Sunday, April 04, 2010
In memory of Priscilla Lane* here's a clip of her performing It Had To Be You from the 1939 film The Roaring Twenties; she also got to take a crack at My Melancholy Baby and I'm Just Wild About Harry in the film, and clips of these performances are also available on YouTube, but since this is my favourite song of the three there you go... Lane starred** in the film opposite James Cagney and Gladys George - who's seen in the above clip speaking to Lane's frequent co-star, Jeffrey Lynn.
Lane got her start in show business in the early 1930s as part of a singing quartet called the Lane Sisters, three of whom - Lola, Rosemary, and Priscilla - would each have a modicum of success on their own, while Leota did not; a fifth Lane sister, Martha, avoided show business altogether.
For all its early promise, Priscilla Lane's career in movies would essentially amount to a near-miss; although she appeared in such popular and well-received films as Four Daughters (plus its sequels Four Wives and Four Mothers), as well as Brother Rat***, Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace, and Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) her recalcitrance with the studio meant she was soon being offered fewer and weaker parts, and her seven-year contract with Warner Bros. was suspended after only five. Lane's last movie role came in the 1948 film noir Bodyguard, opposite Lawrence Tierney; except for a talk show broadcast locally in Boston circa 1958, which she did for a year, it would be the end of her career.
*Who died of chronic heart failure brought on by lung cancer on this day in 1995, aged 79.
**And was even billed above the title!
***Most notable for the presences of future US President Ronald Reagan and his future ex-wife Jane Wyman.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleague Ralph Abernathy had stayed in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel so often that it was given the unofficial nickname of the King-Abernathy Suite; for a man who'd been the subject of many death threats - including a notable bombing of his home in January 1956 - whatever comfortable familiarity the room offered him it also offered his foes the kind of access to him that was to be his downfall. The motel, at 450 Mulberry Street in the south end of Memphis, Tennessee, was owned by black businessman Walter Bailey; originally called the Windsor Hotel, it had hosted many black notables since its opening in the 1920s - especially during the days of segregation - given its proximity to Beale Street.
King had been in Memphis to support a walkout organized by black sanitation workers, who were seeking pay equity; the previous evening he'd addressed a crowd at the Mason Temple and delivered his famous speech I've Been to the Mountaintop, which received a thunderous ovation. In it he referred to the many threats against his person, and seemed at peace with the inevitability that one of them might be successfully carried out.
Shortly after 6 PM on this day in 1968, while standing on the hotel's balcony chatting with Jesse Jackson, Dr. King was fatally shot in the neck; the image above shows those traveling with King indicating where the single shot had come from, a boarding house across the street. Witnesses initially had trouble summoning an ambulance, however, because upon learning that Dr. King had been shot the hotel's switchboard operator - Mrs. Bailey, as it turns out, the woman for whom the motel had been named - had suffered a stroke that would claim her life only a few days later. King was eventually taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died.
In the days that followed King's killing dozens of American cities erupted in racial violence; surely whatever his assassins had hoped to accomplish over and above cold-blooded murder, it can safely be said that they failed miserably. The Civil Rights movement - far from foundering - gained momentum in the years following the slaying.
Two months later James Earl Ray was captured at London's Heathrow Airport, traveling on a Canadian passport under the name Ramon George Sneyd; he was later tried and sentenced to 99 years' incarceration for the killing of Dr. King, although Dexter King (among other members of the King family) don't believe Ray to be guilty of plotting the crime, despite his confession, only carrying it out. King's widow Coretta Scott King believed her husband's murder had been orchestrated by Loyd Jowers, the owner of Jim's Grill, a restaurant conveniently located across the street from the Lorraine Motel.
The Lorraine Motel is now the National Civil Rights Museum; the events of King's last days on Earth have been dramatized in the play The Man in Room 306 by Craig Allen Edwards.
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[While there are many iconic images of Los Angeles - from the Hollywood sign to the blanket of lights as observed from the top of Mulholland Drive - oddly enough, its skyline isn't one of them.]
1581 - Francis Drake was knighted by Elizabeth I aboard his ship Golden Hind; Drake had just returned to England, having circumnavigated the globe.
1660 - England's would-be King Charles II signed the Declaration of Breda, which cemented the terms of the English Restoration after the failure of Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth, as well as spelling out the conditions under which he would agree to accept the throne.
1721 - Sir Robert Walpole took office as the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under King George I.
1841 - William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia, becoming both the first President of the United States to die in office and the one with the shortest term served.
1850 - Los Angeles was incorporated as a city.
1859 - The theatrical troupe known as Bryant's Minstrels debuted the song Dixie at Mechanics' Hall in New York City during the finale of their blackface minstrel show; it was an instant hit, even becoming a favourite of President Abraham Lincoln.
1866 - Russia's Tsar Alexander II narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at the hands of Dmitry Karakozov in the city of St. Petersburg.
1887 - Argonia, Kansas, elected Susanna M. Salter as the first female mayor in US history.
1939 - Faisal II became King of Iraq following the suspicious death of his father, Ghazi I.
1949 - Twelve nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty, thereby creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
1958 - The Committee for Nuclear Disarmament's Peace Symbol - designed by Gerald Holtom - was displayed in public for the first time, in London, at a march from Trafalgar Square to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston.
1960 - Senegal gained its independence from France.
1973 - New York's World Trade Center was officially dedicated.
1975 - Microsoft was founded as a partnership between Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and the Devil.
1976 - Prince Norodom Sihanouk resigned as leader of Cambodia and was placed under house arrest by the Khmer Rouge on the orders of Pol Pot.
1979 - Deposed Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed at Rawalpindi.
1983 - The Space Shuttle Challenger made its maiden voyage into space, a mission known as STS-6.
1988 - Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona - an eminent sleazebag - was convicted at the end of his impeachment trial and removed from office; as governor he had canceled the state's observance of Martin Luther King Day, making the day* of his final downfall especially apt.
*The anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King.
1991 - Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania and six others were killed when their helicopter collided with a plane over an elementary school in Merion, Pennsylvania; his widow, Teresa Heinz, later married Senator John Kerry.
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