Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 17
Pier Paolo Pasolini November 2, 1975
Pier Paolo Pasolini murdered

On November 2, 1975, the body of radical Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was discovered on the desolate beach area of Ostia, just outside Rome. He had been murdered, run over by his own car multiple times. Hours after the discovery of his body, 17-year-old male prostitute Pino “The Frog” Pelosi was arrested after he was caught speeding in Pasolini’s Alfa Romeo; he would later confess to the murder, claiming that Pasolini tried to sodomize him with a wooden stick. Despite Pelosi’s confession and subsequent conviction, the circumstances of Pasolini’s death have continued to be the subject of constant debate. Friends of the gay poet, novelist and writer-director believed that his Communist beliefs may have been the real reason for his murder, while another theory is that Pasolini was killed by extortionists who had stolen footage from his final film, the highly controversial Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. More significantly, Pelosi’s sole culpability has been widely questioned right from the start. There were reports of a car containing four people tailing Pasolini on the way to Ostia, the trial pathologist said that Pasolini was likely killed by more than one individual, and a 1977 court case (overturned in 1979) concluded that he’d been “murdered by Pelosi and persons unknown.” In 2005, Pelosi – who served 10 years in jail for Pasolini’s murder – spoke out, claiming he was innocent, that he had been forced to confess, and that three people with “a Southern accent” had killed the director. The case was subsequently reopened, but then closed again due to insufficient new evidence. In 2010, there were more new developments: in March, former opposition leader Walter Veltroni wrote an open letter in the Corriere della Sera newspaper to Italy’s Justice Minister, Angelino Alfano, asking why the case ("riddled with holes, like many others of the time") had not been reopened, and in June, another newspaper, Oggi, got hold of documents which claimed that brothers Franco and Giuseppe Borsellino (both now deceased from AIDS), had told an undercover cop in 1976 that they and one other person had killed Pasolini.


More Flashbacks
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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