Saturday, July 17, 2010

.. Hush now, don't explain ...

Today is the 51th anniversary of the death of Billie Holiday.

The difficult I can do today. The impossible will take a little longer. - Billie Holiday

July 17, 1956 -
The musical version of The Philadelphia Story, High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly & Frank Sinatra, premiered on this date.

The song Well, Did You Evah? (from a previous Cole Porter musical) was added at the last minute when it was realized that there wasn't a song for Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra to sing together.

July 17, 1959 -
Alfred Hitchcock, at the peak of his career, released, North By Northwest, starring Cary Grant (at the peak of his career), on this date.

James Stewart was very interested in starring in this movie, begging Alfred Hitchcock to let him play Thornhill. Hitchcock claimed that Vertigo's lack of financial success was because Stewart "looked too old". MGM wanted Gregory Peck, but Hitchcock instead cast Cary Grant, who, ironically, was actually 4 years Stewart's senior.

July 17, 1943 -
Originally released in B & W (which I only found out last year), Porky Pig's Feat premiered on this date (re-release as a color version in 1968 & 1990.) A rare appearance for Porky Pig, Daffy Duck & Bugs Bunny (his only appearance in a theatrical black and white film.)

This is the first time the Raymond Scott composition Powerhouse is used in a Warner Bros. cartoon.

Today in History:
July 17 1913 -
On this date, audiences attending the silent film A Noise from the Deep observed Mabel Normand striking Fatty Arbuckle in the face with a pie. It was the first use of the pie-in-the-face routine in film history.

It may not seem that remarkable when you consider how much history there'd been in film prior to 1913, but it was an important milestone nonetheless.

The act of hitting someone in the face with a pie was itself nothing new. Hieroglyphics engraved on the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian King Tuthenhorn, for example, depict that merry lord hurling pies of polished stone at his subjects with such force that they were frequently decapitated.

Thucydides and Herodotus both make mention of a great pie battle at Salamis, with the latter observing that "it was a moment of much hilarity until someone hit Xerxes."

Plutarch describes the wanton Messalina "grinding her pie in the face of a slave."

The merriment of the ancient world gradually succumbed to the joyless monotony of the middle-ages, however and pie facials were neglected for centuries. The mirth did not resume until 1518, when Martin Luther nailed Pope Leo X with a cream-covered blueberry pie—the first documented case of torte reform.

Roughly a century later, Shakespeare introduced the routine to Elizabethan audiences with memorable pie-in-the-face scenes in King Lear, Hamlet, and Othello. Scholars have recently unearthed a draft of what Shakespeare clearly intended to be his comedic masterwork, Two Bakers of Venice.

After Shakespeare's pioneering work in the field, the pie-in-the-face became a staple of popular entertainment. Seen in this context, the celebrated Arbuckle pie facial was just one more step on a very long journey.

Indeed, being struck in the face by baked goods is likely to remain the most hilarious thing in the world for centuries to come.

July 17, 1917 -
Britain's King George V issues a royal proclamation changing his family's surname from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor.

Thus, everyone is fooled into believing that a bunch of inbred Germans are really English. Which is convenient, because England just so happens to be at war with the other side of the family, Germany.

(Yes that's King George V and Tsar, Czar, Csar Nicholas II)

Russian Czar Nicholas II was murdered with his family and servants by the Bolsheviks at Yekaterinburg on this date in 1918. (It's too bad his cousin, George V was more concerned with changing his Germanic surname then saving his cousin.)

This included his daughter Anastasia, who may not actually have been killed with the rest of them but was almost certainly killed along with the rest of them despite persistent rumors to the contrary--even in the face of almost insurmountable evidence suggesting otherwise (except when interpreted differently). Even if she wasn't dead then, she's certainly dead now. This has been scientifically proven by scientists who ought to know.

July 17, 1936 -
General Francisco Franco, low level Spanish Evil Bastard, seizes control of the Canary Islands (in the misguided belief that Spain could become a world power by controlling the supply of small yellow birdies), signaling the start of the three-year Spanish Civil War.

And he's still dead.

July 17, 1938 -
On this date, Douglas Corrigan took off from Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field for a cross-country flight to the west coast in his nine-year-old, single-engine Curtiss Robin airplane.

Twenty-eight hours later he landed in Dublin, Ireland, thus earning himself the nickname "Wrong Way Corrigan" and becoming the patron saint of baggage handlers.

July 17, 1947 -
Jackie Robinson was playing his historic first season with the Dodgers, the Yankees finally lost after 19 straight victories and Perry Como topped the Billboard charts with “Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba (My Bambino Go to Sleep)” and Jack Kerouac began his “On the Road” trip, on this date. He left his mother’s apartment in Ozone Park and wound up on the West Side IRT local, passing Columbia, where he had dropped out, and got off the train at the 242 Street terminal. At 242 Street, (near Van Cortlandt Park) he boarded a trolley for Yonkers, transferred to another for as far as it would go, then hitchhiked farther up the Hudson. He wanted to take the “long red line called Route 6” that he had seen on a map, and the nearest place for him to join it was the Bear Mtn Bridge.

When he got there, he discovered that little traffic passed through that semi-wilderness, and while waiting futilely for a ride, he got drenched in a thunderstorm. Humiliated by his “stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America,” he ended up taking a bus back to NYC and another all the way to Chicago. He took a third bus to the Chicago suburbs and began hitchhiking to Denver, to see friends he had made in NYC, including Neal Cassady.

Such is the stuff of great literature - a subway ride that many of you loyal readers have made countless times, is transformed into the the opening trip of the classic novel of the Beat Generation, On the Road.

(Thanks to the head of the Yeats Society for this item - I know a very eclectic crowd.)

July 17, 1952 -
It's David Hasselhoff's (noted 'actor', 'singer', talent judge, hamburger connoisseur and drunk) birthday!

Yay for David! Yay for Germany!

(David shares his birthday with Angela Merkel born two years later in 1954 - co-incidence, you be the judge.)

July 17, 1955 -
Disneyland, the happiest place in the world, opens in Anaheim, California. In the words of Walt Disney, "That place is my baby, and I would prostitute myself for it."

I don't know about you but I shudder at the thought of Ole Walt, walking the street in stiletto, offering to 'go around the world' for 20 bucks.

July 17, 1968 -
Premiere of the drug-induced, Big Blue Meanie-infested cartoon Beatle film Yellow Submarine, at the London Pavilion.

And remember Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is not a song about drugs, dammit.

And so it goes.

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