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Ovation: Potsie, Ralph, Joanie, Mrs. Cunningham and Elly May Only Want What’s Fair.


Two lawsuits currently making the news have caught my attention.  Actress Donna Douglas, who made the character of Elly May Clampett famous by appearing in all 274 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies from 1962 to 1971 is suing Mattel for using her photo on packaging for an “Elly May” Barbie doll without her permission.  While Mattel states that the licensed rights for their product were obtained through appropriate channels, Ms. Douglas insists that she never gave them permission to use her name to promote the sale of the doll.  She is seeking monetary damages and wants Mattel to stop using pictures of her.

The other lawsuit involves cast members from one of the most popular shows in television history … Happy Days.  Four remaining cast members, and the estate of Tom Bosley who died last October, claim that CBS/Paramount, which owns the show, has not paid them for merchandising revenues that they are owed under their contracts.  Happy Days aired from 1974 to 1984 and spawned a multitude of merchandise including comic books, t-shirts, trading cards, games, lunch boxes, greeting cards, DVDs and slot machines.  The actors claim that they were supposed to be paid a percentage from the net proceeds of merchandising if their sole image was used and smaller amount if they appeared in a group photo.  They charge in their lawsuit that they have not been paid for their share of years of home video releases and licensed merchandise that used their images and voices.  They claim that CBS is in breach of their contracts and that, collectively, they are owed as much as ten million dollars.  Past attempts at mediating the dispute have failed.  When the popular slot machines were introduced in 2008, the cast members decided to take action.

For years, these television programs have stood as examples of “good clean American fun”, representing the best of good intentions.  But now it seems that the coldness of greed and big business might be a cloud hanging above the fond memories.

UPDATE 10/19/11:  Judges throws out “fraud” claim … case proceeds as a “breach of contract” suit.

UPDATE 12/29/11: ‘Hillbillies” Elly May settlin’ suit over Barbie.

UPDATE 07/8/12: ‘Happy Days’ cast settles merchandise lawsuit against CBS.


From → Ovations

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