Wednesday, December 16, 2015

... a stake of holly through his heart

December 16, 1938 -
MGM released its film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, on this date.

Lionel Barrymore was originally set to play Scrooge, but had to back out due to illness. Barrymore instead suggested his friend Reginald Owen take over the role.

December 16, 1951 -
NBC-TV debuted Dragnet in a special preview on Chesterfield Sound Off Time on this date. (The show began officially on January 3, 1952)

The series opener ran in real time, and it contained several clock-on-the-wall shots to keep track of time. The story starts with the police frantically trying to meet a 26-minute deadline to satisfy the demands of a terrorist. The show ran for 26 minutes, excluding commercials.

December 16, 1959 -
20th Century Fox releases the Jules Verne science fiction classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Pat Boone, James Mason and Arlene Dahl,on this date.

Pat Boone
didn't want to make this film but was talked into it by his agent. Years later he stated he's glad he did it because of the regular residual checks it brings in and because it's the movie he'll probably be best remembered for.

December 16, 1962 -
David Lean's epic (in ever sense of the word) bio-pix of T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, starring Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins and Omar Sharif premiered in the US in NYC on this date.

King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his Arab Legion as extras for the film, so most of the "soldiers" are played by real soldiers. Hussein frequently visited the sets and became enamored of a young British secretary, Antoinette Gardiner, who became his second wife in 1962. Their eldest son, Abdullah II King Of Jordan, ascended to the throne in 1999.

December 16, 1965 -
One of the classic cold war thrillers, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, starring Richard Burton, premiered in the US on this date.

Author John le Carré worked for British Intelligence MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s and worked in Berlin where this film is partially set. Le Carré was there when the Berlin Wall was being constructed.

December 16, 1971 -
Don McLean's eight-minute-plus version of American Pie was released and became one of the longest songs to ever hit the pop charts.

If you prefer the clip with Don singing in it, here you go.

Kids, use the song as the Cliff notes for what happened during the 60s (do they still print cliff notes?)

December 16, 1975 -
The groundbreaking sitcom (for it's time) One Day At A Time starring Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli premiered on this date.

In the original pilot, Ann (Bonnie Franklin) had only one daughter (Mackenzie Phillips). Executives weren't happy with the results; a new pilot was shot with Valerie Bertinelli added as the second daughter.  Mackenzie Phillips (Julie) and Valerie Bertinelli (Barbara) were actually the same age. Phillips was taller and wiry, while Bertinelli was round-faced and looked like the younger of the two, so Phillips was cast as the older sister.

December 16, 1977 -
Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta, went into general release on this date.

Oh John, it’s been a long strange trip since that polyester shirt.

The film was rated R when it was released in late 1977. The studio was so eager to attract more young people to the film because they were buying the soundtrack album, that the film was cut by a few minutes and the shorter version was given a PG rating. The PG version was released in 1978.

When Tony's dad hit him in the back of the head the third time during dinner, his retort of "Just watch the hair!" and then his complaint about being hit on the hair after he had worked on it for so long was John Travolta's own reaction and not scripted, but since it was so in character for Tony Manero to say, it was left in.

Today's holiday special Happy families are all alike (part 2)

Today in History:
December 16, 1773
The Boston Tea Party took place 242 years ago today.

A group of young colonists, dressed as Native Americans, stormed a few British ships in Boston Harbor and tossed their tea cargo overboard in protest of the British insistence that Americans ride their horses on the left-hand side of the street. While this is often remembered as a defining historical moment in the development of our proud nation, it should not be forgotten that Boston Harbor was for a long time one of our most polluted waterways.

I equally deplores the ecologically disastrous precedent set by these hotheaded young good-for-nothings, and their demeaning depiction of native Americans as savage, tea-hating polluters. Also please do not confuse the Tea Party with Tea Bagging - two very different things although men wearing short skirts figure prominently in both of them.

December 16, 1950 -
President Harry S. Truman declares a state of emergency, after Chinese troops enter the fight with communist North Korea in the Korean War.

With all the business going on in the world in the intervening 65 years, the order is still in effect, one of four current states of national emergency granting extraordinary powers to the President.

What the hell were we thinking?

December 16, 1965 -
NASA was in a piss-proud mood. Days before, Gemini 6 (Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra, space cowboys aboard) and Gemini 7 (Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, rocket men aboard) had successfully  rendezvoused in space. Just before Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra were about to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, on this date, they radioed Mission Control with their startling sighting:

"We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit.... Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon.... You just might let me pick up that thing.... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit."

Wally and Tom do something even more startling; they break out in a chorus of Jingle Bells, accompanying themselves with a small harmonica and tiny small bells. The pair become the first men to perform Christmas carols from space.  NASA, of course, was not amused having to pay the ASCAP fees.

December 16, 1985 -
What were you doing 30 years ago - I left work, cut through a parking garage in the middle of the block and walked passed the limos in front of Sparks Steak House on the next block on this date.

John Gotti was looking to improve his position with IBM (the Gambino crime syndicate.) He had his boss Paul Castellano ventilated outside Spark's Steak House in Manhattan.

John and Paul are long gone but I, occasionally, get to visit my old office.

And so it goes.

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