A whole six years ago on January 22nd 2008 Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription pills. When he passed away, the 28 year-old actor was in the prime of his career. He was in the middle of filming The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. After some clever re-writing, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell were cast to complete Ledger’s role as a man who changed his appearance as he travelled between imaginary worlds. Depp, Law and Farrell all gave their earnings from the film to Ledger’s daughter Matilda.
The last film that Heath Ledger completed was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in which Ledger played Batman’s nemesis The Joker. His incredibly performance won him over thirty posthumous awards including an Oscar for best supporting actor.
On this day in 1961, Disney’s 101 Dalmatians was released. The film was a bit of a risk for the studio, their previous animated feature, Sleeping Beauty, failed to make even half of the $6 million production costs.
In light of this loss the animation team was reduced fivefold and xerography, a new, cheaper form of animation was introduced. 101 Dalmatians was the first feature film to use this technique. Xerography was a new photocopying technology which resulted in hard black outlines on the animations, a contrast to Disney’s previous soft feel. However, Disney needn’t have worried; 101 Dalmatians became the highest grossing film of 1961.
The original novel was written by Dodie Smith. Bill Peet, the writer, kept in close contact with her while screenwriting and he made a fair few changes. The Dalmatian protagonists were originally Pongo and Missus Pongo, Perdita was a stray, taken in to help wet nurse the puppies. The owners, Mr and Mrs Dearly, were originally named Roger and Anita Radcliffe. Although in the 1996 Disney live action version they are again named Roger and Anita. The changes were welcomed by Smith who felt that the Disney studios were improving on her story.
29 years on in 1990, Ava Gardner died aged 67. The pin-up actress’ biggest films included The Killers (1946) a crime drama where Gardner played Kitty Collins and On the Beach (1959) a Sci-Fi drama also starring Gregory Peck. Gardner once met J.R.R Tolkien at Oxford University in 1964, but neither knew that the other was famous.
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