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Our headliners today were both born in the old Austrian Empire, both worked in German film at one time, both became refugees from Nazism, and both were known for their contributions to film noir.
Fritz Lang (1890-1976) was born in Vienna, and while serving in the Austrian army during World War One, he began to have some ideas for films. Shortly after the war ended, he was hired at the German studio UFA. In over a decade at the studio, he made a number of famous films, including the first two in his Dr. Mabuse trilogy, the sci-fi drama Metropolis (which featured the robot character Maria, found in our Movie Robot Bracket Game), and his first sound picture, M, which starred Peter Lorre as a character often considered the first movie serial killer. When the Nazis came to power, Lang (who was considered Jewish under the Nuremberg Laws even though he had been raised Catholic) decided to move to the US.
Lang’s first film in Hollywood was the crime drama Fury, and a lot of his American output consisted of crime films of some sort. He made a few Westerns, like The Return of Frank James and Rancho Notorious, and a couple of war movies, but he was most at home in film noir; he made several major contributions to the genre. The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street were mid-forties noirs with the same three stars (Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea) and several similarities of plot and character. The Big Heat contains two scenes with levels of violence that, by the standards of the time, were very shocking—one involving a car bomb, the second a coffee pot.
Last year, David Permut was one of the producers of the Oscar-nominated war movie, Hacksaw Ridge. Twenty-five years ago, he was best known for surviving the infamous flop, The Marrying Man. When Permut was interviewed for this profile from the December 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, he was viewed as a huckster without any real hits under his belt. Get ready to be schmoozed!
Twenty-five years ago, Tom Cruise was cementing his status as the biggest movie star of his generation. He had not yet jumped on Oprah’s couch. To most audiences, he seemed like a nice young man with a million-dollar smile. These days, we all know Cruise is kind of a kook. There’s no denying that his movie star status has dimmed since Cruise put his craziness on display, but he has outlasted most of his contemporaries on the A-list. In this cover story from the December 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, Cruise discusses his upcoming courtroom drama, A Few Good Men. The interview is uniquely Cruisian. You can see glimpses of some of the modern day Cruise when he laughs too hard and discusses his difficult upbringing. This is a guy who doesn’t feel comfortable in his own skin, but he’s charismatic enough to fake it.
‘Tis the season for Thanksgiving leftovers both in the kitchen and at the box office. Hollywood studios don’t offer up any major new releases the weekend following Thanksgiving because they know most of us are busy doing other things. If you were going to go see Justice League or Coco, you were probably going to do it during the long weekend. For those who have time for a movie in between shopping and wrapping, Hollywood hopes you will squeeze in one of their holdovers from last month. They need to make whatever money they are going to make before The Last Jedi opens in mid-December.
That left the site without a cohesive theme to play with this week, but there was still plenty to chew on. If you were too busy with Black Friday and Cyber Monday to keep up, here’s a recap of everything you missed.
For the second consecutive year on this date, we have a WTHH headliner, as Daryl Hannah is celebrating her 57th. She attended USC and studied acting and dance, but had already made her first film appearance, in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, filmed when she was only 16. She first attracted notice as the replicant Pris in Blade Runner, and through the 1980s was a fairly prominent actress, starring as a mermaid named Madison in Splash and as the title character in Roxanne, and appearing in the ensemble cast of Steel Magnolias.
Hannah’s WTHH article details the subsequent course of her career. In the early 2000s, she had something of a resurgence. Indie film fans know this as the time she made Casa de los babys and Silver City with John Sayles, while action film audiences will remember her as Elle Driver in the Kill Bill films. Her most recent major project has been the regular role of Angelica Turing on Sense8.
Lucy Liu is turning 49 today. She studied at Michigan and began working in film and television in the early 1990s. She began getting larger film roles later in the decade, in films like City of Industry and Payback, and also landed two regular roles on television. CBS’s Pearl was canceled after one season, but in 1998 she joined the regular cast of Ally McBeal as Ling Woo, for which she received an Emmy nomination.
Early in the 2000s, Liu appeared in what are probably her most famous film roles, as Alex Munday in the Charlie’s Angels films, and as the assassin O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill. She also was a kidnapped princess in Shanghai Noon and a perky and quirky romantic lead in Lucky Number Slevin. These days, most of her feature film work is as a voice actor—she is the voice of Silvermist in the Disney Fairies series and Master Viper in the Kung Fu Panda franchise. For the last five years, she has also been back on series television, as Joan Watson in Elementary, which will return for season 6 next year.
Kevthewriter cranks that Soulja Boy.
Today is Emily Mortimer’s 46th birthday. Her father was Sir John Mortimer, a British barrister who also created the television series Rumpole of the Bailey. She began performing in plays while studying at Oxford, and began working in British television in 1994. She made her feature film debut in The Ghost and the Darkness. As the century turned, she had some more significant supporting roles in films like Scream 3, Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Formula 51.
Mortimer has, for the most part, been a supporting actress or a part of ensemble casts, but she has kept busy for nearly two decades. She has had major roles in Woody Allen’s Match Point, in the two Pink Panther reboot films starring Steve Martin, in Lars and the Real Girl, and in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Hugo. Every so often she gets a chance at a lead role, as in Brad Anderson’s thriller Transsiberian or the upcoming drama The Bookshop. Next year she will play Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns.
Today’s Lego Dimensions article examines two Fun Packs from the video game’s final wave of releases. Both are superheroines who appear on shows on Cartoon Network. Starfire rounds out the team from Teen Titans Go! and Buttercup is one of the Power Puff Girls. Should you add these packs to your Christmas list?
Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal is turning 39 today. He made his first appearance on Mexican television at the age of about ten or eleven, and at thirteen starred in the series El abuelo y yo. In 2000, he appeared in a guest role on the syndicated series Queen of Swords, but more importantly, that year he was part of the ensemble cast of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores perros, and won an Ariel Award (Mexican equivalents of the Oscars). He then starred with Diego Luna (their first time working together; they have been friends since they were young) and Maribel Verdu in Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También.
Writer-director Chris Columbus got his start working for Steven Spielberg writing scripts like Gremlins, The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes. Once he got his big break as a director, Columbus formed another partnership with writer-producer John Hughes. The success of their collaboration on Home Alone gave Columbus the freedom to do pretty much whatever he wanted. In this interview from the November 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, Columbus talks about working with kids like Macaulay Culkin, stars like Maureen O’Hara and getting fired by his idol.
Three-time Oscar nominee Diane Ladd celebrates her 82nd birthday today. She began making television guest appearances in the last half of the 1950s, and with increasing frequency in the sixties. In 1968 she made her Broadway debut in Robert Alan Aurthur’s Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights, and in the early seventies she started getting good supporting roles in films like White Lightning and Chinatown (as the false Mrs. Mulwray). Her first really big success in film came in 1974, when she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and won a BAFTA Award, as Flo Castleberry in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.