Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 05
October 7, 1951
La Ronde shut down in New York

By the time Max Ophüls’ La Ronde came to America, it had played for over two years in Paris and for four months in London to almost entirely enthusiastic reviews. Based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler, La Ronde tells ten stories, each connected by a character who has an affair with a character from the previous story. It begins with a prostitute being picked up and ends with the last character picking up the same working girl. While the film was overtly sexual, most considered it a sophisticated comedy of manners. André Bazin commended it as “a spectacular and brilliant film, extremely nimble in its writing as well as in its filming — above all the movement of the camera; and it is also full of a rather Germanic eroticism.” The New York State Censor, however, seemed fixated on the latter quality, its “eroticism,” rather than on its nimble writing. On October 7, the NY Censor board refused to grant the film an exhibition license. None of the New York censors found the film unpleasant; indeed some commended it. Rather they felt its casual depiction of sexuality (out of wedlock and with prostitutes) “would tend to corrupt morals” by contradicting the “standards of normal family life.” The distributor took this case to the New York Appellate court, where they lost. They then took the case to the United States Supreme Court where after months of legal maneuvering they were granted the right to show the film. Yet despite this victory, the ruling was so narrow that it hardly seemed to open up the potential for cinematic expression overall. The film itself went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing and Best Art Direction.


More Flashbacks
December 5, 1963
Charade released

When Charade, director Stanley Donen’s distinctly Hitchcockian Euro thriller starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, was released on December 5, 1963, it represented the end of a very long road scriptwriter Peter Stone had taken to bring his work to the big screen.

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December 5, 1976
Bound for Glory Remembers Woody

On this day in 1976, Bound for Glory was released, a vivid cinematic portrait of one of the 20th century's most compelling counterculture heroes, writer and folk singer Woody Guthrie. Based on portions of Guthrie's memoir of the same name, the film was directed by Hal Ashby who – after the record breaking box office success of his previous picture, the Warren Beatty sex comedy Shampoo – had been given carte blanche for his follow-up. Though Bound for Glory ended up becoming an Oscar contender that year (going up against films like Network and Rocky for Best Picture), the movie’s production had not been without its problems. Firstly, Ashby couldn't get his first choice actors to play Guthrie and ended up casting TV's Kung Fu star David Carradine, and then production went massively over schedule and almost twice over budget as the logistics of a huge period film – not to mention the director's cocaine habit – led the film to becoming something of a runaway train. Though one of the few quintessentially American films released in the bicentennial year, Bound for Glory lost out in the major categories at the Academy Awards (instead taking Best Cinematography and Best Score) and, due to the lack of attention Ashby's films in general receive nowadays, remains unfairly overlooked as one of the finest biopics of its period.

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