Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

This Month in Filmmaking History – January 2021 Roundup

  • On this day in history

    Ernest
        Tidyman

    • Born 93 years ago

    Ernest Tidyman -

    For someone who never made it past seventh grade, author and screenwriter Ernest Tidyman proved that you could be successful with enough practice, even without a formal education. Tidyman was born on this day in 1928, and after dropping out of junior high, he started working as a copyboy at just 14 years old. He'd later work as a crime reporter before writing his most well-known story, "Shaft." The novels-turned-screenplay followed an African-American detective, "a black hero who thinks of himself as a human being, but who uses his black rage as one of his resources, along with intelligence and courage." Tidyman earned an NAACP Image Award for the book series, one of the few white people to do so. He also earned an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "The French Connection." The late Tidyman once told an interviewer that he woke up every day at 6 a.m. and wrote for 12 hours. 

  • On this day in history

    Little
          Caesar

    screenplay by

    • Francis Edward Faragoh
    • Robert Lord
    • Darryl F. Zanuck

    Little Caesar -

    Paving the way for gangster films after it, "Little Caesar" debuted on this day in history in 1931. Francis Edward Faragoh, Robert Lord, and Darryl F. Zanuck adapted the screenplay based on William R. Burnett's novel of the same name, which follows Caesar Enrico "Rico" Bandello as he works his way up the organized crime ranks. The movie, along with a couple of others from the same period, is credited with establishing the gangster film genre that we know today.

  • On this day in history

    Anthony
         Minghella

    • Born 67 years ago

    Anthony Minghella -

    The late Anthony Minghella, born on this day in 1954, is perhaps best known for his films "The English Patient" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley," both of which were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. He won an Oscar for Best Director for the former and a posthumous nomination for Best Picture of "The Reader," which he co-produced. The British filmmaker passed away in 2008 but left a lasting legacy of filmmakers in the family: his daughter Hannah is the Head of Motion Pictures at J.J. Abram's production company Bad Robot; his younger brother is a screenwriter and creator of the popular British shows "Robin Hood" and "Doc Martin"; and his son Max is an actor and filmmaker, known for his role as Nick Blaine in "The Handmaid's Tale."

  • On this day in history

    William
    Peter
    Blatty

    • Born 93 years ago

    William Peter Blatty -

    What would you do with $10,000 in gameshow winnings? Filmmaker William Peter Blatty, born on this day in 1928, took the cash and quit his public relations day job to focus on his writing full time. It was a worthwhile risk because he soon scored gigs writing mostly comedy screenplays for big talent, including Danny Kaye and Julie Andrews. He'd later return to writing fictional novels, but this time in the horror genre, including "The Exorcist," a New York Times Best Seller with 13 million copies sold. Blatty adapted the book into a screenplay, winning an Academy Award for it in 1973. He passed away in 2017.

  • On this day in history

     Metropolis

    screenplay by

    • Thea von Harbou

    Metropolis -

    "Metropolis," directed by Fritz Lang and written by Thea von Harbou, was one of the first feature-length science fiction films, and it debuted on this day in 1927. The story is set in a futuristic city, where a poor worker and the wealthy son of the city's master must work together to solve their differences. The film's final title reads, "The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart." Critics said the messaging was far too simplistic and cliche but praised the film for its powerful visuals. Today, the film is considered one of the greatest of the silent era.

  • On this day in history

    Eyes Without
    a Face

    screenplay by

    • Pierre Boileau
    • Thomas Narcejac
    • Jean Redon, Claude Sautet

    Eyes Without a Face -

    The French film, "Eyes Without a Face," premiered on this day in history, based on Jean Redon's novel of the same name. It was one of the first modern horror films to come out of France. Its plot centers around a surgeon whose daughter is disfigured after an accident and the extreme lengths to which he goes to try to give her a new face. Fearing it would be too graphic to pass French censors, the director hired the writing team of Boileau-Narcejac (who had helped establish the French crime fiction genre, including "Vertigo," later adapted to an Alfred Hitchcock film) to mold Claude Sautet's preliminary screenplay into one more focused on the daughter. The film was dubbed for American audiences and released in the US as "The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus." It inspired many horror films since, including Pedro Almodovar's 2011 movie "The Skin I Live In." It also inspired Billy Idol's first top-10 song hit in 1984, "Eyes Without a Face."

