Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 18
Bud Cort March 29, 1950
Bud Cort born

In New Rochelle, New York, on this day in 1948, the strange and unique life of Bud Cort began. Born Walter Edward Cox, Cort – the son of a former bandleader father and a mother who once worked for MGM – found himself drawn to acting from an incredibly young age: “I had no choice. I had to act,” he said once. “I could memorize anything plus I only felt comfortable and safe on stage.” A talented artist who spent numerous hours in his teens painting people’s portraits at county fairs, Cort went to study Design at New York University in the late 60s, but in the Big Apple the smell of greasepaint proved irresistible to him. He started taking acting lessons, getting work in commercials and small TV and movie parts, and quit NYU in 1969. That coincided with him being cast as Private Boone in the classic anti-war farce M*A*S*H, after director Robert Altman had discovered Cort performing in a comedy revue. Altman was so impressed that he made Cort the eponymous lead in his next movie, Brewster McCloud, about a boy who dreams of being able to fly. Cort then won the career-defining role of death-obsessed Harold in Hal Ashby's cult hit Harold and Maude. A critical failure which was discovered and brought back from the dead by avid fans at double bills and midnight movies, the film proved a double edged sword for Cort: he was so good as Harold that casting directors never saw him as anyone else. "I've had my moments where I just cursed that movie and wished I'd never done it," he once said.


More Flashbacks
Dec. 18, 1958
Boris Karloff's nephews found murdered

On December 18, 1958, Boris Karloff was struck by a personal tragedy more horrible than any event depicted in one of his movies when his two great-nephews were discovered with their throats slit.

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December 18, 1966
Antonioni’s Blowup Defines Cool

In New York, crowds of hip cinephiles lined up to see Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English-language film Blowup. The Italian director had already risen to the top of everyone’s must-see list with movies like L'avventura and L’eclisse. But in Blowup, Antonioni took hipness to a whole new level. The script, based on a short story by Argentinean writer Julio Cortázar (who gets a walk on role in the film as a homeless man), involves a callous fashion photographer (David Hemmings) who believes he may have photographed a murder by accident, but finds he can’t prove it one way or other. While Blowup’s existential murder mystery was indeed compelling, it was its backdrop of swinging mod London that captured the most attention. Many felt the main character was modeled on the real-life jet-setting photographer David Bailey, and actual models Jane Birkin and Veruschka wander in and out the film’s world. At the party scene, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page of The Yardbirds play on stage (as themselves), and local personalities like Michael Palin (later of Monty Python) pop up in the crowd. The whole mishmash captured the London scene like nothing else had. Andrew Sarris called the movie "a mod masterpiece.” Playboy’s Arthur Knight went further by suggesting that in the future Blowup will be as “as important and germinal a film as Citizen Kane, Open City and Hiroshima, Mon Amour – perhaps even more so."

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