A look back at this day in film history
December 03
November 16, 1945
The Lost Weekend Premieres in NYC

On the train ride from Los Angeles to New York City, Billy Wilder picked up four novels, with Charles Jackson’s harrowing tale of alcoholic writer The Lost Weekend being one them. As soon as Wilder’s train pulled in Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, he called his old writing partner Charles Brackett back in LA to get him on board with the film. But why such a downbeat tale? Some suggest his recent experience with Raymond Chandler’s alcoholic behavior while co-writing Double Indemnity propelled Wilder's desire to understand the disease. In the novel, the main character drank over guilt of a homosexual affair, but in the film Wilder changed that to writer's block. Wilder convinced Paramount to greenlight the project, but the production faced challenges at every stage. Ray Milland was wary of starring as a drunk. Studios execs were nervous about the downbeat tale. Even the liquor industry, according to Wilder, want to quash the project, supposedly offering Paramount $5 million to sell them the negative. When it first showed, the audience reaction was so bad that Paramount almost buried it. But when the film finally was released, it was greeted with much critical acclaim. The film was nominated for seven oscars, winning four: Best Actor (Ray Milland), Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Screenplay (Wilder and Charles Brackett) and Best Picture. Miklós Rózsa was nominated for Best Music for his innovative score that included the first use of theremin in a film.

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December 3, 1930
Jean-Luc Godard born

Perhaps not coincidentally, cinema’s premiere critic of bourgeois politics was raised in an affluent and comfortable life. Jean-Luc Godard was born in Paris, the second of four children, to a respected physician with his own clinic and a mother whose family had strong banking interests.

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December 3, 1993
Derek Jarman's Blue in New York

On a December Friday in New York City in 1993, cineastes got the chance to get a look at Derek Jarman’s new film, Blue. The British painter, filmmaker and activist had increasingly gained an American reputation with homoerotic art films like Caravaggio and Edward II, placing him along with Todd Haynes and Gregg Araki at the forefront of New Queer Cinema. But those who had not read about Blue beforehand found the screening a confusing and uncomfortable situation. While the soundtrack contained an ongoing discussion between Jarman, Tilda Swinton and others for 79 minutes, the screen stayed a constant, undying blue. By the time he made the film, Jarman, one of Britain’s most profound colorists, was going blind from cytomegalovirus, an AIDS-related infection. Departing from this world and into language, Jarman found comfort in the abstract warmth of a blue metaphor (from sad to open to the far beyond), creating in the process a stunning experimental film about the limits of film, sight and life itself. In a little more than two months after it was screened in New York, Derek Jarman was dead from complications due to AIDS.

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