Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 07
Louis Malle October 31, 1932
Louis Malle born

The great French director Louis Malle was born October 30, 1932. Coming of movie-making age alongside the New Wave directors, Malle was never formally associated with that movement and, perhaps, was never treated as a boundary-breaking director. But he still created a number of sensuous and sometimes controversial works that were some of the best French films of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Crossing from documentary to fiction, occasionally drawing from the world of theater, and refusing to be bound by the “French system” by venturing into Hollywood, Malle was an elegant storyteller whose works usually featured indelible characters and strong emotions. Malle’s first film was as co-director with Jacques Cousteau of The Silent World, an undersea documentary that was the first non-fiction film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His first fiction film was Elevator to the Gallows, a terse crime pic with a moody Miles Davis score. Also in 1958 was the hugely successful Les Amants, starring Jeanne Moreau in a tale of adultery. In 1971, he made Murmur of the Heart, which featured mother/son incest, and in 1978 he made, in the States, Pretty Baby, starring a young Brooke Shields as child prostitute in 1917 New Orleans. Because of all these films, Malle was often thought of as a director who tackled controversial themes, but his best films were simpler human dramas where his skill for casting and directing actors could shine. In Atlantic City, for example, Susan Sarandon played a down-on-her-heels woman struggling to remake herself as a croupier in Atlantic City who befriends an aging numbers runner, Lou, played by Burt Lancaster. Wrote Roger Ebert, “What's interesting, even with a seemingly commercial project like Atlantic City, is how resolutely [Malle] stayed with the human dimension of his story and let the drug plot supply an almost casual background.” Malle died in November 23, 1995, of lymphoma.


More Flashbacks
December 7, 1960
Village of the Damned released

In the winter of 1960, a new vision of horror came to American cinemas from Britain. The Village of the Damned tells the story of a small English village in which all the women are mysteriously pregnant.

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December 7, 1949
Tom Waits For No Man

Thomas Alan Waits was born in Pomona, California, on this day, 59 years ago. The name Tom Waits is, of course, primarily associated with music: Waits is a distinctive, gravely-voiced singer-songwriter who has made classic albums like Rain Dogs and Blue Valentine and has been a force on the American music scene since the 1970s. Waits, though, with his rasping tones and rough-hewn features is also a casting director’s dream and has been involved in film almost as long as he has in music. Bizarrely, it was Sylvester Stallone who first put him on screen in his directorial debut, Paradise Alley, as a piano player called Mumbles, though Waits subsequently drew attention from somewhat more distinguished helmers. The first of these was Francis Ford Coppola, who cast Waits in four consecutive movies (One From the Heart, The Outsiders, Rumblefish and The Cotton Club) and also had Waits score One From the Heart, for which he received an Oscar nod. His other great relationship has been with director Jim Jarmusch, who also initiated Waits into his exclusive Sons of Lee Marvin club; Jarmusch first utilized Waits in Down by Law in 1986 and has since used his musical or thespian talents in Mystery Train, Night on Earth and Coffee and Cigarettes. Appealing to auteurs with an eye for idiosyncratic, Waits has also appeared twice in Terry Gilliam and Hector Babenco productions and had memorable roles in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (opposite Lily Tomlin) and 2007’s Wristcutters: A Love Story.

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