Future President Ronald Reagan serves in film unit


Year
1943
Month Day
January 27

On January 27, 1943, future President Ronald Reagan, an Army Air Corps first lieutenant during World War II, is on an active-duty assignment with the Army’s First Motion Picture Unit.

Technically, Reagan was a unit public relations officer, however Warner Brothers Studios and the American Army Air Corps had tapped him the previous year to star in a motion picture called Air Force. To allow filming to go forward, Reagan was transferred from his cavalry unit to the Air Corps’ motion-picture unit in early January 1943.

Housed in the old Hal Roach studios, the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU) produced military training, morale and propaganda films to aid the war effort. FMPU released Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series and a documentary of the bomber Memphis Belle, the crew of which completed a standard-setting 35 bombing missions in Europe. The films were screened on domestic training grounds and in troop camps overseas as well as in U.S. movie theaters.

Air Force, which was later renamed Beyond the Line of Duty, conveyed the true story of the heroic feats of aviator Shorty Wheliss and his crew and featured narration by Lt. Ronald Reagan. The documentary, intended to promote investment in war bonds, won an Academy Award in 1943 for best short subject. Reagan went on to narrate or star in three more shorts for FMPU including For God and Country,Cadet Classification, and the The Rear Gunner. Reagan also appeared as Johnny Jones in the 1943 full-length musical film This is the Army.

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“The Birth of A Nation” opens, glorifying the KKK


Year
1915
Month Day
February 08

On February 8, 1915, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, a landmark film in the history of cinema, premieres at Clune’s Auditorium in Los Angeles. The film was America’s first feature-length motion picture and a box-office smash, and during its unprecedented three hours Griffith popularized countless filmmaking techniques that remain central to the art today. However, because of its explicit racism, Birth of a Nation is also regarded as one of the most offensive films ever made. Actually titled The Clansman for its first month of release, the film provides a highly subjective history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Studied today as a masterpiece of political propaganda, Birth of a Nation caused riots in several cities and was banned in others but was seen by millions.

David Wark Griffith was born in La Grange, Kentucky, in 1875, the son of an ex-Confederate colonel. His father died when he was seven, and he later dropped out of high school to help support his family. After holding various jobs, he began a successful career as a theater actor. He wrote several plays and, on the advice of a colleague, sent some scenarios for one-reel films to the Edison Film Company and the Biograph Company. In 1908, he was hired as an actor and writer for the Biograph studio and soon was promoted to a position as director.

READ MORE: How ‘The Birth of a Nation’ Revived the Ku Klux Klan

Between 1908 and 1913, Griffith made more than 400 short films for Biograph. With the assistance of his talented cinematographer, G W. “Billy” Bitzer, he invented or refined such important cinematic techniques as the close-up, the scenic long shot, the moving-camera shot, and the fade-in and fade-out. His contributions to the art of editing during this period include the flashback and parallel editing, in which two or more separate scenes are intermixed to give the impression that the separate actions are happening simultaneously. He also raised the standard on movie acting, initiating scene rehearsals before shooting and assembling a stock company of film professionals. Many of these actors, including Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Mary Pickford, Mae Marsh, and Lionel Barrymore, went on to become some of Hollywood’s first movie stars.

Taking his cue from the longer spectacle films produced in Italy, in 1913 Griffith produced Judith of Bethulia, a biblical adaptation that, at four reels, was close to an hour long. It was his last Biograph film. Two years later, he released his epic 10-reel masterpiece, Birth of a Nation, for Mutual Films.

Birth of a Nation, based on Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansman, tells the turbulent story of American history in the 1860s, as it followed the fictional lives of two families from the North and the South. Throughout its three hours, African Americans are portrayed as brutish, lazy, morally degenerate, and dangerous. In the film’s climax, the Ku Klux Klan rises up to save the South from the Reconstruction Era-prominence of African Americans in Southern public life.

