By: Renee Grant
An almost decade-long fight over Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons rise to musical fame, has reignited. When a Nevada judge overturned a jury verdict in favor of Donna Corbello, the widow of writer Rex Woodard who wrote the story with Four Seasons member Tommy DeVito, Corbello decided to file a new lawsuit, this time aimed at the film adaptation of the story that began on Broadway.
The original jury verdict last year found in favor of Corbello, that the stage adaptation of the story took from the book her husband had worked on with DeVito, which was not published during Woodard’s lifetime, had violated copyright. Corbello and Woodard’s sister pushed to have the book published after Rex died in 1991, and DeVito stepped in to help the pair in 2005, the same year the musical debuted on Broadway. Corbello’s original lawsuit was filed in 2007.
While DeVito had informed Corbello that the book was “not sellable,” but the success of the musical lead Corbello to do some digging, leading her to find that DeVito had registered a literary work with the Copyright Office in his own name, thus the beginning of a ten-year lawsuit. In November of 2016, the verdict was reached, but that was overturned in June. In the wake of that decision, Corbello filed suit against Warner Bros., Clint Eastwood, GK Films and members of the Four Seasons, including Valli, over the 2014 movie adaptation of the Broadway show.
According to the complaint, GK Films was warned about the case against the theatrical version in 2010 and agreed to cease negotiations for a film deal. A deal, of course, was reached with Warner Bros. in 2013, leading to the film’s production and release. While it wasn’t a box office smash, Corbello still feels she is owed damages from the production and hopes to see a resolution soon.