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Most people will never have heard the name and those that remember her will know her best as Susan Hart. She made her film debut in THE SLIME PEOPLE (though she denies it) and is thought to have retired from acting after her appearane in DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE.
Her importance as an actress is minimal. Her real importance is that she married Jim Nicholson, head of American International Pictures and, after his death, came into possession of some of the 1950's most beloved drive-in classics.
And that's when it gets ugly. I used to hear stories that, on the surface, sounded ridiculous. There were stories that Mrs. Hofheinz (her re-married name) was hiring "spies" to go to sci-fi conventions to make sure nothing related to her library of classic movies was being marketed. There were stories of her lawyers shutting down even the smallest attempts to screen her films.
I was watching a Michael Landon bio the other day and, during a clip of I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, there was a huge advisory posted on the screen saying "I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, Academy Pictures 1957, Copyright Susan Nicholson Hofheinz"
So I decided to do some searching on the former Susan Hart to see if there could be any validity to these absurd stories. Well, let me tell you, that lady is a FLAKE!
I found a MINIMUM of four court cases in which SNH attempted to sue for the unauthorized use of TRAILERS from her movies. She lost every single case.
In one instance, she attempted to sue A&E television because they used a 20 second long trailer clip of IT CONQUERED THE WORLD for a Peter Graves biography. She lost the case. But get this, the case is under appeal! That's right, she is actually appealing the ruling of a federal court over a small portion of a trailer!
In another case, she launched a suit against Discovery Communications for the use of a 48 second trailer clip of INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN. The original "infraction" occurred in 1996 and SNR sued in 2000. The judge granted a summary dismissal in favor of Discovery comunications. First, he stated that SNH waited too long to bring the suit. Furthermore, he referenced her earlier court losses in which trailer use was deemed "fair use". He also went on to note that "the plaintiff has made no attempt to advertise or market" her copyrighted material.
I don't know who "MR." Hofheinz is but I'm guessing he must have a boat load of money. By my estimate, Susan Hart Nicholson Hofheinz is about 65 years old now. She hasn't authorized the release of any of "her" movies on DVD. Companies like Image or Synapse would pay top dollar in a heartbeat for the rights to her material. She's apparently uninterested in the money. Nevertheless, she continues to employ a team that sues...AND LOSES EVERYTIME...anybody using a trailer under the fair use doctrine. Geez, I wish I had that kinda' money.
She also owns Teenage Frankenstein, Blood of Dracula, Invasion of Saucermen, Voodoo Woman, Amazing Colossal Man and the one with Charles Bronson, Machine Gun Kelly? It's a legal mess and I don't expect any of these to ever make it to dvd. Thankfully they are on vhs from Columbia. The ones owned by Arkoff, and now his son, are going to released in region one by Lion's Gate sometime in the near future. Different covers than the region 2 releases that are available now.
bram stoker's widow was very much in the same vein. (um no pun intended) (read hollywood gothic for more about that) in her case, she was clinging onto those rights and persuing any percieved infraction, because they were really the only remnant of her glory days. i get the feeling the same thing is going on here. her suits are a way to remind everyone that she was "IN THE MOVIE BIZ!!!!!" and possibly the only thing that keeps her from being completely forgotten.
and her latter hubby might not have deep pockets at all. if theres one thing los angeles has in abundance, it's lawyers, many of whom would no doubt be happy to take the case on spec hoping for a big payoff. theres shysters all over the tube here in detroit advertising "no fee unless you win".
Last edited by razorwyre1; 09-06-2004 at 08:07 PM..
Given Mrs. Hofheinz' legal track record, it's hard to imagine a lawyer stupid enough to take one of her cases on contingency. I can find no record of her ever winning a case. Other than the one thrown out primarily because she filed too late, three were lost for one reason: the fairness doctrine. I'd like to hear that conversation:
SNH: I want to sue A&E for using a clip from a trailer for one of my movies.
LAWYER: Have they ever done this before?
LAWYER: Have you ever sued them before?
LAWYER: What was the outcome?
SNH: I lost every single case. In one case, the judge dismissed my suit and then wrote a nine page opinion ridiculing me.
LAWYER: Sounds like we have a winner!
The thing is, like Bram Stoker's widow, I have NO problem with SNH retaining and excercising all of her legal copyrights.
What I CAN'T understand is: What is she trying to accomplish? As the judge pointed out in her suit against discovery comunication, she has made no attempt to advertise or market the material. If she was selling licensed material or granting licenses, I could understand why she would want to protect her investment. What kind of "damage" did she suffer from the use of a 20 second trailer clip that she believed she was entitled to legal redress?
Winchester's widow went nutty too. She believed the souls of everyone killed by her husbands guns would come to get her, and the only way to stop it was to keep building on to her house. Contractors were there for decades. Room upon room, staircases to nowhere, or anything to keep building.
I was at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose CA last Spring with my little sons, man I loved it I'd wanted to check it out since I was a kid. I took plenty of photos and even got blessed with an apparition(?) in one photo. Well, a mixed blessing, cuz a few months later I received a legal summons advising me to appear as defendant in a lawsuit over unauthorized photography of an indignant spook.........................