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Today in Movie History - March 18


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March 18, 1910 - The Edison studio releases an adaptation of Mary Shelly's macabre tale, FRANKENSTEIN OR THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. Written and directed by J. Searle Dawley, the film reinterprets rather than faithfully adapts the original. Augustus Phillips plays Victor Frankenstein, a young medical student whose chemical attempts to create a perfect human being produce a hideous monster, played with great relish by Charles Ogle. A veteran of the stage, Ogle created his own makeup for the part. While the monster struggles with Frankenstein, he catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror and, sickened by the sight, stumbles off into the night. The film reaches a terrifying climax as the monster returns and confronts Frankenstein's bride-to-be, played by Mary Fuller, alone in her bedroom.


March 18, 1912 - In Paris, the Congress of the Federation of Businesses Against Pornography, presided over by Senator Rene Berenger, opens its doors to discuss, among other things, the cinema, in response to complaints by members of the church and the bourgeoisie, who attack the medium for its immodesty and ridiculing of religion.


March 18, 1924 - The first showing of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD takes place at the Liberty Theater in New York City. At the end of the projection, Douglas Fairbanks, the star and producer of the film, a follow-up to his ROBIN HOOD, jumped up on the stage to tremendous applause. The director, Raoul Walsh, joined him in an instant to share the honors. THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is the most ambitious and opulent film yet made by United Artists since being founded five years earlier by Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Fairbanks. The film cost almost $2 million and took five weeks to shoot. The fabulous sets, including impressive, towering minarets and Moorish buildings by William Cameron Menzies, were constructed on the 6 1/2 acre location at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio, and the sparkling costumes were designed by Mitchell Leisen. The final sequence shows Faribanks and his beautiful princess, played by Julanne Johnston, sailing over the rooftops on the magic carpet, while the stars in the sky spell out "Happiness Must Be Earned".


March 18, 1931 - The new film by F.W. Murnau and Robert Flaherty, TABU, is released in American theaters. Unfortunately, it's a posthumous release for Murnau, who was killed in an auto accident on the Santa Barbara highway scarcely a week earlier. In February of 1929, the admired director of SUNRISE broke his contract with Fox, which obliged him to make three more films. He and Flaherty then formed their own production company and took of to the South Seas to make TABU. Murnau used the people and setting of the shimmering paradise to tell a fictional story - a young fisherman falls in love with a virgin who's to be dedicated to the gods. The film was left unfinished and silent, forcing distributor Paramount to post-synchronize it with a score by Dr. Hugo Riesenfeld.


March 18, 1954 - Howard Hughes gains total control of RKO for $23.5 million, making him the first individual to ever wholly own a motion picture company. Hughes, a reclusive aviation enthusiast, inherited an industrial fortune from his father at the age of 18 in 1923. He made his name in the film industry as the producer and director of 1930's HELL'S ANGELS, launching the career of Jean Harlow, the first of dozens of starlets he compulsively signed to personal, long-term contracts. Jane Russell, busty star of THE OUTLAW, is another. Hughes has held controlling interest in RKO since 1948. His critics have charged him with making many inept decisions that have nearly bankrupted the studio.


March 18, 1959 - 20th Century Fox releases THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, directed by George Stevens. The film is a three-hour portrait of Jewish family's efforts to survive in an Amsterdam attic during the wartime occupation by the Germans. It's adapted from the Broadway production, which itself drew heavily on the real diary kept by the title character, who was 13 when she went into hiding. Tragically, the family was discovered in 1944 and sent to the Nazi death camps; only Anne's father survived. In general, reviews have been less than complimentary for the lead performance of 21-year-old Millie Perkins, a fashion model personally selected by Stevens, making her professional acting debut as Anne.

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