Today in Movie History: July 30

The big film today from an artistic perspective is Mister Roberts, John Ford’s tale of of lieutenant (Henry Fonda) on broken-down WWII cargo ship who longs for combat, but finds himself thwarted by the ship’s captain (James Cagney). Frankly speaking, it’s not among Ford’s best, but the cast is in fine form and the film picked up a slew of Academy Awards, including one for Jack Lemmon as Fonda’s bunkmate. It opened today in 1955.

On an entirely different level, we find Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, an amiable stoner comedy that proved surprisingly resilient. Intended as the simple story of two best buds (Kal Penn and John Cho) and their epic quest for a sackful of burgers from the titular fast-food chain, it spawned a loyal cult following as well as a pair of surprisingly good sequels. Its greatest gift, however, may be the stunning reboot of Neil Patrick Harris’s career: turning him from sitcom has-been to stunningly cool in-joke master within the space of a few short minutes. He — and we — will be forever grateful. The film opened today in 2004.

 

 

Today in Movie History: May 8

“Bond. James Bond.”

From the dawn of civilization until the end of time, no human being will be one-tenth as cool as Sean Connery was at that moment. From three little words came the franchise to end all franchises, with no signs of slowing down. 007’s immortal debut, Dr. No, hit U.S. screens today in 1963.

A few years later, another notable franchise began its five-year mission, which lasted far longer than anyone thought, but looked to be on life support when J.J. Abrams undertook a reboot. We’re still assessing how far it will go with Chris Pine in the captain’s chair instead of William Shatner, but no one could argue that 2009’s revamped Star Trek was a smashing success. (And Anton Yelchin, we still miss you.)