A look back at this day in film history
November 30
My Dinner With Andre October 11, 1981
My Dinner with Andre opens

The 1991 arthouse hit My Dinner with Andre was borne out of extended taped conversations by playwright and actor Wallace Shawn and theater director Andre Gregory. The two were old friends, and they had the idea to make a movie based, as Gregory told Sight and Sound magazine, “on ourselves.” As he related, “After months of study, of sifting through and cataloguing the material, sentence by sentence, in a sort of confused and miserable way, certain themes began to emerge; somewhere inside several layers of wrapping, there were certain subjects, certain concerns. Also, two fictional characters, distinct and amusing, seemed to be vaguely visible underneath the incomprehensible surface of the actual people we were." The film that came out featured these polar opposite personalities talking about the Big Stuff over dinner, and it became one of the most celebrated American independent films of its day, partly due to its surprising — and surprisingly achieved — box-office success. Bought by New Yorker Films after its premiere at the 1980 Telluride Film Festival, My Dinner with Andre was distributed by a team including now-filmmaker Jeff Lipsky in a manner that would be almost unheard of today. It was kept in theaters for weeks even though grosses were declining, and it was even extended after Gregory "groveled and begged" in front of New Yorker's Dan Talbot. As recounted in David Rosen's Off Hollywood, the grosses picked up, and on continued modest advertising spends, the movie became a surprise hit. Critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on their weekly television show raved the film, declaring it one of the best of the year, and it went on to play at New York's Lincoln Plaza an astonishing 54 weeks — something that would be simply unheard now. In L.A. at the Westland Twin theater, the film's grosses in week 17 were three times what they were in week one. In the days before home video, pay-per-view and streaming, and before the internet forever changed the notion of the water cooler, "word of mouth" meant something a little different in the film world than it does today. It meant that audiences knew that had to see something when it came out, that they couldn't wait until some future delivery window, and that if they didn't urge their friends to see it they'd miss out on something great.

More Flashbacks
Boy with Green Hair November 30, 1948
The Boy with Green Hair opens

The opening of the pacifist parable The Boy with Green Hair should be celebrated as the feature directorial debut of Joseph Losey.

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November 30, 1947
Ernst Lubitsch dies

On Sunday November 30, 1947, director Ernst Lubitsch was due at William Wyler’s home for an afternoon screening party.

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November 30, 1945
Noir Takes a Detour

In a time in which CGI and other advanced film technologies create worlds that are more lifelike than life itself, the grungy, low-rent charms of Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, which opened on November 20, 1945, should not be forgotten. Shot in less than one week on a few simple sets and using obvious rear-screen projection for all the driving scenes, the movie is, as Robert Ebert wrote, “so filled with imperfections that it would not earn the director a passing grade in film school.” But despite its many technical flaws, the film is a film noir classic. Its indigent aesthetic amplifies rather than detracts from its bleak tale of blackmail and remorselessness. And, as the femme fatale, Ann Savage created perhaps the perfect noir heroine. “There is not a single fleeting shred of tenderness or humanity in her performance,” Ebert wrote.

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