Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
August 21
October 25, 1928
Dreyer's Lost Passion

Today in 1928, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer was in Paris for the premiere of The Passion of Joan of Arc. Written from actual trial transcripts, the film dramatizes the famed French teen’s emotional and spiritual ordeal at the hands of church fathers through a series of close ups, mostly of the film’s star Marie Falconetti. While it was Falconetti’s second and last film performance, it would be remembered, as New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael wrote, as maybe “the finest performance ever recorded on film." Beloved by some, banned by the British for many years, the original film was lost when its master negative was burned in a fire (a fate not unlike that of its heroine). Despite fruitless attempts to reconstruct the original film from outtakes, Dreyer went to his grave, believing his masterpiece was lost forever. And then, miraculously, in 1981 a complete print was found in an Oslo mental institution’s janitor’s closet.


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Orson Welles August 21, 1939
Orson Welles signs with RKO

On this day in 1939, the Mercury Theatre's wonderboy, Orson Welles, signed a contract with RKO Pictures to write, direct, produce and act in two movies for the studio.

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August 21, 1932
Melvin Van Peebles born

Melvin Van Peebles, since his birth in Chicago on August 21, 1932, has been battling the odds and the system – and winning.

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21 August 1932
Sweet Payback

Melvin Van Peebles couldn't get a break playing white Hollywood's game. But when he rewrote the rule book with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, everything changed.

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