Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
July 01
The Damned October 14, 1969
The Damned released

Luchino Visconti’s 1969 Nazi drama The Damned was undoubtedly his most controversial work when it opened in Italy in 1969. With operatic flair and flamboyance, the film chronicles the complex sexual politics of the German Essenbecks family as they slowly cede power to the Nazis and destroy themselves in the process. (The Essenbecks were loosely based on the Krupp family, whose metal works helped arm the Nazis). The Damned was rooted in real events (the famed “Night of Long Knives”), and its tone and themes came from opera––the Italian title La caduta degli dei (The Fall of the Gods) is a nod to Wagner’s The Twilight of the Gods––and Macbeth. For many observers, the lurid, erotic feel was a far cry from the neorealistic works, like Ossessione and La terra trema, that put Visconti on the map. But in some ways, the film was quite close to Visconti personally. As an opera director, he had a sense for the grandiose. As a gay man (involved with a German, the film’s star, Helmut Berger) and a leftist from a wealthy aristocratic family, the storylines were quite familiar. When questioned why he focused on German Nazism rather than Italian Fascism, Visconti responded, “Of course, Fascism was a tragedy in many, many cases… but Nazism seems to me to reveal more about a historical reversal of values.” In the end, the film succeeded both because (and in spite) of its controversy. In Italy, it proved to be a box office smash, and, in America, even though it was slapped with an X-rating, it garnered Visconti his one Oscar nomination, for Best Screenplay. Rainer Werner Fassbinder later exclaimed that The Damned is "perhaps the greatest film, the film that I think means as much to the history of film as Shakespeare to the history of theater."


More Flashbacks
Thea Von Harbou July 1, 1954
Thea Von Harbou dies

In 1954, after attending a special screening at the recently founded Berlin Film Festival of her 1921 collaboration with Fritz Lang, The Weary Death, screenwriter Thea Von Harbou slipped and fell.

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July 1, 1925
Farley Granger born

Farley Granger grew up to play sensitive, sometimes nervous characters whose sense of uncertainty seemed to reflect the actor’s own ambivalence.  Granger was born into the American dream at a time of national prosperity: his father owned a successful car dealership in San Jose, and his mother was a doting homemaker.

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30 June 1989
RKO hijacks Ambersons

When your first film is Citizen Kane, now widely acknowledged as the greatest film of all time, then by definition it's all downhill from there.

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1 July 1954
After M, Nothing

In 1954, Thea von Harbou, a woman who for over a decade was one of Germany's most important artists, died quietly and nearly unknown in Berlin.

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