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.
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.