Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 22
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.


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November 22, 2002
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November 22, 1963
The Film Seen Round the World

On November 22, 1963, an accidental filmmaker made what became the most obsessed over film of the twentieth century. Standing on a concrete overpass in Dallas, women’s clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder raised his Bell and Howell 8mm camera and tracked the motorcade that carried president John F. Kennedy through Dealy Plaza. Zapruder’s 27 seconds of footage shot from a clear, elevated vantage point are the only complete recording of Kennedy’s assassination and a focal point for government investigators and conspiracy theorists alike. The film also became the object of one of the stranger ownership tussles in modern cinema. Zapruder gave copies of his film to the Secret Service and, three days after the shooting, sold the negative and all rights to Life Magazine. Zapruder’s heirs later disputed the sale, and the film was eventually returned to them by Life owner Time Inc. for $1 dollar. In 1992, however, the U.S. declared the film an “assassination record” and the property of the government. A lengthy dispute ensued over the amount Zapruder’s heirs should be paid. The government proposed paying the family $3 to $5 million; the Zapruders argued that the film should be valued similarly to recent sales of a Van Gogh painting and an Andy Warhol silk screen of Marilyn Monroe. Finally, arbitrators worked out a value of $16 million. Shortly thereafter, Zapruder’s heirs donated one of the original copies of the film and its copyright to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which now oversees all rights requests.

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