Filmways, Inc. (also known as Filmways Pictures and Filmways Television) was a television and film production company founded by American film executive Martin Ransohoff, and Edwin Kasper in 1952. It is probably best remembered as the production company of CBS’ “rural comedies” of the 1960s, including Mister Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, as well as the comedy-drama The Trials of O'Brien, the western Dundee and the Culhane, the adventure show Bearcats!, the police drama Cagney & Lacey, and The Addams Family. Notable films the company produced include The Sandpiper, The Cincinnati Kid, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Ice Station Zebra, Summer Lovers, The Burning, King, Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out.
|Industry||Motion pictures, television programs|
|Fate||Acquired by Orion Pictures and renamed as Orion Pictures Corporation|
|Successor||Orion Pictures Corporation|
|Founded||1952; 67 years ago|
|Founder||Martin Ransohoff |
|Defunct||1983; 36 years ago|
|Headquarters||Sonoma County, California|
|Martin Ransohoff, Edwin Kasper, Rodney Erickson|
Filmways acquired famous companies throughout the years, such as Heatter-Quigley Productions, Ruby-Spears Productions and American International Pictures. It was also the owner of the film distributor Sigma III Corporation (Closely Watched Trains, Hi, Mom!), Wally Heider Recording, Studio 3 Inc.
Filmways was formed by Martin Ransohoff and Edwin Kasper in 1952, who would part with Filmways 5 years later. The company originally produced television commercials and documentary films. In 1959, Filmways entered the television sitcom arena in a big way, when many executives of McCadden Productions, (a production company founded by comedian and actor, George Burns) decided to join Filmways after McCadden filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1959. Filmways TV Productions was formed and named former McCadden exec, Al Simon as its new president and produced its first TV series, 21 Beacon Street. During that time, McCadden also produced the pilot which would later become the series Mister Ed. Burns sold the rights to Filmways, and Burns and director Arthur Lubin formed The Mister Ed Company as a joint venture. As a result, Mister Ed became a smash hit. In 1962, Filmways produced its biggest hit, The Beverly Hillbillies for CBS, created by Paul Henning, another McCadden exec. In 1966, the company acquired Heatter-Quigley Productions, the game show producer known for their biggest hit, Hollywood Squares. In 1969, it bought Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma County, California, outside of San Francisco, and Wally Heider Recording with studios in Hollywood and San Francisco, along with Studio 3 Inc in Hollywood. In 1972, Ransohoff left Filmways as president.
In 1974, it acquired book publisher Grosset & Dunlap from American Financial Group. In May 1975, it bought the television syndication firm Rhodes Productions from Taft Broadcasting. In 1956, Richard L. Bloch became CEO. In 1978, it acquired Ruby-Spears Productions, which had launched a year earlier. In 1979, after Arkoff's retirement, Filmways purchased American International Pictures. Their TV subsidiary, AITV, became a Filmways' new syndication division in 1980, spinning off Rhodes into an independent corporation.
Filmways had lost nearly $20 million during the nine months ending in November 1981. However, it partially exited bankruptcy by selling a few of its previously acquired assets. In 1981, Ruby-Spears Productions was sold to Taft Broadcasting and Sears Point Raceway was sold to Speedway Motorsports. In 1982, Grosset & Dunlap was sold to G. P. Putnam's Sons.
In 1982, Filmways was acquired by Orion Pictures (with E. M. Warburg Pincus & Company and Home Box Office for its pay and cable television rights). Filmways was then reincorporated as Orion Pictures Corporation on August 31, 1982.
Announcements at the end of productions
Most productions ended with the announcement, “This has been a Filmways presentation”. For some shows, the voice-over was made by a cast member:
- Petticoat Junction: first, Billie Jo Bradley, (Jeannine Riley) and, later, Betty Jo Bradley (Linda Kaye Henning)
- Green Acres: Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor), who says, “This has been a Filmways presentation, darling.”
- The Beverly Hillbillies: Elly May Clampett (Donna Douglas). Following a few episodes, the voice of Jethro, Max Baer Jr., can be heard saying, "Aww, shuddup, Elly May", following her announcement. Seasons 1–3, however, feature Bill Baldwin, the announcer for the show's sponsors.
- Mister Ed: Roger Addison (Larry Keating). Later seasons feature Mister Ed (Allan Lane) saying it after Keating's death in 1963.
- The Addams Family: The logo was silent, but in some episodes the phrase was said in a deep baritone voice by Ted Cassidy, although he did not say it in his usual “Lurch” voice. Other times, Carolyn Jones said the phrase and added "darling" at the end.
Ownership of film, television properties
Today, most of the Filmways library, including Green Acres, The Addams Family, Cagney & Lacey (continued by Orion), Death Wish II (a Cannon film), The Hollywood Squares, and Mister Ed is owned by MGM (successor-in-interest to Orion which it purchased in 1998, and also owners of the Cannon Films library prior to 1988) until Orion Pictures was quietly relaunched by MGM on September 11, 2014.
