December 14 in history:
The last of the Apollo astronauts to walk on the moon blasted off from the lunar surface on December 14th, 1972. Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt completed three walks outside the lunar lander during the 75 hours they spent on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.
The Saturn rockets that launched men to the moon were developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama. On this date in 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state to join the Union.
The Alabama state quarter issued by the U.S. Mint in 2003 features a portrait of author Helen Keller on the tail side. Actress Patty Duke, born Anna Marie Duke on December 14th, 1946, won an Oscar at age 16 for recreating her stage role as blind and deaf Helen in the movie, “The Miracle Worker.” She later starred as “identical cousins” on “The Patty Duke Show.” Prior to her death in 2016, Duke wrote and spoke widely about her experience with bipolar disorder.
Patty Duke played Martha Washington in the 1984 TV miniseries “George Washington.” On December 14th, 1799, George Washington died at his Virginia estate, Mount Vernon. Medical experts know that Washington had soreness and swelling in the throat, but some believe the doctors’ practice of bleeding hastened his death.
Another famous George who died on this date was Notre Dame football star George Gipp. He was 25 when he died on December 14th, 1920, apparently from a throat infection. Future U.S. president Ronald Reagan played Gipp in the 1940 movie “Knute Rockne, All American,” in which the character urged Coach Rockne to “win one for the Gipper.”
December 11 in history:
It was not the title speech given in the movie The King’s Speech, but King Edward VIII’s abdication speech was an important moment in the film, and in British history. On December 11th, 1936, Edward took to the radio to explain to his subjects why he was stepping down after less than a year on the throne: to marry the woman he loved, a divorced American named Wallis Simpson. Many government leaders, including the prime minister, strongly opposed the king’s plans to wed Mrs. Simpson.
King gave a speech in Oslo, Norway on December 11th, 1964: Martin Luther King, Jr., that is. Dr. King presented a lecture on “The Quest for Peace and Justice” one day after formally accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
And now, the award for outstanding Supporting Actress born on December 11th. The nominees are:
Betsy Blair (born 1923), for Marty,
Rita Moreno (1931), for West Side Story,
Teri Garr (birth year uncertain), for Tootsie,
Mo’Nique (1967), for Precious, and…
Hailee Steinfeld (1996), for True Grit.
And the Oscar for Supporting Actress went to…(drumroll)…Moreno in 1962 and Mo’Nique in 2010.
November 18 in history:
The U.S. was divided into time zones on November 18th, 1883 by the railroad industry. The move was needed so that trains could have standard arrival and departure times, instead of relying on local times based on the position of the sun.
The railroad tune “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” from the movie The Harvey Girls was the first song to win an Oscar for lyricist Johnny Mercer, born on this date in 1909. Mercer also won Academy Awards for two songs written with Henry Mancini, “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Moon River.”
A steamboat trip on a river is the setting for the first official Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” released on November 18th, 1928. It’s also considered the first successful movie cartoon with sound.
October 29 in history:
The first version of the internet was called the ARPANET. On October 29th, 1969, two computers were linked together to communicate with each other for the first time. One was at UCLA, and the other was in Northern California.
One man in New York, one man in Washington. It was a high-tech television partnership that lasted for 14 years on NBC’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report,” which began on this date in 1956. Chet Huntley was at the New York anchor desk, with David Brinkley in D.C.
Huntley and Brinkley also anchored NBC coverage of many space flights in the ’60s. John Glenn first flew in space in 1962. By the time he went into orbit again, Glenn had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Ohio. His second space mission, as part of the crew of the shuttle Discovery, began on October 29th, 1998.
Richard Dreyfuss went into space aboard an alien ship at the end of the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He won an Oscar for another movie he made the same year, “The Goodbye Girl.” Dreyfuss was born October 29th, 1947.
October 24 in history:
Here’s a holiday experiment that didn’t work: moving Veterans’ Day away from the traditional date of November 11th. The holiday, originally called Armistice Day, observed the date on which World War I ended in 1918. But starting in 1971, Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents’ Day all became Monday holidays for federal government employees. Veterans’ Day was switched to the fourth Monday in October…and was observed that way for the last time on October 24th, 1977, before being returned to November 11th.
October 24th of 1951 was designated the last day of World War II by President Truman. Germany and Japan both surrendered to the Allies in 1945, but the European war never officially ended with a peace treaty. Truman apparently got tired of waiting to reach an agreement with a divided Germany, so he declared the war to be over.
Over the falls in a barrel…that where Annie Edson Taylor went on her 46th birthday, October 24th, 1901. She became famous as the first woman to ride over Niagara Falls inside a barrel.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford went over a cliff in a famous scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which opened around the U.S. on this date in 1969. Both Redford and Newman won Oscars in the 1980s, as did two actors who were born on October 24th: F. Murray Abraham (1939), who starred in “Amadeus,” and Kevin Kline (1947), a winner for “A Fish Called Wanda.”
October 6 in history:
October 6th of 1889 must have been a busy day for Thomas Edison. On that day, a judge ruled in Edison’s favor on a dispute over the patent for his incandescent light bulb. Another inventor accused Edison of stealing the bulb design from him, but the judge decided that Edison had made improvements on the other man’s bulb. That same day, Edison demonstrated a motion picture for the first time at his New Jersey lab. It was a “talking” picture, coordinated with a phonograph recording.
The first actual “talking picture” to catch on with the public premiered in New York on October 6th, 1927: “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson.
The first woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress, Janet Gaynor, was born on this date in 1906.
And October 6th of 1991 was the date of Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth and final wedding. Construction worker Larry Fortensky was Taylor’s seventh husband. They had met at the Betty Ford Clinic. The wedding took place at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
May 20th in history:
Vasco da Gama reached India on this date in 1498, after starting in Portugal and going around Africa.
Charles Lindbergh began his historic flight across the Atlantic from Long Island on May 20th, 1927. He was the first person to successfully fly solo across the ocean to Europe without stopping.
Lindbergh’s flight began on the 19th birthday of future movie star Jimmy Stewart (1908). In 1957, Stewart would star as Lindbergh in a movie about the flight to Paris, called The Spirit of St. Louis.
Jimmy Stewart won an Oscar for “The Philadelphia Story,” and his hit movies include “Vertigo” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he also starred as a lawyer in the CBS TV series ‘Hawkins’ in 1973. Another prime-time series on CBS in ’73 was “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” Cher, born on this date in 1946, moved beyond records and TV to a successful movie career, and won a Best Actress Oscar for “Moonstruck” in 1987.