Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 28
Butterfield 8 November 4, 1960
Butterfield 8 opens

For all the acrimony and anger created by its production, Butterfield 8, Daniel Mann’s adaptation of John O’Hara’s 1935 novel about a part-time prostitute (played by Elizabeth Taylor), should have been a catastrophe. Even the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther though so: “By the odds, it should be a bomb. But a bomb it is not, let us tell you. At least, it is not the sort of thing to set you to yawning and squirming, unless Elizabeth Taylor leaves you cold.” O’Hara’s novel was based on the true-life misadventures of Starr Faithfull, a beautiful young woman who was found dead in Long Beach, Long Island in 1931. While too risqué to adapt for years, MGM decided to push it into production in 1959 while Taylor was still under contract with the Studio. But Taylor, who was looking forward to starring in the big-budget production of Cleopatra, wanted nothing to do with this story. “I hate the girl I play,” Taylor declared publicly. “I don’t like what she stands for––the men, the sleeping around.” Next she went after the story, exclaiming that “it’s the most pornographic script I’ve ever read,” an insult novelist John O’Hara humorously greeted in print with the declaration, "The cracks Miss Taylor has taken at my novel gave me some bruises which were healed by the MGM accounting department with their tender, loving royalty checks." In the end, Taylor’s taunts may have actually helped the film by giving it the appropriate aura of scandal. The film’s $2.5 million budget brought in $9 million domestically, and, best of all, Taylor won her first Oscar after being nominated (and losing) the three previous years for Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Raintree County (1957).


More Flashbacks
Meet Me In St. Louis November 28, 1944
Meet Me in St. Louis opens in Technicolor

Opening November 28, 1944, Vincente Minelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis was one of the most commercially successful pictures of its day.

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November 28, 1938
Michael Ritchie born

Michael Ritchie, one of the most skilled yet underrated Hollywood directors of the 1970s, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on this day in 1938.

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November 28, 1946
Dante's Divine Comedy of Horrors

In many ways, Joe Dante, born on this day 62 years ago today, is a film director from another age. Dante, a New Jersey native whose parents were golf pros, grew up in 1950s America and continues to embody the ethos of that decade in much of his film work. His influences, for example, include cartoonist Chuck Jones, champion of colorful 50s film comedy Frank Tashlin and B-movie mogul Roger Corman, and it was Corman who first initiated him into the world of movie production after Dante had spent some years as a film critic. Dante first enjoyed success with the Jaws­-inspired creature feature Piranha (1978) which he followed up with the werewolf movie The Howling (1981), another Corman production. Afterwards he graduated to big budget movies, often working for friend Steven Spielberg, and scored with hits like Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987) and also indulged in nostalgic joint exercises like Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) and episodes of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories TV show. His work has always affectionately looked back on a time when cinema was all about tall tales, monsters, aliens and other such fun excesses of the cinema of bygone years, and Dante tapped into this most directly in Matinee (1993), his film about a William Castle-like producer whose productions thrived on gimmicks and shock tactics. Since the early 1990s, though, Dante has worked mostly in television, where he directed the cult series Eerie, Indiana, only occasionally returning to the big screen for movies like the kid-oriented Small Soldiers (1998) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Now, however, Dante looks set to return to the fore with two projects which will that staple of 50s schlock horror, 3-D technology, which is popular once again 50 years on thanks to its revitalization through digital technology.

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