April 20th in history:
The Red Baron shot down his last two targets on April 20th, 1918. Baron von Richthofen was shot down himself the next day, while pursuing a Sopwith Camel flown by a Canadian pilot.
Silent movie star Harold Lloyd, known for performing stunts at dizzying heights, was born on this day in 1893.
And on April 20th, 1926, Warner Brothers and Western Electric announced a method for providing sound to motion pictures. It was called the “Vitaphone.”
March 31st in history:
The battleship Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered to the U.S. to end World War II, was decommissioned on March 31st, 1992.
President Lyndon Johnson called for peace talks with North Vietnam in a live TV address on this date in 1968. Johnson surprised the nation when he ended his speech that night by declaring he would not seek another term as president.
Johnson’s withdrawal from the ’68 race may have helped Richard Nixon win the election that fall. Nixon’s future son-in-law, David Eisenhower (Ike’s grandson), turned 20 the day of LBJ’s speech. So did future Vice President Al Gore.
Many famous movies about the Vietnam War were not made until years after LBJ and Nixon left office. The Deer Hunter (1978) was the first Vietnam movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Christopher Walken, born March 31st, 1943, won the supporting actor Oscar for his role in Deer Hunter. Walken also has appeared in the movie musicals Pennies from Heaven and Hairspray, and as a frequent host of “Saturday Night Live.” He shares a birthday with fellow Oscar winner Shirley Jones (born 1934), best known for musical roles in Oklahoma! and The Music Man, and as singing mom Shirley Partridge on “The Partridge Family.”
Walken’s Deer Hunter co-star Robert De Niro won the Best Actor award for Raging Bull at the Oscars on March 31st, 1981. The ceremony had been delayed by one day because of the assassination attempt against President Reagan.
March 22nd in history:
It can be used to perform surgery, or play a DVD. It was even used as a deadly weapon against James Bond. The laser beam developed by Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes was given a U.S. patent on March 22nd, 1960.
James Bond doesn’t usually work with a partner, but TV secret agent James West had a regular partner on “The Wild Wild West”: master of disguise Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, born March 22nd, 1920. Early in his career, Martin was part of a comedy team with a partner named West — Bernie West, who wrote for “All in the Family” and was co-creator of “Three’s Company.”
Born the same day and year as Ross Martin was Werner Klemperer, who played Col. Klink, the commandant of Stalag 13 on “Hogan’s Heroes.” “Wild Wild West” and “Hogan’s Heroes” aired back-to-back Friday nights on CBS for two years in the 1960s.
One “Wild Wild West” episode featured an audience watching a motion picture in which Artemus comically impersonated President Ulysses Grant. The story was set years before the Lumiere brothers actually projected a movie on a screen in Paris, on this day in 1895. That event is considered the first-ever private screening of motion pictures for an audience.
Several people who have won Oscars for their movie work were born on March 22nd: actors Karl Malden (born 1912), Haing S. Ngor (1940), and Reese Witherspoon (1976), and composers Stephen Sondheim (1930) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948).
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.
March 7th in history:
On March 7th, 1912, explorer Roald Amundsen publicly announced that he had reached the South Pole nearly three months earlier. Amundsen had to wait until arriving in Australia before announcing his feat, because there were no telephone poles at the South Pole.
Telephones had been around for more than 30 years, though. On March 7th, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for his telephone. Bell didn’t prove that the invention actually worked until three days later.
Alexander Graham Bell was played by Don Ameche in a 1939 movie biography, and it became Ameche’s most famous role. Two years later, Ameche starred in the movie “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” with Mary Martin, whose most popular role on stage and TV was Peter Pan. On this date in 1955, Martin starred in a live color production of “Peter Pan” on NBC, which set a ratings record with an audience of 65 million viewers.
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 19th in history:
Space travelers from Russia and other countries rode aboard the Mir Space Station during its 15 years in Earth orbit. The Mir successfully went into orbit on February 19th, 1986.
On this day in 1988, athletes were competing at the Winter Olympics in Calgary. One of the most memorable athletes at Calgary was British ski-jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. Heavier than his opponents and requiring glasses, Eddie won a cult following even though he rode his skis to last-place finishes in both his events.
Eddie Arcaro was born February 19th, 1916. Arcaro won almost 4,800 horse races in his career as a jockey, including two Triple Crowns.
Actor Lee Marvin also had success riding a horse. Marvin, born February 19th, 1924, won the Best Actor Oscar in 1965 for playing the drunken gunfighter Kid Shaleen in “Cat Ballou.”