Where is the Hollywood Series?

John Bailey, Kevin Brownlow and Ben Mankiewicz
(photo sourced from Classic Movie Favorites website)

On April 13, 2019 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Kevin Brownlow was presented with the 2nd Robert Osborne Award. Last year’s recipient was Martin Scorcese. The ceremony was held on the Saturday night of the 10th annual TCM Classic Film Series, before a screening of a new digital restoration of Brownlow’s film It Happened Here. TCM posted a video of the acceptance on its YouTube channel.

You just may have noticed a jump-cut in the middle of the video. This was probably a difficult edit to make, considering that Mr. Brownlow used this award speech as a moment to make an important point – impassioned, really – about film rights and access regarding silent film.

What he said really impressed me, and the fact that he said it — and how he expressed it — moved me.

One of the biggest challenges in presenting a silent film show or producing a DVD or Blu-ray release is the hurdle of rights and the costs associated with clearing them. Kevin Brownlow’s “Hollywood” series was released on VHS and Laserdisc decades ago, and the costs of clearing all the clips used in all the episodes is what is in the way of the landmark series about the silent era being re-released on DVD and Blu-ray,

Brownlow’s complete speech has also been posted to YouTube. I’ve transcribed it and I post it here with the intent of helping Kevin’s message get out beyond the four walls of the Egyptian theatre. The full video is embedded at the bottom of this post.


“I’m terribly flattered to follow Martin Scorsese and to accept the Robert Osborne award. I was always very impressed by Robert Osborne. In fact, I was always taking notes at the front of a film whenever he appeared. And, I couldn’t be more warmly received.

But…

I am sure Robert Osborne will forgive me, but I’ve a lot of Irish in me, and I’m about to be rebellious.

Where is the “Hollywood” series?!

(applause)

It’s been forty years. Everybody in it has died. Do the lawyers in the front office still demand impossible figures? They earned a lot – they earned enough, more than enough, the first time ‘round. Why don’t they just say “Put that series out! We won’t charge anything. It’s our tradition.” ?

(cheers and applause)

Thank you very much. We could do a scene from “Napoleon” here, and charge the front office of M-G-M.

(laughter)

But [holding up the award] this is enough. Thank you very much. I’m deeply grateful, and I love TCM.”

(cheers and applause)


Here’s the full speech, from a YouTube video taken and posted by Jack Fields.

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Randy SkretvedtBen ModelE. Hunter HaleMichael CloudRick Spector Recent comment authors
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Rick Spector
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Rick Spector

His series is the Rosetta stone to introduce anyone to Hollywood and the silent era. Like many, I too have often wondered why it has not come to DVD after being on VHS and Laser, but, if it is just money, why can’t we do something about it? Are we talking millions or something more realistic? Let’s have a call to arms!

Michael Cloud
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Thank you Kevin for the truly remarkable documentary you made. I would love to have the Hollywood series on Blu-Ray in an expanded edition. Think of all the interview footage left unused.

E. Hunter Hale
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E. Hunter Hale

I too consider the HOLLYWOOD documentary to the corner stone for learning about the silent era of film making. While a Blu-ray would be great you must realize that the original material would have a limited advantage on the Blu-ray format. My brother and I have long cherished our Laser Disc and have made a DVD copy for our personal use. This should be made available so that the history that it captures could continue entertain and teach future generations.

Randy Skretvedt
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Randy Skretvedt

Best to find a laserdisc copy and transfer it to DVD or Blu-ray. Happily, laserdiscs don’t have copyguard.