March 30th in history:
On March 30th, 1981, President Ronald Reagan and three other men, including his press secretary, James Brady, were shot and wounded outside the Washington Hilton by gunman John Hinckley. Reagan became the first U.S. president to survive being shot while in office. The Academy Awards, scheduled for that night, were postponed for one day because of the shooting.
Reagan never received an Oscar nomination during his movie career, but his first wife, Jane Wyman, was nominated four times and won the award once. Wyman’s last nomination for Best Actress was for “Magnificent Obsession.” She lost that award to Grace Kelly (for “The Country Girl”) during the Academy Awards presented on March 30th, 1955. “On the Waterfront” won the Best Picture Oscar, along with acting honors for Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint.
When John Hinckley shot President Reagan, he claimed he did it to impress actress Jodie Foster. On March 30th of 1992, Foster won her second Oscar, for playing FBI agent Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs.” The movie also won awards for Best Picture, and for Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Warren Beatty was nominated against Hopkins that night for the film “Bugsy.” Beatty, born on this date in 1937, has been Oscar-nominated for acting, writing, and directing. He took home the statue for directing “Reds” in 1981.
December 31 in history:
The days of traditional street lamps were numbered after December 31st, 1879, when Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent street lamps in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
A crystal ball with electric lights was used to count down to the new year in Manhattan’s Times Square for the first time on December 31st, 1907. Fireworks had been used for a few years before they got the idea of “dropping the ball” to mark the stroke of midnight.
England actually does “ring in” a new year by airing the midnight chimes of the bell “Big Ben” over BBC Radio. That broadcasting tradition was born on New Year’s Eve of 1923.
Another famous “Ben” from England was born on December 31st, 1943: actor Ben Kingsley, whose birth name was Krishna Bhanji. Kingsley won an Oscar for playing the title role in Gandhi, and he’s been featured in Schindler’s List and Bugsy.
Sir Ben Kingsley shares a New Year’s Eve birthday with Sir Anthony Hopkins (born 1937), best known for winning the Oscar as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins also has played real people from Hitler to Hitchcock, and Nixon to John Quincy Adams. Hopkins and Kingsley were among five Oscar winners who jointly honored the Best Actor nominees at the Academy Awards in February of 2009.
The Best Actor winner from 1944, Bing Crosby, became the first singer to perform the song “Cabaret” on U.S. network television, on the New Year’s Eve 1966 broadcast of “The Hollywood Palace” on ABC. The title song from the popular Kander and Ebb musical included special lyrics written for the occasion:
“We’ll pop the cork, and toast the year
At 12 o’clock, start celebratin’
Nineteen sixty-seven’s waitin.'”
A New Year’s themed episode of the “M*A*S*H” TV series from December of 1980 condenses an entire year of the Korean War for the 4077th into a single half-hour. Two stars of the series died on New Year’s Eve in consecutive years. Wayne Rogers (born 1933), who played “Trapper John” McIntyre, died December 31st, 2015…and one year later, William Christopher (born 1932), who portrayed Father Mulcahy, passed away on New Year’s Eve.