Eighty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was Kentucky, a Romeo & Juliet type film with elements of the Hatfields & McCoys thrown in. Starring Loretta Young, Richard Greene and Walter Brennan, the backdrop of the story is horseracing.
During the Civil War, two of the oldest families in Kentucky, the Dillons and the Goodwins, begin a long and bitter feud that has lasted into 1938. When Jack Dillon refuses to enter his father’s banking business he, under an assumed name, gets a job as a trainer in Sally Goodwin’s stables. A romance develops between them. When Sally’s father dies, the entire estate, including the horses, has to be sold at auction to pay his debts. A note turns up left by Sally’s father that, according to a wager made between him and the elder Dillon, any one horse in the Dillon stable can be claimed by the Goodwins. Complications arise when Sally finds out that Jack is a Dillon.
♦ A number of famous Kentucky-bred champion racehorses are presented including Gallant Fox, Omaha, Hard Tack, Chance Play and Man of War, who is called the greatest racehorse.
♦ Two Kentucky Derby winners, Willie “Smokey” Saunders and Charlie Burrell, were employed for the film.
♦ Don Ameche was originally cast for the male lead but, was replaced by Richard Greene after undergoing a tonsillectomy.
♦ Arleen Whelan was originally scheduled for the female lead.
There’s not really a trailer for this movie but, I did find this:
Eighty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was the menage a trois comedy Design For Living. Released on December 29, 1933, it starred Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins. It was based, loosely on a play written by Noël Coward in 1932. It was very risqué for its time and, was a pre-code movie produced and released before strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, the censorship guidelines demanded by American Roman Catholics. Interestingly, the critical response to the film was more about its gutting of the original material than of its questionable morality.
Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can’t make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a “gentleman’s agreement”: She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work but, they will never have sex. When Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman’s agreement last?
♦ Gary Cooper spoke fluent French and was able to use it for the first time in this film.
♦ Lubitsch [then] asked Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to play George, and he accepted but, he contracted pneumonia just before filming was to start and he was replaced by Gary Cooper.
♦ Writer Ben Hecht and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch retained only one line from the original play by Noël Coward: “For the good of our immortal souls!”
♦ Considerable censorship difficulties arose because of sexual discussions and innuendos, although the Hays Office eventually approved the film for release. However, it was banned by the Legion of Decency and was refused a certificate by the PCA for re-release in 1934, when the production code was more rigorously enforced.
Ninety-five years ago, today, The Ten Commandments, a Cecil B. DeMille silent film, was showing. Much like the Charlie Chaplin movie from last week, if this movie was a number one, there is no way to tell as the Academy Awards were still six years away. It was the 2nd highest-grossing film of 1923 so, it was very popular. It starred Theodore Roberts, Charles de Rochefort, Estelle Taylor, Julia Faye, Terrence Moore, James Neill, Lawson Butt and Clarence Burton. It was released on December 4 at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
Plot from IMDB:
The first part tells the story of Moses leading the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land, his receipt of the tablets and the worship of the golden calf. The second part shows the efficacy of the commandments in modern life through a story set in San Francisco. Two brothers, rivals for the love of Mary, also come into conflict when John discovers Dan used shoddy materials to construct a cathedral.
♦ Most of the chariot crashes in the prologue were real and unplanned.
♦ After production, the enormous movie sets were bulldozed and buried in sand. It is now the legendary “Lost City of DeMille” and the site is recognized as an official archaeological site by the state of California.
♦ Midway through production, the film ran out of money and Cecil B. DeMille’s original backers pulled out. The production was saved when DeMille called in a personal favor from his friend Amadeo Giannini, one of the founders of Bank of America. Giannini’s $500,000 investment allowed the production to continue without stopping.
Today, we are going waaaaaaay back…to 1918. On this date, Shoulder Arms, a Charlie Chaplin piece, was a very popular film. Was it a ‘number one’? Hard to tell. This film pre-dates the Academy Awards by 11 years. Starring Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin (Charlie’s elder, half-brother) and Tom Wilson, it is, primarily, a dream sequence set in France during World War I.
Plot from IMDB:
Charlie is in boot camp in the “awkward squad.” Once in France, he gets no letters from home. He finally gets a package containing limburger cheese, which requires a gas mask and which he throws over into the German trench. He goes “over the top” and captures thirteen Germans (“I surrounded them”) then, volunteers to wander through the German lines disguised as a tree trunk. With the help of a French girl, he captures the Kaiser and the Crown Prince and, is given a statue and victory parade in New York. Then…fellow soldiers wake him from his dream. [edited for grammar]
From an archived New York Times article:
“”The fool’s funny,” was the chuckling observation of one of those who saw Charlie Chaplin’s new film. “Shoulder Arms”, at the Strand, yesterday and, apparently, that’s the way everybody felt. There have been learned discussions as to whether Chaplin’s comedy is low or high, artistic or crude but, no one can deny that when he impersonates a screen fool, he is funny. Most of those who go to find fault with him remain to laugh. They may still find fault but, they will keep on laughing. In “Shoulder Arms”, Chaplin is as funny as ever.” [edited for grammar]
♦ Many in Hollywood were nervous that one of their most famous peers was going to tackle the subject of WWI. It was released shortly before the Armistice so, it did not help boost national morale but, it did end up as one of Charles Chaplin’s most popular films and, it was particularly popular with returning doughboys.
