A look back at this day in film history
December 01
Something Wild November 7, 1986
Something Wild opens

With both downtown New York creative subculture and Wall Street flourishing in the mid-1980s, the collision of straight, hardworking men charismatic, possibly decadent women with bohemian lifestyles was a popular theme. There was Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, John Landis’s Into the Night, and, opening November 7, 1986, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. Jeff Daniels plays an uptight banker who cuts loose when he is “kidnapped” on a countercultural joyride with the enjoyably kooky, black-bobbed Lulu (Melanie Griffith). They two wind up playing husband and wife at her high-school reunion (a narrative device that would recur in countless movies following), and Ray Liotta provides some third-act bloodshed with his appearance as Lulu’s ex-con ex. The film is full of cameos from directors (John Sayles, John Waters), downtown scenesters (the designer Adelle Lutz), and musicians (The Feelies). Wrote Dave Kehr for the Chicago Tribune, “It has wit, originality, color, warmth and formal intelligence. It tempers its escapist dash with a touch of darkness, and for all of its playfulness, never departs from a fundamental seriousness.... Something Wild is superbly unpredictable.” The film wasn’t a huge hit — in the States it grossed just over $8 million — but the influence of this ’80 sub-genre exists in both independent and studio film to this day.

More Flashbacks
December 1, 1935
Woody Allen Born

In 1935, Nettie and Martin Konigsberg welcomed their new son Allen Stewart into the world. Second generation German Jewish emigrants, the family moved from the lower East Side to Brooklyn where Nettie worked as a bookkeeper and Martin as an engraver and waiter.

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December 1, 1983
Scarface Returns

It was nippy New York City winter night when such stars as Melanie Griffith, Raquel Welch, Cher, Lucille Ball, and Eddie Murphy came out for the premiere of Scarface. Dedicated to Ben Hecht and Howard Hawks, Brian De Palma’s film updated those two men’s 1932 movie about a megalomaniacal Chicago gangster (aka Al Capone) into a nightmarish spin on the American dream as a Cuban exile rises to take over the illegal drug trade in Miami. Producer Martin Bregman had imagined the remake in early 1980 as star vehicle for Al Pacino. Bergman hired Oliver Stone (who was himself dealing with a cocaine addiction at the time) to write the script. When De Palma read it, he dropped out of directing Flashdance to take over the production. He wanted to rewrite the rules of noir with this film. Instead of the dark, rain-soaked streets of early gangster films, De Palma shot the violence under the bright, unapologetic South Florida sunshine––although in truth the film production took place in Los Angeles. When it came out, the film was not the runaway hit that everyone had hoped for. Critics were lukewarm, and box office was respectable but not boffo. Overtime, however, the film became a phenomenon all its own. Adopted by Latino and African-American youth as the patron saint of crime, Scarface became an icon. His catchphrases, like “say ‘elllo to my little friend,” graced t-shirts, bumper stickers, tennis shoes, cups and posters. His story was reincarnated in video games, rap lyrics and a short-lived TV show. His spirit continues to speak to generation after generation of outsiders looking in on the American dream from the ghetto or beyond the border. As Ken Tucker, the author of Scarface Nation puts it, “Scarface absorbs ridicule and overexposure and just keeps on going."

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