February 7, 1914: The Keystone comedy short Kid Auto Races at Venice marks the screen debut of Charlie Chaplin and the first appearance of his “Little Tramp” outfit (which he devised for a later film, Mabel’s Strange Predicament).
February 8, 1915: D.W. Griffith’s controversial Civil War epic, The Birth of a Nation, opens. At a White House screening, President Woodrow Wilson is said to call it “like writing history with lightning.”
February 8, 1926: The New York Sun is the first to use the term “documentary,” in its review of Robert Flaherty’s Moana.
February 5, 1927: Buster Keaton’s comedic masterwork The General, based on a true Civil War incident, is released.
February 5, 1936: At the New York premiere of Charles Chaplin’s Modern Times, riot police are called in to control the crowds trying to see the stars attending the festivities.
February 5, 1943: Producer/ “director” Howard Hughes’ controversial frontier drama The Outlaw makes a star of his buxom discovery, Jane Russell.
February 6, 1943: A Los Angeles jury finds Errol Flynn not guilty of statutory rape charges made against him by two teenage girls.
February 8, 1968: Planet of the Apes, which will spawn four sequels, opens, starring Charlton Heston and “simians” Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans.
February 4, 1970: George C. Scott, Karl Malden and General Omar Bradley attend the premiere of 20th Century-Fox’s Patton in New York.
February 7, 1974: Western movies are never quite the same after Mel Brooks’ spoof Blazing Saddles tickles audiences with its premiere in Los Angeles.
February 6, 1985: Just Jaeckin’s Emmanuelle finishes its record 10-year, 32-week-run at the Paris City Cinema, beating out previous record-holder West Side Story.
February 3, 1989: Maverick filmmaker John Cassavetes, whose work preceded the rise of the independent cinema, dies of lung cancer at 59.