Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 17
Nov. 17, 1942
Martin Scorsese born

Hear the name "Martin Scorsese" and you'll most likely remember an iconic scene from one of his seminal modern classics, like the "You talkin' to me?" monologue from Taxi Driver or the gloriously long single-take Steadicam shot through a mob nightclub in Goodfellas. But Scorsese, who was born on November 17, 1942, has always been a two-track filmmaker, pursuing studio-based projects that mix auteurist smarts with audience appeal while pursuing smaller, personal documentary and producing projects. So, while we wait for his latest, the gothic thriller Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the director remains perhaps even more active than normal. His Boardwalk Empire series is soon to premiere on HBO, he's finishing a documentary on George Harrison, and he heads not one but two organizations designed to the preservation of great works of cinema. One, the Film Foundation, recently restored Michael Powell's masterpiece, The Red Shoes, while the other, the World Cinema Foundation, oversaw a stunning restoration of the 1969 Egyptian film, The Mummy, directed by Shadi Abdel Salam. Scorsese is slated to receive the Cecile B. DeMille Award, given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, at the Golden Globes next year.


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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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