Tag Archives: silent films

Almanac – May 06

1895 – Rudolph Valentino born.  Italian actor  and  an early pop icon.

A sex symbol of the 1920s, Valentino was known as the “Latin Lover“, and  starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle and The Son of the Sheik.

His death at age 31 caused mass hysteria among his female fans, further propelling him into icon status.

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1915 – Orson Welles born.  American actor, director, writer and producer who worked extensively in theater, radio and film.

He is best remembered for his innovative work in all three media, most notably Caesar (1937), a groundbreaking Broadway adaption of Julius Caesar and the debut of the Mercury Theatre;

The War of the Worlds (1938), one of the most famous broadcasts in the history of radio;

and Citizen Kane (1941), which is consistently ranked as one of the all-time greatest films.

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1992 – Marlene Dietrich died.  German  actress and singer.

Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically.

In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel, directed by Josef von Sternberg, brought her international fame and provided her a contract with Paramount Pictures in the US.

Hollywood films such as Shanghai Express and Desire capitalised on her glamour and exotic looks, cementing her stardom and making her one of the highest-paid actresses of the era.

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Almanac – January 23

1897 – Zona Heaster Shue was found dead in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The resulting murder trial of her husband is perhaps the only case in United States history where the alleged testimony of a ghost helped secure a conviction.

According to local legend, Zona appeared to her mother in a dream four weeks after her funeral. She said  Erasmus Shue  (her husband) was a cruel man who abused her, and who had attacked her in a fit of rage when he believed that she had cooked no meat for dinner. He had broken her neck; to prove this, the ghost turned her head completely around until it was facing backwards.
Supposedly, the ghost appeared first as a bright light, gradually taking form and filling the room with a chill. She is said to have visited Mrs. Heaster over the course of four nights.

Zona’s body was examined on February 22, 1897 in the local one-room schoolhouse. Shue had “vigorously complained” about this turn of events, but was required by law to be present at the autopsy. He responded that he knew he would be arrested, but that no one would be able to prove his guilt.

The autopsy lasted three hours, and found that Zona’s neck had indeed been broken. According to the report, published on March 9, 1897, “the discovery was made that the neck was broken and the windpipe mashed. On the throat were the marks of fingers indicating that she had been choked. The neck was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The windpipe had been crushed at a point in front of the neck.

On the strength of this evidence, and his behavior at the inquest, Shue was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. He was sentenced to life in prison…which didn’t last long, as he died in 1900.

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1898 – Sergei Eisenstein born. Pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the “Father of Montage“.

He is noted in particular for his silent films Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1927), as well as the historical epics Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958).

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1910 – Django Reinhardt born. Pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer. Reinhardt is often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and regarded as the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom.

Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.

Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become jazz standards, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages“.

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1957 – American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison sold the rights to his flying disc to the Wham-O toy company, which later renamed it the Frisbee.

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1989 – Salvador Dalí died.  Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

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1997 – Richard Berry died. African American singer, songwriter and musician, who performed with many Los Angeles doo-wop and close harmony groups in the 1950s, including The Flairs and The Robins. He is best known as the composer and original performer of …. oh, c’mon – you all must know this…

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Almanac – July 29

1848 – Battle of Ballingarry, Tipperary, Ireland – an unsuccessful nationalist revolt against British rule was put down by police. The Young Irelander Rebellion was a failed  nationalist uprising led by the Young Ireland movement, part of the wider Revolutions of 1848 that affected most of Europe.  After being chased by a force of Young Irelanders and their supporters, an Irish Constabulary unit raided a house and took those inside as hostages. A several-hour gunfight followed, but the rebels fled after a large group of police reinforcements arrived.

It is sometimes called the Famine Rebellion, as it took place during the Great Irish Famine.

1885 – Theda Bara born as  Theodosia Burr Goodman.  American silent film actress, one of the most popular of her era –  ranking behind only Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford – and one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols. Her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname “The Vamp”.  She made more than 40 films between 1914 and 1926, but complete prints of only six still exist.

Theda Bara” is an anagram of “Arab Death

1890 – Vincent van Gogh died, 29 hours after he had  shot himself. His reported last words were  “The sadness will last forever.”

1907 – Sir Robert Baden-Powell set up the Brownsea Island Scout camp in Poole Harbour on the south coast of England, United Kingdom. The camp ran  from August 1 to August 9, 1907, and is regarded as the foundation of the Scouting movement.

1921 – Adolf Hitler became  leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party.

Mr. Frankenstein

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