May 14th in history:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition began its journey up the Missouri River on May 14th, 1804, with William Clark leading a group of explorers from a camp in the Illinois territory. Meriwether Lewis met up with Clark’s group a week later.
The U.S. space program began a new chapter when Skylab was launched on May 14th, 1973, just five months after the last manned flight to the moon. Skylab was America’s first orbiting space station, and remained in orbit for six years.
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas was born on this date in 1944. Lucas also is famous for his collaboration with Steven Spielberg on the Indiana Jones movies. And it’s the birthday of Robert Zemeckis (1952), who directed and co-wrote the “Back to the Future” movies produced by Spielberg.
The mountain-peak logo of Paramount Pictures is one of the most familiar Hollywood symbols. Paramount was founded on May 8th, 1914.
Explorer Hernando de Soto traveled through the mountains and prairies to the Mississippi River on this date in 1541. De Soto was on the east bank, in modern-day Tennessee. It took a month for him and his traveling group of 400 to cross over to what is now Arkansas.
It’s the birthday of one man who made people afraid to go near the water, especially the ocean. Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws,” was born May 8th, 1940. Steven Spielberg’s film version of “Jaws” was the number-one movie of 1975. Benchley was born on the same day and year as singer Toni Tennille, who with husband Daryl Dragon (billed as the Captain and Tennille) had the number-one record of ’75, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
March 4th in history:
Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for the first of his four terms as president on March 4th, 1933. It was the last March inauguration. The swearing-in date changed to January 20th in 1937. FDR’s first inaugural address was the one in which he said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Fear of an unseen, menacing truck driver is what drives the plot of Steven Spielberg’s 1971 made-for-TV movie Duel. The real driver behind the wheel of the truck in Duel was stunt driver Carey Loftin, who also drove in famous chase scenes for Bullitt and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Loftin was 83 years old when he died on this date in 1997.
March 4th is the birthday of the AAA (American Automobile Association), founded in Chicago in 1902.
German auto maker Gottlieb Daimler unveiled his first automobile on this day in 1887. Daimler is credited as the inventor of the first four-wheel auto.
Popular hot-rod designer of the 1960s, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, was born on March 4th, 1932.
February 1st in history:
President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, on this date in 1865. The 2012 Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” mostly deals with President Lincoln’s fight to pass the amendment.
The 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln” was directed by John Ford, born February 1st, 1894. Ford is best known for his Westerns, and won four Oscars for directing in his career. He won his last directing Oscar, for “The Quiet Man,” in March of 1953…the same year he made “Mogambo,” starring Clark Gable, born on this day in 1901. Gable won an Oscar for the comedy “It Happened One Night,” but his most famous role in a 30-year movie career was as Rhett Butler in the Civil War romance “Gone With the Wind.”
Ford also won an Oscar for the Dust Bowl drama “The Grapes of Wrath,” based on a John Steinbeck novel. The title comes from the first verse of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which put new words to the tune “John Brown’s Body.” Julia Ward Howe’s lyrics for “Battle Hymn” first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine on February 1st, 1862.
The University of Minnesota Marching Band routinely performs “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Minnesota Gopher football games in Minneapolis. For the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, singer Justin Timberlake was chosen to star in the halftime show, 14 years after his controversial February 1st, 2004 appearance with Janet Jackson at Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS for broadcasting the brief moment where Timberlake tore part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast, in what became known as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
December 18 in history:
The President of the United States got married on December 18th, 1915. Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen, died a year after moving into the White House. Widower Wilson met widow Edith Bolling Galt in 1915, and they wed just nine months later. Edith Wilson is sometimes considered America’s first female president, for assuming some duties of the presidency after Wilson had a stroke during his second term.
At the time of President Wilson’s second wedding, he was about to run for a second term using the slogan “He kept us out of war.” The First World War began in 1914, in response to the assassination of an Austrian archduke and his wife. That archduke, Franz Ferdinand, was born on this day in 1863. Future Soviet leader Joseph Stalin also was born December 18th, in 1878. Stalin was not allowed to serve in WWI because of a bad arm.
In the 2008 movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the title character, who ages in reverse, is born on the last day of World War I. Button is played by Brad Pitt, born December 18th, 1963. Pitt also has starred in “Moneyball,” “Fight Club,” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” and is known for his marriages to Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie.
The WWI drama “War Horse” earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination for its producer and director Steven Spielberg, born December 18th, 1946. Spielberg has won two Oscars as a director, for two films about World War II, “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” He’s also had big hits with “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” and the Indiana Jones franchise.