Adriana and Harry Saltzman: Enemies of Orson Welles’s FALSTAFF
While talking to Gary Graver a few years before he died, he mentioned a list of people that he called, "The enemies of film."
Well, I think it is quite fair to say that ADRIANA SALTZMAN will no doubt go down in cinematic history as not just the footnote she might have been, as the widow of Harry Saltzman, but also as the selfish and very wealthy woman who prevented the greatest film in Orson Welles career from ever being shown.
Yes, ADRIANA SALTZMAN is a true "enemy of film," as defined by Gary Graver. I think most of Wellesnet's readers would agree with me about this point, especially after reading the two articles below, about what has been holding up theatrical showings and a DVD release of FALSTAFF for the last 25 years. Thus the Harry Saltzman legacy becomes one that most film lovers will find truly heinous.
Mrs. Saltzman’s actions are especially despicable since, as the widow of Harry Saltzman, the co-producer of all the James Bond movies until the mid-70's, she cannot by any means be considered in desperate need of funds.
Indeed, she is quite a rich lady, which is why one has to wonder why this modern Lady Macbeth is demanding such an outrageous amount of money for the rights to FALSTAFF?
Does Adriana Saltzman really think FALSTAFF is going to be some sort of huge box-office success if it is ever re-issued in theaters or on DVD?
Is she really hoping to get back the reported $750,000. that Harry Saltzman paid for the rights to FALSTAFF?
Well, I've got some important news for Mrs. Saltzman: FALSTAFF isn’t going to make anywhere near $750,000. if that is what you hope to get for it. What's more, I don't believe any sane person could believe that Harry Saltzman paid $750,000. for the rights to FALSTAFF in 1966. Perhaps I am wrong in doubting this figure, but if so where is the documentation to prove such a wild claim?
Of course, even if Harry Saltzman did pay such a extravagant sum, it clearly would have only been as a "patron" of Orson Welles art, because he surely couldn't believe he would see any huge profits from a Shakespearian film by Orson Welles, especially along the lines of what his other 1967 release, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE would eventually gross.
Here is what Adriana Saltzman 'supposedly' wrote when she granted special permission for FALSTAFF to be shown at the Locarno tribute to Orson Welles:
"I hope that this exceptional screening will mark the beginning of the unknotting of all the ties imprisoning this great gift from Orson Welles to our cinematic heritage."
To this I reply:
Dear Mrs. Saltzman:
What magnificent hypocrisy you weave into your Iago-like web of lies and deceit! If you truly have any interest in Orson Welles "cinematic heritage," might you not give up your fruitless desire to squeeze money from a film which cannot logically produce any income for you, besides a small percentage if it should ever prove to be even a small success?
Are you so destitute that you must prevent the world from seeing Orson Welles's greatest artistic triumph?
Did you not understand that your husband Harry invested money in Orson Welles FALSTAFF, in all probability, because he knew it was an artistic movie, not a commercial one?
I think, based on your actions in this case, you must know nothing about Orson Welles or his work. Otherwise you would realize how little chance you have of financial gain from the rights to FALSTAFF. On the other hand, you do the world a great disservice by keeping this masterpiece of cinematic history from being seen.
So your and Harry Saltzman's greatest cinematic legacy may well be as the producers who prevented the greatest film in Orson Welles career from being seen!
I hope that you will be be happy to know that by your actions you will have ruined your husband's legacy in all the histories of the cinema that will be written and talked about in Universities and colleges for years to come.
WELLES FILM IS HELD UP IN DISPUTE
By WILLIAM GRIMES
The New York Times - June 23, 1992
The Joseph Papp Public Theater has halted a scheduled two-week showing of Orson Welles's "Chimes at Midnight" after discovering that rights to distribute the film are in dispute.
The program director of the theater, Fabiano Canosa, said that on the advice of the theater's lawyers, he decided on Friday to close the theater until the question could be sorted out. No substitute film has been scheduled.
Mr. Canosa called the unexpected and increasingly complex wrangle "a nightmare." The theater had promoted "Chimes at Midnight" for three months and paid $2,000 to have a fresh print made of the 1966 film, in which Welles wove together the various Falstaff scenes in several Shakespeare plays.
Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times on Friday that in Falstaff Welles had found "the greatest role in his career." The Public obtained the film from Arthur Cantor, a New York theatrical producer, who said he was given a copy of it 10 years ago by its executive producer, Harry Saltzman, for whom Mr. Cantor had once worked. Mr. Cantor rented "Chimes at Midnight" to the Public for its Orson Welles retrospective in 1988, and to the American Film Institute in Washington and several colleges.
Mr. Canosa said yesterday that he had first learned of a question about the rights to the film from Elias Querejeta, a Spanish film producer, at the Cannes International Film Festival in May.
Mr. Canosa said Mr. Querejeta had told him he believed the rights to the film, which was made in Spain, belonged to the family of one of its producers, Emiliano Piedra, and his co-producer, Angel Escolano. Mr. Piedra, who died in August, also produced Carlos Saura's "Carmen" and "Blood Wedding."
Mr. Canosa said he later called Mr. Piedra's daughter Emma, who told him that her father and Mr. Escolano had registered the film for copyright with the Library of Congress in 1987.
After lawyers at the Public Theater had examined a fascimile copy of the copyright registration that Miss Piedra sent last Wednesday and found it to be valid, they advised Mr. Canosa to halt the showing of the film, Mr. Canosa said.
Mr. Cantor said yesterday that Mr. Saltzman had bought the rights to the film for $750,000 from the producers 20 years ago. About 10 years ago, he said, Mr. Saltzman sent negatives and a print of the film to him for safekeeping. "He sent the materials to me, and said please hold these for me and take care of them for me," Mr. Cantor said. Mr. Cantor said he had no document pertaining to the sale or any transfer of copyright from the producers to Mr. Saltzman.
