A look back at this day in film history
November 28
Children of Paradise November 15, 1945
The Children of Paradise opens

While Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise opened in New York City in November, 1945, just months after World War II was officially over, the film was forged in the cauldron of the war. Supposedly the film had its origins in 1942, when director Carné and poet and writer Jacques Prévert ran into an old friend, the actor Jean-Louis Barrault, in the south of France. Over drinks, Barrault recounted the anecdote of the great 19th century mime Jean-Baptiste Gaspard Debureau, who killed a man who’d accosted his date. His subsequent trial for murder became a Parisian sensation, not so much because of the crime, but because hundreds of fans wanted to hear the famous mime speak. While the filmmakers let go of the particulars, they grew attached to the period and the people who made up the theater world back then. At the same time, due to Nazi occupation, it was near impossible for the filmmakers to create any work on contemporary subjects. Shooting commenced in August 1943 in France, and continued through the last years of war. Initially shot in Cannes, the film was called back to Paris by the Nazis. The production was subsequently shut down when it was discovered that one of the producers had Jewish ancestry. One actor was arrested on set for being a member of the resistance. Later, another actor had to flee when it was discovered he’d worked as a Nazi collaborator. But the story, set in early 19th century of Paris, has nothing to do with war. The story recounts how four men (Jean-Gaspard Debureau, Frédérick Lemaître, Pierre-Francois Lacenaire, and Count De Montrary) vie for the heart of the same mysterious beauty, Garance. Each of the main characters was based on real historical figures. The mime, Debureau, revolutionized that field of drama during the period. Lemaître was one of the most celebrated actors of his time. And Lacenaire was a poet who became more famous when he was arrested for murder. When the film came out, nearly every critic jumped up to explain how this drama of 19th century theater people was really about the Nazi occupation of France. In any case, the film remains essential to French culture. It has regularly been chosen by the French as the greatest French film of all time.

More Flashbacks
Meet Me In St. Louis November 28, 1944
Meet Me in St. Louis opens in Technicolor

Opening November 28, 1944, Vincente Minelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis was one of the most commercially successful pictures of its day.

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November 28, 1938
Michael Ritchie born

Michael Ritchie, one of the most skilled yet underrated Hollywood directors of the 1970s, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on this day in 1938.

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November 28, 1946
Dante's Divine Comedy of Horrors

In many ways, Joe Dante, born on this day 62 years ago today, is a film director from another age. Dante, a New Jersey native whose parents were golf pros, grew up in 1950s America and continues to embody the ethos of that decade in much of his film work. His influences, for example, include cartoonist Chuck Jones, champion of colorful 50s film comedy Frank Tashlin and B-movie mogul Roger Corman, and it was Corman who first initiated him into the world of movie production after Dante had spent some years as a film critic. Dante first enjoyed success with the Jaws­-inspired creature feature Piranha (1978) which he followed up with the werewolf movie The Howling (1981), another Corman production. Afterwards he graduated to big budget movies, often working for friend Steven Spielberg, and scored with hits like Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987) and also indulged in nostalgic joint exercises like Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) and episodes of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories TV show. His work has always affectionately looked back on a time when cinema was all about tall tales, monsters, aliens and other such fun excesses of the cinema of bygone years, and Dante tapped into this most directly in Matinee (1993), his film about a William Castle-like producer whose productions thrived on gimmicks and shock tactics. Since the early 1990s, though, Dante has worked mostly in television, where he directed the cult series Eerie, Indiana, only occasionally returning to the big screen for movies like the kid-oriented Small Soldiers (1998) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Now, however, Dante looks set to return to the fore with two projects which will that staple of 50s schlock horror, 3-D technology, which is popular once again 50 years on thanks to its revitalization through digital technology.

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