×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sheldon Abend

Estate representative

This article was updated at 12:30 p.m. PT on August 28, 2003.

Sheldon Abend, colorful rep of author estates including those of Damon Runyon, George Bernard Shaw and Tennessee Williams, and whose name is linked with a landmark Supreme Court ruling that impacted film copyright, died Sunday in New York. He was 74.

Abend, former owner-prexy of American Play Co. and executive producer of the feature “Original Sin” and the TV version of “Rear Window,” is also known for doggedly pursuing the rights of “Chicago” to make the story into a musical despite a long and convoluted effort.

In a long and eventually successful battle against MCA (as well as director Alfred Hitchcock and star Jimmy Stewart), he won what became known as the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Rear Window decision” and established the “Abend Rule.”

The rule is that continued distribution of a derivative work (in this case the showing of the Hitchcock classic “Rear Window” when it played on ABC Television) during the copyright renewal period of the underlying work on which it is based (in this case the Cornell Woolrich story “It Had to Be Murder”) is an infringement of copyright if the underlying work was created or first published between 1964 and 1977; the author of the underlying work died before the renewal term began; and the heirs of the author did not grant the derivative work’s producer the rights to use the underlying work during the renewal term.

The legal battle and his efforts to win the “Chicago” rights were characteristic of the Runyonesque, Stetson hat-wearing Sheldon, a New Yorker by birth who became a boxer and coal-stoker on tugboats. With little formal education but a lot of chutzpah, he went on to work for American Play Co. in 1957 and became its owner three years later. Also in 1957, he established the Author’s Research Co. He became a literary consultant and rights negotiator for David O. Zelsnick, RKO General, 7 Arts Films, UA, Warners and so on.

He also was a former prexy of American Literary Consultants and was former chair of the Copyright Royalty Co. for Authors’ Heirs. Other estates he or American Play repped included those of Shirley Jackson, John Colton (particularly regarding the staging of “The Shanghai Gesture,” for which he was an associate producer) and Somerset Maugham. He also repped Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape.”

In addition he founded companies including the Million Dollar Movie Sound Track Co., American Concerts Inc., American Theater Collections and so forth. He continued to package, polish or produce various properties by Woolrich, Runyon and others and owned the rights to 53 RKO pics for nontheatrical markets.

Survivors include a son, grandson, longtime friend Renee Stewart and her son.

More Scene

  • The CalArts REDCAT Gala 2019 Honoring

    Pixar's Pete Docter Honored at CalArts REDCAT Gala

    Pixar’s Pete Docter reminisced about his days as a student at CalArts on Saturday night at the 2019 CalArts REDCAT Gala, where he received the Distinguished Alumni Award. For the wide-eyed boy from Minnesota, where life was more routine, attending CalArts “was a free-for-all. It was eye-opening in a lot of ways,” he recalled. “But [...]

  • Sasha Pieterse, Eli Brown, Sydney Park

    'Pretty Little Liars' Spinoff Unexpectedly Coincides With College Admissions Scandal

    It was a case of art imitating life at Saturday night’s Hollywood premiere of “The Perfectionists” — Freeform’s “Pretty Little Liars” spinoff about a scandal involving college students striving for excellence by any means necessary. The TV show’s debut was coincidently preceded by a real-life college scandal involving Hollywood celebrities who allegedly didn’t let a [...]

  • Keira Knightley'The Aftermath' film screening, Arrivals,

    Keira Knightley Talks 'Aftermath,' Alexander Skarsgård and Another Itchy Wardrobe

    The reigning queen of period pieces, Keira Knightley, knows a thing or two about historical clothing. “Lining. Lining is always important,” the Oscar-nominated actress playfully advised on Wednesday at the premiere of her post-WWII drama “Aftermath.” “If you get a lot of itchy stuff always put lining in it. I have learned that from having [...]

  • Priyanka Chopra

    Priyanka Chopra to Speak at the 2019 Women in the World Summit (EXCLUSIVE)

    Priyanka Chopra has just been added to the star-studded list of speakers at the 2019 Women in the World Summit. Chopra, who will be interviewed on stage by Women in the World founder Tina Brown, will discuss her career as an activist and entrepreneur. Recently, the “Baywatch” actress joined forces with Serena Williams in investing [...]

  • Jessica Chastain arrives at the 2019

    Jessica Chastain on Continuing to 'Balance the Scales' for Gender Parity in Hollywood

    Jessica Chastain‘s work for gender parity in Hollywood isn’t slowing down soon. “I have noticed, of course, now that it’s in fashion there are other people that are jumping on board, and honestly, I don’t care what their motives are,” Chastain tells Variety. “Because at the end of the day, the more we focus on [...]

  • 10 Latinxs to Watch

    Variety's 10 Latinxs to Watch Brunch Celebrates Diversity in the Community

    Saturday afternoon brought rising Latinx filmmakers and actors together at Variety’s 10 Latinxs to Watch brunch held in partnership with the 36th annual Miami Film Festival. The festive celebration, which took place at the JW Marquis Marriott’s Boulud Sud restaurant, featured a panel discussion moderated by Variety’s Malina Saval with the following five select individuals [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content