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Journey of a classic

Letter to the editor

To the Editor:

In his Nov. 25 article on the forthcoming remake of “The Manchurian Candidate,” Michael Fleming repeats the urban legend that Sinatra withdrew the film from release after Kennedy’s assassination. As the man responsible for the film’s 1988 reissue (when I was at MGM/UA Classics), I know exactly what the truth is — and alas, it’s far more prosaic than that.

The film was certainly around post-11/22; in fact, CBS was still broadcasting it in prime time as late as the early ’70s. What really happened was that the original deal was for 10 years — and it was, to put it charitably, not a very good deal. When the time came to renew in 1972, the attorneys simply chose to take the movie back and bury their “mistake.” (Sinatra, then in his short-lived retirement, considered it old news and wasn’t concerned one way or the other.)

And so it remained “lost” until 1987, when synchronicity struck: Sinatra had new attorneys with no ax to grind, and the New York Film Festival requested it for its 25th anniversary. The festival reaction was so overwhelming that MGM/UA immediately struck a new — and much fairer — deal to reacquire the rights.

We opened the film in February 1988 to rave reviews and enormous business (theatres in L.A. and D.C. played it for more than 30 weeks, well after the video came out), and it has remained in release ever since.

I’m proud of my association with the picture, and it’d be nice if we could bury this old wives’ tale once and for all.

Schlesinger is Vice President of Sony Pictures Repertory

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