Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 16
Andre Bazin November 11, 1958
Andre Bazin dies

On November 11, 1958, French film critic André Bazin passed away on the outskirts of Paris, finally losing his battle with leukemia, a disease he had been first diagnosed with in 1954. In the words of his biographer, Dudley Andrew, “André Bazin's impact on film art, as theorist and critic, is widely considered to be greater than that of any single director, actor, or producer in the history of cinema. He is credited with almost single-handedly establishing the study of film as an accepted intellectual pursuit.” Bazin is best known as the editor of Cahiers du Cinéma, the seminal film magazine he co-founded in 1951 with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca. In this capacity, he not only wrote passionately about film, championing “objective reality” in cinema and advocating film as an act of personal expression, but also fostered the careers of Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol, precocious critics who would soon make films themselves and become the vanguard of the French New Wave. Bazin, in fact, died on the very first day of shooting of Truffaut’s debut The 400 Blows, the film considered to be the opening salvo of the Nouvelle Vague. Bazin had been a mentor to Truffaut for the past decade, and it was to Bazin that Truffaut would dedicate The 400 Blows. (Truffaut called Bazin “a sort of saint in a velvet cap living in complete purity in a world that became pure from contact with him.”) In 1967, What is Cinema?, a collection of some of the more than 2000 essays on cinema Bazin had written over his short life, was first published, a defining volume of film criticism that put into perspective Bazin’s contribution to the form. In the introduction to the book, Jean Renoir wrote of Bazin that “he it was who gave the patent of royalty to the cinema just as the poets of the past had crowned their kings.”


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Dec. 16, 1977
Saturday Night Fever opens

When Saturday Night Fever was released on December 16, 1977, the movie made John Travolta a star and prompted the start of a global disco revolution.

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December 16, 1967
America catches Saturday Night Fever

In December 1977, people lined up to see newcomer John Travolta dance his way into American history as Tony Manero, the paint-store clerk with a white leisure suit, a major attitude and the dance moves back it up. The idea for the film began as a 1975 investigative article in New York Magazine called “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by British rock journalist Nik Cohn. Interested in the emerging disco scene, Cohn detailed a group of Bay Ridge working-class kids who lived to dance on the weekends at their favorite disco. Unfortunately, just before the film came out, Cohn came clean that he had made up the whole story. But such a confession could not stop the juggernaut that was about to become Saturday Night Fever. Media mogul Robert Stigwood saw the film as a perfect cross-promotional vehicle between his music company RSO (Robert Stigwood Organization) and his emerging film productions. The idea paid off, as both film and movie seemed to reinforce the other’s popularity. Travolta shot into stardom, and the album sold over 20 million copies, becoming the top selling album in history until Michael Jackson's Thriller six years later. The dance/music concept was repeated with John Travolta: first in a 1980 country version, Urban Cowboy; and then in a less than successful 1983 sequel Staying Alive, directed by none other than Sylvester Stallone.

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