♦ Released two weeks and one day before the end of World War I.
Five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who #7) and Stephen Fry (apologies up front right now to all the Tolkien fans if I have missed a favorite actor of yours…I listed the ones that the U.S. audience would recognize).
“The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
♦ Benedict Cumberbatch, in his own words, ”…ripped into [his] vocal cords quite literally, [he] had blood at the end of the day from tearing [his] throat to pieces…” in order to get Smaug’s voice right. The crew had to make a lot of “Gollum Juice” for him, a tea of honey, lemon and ginger, which Andy Serkis had created during the original trilogy when voicing Gollum.
♦ During filming, Sir Ian McKellen had to spend several hours in a box, with nothing but a microphone and pictures of the Dwarves for company (the footage would be edited in to make him look taller than the Dwarves) and, was so upset by this that he exclaimed “This is not why I became an actor!” The microphone was still on and everyone on-set heard him as a result. In consolation, the cast and crew surprised him by sticking gifts, and encouragement messages, into his trailer.
♦ This was the fourth highest grossing film of 2013.
♦ At one time, this film was the 24th highest grossing film of all time (worldwide theatrical total, not factoring in TV, DVD, broadcasting rights, stage adaptions & merchandising) but, sits at the #44 position as of December 7, 2018.
With three Academy Award nominations, two BAFTA nominations, one Grammy nomination, one People’s Choice Award nomination, seven Saturn Award nominations, various other nominations and six wins, I will leave you to read up on all of the accolades on your own (extensive list).
Ten years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was Four Christmases, starring Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth and Carol Kane (uncredited). One of the Executive Producers, Peter Billingsley, Ralphie from A Christmas Story, has a credited bit part as an airline ticket agent.
“Brad and Kate have been together three years, in love, having fun and, doing all sorts of things together with no intention of marriage or children. Christmas morning, they’re on their way to Fiji, having told their two sets of divorced parents that they’re off to do charity work. Through a fluke, they have no choice but to visit each of their four idiosyncratic parents. As the day progresses, Brad and Kate remember growing up, each learns more about the other and, Kate realizes that her life may not be as good as it could be. Do they know each other well enough to weather the storms families bring?”
♦ Apparently, Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon did not get along.
♦ All four cast members playing the parents are all Oscar winners.
♦ Carol Kane, (who was uncredited as Aunt Sarah), also appeared in Scrooged (1988), another Christmas movie, as the Ghost of Christmas Present (a violent, shrill fairy that hits Bill Murray‘s character with a toaster).
Fifteen years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was The Cat In The Hat, starring Mike Myers, Alec Baldwin, Kelly Preston, Dakota Fanning, Spencer Breslin and, Sean Hayes with cameos from Clint Howard and Paris Hilton. Dan Castellaneta did Thing One and Thing Two voice work.
“Conrad and Sally Walden are home alone with their pet fish. It is raining outside and there is nothing to do until The Cat in the Hat walks in the front door. He introduces them to their imagination and, at first, it’s all fun and games until things get out of hand and, The Cat must go, go, go, before their parents get back.”
♦ Tim Allen was originally cast as The Cat but, had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict for The Santa Clause II.
♦ There was so much smog during the shoot that the sky had to be digitally replaced.
♦ Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss’s widow, was appalled by this movie and decided to reject any future adaptations of her late husband’s work. She was so furious after she saw the film that she legally forbade Hollywood from making anymore live-action stories (all subsequent films have been animated).
♦ Mike Myers said that the Cat’s personality is a composite of director/producer Bruce Paltrow, his Saturday Night Live (1975) character “Linda Richman” and, actor Charles Nelson Reilly.
♦ Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine had a different take:
“I hated How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which was a smash for Jim Carrey. Cat, another over-blown Hollywood raid on Dr. Seuss, has a draw in Mike Myers, who, inexplicably, plays the Cat by mimicking Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.”
♡ Film Music (David Newman/2004 Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) Film & TV Awards)
♠ Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie (2004/Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards)
♠ Worst Film (2004/Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association (DFWFCA) Awards)
♠ Worst Picture (2003/The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards *Site Defunct July 1, 2007*)
♠ Worst Screenplay for a Film Grossing More than $100 Million Using Hollywood Math (Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer/2003/The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards)
♠ Most Annoying Non-Human Character (2003/The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards)
♠ The Spencer Breslin Award for Worst Performance by a Child (Spencer Breslin/2003/The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards)
♢ 21 Nominations [Not all bad. The kids & teens liked this and, the hair & makeup was noticed by the Guild. The Teen Choice Awards nominated Sean Hayes for Choice Movie Hissy Fit, which I found amusing. ~Vic]