Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee, Allen Smithee & Adam Smithee are pseudonyms used between 1968 and 1999 by Hollywood film directors who want to be dissociated from a film for which they no longer wanted credit. It was used when the director could prove to the satisfaction of a panel of members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers that the film had been wrested from his or her creative control. The director is also required to keep the reason for the disavowal a secret. The pseudonym cannot be used to hide a director's failures.


The birth

The first movie to use it was Death of a Gunfighter. During its filming, Richard Widmark was unhappy with director Robert Totten. He arranged to have Totten replaced by Don Siegel. When the film was finished, neither Totten nor Siegel wanted to be credited with the result. At first it was decided that the credit should go to Al Smith, but the DGA said there had already been a director by that name. The DGA decided the film could carry the pseudonym "Allen Smithee"; the work was praised by The New York Times film critics among others.

A prolific career

The name Smithee is used extensively in television, taking the direction credit for episodes of well-known series, including the pilot for the action-adventure series MacGyver. Jud Taylor twice used the pseudonym, for the TV movies Fade-In (a.k.a. Iron Cowboy) (1968) with Burt Reynolds and City in Fear (1980) with David Janssen. Taylor commented on its use when the DGA's Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award was awarded to "Smithee":

"I had a couple of problems in my career having to do with editing and not having the contractually-required number of days in the editing room that my agent couldn't resolve. So, I went to the Guild and said, 'This is what's going on.' The Guild went to bat for me. I got Alan Smithee on them both. It was a signal to the industry from a creative rights point of view that the shows had been tampered with."

Smithee has also been credited with works in other genres, such as the music video for Whitney Houston's cover song "I Will Always Love You" from the soundtrack for The Bodyguard and in the video game Metal Gear Solid 4 (though this use was intended as a joke rather than the product of an unhappy director wishing to distance himself from the project).

DGA replaces the practice

In 1997, the comedy An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn was released, in which a director wants to disown a film but cannot because his real name is Alan Smithee. The publicity around this movie, and especially around the fact that director Arthur Hiller asked and got an Alan Smithee credit for it, made the Directors Guild decide to discontinue using the Alan Smithee credit.

Another affair that may have played a role was the one around American History X, where director Tony Kaye asked for a Smithee but did not get it because he had publicly attacked the movie. Kaye later sued the Guild over its decision.

After this, the Guild decided to choose a pseudonym for each case separately, rather than re-use a particular pseudonym. The first such example is the Thomas Lee credit for Walter Hill on 2000 Supernova, a film which starred James Spader.

This change has not ended the practice of using Smithee entirely. For example, the Canadian film Fugitives Run starring David Hasselhoff is also credited to Smithee.

Use in alternate versions

  • The TV versions of films are sometimes disavowed, even if the theatrical release is not:
  • A version of Meet Joe Black edited for in-flight entertainment was also credited to Smithee.
  • A cable TV version of William Friedkin's The Guardian was credited to Smithee.
  • Backtrack, a 1990 film directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Jodie Foster, was originally credited to Smithee; a "director's cut" for a subsequent video release was credited to Hopper. Perhaps coincidentally, Joe Pesci, who appeared prominently in the film, also had the credit for his role removed.
  • The version of Ganheddo released in the United States was credited to Smithee.
  • A half-hour 1955 television drama called The Indiscreet Mrs. Jarvis starring Angela Lansbury was released on VHS in 1992 without its original credits but retroactively credited to Smithee.

Other films crediting Smithee as director

The following films credit Smithee; the actual director is listed when known:


The 1955 film Mr. Arkadin, directed by Orson Welles, includes the following exchange between the title character played by Welles and Guy Van Stratten, played by Robert Arden:

Van Stratten: You don't have any memory of what happened to you before '27, right? So what makes you so sure your name is Arkadin?
Arkadin: Hmmm?
Van Stratten: Well, maybe it's Arkadine, or Arkadini, or Arkapopoulos, or Smithee!
Arkadin: Don't be a fool. I know my own name.

Although there's no evidence that this scene is the inspiration for "Allen Smithee" as the pseudonym-of-choice in direction, the circumstances surrounding the production and release of Mr. Arkadin (also released in the United Kingdom as Confidential Report) suggest that Welles might have disowned the work if the convention were available at the time. The editing of the film was removed from his control, the film was first released in a Spanish version with different actors, and various scenes were included or excluded in other releases.

The pseudonym is not entirely disused, in 2005 Gary Oldman was originally planned to provide the voice for the character General Grievous in Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith, but pulled out. The voice was eventually provided by Matthew Wood who, being a Lucasfilm employee, submitted his reading under the name of Alan Smithee, though Wood is the name credited.

The name Alan Smithee is also an anagram of the phrase "The Alias Men".

In the episode "D'oh-in' In The Wind" of the TV show "The Simpsons," at the end of a short film directed by Mr. Burns, it reads "An Alan Smithee Film"

Related pseudonyms

External links and sources

fr:Alan Smithee he:אלן סמית'י nl:Alan Smithee ja:アラン・スミシー sv:Alan Smithee


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