This Week in Film History, 12.21.14

December 24, 1906: Considered to be the first feature-length (70 minutes) motion picture, the Australian drama The Story of The Kelly Gang debuts in Melbourne.

December 26, 1913: Less than two years after the sinking of the Titanic, the disaster comes to the screen as the basis for the lavish Danish drama Atlantis.

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 22, 1932: One year after playing the Frankenstein Monster, Boris Karloff cements his role as Universal’s horror king as The Mummy.

December 23, 1932: MGM’s Rasputin and the Empress, premiering today, marks the only joint screen appearance of Barrymore siblings Ethel, John and Lionel.

December 21, 1933: After winning a role in Stand Up and Cheer, five-year-old Shirley Temple is signed to a one-year contract by Fox Pictures. Her salary is $150 per week.

December 22, 1933: In only his second film appearance, stage hoofer Fred Astaire finds a dance partner in Ginger Rogers, in RKO’s Flying Down to Rio.

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, 1937: Stage and film comic Ted Healy, who assembled the trio that would go on to become The Three Stooges, dies at 41 from injuries sustained in a nightclub brawl.

December 21, 1938: Blondie, the first of 28 movies starring Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake and based on the popular comic strip, opens.

December 22, 1944: Baby-faced silent funnyman Harry Langdon, whose popularity once rivaled Chaplin’s and Keaton’s, passes away at 60.

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 25, 1946: On one of his least favorite days of the year– Christmas Day– famed screen comedian/curmudgeon W.C. Fields dies at 67.

December 26, 1951: Akira Kurosawa’s landmark drama Rashomon is released in the U.S. and will set off a wave of interest in Japanese cinema in the West.

December 22, 1956: Producer Michael Todd’s lavish adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days premieres in Hollywood; its star-filled scenes help popularize the term “cameo appearance.”

December 25, 1964: “Bondmania” reaches a fever pitch in America with the release of the third 007 thriller, Goldfinger with Sean Connery.

December 22, 1971: Clint Eastwood debuts as Dirty Harry in a role that was once to feature Frank Sinatra. Despite controversy, the film will become a big hit.

December 26, 1973: The Exorcist opens on a limited basis around the country. The supernatural shocker causes a sensation, eventually grossing $165 million.

December 26, 1974: Stage, television and movie comic legend (and sometime violinist) Jack Benny dies in Beverly Hills at the age of 79…not 39, as he might have claimed.

December 25, 1977: Actor-director-producer-writer Charles Chaplin, once called “the most recognized face in the world,” dies in London at the age of 88.

December 26, 1977: Howard Hawks, whose directorial resume ran the gamut from Bringing Up Baby to Red River, dies at the age of 81.

December 25, 1990: Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Part III opens, 14 years after the second Corleone family saga hit theaters.

December 22, 1993: Johnathan Demme’s powerful AIDS-themed Drama Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, opens.

December 23, 1997: Filmmaker Woody Allen, 62, marries 27-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, adopted daughter of his longtime girlfriend Mia Farrow.

December 23, 2000: Diminutive actor Billy Barty, whose movie and TV career spanned nine decades, dies of heart failure at 76.

December 24, 2012: Actor Jack Klugman, last of the 1957 film’s 12 Angry Men, passes away at 90.