Riots and protests broke out at screenings of Birth of a Nation in a number of Northern cities, and the recently formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) embarked on a major campaign to have the film banned. It eventually was censored in several cities, and Griffith agreed to change or cut out some of the film’s especially offensive scenes.

Nevertheless, millions of people paid to witness the spectacle of Birth of a Nation, which featured a cast of more 10,000 people and a dramatic story line far more sophisticated than anything released to that date. For all the gross historical inaccuracies, certain scenes, such as meetings of Congress, Civil War battles, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, were meticulously recreated, lending the film an air of legitimacy that made it so effective as propaganda.

The Ku Klux Klan, suppressed by the federal government in the 1870s, was re-founded in Georgia in December 1915 by William J. Simmons. In addition to being anti-black, the new Klan was anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant, and by the early 1920s it had spread throughout the North as well as the South. At the peak of its strength in 1924, membership in the KKK is estimated to have been as high as three million. There is no doubt that Birth of a Nation played no small part in winning wide public acceptance for an organization that was originally founded as an anti-black and anti-federal terrorist group.

Of Griffith’s later films, Intolerance (1916) is the most important. Hailed by many as the finest achievement of the silent-film era, it pursues four story lines simultaneously, which cumulatively act to prove humanity’s propensity for persecution. Some regard it as an effort at atonement by Griffith for Birth of a Nation, while others believe he meant it as an answer to those who persecuted him for his political views. Intolerance was a commercial failure but had a significant influence on the development of film art.

Griffith went on to make 27 more films. In 1919, he founded United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin.

Before D. W. Griffith’s time, motion pictures were short, uninspiring, and poorly produced, acted, and edited. Under his guidance, filmmaking became an art form. Despite the harm his Birth of a Nation inflicted on African Americans, he will forever be regarded as the father of cinema.

READ MORE: Ku Klux Klan

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Movie critic Roger Ebert dies

Year
2013
Month Day
April 04

On April 4, 2013, one of America’s best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after a battling cancer. In 1975, Ebert started co-hosting a movie review program on TV with fellow critic Gene Siskel that eventually turned them both into household names and made their thumbs-up, thumbs-down rating system part of American pop culture.

Born on June 18, 1942, in Urbana, Illinois, Ebert was the only child of an electrician father and bookkeeper mother. At age 15, Ebert he began writing about high school sports for his local newspaper. In 1964, he graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where majored in journalism and served as editor of the school’s newspaper. Two years later, he went to work for the Chicago Sun-Times. When the paper’s film critic retired in 1967, Ebert was named as her replacement.

Ebert reportedly watched 500 movies a year and penned reviews of at least half that many on an annual basis. (In 2012, when asked to name the 10 greatest films of all time, his list included such titles as Apocalypse Now, Citizen Kane, Raging Bull and Vertigo.) His work was syndicated in hundreds of newspapers around the world, and he was the author of more than 15 books, including the acclaimed 2011 memoir Life Itself. Ebert had a brief foray into movie making when he wrote the script for 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Upon its release, the film was trashed by critics, including Siskel.

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and salivary gland cancer the following year, Ebert lost the ability to speak, drink and eat in 2006 following surgery for jaw cancer. However, he continued to work, writing for the Sun-Times, blogging for his own website and developing a large following on Facebook and Twitter. On April 2, 2013, Ebert publicly announced he would be writing fewer reviews due to a recurrence of cancer. He died two days later. The Sun-Times published his final movie review on April 6, for To the Wonder. Ebert awarded it 3.5 out of 4 stars.

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“Avatar” makes its world premiere in London


Updated:
Original:
Year
2009
Month Day
December 10

On December 10 2009, “Avatar,” a 3-D science-fiction epic helmed by “Titanic” director James Cameron, makes its world debut in London and goes on to become the highest-grossing movie in history. Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver, the box-office mega-hit was praised for its state-of-the-art technology and earned nine Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best director.

