Friday, December 19, 2014

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was published - December 19, 1843



This week (December 19-25) in English literary history – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published (December 19, 1843); Emily Bronte died (December 19, 1848); Robert Frost married Elinor White (December 19, 1895); Poor Richards Almanac was published (December 19, 1732); Thomas Paine’s essay “American Crisis” was published (December 19, 1776); John Steinbeck died (December 20, 1868); Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn divorced (December 21, 1945); F. Scott Fitzgerald died (December 21, 1940); George Eliot (may Anne Evans ) died (December 22, 1880); Beatrix Potter died (December 22, 1943); Samuel Beckett died (December 22, 1989); Stephanie Meyer was born (December 24, 1973).

Highlighted Story of the Week -

On December 19, 1843, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was published. The story is one of the most beloved works of 19th century literature, and the story's enormous popularity helped make Christmas a major holiday in Victorian Britain. When Dickens wrote the story in late 1843 he had ambitious purposes in mind, yet he could never have imagined the profound impact his story would have. Dickens had already achieved great fame. Yet his most recent novel was not selling well, and Dickens feared his success had peaked. Indeed, he faced some serious financial problems as Christmas 1843 approached. And beyond his own worries, Dickens was keenly attuned to the profound misery of the working poor in England. A visit to the grimy industrial city of Manchester motivated him to tell the story of a greedy businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, who would be transformed by the Christmas spirit.

Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown into debtors' prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors' jail became topics of several of Dickens' novels. In his late teens, Dickens became a reporter and started publishing humorous short stories when he was 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories, Sketches by Boz, later known as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, was published. The same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he would have nine children. The short sketches in his collection were originally commissioned as captions for humorous drawings by caricature artist Robert Seymour, but Dickens' whimsical stories about the kindly Samuel Pickwick and his fellow club members soon became popular in their own right. When the stories were published in book form in 1837, Dickens quickly became the most popular author of the day.

The successes were soon reproduced with Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839). In 1841, Dickens published two more novels, then spent five months in the United States, where he was welcomed as a literary hero. Dickens never lost momentum as a writer, churning out major novels every year or two, often in serial form. Among his most important works are David Copperfield (1850), Great Expectations (1861), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Beginning in 1850, he published his own weekly circular of fiction, poetry, and essays called “Household Words.” In 1858, Dickens separated from his wife and began a long affair with a young actress. He gave frequent readings, which became immensely popular. He died in 1870 at the age of 58, with his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, still unfinished. Dickens was interred within Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey in London.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in English Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:
 
http://www.amazon.com/Literary-Legends-British-Isles-Writers/dp/0764344382/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419012782&sr=8-1&keywords=michael+thomas+barry&pebp=1419012809885


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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Darryl Zanuck Died - December 22, 1979


 
This week (December 17-23) in Hollywood history – Jennifer Jones died (December 17, 2009); Dana Andrews died (December 17, 1992); Thomas Mitchell died (December 17, 1962); Betty Grable was born (December 18, 1916); Irene Dunne was born (December 20, 1898); Clark Gable married Ricky Anne Loew-Beer (December 20, 1949); Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered (December 21, 1937); Darryl Zanuck died (December 22, 1979); Butterfly McQueen died (December 22, 1995). 

Highlighted Story of the Week -  

On December 22, 1979, Darryl Zanuck, the powerful Hollywood studio chief and producer behind a long list of classic movies, including The Grapes of Wrath, All About Eve and The Longest Day, died at age 77 in Palm Springs, California. Zanuck was a force in the movie business for four decades, during which he greenlit hundreds of projects and promoted the careers of such actors as Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power.

