Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 20
November 18, 1931
A Mädchen of Honor

On 18 November 1931 in Berlin, audiences loudly applauded the premiere of Mädchen in Uniform, a film that would go on to ignite both controversy and a burgeoning lesbian cinema. Adapted from Christa Winsloe’s novel Das Mädchen Manuela, and her later play Gestern und Heute (Yesterday and Today), the film tells of a budding love affair between a teacher and a student in a strict Prussian girls academy. While many critics argued the film’s storyline was more an attack on Prussian strictness than sexual conformity, lines like “What you call sin, I call the great spirit of love, which takes a thousand forms,” left little doubt where the film’s heart really was. Along with the 1919 gay male film Anders als die Andern, Mädchen aligned itself with the free-thinking and sexual experimentation of the Weimar Republic. Unfortunately, the film would soon be banned by the Nazis and its Jewish director Leontine Sagan and bisexual author Winsloe would be forced to flee the country. While the film was also banned in the US, and then seriously cut and censored, it was finally restored to its original form and spirit in 1994.


More Flashbacks
Harold and Maude Dec. 20, 1971
Harold and Maude Opens

Hal Ashby's iconic black comedy Harold and Maude opened in theaters on December 20, 1971.

Read more »
December 20, 1979
Bob Fosse's All That Jazz

For denizens of the New York theater scene, Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical All that Jazz provided them the guessing game of the season. What scandals was Fosse going to spill in his expose musical? The film, which tells the story of a Broadway choreographer/director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), whose excesses in life and work bring him to the edge of a collapse, was clearly modeled on Fosse’s own life. Some actors (like Ann Reinking) play characters very similar to themselves; other figures (like ex-wife Gwen Verdon, producer Hal Prince, and others) are played by others; and other actors (like Jessica Lange) who were close to Fosse play oddly mythic figures. Fosse, who’d started choreographing for film in 1954, was soon pulled to New York to choreograph and eventually direct such musicals as Pippin, Chicago, and Sweet Charity. In 1969, he started making films as well, winning an Oscar in 1972 for Cabaret. A demanding taskmaster and infamous womanizer, the chain-smoking Fosse suffered a heart attack in 1975. It was during this period that Shirley Maclaine (according to her) suggested he create something about his brush with death. The resulting film is a breathtaking musical sleight of hand as Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon reveals his innermost fears and desires only to cover them in the next moment with all that jazz––surreal show stopping dance numbers and Felliniesque romps into his libido and unconscious. In 1987, life imitated art as Fosse died from a heart attack, just moments before his revival of Sweet Charity was to open at the National Theater.

Read more »