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Alan Smithee

For the 1997 film, see An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn,

Alan Smithee (or the alternate spellings Allen Smithee, Alan Smythee, and Adam Smithee) is a pseudonym that has been used since 1968 by film directors who wished to be dissociated from a film. Until a policy change in the year 2000, it was used when a director proved to the satisfaction of a panel of members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that he or she was not able to exercise creative control over a film. The director was also required to keep the reason for the disavowal a secret.


The first known movie to use the Smithee pseudonym was Death of a Gunfighter (1969). The name is also an anagram of "The alias men." However, it would be wrong to attribute this as a reason for choosing the name, given that the original choice of Al Smith was already registered with the DGA. 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 the fictional "Al Smith", but the DGA reported there had already been an actual director by that name. The film was praised by critics, with The New York Times commenting that the film was "sharply directed by Allen Smithee [sic] who has an adroit facility for scanning faces and extracting sharp background detail."

Prolific "career"

The name Smithee was used extensively in television and film; Smithee took 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 (also known as 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."

Although the pseudonym was intended for use by directors, the 1981 film Student Bodies credited Allen Smithee as producer in place of the actual producer, Michael Ritchie. The film's director, Mickey Rose, was credited by his own name rather than a pseudonym.

Smithee has also been credited with works in other genres:

  • The music video for Whitney Houston's cover song "I Will Always Love You" from the soundtrack for The Bodyguard.
  • The Destiny's Child music video for "Lose My Breath" is also attributed to Smithee.
  • Another music video credited to "Alan Smithee" was Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery" (it was actually directed by Matt Mahurin).
  • "Alan Smithee" played guitar on the 2005 William Hung CD, Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung.
  • In 1995, five issues of Marvel Comics' Daredevil were attributed to the writing of Alan Smithee. Writer D.G. Chichester took a five-issue break from the series after issue #332, using this lead time to work on the issues that would be printed upon his return. A new editor took over the Daredevil line, and did not want Chichester to continue work on the series. Chichester himself was not informed of this directly, but caught wind of the edict nonetheless. Chichester was still obligated to complete issues #338–342; in protest, he insisted on being credited Alan Smithee. His name would not appear in a Daredevil book until #380, the last issue of the first volume of the series.
  • In 1996, writer Peter Hogan was dropped from the 2000AD comic strip Strontium Dogs, and his episodes subjected to extensive rewrites. Hogan insisted his name be removed from the credits. The script was duly credited to Alan Smithee.
  • The cartoon series Tiny Toon Adventures, which often had inconsistent artwork and dialogue that had been rewritten at the last minute, had several episodes that were credited to "Alan Smithee"; some of these episodes were actually directed by Art Leonardi.

Use in alternative versions

  • The TV versions of films are sometimes disavowed, even if the theatrical release is not:
    • One example is Scent of a Woman directed by Martin Brest, which was "An Alan Smithee film" on television.
    • The extended TV version of the David Lynch film Dune was also credited to Smithee when Lynch objected to edits by its producers. The writing credit goes to "Judas Booth", an inside joke for Lynch, who states the studio betrayed and killed his film.
    • The same credit change happened with Michael Mann at least twice, for Heat and The Insider.
  • A version of Meet Joe Black edited for in-flight entertainment was 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 Masato Harada's Ganheddo (AKA GunHed) 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.
  • David Anspaugh's Rudy was credited to Smithee when the film was severely cut for TV.

Other productions crediting Smithee as director

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

Music videos "directed" by Smithee


See also

External links and sources

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