The Right Stuff was billed as a major Oscar contender upon its release, and critics rightfully hailed it as one of the best films of the decade. Its Academy campaign was derailed, however, by the now-absurd premise that it was helping then-senator John Glenn (whom the film depicts) launch a presidential campaign. But its box-office failure and short-handed night at the Oscars can’t change what it is: one of the greatest movies ever made about our country, at its best and its worst. It opened today in 1983.
That same day in 1983, director David Cronenberg turned in one of his more straightforward efforts: an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. Long considered an overly clinical director, he found the heartbreaking center of the story in John Smith (Christopher Walken), a schoolteacher who awakens from a coma to find the life he knew gone, but possessing the power to predict the future. Those who know Walken only as creepy gangsters and the like will be surprised at how empathetic he is here, and Cronenberg’s sure direction delivers one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date.
We’ll close with The Awful Truth, a screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a couple in the midst of a divorce who start having second thoughts. It’s light and breezy the way Cary Grant should be, and under the direction of Leo McCarey, it becomes one of the better comedies from this era. It opened today in 1937.