June 22nd in history:
A deadly train wreck occurred near Hammond, Indiana, on June 22nd, 1918. The engineer of one train reportedly fell asleep and was unable to stop his train from striking the rear of a circus train on the same track. The wooden cars on the circus train caught fire quickly, and 86 people died. The engineer blamed for the accident was hanged a few days later for causing the disaster.
Hanging was the method of execution in Canada, until that country abolished capital punishment. The Canadian House of Commons voted on June 22nd, 1976, to end the death penalty.
The actor who played Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Fenwick in the “Dudley Do-Right” cartoons, Paul Frees, was born on this date in 1920. Frees also was famous for providing the accents of animated characters such as Professor Ludwig Von Drake and Boris Badenov.
June 22nd is also the birthday of another performer skilled at accents…three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (1949). Streep used foreign accents in two of her award-winning roles…as the Polish heroine of “Sophie’s Choice,” and as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”
May 16th in history:
“The bells, bells, bells, bells…”
Wedding bells for author Edgar Allan Poe and his cousin, Virginia Clemm, on May 16th, 1836. Edgar was 27, Virginia was 13. Some sources claim that the two had been married secretly for almost a year.
Did they eat cake at this wedding? Fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette married 15-year-old French Prince Louis-Auguste (who became King Louis XVI) on May 16th, 1770. One legend about Marie Antoinette is that Mozart said he wanted to marry her, when they met as young children.
Another flamboyant musician (one who didn’t marry) was born on this date in 1919 – the man with the candelabra on his piano, Liberace.
Actress Norma Shearer received an Oscar nomination in 1938 for playing Marie Antoinette. Shearer didn’t win that year, but she was named Best Actress for “The Divorcee” at the 3rd Academy Awards, in 1930. The very first Oscar ceremony happened on May 16th, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “Wings” was the first winner for Best Picture.
April 23rd in history:
April 23rd is believed to be William Shakespeare’s birthday, in 1564. It is also the date when Shakespeare died in 1616 – and the date when his play “The Merry Wives of Windsor” opened in 1597, with Queen Elizabeth in the audience.
Both Shakespeare and Elizabeth are key characters in “Shakespeare in Love,” the movie which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1998. The Best Picture of 2008, “Slumdog Millionaire,” stars actor Dev Patel, born April 23rd, 1990, as a game-show contestant.
A favorite beverage at movie theaters and elsewhere went through a radical change on April 23rd, 1985. The Coca-Cola Company announced it was changing the formula of Coke, replacing it with “New Coke.” After massive protests, the original formula was re-introduced less than three months later.
April 14th in history:
President Abraham Lincoln was seeing the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington when he was shot on April 14th, 1865.
On this date in 1894, Thomas Edison demonstrated a form of moving-picture show called a “kinetoscope,” consisting of still images viewed in quick succession (better known as a “peep show”).
Two-inch videotape was demonstrated in public for the first time on April 14th, 1956, at a broadcasters’ convention in Chicago.
A rare moment at the Academy Awards show on April 14th, 1969 – a tie for Best Actress. Katharine Hepburn wins her third Oscar, for “The Lion in Winter,” and Barbra Streisand gets her first, for “Funny Girl.”
Several Oscar winners share an April 14th birthday: John Gielgud (1904), Rod Steiger (1925), Julie Christie (1941) and Adrien Brody (1973).
Philip Seymour Hoffman was an Oscar winner for the title role in the 2005 movie “Capote.” The climax of that film shows Truman Capote attending the execution of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock for the Clutter family murders detailed in Capote’s novel “In Cold Blood.” The double execution took place in Lansing, Kansas, on this date in 1965.
April 13th in history:
Firsts for African-Americans on April 13th …
Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win an Oscar for acting on April 13th, 1964. Poitier was named Best Actor for “Lilies of the Field.”
On April 13th, 1983, Harold Washington was elected the first black mayor of Chicago.
And Tiger Woods became the first black champion of the Masters golf tournament (and the youngest winner, at age 21) on this date in 1997.
April 11th in history:
Famous pink slips on April 11th …
In 1951, President Harry Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of all his commands in the Far East, after MacArthur objected to policies of the U.S. and the United Nations.
Uganda’s “President for Life,” Idi Amin, fled the country after eight years in power on this date in 1979.
The Treaty of Fountainbleau, Napoleon’s pink slip, was signed on April 11th, 1814. Under the treaty, several European countries required Napoleon to step down as emperor of France, which led to his exile to Elba.
And the last emperor of China, Puyi, was fired by Chinese Communists. His story was told in the movie called “The Last Emperor,” which won Best Picture at the Oscars on April 11th, 1988.
April 10th in history:
In the worst submarine accident in U.S. history, the USS Thresher broke apart on April 10th, 1963, during diving tests in the Atlantic, 200 miles from Cape Cod. One hundred twenty-nine people died aboard the sub. Faulty welding was blamed for a leak which shut down the nuclear reactor aboard the Thresher. The sub also was unable to surface.
The ill-fated voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic began on April 10th, 1912. The ocean liner sank five days into the trip. Titanic was launched was at Southampton, England, even though it was registered to the port of Liverpool.
Actor Gene Hackman has starred in a submarine drama (“Crimson Tide”) and a disaster film about an ocean liner (“The Poseidon Adventure”). Hackman was a nominee at two Oscar ceremonies held on April 10th. In 1968, Hackman had his first nomination for “Bonnie and Clyde.” He scored his first Oscar win on this date in 1972 for “The French Connection.”
And the Liverpool band that recorded “Yellow Submarine” officially broke up on April 10th, 1970. That was the day Paul McCartney released his first solo album, and announced that he was leaving the Beatles. McCartney replaced Stu Sutcliffe as the bass player for the Beatles when Sutcliffe quit the band in 1961. Sutcliffe was 21 when he died of a brain hemorrhage on this day in 1962.