Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 07
October 10, 1909
The First Times

When readers opened their Sunday New York Times to page 8 on 10 October 1909, they found a review of Pippa Passes, the new D. W. Griffith film loosely based on Robert Browning’s 1841 poem. The column began “Pippa Passes is being given in the nickelodeons and Browning is being presented to the average motion picture audience, which has received it with applause and is asking for more.” What made such a mundane observation memorable is that this was the Times first film review. Much like Griffith’s later epic, Intolerance, Pippa Passes is broken into four parts, each designating a time of the day with special lighting effects signaling dawn or dusk. A young Gertrude Robinson played the lead, beating out newcomer Mary Pickford, who at 16 Griffith considered too old.


More Flashbacks
December 7, 1960
Village of the Damned released

In the winter of 1960, a new vision of horror came to American cinemas from Britain. The Village of the Damned tells the story of a small English village in which all the women are mysteriously pregnant.

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December 7, 1949
Tom Waits For No Man

Thomas Alan Waits was born in Pomona, California, on this day, 59 years ago. The name Tom Waits is, of course, primarily associated with music: Waits is a distinctive, gravely-voiced singer-songwriter who has made classic albums like Rain Dogs and Blue Valentine and has been a force on the American music scene since the 1970s. Waits, though, with his rasping tones and rough-hewn features is also a casting director’s dream and has been involved in film almost as long as he has in music. Bizarrely, it was Sylvester Stallone who first put him on screen in his directorial debut, Paradise Alley, as a piano player called Mumbles, though Waits subsequently drew attention from somewhat more distinguished helmers. The first of these was Francis Ford Coppola, who cast Waits in four consecutive movies (One From the Heart, The Outsiders, Rumblefish and The Cotton Club) and also had Waits score One From the Heart, for which he received an Oscar nod. His other great relationship has been with director Jim Jarmusch, who also initiated Waits into his exclusive Sons of Lee Marvin club; Jarmusch first utilized Waits in Down by Law in 1986 and has since used his musical or thespian talents in Mystery Train, Night on Earth and Coffee and Cigarettes. Appealing to auteurs with an eye for idiosyncratic, Waits has also appeared twice in Terry Gilliam and Hector Babenco productions and had memorable roles in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (opposite Lily Tomlin) and 2007’s Wristcutters: A Love Story.

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