A ‘Manchurian’ myth
IN his review of the new John Frankenheimer DVD box set, Dennis Lim repeats the urban legend that Frank Sinatra withdrew the film from release after Kennedy’s assassination [“Recapping a Career Beyond ‘Manchurian’,” Jan. 20]. As the man responsible for the film’s 1988 reissue (when I was at MGM/UA Classics), I must once more try to put this myth to rest.
By late 1963, the film had simply played out. The original deal was for 10 years, and it was, to put it charitably, not a very good one. When the time came to renew in 1972, Sinatra’s attorneys opted to take the movie back and bury their “mistake” [of having accepted the original deal].
And so it remained “lost” until 1987, when the New York Film Festival requested it for its 25th anniversary. By then, Sinatra had new attorneys with no ax to grind and they consented [to release the film]. The 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 fabulous reviews and tremendous business, and it has stayed available for theaters, TV and home entertainment ever since. But it was never “withdrawn” prior to 1972.
Schlesinger is the repertory director at Sony Pictures.