Sam Shepard’s first play was The Tooth of Crime (1973). His later plays include Buried Child (1979) and True West (1980).
Alfred Hitchcock’s first film with sound was Blackmail (1929). He actually filmed two versions, sound and silent. In the sound version, the German star Ann Ondra’s voice was supplied by English actress Joan Barry.
In its nine years of existence (1933-42), the employment program for men between 18 and 24 called the Civilian Conservation Corps put over 2 million men to work conserving and developing the country’s natural resources.
Operation Torch was the Allied invasion of French North Africa beginning on November 8, 1942. Assault troops, almost all American, captured Morocco and Algiers with mostly British naval support.
Pittsburgh was named for William Pitt, even though Pitt never set foot in Pennsylvania. Pitt’s actions as a British war minister during the French and Indian War led to the city’s founding. He committed money and troops to the war; he mapped out a strategy that included the capture of Fort Duquesne, located where the […]
Broadway’s all-time longest-running show was A Chorus Line. It ran 6,137 performances from 1975 to 1990. Its nearest competitor is Oh! Calcutta! with 5,959 performances between 1976 and 1989.
Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov were the escapees from Devil’s Island in We’re No Angels (1955). Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn were the angels in the 1989 film of the same title.
In 1914, Glenn Curtis fought the Wright brothers for patent rights on the airplane. The U.S. court decided in favor of the Wright brothers.
Mike Altman, son of the film’s director, Robert Altman, wrote the lyrics of “Suicide Is Painless,” theme song of M*A*S*H (1970). Johnny Mandel composed the music.
The last smoking sign in Times Square, which had advertised Winston cigarettes for five years, stopped blowing rings September 13, 1977. Like its predecessors for much of the twentieth century, it blew about 1,000 rings a day; a steam-producing box, located behind the head of the man in the sign, created the rings. The Winston […]
The Life of an American Fireman (1903), by Edwin S. Porter (1869-1941), was the first movie to rely heavily on film editing. Porter was the first person to piece together strips of film containing different scenes in order to tell a story. Before Porter, most movies were shot in one take from one camera position.
The TV movie “The Homecoming,” the original pilot for “The Waltons” (CBS, 1972-77) starring Patricia Neal and Richard Thomas, aired on CBS in 1971.
Ted Turner owns three film libraries: those of RKO, MGM/UA, and Warner Brothers.
The first federal prison in America opened in Auburn, New York in 1821. To regulate prisoner activity, Auburn employed what came to be known as the Auburn system. In the hopes of instilling discipline and effecting rehabilitation, the Auburn system required inmates to work silently in groups. When not working, inmates were confined in silence […]
“Embalmed beef” was a nickname for the tinned meat fed to troops at training camps during the Spanish-American War. The meat gained its nickname because it caused diseases such as typhoid fever, dysentery, and food poisoning, which eventually claimed thousands of soldiers’ lives.
Wisconsin’s Victor Berger, elected in 1911, was the first Socialist elected to the U.S. Senate.
“Bruce” was the nickname the crew gave to the mechanical shark used in Jaws (1975). The shark was designed by Joe Alves.
By 1780, the British were fighting not only the United States and its ally France during the American War of Independence, but also Spain, the Netherlands, and the ruler of Mysore in India. The conflicts were not all related to American independence, but they did keep the British busy on many fronts, aiding the U.S. […]
St. Augustine, Florida, which was settled by Spain in 1565, is the oldest town founded in America by Europeans.
Japanese star Toshiro Mifune played Sinbad in The Lost World of Sinbad (1963).
American physicist Murray Gell-Mann (b. 1929) named the quark in 1964. He took the name from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. A quark, a subatomic particle with a fractional electric charge, is believed by physicists to be the fundamental unit of matter.
“Texaco Star Theater” (NBC, 1948-56) was the top-rated TV program in 1950.
