Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 02
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
December 2, 1945
Penelope Spheeris born

On this day in 1945, director Penelope Spheeris was born in New Orleans.

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December 2, 1988
The Naked Gun Hits Its Target

It is relatively common these days for TV shows to be adapted into movies, but most often those films were based on successful and much-loved – not to mention long-running – series. However, in the case of The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, which was released today in 1988, the movie in question was the spawn of a TV show, Police Squad!, that had been cancelled by ABC in 1982 after only four episodes were aired. The spoof 70s style police show, however, gained cult status on the back of its silly humor, slapstick antics and intentional continuity errors. Indeed, it had such a Lazarus-like recovery to its reputation that its creators, Airplane's Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker, were given the opportunity by Paramount to make a feature about Leslie Nielsen's bumbling cop, Lt. Frank Drebin. Audiences responded enthusiastically to the film's inane antics and ridiculous plotlines and the movie became a massive success, raking in nearly $80m at the box office and spawning two further sequels – also starring Nielsen, and regular co-stars George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley and O.J. Simpson – both of which also were incredibly popular. The third installment, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, was released in 1994, however the franchise's success is such that Paramount is reportedly considering bringing back the characters for another outing produced by their DTV division (though probably without the involvement of Abrahams, the Zucker brothers or Nielsen).

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