Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 02
October 4, 1951
An American in Paris premieres

While director Vincente Minnelli and performer Gene Kelly were solid earners for MGM, their new film An American in Paris caused slight trepidation. For one thing, executives wondered whether the public could sit through a nearly 20-minute ballet section that bordered on the surreal (and cost the studios over $500,000 to make). The answer turned out to a resounding yes. The movie was not only a box office smash, but won six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Arthur Freed, who oversaw the musical unit of MGM, initiated the project with only a title and a composer. He explained to Alan Jay Lerner, who was to write the script, that the film would be named (and about) An American in Paris with Gershwin music, especially his 1938 suite “An American in Paris.” The rest was dreamed up by Freed’s exceptionally talented team as they went along. Since they were unable to shoot in Paris, the designers created a magical copy in the MGM back lot. Freed picked Kelly as the lead, and worked closely with him and director Minnelli to create a ballet sequence that recreated Paris in the painterly styles of six of its most famous impressionistic and modernist painters (Raoul Dufy, Claude Renoir, Maurice Utrillo, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec). The high art touches were not lost on all. One MGM responded, “Am I wrong? It seems to me that I once saw some paintings on 57th Street that looked like certain sets in the ballet.”


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December 2, 1945
Penelope Spheeris born

On this day in 1945, director Penelope Spheeris was born in New Orleans.

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December 2, 1988
The Naked Gun Hits Its Target

It is relatively common these days for TV shows to be adapted into movies, but most often those films were based on successful and much-loved – not to mention long-running – series. However, in the case of The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, which was released today in 1988, the movie in question was the spawn of a TV show, Police Squad!, that had been cancelled by ABC in 1982 after only four episodes were aired. The spoof 70s style police show, however, gained cult status on the back of its silly humor, slapstick antics and intentional continuity errors. Indeed, it had such a Lazarus-like recovery to its reputation that its creators, Airplane's Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker, were given the opportunity by Paramount to make a feature about Leslie Nielsen's bumbling cop, Lt. Frank Drebin. Audiences responded enthusiastically to the film's inane antics and ridiculous plotlines and the movie became a massive success, raking in nearly $80m at the box office and spawning two further sequels – also starring Nielsen, and regular co-stars George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley and O.J. Simpson – both of which also were incredibly popular. The third installment, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, was released in 1994, however the franchise's success is such that Paramount is reportedly considering bringing back the characters for another outing produced by their DTV division (though probably without the involvement of Abrahams, the Zucker brothers or Nielsen).

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