Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 02
Unfaithfully Yours November 5, 1948
Unfaithfully Yours released

Beginning in 1940, writer-director Preston Sturges, with seven back-to-back critical & commercial hits, had one of the most successful runs of any director in Hollywood history. On November 5, 1948, with the release of Unfaithfully Yours, that streak ended. On opening night, Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck wrote, “The opening day’s business…was almost the worst in the entire history of the house, certainly the lowest we have had in many years.” Sturges’ sudden plummet was certainly not from reviews. The New York Daily News praised the film as “an adroit, literate light piece that builds from a familiar base to highbrow farce comedy.” And the New York Times’s Bosley Crowther begin his review: “It is too bad that Preston Sturges is not compelled by law to turn out at least one movie—maybe two—a year. For nobody makes films as he does, even when he makes them less well, which means that his public grows impatient and resentful when he tarries too long.” The film, which was originally conceived of in 1932 (and pitched to Ernest Lubitsch at one time), had its own opening day delayed due to a potential scandal. The story about a symphony conductor, Alfred de Carter (Rex Harrison), who, while performing three different musical numbers, fantasizes about murdering his unfaithful wife, rang a little too close to home when Carole Landis, the woman with whom Harrison was having an affair, was found dead by the actor on July 4, 1948. The ensuing scandal pushed 20th Century Fox president Spyros Skouras to suggest adding subtitles to indicate that the murder on screen was pure fantasy. But by the time of the film’s release, the story had all but disappeared from newspaper headlines. Unfortunately, the film also quickly disappeared from theaters, and proved the beginning of the end for Sturges’ career.


More Flashbacks
December 2, 1945
Penelope Spheeris born

On this day in 1945, director Penelope Spheeris was born in New Orleans.

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December 2, 1988
The Naked Gun Hits Its Target

It is relatively common these days for TV shows to be adapted into movies, but most often those films were based on successful and much-loved – not to mention long-running – series. However, in the case of The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, which was released today in 1988, the movie in question was the spawn of a TV show, Police Squad!, that had been cancelled by ABC in 1982 after only four episodes were aired. The spoof 70s style police show, however, gained cult status on the back of its silly humor, slapstick antics and intentional continuity errors. Indeed, it had such a Lazarus-like recovery to its reputation that its creators, Airplane's Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker, were given the opportunity by Paramount to make a feature about Leslie Nielsen's bumbling cop, Lt. Frank Drebin. Audiences responded enthusiastically to the film's inane antics and ridiculous plotlines and the movie became a massive success, raking in nearly $80m at the box office and spawning two further sequels – also starring Nielsen, and regular co-stars George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley and O.J. Simpson – both of which also were incredibly popular. The third installment, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, was released in 1994, however the franchise's success is such that Paramount is reportedly considering bringing back the characters for another outing produced by their DTV division (though probably without the involvement of Abrahams, the Zucker brothers or Nielsen).

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