Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 28
November 12, 1943
Wallace Shawn born

While many know Wallace Shawn as the loveable (or loathsome), pudgy clown in films like Clueless or The Princess Bride, there is another more serious side to him. Wallace Shawn was born among New York’s smart set. As the son of longtime New Yorker editor William Shawn, Wally went to the best schools (Dalton, Putney, Harvard, Oxford) and was on first-name basis with America’s best and brightest. Shawn later wrote about his teachers and others treatment of him: “I didn’t’ realize why they were groveling at my feet, and it made me a very self-confident person until the age of forty, when I figured it out––when I had a crisis of confidence.” In his confidence, Shawn was a daring playwright. Much of his early theatrical works were verbally violent and sexually explicit.  His 1971 A Thought in Three Parts became the center of public controversy when it was threatened with censorship as obscenity in London. Later work, often allegorical, focused on government repression. While often dark and abstract, three of his plays––The Designator Mourner, Marie and Bruce and The Fever––have been adapted into films. Shawn has also long been in a voice in left-wing politics, writing regularly for The Nation and starting his own short-lived political journal. Yet despite such high-brow pursuits, for many Wallace Shawn will always be the querulous, high-pitched voice of Rex the Dinosaur in Toy Story.


More Flashbacks
Meet Me In St. Louis November 28, 1944
Meet Me in St. Louis opens in Technicolor

Opening November 28, 1944, Vincente Minelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis was one of the most commercially successful pictures of its day.

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November 28, 1938
Michael Ritchie born

Michael Ritchie, one of the most skilled yet underrated Hollywood directors of the 1970s, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on this day in 1938.

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November 28, 1946
Dante's Divine Comedy of Horrors

In many ways, Joe Dante, born on this day 62 years ago today, is a film director from another age. Dante, a New Jersey native whose parents were golf pros, grew up in 1950s America and continues to embody the ethos of that decade in much of his film work. His influences, for example, include cartoonist Chuck Jones, champion of colorful 50s film comedy Frank Tashlin and B-movie mogul Roger Corman, and it was Corman who first initiated him into the world of movie production after Dante had spent some years as a film critic. Dante first enjoyed success with the Jaws­-inspired creature feature Piranha (1978) which he followed up with the werewolf movie The Howling (1981), another Corman production. Afterwards he graduated to big budget movies, often working for friend Steven Spielberg, and scored with hits like Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987) and also indulged in nostalgic joint exercises like Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) and episodes of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories TV show. His work has always affectionately looked back on a time when cinema was all about tall tales, monsters, aliens and other such fun excesses of the cinema of bygone years, and Dante tapped into this most directly in Matinee (1993), his film about a William Castle-like producer whose productions thrived on gimmicks and shock tactics. Since the early 1990s, though, Dante has worked mostly in television, where he directed the cult series Eerie, Indiana, only occasionally returning to the big screen for movies like the kid-oriented Small Soldiers (1998) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Now, however, Dante looks set to return to the fore with two projects which will that staple of 50s schlock horror, 3-D technology, which is popular once again 50 years on thanks to its revitalization through digital technology.

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