Disney's forgotten live-action releases, 1957 - 1959


Itís regarding the six live action feature films (at least, thatís how many my research has uncovered so far) released by Buena Vista in the late 50s - directed by no less than Sidney Lumet, Frank Borzage and Michael Curtiz, starring the likes of Henry Fonda, Alan Ladd and Lee Marvin.

Walt Disney took many gambles in the 1950s: with Disneyland, with True-Life adventures, with television, with CinemaScopeÖ to name but a few. Perhaps his biggest, outside of Disneyland, was to control his own destiny in Hollywood by creating the Buena Vista Distibution Co.

It began in 1953. The hand-writing was on the wall, Disney was growing unhappy with his 18 year arrangement with distributor RKO. In protest, Buena Vista was created to market a single film (The Living Desert). Once established, plans were quickly made to expand Disneyís annual release slate with live action features and shorts, documentaries, comedies, dramas, westerns and fantasies - and to get out of the RKO deal as quickly as possible. After several additional British costume dramas (The Sword and The Rose, Rob Roy The Highland Rogue), 1955ís Music Land, a pastiche of segments culled from Make Mine Music and Melody Time, fulfilled Disneyís obligation to RKO ó and was the companyís final RKO release.

Beginning with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), BV became a Hollywood player with a strong slate of promised Disney productions - animated features such as Lady and The Tramp and Sleeping Beauty supplemented with lighter, suitable family fare, mainly westerns and true-life adventures. However, Disney productions alone were not coming fast enough to keep the new distribution staff busy. Like any business, the companyís life blood is a steady stream of new product.

Between 1957 and 1959, BV released six acquisitions that played a part in keeping the company afloat during this initial phase of its growth. None of these films were produced by Disney (at least I think they werenít) but all reflected something of his views and values.

It began with a couple of foreign language pick-ups:
Disney’s forgotten live-action releases, 1957-59 | Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation