December 13 in history:
When Francis Drake sailed from Plymouth, England, on December 13th, 1577, it was the beginning of a three-year trip around the world. One of the main purposes of Drake’s voyage was to explore the Pacific coast of the Americas, and to raid Spanish settlements along the ocean.
A crew led by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first Europeans to see New Zealand on this date in 1642. Tasman briefly stopped on the South Island, but when some of his crewmen were killed in a confrontation with the Maori natives, the ship quickly moved on.
A Navy pilot is stranded on an island in “Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N,” one of a series of Disney movies in the 1960s that starred Dick Van Dyke, born December 13th, 1925. Besides having TV success on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the ’60s and “Diagnosis: Murder” in the ’90s, Van Dyke also had several hit movies including “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and Disney’s “Mary Poppins” with Julie Andrews.
A year after “Mary Poppins,” Andrews starred in “The Sound of Music” with another actor born on December 13th, Christopher Plummer (1929). Plummer’s other movies include “The Insider,” “Up,” and “Beginners,” for which he won an Oscar at age 82. In 2017, Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey as tycoon J. Paul Getty in the film “All the Money in the World,” in scenes that were quickly re-shot after Spacey’s work was cut from the movie following sex-related accusations against him.
Julie Andrews has done three TV specials with Carol Burnett. They aired in the U.S. in 1962, 1971…and on December 13th, 1989, the day that singer Taylor Swift was born. Swift acted in young people’s theater productions (once playing Maria in “Sound of Music”) before launching a country music career as a teenager. Swift has won more than 200 awards for her country and pop recordings, including seven Grammys before the age of 25.
August 28 in history:
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew about 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. on August 28th, 1963. The March is remembered as the occasion when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech to the crowd gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Forty-five years later, on August 28th, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama referred to King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial during his own acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The outdoor speech was given at Invesco Field (now Sports Authority Field) at Mile High, the home stadium of the Denver Broncos.
In 2013, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest African-American to receive an Oscar nomination for acting and the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, for her role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Wallis was born on this day in 2003.
Berry Gordy Jr. had a dream of running a record company. Gordy’s company Motown released “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes on this day in 1961. It would become Motown’s first number-one record.
Michael Jackson was one of the most successful artists on Motown Records. In 1984, Jackson starred in TV commercials for a soft drink which got its current name on August 28th, 1898. North Carolina druggist Caleb Bradham had invented a beverage he called “Brad’s Drink,” but in 1898, he renamed it “Pepsi-Cola.”
August 15 in history:
Some big events in show business on this date…
“The Wizard of Oz” had its Hollywood premiere on August 15th, 1939, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles at their Shea Stadium concert in New York on this date in 1965. More than 50,000 fans attended, with tickets priced from $4.50 to $5.65.
The advance ticket price was $6 a day for the Woodstock Music Festival in New York state, which drew much more than 50,000 music fans. Woodstock began on August 15th, 1969, and lasted until the early
morning of August 18th.
The Stevie Wonder hit “My Cherie Amour” was a top-ten song on the Billboard charts the week of the Woodstock festival. The record was featured in the 2012 movie “Silver Linings Playbook,” for which Jennifer Lawrence won the Oscar for best actress. Lawrence, also known for playing Katniss in the movie version of the novel “The Hunger Games,” was born on this date in 1990.
August 12 in history:
The U.S flag was raised over Iolani Palace in Honolulu on August 12th, 1898, marking America’s official annexation of Hawaii. The last monarch to reign over Hawaii from the palace was Queen Lili’uokalani.
August 12th is marked as the day in 30 B.C. when Egyptian Queen Cleopatra the 7th died, apparently committing suicide by allowing a snake to bite her.
Director Cecil B. DeMille, born on this date in 1881, made a movie about Cleopatra in 1934, starring Claudette Colbert. “Cleopatra” was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards the following year.
Actor John Cazale only made five movies in his brief career, but they were all nominated for best picture Oscars: the first two “Godfather” films, “The Conversation”, “Dog Day Afternoon” and “The Deer Hunter”. Cazale died of cancer at age 42. He was born August 12th, 1935.
June 22nd in history:
A deadly train wreck occurred near Hammond, Indiana, on June 22nd, 1918. The engineer of one train reportedly fell asleep and was unable to stop his train from striking the rear of a circus train on the same track. The wooden cars on the circus train caught fire quickly, and 86 people died. The engineer blamed for the accident was hanged a few days later for causing the disaster.
Hanging was the method of execution in Canada, until that country abolished capital punishment. The Canadian House of Commons voted on June 22nd, 1976, to end the death penalty.
The actor who played Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Fenwick in the “Dudley Do-Right” cartoons, Paul Frees, was born on this date in 1920. Frees also was famous for providing the accents of animated characters such as Professor Ludwig Von Drake and Boris Badenov.
June 22nd is also the birthday of another performer skilled at accents…three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (1949). Streep used foreign accents in two of her award-winning roles…as the Polish heroine of “Sophie’s Choice,” and as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”
May 16th in history:
“The bells, bells, bells, bells…”
Wedding bells for author Edgar Allan Poe and his cousin, Virginia Clemm, on May 16th, 1836. Edgar was 27, Virginia was 13. Some sources claim that the two had been married secretly for almost a year.
Did they eat cake at this wedding? Fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette married 15-year-old French Prince Louis-Auguste (who became King Louis XVI) on May 16th, 1770. One legend about Marie Antoinette is that Mozart said he wanted to marry her, when they met as young children.
Another flamboyant musician (one who didn’t marry) was born on this date in 1919 – the man with the candelabra on his piano, Liberace.
Actress Norma Shearer received an Oscar nomination in 1938 for playing Marie Antoinette. Shearer didn’t win that year, but she was named Best Actress for “The Divorcee” at the 3rd Academy Awards, in 1930. The very first Oscar ceremony happened on May 16th, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “Wings” was the first winner for Best Picture.
April 22nd in history:
The first “Earth Day” was observed on April 22nd, 1970.
Historians say Christopher Columbus wasn’t trying to prove the Earth was round in his voyage to the Americas in 1492, but was trying to find a shorter route to Asia across the ocean. Columbus was sponsored by Queen Isabella of Spain, born on this date in 1451.
Settlers raced to claim their own piece of earth when the Oklahoma Territory was opened at noon on April 22nd, 1889.
Eddie Albert was in “Oklahoma!” (the movie musical, that is), playing the peddler Ali Hakim. Albert was born on April 22nd, 17 years after the opening of the Oklahoma territory.
Eddie Albert is most famous for playing lawyer-turned-farmer Oliver Wendell Douglas on “Green Acres,” but he also received two Oscar nominations in his long career. Jack Nicholson has the most Oscar nominations among male actors, with 12 to his credit. Nicholson, born on April 22nd, 1937, already had been nominated for “Easy Rider” and “Chinatown” before winning the first of his three Oscars, for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”