Oct 20, 1947:
Congress Investigates Reds In Hollywood
~~"On October 20, 1947, the notorious Red Scare kicks into high gear in Washington, as a Congressional committee begins investigating Communist influence in one of the world's richest and most glamorous communities: Hollywood.
After World War II, the Cold War began to heat up between the world's two superpowers—the United States and the communist-controlled Soviet Union. In Washington, conservative watchdogs worked to out communists in government before setting their sights on alleged "Reds" in the famously liberal movie industry. In an investigation that began in October 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) grilled a number of prominent witnesses, asking bluntly "Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" Whether out of patriotism or fear, some witnesses—including director Elia Kazan, actors Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor and studio honchos Walt Disney and Jack Warner—gave the committee names of colleagues they suspected of being communists.
A small group known as the "Hollywood Ten" resisted, complaining that the hearings were illegal and violated their First Amendment rights. They were all convicted of obstructing the investigation and served jail terms. Pressured by Congress, the Hollywood establishment started a blacklist policy, banning the work of about 325 screenwriters, actors and directors who had not been cleared by the committee. Those blacklisted included composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman and Dorothy Parker, playwright Arthur Miller and actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.
Some of the blacklisted writers used pseudonyms to continue working, while others wrote scripts that were credited to other writer friends. Starting in the early 1960s, after the downfall of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the most public face of anti-communism, the ban began to lift slowly. In 1997, the Writers' Guild of America unanimously voted to change the writing credits of 23 films made during the blacklist period, reversing—but not erasing—some of the damage done during the Red Scare."
(I didn't know he used to be in the circus!)
Oct 20, 1994:
Burt Lancaster Dies
~~"On this day in 1994, Burt Lancaster, a former circus performer who rose to fame as a Hollywood leading man with some 70 movies to his credit, including From Here to Eternity and Atlantic City, in a career that spanned more than four decades, dies of a heart attack at the age of 80 in Century City, California.
Lancaster was born on November 2, 1913, in New York City and raised in East Harlem. After a stint at New York University, which he attended on an athletic scholarship, he quit to join the circus, where he worked as an acrobat. An injury forced Lancaster to give up the circus in 1939, and he worked a series of jobs until he was drafted into the Army in 1942. Three years later, while on leave, Lancaster’s acting career was launched after he went to visit the woman who would become his second wife at the theatrical office where she was employed and was asked by a producer’s assistant to audition for a Broadway play. He got the part, as an Army sergeant, and soon got noticed by Hollywood. In 1946, Lancaster made his silver-screen debut opposite Ava Gardner in The Killers, based on an Ernest Hemingway short story. Lancaster stars as The Swede, a former boxer who’s tangled up with the mob and waiting to be murdered by hit men.
He went on to star in the 1951 biopic Jim Thorpe: All-American, about the Native American Olympian, and 1952’s The Crimson Pirate, in which he put his acrobatic skills to use as the swashbuckling title character. In 1953, he co-starred with Deborah Kerr and Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity, a World War II film set in Hawaii just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film, which contained the now-iconic scene in which Lancaster and Kerr are locked in a beachside embrace as waves roll over them, earned Lancaster his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. Among Lancaster’s other movie credits during the 1950s were Apache (1954), in which he plays a Native American warrior; Sweet Smell of Success (1957), in which he plays a ruthless gossip columnist; and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), in which he portrays Wyatt Earp to Kirk Douglas’s Doc Holliday.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Lancaster appeared in movies such as 1960’s Elmer Gantry, which earned him a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as a con man turned preacher; 1961’s Judgment at Nuremberg, about the World War II Nazi war-crime trials; 1962’s Birdman of Alcatraz, which was based on the true story of a convicted murderer who becomes a bird expert while behind bars and garnered Lancaster another Best Actor Oscar nomination; Italian director Luchino Visconti’s 1963 historical drama The Leopard, in which Lancaster plays an aging aristocrat; 1968’s The Swimmer, based on a John Cheever story; the 1970 disaster movie Airport; and 1979’s Zulu Dawn, with Peter O’Toole and Bob Hoskins.
In 1980, Lancaster co-starred in director Louis Malle’s Atlantic City and his performance as an aging gangster earned him his fourth Best Actor Academy Award nomination. He was also featured in Local Hero (1983), in which he plays an eccentric oil company owner; and 1989’s Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner.
Lancaster formed a production company with his agent, Harold Hecht, in the 1950s, becoming one of the first actors in Hollywood to do so. Among his producing credits were 1955’s Marty, which won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Ernest Borgnine)."
(I remember this)
Oct 20, 1977:
Three Members Of The Southern Rock Band Lynyrd Skynyrd Die In A Mississippi Plane Crash
~~"In the summer of 1977, members of the rock band Aerosmith inspected an airplane they were considering chartering for their upcoming tour—a Convair 240 operated out of Addison, Texas. Concerns over the flight crew led Aerosmith to look elsewhere—a decision that saved one band but doomed another. The aircraft in question was instead chartered by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who were just setting out that autumn on a national tour that promised to be their biggest to date. On this day in 1977, however, during a flight from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lynyrd Skynyrd's tour plane crashed in a heavily wooded area of southeastern Mississippi during a failed emergency landing attempt, killing band-members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines as well as the band's assistant road manager and the plane's pilot and co-pilot. Twenty others survived the crash.
The original core of Lynyrd Skynyrd—Ronnie Van Zant, Bob Burns, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Larry Junstrom—first came together under the name "My Backyard" back in 1964, as Jacksonville, Florida, teenagers. Under that name and several others, the group developed its chops playing local and regional gigs throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, then finally broke out nationally in 1973 following the adoption of the name "Lynyrd Skynyrd" in honor of a high school gym teacher/nemesis named Leonard Skinner. The newly renamed band scored a major hit with their hard-driving debut album (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd) (1973), which featured one of the most familiar and joked-about rock anthems of all time, "Free Bird." Their follow-up album, Second Helping (1974), included the even bigger hit "Sweet Home Alabama," and it secured the band's status as giants of the southern rock subgenre.
On October 17, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd—now in a lineup that included backup singer Cassie Gaines and her guitarist brother, Steve—released their fifth studio album, Street Survivors, which would eventually be certified double-platinum. Three days later, however, tragedy struck the group when their chartered Convair 240 began to run out of fuel at 6,000 feet en route to Baton Rouge. The plane's crew, whom the National Transportation Safety Board would hold responsible for the mishap in the accident report issued eight months later, radioed Houston air-traffic control as the plane lost altitude, asking for directions to the nearest airfield. "We're low on fuel and we're just about out of it," the pilot told Houston Center at approximately 6:42 pm. "We want vectors to McComb [airfield] poste-haste please, sir." Approximately 13 minutes later, however, the plane crashed just outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi."