Today in Movie History: October 19

In light of the political shitstorm currently eating our country alive, the soothing balm of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington can do a lot of good for your blood pressure. Jimmy Stewart is pitch-perfect as a naïve young man appointed to a U.S. Senate seat, who does pitched battle against the systematic corruption trying to mold him to its whim. Of course, like a lot of Frank Capra movies, it depends on the characters actually having souls and understanding the consequences of their actions. The real world features too many far less introspective people. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington opened today in 1939.

The Klaus Von Bulow case was quite the tabloid hot button back in the day: a wealthy man accused of putting his wife in a coma in order to end their unhappy marriage. But in Reversal of Fortune, the brilliant fictionalized account of the case, director Barbet Schroeder chose to focus on the legal ramifications instead of the soapy shocks. The result was one of the best courtroom dramas ever made and scored a well-deserved Oscar for star Jeremy Irons, whose performance as von Bulow has yet to be matched in his career. The movie opened today in 1990.

There was a time when Kevin Smith was mentioned in the same breath as Quentin Tarantino as filmmakers changing the face of movies. It didn’t happen for Smith, who became more of a personality than a director, and whose work as a writer always eclipsed his skills behind the camera. But with Clerks, his impressive debut, he looked ready to take the cinematic world by storm. Most of his subsequent films don’t hold up nearly as well as this one (though Chasing Amy comes close). It opened today in 1994.

We’ll close with out October horror movie of the day: Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Though generally considered a drama, it explores themes of body horror, women’s self-esteem, and the omnipresent threat of violence from men… themes that unfortunately feel more pertinent now than ever. Stephen King always put it in a different genre thanks to those qualities, and who am I to disagree with the master? Looking for Mr. Goodbar opened today in 1977.



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