Jim Crow was a black stage character invented by minstrel star Thomas Rice in the decades before the Civil War. The name came to be applied to the segregationist laws that kept blacks separate from whites beginning in the 1870s. The Supreme Court declared Jim Crow laws unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education in […]
Daughters of Zeus, they were Greek goddesses of fertility, later associated with beauty and love, Aglaia (Brightness), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness), and Thalia (Bloom). Their collective name, Graces (they were also known as Chorites), referred to the gracious or pleasing appearance of fertile gardens and fields.
The first theatrical performance in America north of Mexico took place in 1598 in a Spanish settlement near present-day El Paso, Texas. The play was a comedy about a military expedition.
Parts of the Mishnah, a compilation of oral law, date back to earliest Jewish history. The Mishnah was completed by about A.D. 200. The Talmud, which records academic discussion and judicial thought, consists of two parts: the Mishnah and the Gemara, a commentary on the Mishna. The Palestinian Talmud was completed by about A.D. 400; […]
The Wisconsin Idea was a plan for reform created by Wisconsin Governor Robert M. La Follette in the early 1900s. This first statewide progressive reform plan was designed to erode the corruption of political bosses and big business, particularly the railroad trust.
The towns which the following soap operas set in are: “All My Children” (ABC, 1970–)–Pine Valley “Ryan’s Hope” (ABC, 1975-89)–New York City “The Guiding Light” (CBS, 1952–)–Five Points “The Edge of Night” (CBS, ABC, 1956-84)—Monticello (a violent midwestern city) “The Secret Storm” (CBS, 1954-74)—Woodbridge, New York “As the World Turns” (CBS, 1956–)—Oakdale, Ohio
Tracy Keenan Wynn wrote the screenplay, based on Ernest J. Gaines’s novel, and John Korty directed the TV movie “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (CBS, 1974). The film, starring Cicely Tyson as a 110-year-old former slave, won nine Emmys, including Emmys for Tyson, Korty, and Wynn.
Yes, there was really a Dr. Scholl. In the late nineteenth century, William (“Billy”) Scholl left farm life in La Porte, Indiana, for life as a shoemaker in Chicago. After noticing how much abuse the average foot takes, he decided to become a podiatrist and treat the problems he saw. Once established as a medical […]
More than 36 percent of the nation’s net worth (assets minus debts) was held by the top one percent of households in 1989, up from below 20 percent in 1979, according to a 1992 study. The study shows that the wealthiest few increased their share of the nation’s total wealth as much during the Reagan […]
The fair exists in literature, created by John Bunyin in The Pilgrim’s Progress (Part I, 1678; Part II, 1684). Established in the town of Vanity by Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, it lasts all year and sells all manner of earthly treasures and enjoyments.
The Palestine Liberation Organization or PLO now claims to represent 4 million Palestinians. It was founded in 1964 to unify splintered Palestinian organizations.
In 1990, the U.S. zoos with highest attendance were: 1. Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois 2. San Diego Zoo, California 3. National Zoo, Washington, D.C. 4. Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida 5. St. Louis Zoo, Missouri
007 was the number of seconds left until the atomic bomb was set to explode in Fort Knox when Bond shut it off in the movie Goldfinger (1964).
The Socialist Party of America was born in 1901 under the leadership of Eugene V. Debs. Instead of emphasizing state control of the economy, it advocated worker-protection laws, many of which later came to be enacted. Among the party’s goals were the reduction of hours in the workday, nationalization of railroads, and the creation of […]
The 1981 Oscar telecast was delayed for one day because on March 30, the day of the telecast, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr.
In Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus at Colonus (c. 406 B.C.), the blinded Oedipus wanders by accident into the sacred grove of the furies at Colonus in Attica, about a mile northwest of Athens.
On November 2, 1920, the radio station KDKA in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, broadcast for the first time. Its initial newscast reported that Warren Harding had been elected president of the United States.
After experimenting with thousands of materials, Thomas Edison discovered in 1879 that a scorched cotton thread, the equivalent of a carbon wire, was the filament he needed. It was one that would glow for a long period without melting in an electric light bulb. Edison’s discovery ushered in the age of electric lighting.
The men who were found innocent of inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention were: Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Lee Weiner. They were known as the Chicago Seven.