Set in the year 2154, “Avatar” tells the story of disabled ex-Marine Jake Sully, who is recruited to help conquer and colonize Pandora, a faraway moon that is home to a mineral deposit coveted by people on Earth, whose energy resources are almost depleted. Pandora is inhabited by the Na’vi, a group of nature-loving, blue-skinned, half-alien/half-human creatures intent on protecting their own eco-system. (Cameron hired a linguist to create a unique language for the Na’vi.) Using an avatar to explore Pandora because the air there is toxic to humans, Jake falls in love with a Na’vi princess and goes native, eventually working to save the Na’vi from the human colonists.

Cameron wrote the script for “Avatar” in 1994; however, at that point the technology didn’t exist to produce the movie he wanted. In the meantime, he penned and directed “Titanic,” the 1997 blockbuster that garnered 11 Oscars and became the first film to gross more than $1 billion internationally. Prior to “Titanic,” Cameron helmed such hit films as “The Terminator” (1984), “Aliens” (1986) and “The Abyss” (1989), and became known for his imaginative use of special effects. In 2009, he told The New Yorker: “[‘Avatar’] integrates my life’s achievements…It’s the most complicated stuff anyone’s ever done.” Among the technologies used to make “Avatar” was performance capture, which turns an actor’s movements into a computer-generated image.

At the 82nd Academy Awards, held in March 2010, “Avatar” won Oscars for best visual effects, cinematography and art direction.

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Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first female director to win an Oscar


Year
2010
Month Day
March 07

On March 7, 2010, Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director, for her movie “The Hurt Locker,” about an American bomb squad that disables explosives in Iraq in 2004. Prior to Bigelow, only three women had been nominated for a best director Oscar: Lina Wertmueller for 1975’s “Seven Beauties,” Jane Campion for 1993’s “The Piano” and Sofia Coppola for 2003’s “Lost in Translation.”

Born in San Carlos, California, in 1951, Bigelow graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972 and later earned a master’s degree in film from Columbia University. She made her feature film debut with 1982’s “The Loveless,” which she co-wrote and co-directed. The film, about a motorcycle gang, starred Willem Dafoe. The next movie Bigelow directed, 1987’s “Near Dark,” was a western-horror hybrid that gained a cult following. She went on to helm 1990’s “Blue Steel,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis as a police officer stalked by a killer, and 1991’s “Point Break,” about bank-robbing surfers, featuring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. Bigelow’s other directing credits include 1995’s “Strange Days” with Ralph Fiennes, 2000’s “The Weight of Water” with Sean Penn and 2002’s “K-19: The Widowmaker” with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.

At the 82nd Academy Awards in March 2010, Bigelow’s fellow best-director nominees included James Cameron (“Avatar”), whom she was married to from 1989 to 1991, along with Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Inglorious Basterds”). After making history by winning the directing prize, Bigelow said, “I hope I’m the first of many [women], and of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point.” Her movie “The Hurt Locker,” which starred Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, also won Oscars for best picture, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing and original screenplay.

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Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79


Year
2011
Month Day
March 23

On March 23, 2011, actress Elizabeth Taylor, who appeared in more than 50 films, won two Academy Awards and was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, dies of complications from congestive heart failure at a Los Angeles hospital at age 79. The violet-eyed Taylor began her acting career as a child and spent most of her life in the spotlight. Known for her striking beauty, she was married eight times and later in life became a prominent HIV/AIDS activist.

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London, England, on February 27, 1932, to an American art dealer and his wife, a former actress. In 1939, the family moved to Southern California, and in 1942 Taylor made her film debut in There’s One Born Every Minute. At age 12, she rose to stardom in 1944’s National Velvet, later moving on to adult roles such as 1951’s A Place in the Sun, for which she garnered strong reviews. As one of Hollywood’s leading stars in the 1950s and 1960s, her credits included 1956’s Giant, with Rock Hudson and James Dean; 1957’s Raintree County, with Montgomery Clift and Eva Marie Saint; 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Paul Newman; and 1959’s Suddenly, Last Summer, with Clift and Katharine Hepburn. The latter three films each garnered Taylor Oscar nominations, before she took home best actress honors for 1960’s Butterfield 8, with Laurence Harvey and Eddie Fisher, and 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with Richard Burton.