  • On this day in history

      Within Our
       Gates

    screenplay by

    • Oscar Micheaux

    Within Our Gates -

    "Within Our Gates," written and directed by Oscar Micheaux, premiered on this day 101 years ago. It is the oldest surviving film made by an African-American director and the second of more than 40 films directed by Micheaux. The silent film depicts the racial issues in early 20th century America, including Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan. Censors in Chicago, where race riots had happened just one year prior, declared the film too risky to release at first, fearing it would incite more violence. But the Chicago Defender newspaper argued that "the time is ripe to bring the lesson to the front." The film is preserved in the United States Film Registry. In 2020, filmmaker Noel Braham founded the Micheaux Film Festival, celebrating one of the most prolific black filmmakers in history and showcasing diverse representation in the entertainment landscape.

  • On this day in history

    An Education

    screenplay by

    • Nick Hornby

    An Education -

    Screenwriter Nick Hornby earned an Oscar nomination for best screenplay for his adapted script for "An Education," a coming-of-age film that debuted on this day in 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress that year. The story is based on Lynn Barber's autobiographical essay of the same name, about her experience as a schoolgirl who fell in love with a conman. The movie ran the film festival circuit, including Toronto, Telluride, and Mill Valley. Hornby said the story appealed to him because of its broader theme of being afraid to be left out of something good that's happening.

  • On this day in history

    Once

    screenplay by

    • John Carney

    Once -

    "Once," written by John Carney, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on this day in 2007. The Irish film is part musical, part romantic drama, and stars two real-life singing partners who composed the film's music. It's about the love story between a busker and an immigrant. One of the songs, "Falling Slowly," won an Oscar for Best Original Song, and the soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award. Using natural light and friends' homes as shooting locations, movie production only cost $130,000, and the film grossed nearly $20m worldwide.

  • On this day in history

    D.W.
       Griffith

    • Born 146 years ago

    D.W. Griffith -

    Filmmaker David Wark Griffith was born on this day in 1875 and passed away in 1948. He made more than 500 films in his lifetime, including controversial stories such as "Birth of a Nation," which celebrated the Ku Klux Klan. While part of his legacy includes his use of racist stereotypes, he is also credited with founding United Artists and pioneering feature film financing. Griffith seems to have mastered using camera placement, light, and music for tone and tension in his films, and many filmmakers after him cite Griffith as an inspiration. He has six films preserved in the United States National Film Registry.

  • On this day in history

    Four
    Lions

    screenplay by

    • Chris Morris
    • Sam Bain
    • Jesse Armstrong

    Four Lions -

    The British satirical comedy "Four Lions" debuted on this day 11 years ago, written by Chris Morris (who also directed), Sam Bain, and Jesse Armstrong. The story pokes fun at jihad and follows four British terrorists who want to be suicide bombers. Morris said he spent years researching terrorism before he wrote the script, but when the 2005 London bombings occurred, it changed his take on it all. "Suddenly, you're not dealing with an amorphous Arab world so much as with British people who have been here quite a long time," he said in an interview. When the script was finished, Morris showed it to a Guantanamo Bay detainee to make sure nothing would offend British Muslims. Critics mostly loved it, and Time Magazine ranked it in its top 10 films of 2010.

  • On this day in history

    Gunga
       Din

    screenplay by

    • Joel Sayre
    • Fred Guiol

    Gunga Din -

    "Gunga Din," written by Joel Sayre and Fred Guiol, based on the poem of the same name by Rudyard Kipling, debuted on this day in history in 1935. The story also combines plot points from the short story collection, "Soldiers Three" and follows a group of British sergeants and their water bearer, Gunga Din, as they work to take down an Indian murder cult. William Faulkner, Howard Hawks, Ben Hecht, and Charles McArthur wrote earlier versions of the screenplay, but many of their scenes focused on barracks and inside shots. The script was reworked while the principal shooting took place to become a much bigger adventure tale. The film was nominated for an Oscar for its black and white cinematography.

