A look back at this day in film history
November 29
Tom Jones October 7, 1963
Tom Jones opens

When United Artists opened Tony Richardson’s adaptation of the Henry Fielding novel Tom Jones in the autumn of 1963, they knew it was a hit. Their challenge was to convince Americans of that fact. The 18th century comic novel of a bastard trying to make his way in the world was barely known to most Americans. Nor were its stars, newcomers Albert Finney and Susannah York. And the director had a reputation that didn’t necessarily lead to better box office. In Britain, Richardson and his collaborator, the playwright and screenwriter John Osborne, had established themselves by making dark films about oppressed working-class characters. Films like Look Back in Anger (1958), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962) had defined a new wave of British cinema. But Tom Jones went in a whole new direction. Filled with bawdy adventures and cinematic high-jinx, the film proved a box office smash––even if the critics didn’t all love it. Noting the film’s debt to the French New Wave, The Sunday Telegraph sneered, “Richardson is a director who assimilates other men’s styles as easily as a schoolboy catches measles.” In New York, however, critics loved the film. The New York Times singled out the “brilliant new star Albert Finney,” and the New York Herald Tribune’s Judith Crist called it “one of the most delightful movies of recent years.” But rather than capitalize on its urban success, UA allowed all this attention to simmer, waiting until January before opening in other cities. After the picture won four Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) in the spring of 1964, UA took the picture wide, and pushed the film’s sexy fun, with a poster featuring a nearly bare-chested Albert Finney surrounded by a lusty wenches.

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Jorge Muller and Carmen Bueno November 29, 1974
Carmen Bueno and Jorge Muller arrested

On Friday, November 29, 25-year-old film actress Carmen Bueno and 27 year-old cameraman Jorge Muller were working a documentary for the Peace Committee of the Chilean Churches when a dark car pulled beside them, shoved them in the back seat, and tore off.

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November 29, 1981
Natalie Wood dies

Hollywood legend Natalie Wood died November 29, 1981, at the age of 43. Wood first impressed audiences at the age 9 when she appeared in two Hollywood films: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and, most famously, Miracle on 34th St.

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November 29, 1945
Wilder's Lost Weekend

In 1945 Billy Wilder followed his hit film Double Indemnity, co-written with Raymond Chandler, with what was, for its era, a bold and startling movie––The Lost Weekend. “How daring can the screen dare to be?” asked the marketing materials, as Wilder and star Ray Milland chronicled a frustrated writer’s four-day drinking binge with the same expressionistic lighting and camera that Wilder previously used to depict noir obsession and betrayal. The film won four Oscars, including Best Actor, Director and Screenplay, surprising those who argued, pre-release, that the film was too shocking for theater audiences. Also, the alcohol industry lobbied Paramount Pictures against releasing the film (Wilder claimed Paramount was offered $5 million to shelve the picture) while temperance groups fought against it too, feeling that the pic glamorized drinking.  But there were still some aspects of its story that the filmmakers avoided. In the Charles Jackson novel on which the film is based, Milland’s character is driven to drink by the shame of a homosexual affair. In the film, his alcoholism is “explained” by a case of writer’s block.

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