Zanuck was born on September 5, 1902, in Wahoo, Nebraska, and began his career in Hollywood as a writer in the early 1920s. He penned scripts for the canine film star Rin Tin Tin at Warner Brothers and by the early 1930s was head of production for the movie studio. In 1933, Zanuck left Warner to co-found Twentieth Century Pictures, which in 1935 merged with Fox Studios to become Twentieth Century-Fox. At Twentieth Century-Fox, Zanuck signed contracts with actors including Fonda, Power, Gene Tierney and Betty Grable and produced or gave the go-ahead to now-classic films like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), Twelve O’ Clock High (1949), and All About Eve (1950). Zanuck’s final film was the 1970 box-office disappointment Tora! Tora! Tora!, about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was forced out as the head of Twentieth Century-Fox in 1971. Zanuck is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.  

Check back every Wednesday for another installment of “This Week in Hollywood History.”
 


Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Socialite Sunny von Bulow was Found Unconscious - December 21, 1980



This week (December 15-21) in crime history – Singer John Brown began serving prison term for assault and other crimes (December 15, 1988); Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death for war crimes (December 15, 1961); Federal Judge Robert Vance was killed by mail bomb (December 16, 1989); Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was sentenced to life in prison for attempted assassination of President Ford (December 17, 1975); John Kehoe, last of the Molly Maguires was executed (December 18, 1878); Three black men are beaten by group of white teens in Howard Beach (December 20, 1986); Socialite Sunny von Bulow was found unconscious at her Rhode Island mansion (December 21, 1980).  

Highlighted crime story of the week -

On December 21, 1980, wealthy socialite Martha "Sunny" von Bulow was found unconscious on the marble bathroom floor of her Newport, Rhode Island, mansion; the result of what appeared to be an insulin overdose. Following a long investigation, Sunny's husband, Claus von Bulow, was charged with two counts of attempted murder and was convicted in a sensational trial in 1982. But the conviction was later overturned, and Claus was acquitted at a second trial in 1985. 

Sunny Crawford, the only daughter of a wealthy oil and gas businessman, married Danish social climber Claus von Bulow in 1966. The couple enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle together, but the marriage apparently hit troubled times, particularly after daughter Cosima was born, and the two began sleeping in separate bedrooms. Claus, who had no independent source of income, was reportedly angry that Sunny was sitting on a $75 million fortune. 

After Sunny fell into the coma, her personal secretary came forward, alleging that Claus kept a black bag containing insulin in his closet. With this information, Sunny's children pressed for a deeper investigation into Claus' involvement and eventually convinced authorities that there was enough evidence to prosecute. In fact, her coma on December 21 was not Sunny's first brush with death. Less than a year earlier, she had mysteriously lapsed into a coma but eventually recovered. At the time, friends and family noted that Claus seemed strangely unconcerned. He had tried to blame the coma on Sunny's alleged alcoholism, despite the fact that there were no traces of alcohol found in her system, and medical officials had no explanation for the coma. 

During the investigation, police discovered that Claus had been having an affair with a former soap opera actress. The actress testified that she had issued Claus an ultimatum date that closely corresponded to the date of Sunny's first coma. Many believed the circumstances surrounding both of Sunny's comas undeniably implicated Claus. The case was boosted into the public's consciousness by the second trial, which was televised and the bestselling book Reversal of Fortune, which focused on the efforts of Claus' defense team to get his conviction overturned. 

After Claus was convicted in 1982, he hired famous defense attorney Alan Dershowitz to handle his appeal. Dershowitz, who uncovered evidence suggesting that Sunny's coma may have been self-induced, also found enough discrepancies in the secretary's testimony to have Claus' conviction overturned. Soon after, Sunny's children filed suit against Claus, who settled the suit by agreeing to renounce all claims to Sunny's fortune. He then promptly relocated to London. Sunny remained in a persistent vegetative state until her death in 2008. 

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.” 
 
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jane Austen was Born - December 16, 1775



This week (December 12-18) in English literary history – Robert Browning died (December 12, 1889); Aphra Behn was baptized (December 14, 1640); George Orwell finished Road to Wigan Pier (December 15, 1936); Roald Dahl married Liccy Crosland (December 15, 1983); Jane Austen was born (December 16, 1775); Wilhelm Grimm died (December 16, 1859); Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired on CBS (December 18, 1966).  

