A look back at this day in film history
November 28
Meet Me In St. Louis November 28, 1944
Meet Me in St. Louis opens in Technicolor

Opening November 28, 1944, Vincente Minelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis was one of the most commercially successful pictures of its day. It was the film on which Minelli met his future wife, Judy Garland, and was also the director’s first film using Technicolor’s famously bold, color-saturated three-strip printing process. The plot is slender; adapted from several articles by Sally Benson about her family around the time of the St. Louis World’s Fair, the film contains a teen romance, a lot of nostalgia, and a smidgen of drama revolving around the family’s possible move to New York. But mostly it features great songs (including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”), warm performances and Oscar-nominated cinematography that is remembered today as a high-point of Technicolor’s now-discontinued process. The film looks great even now on Warner’s beautiful DVD reissue, due in large part to that original process. Wrote Fred Kaplan at Slate.com (http://www.slate.com/id/2114143/fr/rss/), “Even with careful preservation, color negatives fade over time. But Technicolor negatives can look as good as new after decades. This is because Technicolor films consisted of three black-and-white negatives, which ran simultaneously through a special camera. Light hit each film strip through a prism filter. Afterward, each film strip was coated with a dye, and the three strips were then aligned, on top of one another, to form a coherent color image. It was a complex, costly process, which lasted only from 1935-54... The point is that black-and-white negatives don't fade. If the Technicolor black-and-white negatives have been stored well, and if some lab can replicate the Technicolor dye-processing, it should be possible to create a fresh print with perfect color.” The dye-transfer printing process slowed in popularity in the early 50s, when Kodak produced film that combined all the colors on a single strip. One of the last films produced using this method was Dario Argento’s Suspiria in 1977, and a version of the process was reintroduced in the late ‘90s, being employed on titles like Bulworth and Toy Story. It was finally discontinued in 2002.

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November 28, 1938
Michael Ritchie born

Michael Ritchie, one of the most skilled yet underrated Hollywood directors of the 1970s, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on this day in 1938.

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November 28, 1946
Dante's Divine Comedy of Horrors

In many ways, Joe Dante, born on this day 62 years ago today, is a film director from another age. Dante, a New Jersey native whose parents were golf pros, grew up in 1950s America and continues to embody the ethos of that decade in much of his film work. His influences, for example, include cartoonist Chuck Jones, champion of colorful 50s film comedy Frank Tashlin and B-movie mogul Roger Corman, and it was Corman who first initiated him into the world of movie production after Dante had spent some years as a film critic. Dante first enjoyed success with the Jaws­-inspired creature feature Piranha (1978) which he followed up with the werewolf movie The Howling (1981), another Corman production. Afterwards he graduated to big budget movies, often working for friend Steven Spielberg, and scored with hits like Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987) and also indulged in nostalgic joint exercises like Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) and episodes of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories TV show. His work has always affectionately looked back on a time when cinema was all about tall tales, monsters, aliens and other such fun excesses of the cinema of bygone years, and Dante tapped into this most directly in Matinee (1993), his film about a William Castle-like producer whose productions thrived on gimmicks and shock tactics. Since the early 1990s, though, Dante has worked mostly in television, where he directed the cult series Eerie, Indiana, only occasionally returning to the big screen for movies like the kid-oriented Small Soldiers (1998) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Now, however, Dante looks set to return to the fore with two projects which will that staple of 50s schlock horror, 3-D technology, which is popular once again 50 years on thanks to its revitalization through digital technology.

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