A look back at this day in film history
May 29
Fury May 29, 1936
Fritz Lang's Fury

That Fritz Lang’s Fury opened in May 1936 to good reviews was a shock to the executives at MGM who released it. The downer tale of a small-town mob killing a man (Spencer Tracy) unjustly accused of a kidnapping hardly seemed to them the stuff of good entertainment. MGM, under Louis B. Mayer’s order, was close to burying the film, when they screened it unceremoniously for critics. Lang recounted how a MGM publicist told the publisher of The Hollywood Reporter that "Fury is a terrible movie; and it's all the fault of that German son of a bitch with the monocle, Fritz Lang." Lang, who’d been contracted to MGM after he left Germany, had been unable to make a picture until producer Joseph Mankiewicz pushed Norman Krasna’s treatment Mob Rule his way. The drama loosely based on a real-life story of two kidnappers in San Diego who were lynched in 1933 appealed to Lang on many grounds. For one, it exemplified his dim view of mankind, but even more personally it spoke to the hysteria of Nazi rule in the Germany he had just left. For Lang, the real issue in America was the recent wave of black lynchings, and he originally had placed African-American characters throughout the film to remind audiences of that fact. Mayer would have none of this. He cut out all black characters and insisted the film end on an up note. Despite MGM’s condemnation of their own film, critics raved over Fury. Graham Greene remarked, “Any other film this year is likely to be dwarfed by Herr Lang's extraordinary achievement.”

More Flashbacks
May 29, 1981
Polyester released

After a four-year hiatus, scandalous Baltimore director John Waters returned with some new, um, material on this day in 1981. Polyester marked Waters’ first film after completing his so-called “Trash Trilogy” – Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977) – and saw him move into more mainstream territory after that triptych’s shock tactics, most famously encapsulated in the moment in Pink Flamingos when Waters’ drag diva Divine eats freshly delivered doggie doo-doo.

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