Highlighted story of the week -  

On December 16, 1775, English novelist Jane Austen was born, the seventh of eight children of a clergyman in a country village in Hampshire, England. Jane was very close to her older sister, Cassandra, who remained her faithful editor and critic throughout her life. The girls had five years of formal schooling, then studied with their father. Jane read voraciously and began writing stories as early as age 12, completing a novella at age 14. Austen's quiet, happy world was disrupted when her parents suddenly decided to retire to Bath in 1801. Jane hated the resort town and found herself without the time or peace and quiet required to write. Instead, she amused herself by making close observations of ridiculous society manners. After her father's death in 1805, Jane, her mother, and sister lived with one of her brothers until 1808, when another brother provided them a permanent home at Chawton Cottage, in Hampshire. 

Jane concealed her writing from most of her acquaintances, slipping her writing paper under a blotter when someone entered the room. Though she avoided society, she was charming, intelligent, and funny, and had several admirers. She actually accepted the marriage proposal of a well-off friend of her family's, but the next day withdrew her acceptance, having decided she could only marry for love. She published several more novels before her death, including Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). She died in Winchester on July 18, 1817 at age 42, of what may have been Addison's disease and was buried at Winchester Cathedral. Nearly 200 years after her death, Austen is one of a handful of authors to have found enduring popularity with both academic and popular readers. 

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in English Literary History.” 

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that include the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

 
http://www.amazon.com/Literary-Legends-British-Isles-Writers/dp/0764344382/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418400813&sr=8-1&keywords=michael+thomas+barry

 
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" Opened in Theaters - December 12, 1967



This week (December 10-16) in Hollywood history – Victor McLaglen was born (December 10, 1886); Douglas Fairbanks Sr. died (December 12, 1939); Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner opened in theaters (December 12, 1967); Frank Sinatra was born (December 12, 1915); Anne Baxter died (December 12, 1985); Dick Van Dyke was born (December 13, 1925); Christopher Plummer was born (December 13, 1929); Myrna Loy died (December 14, 1993); Walt Disney died (December 15, 1966); Charlie Chaplin began his movie career (December 16, 1913).

Highlighted Story of the Week –

On December 12, 1967, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton, opened in theaters. The film followed the story of a young white woman (Houghton) who brings her fiancĂ© (Poitier), an African-American doctor, home to meet her parents, played by Hepburn and Tracy in their last film together. Off-screen, the couple had a long romance, although Tracy was married to another woman. He died on June 10, 1967, a short time after the movie wrapped. Directed by Stanley Kramer, who was known for other films such as Inherit the Wind and Judgment at Nuremberg; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner examined the reactions of the young couple’s various family members and friends to their taboo relationship. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and collected two Oscars, including Best Actress for Hepburn, the second of her career.

Hepburn (1907-2003) won four Academy Awards (out of 12 total nominations) over the course of her long career. The legendary screen star followed her Oscar win for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with Best Actress wins for The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981). Her final feature film was 1994’s Love Affair, with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.

Sidney Poitier, earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 1958’s The Defiant Ones, directed by Stanley Kramer and co-starring Tony Curtis and Theodore Bikel. For his performance as a handyman who builds a chapel for a group of German nuns in 1963’s Lilies of the Field, he became the first black man ever to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Among Poitier’s other well-known films are To Sir, With Love (1967) and In the Heat of the Night (1967).

Spencer Tracy (1900-1967) took home his first Best Actor Oscar for 1937’s Captains Courageous, having been previously nominated in the category for 1936’s San Francisco. He won again for 1938’s Boys Town and went on to earn five other nominations. Tracy received his ninth and final Best Actor Oscar nomination for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment of “This Week in Hollywood History.”
 
