Does anyone really care?
May 29, 1954 -
During the first 3D crazy of the 50's, Alfred Hitchcock releases his masterpice, Dial 'M' for Murder, on this date.
After several unsuccessful attempts to film the scene where Margot stabs Swan with the scissors, Alfred Hitchcock said, "This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce - tasteless."
And dammit, there is no truth to the rumor that Hitchcock wanted to direct the original 1-800-MATTRES commercials.
Today in History
May 29, 1453 -
Constantinople is taken by Ottoman Turks, after a fifty day siege led by Sultan Mehmet II. The city defense of 10,000 men was no match for a force of 100,000 armed with heavy artillery.
It is the final gasp of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Why is this important, you may well ask - it isn't but neither is most of history.
Patrick Henry was born on May 29, 1736. Mr Henry was an American patriot best known for never having been able to make up his mind. Asked the simplest question, Mr Henry found himself befuddled for days. It therefore came as no surprise to anyone who knew him when, given the choice between liberty and death, he famously pronounced that either would be welcome.
History records his vow at St. John's Church in March of 1775 as "Give me liberty or give me death!" Eyewitnesses and other contemporaries claim he actually said, "Liberty, death, whatever, let's just wrap this thing up."
May 29, 1806 -
Andrew Jackson couldn't wait to marry his wife, Rachel Donelson Robards. He was so impatient that he had married her before she could obtain a legal divorce from her fist husband, Captain Lewis Robards - so technically she was a bigamist and an adulteress. His political opponents made much of this fact. Dueling over a horse racing wager and his wife's honor, the future President takes a bullet in the chest from fellow lawyer Charles Dickinson. The slug shatters two ribs and buries itself near his heart. Then it is Jackson's turn to fire, which manages to sever an artery, technically breaking the rules of the duel. Dickinson died a few hours later, the only man Jackson ever killed in any of his 103 duels.
The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. Jackson had been wounded so frequently in duels over his wife's honor that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles". At times he would cough up blood, and he experienced considerable pain from his wounds for the rest of his life. I suppose that's what love was like in the 19th Century.
May 29, 1913 -
Imagine, if you will, you live in Paris and that after a hard day of not working and drinking heavily (it's what most of the idle rich did in Paris at the time, while they waited around for Marcel Proust to finish writing that damn book he was working on - but that's another story), you were dragged to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Tonight, the Ballets Russes was going to perform a new ballet, Le Sacre du printemps (The Rites of Spring) with the international star, Nijinsky, the choreographer. You were probably expecting a brief snooze what you got was a full out boxing match (not unlike a recent evening at the Boston Pops).
The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd, and there were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance, and Igor Stravinsky (the composer) himself was so upset on account of its reception that he fled the theater in mid-scene, reportedly crying. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première, (though Stravinsky latter said "I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.") allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars. I hate when they misuse the bassoon.
Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted numbers to the dancers, who couldn't hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers are polysyllabic above ten, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat).
Although Nijinsky and Stravinsky were despondent, Diaghilev (the ballet's impresario) commented that the scandal was "just what I wanted". The music and choreography were considered barbaric and sexual and are also often noted as being the primary factors for the cause of the riot, but many political and social tensions surrounding the premiere contributed to the backlash as well.
It was quite an evening.
John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, and is best remembered for telling Berliners "I am a jelly-filled donut speech," delivered in Berlin (either that or "I am a small brimmed hat, usually worn in early spring" or "I like cheese"), an axiom that many Americans found problematic in the face of increasing cold war tensions, imminent nuclear war, an escalating presence in Vietnam, the troubled state of race relations, and the ubiquitous threat of poisonous snakes.
Mr. Kennedy should not be faulted for his mangling of the phrase, he was a pill-popping, philanderer in constant pain from Addison's disease and shouldn't have been expected to stay on point in a foreign language with so many other things on his mind.
Born on the same day but several centuries earlier (in 1630), was King Charles II of England, best known for the saying, "Give me back my throne."
May 29, 1953 –
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay are the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on Tenzing Norgay's (adopted) 39th birthday.
Following his ascent of Everest he devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts many schools and hospitals were built in this remote region of Nepal.
And so it goes.