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‘Alan Smithee’ was a popular director

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Movie director Alan Smithee was born in 1960 and died in 1998, the victim of a bomb.

No services were held, since there were no mourners to attend — and Alan Smithee never existed. He was an invention that offers a sidelight to the Hollywood Name Game.

"Alan Smithee" was conceived in a committee meeting at the Directors Guild in 1960. A number of directors had been complaining about studio interference in their final cuts and had asked to have their names removed from the credits.

Director John Rich, who attended the meeting, recalls: "We decided to get a pseudonym that people could hide behind. . . . Somebody suggested Alan Smith. No, a director might come along with the name Alan Smith.

He then suggested Alan Smithe, with one e, but some thought a person could conceivably come along with that name, too.

"So I said, 'How about two e's? There's little likelihood that anybody would be named Smithee.' "

And so Alan Smithee became the official pseudonym for disgruntled directors.

But Smithee's cover was blown in 1998 when Joe Eszterhas wrote and produced a film about a director whose name was Alan Smithee. It was called "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn," and it was a box-office disaster.

The prominence of the title rendered Smithee useless as a pseudonym, and he came to an unlamented end.

Smithee did have one last hurrah. The director of "Burn Hollywood Burn," Arthur Hiller, was so outraged by changes in his final cut that he refused use of his name. The film's credited director: Alan Smithee.