Official Films

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1948 Official Films.jpg

Official Films, Incorporated (Inc.) was founded by Leslie Winik in 1939 to produce educational shorts. Soon, after buying some negatives of public-domain Keystone Chaplin films, the company found itself in the 16mm/8mm home movie business.[1][2] It obtained several dozen cartoons from Ub Iwerks and Van Beuren.

Six Flip the Frog cartoons were released from the Iwerks studios (Castle Films would later license the Iwerks ComiColor films). These kept the original series and film titles. Official Films retitled the Van Beuren cartoons and changed the name of Cubby Bear to "Brownie Bear". The human Tom and Jerry characters were renamed "Dick and Larry" to avoid confusion with MGM's cat and mouse characters Tom and Jerry.

In addition to cartoons, Official offered sports films, newsreels, and specialties including a souvenir film of the 1939 New York World's Fair (which remained available until around 1980) and "The Broadway Handicap", a home-movie/board-game combination with a horse-racing theme.

Most of Official's home-movie releases were in the one-reel, 10-minute length, which was then the industry standard. The company experimented with longer-length, 20-minute subjects in the 1940s. A few independently produced musicals with Lena Horne and Ethel Waters were reprinted by Official. In 1945 Official issued some comedy shorts released theatrically in 1937-38 by E. W. Hammons's Educational Pictures; these starred Willie Howard, Bert Lahr, singers Niela Goodelle and Lee Sullivan, and Imogene Coca. In 1949, Official licensed a number of short subjects from Columbia Pictures; the two-reel, 20-minute comedies featured Andy Clyde, El Brendel, Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, Johnny Arthur and Tom Kennedy, and Johnny Downs. Official added Columbia cartoons with Krazy Kat and Scrappy, and Columbia "Community Sing" musical shorts.

In the late 1940s, Robert R. Young's Pathe Industries acquired Official; through which it obtained home-movie rights to the Young-owned Producers Releasing Corporation's feature films. Most of these PRC subjects were issued as extra-length featurettes running 30 to 40 minutes each, including westerns starring Dave O'Brien and James Newill, and Buster Crabbe and Al (Fuzzy) St. John, and mysteries starring Hugh Beaumont.

Official also purchased the backlog of the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America, releasing numerous short musicals; both singly and in compilation reels.

In 1950, Official licensed Hal Roach's Our Gang comedies for home-movie release; due to trademark conflicts involving the names "Our Gang" and "The Little Rascals", Official gave the series a generic name: "Hal Roach's Famous Kids Comedies".

Official became an early syndicator of theatrical cartoons for television, during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The company also packaged its Soundies musicals for television, under the title "Music Hall Varieties." Official later also syndicated live-action television series such as Peter Gunn, Yancy Derringer, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Decoy, H.G. Wells: The Invisible Man, Mr. Lucky, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Four Star Playhouse, The Buccaneers, Colonel March of Scotland Yard, The Stu Erwin Show, My Little Margie, Deadline, and the original Biography during this period.[3]

With the company concentrating on TV syndication, Official's home-movie operations diminished in the 1950s and 1960s; many older items were discontinued and few if any new titles were added, except for a silent 8mm documentary on Marilyn Monroe edited from "Biography." By the late 1960s, Official's TV syndication business had also dwindled, with an aging backlog of black-and-white shows and almost no new series to offer; and the company became increasingly inactive. The company continued to fill orders for its home-movie line until 1980. The catalog was now restricted to Official's all-time best-sellers, with many titles from the late 1940s still in print.[citation needed]

From 1969 to 1971, the company was known as Official Industries. In the 1980s, Official Films was acquired by International Creative Exchange. In 1994, A&E acquired the original Biography series from ICE; A&E Networks also acquired Battle Line from ICE in 1999. The Official Films library is currently controlled by Multicom Entertainment Group[4] and the Peter Rodgers Organization.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Slide, Anthony (11 June 1998). The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry. Scarecrow Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-8108-6636-2.
  2. ^ JeiceTheWarrior (2010-06-09), Classic 1950s Closing logo for "Official Films Inc." (1950s Syndication company), archived from the original on 2021-12-14, retrieved 2018-04-26
  3. ^ Multicom Catalogue (2017) (PDF). MULTICOM. 2017. pp. Official Films TV Series (pages 48-53).
  4. ^ US Copyright Office Archived 2008-01-05 at the Wayback Machine Document No V9916D574 2014-03-27