In the last Rialto Report, we asked: if an adult film director shoots footage of an actress that he then uses across multiple films, is he obliged to pay that actress multiple times?
In 1975, Radley Metzger shot additional scenes during the making of ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven‘ – footage he planned to use in future movies.
The problem was that Misty Beethoven herself, Susan Jensen (aka ‘Constance Money’), strongly disputed Radley’s right to do this – and she fought back.
This disagreement resulted in a four year legal process, acrimonious arguments, and a multi-million dollar claim for damages brought by Susan against Radley.
The Rialto Report has researched this story for several years, obtaining original documentation relating to the case which is presented here for the first time.
It tells a fascinating behind-the-scenes story of this landmark film and dispute.
What do you think of the merits of the parties involved?
The first part of this story appeared on The Rialto Report last week.
1978 – ‘Maraschino Cherry’ (continued):
Susan Jensen was claiming damages and compensation totaling $2,250,000 – but she didn’t just take on Radley Metzger through the courts. She also waged war in the media – under her preferred acting name ‘Jennifer Baker’.
Susan was living in San Francisco at this stage, but had returned to New York the previous year in May 1977 to star in another adult film, ‘Anna Obsessed‘. In 1978, the first publicity for this new film began appearing.
Meanwhile Radley and his attorney, Ed Grainger, asked for more time to respond to the allegations made by Susan in her deposition. This request was granted.
In the meantime, Ed Grainger asked Radley to summarize his recollection of the chronology of events. Radley wrote out what he remembered and submitted it to his lawyer.
Radley also gave over phone records from Spring 1977 to show that he had tried to contact Susan in both California and Alaska to advise her of his intentions (see underlined records).
At this point, things suddenly took a turn for the worse for Radley and Audubon Films. Sam Lake and Bobby Sumner – Radley’s co-defendants and the financial backers of ‘Maraschino Cherry’ through their company Maturpix – responded to Susan’s lawsuit by denying all charges. On top of that, they issued a counter-suit against Radley.
Bobby and Sam claimed judgement over any damages claimed by Susan, and a repayment of the $105,000 they had paid to Radley for ‘Maraschino Cherry’ if the film was prevented from being distributed.
Click on the image below to read the full document from Maturpix, dated May 19, 1978.
Radley and Audubon Pictures responded to the lawsuit by denying all charges.
Click on the image below to read the full document from Audubon, dated May 24 1978.
Radley also drew up a series a questions for Susan (known as an ‘Interrogatory’). In effect, these questions were an attempt by Radley and his attorneys to find out how much Susan actually knew about the shooting of the films and the company behind the production.
In Susan’s formal reply, she mentions Radley’s business partner, Ava Leighton, being on set, and also lists the reason she is claiming such high damages as “unjust enrichment of defendants”
Click on the image below to read the full document from Susan Jensen, dated June 8, 1978.
The first decision due concerned whether an injunction should be placed on the release of ‘Maraschino Cherry’. The judgement denied Susan’s request to prevent the film’s release.
Click on the image below to read the full judgement about the injunction, dated June 20, 1978.
While the attorneys argued, Susan appeared in a Playboy magazine pictoral in July 1978.
The accompanying article referred to how Susan had moved to Alaska where she was managing a bar / restaurant. She spoke about her experience in ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’ saying:
“I made that movie when I was 19, a child. I was barely old enough to know what I was doing. The film is about the education of a naive, innocent girl. Me.
That film haunted me. The director kept all the outtakes. Every year he released another film starring ‘Constance Money’. ‘Barbara Broadcast’ and ‘Maraschino Cherry’ are two of the exploitation films that used old footage from ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’. The films are rip-offs. The films don’t make any sense. Tell your readers to do me a favor and stay home.”
Click on the image below to read the full article in Playboy.
1979 – Conclusion
For the remainder of 1978 and the first half of 1979, the case rambled on – incurring more legal costs as both sides looked for an angle that would give them a critical advantage. One example of this was the argument adopted by Radley and Ava Leighton’s attorney which stated that “the plaintiff (i.e. Susan) must be based in New York county”, and that “the affidavit should state that she is such a resident.” This line of reasoning proved unsuccessful.
Overall Radley’s main concern was that he didn’t want to set a precedent – and have other actors pursue him for the same reason. In the end he relented, and asked his attorney to seek an out-of-court settlement with Susan.
On September 25, 1979, a one-sentence letter from Ava Leighton brought the case to a close.
Susan settled for $4,750 – considerably less than the $2,250,000 demanded in the legal papers. Though this amount was twice as much as she had been paid for her original work, she still had to pay several years worth of legal fees.
Ironically the check was sent to Susan four years to the day since she signed the very first agreement – to appear in two films.
Given that the settlement paid to Susan related to footage contained in ‘Maraschino Cherry’, Radley wanted the producers of that film – Sam Lake and Bobby Sumner – to pay a share of the settlement.
The request was rejected out of hand by Bobby and Sam’s attorneys. To make matters worse, they sent Radley an additional request for $1,900 to cover their legal costs incurred in defending the action.
Whatever the merits of the various parties of the case, there are certainly no signs of this protracted legal conflict in ‘Misty Beethoven’ itself. The film remains a light-hearted, happy-go-lucky, and witty affair – much of which is largely due to Radley’s deft direction and Susan’s vulnerable and engaging performance.
