Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter ...

Tomorrow is the Winter's Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice is the "shortest" day of the year and marks the start of the winter period. This is because the tilt of the Earth’s axis is least aligned with the Sun, providing us with the least daylight of the year.

After December 21, the nights will begin to get shorter as our planet rotates towards the sun.

December 20, 1939 -
The Paramount Pictures
animated version of Gulliver's Travels directed by Dave Fleischer, premiered in NYC on this date.

The film was the first American animated feature from a studio other than Disney. After viewing it, Walt Disney reportedly said, "We can do better than that with our second-string animators."

December 20, 1946 -
The Frank Capra film It's A Wonderful Life had a preview showing for charity at New York City's Globe Theatre, a day before its official premiere.

Due to a clerical error at NTA's copyright office, the copyright wasn't renewed when it expired in 1974. The film became public domain, meaning anyone who could obtain a print could broadcast it without paying royalties. Local stations aired it dozens of times between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. In the 1990's, after a series of court battles, NTA's successor, Republic Pictures, re-acquired the rights to the film because they owned the source material ("The Greatest Gift") and the film's score, which were still copyrighted.

Next time you get a chance to watch the film, notice what a truly strange little film it really is.

December 20, 1961
Columbia Pictures releases the science fiction film Mysterious Island, directed by Cy Endfield and featuring the stop-motion animation of  Ray Harryhausen, on this date.

The armature for the crab is covered with the shell of a real crab instead of the usual latex. Ray Harryhausen bought three crabs for the production, having one humanely killed by a museum employee as boiling it would have changed the color of the shell. The other two were used for close-ups of the crabs' mandibles, which would otherwise have required a huge amount of time to properly animate. These crabs subsequently served as a dinner entrée for Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer.

December 20, 1967 -
Mike Nichols'
seminal 60s film, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, premiered on this date.

During rehearsals of Dustin Hoffman's and Anne Bancroft's first encounter in the hotel room, Bancroft did not know that Hoffman was going to grab her breast. Hoffman decided to do it because it reminded him of schoolboys trying to nonchalantly grab girls' breasts in the hall by pretending to put their jackets on. When Hoffman did it, director Mike Nichols began laughing loudly. Hoffman began to laugh as well, so rather than stop the scene, he turned away and walked to the wall. Hoffman banged his head on the wall, trying to stop laughing, and Nichols thought it was so funny, it stayed in the finished film.

December 20, 1971 -
Hal Ashby's
very dark comedy, Harold and Maude, starring Ruth Gordon and Burt Cort, premiered on this date. The film was not a commercial success when it opened but is now seen as one of the most influential films of the 1970s.

Hal Ashby intended to film a scene of Harold and Maude making love, but Paramount dismissed this idea.

December 20, 1979 -
Bob Fosse’s
semi-autobiographical film All that Jazz, starring Roy Scheider, Ann Reinking, Jessica Lange and Ben Vereen, opened in the US on this date.

Upon the film's release, Stanley Kubrick reportedly believed it to be the "best film I think I've ever seen".

December 20, 1986 –
The Bangles'
hit Walk Like An Egyptian went to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts on this date.

This was the biggest hit for the Bangles, but they considered it one of their least favorite songs, as their rock pedigree was compromised by a goofy song they had nothing to do with composing. The difficult recording process caused a lot of tension within the band. These tensions would eventually break them up.

December 20, 2002 -
Martin Scorsese
take on the notorious Five Points district of Lower Manhattan during the mid 19th century, Gangs of New York, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz, was released on this date.

Daniel Day-Lewis became so uncomfortable with the greasy hairstyle he wore as Bill the Butcher that he shaved his head immediately after filming completed.

To the richest man in town 

Today in History
December 20, 1803
France finalized the Louisiana Purchase and transferred authority over the region to the United States, as a Christmas gift for Thomas Jefferson on this date.

The wisdom of this purchase was not fully appreciated at first but after Mardi Gras it was warmly embraced.

(It was not for nothing that Thomas Jefferson collected beads.)

December 20, 1879 -
Thomas Edison
privately demonstrated light bulb to a rapt audience on this date at Menlo Park, N.J.

Unfortunately, it took 27 of his assistants to lift the entire shed and turn it around to screw in the bulb and many believe the light would never take off.

December 20, 1892 -
According to Jules Verne, on October 2nd, Phileas Fogg stepped out of the Explorers Club in London, England and decides to take a little trip.

Due to the incompetence and laziness of most of the transit workers around the world, finally completed his trip on this date.

Adolf Hitler was released from prison on December 20, 1924, after serving less than a year against a five-year treason sentence. Hitler became a prolific author while in prison, where he penned the infamous political autobiography Mein Kampf. (How I Intend to Enslave or Kill Millions of People Immediately Upon My Release.)

He also outlined a series of children’s books which have sadly been lost to history as a result of his having chosen upon his release to pursue a path of demonic world conquest instead of pedagogical literature. One can only wonder what sort of success Hitler would have experienced with titles such as:

The Little Engine That Was Betrayed by Jewish Usurers,

Where the Wild Things Are and How to Eliminate Them ,

Every Little Aryan Child’s Bedtime Book of Insidious Evil and Global Domination.

December 20, 1938 -
Vladimir Zworykin
receives a patent for the Iconoscope (U.S. patent No. 2,141,059), an early television camera tube, 15 years after filing his application.

The tube is part of the first electronic television system.

December 20, 1941 -
The Flying Tigers
, American pilots in China, entered combat against the Japanese over Kunming on this date.

The group, formed 12 days after Pearl Harbor, was a great morale booster, as it posted numerous tactical victories when the news in the U.S. was filled with little more than stories of defeat at the hands of the Japanese forces.

December 20, 1957 -
receives orders from the draft board to serve in the United States Army, which to his credit he does without complaint.

I should have prepared you for the sight of Elvis in his skivvies.

December 20, 1997 -
auctioned off the loincloth worn by Kirk Douglas in the 1960 film Spartacus for $2,990 on this date.

You can't get those at Robert Hall, aisle five.

December 20, 2007 -
Elizabeth II turned 81 years and 243 days old on this date and surpassed Queen Victoria as the oldest UK monarch.

Buckingham palace had the time calculated down to the hour, though no major celebrations were held to mark the occasion.  About two years ago, the Queen became the longest reigning sovereign and Prince Charles has been officially pissed since that date.

And so it goes.


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