Tuesday, October 6, 2015

When the CIA ran a cartoon studio

In the late 40s through the 50s, the CIA led a top secret campaign, called Militant Liberty that encouraged studios to insert the theme of freedom into Hollywood movies.  Alfred P. Sloan (think about the name and it will come to you) the recently retired head of of General Motors from 1923 to 1946, was recruited to head the cause.  Sloan hired George Stewart Benson, president of Harding College to produce a series of cartoons to promote anti-Communist, pro-free enterprise themes.

Why Play Leap Frog? (1949) was one of the first.  At least three Warner Bros. cartoons during the period, Heir ConditionedBy Word of Mouse, and Yankee Dood It were probably produced under this program.  And the  famous Duck and Cover as well as Disney's Our Friend the Atom have the fingerprints of the program all over them. (We don't even have time to discuss the CIA's involvement with the live action studios during the time.)

Today is Mad Hatter day. The Mad Hatter wore a top hat on the front of which a slip of paper with reads "10/6."

(Except since the Mad Hatter lived in England, 10/6 might refer to June 10th - but I'm not going there.)

October 6, 1927 -
Good, bad or indifferent to it, The Jazz Singer (the first feature-length movie with audible synchronized dialogue), premiered in NYC on this date.

George Jessel, star of the stage version, was asked to play the role in the film, but refused over a pay dispute. Eddie Cantor was also asked, and also refused.

October 6, 1963 -
The wonderful adaption of the classic 18th Century novel, Tom Jones premiered in NYC on this date.

Albert Finney felt the lead role wasn't serious enough, and agreed to star only if he got a producing credit; he later traded the credit for profit participation.

October 6, 1976 -
The song, Disco Duck by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots received a gold record on this date. The song was featured in the movie Saturday Night Fever but was not included on its soundtrack album.

The voice of this song sounds a lot like the Disney character Donald Duck, prompting speculation that Clarence Nash, who voices Donald Duck, sang on this. The Walt Disney Company has emphatically denied this rumor; however, in 1979, toward the tail end of the disco era, Disney put out an album called Mickey Mouse Disco featuring adaptations of various disco songs, including one by Nash as Donald Duck.

Today in History:
Today is Armed Forces Day in Egypt (we'll get back to Armed Forces Day in a moment but it's not in celebration of the Elvis Costello album) and Ivy Day in Ireland. (Ivy Day is not a horticultural celebration. The date marks the anniversary of the 1891 death of Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell;

Irish favoring home rule traditionally pin a bit of ivy to their lapels in his honor. Ivy Day should not be confused with I.V. Day,

celebrated only by drips.)

Aeschylus was the first Greek playwright to produce tragedies as we would know them today, but that's not important to our story today.

According to legend, Aeschylus died when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a stone, dropped a tortoise on it, killing him instantly on this date in 456BC (that was tragedy for Aeschylus but it's comedy to us.)

October 6, 1014
Czar Samuil of Bulgaria died of a heart attach after an army of 15,000 of his men returned, blinded by his enemy Emperor Basil of the Byzantine Empire. One out of every hundred of his men was permitted to keep one eye, such that they were able to return home.

For this victory Basil earned the title Bulgaroctonus, slayer of Bulgars.

I guess we shouldn't complain.

October 6 is the anniversary of one of the greatest moments in the history of literary criticism. It was on that date in 1536 that William Tyndale was recognized for his important contribution to world literature—the first translation of the New Testament into English - by being tied to the stake, strangled, and his dead body then burnt.

Ah, when men were men, women were women, and critics were murderous, torch-wielding fanatics!

October 6, 1966 -
was declared illegal in the US on this date.

Hopefully you timed your intake accordingly.

October 6, 1973 -
In a surprise attack on the Jewish highest holiday of Yom Kippur - Syrian and Egyptian armies invaded Israel on this date, starting, what became known as, the Yom Kippur War. The US came to Israel's aid, but as Israel began winning the war, Israel wouldn't back down from the siege brought on by the Egyptian troops to the south.

The Soviet Union threatened to intervene on Egypt's behalf, causing high tensions between the US and Soviet Union that caused lasting damage to the relationship between two. Eventually, all parties came to a peace agreement.

October 6, 1976 -
During a televised debate on this date, President and candidate Gerald Ford asserts that there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

Ford lost the election. (there are several current Republicans via for the White House, using his playbook.)

October 6, 1981 -
During Armed Forces Day (commemorating Egypt's participation in the Arab-Israeli War,) armed gunmen leapt from a truck and began shooting into the reviewing stand at Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

The assassination had been approved by Omar Abdel-Rahman, a cleric later convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

And so it goes.

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