Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 21
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.”


More Flashbacks
Rocky November 21, 1976
Rocky premieres

Though Rocky, released November 21, 1976, tells the great underdog story of Rocky Balboa, the tale of how the movie got made is arguably an even more inspirational example of an outsider beating unthinkably long odds.

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November 21, 1944
Harold Ramis born

Harold Ramis, born today in 1944 in Chicago, is the kind of director that Hollywood loves.

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November 21, 1924
Scandal at Sea

On 21 November 1924, Hollywood’s elite, such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, gathered to bury Thomas Ince, the man who’d practically founded the studio system. After working for years as a silent film actor, he graduated to director, engineering an assembly line procedure that became the prototype for studio productions. Ince put his theories of production into practice in 1912 when he found his own studio “Inceville” –– which later moved to Culver City to become Culver Studios –– and started to churn out western after western. But in November 18, 1924, at the young age of 41, Ince died of acute indigestion on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht Oneida. Or so the death certificate said. But many attending his funeral on November 21 believe something else happened, something Hearst’s absence all but confirmed. The story being whispered about town was that Hearst killed Ince by accident. Believing that Chaplin was having an affair with his mistress Marion Davies on his own yacht, Hearst had taken a shot at a man he believed to be the little tramp, only to discover afterwards that he had fatally shot Ince in the head. The rumors grew so fierce that the San Diego District Attorney was forced to open up an investigation, but by that time there was little evidence to examine, and no one willing to talk. One possible witness, entertainment reporter Louella Parsons, remembered nothing. Of course, immediately after the trip Parsons had coincidently been promoted from Hollywood reporter to nationally syndicated columnist, thus initiating her own dynasty. (The suspected murder was dramatized years later in Peter Bogdanovich’s 2001 drama The Cat’s Meow).

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