Calendar: August 31

A Year: Day to Day Men: 31st of August

The Morning Pick-Up

August 31, 1963 marks the passing of French painter Georges Braque.

Georges Braque’s earliest works were impressionistic; however, he adopted a Fauvist style after seeing an exhibition by the “Fauves” group in 1905. The group which included Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, were using a palette of bold colors to represent their emotional responses to the subject of their paintings. Developing a friendship with Othon Friesz, Braque traveled with him in Europe gradually developing a more subdued palette for his work.

Braque had a successful first-time exhibition of his new work in May of 1907 at the Salon des Indépendants: six paintings were exhibited and sold. That same year, Braque’s style began a slow change to a more Cubist style influenced by an exhibition of the recently deceased Paul Cézanne. The year of 1907 was special to Braque: he was introduced to Pablo Picasso and  first met notable French art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who became a supporter of Braque and Picasso and the Cubist movement in art.

Braque’s paintings of 1908–1912 reflected his new interest in geometry and simultaneous perspective. He conducted an intense study of the effects of light and perspective, eventually rendering the shading of his subjects so that they looked both flat and three-dimensional by fragmenting the image. Beginning in 1909 Braque worked closely with Picasso, who had also been developing a proto-Cubist style. Together both artists produced paintings of monochromatic color and complex faceted forms, developing what is now known as Analytic Cubism.

Braque and Picasso’s collaboration continued and they worked closely together until the beginning of World War I in 1914, when Braque enlisted with the French Army.  Braque received a severe head injury in May of 1915 in the battle at Carency, suffering temporary blindness. Braque recovered and resumed painting in late 1916. Working alone, he began to moderate the harsh abstraction of cubism. Braque developed a more personal style characterized by brilliant color, textured surfaces, and the reappearance of the human figure.

Georges Braque continued to work during the remainder of his life, producing a considerable number of paintings, graphics, and sculptures. In 1962 Braque worked with master printmaker Aldo Crommelynck to create his series of etchings and aquatints titled “L’Ordre des Oiseaux (The Order of Birds)”.  He died on August 31st of 1963 in Paris. He is buried in the cemetery of the Church of Saint Valery in Varengeville-sur-Mer, Normandy, whose windows he had designed.

“By using a white paint applied to the canvas I make a napkin. But I am sure the white shape is something conceived before knowing what it was to become. This means that a certain transformation has taken place.. .In a painting, what counts is the unexpected.” – Georges Braque

Top Insert Image: Georges Braque, The Mouve Tablecloth, 1936, Oil on Canvas, 85 x 131 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Georges_Braque, “Maisons à l’Estaque”, 1908, Oil on Canvas, 73 x 59.5 cm, Kunst Murwum, Bern, Switzerland

Calendar: August 30

A Year: Day to Day Men: 30th of August

The One Budded Cross

August 30, 1797 was the birthdate of English author, Mary Shelley.

Writer Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She was the daughter of philosopher and political writer William Godwin and famed feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. While Shelley  didn’t have a formal education, she did make great use of her father’s extensive library. Shelley found a creative outlet in writing.

In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father’s political followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married. Together with Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley left for France and travelled through Europe. Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy’s child. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. They married in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy Shelley’s first wife, Harriet.

In 1816, Mary and Percy Shelley famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus”. The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley.

In 1822, Percy Shelley drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio, in northern Tuscany, Italy. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumor that was to kill her at the age of 53 in February of 1851.

Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish her husband’s works and for her 1818 anonymously published “Frankenstein” novel, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations. Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley’s achievements.

Studies of her lesser-known works support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life. Mary Shelley’s works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practiced by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic-era ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.

Calendar: August 29

A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of August

The Trenchcoat

August 29, 1900 was the birthdate of artist and architect Oscar Ernest Nitzchke.

Oscar Nitzchke entered the Ecole des Beauz-Arts in Geneva in 1917 and the Atelier Laloux-Lemaresquier in Paris in 1920. In the years 1921 and 1922 he studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris and began working in the office of the Swiss-French architect and designer Le Corbusier. Nitzchke joined the Atelier du Palais de Bois in 1923 under Auguste Perret, the French architect who pioneered the use of reinforced concrete in architecture.

In 1936 Nitzchke made a set of presentation drawings for a building for a private client, Maison de la Publicite, that failed to reach completion. These drawings were later acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and displayed at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

In December of 1938, Oscar Nitzchke came to the United States to become Associate Professor at the School of Architecture at Yale University, and to work with the architecture firm of Harrison & Fouilhoux in New York as head of design research. While working with Harrison & Fouilhoux, Nitzchke took part in the design of the Alcoa Building in Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Opera House projects. During the time he was with the firm, he also worked on the design for the Mellon National Bank and Trust Company in Pittsburgh, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Nitzchke worked with the firm Harrison & Abromovitz for fifteen years. He left to become the head of design for Jim Nash Associates in New York, a position he held from 1958 to 1961. Nitzchke retired in the early 1970s. In 1981 Nitzchke’s architecture designs were shown at the Paris Exposition at the Pompidou Center; in 1985 at the Institut Francais d’Architecture in Paris, and at New York’s Cooper Union in 1985.

Despite becoming deaf in 1951, Nitzchke continued to develop imaginative projects for competitions such as the San Salvador Cathedral in 1953-1954, with its soaring concrete shell vaults. In 1970, he retired to Paris, preparing drawings for exhibitions of his work, living with his family until his death in 1991.

Although he built little and seldom appears in standard histories of modern architecture, Oscar Nitzchke was much admired among avant-garde architects. During his fifty years in practice, he consistently produce innovative designs that remain surprisingly fresh. His later work articulated form and materials in their marked legibility of functions. An example of this were Nitzchke’s designs for prefabricated buildings with the use of external corrugated copper and steel cladding, which made no attempt to imitate traditional materials as earlier prefabricated buildings had.

Calendar: August 28

A Year: Day to Day Men: 28th of August

Smokin’ Guns

August 28, 1925 was the birthdate of American dancer, singer, and actor Donald O’Connor.

Donald O’Connor was born in Chicago to parents Effie Irene Crane and John Edward O’Connor, both vaudeville entertainers. He began performing in movies in 1937 at the age of eleven, making his uncredited debut in the Columbia Pictures’ film “It Can’t Last Forever”.  O’Conner, then twelve, signed a contract at Paramount Studio and appeared in two films in 1938: “Men with Wings” playing a younger version of Fred Mac Murray’s character, and in “Sing You Sinners” appearing as Bing Crosby’s character’s younger brother.

Donald O’Connor appeared in eight more films between the years 1938 and 1939. He appeared as Huckleberry Finn in the 1938 “Tom Sawyer, Detective” and in the 1939 “Boy Trouble” playing an orphan boy with ill with scarlet fever. O’ Connor received fourth billing in “Million Dollar Legs” with Betty Grable and played Gary Cooper as a young boy in the 1939 “Beau Geste”. In 1940, having outgrown child roles, O’Connor returned to the vaudeville stage.

On his eighteenth birthday in August 1943, O’Connor was drafted into the army. Before he reported for induction in February 1944, Universal Studio, with whom he had signed in 1941, already had seven O’Connor films completed. With a backlog of these features, deferred openings at the theaters kept O’Connor’s screen presence uninterrupted during the two years he was overseas.

In 1949, he played the lead role in the film “Francis”, the story of a soldier befriended by a talking mule. The film was a huge success. As a consequence, his musical career was constantly interrupted by production of one “Francis” film per year until 1955. O’Connor received an offer to play Cosmo the piano player in the 1952 “Singin’ in the Rain” at MGM. This earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical. The film featured his widely known rendition of “Make ‘Em Laugh” and the notable scene during a dance number when he runs up a wall and does a flip.

