Peter Bart’s article, “The Word Of Heston Is Carved In Stone,” (VARIETY, Dec. 31) notes that Charlton Heston was the first major star to trade upfront salary for a piece of the gross. But participation contracts go back a lot further than that.
In 1930 the Marx Brothers signed a three-picture deal with Paramount to do “Monkey Business,” “Horse Feathers” and “Duck Soup” at $200,000 per film as an advance against 50% of the net profit on each film. Since nobody else had a participation contract, it was easy enough for the studio to load expenses against the Marx films.
It was nearly 35 years before any of the films earned their advance and the Marxes began to actually participate.
New Hope, Pa.