Abashed and quite miserable, Cybill and I flew to Europe for a couple of weeks. When we returned, I went to the Music Hall to see the picture with a fresher perspective. I hated it. We went back to Los Angeles and I told the studio head (it was Alan Ladd, Jr.) that I felt we had wrecked the work, and that I would like to recut it at my own expense. He said to go ahead but didn't let me pay for this revised edition, which I thereafter referred to as "the TV version." To be honest, I wasn't that happy with this pass either, but felt it was certainly far better than the theatrical release. And that was that. I moved on.
Then, just a couple of years ago, a friend called to tell me that Netflix was streaming At Long Last Love on their system. I decided to take a look at it that way; I hadn't seen the movie in 35 years. This led to an astonishing discovery: Watching the movie as it streamed by, I quickly began to realize that it was quite a different version than either the theatrical or the TV editions. Scenes and sequences that I had removed were back in; scenes I had left in were out; some of the song numbers were shortened, and some were lengthened. It was an edit that, if anything, was much closer to the very first preview cut which we had discarded in dismay. But it was sharper, better. In fact, it was the best version of the movie I had ever seen. And I loved it!
Well, eventually I was able to piece together what had happened: A man named James Blakely had been in charge of the Fox editorial department for something like 50 years, and he had passed away just a couple of years before. It seems that as a youngster he had been involved as a performer in a number of stage musicals, and that he was a die-hard fan of Cole Porter's songs. Obviously, he had liked the dailies of our film as they came in, and was apparently less than pleased with the editing we did on any of the versions. After the shouting had died down, it looks like he went about restructuring the movie, following the original script, specifically making sure that the story-line of the characters was clear and that extraneous numbers were deleted, but relevant songs reinstated or expanded. When he was happy with the result, he turned that version over to distribution. And his cut was being seen (on TV and cable) as early as 1979, less than four years after the initial release. So, all those times people came over to me and praised the film they had seen, they were not referring to any cut of mine, but to Jim Blakely's!
Now, of course, Blakely never told anyone what he had done because contractually I had final cut so his actions officially put the studio in breach. Well, I called 20th Century Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos, who is a friend, and told him the whole story. He was as amazed as I had been. "You mean there's a cut of the picture you didn't control or approve and you like it?!" Yes, I said. "Well," he responded, accurately, "that's one for the history books!"
The studio's home entertainment department, decided to release the picture on Blu-ray on June 4, and we went about cleaning it up, fixing certain passages and adding one more important sequence, lasting a minute and a half, but in need of considerable restoration work, which is probably why Jim Blakely had left it out. The result is an absolute joy for those of us who toiled so hard on it, lo those many moons ago. Burt Reynolds (the top-billed star) said it was like an entirely new picture. And he is right. It's the movie we had wanted to make, in all its intended glory, resurrected by a man none of us had ever met, but to whom we will be eternally grateful.
RT @FilmFestLocarno: Tomorrow, 14 Dec at 19:15 @FilmLinc NY, @CarloChatrian and @Blogdanovich will introduce "Adam's Rib" (George Cukor Ret…Posted 4 hours ago
Tomorrow, 14 Dec at 19:15 @FilmLinc NY, @CarloChatrian and @Blogdanovich will introduce "Adam's Rib" (George Cukor Retrospective)Posted 4 hours ago
RT @FilmLinc: Tix: http://t.co/67uCJknzp3 RT @CarloChatrian: Proud and thrilled to introduce Adam's Rib @FilmLinc SAT 14th evening along w/…Posted 23 hours ago
RT @FilmLinc: Tix: http://t.co/67uCJknzp3 RT @CarloChatrian: Proud and thrilled to introduce Adam's Rib @FilmLinc SAT 14th evening along w/…Posted 1 day ago