Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pop History Moment: Motion Picture Academy Founded

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On this day in 1927 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - the same organization which annually bestows Academy Awards - was founded.

The 36 founding members read like a Who's Who of Early Hollywood*: actors Richard Barthelmess, Jack Holt, Conrad Nagel, Milton Sills, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford; directors Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Lloyd, Henry King, Fred Niblo, John M. Stahl, Raoul Walsh; writers Joseph Farnham, Benjamin F. Glazer, Jeanie MacPherson, Bess Meredyth, Carey Wilson, Frank Woods; technicians J. Arthur Ball, Cedric Gibbons, Roy J. Pomeroy; producers Fred Beetson, Charles H. Christie, Sid Grauman, Milton E. Hoffman, Jesse L. Lasky, M. C. Levee, Louis B. Mayer, Joseph M. Schenck, Irving Thalberg, Harry Warner, Jack Warner, Harry Rapf; and lawyers Edwin Loeb and George W. Cohen.

It took just two years for the Academy to conceive of, design, have produced, and hand out the first batch of Oscars, although for the first few years the film community seemed distinctly underwhelmed by them, and it wasn't until the mid-1930s that competition for the little golden men really began heating up. Since the end of the studio era in the mid-1960s disdain for Oscar has once again become a favourite pastime of those wishing to be taken seriously as pretentious posers.

Ostensibly created to honour achievement in film - legend has it entirely at the behest of movie mogul Louis B. Mayer - from the beginning it has done so only in the most bourgeois way; the list of well-known actors and directors who never won an award (Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Burton, Glenn Close, Greta Garbo, and Robert Altman among them) is just as interesting a list as those who have, and has kept pundits - myself included - wondering as to why for years.

*Out of courtesy I've decided not to bold face all the bold face names displayed above, as it would be easier just to print the whole thing in blue.
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POPnews - May 11th

[1812 has been called the worst year in British history by BBC History magazine - not least because it saw the Prime Minister murdered... While readers of the Daily Mail may disagree, who gives a shit about them, their reactionary fascism, and shocking lack of historical perspective anyway?]

1502 - Christopher Columbus left Cadiz on his fourth and final voyage to the West Indies.

1812 - British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was assassinated by John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons - the only head of government in that country's history to have met such a fate - whereupon he was removed to 10 Downing Street for the five days prior to his burial. Bellingham shot the Prime Minister in retaliation for financial reverses he'd suffered; a week later he was hanged for his crime, after which his widow and children were provided with a hefty sum raised by public subscription.

1813 - William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth undertook an expedition westwards from Sydney through the Blue Mountains, looking to open up the interior of Australia for expansion.

1820 - The HMS Beagle was launched at Woolwich Dockyard near London; the vessel remained unused for six years, when it was refitted as survey barque in preparation for use by Charles Darwin on his scientific voyage.

1858 - Minnesota became the 32nd US state.

1867 - Following the Luxembourg Crisis that country gained its independence from Holland under the terms of the Second Treaty of London.

1894 - Four thousand employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company held a wildcat strike in Illinois following a 28% pay cut by the company in response to the Panic of 1893; the Pullman Strike and its ensuing lockout snarled rail traffic west of Chicago for months, and resulted in more than a dozen deaths.

1910 - Glacier National Park in Montana was established by an Act of Congress.

1934 - A two-day storm removed massive amounts of topsoil from the American Great Plains in one of the worst events of the Dust Bowl.

1944 - Axis Sally made her most infamous broadcast - prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy - which was a play called Vision of Invasion. In it she played an American mother who dreamed that her son had died a horrific death in the English Channel, following which an announcer intoned, 'The D of D-Day stands for doom...disaster...death...defeat...Dunkerque or Dieppe.' It was intended as a warning to any soldiers who dared come ashore that day, although it failed to prevent anything except, ultimately, her post-war career.

1949 - Siam - which changed its name to Thailand in 1939, and changed its name back to Siam in 1945 - changed its name yet again to Thailand.

1960 - Four agents of Israel's Mossad (working in conjunction with the Shabak) - including Zvi Aharoni and led by Peter Malkin - captured fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who'd been living in Buenos Aires under the assumed name Ricardo Klement.

1970 - Henry 'Dickie' Marrow was murdered by Robert Teel and his sons Roger and Gerald (who had been a childhood friend of Marrow's) in Oxford, North Carolina - apparently for speaking to Teel's daughter. When an all-white jury exonerated all three murderers, the town's black community went on a rampage, burning and pillaging many of its buildings. The story is related in Timothy Tyson's book Blood Done Sign My Name, which is currently being made into a motion picture by writer-director Jeb Stuart.

1971 - The Daily Sketch - then Britain's oldest tabloid (having been founded in 1909 by Sir Edward Hulton) - closed.

1981 - The musical Cats premiered in the West End's glittering London; it closed 21 years later to the day in 2002.

1985 - 56 spectators died when a flash fire struck a football ground during a match in Bradford.

1987 - Klaus Barbie went on trial in Lyon for war crimes committed during World War II.

1997 - IBM Deep Blue, a chess-playing supercomputer, defeated Garry Kasparov in the last game of the rematch, becoming the first computer to beat a world-champion chess player.

2002 - Dutch Princess Margriet unveiled the Man With Two Hats monument in Ottawa - having previously unveiled an identical one in Apeldoorn - symbolically linking the two countries, commemorating their relationship throughout World War II.
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