Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 26
October 31, 1993
River Phoenix dies

During his successful and all-too-short career, actor River Phoenix was the James Dean of his generation. The striking young actor gave soulful performances in films ranging from Rob Reiner's coming-of-age hit Stand by Me to Sidney Lumet's drama about '60s radicals, Running on Empty, to Gus Van Sant's experimental Shakespeare homage, My Own Private Idaho, before dying of a drug overdose at West Hollywood's Viper Room on October 31, 1993. Intelligent, gentle, intense, and projecting a maturity beyond his years, Phoenix was a soft-spoken heartthrob who used his celebrity to promote causes like animal rights as well as to stretch the boundaries of the kinds of parts young movie stars were supposed to accept. In 2003, on the ten-year anniversary of his death, there were a rush of articles speculating on the actor's legacy, some of which wondered why his star did not seem to burn even brighter, as Dean's did. Some noted that the times had changed, and that boomers and Gen X'ers didn't endorse the mythmaking of earlier generations. Others, like producer Stephen Woolley, quoted in The Guardian, speculated that Phoenix would not have followed the path of his colleague Brad Pitt but instead would have been an idiosyncratic screen rebel with a perpetually ambivalent relationship to stardom. "I suspect he would have gone on to play harder, more interesting characters," Woolley said. "Robert Downey Jr is exactly the kind of guy that River would have become had he lived."


More Flashbacks
Casablanca November 26, 1942
Casablanca released

In New York City, stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, gathered for the premiere of Casablanca.

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November 26, 1993
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould released

Few knew what to expect from a film called Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould when it opened in New York.

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November 26, 1993
A Life in Fragments

In the same month and year that Jane Campion’s The Piano was released, going on be nominated for 8 Oscars and winning three, a little known filmmaker from Toronto, François Girard, released Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a bio-pic of sorts about the man that many consider to be one of the world’s greatest pianist. Taking its structure from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the film mixes short pieces of documentary, animation, narrative (with Colm Feore playing Gould), and performance to throw light on this complex artist. Girard commented that “as Gould was such a complex character, the biggest problem was to find a way to look at his work and deal with his visions. The film is built of fragments, each one trying to capture an aspect of Gould.” The film also helped break open the biopic genre to all sorts of experimentation and transformation, as well as becoming iconic for innovative cinema. In 1996, for example, The Simpsons released their own tribute "22 Short Films About Springfield."

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