Today in Lunatic Hollywood Disputes

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

“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?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend