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Good News in History, August 3

30 years ago today, Clint Eastwood took “one last job” in Unforgiven, which debuted in theaters in Los Angeles. Co-staring Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, the film was an enormous success—on the financial side grossing more than 10x production costs, and on the critical side, winning four Academy Awards including Best Picture, and being selected for the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” READ about the deep philosophy of the film… (1992)

Still image from Unforgiven – Fair Use.

Sometimes called “Revisionist Western” the film works to mainly deconstruct the black-and-white morality established in earlier western movie cultures. In some ways it borrows from Russian literature, in that it displays often the reality of a lack of morals in the actions of people in immoral situations, and ends up presenting instead a kind of mural of human wretchedness.

The protagonists, rather than avenging the murder of a God-fearing innocent, are hired to collect an illegally-placed bounty by a group of prostitutes on lawful yet debauched men. The protagonists who claim to be fearless killers are either exposed as cowards and weaklings or self-promoting liars. The “law” in this case is also a ruthless killer, who himself, a little like the film’s writers, repeatedly attempts to discredit the image of western gunslinger heroes through his interactions with a biographer. At the end, little ends of any moral relevance is resolved.

To wit, Rotten Tomatoes writes of the film “As both director and star, Clint Eastwood strips away decades of Hollywood varnish applied to the Wild West, and emerges with a series of harshly eloquent statements about the nature of violence.”

 

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • One of the leading opera and ballet venues in the world, La Scala opened in Milan, Italy, with a performance of Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta (1778)
  • America’s first intercollegiate athletic event was held when Yale met Harvard for a crew race (1852)
  • Niger gained independence from France (1960)
  • The Doors started a two week run at No.1 on the U.S singles chart with ‘Hello I Love You’, the group’s second hit to reach the top of the chart (1968)
  • The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was ratified by the US Senate (1972)
  • Golfer Annika Sorenstam completed a career Grand Slam by winning the Women’s British Open (2003)
  • The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty reopened after being closed after the September 11 attacks of 2001 (2004)

Happy 96th Birthday to Tony Bennett, the famed jazz and pop singer who eschews retirement because artists “get busier as they get older.”

Bennett revealed in February that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016, but it’s been progressing slowly. “Touring keeps him on his toes and also stimulates his brain in a significant way,” said his doctor. Along with 6 dates in 2021, Bennett will perform tonight and Thursday with Lady Gaga at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall, celebrating a friendship that began a decade ago with a song on Bennett’s Duets album, that led to their LP Cheek to Cheek and its concert tour.

Winner of 19 Grammys, he grew up in a poor family of Italian immigrants, but his uncle was a vaudeville tap dancer, giving Tony an early window into show business.

After singing in restaurants for money at age 13, he had three No.1 pop hits in the 50s—Because of You, Cold, Cold Heart, and Rags to Riches—but moved on to jazz and became the first male pop vocalist to sing with Count Basie. His 1962 cover, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, won two Grammys and became Bennett’s signature song—along with If I Ruled the World.

A World War II veteran, Bennett has sold over 50 million records worldwide, including his MTV Unplugged platinum LP that won the top prize, Album of the Year.

Also an accomplished painter, he founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Astoria, Queens. You can also read his autobiography, The Good Life and WATCH a spine-tingling song recorded in his home last year during lockdown… (1926)

– PHOTO CREDIT (above): Dwight McCann, CC license

In concert, Bennett always sings one song (usually Fly Me to the Moon) without any microphone or amplification, demonstrating his expert vocal projection, as seen in this video…

86 years ago today, Jesse Owens shocked Adolf Hitler and the Nazis hosting the Berlin Olympics by winning the 100-meter dash.

Click to enlarge

Owens, a black American, also became the first United States athlete to win four gold medals in track and field at the Olympic games. (1936)

Also 146 years ago today, Alexander Graham Bell conducted the world’s first definitive telephone tests.

He made the first intelligible telephone call from building to building, near Brantford, Ontario. In a one-way transmission, he heard his uncle David Bell recite Hamlet, saying, “To be or not to be…” Bell confirmed Brantford as the birthplace of the device in a 1917 speech at the unveiling of the Bell Memorial there: “Brantford is right in claiming the invention of the telephone here…where “the first transmission to a distance was made between Brantford and Paris”—13 miles away. (1876)

Also, 122 years ago today, Ernie Pyle, the famous World War II American war correspondent, was born in Dana, Indiana. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was best known for his stories about ordinary Americans—especially soldiers serving overseas.

Pyle shares a cigarette with troops in the Pacific

Syndicated in hundreds of Scripps-Howard newspapers, his simple accounts were distinctive for their folksy style.

After volunteering to write wartime reports from Europe beginning with the Battle of Britain, he went to the Pacific to cover the war with Japan, where in 1945 he was killed by enemy fire during the Battle of Okinawa. Pyle won the Pulitzer Prize the previous year for his newspaper accounts of “dogface” infantry soldiers told from a first-person perspective. His well-known column was published in 400 daily and 300 weekly newspapers nationwide, and Pyle’s wartime writings are preserved in four books. His most famous column, The Death of Captain Waskow, written in 1943, was later selected by The National Society of Newspaper Columnists as “the best American newspaper column of all time”. WATCH a tribute… (1900)

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