It may have been a smash-hit Broadway musical, and a toe-tapping musical biopic, but Jersey Boys may be headed for the courts over claims that its subjects, the Four Seasons, had failed to properly secure the rights to their own life story, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Veteran singer Frankie Valli has been caught up in an ongoing legal wrangle lodged by Donna Corbello, widow of writer Rex Woodard. In the 1980s, Four Seasons member Tommy DeVito commissioned Woodard to write his biography, but the writer died before the book was published. Years later, however, his material was used during the writing of Tony award-winning stage musical Jersey Boys and subsequently, the 2014 film based on the same script.
Valli, along with fellow Four Seasons and Jersey Boys producer Bob Gaudio, are now likely to face a trial in a federal Nevada court in May 2016, according to the new report, which cites a ruling by US district judge Robert Jones from 30 October. A jury will decide whether Valli and Gaudio retained the rights to use Woodard’s work for the stage musical under a 1999 license deal. Corbello’s team will argue that the agreement lapsed due to a time-related contract clause relating to production of the musical version, which opened on Broadway in 2005.
A key section of Jersey Boys recounts how DeVito finds himself in trouble with the mob after failing to keep an eye on his finances, resulting in his fellow Four Seasons being forced to step in and clean up the mess. The case against Valli and Gaudio has been moving through the US courts for at least eight years, suffering a number of victories and reversals. In his new ruling, Jones said Corbello would have to prove Jersey Boys used details from her late husband’s work via “virtually identical copying”, because the basic facts about the lives of the Four Seasons were in the public domain.
The film version of the musical received lukewarm reviews, with the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw labelling it “relaxingly enjoyable and heartfelt ... with the whiff of a grilled cheese sandwich”. Neither was it a particularly big box-office hit, taking a middling $67.6m on a production budget of $40m. So Corbello may be hoping to secure a share of the long-running stage version’s profits if she succeeds in court.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 2nd October 2015 16.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010