August 12, 1927 -
The only silent film to win an Oscar for best picture, Wings, opened in NYC on this date.
In contrast to co-star Richard Arlen, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers did not know how to fly a plane when production began, but he learned how to do so by the end of it. During filming, Rogers flight instructor and sometime backup pilot was Lt. Hoyt "Van" Vandenberg, an Army Air Corps pilot at California's March Field. (Vandenberg later became a general, commanding the 9th Air Force in World War II, and serving as the U.S. Air Force's first official chief of staff after the war.)
August 12, 1939 -
The Bugs Bunny everyone knows takes another step forward when Hare-um Scare-um premiered on this date.
It was during production of this cartoon that Bugs Bunny's name originated. Designer Charles Thorson redesigned the rabbit character and labeled the model sheet "Bug's Bunny," after co-director Ben Hardaway's nickname, Bugs.
August 12, 1939 -
Considered one of the highlights of the Golden Age of Hollywood, The Wizard of Oz premiered on this date in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
The title role was written with W.C. Fields in mind. Producer Mervyn LeRoy wanted Ed Wynn, who turned down the role. MGM executive Arthur Freed wanted Fields, and offered him $75,000. Fields supposedly wanted $100,000. According to a letter from Fields' agent (which he claimed was written by Fields) Fields turned down the role to devote his time to writing the script for You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. Since the role was perceived as being too small, additional roles were written for the actor in hopes of balancing the screen time for the actor playing the wizard with that of the rest of the cast. Thus Frank Morgan plays the roles of the Wizard, Professor Marvel, the Gatekeeper, the cab driver with the "horse of a different color" who performs a musical number, and the Wizard's Guard. It is also possible that Morgan was made up for the spooky projected image of the Wizard's face transposed on the billowing steam in his Throne Room.
August 12, 1941 -
MGM premiered their version of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Spencer Tracy, in NYC on this date.
Spencer Tracy originally wanted a realistic approach, whereby Jekyll would commit violent deeds in a neighborhood where he was unknown after drinking alcohol or taking drugs. He was disappointed that the producers, having bought the screenplay from the 1931 version, insisted on a more traditional approach. He also said he felt his wig and make up as Hyde made him look "ridiculous".
August 12, 1988 -
Universal Pictures released Martin Scorsese's controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ, starting Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel and Barbara Hershey on this date.
Martin Scorsese banned smoking from the set, both because he's a severe asthmatic, and to avoid any photographs being taken of the biblical characters - namely Willem Dafoe, who smoked at the time - with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.
Today in History:
August 12, 30 BC (Given how the Romans were keeping track of time at this point and were drinking a huge amount of wine from lead cups - this date is fluid at best.)-
Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt, former wife of Julius Caesar and mistress of Marc Anthony, committed suicide by means of the unusual practice of nursing a venomous snakebite.
August 12, 3 AD -
A planetary conjunction (possibly Venus-Jupiter) was visible from the Earth with the naked eye on this date.
August 12, 1676 -
Wampanoag chieftain Metacom (or Philip) was killed in a swamp near Mount Hope, PA on this date. Thus ends King Philip's War, the first war between Indians and European settlers.
August 12, 1813 -
Austria declared war against Napoleon on this date.
An outraged England rushed to France's defense by declaring war against Austria exactly 101 years later when England official entered World War I on August 12, 1914.
August 12, 1865 -
After studying Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease which suggests that infections are caused by bacteria, Dr. Joseph Lister becomes the first surgeon to use during an operation.
Lister introduces phenol (carbolic acid) as a form of disinfectant into his surgery. His heightened standards of hygiene will reduce his surgical death rate from 45% to 15%.
August 12, 1869 -
In San Francisco on this date, Emperor Norton I issues a stern edict outlawing both the Republican and Democratic political parties.
Violators face a prison term of five-to-ten years. Oh, for that wise man today!
Not familiar with Norton I ? Read the amazing tale of Emperor Joshua Norton.
August 12, 1898 -
The Spanish-American war ended on this date. Spain released Cuba and gave Puerto Rico to the United States. Americans rushed to Puerto Rico in gleeful droves, only to discover that everyone spoke Spanish and there were no luaus or volcanoes.
They took Hawaii as a consolation prize (Hawaii was formally annexed by the U.S. - officially stolen) later that same day.
August 12, 1948 -
Russian schoolteacher Oksana Kasenkina was injured when she jumps out the window of the Soviet Consulate in New York City on this date.
August 12, 1953 -
In Siberia, the Soviet Union successfully tests its first thermonuclear device, based on Andrei Sakharov's fission-fusion "Layer Cake" design: alternating layers of uranium and hydrogen fuel sandwiched together and wrapped around a conventional Atomic Bomb. The fission explosion compresses the hydrogen, causing a fusion reaction.
Hopefully this is no longer a state secret or boy am I in deep trouble.
And so it goes.
And on a personal note:
I'd like to wish my mom a very Happy Birthday only if she could tear herself away long enough from the slot machines of the Borgata.