Auction Date: 2/09/2014 at 01pm
Cinema – The 1921 Silent Movie of ‘Black Beauty’ group of legal documents issued by the descendants of Anna Sewell, the authoress of the children’s classic ‘Black Beauty’ concerning royalties from the first movie made based on the book – a black and white silent film made by the Vitagraph Company in 1921. The papers include correspondence between solicitors, letters from various members of Sewell’s family, the inevitable bills from solicitors, and a copy of the will of Phillip Sewell, Anna’s brother. The papers highlight some very interesting aspects of copyright law. It appears Anna Sewell sold her rights in the book to the publishers Jarrolds shortly before she died. They then sold the film rights to Vitagraph, only to face the threat of legal action from Anna’s family who clearly wanted to profit from the transaction. Vitagraph offered a settlement of £250 – just over £5,000 in today’s money – which the family initially refused. Vitagraph then retorted that they would abandon the whole project if the offer was not accepted, leaving the family with nothing. Reluctantly the family accepted the offer though with bad grace – one of them writing : ‘...it is too bad, but half a loaf is better than no bread & I think we had better accept the £250 and have done with it...’ The film itself is regarded as classic. Lasting 70 minutes it starred Jean Paige, James Morrison and George Webb. Apparently only an incomplete print of it of only 4 or the original 7 reels has survived and is lodged in the Library of Congress in America.