The most distinctive characteristic of O’Connor’s dancing style was its athleticism, for which he had few rivals. Yet it was his boyish charm that audiences found most engaging, and which remained an appealing aspect of his personality throughout his career. In his early Universal films, O’Connor closely mimicked the smart alec, fast-talking personality of Mickey Rooney of rival MGM Studio. For “Singin’ in the Rain” however, MGM cultivated a much more sympathetic sidekick persona, and that remained O’Connor’s signature image.

Calendar: August 27

A Year: Day to Day Men: 27th of August

Stretching to the Right

August 27, 1665 was the date of the first documented staging of a play in North America.

In 1665, the performance of a play was a crime, as was violating the Sabbath. Defaming the person or character of his/her majesty or their representatives in the colony was also a crime on the books.

The first documented staging of an English-language play in North America was presented on August 27, 1665 at Fowkes Tavern in Accomac County on the eastern shore of Virginia. After the first performance, the play, which has no credited playwright and was rumored to have been of a political nature, was closed by the local authorities for “showing forth profane”. Edward Martin, an Accomac County resident thought to be a Quaker, brought a complaint against the actors, resulting in all three actors in the performance arrested and charged.

The case was tried two weeks later in the very same room of the tavern where the performance occurred. To prove the charge of being profane, the presiding judge had the offending performers reenact the play before the court. The judge, apparently, found nothing especially offensive with the play and actually thought it “entertaining”. Consequently, the judge ruled the performers not guilty of the charges and freed them; he also ordered the critic Edward Martin to pay court costs for wasting the court’s attention in the first place.

The play in question was entitled “Ye Bear and Ye Cubb” , and was likely the invention of the three offending presenters: Cornelius Watkinson, Philip Howard, and William Darby. It took veiled aim at the mother country Britain’s punitive trade laws. Unfortunately, no copy of the play survives, only the public record that documents this curious little bit of very early American theatre history. This play remains the earliest known performance of a play in the British North American colonies and the first one to receive a very poor review.

A Virginia Historical Marker, Marker #WY19, on Route 13 in Accomac, Virginia, shows the probable site of the Fowkes Tavern. 

Calendar: August 26

A Year: Day to Day Men: 26th of August


August 26, 1986 marks the passing of American comedic actor Ted Knight.

After World War Two, Ted Knight studied acting in Hartford, Connecticut where he became proficient with puppets and ventriloquism. This led to steady work as a television kiddie-show host at WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1950 to 1955. In Albany, New York, Knight hosted “The Early Show” for station WROW,  featuring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies.

Ted Knight spent most of his early years in Hollywood doing commercial voice-overs and playing minor television and movie roles. He had a small part at the end of Hitchcock’s movie “Psycho” playing the police officer guarding the arrested Norman Bates. Knight guest-starred in the episode “The Defector” of the 1961 season of the syndicated television series “Sea Hunt” which starred  Lloyd Bridges. He appeared frequently in all the popular television shows at that time including “Highway Patrol”, “The Outer Limits”, “The Donna Reed Show’, “Bonanza”, and”McHale’s Navy”, among others.

Probably Ted Knight’s most well-known role was his work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” which ran from 1970 to 1977.  His role as the WJM newscaster Ted Baxter brought Knight widespread recognition and his greatest success. The Ted Baxter character was the dim-witted, vain, and miserly anchorman of the “Six O’Clock News”. Baxter frequently made mistakes and was oblivious to the actual nature of the topics covered on the show, but considered himself to be the country’s best news journalist. Ted Knight received six Emmy Award nominations for the role, winning the Emmy for “Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Comedy” in 1973 and 1976.

Ted Knight’s distinctive speaking voice brought him work as an announcer, notably as narrator of most of Filmation Studio’s superhero cartoons as well as voice of incidental characters. He was narrator of the first season of the “Super Friends” and other animated television series. Knight’s work included the voices of the opening narrator and team leader Commander Jonathan Kidd in the animated science fiction television series “Fantastic Voyage”.

A few months after the end of the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1977, Ted Knight was diagnosed with cancer for which he received various forms of treatment over several years. In 1985, the cancer returned as colon cancer which, despite rigorous treatment, eventually began to spread. Knight’s condition continued to worsen and he died on August 26, 1986, at the age of 62. He is buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His grave marker bears his birth name Theodore C. Konopka and, at the bottom, the words “Bye Guy”, a reference to his Ted Baxter catchphrase “Hi, guy!”.

Calendar: August 25

A Year: Day to Day Men: 25th of August

Marrakesh Delicacy

Beginning on August 25, 1835, six articles about the discovery of life on the Moon are published in the New York Sun newspaper.

The Great Moon Hoax refers to the series of articles published by the Sun, describing the discovery of life and possibly civilization on the Moon. The article was attributed to Sir John Herschel, one of the best known astronomers of that period, and written down by Dr. Andrew Grant, the personal secretary of Herschel.  The discoveries were made with an immense telescope based on an entirely new principle. Fantastic animals, including goats and bison, as well as bat-like winged humanoids were described. Ultimately, the observations were terminated with the destruction of the telescope and the observatory by the intense heat of the sun focusing through the lens of the telescope.

Authorship of the articles has been attributed to Richard Adams Locke, a reporter working for the New York Sun. Locke admitted it years later in an letter to the weekly paper “New World”. Rumors persisted that others were involved; but no evidence could be found to support that theory. Locke never gave any reasons for writing the series. His intentions were probably first to create a sensational story which would increase sales of The Sun, and, second, to ridicule some astronomical theories recently published.

In 1824, Franz von Paula Gruithuisen, Professor of Astronomy at Munich University, published a paper titled “Discovery of Many Distinct Traces of Lunar Inhabitants,  Especially of One Their Colossal Buildings”. Gruithuisen claimed to have observed color on the lunar surface, indicating climate and vegetation zones, and lines and geometric shapes, indicating the existence of walls, roads, fortifications, and cities.  Reverend Thomas Dick, minister and science teacher, wrote a book that computed the number of inhabitants of the solar system; the moon by his count would contain four billion inhabitants. Reverend Dick’s writings were very popular in the United States; Ralph Waldo Emerson was a fan of his book.

The story was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication; even then, the New York Sun did not issue a retraction. Sir John Herschel was initially amused by the hoax, but grew annoyed when he had to answer questions by people who really believed the story was true. The Sun’s circulation increased dramatically because of the hoax and remained greater than before, establishing The Sun as a successful paper. The Great Moon Hoax is mentioned by characters in Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon”, published in 1865 by Pierre-Jules Hetzel.

Calendar: August 24


A Year: Day to Day Men: 24th of August

The Lone Butterfly

August 24, 1957 is the birthdate of comedian and actor Stephen John Fry.

Stephen Fry’s television career began with the 1982 broadcast of “The Cellar Tapes”, a revue written by Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Tony Slattery. This caught the attention of the ITV Granada television studio which  hired Fry, Laurie, and Thompson for the 1982 sketch comedy show, “There is Nothing to Worry About!”.  A second series, retitles “Alfresco”, helped establish Fry and Laurie’s reputation as a comedy double act.

The BBC in 1986 commissioned a sketch show that became “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”, which ran for 26 episodes and spanned four successful series between 1986 and 1995. During this time period, Fry starred in “Blackadder II” as Lord Melchett, made a guest appearance in “Blackadder the Third”, and then starred in “Blackadder Goes Forth” as General Melchett again. Between 1990 and 1993, Fry starred as Jeeves, alongside Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster character, in “Jeeves and Wooster”, 23 hour-long adaptions of P. G. Wodehouse’s novels.

Stephen Fry has appeared in a number of BBC adaptions of plays and books. He played the lead role and was the executive producer for the legal drama “Kingdom”, which ran for three series. Fry also took up the recurring role of doctor /chief Gordon Wyatt on the popular televison drama “Bones. The 2011 Monty Python film “Holy Flying Circus” saw Stephen Fry in the role of God.

