February 29 in history:
No wonder Superman can leap over tall buildings. He’s a leap year baby, according to DC Comics. For the 50th anniversary of Superman comics in 1988, DC declared that the day baby Kal-el was born on Krypton happened to be February 29th on Earth. On February 29th of ’88, a Superman birthday special hosted by Dana Carvey aired on CBS.
In 2011, actor Sean Penn was mentioned as a possible candidate to play Kal-el’s father Jor-el in a future Superman movie. Penn won his first Best Actor Oscar for the movie Mystic River at the Academy Awards on February 29th, 2004. The Best Actress winner that night was Charlize Theron for the film Monster, where she played real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Coincidentally, Wuornos was born on February 29th of 1956.
The Persian Gulf War ended on February 28th, 1991 – less than two months after U.S. troops began the invasion to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi control.
The Navy ship USS Princeton was the site of a deadly explosion on this date in 1844. President John Tyler and members of his cabinet were aboard the Princeton on the Potomac River when a cannon exploded during a demonstration. Tyler was not hurt, but the blast killed Secretary of State Abel Upshur and the Secretary of the Navy, among others.
Charles Durning, born February 28th, 1923, played a president, a U.S. Senator, a governor, and many other authority figures, as well as Santa Claus, during a long acting career. He may be best known for roles in The Sting, Dog Day Afternoon, and Tootsie. Durning also fought in World War II, and took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
It’s also the birthday of Gavin MacLeod (1931), who has played several military roles on-screen, in Operation Petticoat, Pork Chop Hill, and the TV series “McHale’s Navy.” MacLeod’s most famous TV characters are Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Capt. Merrill Stubing on “The Love Boat.”
Pork Chop Hill was a Korean War drama. The TV series “M*A*S*H” was a Korean War comedy which became more serious during its 11-year run on CBS. On February 28th, 1983, over 100 million people watched the movie-length finale of “M*A*S*H,” in which the war ended. “M*A*S*H” lasted longer than the combined total of the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the Tyler Administration.
February 27th in history:
Historians believe a speech by Abraham Lincoln on this day in 1860 gave him a major boost toward the presidency. Lincoln impressed an audience with an address at the Cooper Union hall in New York City, raising his national profile.
If Lincoln had not been shot during his second term, he could have run for as many terms as he liked. There was nothing in the Constitution to stop him — until February 27th, 1951, when the 22nd Amendment was ratified. That amendment was passed after Franklin Roosevelt was elected president four times. It says a president can be elected to no more than two terms — or just one full term, if he or she took over for another president who had served less than half a term.
February 27th is the birthday of two men who have run for president: consumer advocate Ralph Nader (1934) and former Texas Governor John Connally (1917). Also, the birthday of a recent White House resident, Chelsea Clinton (1980).
February 26th in history:
On February 26th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. He soon returned to power in France before being defeated at Waterloo that same year.
Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Louisiana became the home of Dixieland music, and on this date in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first jazz recording for the Victor Company.
Musician Fats Domino, a New Orleans native, was born on February 26th, 1928. It’s also the birthday of Minnesota Fats from the movie The Hustler, Jackie Gleason (born 1916). Gleason’s most popular character was Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners.”
Jackie Gleason starred in the movie Gigot as a Frenchman who could not speak. French actor Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar on February 26th, 2012, for playing a star of silent films in the mostly-silent film The Artist. The French movie, shot in Hollywood, also won the Oscar for Best Picture.
February 25th in history:
The U.S. Steel corporation was founded on February 25th, 1901. Businessmen J.P. Morgan, Elbert Gary and Andrew Carnegie combined smaller steel companies into one large firm. Upon its formation, U.S. Steel became the first company worth one billion dollars.
Two actors famous for playing very rich men were both born on February 25th in 1913. German actor Gert Fröbe had the title role in the James Bond adventure Goldfinger in 1964. That same year, Jim Backus began playing millionaire Thurston Howell III on “Gilligan’s Island.” Backus’s other famous roles include James Dean’s father in Rebel Without a Cause, and the voice of nearsighted cartoon character Mister Magoo.
On this day in 1964, boxer Cassius Clay, and anybody who bet on him, was in the money after Clay upset heavyweight champ Sonny Liston at Miami. Liston had had enough after six rounds, and Clay became the surprise champ by TKO. Clay declared himself “the greatest,” and became known as Muhammad Ali.
February 24th in history:
There was celebration in England on this date in 1981, as 32-year-old Prince Charles announced his engagement to 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer. The royal wedding happened that July, making Diana the Princess of Wales.
The duties of many festival princesses include riding on floats in a parade. There were no floats in U.S. parades until February 24th, 1868, when a float was introduced at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
Mardi Gras is celebrated on the day before the start of Lent. The Gregorian calendar, announced on February 24th, 1582, made changes in how the dates of Lent and Easter are determined every year. The calendar also declared that some years ending in “00” would not be leap years.
French actress Emmanuelle Riva saw 22 leap years come and go before she received an Oscar nomination for the film “Amour.” Riva celebrated her 86th birthday at the Oscar ceremony on this date in 2013, but lost the Best Actress award to 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence.
February 23rd in history:
Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press and movable type made mass production of books popular. The first mass printing of the Gutenberg Bible began on February 23rd, 1455.
The power of the press was demonstrated in the Dreyfus Affair in France. On this date in 1898, author Emile Zola was convicted of libel for writing a newspaper letter headlined “J’accuse!” Zola accused leaders of the French Army of falsely convicting officer Alfred Dreyfus for spying, partly because Dreyfus was Jewish. As a result of the letter and Zola’s trial, the Dreyfus case was reopened, and Dreyfus eventually was freed from prison and exonerated.
“The Life of Emile Zola” took the Oscar for Best Picture of 1937, defeating two movies by director Victor Fleming…”Captains Courageous,” and “The Good Earth.” Fleming, born on February 23rd, 1889, had better luck in the 1939 Oscar race, as director of both “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Fleming was named Best Director for “Gone With The Wind,” which also won Best Picture.