A look back at this day in film history
November 29
November 11, 1959
Shadows opens in NYC

American independent cinema -- or, at least, its actor-centric, realistic strand -- was born on November 11, 1959, when John Cassavetes' debut feature, Shadows, opened in New York cinemas. With heavily improvised dialogue, and shot in 16mm black and white on the streets of New York, Shadows centered on an interracial relationship within the '50s New York City jazz world. Its rough-hewn lensing, complete with close-ups that sat right up against the actors' faces, gave the film a raw immediacy that was miles away from the more traditional dramas hailing from the Actors Studio crowd. Cassavetes' movie won the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival and while Bosley Crowther in the New York Times gave it only a patronizingly positive review, others were more enthusiastic, especially as the years went on. Then, in 2004, film critic and historian Ray Carney reintroduced to the film world a little known fact about Shadows: it was filmed twice. In 1957, Cassavetes shot the film and, in the fall of 1958, screened it for a group of colleagues at New York's Paris Theater. Discouraged by the reception, the director reshot scenes and returned in '59 with a new version. However, some, like filmmaker Jonas Mekas, preferred the earlier version, which he called "the most frontier-breaking American in at least a decade." After a lengthy search, Carney finally tracked down a print of the original version, which went from a second-hand shop (following its purchase as a lost-and-found item from the New York City MTA) to an attic in Florida. "The print exceeded my expectations in every respect," Carney wrote. "In terms of content, there are more than 30 minutes of entirely different scenes that are not in the later version. The discovery gives us a large chunk of new work by Cassavetes - a little like discovering four or five lost Picasso paintings.... One could ask if the discovery proves Mekas right or wrong; but that doesn't really matter. Each version of Shadows stands on its own as an independent work of art."

More Flashbacks
Jorge Muller and Carmen Bueno November 29, 1974
Carmen Bueno and Jorge Muller arrested

On Friday, November 29, 25-year-old film actress Carmen Bueno and 27 year-old cameraman Jorge Muller were working a documentary for the Peace Committee of the Chilean Churches when a dark car pulled beside them, shoved them in the back seat, and tore off.

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November 29, 1981
Natalie Wood dies

Hollywood legend Natalie Wood died November 29, 1981, at the age of 43. Wood first impressed audiences at the age 9 when she appeared in two Hollywood films: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and, most famously, Miracle on 34th St.

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November 29, 1945
Wilder's Lost Weekend

In 1945 Billy Wilder followed his hit film Double Indemnity, co-written with Raymond Chandler, with what was, for its era, a bold and startling movie––The Lost Weekend. “How daring can the screen dare to be?” asked the marketing materials, as Wilder and star Ray Milland chronicled a frustrated writer’s four-day drinking binge with the same expressionistic lighting and camera that Wilder previously used to depict noir obsession and betrayal. The film won four Oscars, including Best Actor, Director and Screenplay, surprising those who argued, pre-release, that the film was too shocking for theater audiences. Also, the alcohol industry lobbied Paramount Pictures against releasing the film (Wilder claimed Paramount was offered $5 million to shelve the picture) while temperance groups fought against it too, feeling that the pic glamorized drinking.  But there were still some aspects of its story that the filmmakers avoided. In the Charles Jackson novel on which the film is based, Milland’s character is driven to drink by the shame of a homosexual affair. In the film, his alcoholism is “explained” by a case of writer’s block.

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