September 27 in history:
Pope Urban VII (real name, Giovanni Castagna) died on this date in 1590. He had only been the pope for 13 days, the shortest papacy ever. There was no controversy about the cause of death: Pope Urban died of malaria.
The assassination of the first Catholic president of the U.S. led to a government investigation that concluded on September 27th, 1964, with the release of the Warren Commission report. The Commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President John F. Kennedy. TV networks did live programs about the Commission findings at the hour the report was released to the public.
A live late-night program called “Tonight!” debuted on NBC on this date in 1954. Steve Allen was host for the first three years, succeeded by Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno again, and now Jimmy Fallon. Steve Allen’s first night as host was also the 34th birthday of his wife, actress Jayne Meadows.
September 26 in history:
Explorer Francis Drake ended a three-year voyage around the world when he arrived back at his starting point of Plymouth, England, on this date in 1580. Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth less than a year later.
The cruise ship Queen Mary was launched on September 26th, 1934. It made regular cruises between Europe and the U.S. before it was retired in 1967, and docked in Long Beach, California.
“A three-hour tour” for the S.S. Minnow led to a three-year run on CBS for the sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” which premiered on September 26th, 1964. “Gilligan” producer Sherwood Schwartz launched another iconic sitcom on this day exactly five years later in 1969, when “The Brady Bunch” made its debut on ABC.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” also had its premiere on September 26th, in 1962…the birthday of Donna Douglas (1933), who played Elly May Clampett on the show. Immediately after “Hillbillies” that night on CBS, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” began its second season with a new opening sequence, in which Van Dyke, as TV writer Rob Petrie, walks into his house and either trips over an ottoman, or sidesteps it. Three versions were shot, so viewers could guess every week whether Rob would trip or not.
September 25 in history:
On September 25th, 1513, explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the east, while traveling on the Isthmus of Panama. Balboa claimed the ocean for the king and queen of Spain.
On this date in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor took office as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
ABC was the first U.S. network to hire a woman to anchor the evening news, when it teamed Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner in 1976. Walters was born on September 25th, 1929.
And the first weekly TV cartoon show about living celebrities debuted on ABC on September 25th, 1965. On “The Beatles” series, the animated adventures portrayed the band members as they looked in 1965. But during the four years that “The Beatles” aired on network TV, the show did take note of the band’s changes in appearance and musical styles.
September 24 in history:
On September 24th, 1789, President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act, creating the U.S. Supreme Court and the office of Attorney General.
The Attorney General can investigate cases of treason and espionage. The office was created too late for the Benedict Arnold case. On this date in 1780, Arnold fled to a British ship on the Hudson River after his plot to surrender West Point to the British was foiled.
The government conspiracy thriller “Three Days of the Condor”, starring Robert Redford as a CIA employee, was released on this day in 1975. The movie opened a year after Redford starred in “The Great Gatsby,” based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was born on September 24th, 1896.
September 23 in history:
Senator Richard Nixon had to give the biggest speech of his political career on this date in 1952. Nixon’s role as Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in the presidential election was in jeopardy, because of questions about a fund used to help him pay campaign expenses. In a live, televised address, Nixon claimed that he would keep just one gift to his family: a dog named “Checkers.” The speech saved his spot on the Republican ticket.
Nixon went on to be elected president in 1968, the year that protesters rioted outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Eight organizers of the protests went on trial, starting on September 23rd, 1969. When the judge ordered a separate trial for defendant Bobby Seale, the protesters became known as the “Chicago 7.”
Bobby Seale’s name was used in a punchline in the college-reunion movie “The Big Chill,” which opened the New York Film Festival on September 23rd, 1983. That was the 36th birthday of “Big Chill” cast member Mary Kay Place, also known for her role as a country singer on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”
September 22 in history:
Nineteen people were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, during a seven-month period in 1692, for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The final hanging happened on September 22nd that year.
Twenty-one-year-old Nathan Hale was hanged as a spy by the British on this date in 1776 in New York City. Hale had gone behind enemy lines to observe the movements of British troops.
The American colonists were rebelling against England’s King George III, who was crowned on this date in 1761. George set a record as England’s longest-reigning monarch, serving for 59 years — a record broken on September 22nd, 1896, by his granddaughter, Queen Victoria.
Anne of Cleves was queen of England for a very short time, only six months. She was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII, who had the marriage annulled. Anne was born on September 22nd, 1515.
September 21 in history:
A letter about Santa Claus appeared in the newspaper in September…on this date in 1897. The New York Sun printed the letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, which asked “Is there a Santa Claus?” The famous response by editor Francis P. Church included the answer, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” little Cindy Lou Who believed that the Grinch was Santa Claus. “Looney Tunes” animator Chuck Jones, born on September 21st, 1912, made the 1966 TV version of “Grinch.”
Looney Tunes characters starred with basketball legend Michael Jordan in the movie “Space Jam,” which featured a cameo appearance by Bill Murray. The former “Saturday Night Live” star was born on this day in 1950. Murray’s hit movies include “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Groundhog Day,” and he got an Oscar nomination for best actor in “Lost in Translation.”
Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith claimed he wrote the Book of Mormon by translating golden plates revealed to him by an angel named Moroni. Smith had his first vision of the angel on September 21st, 1823.
A musical called “The Book of Mormon” would become a Broadway hit in 2011. A big hit musical from the 1940s, “Annie Get Your Gun,” was revived on September 21st, 1966, in New York. The show’s original star, Ethel Merman, once again played Annie Oakley in the new version.
Mary Martin starred in the touring company of “Annie Get Your Gun” when Merman was performing in the original Broadway run. September 21st was the birthday of Martin’s son Larry Hagman (1931), who starred on TV in “Dallas” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”