Susan and Radley never spoke again after the case was settled.
Susan recently spoke about the period in her audio podcast interview with The Rialto Report, and it was clear that time had not lessened her anger about the events of several decades before.
As for Radley, he professed confusion about the matter right up until his recent passing. He couldn’t understand why the issue had ended up causing so much trouble lasting so many years. He spoke about having done every he could have done at the time, and was disappointed by the acrimonious outcome.
When The Rialto Report met with Radley socially, he often asked about Susan. He realized that, for better or worse, his name and Susan’s would always be inextricably linked thanks to the success of ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’. He always requested that we send Susan his regards.
Ground-breaking work! At last the truth is out. Nothing but the facts.
Love the expert story-telling.
The Rialto is the best.
I’d heard rumors but this level of documentation is breathtaking.
So can you look into who killed Jimmy Hoffa now?
It’s a genuine shame that Susan Jensen can’t let her bitterness go, especially since Radley is gone. It’s an old wound that should have healed decades ago and yet Jensen continues to stoke the fire in herself. Such a shame.
I am glad, however, that it really doesn’t ever show in “Misty,” as the writer acknowledges.
OK…. Let’s see. Radley’s grossed probably something near $40 mil on just Misty so far, (well over $15 mil in rentals ALONE – then there’s theater handle, VHS sales, DVD sales, the new DVD package…) and she got about 10 grand. He apparently abused her and allowed her to be abused on the set, (which she told me about herself at the time), after which she STILL gave him a wonderful performance that catapulted them both into stardom. As all that was going on, he purposefully shot extra stuff to use in future films without telling her or securing her legal permission. Then he used that footage plus her name and fame for Barbara B., and even used her face to sell Maraschino. And God knows how much he’s made off of selling the rights to her scenes to all those “best of” collections which contain her work. I am also given to understand that Metzger is alleged to have helped torpedo her shot at a more mainstream career that some guy named Hefner was willing to back. If someone made millions by exploiting you and treated you like crap when you asked, (nicely to begin with btw…), for a piece of the action and then messed with your future career I’m pretty sure that you’d be angry too.
This is an industry that makes some people rich while exploiting and/or chewing up and spitting others out, most of them young women. Talk about income inequality… I’m pretty sure that a 6 or 7 figure cut of his action would have totally changed the life of Susan and her kid(s). Susan’s not blameless in this saga, but you can see why she might still be a bit pissed off. Radley isn’t worthy of your pity. He did fine. And the fact that he’s dead shouldn’t matter since, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t reach out to help make this right by remembering her in his will.
^^^ Is this person Therx9x serious? I have to assume so and would strongly question if it’s not actually Jensen exercising a most poisonous pen. Oh IF ONLY one was remunerated anywhere even remotely close to the numbers in Therx9x’s comment. Would every one that could point a camera at undulating bodies not have swarmed to porn and become millionaires? Respectfully, the level of misinformation is such that it’s surreal as is the ability to dismiss what is clearly shown in the documents included with the piece. If Jensen was indeed abused; she should have called in the proper authorities. If it happened; that’s a horrible shame, but it’s not a valid reason to suddenly become litigious and pretend she didn’t sign on for film footage to be used in subsequent productions. We all have now seen proof to the contrary. Lastly and irrespective of Hef’s money; almost NOBODY has made the move to straight work after doing porn…what, maybe two or three people in almost 50 years? That’s hardly any director’s fault. What’s next- Jensen was strong armed into all this? Her dream of opening a daycare center was thwarted, but it’s not her fault? But I digress… Huge kudos to The Rialto Report for a great piece that gets down to the nitty gritty.
Congratulations to RR for another great piece. You guys (Ashely, April and anyone else on your team) are extremely talented documentarians.
I found this piece particularly interesting because of the original legal source material included. As an attorney who has represented “talent” in suits against the adult industry in the modern era of internet porn, Susan (aka Jennifer / Constance) definitely had a case against Radley and Audubon Films, and the “Maraschino Cherry” producers and distributers. But, not for any money from “Misty Beethoven.”
A few of observations:
#1. The first release Radley got from Susan (shown in partt. 1) and described as “The final step … Susan’s formal consent for her appearance,” really isn’t a “consent” (that’s in paragraph 8 of Susan’s contract for “Misty” (and is limited to “Misty”). As a “Release” it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on for much of anything. However, once signed, it’s the type thing thrown back at the unsophisticated (like 18 – 20 something’s in the adult industry), when they try to make waves about money. Either, (a) Radley knew that the “Release” wasn’t of any real value and indicates a willingness to use an exploitive business practice, or (b) he got bad advice from his lawyer.
#2. Susan ultimately settled for $4,750 in 1979 that’s about $16,000 in today’s dollars (using an inflation adjusted calculator).
#3. Regarding Susan’s complaints with Jamie Gillis. RR has had a number pieces either about Gillis, or where he’s discussed. A portrait of Gillis emerges: “intelligent” – yes … “complex character” – sounds like a euphemism … “sexual predator” – mmm??? (listen to Nina Harley’s comments and Gillis’s easy reference to “porn sluts” as some of his co-workers)… I’m reminded of pedophiles (not that Gillis was) who go into teaching, scout volunteering and youth ministry to have ready access for their proclivities.
This is impressive historical reporting. Bravo! Having said that, could we get a future TL;DR…?