The Quick 10: 10 Great Things That Originally Got Bad Reviews

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Works that we consider classics - or at the very least valuable contributions to society - haven't always been seen as such. Sometimes it takes a little time and perspective for us to understand the true value of something. Here are a few examples of things that really tanked whey they were first released, but are now considered pretty important. The only thing that concerns me - does this mean that in 50 years, people will wonder how on earth Glitter failed to receive an Oscar nomination?

lincoln1. The Gettysburg Address. The Chicago Times said, "The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances."
2. The Graduate... or to be more precise, Dustin Hoffman. Films in Review said, "The Graduate is a genuinely funny comedy which succeeds despite an uninteresting and untalented actor in the title role."
3. According to a September 22, 1966 newspaper, mini-skirts were totally done for. "The masters of French fashion weighed the mini-skirt, found it wanting, and said it would not last," the article said. "Chanel and other designers called the skirts "˜exaggerated,' "˜terrifying' and "˜hysterical.'"

4. Wuthering Heights was a total piece of crap, if you listen to the 1848 review in Atlas: "Wuthering Heights is a strange, inartistic story. There are evidences in every chapter of a sort of rugged power"“an unconscious strength"“which the possessor seems never to think of turning to the best advantage. The general effect is inexpressibly painful. We know nothing in the whole range of our fictitious literature which presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity...."

vertigo5. I love Vertigo and Alfred Hitchcock, but The New Yorker disagreed with me when it reviewed the then-new film, saying, "Alfred Hitchcock has never before indulged in such farfetched nonsense." Time concurred: "The old master has turned out another Hitchcock-and-bull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares." I disagree with the sentiment, but I do appreciate the pun. What can I say?

6. Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is one of the most celebrated ballets and compositions ever, but when it was first performed in 1913, audiences were shocked and appalled. They were used to demure, elegant ballets - and The Rite of Spring was about pagan Russia. People booed, fights actually broke out in the crowd and Stravinsky, rumored to be in tears, ran out of the building in the middle of the whole thing.

7. Rolling Stone was not exactly impressed with Nirvana's first album effort, Bleach. They called it "undistinguished" and said it "relied on warmed-over Seventies metal riffs."

8. Cars. They're so over-rated, aren't they? Well, The New York Times certainly thought so. "The question of the automobile as a private and popular vehicle in this country is difficult to answer, both on account of the fact that the roads outside of certain limits of the city are not serviceable for automobile traveling and because there is no actual leisure class here which could find enjoyment in the horseless carriage the year round."

9. Melville must have been pretty depressed when the reviews for Moby Dick rolled in. The London Morning Chronicle said it was "sheer, moonstruck lunacy" and the Southern Quarterly Review was particularly harsh, saying that the book was "Sad stuff, dull and dreary, or ridiculous . . . his Mad Captain is a monstrous bore."

10. This one isn't a bad review, exactly, but it's certainly not a ringing endorsement: Tom Brady was pick #199 in the 2000 draft - a sixth-round choice. The Patriots had four quarterbacks that season, and guess who was fourth-string? Yep - Mr. Brady. He moved up to second-string, though, and got his big chance in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe got injured.

Two-part question for you today: have I missed any good ones, of course, and what do you think (or hope) will be appreciated in 50 years that we find rather unimportant today?

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November 11, 2009 - 10:30am
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