Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 18
October 5, 1954
Carmen Redux

Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones premiered on 5 October 1954, bringing Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1943 musical to the screen. Taking a cue from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Hammerstein turned Bizet’s classic opera of a lusty gypsy who seduces a hapless soldier into an African-American melodrama set in the modern South. Preminger cast the relatively unknown Dorothy Dandridge as his lead with Harry Belafonte as her GI beau. And while both Dandridge and Belafonte were accomplished singers, Marilyn Horne and Leverne Hutchinson were brought in to dub their voices to keep the sound more operatic. The film proved a commercial and critical success, with Dandridge becoming the first African-American nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. The film was a hit everywhere but France; a suit brought by Bizet’s estate against the film’s modernization of the score made it impossible to show Carmen Jones there until 1981.


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Dec. 18, 1958
Boris Karloff's nephews found murdered

On December 18, 1958, Boris Karloff was struck by a personal tragedy more horrible than any event depicted in one of his movies when his two great-nephews were discovered with their throats slit.

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December 18, 1966
Antonioni’s Blowup Defines Cool

In New York, crowds of hip cinephiles lined up to see Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English-language film Blowup. The Italian director had already risen to the top of everyone’s must-see list with movies like L'avventura and L’eclisse. But in Blowup, Antonioni took hipness to a whole new level. The script, based on a short story by Argentinean writer Julio Cortázar (who gets a walk on role in the film as a homeless man), involves a callous fashion photographer (David Hemmings) who believes he may have photographed a murder by accident, but finds he can’t prove it one way or other. While Blowup’s existential murder mystery was indeed compelling, it was its backdrop of swinging mod London that captured the most attention. Many felt the main character was modeled on the real-life jet-setting photographer David Bailey, and actual models Jane Birkin and Veruschka wander in and out the film’s world. At the party scene, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page of The Yardbirds play on stage (as themselves), and local personalities like Michael Palin (later of Monty Python) pop up in the crowd. The whole mishmash captured the London scene like nothing else had. Andrew Sarris called the movie "a mod masterpiece.” Playboy’s Arthur Knight went further by suggesting that in the future Blowup will be as “as important and germinal a film as Citizen Kane, Open City and Hiroshima, Mon Amour – perhaps even more so."

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