A look back at this day in film history
November 16
November 16, 1945
The Lost Weekend Premieres in NYC

On the train ride from Los Angeles to New York City, Billy Wilder picked up four novels, with Charles Jackson’s harrowing tale of alcoholic writer The Lost Weekend being one them. As soon as Wilder’s train pulled in Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, he called his old writing partner Charles Brackett back in LA to get him on board with the film. But why such a downbeat tale? Some suggest his recent experience with Raymond Chandler’s alcoholic behavior while co-writing Double Indemnity propelled Wilder's desire to understand the disease. In the novel, the main character drank over guilt of a homosexual affair, but in the film Wilder changed that to writer's block. Wilder convinced Paramount to greenlight the project, but the production faced challenges at every stage. Ray Milland was wary of starring as a drunk. Studios execs were nervous about the downbeat tale. Even the liquor industry, according to Wilder, want to quash the project, supposedly offering Paramount $5 million to sell them the negative. When it first showed, the audience reaction was so bad that Paramount almost buried it. But when the film finally was released, it was greeted with much critical acclaim. The film was nominated for seven oscars, winning four: Best Actor (Ray Milland), Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Screenplay (Wilder and Charles Brackett) and Best Picture. Miklós Rózsa was nominated for Best Music for his innovative score that included the first use of theremin in a film.

More Flashbacks
Close Encounters of the Third Kind November 16, 1977
Close Encounters of the Third Kind opens

For Close Encounters of the Third Kind, his follow-up to Jaws, Steven Spielberg asked composer John Williams to compose a musical phrase that would represent mankind’s attempt to communicate with the aliens responsible for a rash of UFO sightings.

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November 16, 1994
Heavenly Apparition

Heavenly Creatures, which opened November 16, 1994 in the U.S., was a departure for New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Best known for horror comedies like Bad Taste, Brain Dead and Meet the Feebles, Jackson mixed zombies and John Waters-style gross-out comedy to build a healthy audience on the midnight and home-video circuit. But Heavenly Creatures, the story of two teenage girls whose obsessive relationship with each other is so intense that they murder the mother who wants to separate them, was going to be something else. For one, it would be based on a true story. (The notorious “Parker Hulme affair” was one of New Zealand’s most notorious crimes as well as a personal fascination of Jackson’s partner Fran Walsh.) Also, the film would not rely on gore but rather on sensitively depicting the mysterious fantasy world that arose from the imaginations of its two protagonists. Basing the screenplay on Parker’s own diaries, interviews with those who knew the two girls and newspaper accounts, Jackson created a “humane” portrait of the young women that was lyrical, literary and which artfully blended special effects with wonderful acting and emotional understanding. Marking the film debut of Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Best Screenplay and the Silver Lion. Walsh and Jackson were also nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar.  But, just as importantly, the film changed the industry’s perception of what Jackson would do. Just a few years later, he would begin his career-defining film: The Lord of the Rings.

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