starring Burt Reynolds and directed by Jud Taylor, which was first released before the release of Death of a Gunfighter.[5] Taylor also requested the pseudonym for City in Fear (1980) with David Janssen. Taylor commented on its use when he received the DGA's Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award in 2003:

"I had a couple of problems in my career having to do with editing and not having the contractually-required number of days in the editing room that my agent couldn't resolve. So, I went to the Guild and said, 'This is what's going on.' The Guild went to bat for me. I got Alan Smithee on them both. It was a signal to the industry from a creative rights point of view that the shows had been tampered with."[6]

The name was also applied retroactively to the half-hour 1955 television drama The Indiscreet Mrs. Jarvis starring Angela Lansbury when it was released on VHS in 1992.

Progress

The spelling "Alan Smithee" became the standard, and the Internet Movie Database lists about two dozen feature films and many more television features and series episodes credited to this name.[7]

Downfall

Over the years the name and its purpose became more widely known. Some directors violated the embargo on discussing their use of the pseudonym. In 1998, the film An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was released, in which a man named Alan Smithee (Eric Idle) wishes to disavow a film he has directed, but is unable to do so because the only pseudonym he is permitted to use is his own name. The film was directed by Arthur Hiller, who reported to the DGA that producer Joe Eszterhas had interfered with his creative control, and successfully removed his own name from the film, so "Alan Smithee" was credited instead. The film was a commercial and critical failure, grossing only $45,779 in the US with a budget of about $10 million,[8] and the Rotten Tomatoes web site reports an aggregate critical rating of only 6% positive.[9] But the harsh negative publicity that surrounded the film drew unwanted mainstream attention to the pseudonym. Following this, the DGA retired the name; for the film Supernova (2000) dissatisfied director Walter Hill was instead credited as "Thomas Lee."[1]

Subsequent usage

Meanwhile, the name had been used outside of the film industry, and it continues to be used in other media and on film projects not under the purview of the DGA. Variations such as "Alan Smythee" and "Adam Smithee" have also appeared.[citation needed] Although the pseudonym was intended for use by directors, the 1981 film Student Bodies credited "Allen Smithee" as producer in place of the actual producer, Michael Ritchie. The film's director, Mickey Rose, took credit under his own name.[10]

Uses

The following are actual historical uses of the "Alan Smithee" credit (or equivalent), in chronological order:

Film direction

The following films credit "Smithee"; the actual director is listed when known:

Modified versions

  • Dune (1984) as extended and edited for broadcast television, directed by David Lynch; Lynch's screenwriting credit goes to "Judas Booth", an inside joke for Lynch, who states the studio betrayed (Judas) and killed (Booth) his film[citation needed]
  • Ganheddo (AKA GunHed) (1989) as released in the United States, directed by Masato Harada
  • The Guardian (1990) as edited for cable television, directed by William Friedkin
  • Backtrack (1990) as originally released in theaters, directed by Dennis Hopper, credited to Hopper in a "director's cut" for a subsequent video release
  • Scent of a Woman (1992) as edited for broadcast television, directed by Martin Brest
  • Rudy (1993) as edited for television, directed by David Anspaugh
  • Showgirls (1995) as edited for television, directed by Paul Verhoeven (who instead of Smithee used the pseudonym "Jan Jensen"). However, the edited, R-rated version of Showgirls that was prepared for release at Blockbuster was supervised and authorized by Verhoeven, and this version carries the director's name.
  • Heat (1995) as edited for television, directed by Michael Mann
  • Meet Joe Black (1998), as edited for in-flight viewing and cable television, by Martin Brest
  • The Insider (1999) as edited for television, directed by Michael Mann

Television direction

  • Tiny Toon Adventures, which often had inconsistent artwork and dialogue that had been rewritten at the last minute, had several episodes that were credited to "Alan Smithee"; some of these episodes were actually directed by Art Leonardi.[citation needed]
  • A Nero Wolfe Mystery, "Motherhunt" (2002), the 5th episode of the second season
  • It's Academic (June 19, 2006); this episode had numerous credits attributed to Smithee.[11]
  • Karen's Song first episode.
  • La Femme Nikita, "Catch a Falling Star", episode 16 of season 4 of US TV series, believed to be directed by Joseph Scanlan.
  • MacGyver, "Pilot" and "The Heist" episodes (1985).
  • Moonlight TV movie and pilot for an unsold series (1982) (not to be confused with the later CBS vampire series), directed by Jackie Cooper and Rod Holcomb.
  • The Simpsons, "D-oh in the Wind" episodes (1998), mentioned as the director's name in a film credits for a promotional video on nuclear jobs.

Music video direction

Other media

  • Daredevil #338–342, a comics series published by Marvel Comics: Writer D.G. Chichester learned during a brief break from the series that he was to be replaced; for the five issues he was obligated to write he demanded an "Alan Smithee" credit.
  • Strontium Dog, a 2000AD comic strip: In 1996, writer Peter Hogan was dropped from the series and his episodes rewritten, and demanded that his name be removed from the credits.
  • Eternal Sonata, a Japanese role-playing video game credited Alan Smithee for "Additional voices" in the US-release.
  • Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung, a 2005 CD by William Hung: "Alan Smithee" played guitar.
  • "Allen Smithee" was credited for the plot of the one-shot comic book Godzilla vs. Barkley.
  • In the Richard Bachman novel The Regulators, the script for an episode of the fictional cartoon Motokops 2200 is credited to Alan Smithee.
  • "Allan Smithee" was credited with "still store/V-play" on the post-game scoreboard credits at Yankee Stadium during the 2008 baseball season.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e "''L.A. Times'', "Name of Director Smithee Isn’t What It Used to Be"". Articles.latimes.com. http://articles.latimes.com/2000/jan/15/entertainment/ca-54271. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d Braddock, Jeremy; Stephen Hock (2001). Directed by Allen Smithee. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 081663534X. 
  3. ^ Thompson, Howard (May 10 1969). "Screen: Tough Western: 'Death of a Gunfighter' Stars Widmark" New York Times [1]
  4. ^ "Roger Ebert's review of ''Death of a Gunfighter''". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. 1969-05-12. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19690512/REVIEWS/905120301/1023. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  5. ^ Posted by Notorc @ 6/12/2006 11:45:00 AM (2006-12-06). "Postscripts: Almost Famous: The Spelvins, the Plinges and the Smithees". Notorc.blogspot.com. http://notorc.blogspot.com/2006/06/almost-famous-spelvins-plinges-and.html. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  6. ^ "MAGAZINE | FEATURES | DGA Awards Aldrich: Jud Taylor | VOL 27-6: MAR 2003". Dga.org. http://www.dga.org/news/v27_6/feat_taylor_aldrich.php3. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  7. ^ Internet Movie Database listing for "Alan Smithee"
  8. ^ "''Burn Hollywood Burn'' at Box Office Mojo". Boxofficemojo.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=burnhollywoodburn.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  9. ^ "''Burn Hollywood Burn'' at Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. 2003-08-05. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/burn_hollywood_burn/. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  10. ^ Student Bodies at Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ "''It's Academic'' credits". Abc.net.au. 2006-06-19. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s1682940.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 

External links








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