Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 20
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 At the Venice Film Festival, Night Games was withdrawn from public viewing and could only be watched by the jurors.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."


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Robert Altman November 20, 2006
Robert Altman dies

On this day in 2006, the legendary film director Robert Altman passed away at the age of 81 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Nov. 20, 1992
Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opens

The unlikeliest franchise was born on November 20, 1992, when Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opened in New York City. Produced by Ed Pressman, written by Zoe Lund and Paul Calderon, and starring Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant boldly yoked a tale of a distraught Catholic cop seeking redemption by pursuing the rapists of a nun to a sordid, walk-on-the-wild side panorama of downtown New York in the early '90s.

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November 20, 1981
Ragtime Starts Up

Released on November 20, 1981, Milos Forman's Ragtime presented a sweeping picture of America at the beginning of the 20th century. While based on E.L. Doctorow’s sprawling novel, the film centers on the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), a young black pianist who fights to have his honor restored after being abused by racist volunteer firemen. For Forman, the film’s story of oppression connected to his own struggle in Communist Czechoslovakia. For others, the story was a reflection of America’s own new Gilded Age, especially as the holiday season approached. But all saw the 155-minute spectacle, with a massive cast that included actors and celebrities like James Cagney, Donald O’Connor, Pat O’Brien, Elizabeth McGovern, Norman Mailer, Mandy Patinkin, and many more, as a movie event. It took an impressive $17 million and was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, and even spawned a Broadway musical; today, however, Ragtime, a historical epic to remind of past excesses, has sadly been all but forgotten.

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