CBS holds distribution rights to The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. Viacom (the parent of CBS from 1999–2005, actually started as CBS’ syndication arm) syndicated these two programs since the 1970s. In the case of Hillbillies, Orion Television (now a subsidiary of MGM Television in 2013) still owns the copyrights to the episodes, excluding episodes from the first season and the first half of the second season, which have fallen into the public domain. However, any new compilation of Hillbillies material will be copyrighted by either MPI Media Group or CBS, depending on the series content.
Filmways co-produced Eye Guess, The Face Is Familiar, Personality, and You're Putting Me On with Bob Stewart Productions. Those four game shows are currently owned by Sony Pictures Television (SPT). Filmways syndicated Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman that was produced by T.A.T. Communications Company. That too is owned by SPT via ELP Communications. SPT co-distributed the MGM library for a short time.
Almost all movies Filmways co-produced with major studios have remained with the studios they were released by; 10 Rillington Place is owned by Columbia Pictures, Save the Tiger is owned by Paramount Pictures, Two-Minute Warning, is owned by Universal Studios, and so forth. Most of the foreign-language films released by their Sigma III division have reverted to their original producers, but a small number of English-language films Sigma III handled such as Cul-de-sac and Hi, Mom! were retained by Filmways and are now owned by MGM. The rest that were released by MGM are owned by Warner Bros. via its Turner Entertainment Co. subsidiary.
|21 Beacon Street||1959||NBC|
|The Beverly Hillbillies||1962–71||CBS|
|The Addams Family||1964–66||ABC|
|The Trials of O'Brien||1965–66||CBS|
|Eye Guess||1966–69||NBC||co-production with Bob Stewart Productions|
|The Hollywood Squares||1966–81||NBC||co-production with Heatter-Quigley Productions|
|The Double Life of Henry Phyfe||1966||ABC|
|The Face Is Familiar||1966||CBS||co-production with Bob Stewart Productions|
|The Pruitts of Southampton||1966–67||ABC|
|Dundee and the Culhane||1967||CBS|
|The Debbie Reynolds Show||1969–70||NBC|
|Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman||1976–1977||Syndication||produced by T.A.T. Communications Company. T.A.T. took over syndication during season 2|
|Thundarr the Barbarian||1980–82||ABC (1980-82)/NBC (1983)||co-production with Ruby-Spears|
|Cagney & Lacey||1982–88||CBS||continued by Orion Television|
|November 14, 1963||The Wheeler Dealers||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|September 17, 1964||Topkapi||distributed by United Artists|
|October 27, 1964||The Americanization of Emily||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|June 23, 1965||The Sandpiper||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|October 11, 1965||The Loved One||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|October 15, 1965||The Cincinnati Kid||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|1967||Too Many Thieves||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|June 20, 1967||Don't Make Waves||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|November 13, 1967||The Fearless Vampire Killers||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|December 6, 1967||Eye of the Devil||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|October 23, 1968||Ice Station Zebra||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|November 17, 1968||Journey to Jerusalem||distributed by Sigma III|
|February 9, 1969||A Midsummer Night's Dream||television film|
|July 23, 1969||Castle Keep||distributed by Columbia Pictures|
|December 21, 1969||Hamlet||distributed by Columbia Pictures|
|July 1970||The Moonshine War||distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|May 12, 1971||10 Rillington Place||distributed by Columbia Pictures|
|June 30, 1971||What's the Matter with Helen?||distributed by United Artists|
|September 2, 1971||See No Evil||distributed by Columbia Pictures|
|November 22, 1971||King Lear||distributed by Altura Films|
|July 14, 1972||Fuzz||distributed by United Artists|
|February 14, 1973||Save the Tiger||distributed by Paramount Pictures|
|July 21, 1974||The White Dawn||distributed by Paramount Pictures|
|November 14, 1975||The Other Side of the Mountain||distributed by Universal Pictures|
|November 7, 1976||21 Hours at Munich||television film|
|November 12, 1976||Two-Minute Warning||distributed by Universal Pictures|
|February 10, 1978||The Other Side of the Mountain Part 2||distributed by Universal Pictures|
|July 24, 1980||The Earthling|
|July 25, 1980||Dressed to Kill|
|October 3, 1980||The First Deadly Sin|
|May 8, 1981||The Burning||produced by Miramax Films|
|July 24, 1981||Blow Out|
|October 9, 1981||Full Moon High|
|November 12, 1981||Roar||international distribution|
|December 11, 1981||Four Friends|
|February 20, 1982||Death Wish II||US distribution; produced by The Cannon Group, Inc.|
|July 16, 1982||Summer Lovers|
- Sears Point
- "Selected Entity Name: Orion TV Productions, Inc". Corporation & Business Entity Database. State of New York. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- Mashpedia Video