Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 20
Pan's Labyrinth October 9, 1964
Guillermo Del Toro born

Guillermo Del Toro, the Oscar-nominated writer-director of Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies, today celebrates his 46th birthday. Del Toro is, in some senses, the ultimate fanboy filmmaker, a lifelong lover of movies and comic books who moved from aficionado to auteur, bringing an uncommon artistry, intelligence and sophistication to the horror and fantasy film genres. A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, del Toro was first drawn to horror movies – from the more cheap and cheesy 50s monster flicks and Hammer Horror movies to James Whale, Mario Bava and George A. Romero films – when he still extremely young. However, as he tells it, horror was all around him anyway. In interviews, he’s talked about seeing monsters in his bedroom as a toddler, and then being haunted by the ghost of his uncle – ironically, the man who had first introduced him to horror movies and novels. He began to draw his own monsters, and the fantastical world of horror he created became an escape from the world around him. (His grandmother, however, “went in with a vial of holy water and tried to exorcise me for the shit I was drawing. I started laughing and she got so scared that she threw more at me.") Also, says del Toro, being Mexican means that death is ever-present in his work: “I worked for months next to a morgue that I had to go through to get to work. I've seen people being shot; I've had guns put to my head; I've seen people burnt alive, stabbed, decapitated ... because Mexico is still a very violent place.” Del Toro first got into movies working in makeup and effects (he studied under the legendary Dick Smith), and later co-founded the Guadalajara Film Festival. In 1992, he directed his first feature, the inventive and macabre Cronos, and has not looked back since.


More Flashbacks
Robert Altman November 20, 2006
Robert Altman dies

On this day in 2006, the legendary film director Robert Altman passed away at the age of 81 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Nov. 20, 1992
Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opens

The unlikeliest franchise was born on November 20, 1992, when Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opened in New York City. Produced by Ed Pressman, written by Zoe Lund and Paul Calderon, and starring Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant boldly yoked a tale of a distraught Catholic cop seeking redemption by pursuing the rapists of a nun to a sordid, walk-on-the-wild side panorama of downtown New York in the early '90s.

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November 20, 1981
Ragtime Starts Up

Released on November 20, 1981, Milos Forman's Ragtime presented a sweeping picture of America at the beginning of the 20th century. While based on E.L. Doctorow’s sprawling novel, the film centers on the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), a young black pianist who fights to have his honor restored after being abused by racist volunteer firemen. For Forman, the film’s story of oppression connected to his own struggle in Communist Czechoslovakia. For others, the story was a reflection of America’s own new Gilded Age, especially as the holiday season approached. But all saw the 155-minute spectacle, with a massive cast that included actors and celebrities like James Cagney, Donald O’Connor, Pat O’Brien, Elizabeth McGovern, Norman Mailer, Mandy Patinkin, and many more, as a movie event. It took an impressive $17 million and was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, and even spawned a Broadway musical; today, however, Ragtime, a historical epic to remind of past excesses, has sadly been all but forgotten.

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