Caché (Hidden) -
Michael Haneke wrote and directed the French psychological thriller “Caché,” also known as “Hidden,” which premiered on this day in history at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival to enthusiastic crowds. The film follows a middle-class couple who find mysterious tapes on their porch that indicate someone has been filming them. The man, Georges, believes that the culprit is Majid, an Algerian orphan whom his family had planned to adopt when he was younger, but Georges objected at the time. Haneke layered the plot with overtones of guilt, childhood memories, France’s Algerian War, and colonialism. Haneke said he began writing the screenplay with one question in mind: How does someone confront the guilt of mistakes they made in childhood? The theme was universally appealing and won several awards at Cannes. It has since been named to the BBC list of 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.
Screenwriter Jay Presson Allen wrote the final script for Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller “Marnie,” which premiered on this day in history in 1964. Allen based the screenplay on Winston Graham’s novel of the same name, which follows Mark and his marriage to Marnie, a thief who suffers from psychological distress, as Mark tries to clean up the mess Marnie leaves in her path. Allen was the third screenwriter to work on the script, following Joseph Stefano (who wrote Hitchcock’s “Pyscho”) and Evan Hunter (who wrote Hitchcock’s “The Birds”). Stefano was released from the project when Hitchcock found out that Grace Kelly would not be able to play the lead, while Hunter was fired from the project for disagreeing with the rape scene. When the film premiered, critics were harsh, but it has since gained critical acclaim as one of Hitchcock’s finest films.
The Magnificent Ambersons -
Orson Welles wrote, produced, and directed “The Magnificent Ambersons,” which premiered on this day in history in 1942. He adapted the story from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Booth Tarkington, which follows a wealthy Midwestern family during the automobile age as their fortune starts to deteriorate. He first adapted the story for a one-hour radio broadcast, then later for the film. But the film version was heavily edited from Welles’ previous vision, with the studio RKO removing more than an hour of footage from the rough cut of the movie and revising the ending to be a happier one. Despite the changes, the movie as it was released is still considered one of Welles’ masterpieces, earning four Academy Awards nominations.
Mildred Pierce -
The film noir and thriller “Mildred Pierce” premiered on this day in history in 1945. Ranald MacDougall adapted the screenplay from James M. Cain’s crime novel of the same name. The plots are similar, following a divorced mother whose life starts to unravel as she works to support her spoiled daughter, but the murder only occurs in the film version of the story. Ranald earned his place in the scriptwriting industry by writing screenplays in his spare time while working as a page at Rockefeller Center. He’d submit the scripts to his boss under various pen names until finally getting hired as a staff writer for NBC Radio.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers -
The musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” premiered on this day in history in 1954. Written by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley, the story centers around a man who brings his wife home to his farm, only to have his six brothers decide that they want to get married, too. The trio of writers based the screenplay on the short story “The Sobbin’ Woman,” written by Stephen Vincent Benét. The film was selected for preservation at the U.S. National Film Registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. It went on to earn five Academy Awards, including Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay. The musical won one Oscar for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Song at Midnight -
The Chinese film “Song at Midnight” premiered in 1935 in Hong Kong and is widely considered one of China’s first horror films. Ma-Xu Weibang wrote and directed the movie, based loosely on “The Phantom of the Opera” novel by Gaston Leroux. The story centers on a disfigured musician who punishes anyone who offends him. Ma-Xu Weibang reportedly edited the screenplay several times to make sure it would pass censorship laws in China at the time, which did not allow films that featured horror, gods, spirits, or superstition. The film’s theme centers on left-wing nationalist ideology and Chinese citizens’ anxiety about war in the 30s.
Meshes of the Afternoon -
The 14-minute “Meshes of the Afternoon” debuted at some point in 1943, though an exact release date is unknown. Maya Deren is credited with writing the movie and developing the camera movements and effects used in the experimental short. She worked with her then-husband Alexandr Hackenschmied to direct and perform in the film, which centers on a woman who falls asleep with vivid dreams. The viewer is left to wonder if the events are all happening in her real life. The film is historically relevant because of Deren’s use of specific cinematic devices to convey a deeper meaning, repeated imagery, and subjective and objective camera angles. Her work inspired many filmmakers after her, including David Lynch in “Lost Highway” and “Inland Empire.”
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp -
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger wrote, produced, and directed the British romantic drama war film “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp,” which debuted on this day in history in 1943. The screenplay uses an extended flashback sequence to tell the story of a soldier who rises through the ranks of the British military. It’s a satire on the British army, particularly those in charge. Prime Minister Winston Churchill attempted to have production shut down on the film after hearing of its characterizations of the army officer. Once he saw a draft cut, he relented. Critics said the movie examined what it means to be English and that it may be the greatest English film ever made. It sits at number 80 on Empire’s List of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
The Constant Gardener -
Screenwriter Jeffrey Caine earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Constant Gardener,” which premiered on this day in history in 2005. The story is based on John le Carré’s novel of the same name and centers on a British diplomat who goes to Kenya to try to solve the murder of his activist wife. The film is known for its gripping, suspenseful storytelling, based on similar cases involving pharmaceutical companies operating in Kenya. Author le Carré is quoted at the end of the film as saying that his story was not based on a single corporation or person, but that his story is also far tamer than what’s happening in real life. The movie was a box office success and earned four Oscar nominations total, winning one for Rachel Weisz as Best Supporting Actress.