A NEW WORLD

April 5th in history:

On April 5th of 1614, Pocahontas married English colonist John Rolfe in Virginia.

Seven years later, and farther north in the colonies, the Mayflower took to the open water, beginning its return trip to England, leaving the Pilgrims at their settlement in Plymouth.

On April 5th, 1887, six-year-old Helen Keller discovered how the word “water” was spelled in sign language, and what it meant, from her teacher, Annie Sullivan.

Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft won Oscars for playing Keller and Sullivan in the 1962 movie “The Miracle Worker.” Bancroft could not attend the awards ceremony, and Joan Crawford accepted the award for her, allegedly to spite losing nominee Bette Davis, born on this date in 1908. Davis and Crawford had co-starred the previous year in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, but only Davis got an Oscar nomination.

Bette Davis is one of many Oscar-winning performers born on April 5th.  She received two Academy Awards, as did Spencer Tracy (born 1900), and Melvyn Douglas (born 1901).  Two men who played Abraham Lincoln during their careers also shared an April 5th birthday: Walter Huston (born 1883, Oscar winner for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and father of director John Huston) and Gregory Peck (born 1916, won the Oscar as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”).

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April 3rd in history:

The first run of the Pony Express between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California began on April 3rd, 1860.

Laptop computers have become a favorite means of communication for many people. IBM’s first laptop was introduced on April 3rd, 1986.

Former college professor Ted Kaczynski sent messages to the media complaining about modern technology. His crusade against technology also included bombings which killed three people. Kaczynski, better known as the “Unabomber,” was arrested at a cabin in Montana on April 3rd, 1996.

The first portable “cell phone” call made in New York City happened on this date in 1973.

Actor Alec Baldwin was once removed from an airplane parked at the Los Angeles airport when he refused to stop playing a word game on his cell phone. Baldwin, born on this date in 1958, played fictional TV network boss Jack Donaghy on the sitcom “30 Rock,” and has often impersonated President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”  Alec Baldwin played Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a role originated by Marlon Brando, born April 3rd, 1924.  Brando won two Oscars, for “On the Waterfront,” and for the role of Don Corleone in “The Godfather.”

And telephone calls are a major element to the plot of “Pillow Talk,” the only movie for which Doris Day received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Day publicly celebrated her 90th birthday in 2014, but birth records in Ohio show that she was born on April 3rd, 1922, not 1924.

THAT’S NO ISTANBUL

March 28th in history:

On March 28th, 1854, Britain and France declared war on Russia, bringing those countries into the Crimean War. The largest numbers of troops fighting the war came from Russia, France, Britain, and Turkey.

On this day in 1930, the city of Constantinople was given the more Turkish name Istanbul. The change inspired a popular song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” which was a hit for the Four Lads in 1953 and later covered by They Might Be Giants.

The 1964 heist movie Topkapi is set in Istanbul.  British actor Peter Ustinov won his second Supporting Actor Oscar for Topkapi (his first Oscar was for Spartacus).  Ustinov, who played Nero (the emperor) and Poirot (the detective), also was known as an author and playwright.  He was 82 when he died on this date in 2004.

Ustinov was born Peter Alexander von Ustinov (or Ustinow). The singer born Stephani Germanotta, now known as Lady Gaga, was born this day in 1986, and is known for hits such as “Poker Face” and “Born This Way.”  Gaga won a songwriting Oscar and was nominated for Best Actress in 2019, both for her work in the Bradley Cooper remake of A Star Is Born.

A composer born Jacob Levison on March 28th, 1915 won three Oscars for Best Original Song, after changing his name to Jay Livingston.  The Oscar-winning tunes written by Livingston and Ray Evans were “Buttons and Bows,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Que Sera, Sera.”  The team also wrote “Silver Bells,” and the TV theme songs for “Bonanza” and “Mister Ed.”

Popular radio DJ John Records Landecker actually was born with that name (middle name “Records”) on March 28th, 1947.  Landecker is best known for working at Chicago station WLS in the ’70s and ’80s.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

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), “Forrest Gump” screenwriter Eric Roth (1945), and composers Stephen Sondheim (1930) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948).

EASY RIDERS?

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.”

OF ALL THE TOWNS IN ALL THE WORLD

January 14th in history:

network-peter-finch-faye-dunaway

The name “Casablanca” made headlines when U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in the Moroccan city for a war conference, beginning January 14th, 1943. The two Allied leaders spent nearly two weeks planning European strategy against Italy and Nazi Germany.

The Casablanca meeting coincided with the general release of the movie “Casablanca,” starring Humphrey Bogart. Bogie died of cancer on January 14th, 1957 — just five years after winning his only Oscar for “The African Queen.”

Twenty years later, actor Peter Finch died on January 14th, 1977. Finch would win a posthumous Oscar as Best Actor that year for his role as mad anchorman Howard Beale in “Network.” Finch died on the 36th birthday of his “Network” co-star Faye Dunaway (1941), who won the Best Actress Oscar for that movie. The two had no scenes together in “Network.”

LOOK, UP IN THE SKY

January 7th in history:

Buck Rogers Flash Gordon

Comic strips about two space adventurers began on January 7th, five years apart…”Buck Rogers” in 1929, and “Flash Gordon” in 1934. This is also the birthday of Erin Gray (born 1950), who played Col. Wilma Deering in the “Buck Rogers” TV series of the 1970s.

The original “Star Trek” series featured many scripts by writer Gene L. Coon, born on this day in 1924. Coon also was a producer on “Star Trek,” and is credited with creating the Klingons and the concept of the Prime Directive.

On this date in 1610, Galileo wrote a letter citing his discovery of new objects near Jupiter. Those objects turned out to be Jupiter’s four largest moons.

And January 7th is the birthday of two stars of the movie “Moonstruck”:  Nicolas Cage (born 1964), and Vincent Gardenia (1922). Cage got a Golden Globe nomination for “Moonstruck,” while Gardenia was nominated for an Oscar. Cage won an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas,” and starred in “Honeymoon in Vegas.”