At the opening of “Mission: Impossible” (CBS, 1966-73), it took five seconds for the tape to self-destruct. What was the name of the force that responded to the call? The I.M. Force.
In the nineteenth century, the district known as Harlem in northern Manhattan was a fashionable white residential district, a favorite site for summer homes. Apartment buildings rose in the boom of the 1880s. After the panic of 1893, however, many buildings became vacant, and property owners began renting to blacks. By World War I, much […]
The bad guys on the TV series “Batman” (1966-68) were: Penguin—Burgess Meredith Catwoman—Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Merlwether Joker—Cesar Romero Riddler—Frank Gorshin and John Astin King Tut—Victor Buono Egghead—Vincent Price The Archer—Van Johnson Lola Lasagne—Ethel Merman Lord Marmaduke Ffogg—Rudy Vallee The Siren—Joan Collins Chandel—Liberace Louie the Lilac—Milton Berle
Meals had long been offered in taverns, cook-shops, and coffeehouses. The first place known as a restaurant was the Champ d’Oiseau, which opened in Paris in 1765. At the entrance was the Latin motto Venite ad me, omn e qui stomacho laboratis, et ego restaurabo vos, or “Come to me, anybody whose stomach groans, and […]
Theodore Roosevelt offered a “square deal”. Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered a “new deal”. Harry Truman offered a ‘fair deal”.
Haile Selassie (1891-1975), emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, was known as the Conquering Lion. His tenacity against his enemies earned him his nickname, a variation of one of his official titles, the Lion of Judah.
The first eight-hour day in America was instituted for federal employees in public work projects in 1868. Before the law was passed, an average workday could run 10 to 12 hours. In 1867, the Illinois state legislature had passed a law proclaiming the eight-hour day to be “the legal workday in the state.” But the […]
In alphabetical order, the executive departments are: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs.
The oldest letter in the alphabet is o, first used by Egyptians in about 3000 B.C. The newest letters are j and v. The consonant j was not distinguished from the vowel i until the 1600s, and not until the Renaissance was the consonant v distinguished from the vowel u.
Chariots of Fire (1981) portrays the 1924 Olympics in Paris.
Gehenna is the Greek form of the Hebrew Ge Hinnom, or “Valley of Hinnom.” This was a valley west and south of Jerusalem where children were sacrificed in flames to the Ammonite god Moloch from the tenth through seventh centuries B.C. In Jewish and Christian thought, it became another name for the place where the […]
Julia Ward Howe, women’s suffrage leader and author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” made the first known suggestion for Mother’s Day in 1872. She saw it as a day dedicated to peace, to be celebrated on June 2. But it was Anna Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia, who, in 1907, began campaigning for […]
When Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton restructured the government’s miscellaneous debts into more or less their current form in 1791, the national debt was $75 million, or about $18 per person, given the population at that time. In 191, it was nearly 50,000 times larger. The national debt in 1991 was $3.7 trillion, or […]
Stay-Put Lipstick brought adman Rock Hunter to sudden fame, which was endorsed by sex symbol Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield).
Tipperary is a county in Munster Province, Ireland. It occupies a broad strip of land between the Shannon and Suir rivers. The Irish name for Tipperary is Contae Tiobraid Arann. It is a long way from most places.
Shirley Booth played Dolly Levi in the 1958 film version of the play The Matchmaker which was later played by Barbra Streisand. Booth won an Oscar for her performance in Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) and went on to become TV’s “Hazel” (NBC, CBS, 1961-66).
Ralph Byrd played the part in the Republic (and later RKO) series beginning with Dick Tracy (1937). Morgan Conway played the police detective in two RKO films, beginning with Dick Tracy (1945).
The rum ration was an allotment of the liquor apportioned daily to members of the British navy. The practice, introduced in 1731, was discontinued on August 1, 1970.
Carol Merrill’s daughter Hillary Saffire became the hostess on the new TV game show “Truth or Consequences” (syndicated) in 1987. Merrill herself was the hostess on “Let’s Make a Deal” (NBC, 1963-68; ABC, 1968-76).