A look back at this day in film history
December 01
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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December 1, 1935
Woody Allen Born

In 1935, Nettie and Martin Konigsberg welcomed their new son Allen Stewart into the world. Second generation German Jewish emigrants, the family moved from the lower East Side to Brooklyn where Nettie worked as a bookkeeper and Martin as an engraver and waiter.

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December 1, 1983
Scarface Returns

It was nippy New York City winter night when such stars as Melanie Griffith, Raquel Welch, Cher, Lucille Ball, and Eddie Murphy came out for the premiere of Scarface. Dedicated to Ben Hecht and Howard Hawks, Brian De Palma’s film updated those two men’s 1932 movie about a megalomaniacal Chicago gangster (aka Al Capone) into a nightmarish spin on the American dream as a Cuban exile rises to take over the illegal drug trade in Miami. Producer Martin Bregman had imagined the remake in early 1980 as star vehicle for Al Pacino. Bergman hired Oliver Stone (who was himself dealing with a cocaine addiction at the time) to write the script. When De Palma read it, he dropped out of directing Flashdance to take over the production. He wanted to rewrite the rules of noir with this film. Instead of the dark, rain-soaked streets of early gangster films, De Palma shot the violence under the bright, unapologetic South Florida sunshine––although in truth the film production took place in Los Angeles. When it came out, the film was not the runaway hit that everyone had hoped for. Critics were lukewarm, and box office was respectable but not boffo. Overtime, however, the film became a phenomenon all its own. Adopted by Latino and African-American youth as the patron saint of crime, Scarface became an icon. His catchphrases, like “say ‘elllo to my little friend,” graced t-shirts, bumper stickers, tennis shoes, cups and posters. His story was reincarnated in video games, rap lyrics and a short-lived TV show. His spirit continues to speak to generation after generation of outsiders looking in on the American dream from the ghetto or beyond the border. As Ken Tucker, the author of Scarface Nation puts it, “Scarface absorbs ridicule and overexposure and just keeps on going."

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