February 20th in history:
Congress was ready to end Prohibition in 1933. On February 20th of that year, members of Congress proposed the 21st Amendment, to repeal the 18th Amendment that banned liquor in the U.S. and led to the rise of gangsters such as Al Capone.
Chicago lawyer Edward Joseph O’Hare helped send Capone to prison. O’Hare’s son, Edward “Butch” O’Hare, became the first American flying ace of World War II on February 20th, 1942, by shooting down Japanese bombers over the Pacific. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is named after Butch.
Twenty years later, on February 20th, 1962, John Glenn became a different type of flying ace. That was the day Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7.
February 20th is also the birthday of some performers who have played high-flying characters:
Actress Sandy Duncan (born 1946) has played Peter Pan frequently on stage;
Comedian Joel Hodgson (1960) was stuck on a spaceship, watching bad movies with two wise-cracking robots, on the TV series “Mystery Science Theater 3000”;
And French Stewart (1964) was part of a “family” of space aliens posing as humans on the sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
February 10th in history:
The play “Death of a Salesman” made its Broadway debut on February 10th, 1949, starring Lee J. Cobb as salesman Willy Loman. It has been revived frequently in New York, with later productions starring George C. Scott, Dustin Hoffman, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. “Salesman” won a Pulitzer prize for playwright Arthur Miller, who died on this date in 2005, on the 56th anniversary of the play’s premiere.
Willy Loman dies in a car crash at the end of “Salesman.” Auto safety was the topic on this day in 1966 when attorney and consumer advocate Ralph Nader made his first appearance ever before a Congressional committee. Nader had just published the book “Unsafe at Any Speed,” criticizing a lack of safety features in American-made cars.
A car crash in the desert sets off a wild chase in the 1963 comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Jimmy Durante plays the dying driver who tells rescuers about a buried treasure in stolen money. It was the last feature film appearance for Durante, born February 10th, 1893. Durante is also known to modern audiences for singing during the opening credits of “Sleepless in Seattle” and as the narrator of the animated Christmas special “Frosty the Snowman.”
November 7 in history:
November 7th of 1917 is marked as the official date of the Russian Revolution, when Lenin led an assault on Russia’s provisional government at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
Colorado citizens did something revolutionary on this date in 1893. They passed a constitutional amendment to give the state’s women the right to vote. That made Colorado the first state to approve women’s suffrage through a popular election.
On November 7th, 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to Congress. That same day in 2000, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first presidential spouse in the U.S. to win public office, when she was elected a Senator from New York.
How did the Wizard of Oz become a Wizard? In the 1939 movie, he explains to Dorothy that the citizens of Oz proclaimed him “the First Wizard Deluxe” when he drifted to their land in a runaway hot-air balloon. Herman Mankiewicz was one of many screenwriters who worked on “Oz.” He also co-wrote “Citizen Kane,” whose lead character ran for public office. Mankiewicz was born on November 7th, 1897.
The first woman elected to the U.S. Congress took office on April 2nd, 1917. Jeannette Rankin of Montana had only been in the House for four days when she cast one of the minority votes against entering the First World War.
Women who worked around the house and watched TV soap operas in the 1950s had an adjustment to make on April 2nd, 1956. Daytime soaps were only 15 minutes long until that day, when CBS introduced two half-hour dramas, “The Edge of Night” and “As the World Turns.”
Two fictional high school students from a ’70s television hit were born on April 2nd in real life. They were, from “Welcome Back, Kotter,” Sweathog “Horshack,” played by Ron Palillo (1949), and Rosalie “Hotsy” Totsy, played by Debralee Scott (1953).
March 19th in history:
On March 19th, 1918, Congress approved Daylight Saving Time and the formation of time zones across the country.
The first Academy Awards broadcast on television started at 10:30 Eastern Time (7:30 Pacific Time) on March 19th, 1953. The program originated both in Hollywood and New York. Gary Cooper was named Best Actor for playing the marshal in “High Noon.”
Real-life Western lawman Wyatt Earp was born on March 19th, 1848. Earp has been a character in many movies, including “Sunset” (1988), featuring Bruce Willis (born on this day in 1955) as movie cowboy Tom Mix.