Off-screen, Taylor’s colorful personal life generated numerous headlines. In 1950, the 18-year-old actress married hotel heir Conrad Hilton. The union lasted less than one year, and in 1952, she wed British actor Michael Wilding. The couple had two sons before divorcing in 1957. That same year, Taylor wed producer Mike Todd, with whom she had a daughter. A little over a year later, Todd died in a plane crash. In 1959, Taylor married singer Eddie Fisher (who left his wife Debbie Reynolds for Taylor); the union ended in 1964. Days after her divorce from Fisher was finalized, Taylor wed Welsh actor Richard Burton, with whom she co-starred in 1963’s Cleopatra. (Playing that film’s title role, Taylor became Hollywood’s highest-paid actress at the time.)

The public was fascinated by Taylor and Burton’s lavish lifestyle (among his gifts to her was a 69-carat diamond) and tumultuous relationship. The couple, who adopted a daughter, divorced in 1974, remarried the following year and divorced again in 1976. Taylor later called Mike Todd and Burton, who died in 1984, the great loves of her life.

READ MORE: Elizabeth Taylor Was ‘Still Madly in Love’ With Ex Richard Burton When He Died

In 1976, Taylor wed Virginia politician John Warner, who went on to become a U.S. senator. The pair divorced in 1982. In the 1980s, Taylor, who battled addictions to alcohol, drugs and overeating, spent time at the Betty Ford Center. In 1991, she married construction worker Larry Fortensky, whom she met at the treatment center. After a wedding ceremony at entertainer Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch in California, the couple divorced five years later. In addition to her addiction issues, Taylor suffered from a variety of health problems throughout her life, ranging from hip replacements to smashed spinal discs to a brain tumor.

In addition to her film career (her last silver-screen appearance was a cameo in 1994’s The Flintstones), Taylor’s legacy includes her work as a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS. Starting in the 1980s, the actress helped raise millions of dollars to combat the disease.

Taylor was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, the same place where her friend Michael Jackson was interred.

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Shirley Temple receives $50,000 per film


Year
1936
Month Day
February 27

On February 27, 1936, Shirley Temple receives a new contract from 20th Century Fox that will pay the seven-year-old star $50,000 per film.

Temple was born in 1928 in Santa Monica, California, and started appearing in a series of short films spoofing current movies, called Baby Burlesks, at the age of four. At six, she attracted attention with her complex song-and-dance number “Baby Take a Bow,” performed with James Dunn, in the 1934 movie Stand Up and Cheer. Based on the film’s success, 20th Century Fox signed little Shirley to a seven-year contract. 

She would appear in a string of films that year and the next, including Little Miss Marker, Change of Heart, Bright Eyes (which featured one of her most famous songs, the bouncy tune “On the Good Ship Lollipop”), and Curly Top. At the depths of the Great Depression, Temple’s films provided a cheery alternate universe for audiences suffering the effects of widespread unemployment and general economic hardship.

Knowing they had a cash cow on their hands, 20th Century Fox refined the terms of Temple’s contract in 1936, paying her the unprecedented sum of $50,000 per picture. They also famously altered the year on her birth certificate, making it appear that she was a year younger in order to prolong her adorable child-star status. By 1938, Temple was the No. 1 box-office draw in America. The public loved her, and she routinely upstaged her adult counterparts on the big screen. Over the course of the 1930s, the box-office success of her more than 40 films, including Poor Little Rich Girl, Wee Willie Winkie, Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, went a long way towards helping Fox weather the Depression.

Temple’s career began to peter out in her teenage years, however, and her later films met with less and less success with audiences. In 1950, she retired from movies, though she narrated the television series Shirley Temple’s Storybook from 1957 to 1959. Also in 1950, she married naval officer Charles Black, changing her name to Shirley Temple Black. (She had been previously married to Jack Agar; they wed when she was 17 and divorced after having one child, Linda.) With Black, she had two more children, Charles Jr. and Lori.

