Who is Alan Smithee?
Created in 1968 and used until it was formally discontinued in 2000, there is no Alan Smithee. Instead, it was the pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) when they were dissatisfied with the final product. In order to use the name, it had to be voted on to the satisfaction of a guild panel that they 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 movie or even to acknowledge being the project’s director.
One of the movies that we’ll cover today, Death of a Gunfighter, was the reason why Smithee was invented. Actor Richard Widmark was unhappy with director Robert Totten and wanted him replaced with the director he wanted in the first place, Don Siegel. Siegel believed that he had spent 9 to 10 days filming, while Totten had spent 25 days. Each had roughly an equal amount of footage in the final edit, but Siegel stated that Widmark had effectively been in charge the entire time, so he didn’t want the credit. Totten refused to take credit in his place. The DGA panel agreed that the film did not represent either director’s creative vision — the DGA believes in the auteur theory that the director is the singiular creative voice behind a movie — so the name Alan Smithee took their place.
After a few decades, people started catching on and some directors violated the embargo on discussing their use of the name. In 1997, the An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was made, a movie in which Alan Smithee (Eric Idle) can’t take his name off a movie because he will have to still have his name on it. It was directed by Arthur Hiller and ironically, he used the Alan Smithee title because Joe Eszterhas had too heavy of a hand.
April 28: Alan Smithee — IMDB has 115 movies credited to the Alan Smithee pseudonym, which was created by the Directors Guild of America for use when a director doesn’t want their name on a movie.
Here are some movies to get you started:
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983): One of the few times an assistant director is listed as Alan Smithee, due to Anderson House being upset over the death of Vic Morrow and two child actors.
Bloodsucking Pharaohs In Pittsburgh (1991): Director and co-writer Dean Tschetter’s name was listed as Alan Smithee to indicate his dissatisfaction with the final film.
Stitches (1985): Rod Holcomb was unhappy with this and asked for his name to be taken off of it.
Appointment with Fear (1985): Directed by Ramsey Thomas for Moustapha Akkad — who was the producer behind Halloween — as Deadly Presence. After Akkad saw the director’s cut, he fired director Thomas and re-shot a considerable amount of new footage and re-edited the movie himself. Thomas declined to be credited as director.
The Birds II: Land’s End (1994): This is not the first — or the last — sequel that Rick Rosenthal would make, what with being part of the best Halloween sequel and the worst. He made sure his name was not on this movie, as Alan Smithee is credited.
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1986): Kevin Yagher left the production after Miramax demanded new scenes be shot. The new scenes and re-shoots changed several characters’ relationships, gave the film a happy ending, introduced Pinhead earlier and cut 25 minutes of the director’s cut — so many changes that he was able to use the Alan Smithee credit.
Dune (1984): David Lynch refuses to have anything to do with this movie. A television version was aired in 1988 that replaced the opening monologue with a much longer description of the setting that used concept art stills. Lynch disavowed this version and used Alan Smithee as his credit. For the extended and television versions, Lynch used the credit Judas Booth — a combination of Judas Iscariot and John Wilkes Booth — for his screenwriting credit.
What are you watching today?