Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 17
October 14, 1954
Dreaming of a White Christmas

On Thursday 14 October 1954, the stars and producers of the Michael Curtiz’s holiday musical White Christmas were awarded with heart-felt applause at its New York premiere. The film became that year’s top grossing film, and went onto to become a perennial holiday favorite, especially after it premiered on television a decade later. But the film’s success was being planned years before its premiere. In the winter of 1940, the Jewish Irving Berlin wrote the film’s anthem to a Christian winter wonderland sitting poolside at the Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. Before crooning “White Christmas” as a duet with Marjorie Reynolds in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn (where it went on to win an Oscar for best song), Bing Crosby inaugurated the tune on Christmas night for his NBC radio show in 1941, just weeks after America had entered World War II. When released as a recording, the wistful ode to domestic peace quickly became a hit, especially for troops wishing to be home themselves. The song not only inspired the movie White Christmas, but remained the bestselling song of all time until 1998 when Elton John’s memorial to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind,” surpassed it.


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Dec. 17, 1946
Eugene Levy born

Whether it's as Jim's dad in the American Pie movies, Max Yasgur in Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock or the dastardly Walter Kornbluth, one of the scientists out to nab Daryl Hannah in Splash, Eugene Levy has become instantly recognizable to movie audiences.

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December 17, 1982
Tootsie Not a Drag for Hoffman

26 years ago today, when Tootsie was released in the U.S., Dustin Hoffman went from being one of the most respected dramatic actors working in film to, well, something very different. Hoffman, who had his breakthrough role in Mike Nichols' wry charmer The Graduate in 1967, had never truly shown his comic side on screen, despite the fact that he played Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse's biopic of the controversial comedian, Lenny. Instead he had carefully picked roles, in films like Little Big Man, Midnight Cowboy and All the President's Men, which played to his incredible skill as a committed method actor. As a result, he was incredibly nervous about his idea to make a movie about a struggling actor who drags up as he pretends to be an actress in order to get a role in a soap opera. The film had a troubled and prolonged history, taking four years to reach the screen, during which time directors Dick Richards and Hal Ashby dropped out of the project, to be replaced by Sydney Pollack. The film, however, was a huge success: Hoffman's female foils, Jessica Lange and Teri Garr, excelled in their roles while Charles Durning (ala Joe E. Brown in Some Like It Hot) gave a killer supporting turn as the man who falls for Hoffman's “Dorothy.” And Hoffman himself was a revelation, displaying impeccable comic instincts and brilliant timing in a role that could easily have been his undoing and the source of infinite mockery from his peers. Tootsie was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Screenplay, while Lange beat out Garr for the Best Supporting Actress award. Most importantly for Hoffman and Columbia, the studio that bankrolled the movie, Tootsie was a box office titan, rapidly passing the $100 million mark and ultimately racking up nearly $180 million.

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