Today in Lunatic Hollywood Disputes

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“The Butler,” a film about a man who served eight presidents in the White House, opens this weekend. But wait. That’s not its full title. It’s actually called “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” Is Lee Daniels an insane egomaniac? Nope:

First a word about the title’s clumsiness, and the story’s provenance. The director, Lee Daniels, is no stranger to clumsy titles. Four years ago he was nominated for an Oscar for “Precious,” a film whose contractual title was “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” His name appears in this contractual title because of a legal dispute over “The Butler,” a silent comedy released by Warner Brothers 97 years ago.

I figured there must be some fascinating backstory here, but in the end, not really. Those of you who have followed this all along should feel free to add interesting tidbits in comments, but as near as I can tell this really is just a lunatic Hollywood dispute based on bad blood between a couple of moguls over some previous deals. In the end, though, they really did have to change the title because Warner Bros. claimed exclusive rights to it based on a short silent film released in 1916. Don’t you just love Hollywood?

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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