  • On this day in history

    Three Colors:
        White

    screenplay by

    • Krzysztof Kieślowski
    • Krzysztof Piesiewicz

    Three Colors: White -

    The French-Polish comedy-drama "Three Colors: White" debuted on this day in history in 1994, following "Three Colors: Blue," and later "Three Colors: Red." Krzysztof Kieślowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz wrote the trilogy. The colors make up the French flag, and each story in the trilogy is based upon the French Republic's motto, which includes liberty, equality, and fraternity. "White" is about equality and the lead character's mission for revenge after being humiliated and left by his wife. The movie was Poland's submission to the Academy Awards that year, although it did not receive a nomination. Kieślowski won a Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival. The next movie, "Red," received Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.

  • On this day in history

    She Done
        Him Wrong

    screenplay by

    • Harvey F. Thew
    • John Bright

    She Done Him Wrong -

    The film adaptation of the original Broadway play, "Diamond Lil" by Mae West, called "She Done Him Wrong," premiered on this day in 1933. Harvey F. Thew and John Bright wrote the screenplay for the movie pre-Hays Code, a set of guidelines to ensure moral standards were met in Hollywood productions. West was arrested several times for her saucy portrayal in the stage play. Later, the Hays Code enforcers banned the play from the screen and only allowed the film to move forward if its producers promised not to refer to the play in any advertising or publicity. The story follows a seductive nightclub singer (played by West) and her dealings with several suitors. At just 66 minutes long, it is the shortest movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

  • On this day in history

    Pépé
            le Moko

    screenplay by

    • Henri La Barthe
    • Julien Duvivier
    • Jacques Constant, Henri Jeanson

    Pépé le Moko -

    "Pépé le Moko" debuted in France on this day in history in 1937. It is considered experimental for films of that period, playing with poetic realism that many historians believe was the precursor to film noir. Based on Henri La Barthe's novel, the story is about a police inspector who tries to lure a criminal out of hiding in Algiers. La Barthe helped write the screenplay under the pen name Détective Ashelbé, along with co-writers Julien Duvivier, Jacques Constant, and Henri Jeanson. The film was remade twice in the US, as "Algiers" in 1938 and as "Casbah" 10 years later. It is also credited with inspiring "The Third Man," which debuted in 1949.

  • On this day in history

    Diabolique

    screenplay by

    • Henri-Georges Clouzot
    • Jérôme Géronimi

    Diabolique -

    "Diabolique," written by Henri-Georges Clouzot and his brother under the pen name Jérôme Géronimi, debuted on his day in 1955 as "Les diaboliques" in France. René Masson and Frédéric Grendel also contributed to the script. The psychological horror-thriller is based on the Boileau-Narcejac novel "She Who Was No More." Clouzot read the novel at the urging of his wife and is said to have finished it in one night and optioned it the next morning. He didn't want Alfred Hitchcock to get his hands on it first – some accounts say that Hitchock got to the authors just a few hours too late. The brothers spent 18 months adapting the film, changing many elements from the book to make room for a sizable acting role for his wife, Vera. Later, critics would compare Clouzot's work to Hitchcock's work, and some say this film is what inspired Hitchcock's "Pyscho."

  • On this day in history

     Pandora's
    Box

    screenplay by

    • Frank Wedekind
    • Ladislaus Vajda

    Pandora's Box -

    The German silent film "Pandora's Box" debuted on this day in 1929, based on Frank Wedekind's plays "Erdgeist," and "Die Büchse der Pandora." It failed terribly upon its initial release, with many versions being re-edited and subplots removed due to censorship. Depending on the country where a viewer saw the film, the plot varied widely. The original story followed a seductive young woman whose amoral lifestyle leads to lust and violence around her. It also featured a lesbian character, and critics labeled the film as scandalous. Around 20 years after its first release, film scholars rediscovered the film and called it an "unsung classic" of Weimar Germany (the German Reich). Quentin Tarantino says it's one of his top 10 favorite movies of all time.

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