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Today in Movie History: February 15

Stagecoach is one of those movies whose influence kind of creeps up on you. Not only did it cement a number of Western conventions that later went on to become clichés (Monument Valley settings, cavalry arriving at the last minute, etc.), but it made a star out of John Wayne and turned director John Ford into Hollywood legend. It also featured …

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Today in Movie History: February 5

Let’s cut to the chase: the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers opened today in 1956, bringing Cold War paranoia straight into small-town America. Its alien invaders — who duplicate our human forms while removing the pesky humanity from our souls — served as the inspiration for the zombie apocalypse genre to follow, and while it remains a product of the …

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Today in Movie History: January 25

We’re looking at quite a few notable films with release dates today. We’ll start with a triumph from the Silver Age of Walt Disney pictures. 101 Dalmatians remains one of the Mouse’s biggest hits (#2 behind Snow White if you adjust for inflation) and — amid the studio’s bevvy of memorable villains — delivering one Cruella de Vil, who just might …

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Today in Movie History: December 21

There’s no question which movie tops our charts today: Walt Disney premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on this date in 1937, and transformed the entire animation field as a result. 80 years later, it’s still the greatest cartoon of all time: a stunning triumph in every sense of the word, cementing Disney’s fortunes and single-handedly creating the animated feature …

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Today in Movie History: November 17

We’re starting with something from the “everything old is new again” file. The Marx Brothers had their share of comedy classics, but many consider their greatest work to be Duck Soup. It highlights the absurdity of authoritarian governments, with the boys’ rollicking chaos presented as a counterpoint to the methodical, planned chaos created by despotic regimes. Can’t imagine why that might …

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Today in Movie History: November 8

It’s a big day in more ways than one, so let’s get to it. For 45 years, Shakespeare’s Henry V belonged firmly to Laurence Olivier, whose 1944 version was considered definitive. Intended to rally the British nation during World War II, it offered a fairy-tale atmosphere of inevitable victory and proved so potent that no one dared make another version of …

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Today in Movie History: November 3

Stephen King understands bullies as few others before him, which is one of the reasons why his terror tales hold so much power. His first novel, Carrie — inspired by experiences in high school — taps into the fear, alienation and rage of being the constant target of abuse, and in the hands of director Brian De Palma, it became one of …

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Today in Movie History: October 23

We’re normally inclined to start with horror movies this time of year and we have a couple of tasty grindhouse numbers to close things out. But neither of them hold the enduring power of Dumbo, one of Walt Disney’s most beloved creations. Along with Snow White, it was the only one of Disney’s early features to turn a profit, and while …

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Today in Movie History: October 18

Musicals don’t come any better than West Side Story, a brilliant re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that freed the genre from the opulent event pictures that had dominated it in the 1950s. Robert Wise kept a steady hand on the tiller during a deeply troubled production — co-director Jerome Robbins suffered a breakdown midway through, though his stunning choreography remains …