February 23rd in history:
Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press and movable type made mass production of books popular. The first mass printing of the Gutenberg Bible began on February 23rd, 1455.
The power of the press was demonstrated in the Dreyfus Affair in France. On this date in 1898, author Emile Zola was convicted of libel for writing a newspaper letter headlined “J’accuse!” Zola accused leaders of the French Army of falsely convicting officer Alfred Dreyfus for spying, partly because Dreyfus was Jewish. As a result of the letter and Zola’s trial, the Dreyfus case was reopened, and Dreyfus eventually was freed from prison and exonerated.
“The Life of Emile Zola” took the Oscar for Best Picture of 1937, defeating two movies by director Victor Fleming…”Captains Courageous,” and “The Good Earth.” Fleming, born on February 23rd, 1889, had better luck in the 1939 Oscar race, as director of both “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Fleming was named Best Director for “Gone With The Wind,” which also won Best Picture.
February 1st in history:
President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, on this date in 1865. The 2012 Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” mostly deals with President Lincoln’s fight to pass the amendment.
The 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln” was directed by John Ford, born February 1st, 1894. Ford is best known for his Westerns, and won four Oscars for directing in his career. He won his last directing Oscar, for “The Quiet Man,” in March of 1953…the same year he made “Mogambo,” starring Clark Gable, born on this day in 1901. Gable won an Oscar for the comedy “It Happened One Night,” but his most famous role in a 30-year movie career was as Rhett Butler in the Civil War romance “Gone With the Wind.”
Ford also won an Oscar for the Dust Bowl drama “The Grapes of Wrath,” based on a John Steinbeck novel. The title comes from the first verse of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which put new words to the tune “John Brown’s Body.” Julia Ward Howe’s lyrics for “Battle Hymn” first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine on February 1st, 1862.
The University of Minnesota Marching Band routinely performs “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Minnesota Gopher football games in Minneapolis. For the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, singer Justin Timberlake was chosen to star in the halftime show, 14 years after his controversial February 1st, 2004 appearance with Janet Jackson at Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS for broadcasting the brief moment where Timberlake tore part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast, in what became known as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
November 5 in history:
Ulysses S. Grant was re-elected president on November 5th, 1872…and at least one person was arrested for casting a ballot for Grant. Susan B. Anthony openly defied the laws barring American women from voting. She was found guilty, and fined 100 dollars.
While Anthony got into trouble for taking part in an election, and voting for the incumbent president, Guy Fawkes has gone down in history for his role in trying to overthrow King James I of England. On this date in 1605, Fawkes was caught guarding a stash of gunpowder intended for blowing up the Parliament. The British have celebrated November 5th as a holiday for centuries, marking the defeat of the “Gunpowder Plot.”
Guy Fawkes was the model for the mask worn by the revolutionary character “V” in the movie “V for Vendetta,” starring Oscar winner Natalie Portman. A few Oscar-winning women have been born on November 5th:
Vivien Leigh (born 1913), who won two Oscars for playing Southern characters, Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois…
Tilda Swinton (1960), an Oscar-winner for “Michael Clayton” who’s famous for the “Chronicles of Narnia” movies…
And Tatum O’Neal, who was only 10 when she won an Oscar for “Paper Moon” in April of 1974. Born on the same day and year as O’Neal was actress Andrea McArdle, who became famous at 13 as the original lead in the Broadway musical “Annie.”
“United States” was chosen as the official name of the 13 American colonies by the Continental Congress on September 9th, 1776. The newly-independent nation had been known as the “United Colonies” before that.
Exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1791, the new nation’s capital along the Potomac River was named “Washington,” after the incumbent president.
Esther was the name of the first child of a president to be born at the White House. She was born September 9th, 1893. Esther’s parents were President Grover Cleveland and his wife, Frances.
People in the audience at the Fox Theater in Riverside, California, didn’t know the name of the movie they were about to see on September 9th, 1939, after the scheduled showing of “Hawaiian Nights.” Therefore, they didn’t know they would be the first regular audience to watch a much-anticipated picture. One witness said the crowd reaction was “thunderous” when the movie’s title appeared on the screen…”Gone With the Wind.”
People watching NBC on September 9th, 1967 didn’t know they were going to see a TV show that would become the #1 prime-time series within two years. “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” debuted as a comedy special leading into the broadcast of the Miss America pageant. Performers on the special who would become regulars on the “Laugh-In” series included Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, and Jo Anne Worley.
July 11th in history:
The Skylab space station fell to Earth on July 11th, 1979, after six years in orbit. Pieces of the craft fell on Australia and into the Indian Ocean.
Movie fans remember Thomas Mitchell falling off his horse as Scarlett’s father in “Gone With the Wind.” Actor Mitchell also played Uncle Billy in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And late in his career, Mitchell portrayed an oddball detective named “Columbo” in a stage play, years before Peter Falk made the same character famous on TV. Mitchell was born July 11th, 1892.
July 1st in history:
Canada celebrates its version of the 4th of July on this day, marking the date it became a dominion of the British Empire on July 1st, 1867.
It was on Dominion Day of 1980 that “O Canada” officially became the country’s national anthem.
Twenty-year-old Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales by his mother in a ceremony at a Welsh castle on July 1st, 1969. On that same day, future Princess of Wales Diana Spencer was celebrating her eighth birthday.
In a 1982 TV movie about Charles and Diana, the Queen Mother was played by two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland. At the time of her 100th birthday on July 1st, 2016, de Havilland — best known as Melanie in “Gone With the Wind” — was the oldest living winner of an acting Oscar.
It’s also the birthday of Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold (born 1942) who received an Oscar nomination for playing a royal wife, Anne Boleyn, to Richard Burton’s Henry VIII in “Anne of the Thousand Days.” Fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd was an Oscar nominee for “Driving Miss Daisy.” Aykroyd was born on this day in 1952, and became famous as an original cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” His most popular characters include Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers, alien driving instructor Beldar Conehead, and Ray Stantz in the original “Ghostbusters” films.
February 29 in history:
No wonder Superman can leap over tall buildings. He’s a leap year baby, according to DC Comics. For the 50th anniversary of Superman comics in 1988, DC declared that the day baby Kal-el was born on Krypton happened to be February 29th on Earth. On February 29th of ’88, a Superman birthday special hosted by Dana Carvey aired on CBS.
In 2011, actor Sean Penn was mentioned as a possible candidate to play Kal-el’s father Jor-el in a future Superman movie. Penn won his first Best Actor Oscar for the movie Mystic River at the Academy Awards on February 29th, 2004. The Best Actress winner that night was Charlize Theron for the film Monster, where she played real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Coincidentally, Wuornos was born on February 29th of 1956.