Steamboat Bill, Jr. -
Buster Keaton's action-comedy "Steamboat Bill, Jr." premiered on this day in history in 1928 in Santa Maria, California. It was the last movie he made for United Artists and the second to last film he'd ever make in his signature style. Carl Harbaugh wrote the film's story, which follows the son of a riverboat captain who joins his father's crew and falls in love with the competition. The movie features one of Keaton's most famous stunts, where the façade of a house falls on him, but he narrowly escapes by fitting through the window and remains standing. The stunt has been recreated many times over the years, and the film's title inspired Walt Disney's "Steamboat Willie," which is considered Mickey Mouse's debut.
Peeping Tom -
Perhaps one of the earliest precursors to the modern slasher film, "Peeping Tom" premiered on this day in history in 1960. The British horror-thriller tells the story of a voyeur serial killer who films his victims' expressions as they die. Critics tore the film apart for its extremely dark subject matter, but it has since become a cult classic and is considered one of the best British films of all time. Leo Marks, a former WWII cryptographer-turned-screenwriter, wrote the screenplay based on the people he met while growing up around his father's book store in London. Marks has said he was inspired to write a horror film after reading stories from Edgar Allen Poe.
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town -
Robert Riskin wrote the screenplay for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," which debuted on this day in history in 1936. The film stars Gary Cooper as a man who has just inherited his rich uncle's estate and follows the story of the greedy people who try to get a piece of the pie. The movie landed Frank Capra the Best Director Oscar that year. It also put the Vermont Town of Mandrake Falls on the map, from which the lead character hails, as the quintessential example of small-town America. And another fun fact: the word "doodle," at least as we define it today, also came from the final scene in this movie, where the lead character explains a doodler to the judge as someone who draws foolish designs on paper. Before then, the definition meant fooling around. We’re so happy Riskin coined this term, otherwise SoCreate’s Noodle the Doodle may have never come to be!
The Blue Angel -
The first feature-length German talkie, "The Blue Angel," premiered on this day in Hungary in 1930. Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmöller, and Robert Liebmann wrote the screenplay, based on Heinrich Mann's novel, "Professor Filth." The story follows a professor who goes mad with jealousy over a cabaret performer, ultimately becoming a humiliated cabaret clown. The film was shot in German and English simultaneously, hoping that the dual-language feature would maximize box office profits. Still, actors struggled with pronouncing the English words, so the German film is considered superior.
Olympia Part One: Festival of Nations -
Though the film's political context is controversial, Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia Part One: Festival of Nations" will go down in history as a groundbreaking example of advanced film techniques for its time. The Nazi German propaganda film, which debuted on this day in Berlin in 1938, covers the 1936 Summer Olympics with an impressive array of camera placements, including underwater, bleachers, and even balloons with cameras attached that had instructions to return the film to Riefenstahl. The film is known for its use of smash cuts, extreme closeups, and other new camera angles.
The Public Enemy -
"The Public Enemy," one of the earlier subgenre gangster films, premiered in New York City on this day in 1931. The story centers on one criminal's life of crime in prohibition-era America. Harvey F. Thew wrote the screenplay based on a book called "Beer and Blood," written by two journalists who had followed Al Capone's gang rivalries In Chicago. The film is still praised for its acting and story, which was nominated for Best Story at the 4th Academy Awards.
Dr. Mabuse The Gambler -
The four-hour-long "Dr. Mabuse The Gambler" premiered on this day in history in 1922. It was only part one of the three-part German silent film series directed by filmmaker Fritz Lang and written by Thea von Harbou. The story takes place in an almost-dystopian post-WWI Germany and features heavy themes of German society's collapse, the power of evil, and surveillance. When it was finally released as a heavily edited two-hour version in the USA in 1927, critics still complained of its length. The full-length version wouldn't premier in the USA until the 70s, where it would later be praised for being the hit of the New York Film Festival. After its 1922 release, critics said people would watch the film 50 to 100 years from now and have an "idea of an age they could hardly comprehend without such a document."
The comedy feature "Bridesmaids" premiered on this day in history in Westwood, California, in 2011, putting a spotlight on female-driven comedies. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who first met each other in an improv comedy troupe in Los Angeles, hashed out the screenplay together while Wiig worked on "Saturday Night Live" in New York and Mumolo worked from LA. They hadn't planned to write a screenplay together until director Judd Apatow - who was working with Wiig on the film "Knocked Up" at the time - asked Wiig if she ever had any ideas for a script herself. Similarly, Apatow asked Steve Carell this same question, which is what inspired him to write "40-Year-Old Virgin."
Make Way for Tomorrow -
Viña Delmar wrote the screenplay for "Make Way For Tomorrow," an American drama that had a limited release on this day in history in 1937. The depression-era film is about an elderly couple who must separate after losing their home, and none of their children will take both of them in. Some critics felt the story was overly depressing. Still, in more recent times, they have come to consider the story an "unsung Hollywood masterpiece" for its honest portrayal of family and aging. Director Leo McCarey thought it was his best film, and while accepting an Oscar for Best Director for another film released that same year, told the audience that he'd be given the award for the wrong picture.