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.
February 24th in history:
There was celebration in England on this date in 1981, as 32-year-old Prince Charles announced his engagement to 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer. The royal wedding happened that July, making Diana the Princess of Wales.
The duties of many festival princesses include riding on floats in a parade. There were no floats in U.S. parades until February 24th, 1868, when a float was introduced at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
Mardi Gras is celebrated on the day before the start of Lent. The Gregorian calendar, announced on February 24th, 1582, made changes in how the dates of Lent and Easter are determined every year. The calendar also declared that some years ending in “00” would not be leap years.
French actress Emmanuelle Riva saw 22 leap years come and go before she received an Oscar nomination for the film “Amour.” Riva celebrated her 86th birthday at the Oscar ceremony on this date in 2013, but lost the Best Actress award to 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence.
December 19 in history:
Bill Clinton became the second U.S. president to be impeached, when the House approved impeachment charges against him on December 19th, 1998, halfway through his second term. Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, for lying about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The scandal threatened to sink the Clinton presidency, but Clinton was acquitted by the Senate and finished his term.
A romantic epic about a famous ocean liner that sank in 1912 opened in movie theaters on this day in 1997. The James Cameron film Titanic, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, tied the record 11 Oscars won in 1959 by Ben-Hur. Titanic also set box office records which were broken a decade later by another Cameron movie, Avatar.
Unlike the Titanic, three ships that left England for America on December 19th, 1606, did reach their destination. The ships brought more than 100 settlers to the Virginia colony, where they established the community of Jamestown.
The city of Jamestown, New York, has a museum dedicated to hometown celebrity Lucille Ball and her first husband, Desi Arnaz, who were married for 20 years. Lucy’s second marriage, to comedian Gary Morton, lasted 28 years until her death. Morton, who produced Lucy’s TV series after “I Love Lucy,” was born on this date in 1924. It’s also the birthday of actress Elaine Joyce (1945), known for many television appearances and stage shows including the musical “Sugar.” Like Morton, Joyce also is famous as the spouse of a comedy legend, playwright Neil Simon.
Before becoming a playwright, Neil Simon wrote for popular TV variety series including “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar, and “The Garry Moore Show.” On this date in 1961, the Moore show featured Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things,” perhaps one of the earliest times that the song from “The Sound of Music” became associated with the Christmas season. Andrews did not appear in the original Broadway production of “Sound of Music,” and did not make the movie until three years after the Garry Moore Christmas show.
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” and “Up,” and he was reunited with Andrews in 2001 on a live TV broadcast of “On Golden Pond.” And in 2012, at age 82, Plummer became the oldest actor to win a competitive Oscar for his role in the film “Beginners.”
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 turns 13 years old today.
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.