A look back at this day in film history
November 25
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
The Crying Game November 25, 1992
The Crying Game released

“Yo, the chick’s a dude!” –– those words, shouted outside a movie theater on November 25, 1992, would most likely have earned you a punch in the nose from a ticket buyer standing in line to see Neil Jordan’s sly psychosexual drama The Crying Game.

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November 25, 2005
Pat Morita dies

On this day in 2005, the man best known as The Karate Kid’s sage sensei Mr. Miyagi, Pat Morita, died.

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November 25, 1973
Laurence Harvey Dies

By the time Laurence Harvey died of stomach cancer on November, 25 1973, his actual life proved easily as strange and quirky as the characters he played. Born in 1928 Zvi Mosheh (Hirsh) Skikne to a Jewish family in Lithuania, Harvey quickly reinvented himself at the age of five when his family moved to South Africa, where he took the name Harry. After working as an entertainer in the South African army, Harvey moved to London, changing his first name to Laurence and swapping out his family name for Harvey (supposedly taken from the sherry “Harvey’s Bristol Cream”). Harvey quickly rose up through the British film world, playing a range of side characters, then moving to Hollywood and Broadway where he gained a reputation for creating quirky, nervous eccentric, often emotionally cold men (often who were never quite what they seemed). His most famous role was as the brainwashed soldier in John Frankenheimer’s 1962 The Manchurian Candidate. While known to be privately gay, Harvey went through a number of high-profile marriages, often with women considerably older than himself. In 1968, for example, he married his second wife, Joan Perry Cohn, the widow of Columbia Picture’s master Harry Cohn. In 1969, his affair with Paulene Stone led to his one daughter, a divorce from Cohn, and, in 1972, a marriage to Stone. His daughter Domino Harvey went on to fame all her own as the bounty hunter whose life was dramatized by Keira Knightley in the 2005 thriller Domino. By the time he died in 1973, his career was in decline and his health had deteriorated by years of heavy drinking, and yet he was still trying on new identities. His last film, Welcome to Arrow Beach, which came out after his death, marked his third venture as a director as well as star.

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