December 14 in history:
The last of the Apollo astronauts to walk on the moon blasted off from the lunar surface on December 14th, 1972. Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt completed three walks outside the lunar lander during the 75 hours they spent on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.
The Saturn rockets that launched men to the moon were developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama. On this date in 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state to join the Union.
The Alabama state quarter issued by the U.S. Mint in 2003 features a portrait of author Helen Keller on the tail side. Actress Patty Duke, born Anna Marie Duke on December 14th, 1946, won an Oscar at age 16 for recreating her stage role as blind and deaf Helen in the movie, “The Miracle Worker.” She later starred as “identical cousins” on “The Patty Duke Show.” Prior to her death in 2016, Duke wrote and spoke widely about her experience with bipolar disorder.
Patty Duke played Martha Washington in the 1984 TV miniseries “George Washington.” On December 14th, 1799, George Washington died at his Virginia estate, Mount Vernon. Medical experts know that Washington had soreness and swelling in the throat, but some believe the doctors’ practice of bleeding hastened his death.
Another famous George who died on this date was Notre Dame football star George Gipp. He was 25 when he died on December 14th, 1920, apparently from a throat infection. Future U.S. president Ronald Reagan played Gipp in the 1940 movie “Knute Rockne, All American,” in which the character urged Coach Rockne to “win one for the Gipper.”
December 11 in history:
It was not the title speech given in the movie The King’s Speech, but King Edward VIII’s abdication speech was an important moment in the film, and in British history. On December 11th, 1936, Edward took to the radio to explain to his subjects why he was stepping down after less than a year on the throne: to marry the woman he loved, a divorced American named Wallis Simpson. Many government leaders, including the prime minister, strongly opposed the king’s plans to wed Mrs. Simpson.
King gave a speech in Oslo, Norway on December 11th, 1964: Martin Luther King, Jr., that is. Dr. King presented a lecture on “The Quest for Peace and Justice” one day after formally accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
And now, the award for outstanding Supporting Actress born on December 11th. The nominees are:
Betsy Blair (born 1923), for Marty,
Rita Moreno (1931), for West Side Story,
Teri Garr (birth year uncertain), for Tootsie,
Mo’Nique (1967), for Precious, and…
Hailee Steinfeld (1996), for True Grit.
And the Oscar for Supporting Actress went to…(drumroll)…Moreno in 1962 and Mo’Nique in 2010.
November 28 in history:
A newspaper story called it “the worst disaster in Boston’s history.” On November 28th, 1942, a fast-moving fire swept through the Cocoanut Grove nightclub of Boston, killing nearly 500 of the estimated 1000 people in the building. Flammable decorations apparently ignited when a busboy lit a match to find a light socket. Jammed and locked exits were blamed for some of the loss of life.
One of the most powerful men in the history of Hollywood started his career modestly in Massachusetts on this day in 1907, when Louis B. Mayer opened his first movie theater in Haverhill. Mayer started making movies before long, and in less than 20 years, became the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Both of his daughters married movie producers, with David O. Selznick becoming a son-in-law of Mayer.
A Hollywood family named Newman has written movie music for decades. Famous family members include Alfred Newman, Lionel Newman…and Randy Newman, born November 28th, 1943. Randy has won Oscars for songs from the animated movies “Toy Story 3” and “Monsters, Inc.,” and has written the popular hits “Mama Told Me Not to Come” and “Short People.”
November 28th is also the birthday of two-time Oscar host Jon Stewart (1962), best known as the former host/anchor of “The Daily Show.”
November 18 in history:
The U.S. was divided into time zones on November 18th, 1883 by the railroad industry. The move was needed so that trains could have standard arrival and departure times, instead of relying on local times based on the position of the sun.
The railroad tune “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” from the movie The Harvey Girls was the first song to win an Oscar for lyricist Johnny Mercer, born on this date in 1909. Mercer also won Academy Awards for two songs written with Henry Mancini, “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Moon River.”
A steamboat trip on a river is the setting for the first official Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” released on November 18th, 1928. It’s also considered the first successful movie cartoon with sound.
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.”
October 29 in history:
The first version of the internet was called the ARPANET. On October 29th, 1969, two computers were linked together to communicate with each other for the first time. One was at UCLA, and the other was in Northern California.
One man in New York, one man in Washington. It was a high-tech television partnership that lasted for 14 years on NBC’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report,” which began on this date in 1956. Chet Huntley was at the New York anchor desk, with David Brinkley in D.C.
Huntley and Brinkley also anchored NBC coverage of many space flights in the ’60s. John Glenn first flew in space in 1962. By the time he went into orbit again, Glenn had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Ohio. His second space mission, as part of the crew of the shuttle Discovery, began on October 29th, 1998.
Richard Dreyfuss went into space aboard an alien ship at the end of the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He won an Oscar for another movie he made the same year, “The Goodbye Girl.” Dreyfuss was born October 29th, 1947.
October 24 in history:
Here’s a holiday experiment that didn’t work: moving Veterans’ Day away from the traditional date of November 11th. The holiday, originally called Armistice Day, observed the date on which World War I ended in 1918. But starting in 1971, Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents’ Day all became Monday holidays for federal government employees. Veterans’ Day was switched to the fourth Monday in October…and was observed that way for the last time on October 24th, 1977, before being returned to November 11th.
October 24th of 1951 was designated the last day of World War II by President Truman. Germany and Japan both surrendered to the Allies in 1945, but the European war never officially ended with a peace treaty. Truman apparently got tired of waiting to reach an agreement with a divided Germany, so he declared the war to be over.
Over the falls in a barrel…that where Annie Edson Taylor went on her 46th birthday, October 24th, 1901. She became famous as the first woman to ride over Niagara Falls inside a barrel.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford went over a cliff in a famous scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which opened around the U.S. on this date in 1969. Both Redford and Newman won Oscars in the 1980s, as did two actors who were born on October 24th: F. Murray Abraham (1939), who starred in “Amadeus,” and Kevin Kline (1947), a winner for “A Fish Called Wanda.”