May 8th in history:
The mountain-peak logo of Paramount Pictures is one of the most familiar Hollywood symbols. Paramount was founded on May 8th, 1912.
Explorer Hernando de Soto traveled through the mountains and prairies to the Mississippi River on this date in 1541. De Soto was on the east bank, in modern-day Tennessee. It took a month for him and his traveling group of 400 to cross over to what is now Arkansas.
It’s the birthday of one man who made people afraid to go near the water, especially the ocean. Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws,” was born May 8th, 1940. Steven Spielberg’s film version of “Jaws” was the number-one movie of 1975. Benchley was born on the same day and year as singer Toni Tennille, who with husband Daryl Dragon (billed as the Captain and Tennille) had the number-one record of ’75, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
February 26th in history:
On February 26th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. He soon returned to power in France before being defeated at Waterloo that same year.
Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Louisiana became the home of Dixieland music, and on this date in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first jazz recording for the Victor Company.
Musician Fats Domino, a New Orleans native, was born on February 26th, 1928. It’s also the birthday of Minnesota Fats from the movie The Hustler, Jackie Gleason (born 1916). Gleason’s most popular character was Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners.”
Jackie Gleason starred in the movie Gigot as a Frenchman who could not speak. French actor Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar on February 26th, 2012, for playing a star of silent films in the mostly-silent film The Artist. The French movie, shot in Hollywood, also won the Oscar for Best Picture.
January 20th in history:
John Marshall won a powerful job in the U.S. government on this date in 1801. Marshall was appointed Chief Justice. He led the Supreme Court for 34 years, serving under six presidents.
In 1937, January 20th became Inauguration Day in the U.S., the traditional day for the Chief Justice to swear in the newly-elected president. Before that year, presidents had to wait until March 4th to begin their terms.
England had a new king on January 20th, 1936, when King George the 5th died after a 25-year reign. His oldest son immediately became King Edward the 8th, but he abdicated before the year was done because of the furor over his intent to marry a divorced American woman.
And the artist nicknamed the “Line King,” Al Hirschfeld, died on January 20th, 2003. Hirschfeld was famous for his caricatures of Broadway and Hollywood celebrities. He died five months short of his 100th birthday. Long live the King!