Almanac – November 23

534 BC – Thespis of Icaria became the first recorded actor to portray a character onstage – according to certain Ancient Greek sources and especially Aristotle, he was the first person ever to appear on stage as an actor playing a character in a play (instead of speaking as him or herself). In other sources, he is said to have introduced the first principal actor in addition to the chorus.

According to Aristotle, writing nearly two centuries later, Thespis was a singer of dithyrambs (songs about stories from mythology with choric refrains). Thespis supposedly introduced a new style in which one singer or actor performed the words of individual characters in the stories, distinguishing between the characters with the aid of different masks.

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1585 – Thomas Tallis died.  English composer who occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered one of England’s greatest early composers,  honoured for his original voice in English musicianship.

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1859 – William Henry McCarty, Jr. born. Later to achieve notoriety as wild west outlaw Billy the Kid.

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1887 – Boris Karloff born. English actor best remembered for his roles in horror films and his portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939).

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1888 – Harpo Marx born. American comedian and film star and  second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. His comic style was influenced by clown and pantomime traditions, he never spoke during performances (he blew a horn or whistled to communicate) and  played the harp in most of his films.

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1910 – Dr H.H. Crippen executed. American homeopathic physician and salesman hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, for the murder of his wife, Cora Henrietta Crippen. He was the first criminal to be captured with the aid of wireless communication.

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1939 – Betty Everett born.  American soul singer and pianist.

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1963 – The BBC broadcasted the first episode of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell in the title role.

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2010 – Ingrid Pitt died. Polish-born actress best known for her work in horror films of the 1960s and 1970s.

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