December 19, 1909: The first use of freeze frame for dramatic effect is employed by D.W. Griffith for the film A Corner in Wheat.
December 21, 1923: Cecil B. DeMille’s lavish, big budget biblical epic, The Ten Commandments, makes its premiere to glowing response.
December 21, 1925: Notable for its innovative “montage” shots, Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin has its premiere at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.
December 16, 1935: Blonde comic actress Thelma Todd, 29, is found dead in the garage of her California home. Ruled a suicide, the case remains a point of controversy.
December 21, 1937: Contrary to many predictions, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hollywood’s first feature-length cartoon, opens to rave reviews.
December 21, 1938: Blondie, the first of 28 movies starring Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake and based on the popular comic strip, opens.
December 19, 1940: The comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello brings their vaudeville banter to the screen in One Night in the Tropics.
December 21, 1946: Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life opens to mixed reviews and fair box office, becoming a holiday classic only after repeated TV airings.
December 15, 1966: The most famous name in family entertainment, Walt Disney–animator, producer and multi-Oscar-winner–dies of a heart attack at age 65.
December 18, 1966: In defiance of the Production Code’s demands to excise certain scenes, MGM releases Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup without a seal of approval.
December 19, 1971: Stanley Kubrick draws attention with the U.S. release of the X-Rated A Clockwork Orange, which, incidentally, is the first to use the Dolby sound system.
December 15, 1974: Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s side-splitting spoof of Universal’s horror films, Young Frankenstein, opens.
December 15, 1978: The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino‘s Vietnam epic, opens, stunning audiences and eliciting controversy for its “Russian roulette” sequences.
December 19, 1986: Platoon, Oliver Stone‘s powerful war chronicle spurred by his service as a grunt in Vietnam, opens in limited release.
December 20, 1996: The “teen slasher” genre gets a hip revamping with director Wes Craven‘s surprise horror hit Scream.
December 19, 1997: Director James Cameron‘s Titanic opens, going on to win 11 Academy Awards and pass Star Wars as the all-time box office champ.