It’s a really big day today, starting with the banner release of two bona fide classics on the same day. The sentimental favorite is Harvey, based on a smash play that gave Jimmy Stewart one of his most beloved roles. There’s something about him credibly holding the screen with an invisible six-foot rabbit that may or may not exist that speaks to genius. And ye gods, if you need an escape, the door here is wide open. Harvey was first released today in 1950.
That very same day in 1950 saw the release of a second masterpiece: All About Eve, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s scathing indictment of show biz society and the perils of hubris. It features Bette Davis at the absolute top of her game, and the only reason she lost the Oscar that year was because she had to compete with her co-star Anne Baxter for the honor. You don’t see a lot of movies as good as these two released on the exact same day.
If you want to get somber, there’s Roman Polanski’s Macbeth, perhaps the most chilling production of the play ever put to screen. Polanski had just lost his wife and unborn child to the Manson family, and all of that darkness gnawing at his soul came out in a nihilistic shriek for the world to see. Contemporary horror films sometimes like to flash their hipster credentials by gloating about how merciless things can be. Watching this film puts their pretender status in sharp relief. Macbeth opened today in 1971.
Okay, something more cheerful? How about The Fabulous Baker Boys, Steve Kloves’ tale of a pair of lounge-act brothers whose flagging careers get a boost with the addition of a slinky blonde to their routine. Real-life brothers Beau Bridges and Jeff Bridges give the characters chemistry you won’t find anywhere else, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Oscar nominated turn jump-started puberty in an entire generation of boys. The film opened today in 1989.
We’ll closed with Strange Days, Kathryn Bigelow’s look at crime, virtual reality and the future in a 1999 that never quite came to pass. It bombed when first released, but has since proven to be quite prophetic in a number of disturbing ways, and now stands as one of the best science fiction films of the last quarter century. It opened today in 1995.