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Today in Movie History - March 19


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March 19, 1895 - In Lyon, France, Louis Lumiere begins making his first film, LA SORTIE DES USINES LUMIERE (LEAVING THE LUMIERE FACTORY), using the camera he patented the previous month. Three days later, Lumiere and his brother Auguste will meet with the engineer Jules Carpentier, whom they will ultimately hire to develop a series of 25 of Lumiere's machines. Six months hence, Louis will show the film of factory workers in action as they prepare to leave their workshops for the midday meal to a dumbfounded gathering of the Society for Industrial Advancement in Paris, where Lumiere was ostensibly to lecture on the photography industry but quickly shifts the topic of his speech to the projection of moving pictures. The demonstration definitely leaves its impression on the some 200 photographers, industrialists and researchers present, including the head of the Commercial Photography Syndicate, Leon Gaumont, who within two years will begin shooting films in his own studios.


March 19, 1953 - The Oscar ceremonies are televised nationwide for the first time to 80 million viewers, after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had resisted the advances of television for years. The top awards are distributed more evenly for the films of 1952 than for many of the years of Oscar history. Upon hearing her name announced as the winner for Best Actress for Paramount's COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA, Shirley Booth runs up the red-carpeted stairs of the International Theater to collect her prize, almost tripping over her long gown. "I guess this is the peak," the 45-year-old veteran stage actress, making her first film with SHEBA, tells the crowd. Booth was no stranger to the role of the frumpy wife of an alcoholic - she had performed William Inge's play more than 1,000 times on Broadway for winning the role in the film adaptation. It may have been Booth's first film, but Gary Cooper, who wins Best Actor for United Artists' HIGH NOON, has been making films for a quarter of a century. John Ford wins Best Director for THE QUIET MAN from tiny Republic Pictures, while Paramount's THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille, wins Best Picture. While it would be difficult to argue DeMille didn't deserve a Best Picture win for something in his extraordinary career, GREATEST SHOW will hardly go down in history as his most fondly remembered picture.


March 19, 1967 - Orson Welles' third attempt at putting Shakespeare on film, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, finally makes its American debut two years after being released in Europe. It's based on his own stage adaptation of Falstaff's scenes in HENRY IV PARTS ONE AND TWO and was filmed in Spain. Besides directing the picture, Welles also plays Sir John Falstaff. The sight of Welles hobbling on a gnarled walking stick conjures in the minds of some critics what they perceive to have been a tragic trajectory for Welles' career.


March 19, 1982 - MGM's stylish comedy VICTOR/VICTORIA premieres, co-written and directed by Blake Edwards and starring his wife, Julie Andrews. The couple seem jointly determined to dismantle Andrews' goody two-shoes image. Last year, Andrews appeared topless in Edwards' S.O.B. In this film, her character is forced by economic circumstances to be a "temporary transvestite". Andrews plays a singer on the skids who masquerades as a female impersonator and becomes the toast of the Parisian cabarets of the 1930s, to the delight of her gay mentor, played by Robert Preston, and the befuddlement of her would-be American suitor, played by James Garner. The screenplay is adapted from a 1933 German film, VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA.


March 19, 1993 - In Warner Brothers' POINT OF NO RETURN, which opens today, Bridget Fonda plays a drug-addicted punk who's transformed by a government agency program into a classy political assassin. The film is a virtual shot-by-shot remake of the French film LA FEMME NIKITA, directed by Luc Besson. It's just the latest example of a long tradition of adapting foreign films for American audiences dating back to at least 1932, when the French MONSIEUR TOPAZ was snapped up for John Barrymore. Other examples: Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece SEVEN SAMAURAI became THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN; TROIS HOMMES ET UN COUFFIN became THREE MEN AND A BABY; THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE became SOMMERSBY; and COUSINS, THREE FUGITIVES, THE WOMAN IN RED and SCENT OF A WOMAN are all remakes of foreign films. The trend shows no signs of slowing: Gerard Deprardieu will reprise his original role in an American version of MY FATHER, THE HERO; and LES CHOIX DE LA VIE will become INTERSECTION, with Richard Gere and Sharon Stone.

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