One-hundred and ten years ago, today (exactly, believe it or not), the silent short crime-drama, The Lonely Villa, was released. A film directed by D. W. Griffith, it starred David Miles, Marion Leonard, Mary Pickford (in one of her very early roles), Gladys Egan and Adele DeGarde and, was based on the Andre de Lorde French play from 1901: Au Téléphone.
D. W. Griffith and Mary Pickford, along with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, founded United Artists on February 5, 1919, as a studio where actors could control their own interests instead of being beholden to commercial studios. It is now a subsidiary of MGM and Annapurna Pictures and, as of February 5, 2019 (its 100th anniversary), it was rebranded as United Artists Releasing.
A gang of thieves lure a man out of his home so that they can rob it and, threaten his wife and children. The family barricade themselves in an interior room but, the criminals are well-equipped for breaking in. When the father finds out what is happening, he must race against time to get back home.
♦ During the shot of the father leaving the hotel, a dip can be seen in the road in the background. Today, that is currently the exit for the George Washington Bridge and the location of the hotel is now an apartment complex.
Seventy years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was A Little Bird Told Me by Evelyn Knight, backed up by the Stardusters. Written by Harvey Oliver Brooks, the song was recorded by five different artists with Knight’s version being the only number one. Harvey Brooks was the first black American to write a major motion picture’s complete score: I’m No Angel, starring Mae West.
In 1950, this particular song was the subject of a landmark court case between Supreme Records in Los Angeles and Decca Records in London, England. Supreme Records founder Albert Patrick sued Decca over copyright infringement as his company had recorded and released the song with singer Paula Watson before Decca’s version was released with Knight & The Stardusters. Patrick was furious and filed for $400,000 claiming plagiarism of the arrangement.
The court ruled in favor of the defense stating that musical arrangements were not copyrightable, as style could not be protested under the law. The case opened the door for cover versions. Supreme went bankrupt shortly afterwards and Paula Watson went to work for Decca.