"This all goes back to when the picture was shot and produced in Spain," said Bertrand Bagge, general manager of Omni Pictures in Paris, which is representing Mr. Escolano and the family of Mr. Piedra. "It went over budget, and Orson had to give the picture back to the bank." Mr. Bagge said he was in the final stages of negotiating American distribution rights with Julian Schlossberg of Castle Hill Productions in New York. Mr. Schlossberg, who also represents the Welles estate, distributed Mr. Welles's "Othello" earlier this year with Beatrice Welles, the filmmaker's daughter.
It was unclear yesterday just how rival claims to the film's rights would be settled. Mr. Cantor said that he was trying to reach Mr. Saltzman in Paris to obtain documentation substantiating his claim. The Spanish consulate in New York has referred Miss Piedra to its lawyer, Joel T. Camche, who declined to comment on the possibility of legal action. In the meantime, Mr. Schlossberg said of "Chimes at Midnight": "I intend to reach agreement with the owners and release the film, hopefully in the next couple of months. I want to do with 'Chimes' what I did with 'Othello,' to let people know he was more than a one-picture man."
On the merits of the film, all parties are in agreement.
"In a way, it's a positive thing, because it re-establishes the film as a major achievement," said Mr. Cantor. "It was really a dead duck for more than a generation."
BLACK AND MIDNIGHT HAGGLES
A retrospective is under way at the National Film Theatre in London, and yet his favourite film is not there
By CHRISTOPHER WOOD, The INDEPENDENT - October 2, 2003
In death as in life, the film career of Orson Welles continues on its fraught course. A retrospective is under way at the National Film Theatre in London, and yet Welles’s favourite film — and the one held by many to show the clearest signs of his genius — is not there. That film is the 1966 Cannes prizewinner Chimes at Midnight, based on the Shakespeare plays that deal with Falstaff — the mischievous eternal child and “tub of guts” who is naturally played by Welles himself. Nor can you walk into your local video store, or any store in Britain, and buy Chimes on DVD. And it’s not just the NFT that has been frustrated: at the moment, Chimes cannot legally be shown anywhere in the world.
Such a situation results from an extended legal wrangle that could be resolved following a trial in Paris this week. It all dates back to Christmas 1964, when something depressingly familiar happened to Welles: his film ran out of money. Chimes at Midnight was being shot in Spain, Welles having persuaded a Spanish company, Internacional Films Española, to back the project by promising also to make a version of Treasure Island (which he never did). One day someone looked in the pot, and it was empty.
A friend of the producer, Emiliano Piedra, put him in touch with someone who might help: the producer Harry Saltzman. Help Saltzman did: but it is Saltzman’s widow who has taken representatives of the Spanish producers, as well as numerous other parties, to court.
Saltzman was a Canadian whose extensive contribution to British cinema is too rarely acknowledged. In the late 1950s, with John Osborne and Tony Richardson, he founded Woodfall Films, and then produced three pivotal “kitchen sink” movies, Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which helped kickstart the remarkable, short-lived efflorescence of English film-making in the early 1960s. By 1964, Saltzman was wealthy from having co-produced several James Bond movies, and when he heard about Welles’s plight, he reached for his cheque book.
A contract, drawn up under French law, was signed by Saltzman’s company and the Spanish producers. Saltzman came up with $750,000, the film was finished, and Saltzman was granted world distribution rights excluding Spain and Portugal. But it is alleged that the terms of the contract — which determined how profits should be divided — were not respected, and matters were complicated further when Saltzman mandated another production company to do the distribution for him.
Directors of this firm, it is again alleged, decided some years later that they actually owned the rights. It was then taken over by a major French distribution company, whose bosses assumed that the rights to Chimes were one of the properties they were acquiring. Very messy. In 1998, Saltzman’s widow, Adriana, decided to clear things up by issuing writs against the various parties, and the trial eventually rolled in to the Palais de Justice in Paris two days ago.
Even with Saltzman’s cash, Chimes was made — as Welles said — by “cutting corners — and then cutting the cuts”. As winter 1964 wore on, snow became scarcer, and one scene that required it was shot with the actors dancing across white sheets. John Gielgud, who played Henry IV, could only come to Spain for ten days, so all over-the-shoulder shots used not Gielgud’s rear view but a double. In one scene, Welles maintained, all seven of the principal actors were actually stand-ins.
When Welles later claimed to be a charlatan, a faker, this was the sort of thing he meant. Like most artists, he cut corners, cobbled, compromised, committed frauds, deceived audiences, made them think they saw things they didn’t: like Falstaff, he cheated and lied. He was a traitor to literal truth: and yet truth shines out from Chimes at Midnight.
Rarely have such impoverished means led to such emotional richness. Many scenes in Chimes are magnificent, but perhaps the prime example of Welles’s improvisatory genius is the shattering battle sequence, filmed in a park near Madrid. For a few days Welles had the luxury of 150 men on horseback, but for the rest of the shooting, about a dozen actors stood in for the massed ranks of loyal and rebellious forces as they slogged it out at Shrewsbury. Through brilliantly inventive editing, one of the most exhilarating and convincing film battles — which thrills as it appals, as war tends to — came to the big screen.
And for this, thanks are due in part to Saltzman. According to Adriana Saltzman: “Without Harry’s intervention the film wouldn’t have been finished. François Truffaut said that by the time of Chimes at Midnight, Welles used to spend many evenings with powerful producers, who offered him cigars but wouldn’t have given him 100 metres of film. Harry was the only one who did it. Without him it would have been one more film by Welles that was never completed.”
It was rare for Welles to find someone who put his money where his cigars were. If French justice shows similar beneficence, within a few months Chimes at Midnight could be back on our screens.