Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 19
October 12, 1966
Shirley Temple resigns from San Francisco Festival

When Mai Zetterling’s Nattlek (Night Games) arrived at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1966, the ex-child star Shirley Temple Black was horrified. This was not the kind of film that she wanted to endorse when she joined the festival’s board in 1964. The third feature form the controversial Swedish actress-turned-director, Night Games was adapted from her own novel about a married couple who return to the groom’s castle to discover a crazy night of orgiastic parties and repressed memories. John Waters later wrote with much admiration, “Zetterling directs with a ludicrously melodramatic, overly gothic sledgehammer to deal with this story of impotence, child masturbation, cross-dressing, porno flicks, and vomiting.” The film certainly arrived in San Francisco with a lot of baggage. At the Venice Film Festival, Night Games was withdrawn from public viewing and could only be watched by the jurors. When the San Francisco Film Festival refused to withdraw the film as Black insisted, she quit in protest, hoping to send a message to other festivals, as well as keep her image clean for her upcoming Congressional run. The film continued to create controversy, much of which was directed at the filmmaker. But Zetterling was oblivious. She once said, “Perhaps I am a mad-hatter Swede…who got lost in the world ... I feel very far from the norm of just about everything."


More Flashbacks
December 19, 1977
Jacques Tourneur dies

On this day in 1977, the film world lost of the most creative directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when Jacques Tourneur passed away in Bergerac, a town in the south west of France.

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December 19, 1979
Being There, Sellers' Last Chance

According to director Hal Ashby, the editing of Being There was only finally finished at around 4 a.m. on the first day of its limited Oscar qualifying run, 29 years ago today, and Ashby himself delivered the film to the theatre by hand. The painstaking approach Ashby took with the film, however, translated into rapturous reviews and turned Being There into a financial as well as critical success. The movie was a long-gestating project that Ashby and the film’s star, Peter Sellers, had been planning since 1973 when the Pink Panther star had first shared with Ashby his love of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel about a idiot savant gardener who unintentionally becomes a political heavyweight. Sellers, who was initially seen as too broad a comic actor to play this subtle a role, excelled as Chauncey Gardiner (aka Chance the gardener), the childlike man whose simplistic comments are misinterpreted as ingenious political rhetoric, and garnered the very best reviews of his career and a Best Actor Oscar nod in the process. The film proved the most fitting of swan songs as Sellers died of a heart attack just six months after the film’s release. Being There has since become a classic, not least because of its incisive and gently scornful satire of the American political establishment: during the 1980 election, candidates Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter both tried to paint their opponent as being “like Chauncey Gardiner,” and over the course of the presidency of George W. Bush, numerous comparisons were made between the intelligence of commander in chief and Sellers’ simple-minded comic hero.

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