Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 19
Todd Solondz October 15, 1959
Todd Solondz born

As Todd Solondz enters production on his seventh feature film, we’ll stop and take note of his birthday (October 15, 1959) as well as his position as one of American independent film’s enduring and most instantly recognizable voices. Queasily mixing comedy and drama, satire and social critique, Solondz has made a career out of movies populated by the estranged, by people who, for whatever reason, don’t fit into polite company. In Welcome to the Dollhouse, that character was Dawn Weiner, a bullied, unpopular, and socially awkward girl who finds approval in a classmate’s threats of rape. With Happiness, Solondz began to explore interlocking, multi-character stories, this time including everyone from a pedophile to an obscene phone caller. In Palindromes, the different segments of the story each featured a different actress portraying the same protagonist, the 12-year-old Aviva. And in his recent Life During Wartime, Solondz revisited the characters of Happiness, but this time radically recast them as entirely different actors. Little is known about the plot of Dark Horse, but Solondz told The Playlist that he’s gotten major agency support for the first time due to its lighter tone. “And you know CAA?” he said. “It's funny, it's the first time they actually like one of my scripts and I realized [in Dark Horse], there's no rape, there's no child molestation, there's no masturbation, and then I thought, ‘oh m god, why didn't I think of this years ago?'"


More Flashbacks
December 19, 1977
Jacques Tourneur dies

On this day in 1977, the film world lost of the most creative directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when Jacques Tourneur passed away in Bergerac, a town in the south west of France.

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December 19, 1979
Being There, Sellers' Last Chance

According to director Hal Ashby, the editing of Being There was only finally finished at around 4 a.m. on the first day of its limited Oscar qualifying run, 29 years ago today, and Ashby himself delivered the film to the theatre by hand. The painstaking approach Ashby took with the film, however, translated into rapturous reviews and turned Being There into a financial as well as critical success. The movie was a long-gestating project that Ashby and the film’s star, Peter Sellers, had been planning since 1973 when the Pink Panther star had first shared with Ashby his love of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel about a idiot savant gardener who unintentionally becomes a political heavyweight. Sellers, who was initially seen as too broad a comic actor to play this subtle a role, excelled as Chauncey Gardiner (aka Chance the gardener), the childlike man whose simplistic comments are misinterpreted as ingenious political rhetoric, and garnered the very best reviews of his career and a Best Actor Oscar nod in the process. The film proved the most fitting of swan songs as Sellers died of a heart attack just six months after the film’s release. Being There has since become a classic, not least because of its incisive and gently scornful satire of the American political establishment: during the 1980 election, candidates Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter both tried to paint their opponent as being “like Chauncey Gardiner,” and over the course of the presidency of George W. Bush, numerous comparisons were made between the intelligence of commander in chief and Sellers’ simple-minded comic hero.

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