Blue Collar -
Paul Schrader and his brother Leonard wrote the screenplay for “Blue Collar,” which debuted on this day in history back in ’78. The film also marked Paul’s directorial debut. The crime drama follows three auto workers who stage a heist at their union headquarters and is a larger critique on unions and life as a member of the working class in the Rust Belt.
The western “Stagecoach” was adapted by screenwriter Dudley Nichols from a short story by Ernest Haycox called “The Stage to Lordsburg.” Director John Ford bought the rights to the short story after reading it first in Collier’s Magazine but said he was also inspired by elements of another short story called “Boule de Suif” by Guy de Maupassant. The film follows a group of strangers on a stagecoach ride through dangerous territory. It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry but has also been criticized for its negative depiction of Native Americans.
“8 1/2” debuted on this day in history in 1963. The Italian film, first outlined by Federico Fellini and written by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Brunello Rondi, won Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design at the Oscars that year. The story is about a director who runs into creative blocks, and his attempts to overcome them. Life imitated art on this story, with Fellini nearly abandoning the project because he felt like he “lost his film,” but it later inspired his idea to make the lead character a film director. Until then, he had been struggling with what type of creative person the lead character would be.
The Silence of the Lambs -
Ted Tally adapted Thomas Harris’ novel “The Silence of the Lambs” to create the film version we know today. It debuted on Valentine’s Day 1991 and gradually gained huge success and acclaim. Tally is quoted as saying he was shocked by how quickly the movie production began after director Jonathan Demme read the screenplay. “We met in May 1989 and were shooting in November,” he said. “I don’t remember any big revisions.”
The Big Lebowski -
“The Dude” wasn’t always as popular with film critics as he is today. Ethan and Joel Coen were inspired by detective fiction writer Raymond Chandler while writing “The Big Lebowski,” a crime comedy that debuted on this day in history in 1998. The film didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult classic and inspired a 2020 spinoff called “The Jesus Rolls” by John Turturro, which is set to be released this month.
La Jetée -
“La Jetée,” or “The Jetty” or in English, is a French science fiction short film created by Chris Marker. The 28-minute movie is made from still photos and follows a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. The film has no dialogue but is narrated. Later, creatives will cite the film as an inspiration on their projects, including Terry Gilliam’s film “12 Monkeys,” David Bowie’s video for “Jump They Say,” and the 2007 Mexican film “Year of the Nail.”
Luis Buñuel -
Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel was born on this day 120 years ago. Buñuel’s work has been called poetic and is usually associated with the surrealist movement of the 20s, though he experimented throughout his career. Filmmakers say you can always recognize a Buñuel film. He was known for being extremely precise, pre-planning his shots and edits so that no shot was ever wasted, and the amount of time it took to shoot the film was minimal. Buñuel has seven films on Sight & Sound’s Top 250 Films of All Time list.
Modern Times -
Charlies Chaplin portrayed his “Little Tramp” character for the last time in his film “Modern Times,” which debuted on this day in history in 1936. Chaplin wrote and directed the comedy, which was initially going to be his first “talkie.” He even wrote dialogue for the script and played around with some sound scenes, but ultimately, he decided to remove most of the dialogue and opt for a silent film instead. He said he felt that the appeal of “Little Tramp” would be lost if he ever spoke.