Some 20 years after retiring from Hollywood, Temple Black launched a political career, running as the Republican candidate for a congressional seat in San Mateo, California, in 1967 and coming in second of 14 candidates. The following year, President Richard Nixon appointed her as an ambassador to the United Nations; she worked for the State Department in the United States and overseas for more than two decades. She was the first woman to ever serve as chief of protocol, a post she held for 11 years under President Gerald R. Ford, and President George H.W. Bush named her ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989; by the end of her term in 1993, it had become the Czech Republic.

Temple Black published her autobiography, Child Star, in 1988. She served on the Institute of International Studies. The former child star also became a spokeswoman for breast cancer awareness after she discovered a malignant lump in her breast in 1972 and underwent a simple mastectomy. In 1999, at an event hosted by then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, Temple Black received a medal from the Kennedy Center for lifetime achievement to the United States and the world.

On February 10, 2014, Temple died at her Woodside, California, home at 85.

READ MORE: 7 Facts About Shirley Temple

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Julia Roberts collects $20 million for Erin Brockovich


Year
2000
Month Day
March 17

With Erin Brockovich, released on March 17, 2000, Julia Roberts becomes the first actress ever to command $20 million per movie.

Born in Smyrna, Georgia, on October 28, 1967, Roberts followed her brother Eric into acting, making her film debut in 1988’s girl-band drama Satisfaction. Her bona-fide breakout onto Hollywood’s A-list came in 1990, with the release of the box-office smash Pretty Woman. As Vivian Ward, a Hollywood Boulevard prostitute who charms a wealthy businessman (Richard Gere) into a happily-ever-after ending, Roberts grinned her way to her first Best Actress Oscar nomination. She had previously snagged an Academy Award nomination, in the Best Supporting Actress category, for her performance in the 1989 tear-jerker Steel Magnolias.

After another blockbuster (1993’s The Pelican Brief) and a string of relative disappointments (including 1996’s Mary Reilly), Roberts returned with a box-office bang in My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), in which she deftly upended her “America’s sweetheart” reputation by playing a character who desperately schemes to steal another woman’s fiancee., In 1999, Roberts made two more high-profile romantic comedies, Notting Hill and The Runaway Bride, which re-teamed her with Gere; though critics panned the latter film, both were huge hits.

Roberts then signed on for the title role in the director Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich.

By that time, $20 million had become the standard paycheck for Hollywood’s A-list male movie stars, including Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Sylvester Stallone, among others. Roberts was the first female performer to command this amount. As was reported in Newsweek at the time of Erin Brockovich’s release, Universal Pictures was initially reluctant to hand Roberts her record-breaking paycheck. Her agent, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, reportedly convinced the studio by pointing out the injustice of Hollywood’s double standard. With five movies that grossed more than $100 million, Goldsmith-Thomas argued, Roberts was well worth the same paycheck as male stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio or Adam Sandler, each of whom had commanded $20 million after scoring only one hit of that magnitude.

Roberts’ Erin Brockovich haul put her far out in front of her closest peers at the time, Meg Ryan and Jodie Foster, who had reportedly each made $15 million for a single movie. In Erin Brockovich, Roberts proved worthy of her enormous paycheck, leading the film to more than $125 million at the U.S. box office and five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Dressed in black-and-white vintage Valentino, a tearful and triumphant Roberts took home the statuette for Best Actress at the 73rd annual Academy Awards. 

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“Spider-Man” becomes first movie to top $100 million in opening weekend

Year
2002
Month Day
May 05

Directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire in the title role, the eagerly awaited comic book adaptation Spider-Man was released on Friday, May 3, 2002, and quickly became the fastest movie ever to earn more than $100 million at the box office, raking in a staggering $114.8 million by Sunday, May 5.

After a genetically altered spider bites the teenager Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) during his class field trip to a university laboratory, he discovers that the bite has given him supernatural powers. Though his principal goal is pursuing his longtime crush, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), Parker soon transforms himself into Spider-Man in order to combat evil, in the form of the Green Goblin, the villainous result of an experiment that the scientist Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) has performed on himself.