 
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction book that include the award winning Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Monday, December 8, 2014

John Lennon was Murdered - December 8, 1980



This week (December 8-14) in crime history – John Lennon was murdered (December 8, 1980); Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped (December 10, 1963); Bernie Madoff was arrested for masterminding a Ponzi scheme (December 11, 2008); Singer Sam Cooke was shot and killed (December 11, 1964); Leona Helmsley was sentenced for tax fraud (December 12, 1989); The Mona Lisa was recovered two years after it was stolen from the Louvre (December 12, 1913); Texas Seven escape from a maximum security prison (December 13, 2000). 

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week - 

On December 8, 1980, singer John Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment building in New York City. After committing the murder, Chapman waited calmly outside, reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman was a troubled individual who was obsessed with Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the J.D. Salinger's novel about a disaffected youth, and with various celebrities. While working as a security guard in Hawaii, he decided that Lennon was a phony and, while listening to Beatles tapes, Chapman decided to plan his murder. Chapman purchased a gun and traveled to New York. Although he called his wife to tell her that he was in New York to shoot Lennon, she ignored his threats. Unable to buy bullets in New York due to strict laws, Chapman flew to Atlanta and purchased hollow-nosed rounds. 

On the day of the murder, Chapman bought an extra copy of The Catcher in the Rye and joined fans waiting outside The Dakota, Lennon's apartment building. That evening, as Lennon walked by on his way into the building, Chapman shot him in the back and then fired two additional bullets into his shoulder as the singer wrenched around in pain. On June 8, 1980, just two weeks before he was scheduled to present an insanity defense at trial, Chapman pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 20 years-to-life. Ironically, Chapman was sent to Attica prison, where 10 years earlier, rioting had inspired Lennon and wife, Yoko Ono, to record a benefit song to "free all prisoners everywhere." In prison, Chapman became a born-again Christian and spends his time writing evangelical tracts for publication. 

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.

 


Michael Thomas Barry is columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that include Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Willa Cather was Born - December 7, 1873



This week (December 5-11) in English literary history – John Steinbeck’s “Sea of Cortez” was published (December 5, 1941); First African-American female poet Phillis Wheatley died (December 5, 1784); James Joyce’s Ulysses was deemed not obscene by a U.S. Federal judge (December 6, 1933); Poet Joyce Kilmer was born (December 6, 1886); Willa Cather was born (December 7, 1873); Thornton Wilder died (December 7, 1975); James Thurber was born (December 8, 1894); Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade” was published (December 9, 1854); John Milton was born (December 9, 1608); Emily Dickinson was born (December 10. 1830). 

Highlighted Story of the Week -  

On December 7, 1873, Willa Cather was born in Winchester, Virginia. Cather was the first of seven children born to an old Virginia family dating back to colonial times. Her maternal grandfather served several terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. Her grandmother was a strong, courageous woman who had a powerful influence on Cather and served as the model for several of her characters. Cather's family moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska, when she was a child, and for the rest of her life she wrote about the deep conflict she felt between East and West. While books like O Pioneers (1913) and My Antonia (1918) celebrated the spirit of the frontier, in other works, such as The Song of the Lark (1915), she explores the stifling effects of small-town life on creative young minds. 

After graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1895, Cather moved to Pittsburgh to be an editor for a family magazine. She later became an editor for the daily paper in Pittsburgh. In 1901, she became a teacher and stuck with it for several years while she published her first book of poems, “April Twilights” in 1903, and her first collection of short stories, “The Troll Garden” (1905). She then moved to New York to take a job as managing editor of McClure's, a monthly publication, and began writing novels. Her first, Alexander's Bridge, appeared in 1912, but she didn't find her true voice until O Pioneers. Cather won a Pulitzer in 1922 for One of Ours. Her 1927 novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop, the story of two French-Canadian priests who build a cathedral in the wilds of New Mexico, was also well received. Cather lived most of her adult life in New York, writing novels until her death on April 24, 1947 from a cerebral hemorrhage at her home in Park Avenue in New York City. She was buried at Old Burying Ground in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. 

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in English Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and soon to be released America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links: