Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 08
October 10, 1985
Orson Welles dies

On this day in 1985, Orson Welles passed away at the age of 70, dying of a heart attack at his home in California. Welles’ death from a cardio pulmonary collapse was not a huge surprise to anyone who had seen around that time; he was massively overweight, and his dinners apparently consisted of two steaks, cooked rare, and a pint of scotch. Welles died at 4:30am, just after having completed an interview with Merv Griffin. Welles was a favorite guest of Griffin’s and had been on his show around 50 times, however on this occasion he especially told Griffin, "For this interview there are no subjects about which I won't speak." Usually reticent to speak about his past, Welles spoke warmly and openly about old friends and lovers, including Rita Hayworth, who Griffin noted had had her last appearance on his show. After the taping, Welles was driven to his favorite restaurant, Ma Maison, and died shortly after returning home. He famously voiced the character of Unicron (“a big toy who attacks a bunch of smaller toys," said Welles) in the cartoon Transformers: The Movie (1986). However his last screen role was in Somebody to Love (released 1987), directed by his friend Henry Jaglom. The movie, in which Welles essentially plays himself, opens with him saying these poignant lines: “You know, the great problem of movies is that they’re always old-fashioned. It takes too long to make a movie. By the time your idea is on the screen, it’s already… dead.”


More Flashbacks
December 8, 1978
The Deer Hunter released

In 1978, two very different Hollywood films for tackled the previously taboo subject of Vietnam: Hal Ashby's Coming Home (released in February '78) and Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, which debuted on December 8, 1978.

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December 8, 1861
Georges Melies Born

Born in the middle of the 19th century, Georges Méliès helped define film as the most important artform of the 20th century. The son of a shoe manufacturer, Méliès was fascinated more in stagecraft and puppetry than heels and soles. And while he eventually took over his father’s factory, he did so only to make enough money to buy the Theatre Robert Houdin in 1888. Soon he became a master showman, creating elaborate stage fantasies with magic and special effects. His life changed completely on December 28 1895, after he attended the Lumière brothers’ exhibition of their Cinématographe. From then on, he strove to marry the magic of theater with the magic of film. In 1896, a production gone wrong showed him the way. After a camera jammed, Méliès saw things wondrously disappear, then pop back in frame, as if by directed by a master magician. He started developing other special effects—a double exposure, a split screen, and a dissolve––to enhance film’s trickery. In 1902, his A Trip to The Moon became an instant classic, turning Méliès into one of film’s foremost artists. His success however could not be maintained. By 1913 his famous film company was sold off, leaving Méliès nearly penniless. Indeed the boy who turned to the arts to avoid making shoes watched as the celluloid from his films was used to patch soldiers shoes during World War I. Nearly lost to obscurity, Méliès was rediscovered in the 20s and awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1931. Now heralded as one the grandfathers of cinema, only 200 of his over 500 films remain.

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