This Week In Film History, 08.15.10

button-film-historyAugust 18, 1925: MGM settles on the winner of a fan magazine contest to rechristen contract starlet Lucille LeSeur, and adds “Joan Crawford” to the lexicography.

August 16, 1926: Up-and-coming starlet Clara Bow inks a deal with Paramount, but refuses to sign the customary “morality” clause.

August 21, 1939: RKO Pictures contracts with theater/radio wunderkind Orson Welles, allowing him to produce, direct, script and act in two projects of his choosing.

August 16, 1956: The screen’s most famous vampire, Bela Lugosi, dies at 73. In accordance with his wishes, he’s buried in his Dracula cape.

August 17, 1958: Producer Roger Corman‘s juvenile delinquent drama The Cry Baby Killer marks the screen debut of Jack Nicholson.

August 18, 1969: Stand-up comic and part-time actor Woody Allen debuts his first film as writer/director/star, Take the Money and Run.

August 16, 1977: Elvis Presley dies suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 42 in his Memphis home, Graceland.

August 19, 1977: Groucho Marx, cigar-chomping leader of the Marx Brothers, dies at the age of 76 of pneumonia in Los Angeles.

August 15, 1979: After years of production and financial troubles, Apocalypse Now finally opens in American theaters, three months after its premiere at Cannes.

August 20, 1986: African-American filmmaker Spike Lee wins acclaim for his debut feature, She’s Gotta Have It, which will draw attention to other black artists.

August 21, 1987: Stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey have the time of their lives in the surprise hit Dirty Dancing.

August 16, 1995: The film noir genre gets a ’90s updating with the acclaimed, plot-twisting whodunit The Usual Suspects.