April 14th in history:
President Abraham Lincoln was seeing the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington when he was shot on April 14th, 1865.
On this date in 1894, Thomas Edison demonstrated a form of moving-picture show called a “kinetoscope,” consisting of still images viewed in quick succession (better known as a “peep show”).
Two-inch videotape was demonstrated in public for the first time on April 14th, 1956, at a broadcasters’ convention in Chicago.
A rare moment at the Academy Awards show on April 14th, 1969 – a tie for Best Actress. Katharine Hepburn wins her third Oscar, for “The Lion in Winter,” and Barbra Streisand gets her first, for “Funny Girl.”
Several Oscar winners share an April 14th birthday: John Gielgud (1904), Rod Steiger (1925), Julie Christie (1941) and Adrien Brody (1973).
Philip Seymour Hoffman was an Oscar winner for the title role in the 2005 movie “Capote.” The climax of that film shows Truman Capote attending the execution of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock for the Clutter family murders detailed in Capote’s novel “In Cold Blood.” The double execution took place in Lansing, Kansas, on this date in 1965.
April 11th in history:
Famous pink slips on April 11th …
In 1951, President Harry Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of all his commands in the Far East, after MacArthur objected to policies of the U.S. and the United Nations.
Uganda’s “President for Life,” Idi Amin, fled the country after eight years in power on this date in 1979.
The Treaty of Fountainbleau, Napoleon’s pink slip, was signed on April 11th, 1814. Under the treaty, several European countries required Napoleon to step down as emperor of France, which led to his exile to Elba.
And the last emperor of China, Puyi, was fired by Chinese Communists. His story was told in the movie called “The Last Emperor,” which won Best Picture at the Oscars on April 11th, 1988.
April 7th in history:
The first publicly-seen television broadcast between two U.S. cities happened on April 7th, 1927. The link between New York and Washington featured President Calvin Coolidge’s Secretary of Commerce, who would be president himself just two years later: Herbert Hoover.
President Richard Nixon announced on April 7th, 1969, that he would increase the U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam.
That announcement came on the 30th birthday of two famous men whose careers would be tied to Vietnam and Nixon. Director Francis Ford Coppola set the novel “Heart of Darkness” in Vietnam for his war epic “Apocalypse Now.” And TV personality David Frost conducted a famous series of 1977 interviews with former President Nixon, which were dramatized in the play and movie “Frost/Nixon.”
Also born on April 7th: Daniel Ellsberg (1931), famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers revealing government decisions about the Vietnam War, and another movie director, Alan Pakula (1928), who made “All the President’s Men,” about the Washington Post reporters who uncovered many details about the Watergate scandal in the Nixon White House.
April 1st in history:
A historic day for the Air Force in two countries: The Royal Canadian Air Force was founded on April 1st, 1924. Exactly 30 years later, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the establishment of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Clearing the “air” of smoke: Eisenhower’s vice-president, Richard Nixon, was president himself in 1970. On April 1st of that year, Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which would take all radio and TV commercials for cigarettes off the air in early ’71.
A popular substitute for smoking – chewing gum – has made a fortune for the William Wrigley Company, founded in Chicago on April 1st, 1891. Wrigley’s didn’t start selling gum until a year after the company was in business. Free samples of gum given away with packages of baking powder became more popular than the powder.
Fictional 19th century critic Jebidiah Atkinson from “Saturday Night Live” could have been an early customer of Wrigley’s gum (but he might not admit to liking it). Atkinson is a popular SNL character performed by Taran Killam, born on April 1st, 1982. Killam played another 19th century character in “12 Years a Slave,” the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 2013.
SNL is produced at New York’s Rockefeller Center, which also houses the MSNBC cable news network. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was born on this day in 1973.
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 27th in history:
Two Easter season disasters on this date: March 27th was Good Friday in 1964, when Alaska was hit by the most powerful earthquake ever in the country’s history. It measured 9.2, and caused more than 100 deaths. In 1994, Palm Sunday fell on March 27th, and a Methodist church in Piedmont, Alabama, was struck by a tornado which killed 20 people.
March 27th of 1513 was Easter Sunday, and explorer Juan Ponce de Leon first sighted a mass of land which he later named in honor of Easter, “Pascua Florida.”
A Florida resort was the main setting for the cross-dressing comedy “Some Like It Hot”, written and directed by Billy Wilder, who died on March 27th, 2002. Actors Milton Berle and Dudley Moore also died on the same day as Wilder. Berle made a habit of dressing as women on his hit TV show “Texaco Star Theater,” and Moore wore a nun’s habit during part of the comedy film “Bedazzled.”
Another of Billy Wilder’s major hit movies was Sunset Boulevard, which represented a comeback for Gloria Swanson, playing fictional silent-film star Norma Desmond. Swanson was born on March 27th, but the year is in dispute (1897 or 1899).
March 24th in history:
On March 24th, 1900, the mayor of New York City broke ground for the city’s first subway line to link Manhattan and Brooklyn. The first New York subway would open four years later.
March 24th is the birthday of American businessman George Francis Train (1829). Appropriately, Train was one founder of the Union Pacific railroad. He also campaigned for president, and for “Dictator of the United States.” Train made a trip around the world in less than three months, and reportedly inspired Jules Verne to write “Around the World in 80 Days.” Verne died on this date in 1905, at age 77.
You don’t have to be a science fiction nerd to like Jules Verne’s works, or to like two actors with March 24th birthdays who are famous for playing nerds in the movies and on TV: Robert Carradine (born 1954), Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds, and Jim Parsons (1973), Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.”