Duke Ellington & Norman Granz Original, SIGNED, Original Film Contract, TDS, dated Oct. 29, 1965, granting Granz the rights to Ellington’s life story for a biographical movie which was never to be made. The comprehensive document consists of two stapled sections, titled respectively, “License Agreement & “Service Agreement”, each 15pp with additional 3pp addenda, SIGNED by Duke Ellington and jazz impresario Norman Granz at the foot of the last page of each section. The first section defines the terms of agreement for Granz to produce a film of Ellington’s life, with the two parties to split net profits, and an advance of $25,000 to be paid to Ellington. The second section details Ellington and his orchestra’s obligations to the project and the royalties due for performance and recording rights pertaining to the film; a separate one page amendment to the agreement, also dated Oct. 29, is additionally SIGNED by Granz and Ellington. Also included is a covering letter from Granz’s lawyer, Frank Wells, a prominent attorney later to become the president of Walt Disney Corp, to Ellington’s attorney Benjamin Starr, dated January 4, 1966. The agreement is enclosed in the original plastic filing sleeve.
Ellington and the fiery, aggressive, impresario Granz, had a long and often difficult relationship and by the time this contract was negotiated, they were nearing the end of an eight year period during which Granz had been directly involved in Ellington’s business affairs; in 1958, Ellington, his career at a low ebb, had accepted Granz’s offer to help manage and book the orchestra, for no fee. Granz’s formidable negotiating skills and world–wide contacts certainly helped Ellington to rejuvenate his career, but there was always tension between the two men. Ellington was wary of Granz’s domineering, driven, personality, while Granz, who greatly admired Ellington as an artist, was often frustrated by Duke’s seeming reluctance to give his stellar soloists a more prominent role, or to better use his vast catalogue to perform music that would challenge his musicians and audiences more. Granz, viewed the film as a fitting, and lucrative, tribute to Ellington’s genius, and according to Tad Hershorn’s admirable biography of Granz, the impresario, ever the big thinker, had already “gone so far as to contact Sidney Poitier’s manager about the actor’s playing the lead (one studio suggested Gary Cooper!), and anticipated that the Ellington band would provide the score”. But the ever-elusive Ellington, always wary of divulging much of anything about his personal life, wouldn’t cooperate, as Hershorn says, “refus(ing) to stay put for the three months Granz estimated it might take to prepare to produce a screen play that could also serve as the basis of a major autobiographical work”. An angry Granz complained that “Duke wouldn’t take three days to do that…it was ridiculous because we’d gone to a lot of effort to do a picture that Duke would own half of”. The movie deal collapsed, the relationship continued to sour and after several other major disagreements, Granz entirely severed his personal and business ties with Ellington, creating a rift which wasn’t mended until 1973, shortly before Ellington’s death. Long after, Granz continued to maintain that Ellington “was an entertainer who really missed his last act”. Typed Document Signed, legal format, 14” by 8.5”, minor damp stain to bottom edge of first page of “License Agreement”, touch of age toning to page edges, edge nicks to amendment page, and paper clip ghosting to top edge of the original onion skin covering letter, else near fine, clean and unmarked; the autographs are fine in blue and black ink. A unique and very interesting piece of signed Ellingtonia in collector’s condition. J1888