Starting in 2006, Stephen Fry began appearing in documentaries and other fact-based programs. His first was the Emmy Award-winning 2006 “Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”. The same year, he appeared on the BBC’s genealogy series “Who Do You Think You Are?”.  In 2007, Fry presented a documentary on the subject of HIV and AIDS entitled “HIV and Me”. He followed these up with many nature series, a six-part travel series through each section of the United States, a two-part documentary on people’s attitudes to gay people in different parts of the world, and portrayed Oscar Wilde in the 1997 film “Wilde”, earning a nomination for a Golden Globe Best Actor in a Drama.

Stephen Fry married his partner, comedian Elliott Spencer on January 17, 2015, in the town of Dereham in Norfolk, England. Throughout his life, Fry has been and still is very active in social issues; he was listed number two in 2016 and number twelve in 2017 on the World Pride Power list. In August 2013, Fry published an “Open Letter to David Cameron and the IOC” calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, due to concerns over the state-sanctioned persecution of LGBT people in Russia. Along with Gina Carter and Sandi Toksvig, he is a co-owner of Sprout Pictures, an independent film and television company which works across all genres.

Calendar: August 23

A Year: Day to Day Men: 23rd of August

The Aquamarine Armchair

August 23, 1846 was the birthdate of sculptor Alexander Milne Calder.

Alexander Calder, the third-generation of artists in the Calder family, is widely considered to be one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. He is best known for his colorful, whimsical abstract public sculptures and his innovative mobiles, kinetic sculptures powered by motors or air currents, which embraced chance in their aesthetic.

Calder enrolled at the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1915 to study engineering and excelled in mathematics. He received his degree in 1919 and worked as a draughtsman for the New York Edison Company. After several years of traveling the country and working in various jobs, Calder moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students League, studying with Thomas Hart Benton, George Luks, and John Sloan.

In 1926, Calder moved to Paris, enrolled in the Adademie de la Grand Chaumiere, and established a studio in the Montparnasse Quarter. While in Paris, he met and became friends with local avant-garde artists, including Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Fernand Leger. At this time Calder created his wire sculptures, or drawings in space, and had his first solo show of these sculptures at Galerie Billiet in Paris. A visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio later in 1930 influenced him into fully embracing abstract art.

It was the mixture of Calder’s experiments to develop purely abstract sculpture following his visit with Mondrian that led to his first truly kinetic sculptures, manipulated by means of cranks and motors, that would become his signature artworks. Calder’s kinetic sculptures are regarded as being amongst the earliest manifestations of an art that consciously departed from the traditional notion of the art work as a static object and integrated the ideas of gesture and immateriality as aesthetic factors.

Calder’s sculptures of discrete movable parts powered by motors were christened “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp, a French pun meaning both “motion” and “motive.“ Calder found that the motorized works sometimes became monotonous in their prescribed movements. His solution, arrived at by 1932, was hanging sculptures that derived their motion from touch or air currents. They were followed in 1934 by outdoor pieces which were set in motion by the open air. The wind mobiles featured abstract shapes delicately balanced on pivoting rods that moved with the slightest current of air, allowing for a freer, more natural, shifting play of forms and spatial relationships.

In addition to sculptures, Calder painted throughout his career, beginning in the early 1920s. He picked up his study of printmaking in 1925, and continued to produce illustrations for books and journals. As Calder’s sculpture moved into the realm of pure abstraction in the early 1930s, so did his prints. The thin lines used to define figures in the earlier prints and drawings began delineating groups of geometric shapes, often in motion.

Calendar: August 22

A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of August

Sunlight Through Lace

On this day, August 22, 565, Saint Columba is said to have encountered the Loch Ness Monster.

Saint Columba was an Irish abbot, missionary and scholar who helped spread Christianity in Scotland. He was also a statesman, a diplomat, an historical scholar, an author and a poet. Among Saint Columba’s many  accomplishments is the founding of multiple abbeys and monasteries — including the Abbey at Iona, which remained an important spiritual, academic, social and political institution for many centuries. He is highly regarded by both Scots and the Irish, regardless of their religious persuasion.

