This Week In Film History, 05.15.11

May 15, 1900: The Lumière brothers dazzle audiences at the Paris World’s Fair with films projected onto an enormous 82′ x 49′ wide screen.

May 17, 1912: Carl Laemmle oversees the merger of a number of independent production companies to form Universal Manufacturing Company.

May 18, 1912: The first feature film from what would go on to be a burgeoning cinema industry in India, Pundalik, opens in Bombay.


May 19, 1927: Grauman’s Chinese Theater opens. The first to leave their marks in cement: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Talmadge.

May 16, 1929: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds the first Academy Awards ceremony at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel.

May 15, 1931: With The Public Enemy, starring newcomer James Cagney, and Little Caesar with Edward G. Robinson before it, Warners carves a niche in the gangster drama genre.

May 21, 1942: For the first time, James Cagney attends the premiere of one of his films: the patriotic song-and-dance extravaganza Yankee Doodle Dandy.

May 15, 1948: A U.S. Supreme Court ruling against “monopolistic practices” will, over the next two years, force studios to divest themselves of their theaters.

May 21, 1952: Within one month of his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, John Garfield dies of a heart attack at age 39.

May 21, 1958: An apparently unimpressed Universal opens Orson Welles‘ since-heralded Touch of Evil on a double bill on neighborhood screens.

May 21, 1983: The concluding film in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Return of the Jedi, debuts.

May 15, 1987: Hollywood wags will have a new synonym for “bomb” with the failure of the $40 million Warren BeattyDustin Hoffman comedy Ishtar.

May 20, 1988: Computer-generated “morphing” effects are used for the first time in director Ron Howard‘s fantasy-adventure Willow.

May 16, 1990: Muppet creator and family entertainment guru Jim Henson, 53, and actor-singer-dancer Sammy Davis, Jr., 64, die.

May 19, 1999: The long-awaited Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace sets an opening day box office record of $28.5 million.