By the time the film was released, four decades had passed since Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man for Marvel in 1962. The comic’s enduring popularity, as well as a massive marketing campaign by Columbia Pictures and Marvel, seemed to predict commercial success for Spider-Man, which opened in more than 3,600 theaters nationwide. In addition, super-hero movies traditionally faired well at the box office, as evidenced by the hit Superman and Batman films. Reviewers also praised Raimi’s film for its smart script and generally good acting, as well as its high-tech special effects. The combination of all these factors helped explain Spider-Man’s record opening-day haul of $39.4 million. The previous mark was $32.3 million, set by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had taken five days to pass the $100 million mark, as had 1999’s Stars Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. Spider-Man would go on to earn some $403.7 million domestically, more than any other comic book movie to that date.

Both Spider-Man sequels, in 2004 and 2007, would break their predecessor’s opening day record, earning $40.4 million and $59 million, respectively. Spider-Man 3, shown on more than 10,000 screens at 4,252 locations, boasted an opening weekend haul of $151.1 million. That record would stand until July 2008, when The Dark Knight, the fifth film in the Batman franchise, grossed $155 million in its first weekend. Only 19 days after its release, The Dark Knight had taken in $405.7 million in the United States alone, passing the first Spider-Man. 

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Government gives Chrysler $1.5 billion loan

Year
1980
Month Day
May 10

On May 10, 1980, United States Secretary of the Treasury G. William Miller announces the approval of nearly $1.5 billion dollars in federal loan guarantees for the nearly bankrupt Chrysler Corporation. At the time, it was the largest rescue package ever granted by the U.S. government to an American corporation.

Founded as the Maxwell Motor Company Inc. in 1913, Chrysler grew into the Chrysler Corporation after 1925, when Walter P. Chrysler took over control of the company. Its purchase of Dodge Brothers in 1928 announced Chrysler’s arrival as a major force in the U.S. automotive industry. After decades of expansion, the company’s success came to a screeching halt after the 1973 oil crisis led to skyrocketing gas costs and new government standards for emissions. The combination of these factors caused problems for the Big Three of American automakers–Ford, General Motors and Chrysler–as the trend towards so-called “muscle cars” in the 1960s had led them to produce vehicles with powerful, gas-guzzling engines. (Chrysler’s famous Hemi engine, used in cars like the Dodge Charger and Challenger and the Plymouth RoadRunner, was one of the most prominent examples.)

In an attempt to produce lighter, more efficient vehicles, Chrysler bought shares in the Japanese motor company Mitsubishi, which began producing subcompact cars in America under the Chrysler name in 1970. By the end of the decade, however, Chrysler was in dire financial straits. Lee Iacocca, the former Ford executive who became the company’s president and chairman of the board in 1978, appealed for a federal loan, banking on the fact that the government wouldn’t allow the country’s No. 3 automaker to declare bankruptcy in an already depressed economy. His gamble paid off: In explaining the decision to grant the loans to Chrysler, Treasury Secretary Miller stated that the government “recognizes that there is a public interest in sustaining [its] jobs and maintaining a strong and competitive national automotive industry.”

The terms of the $1.5 billion in loans required Chrysler to raise another $2 billion on its own, which Iacocca did by streamlining operations and persuading union leaders to accept some layoffs and wage cuts, among other measures. His high-profile personal leadership, combined with a focus on more fuel-efficient vehicles, steered Chrysler to one of the most famous corporate comebacks in recent history: In 1984, a year after paying off its government loans ahead of schedule, the company posted record profits of some $2.4 billion. Twenty-five years later, however, plummeting sales and a deepening global financial crisis landed Chrysler in trouble again, and in early 2009 the company received another $4 billion in federal funds. Soon after, under pressure from President Barack Obama’s administration, Chrysler filed for federal bankruptcy protection and entered into a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat.

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