Saint Columba’s monstrous encounter is contained in the seventh-century book “The Life of Saint Columba”, written by his contemporary biographer Abbot Adamnan of the Abbey at Iona. This is the first recorded account of the Loch Ness Monster:

“While standing upon the bank of the River Ness which flows out of Loch Ness, in northern Scotland, Columba contemplated the best way to cross to the other side. As he considered the problem before him, he came across a group of heathenish Picts who were busy burying a friend who had been attacked by an enormous “water beast” while swimming in the river.

When Columba heard the story from the assembled mourners, he laid his staff across the dead man’s chest and, miraculously, the man stood up, hale and hearty. Against common sense, Columba ordered Brother Lugne Mocumin, one of his fellow monks, to swim across the loch and bring back a small boat which was moored on the opposite shore. Without hesitation, Lugne stripped off his tunic and immediately jumped into the water.

The monster, alerted by Lugne’s splashing around, surfaced and raced towards the hapless monk, eager for a bite. The monster roared a might roar, darting towards the swimming monk with its mouth wide open, as Lugne was in the middle of the stream. Everyone on the shore cried out hoping to warn the monk of his impending doom. However, Columba was unmoved. Instead, the saint stepped forward boldly to the edge of the loch and, making the sign of the cross while invoking the Name of the Lord, spoke in a commanding voice. ‘You will go no further!’ he demanded of the monster. ‘Do not touch the man! Leave at once!’

Even though the monster was no more than a spear’s length away from the swimming monk, at the sound of the saint’s words, it stopped and immediately fled the scene terrified. The monster quickly absconded to the depths of the loch behind him, allowing Brother Lugne to paddled the boat back unharmed. Everyone was astonished. If the heathens at the funeral weren’t sufficiently impressed with Columba bringing their friend back to life, they were thoroughly impressed with how the monster obeyed the saint.”

Calendar: August 21

A Year: Day to Day Men: 21st of August

Dressed in White Cotton

August 21, 1906 was the birthdate of Isadore “Friz” Freleng, the American animator, cartoonist and composer.

Friz Freleng began his career in animation at United Film Ad Service in Kansas City, Missouri. There, he made the acquaintance of fellow animators Hugh Harman and Ubi Iwerks. In 1923, Iwerk’s friend, Walt Disney, moved to Hollywood and asked his Kansas City colleagues to join him. Freleng joined the Walt Disney studio in 1927 and worked on the “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” cartoons and the “Alice Comedies”, a series with a live action little girl named Alice and her animated cat.

Freleng teamed up with animators Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising to try to create their own studio. They produced a pilot film with a new character named Bosko. While trying to sell the Bosko film, Freleng moved to New York City to work on the “Krazy Kat” cartoons. The Bosko character was finally sold to producer Leon Schlesinger, who would produce the series for Warner Brothers. Freleng moved back to California and worked on the “Looney Tunes” cartoons for Warner Brothers. While there, he introduced the studio’s first true star, Porky Pig, in the 1935 film “I Haven’t Got a Hat”.

The Warner Brothers Studio’s hands-off attitude toward its animators allowed Freleng and his fellow directors almost complete creative control and room to experiment with cartoon comedy styles, which allowed the studio to keep pace with the Disney studio’s technical superiority. Freleng’s style quickly matured, and he became a master of comic timing. Often working alongside layout artist Hawley Pratt, he also introduced or redesigned a number of famous Warner characters, including Yosemite Sam in 1945, the cat-and-bird duo, Sylvester and Tweety in 1947, and Speedy Gonzales in 1955.

Freleng and Chusck Jones would dominate the Warner Bros. studio in the years after World War II, with Freleng largely concentrating on the above-mentioned characters, as well as Bugs Bunny. He won four Oscars during his time at Warner Brothers, for the films “Tweetie Pie” in 1947, “Speedy Gonzales” in 1955, “Birds Anonymous” with Tweetie and Sylvester in 1957, and “Knighty Knight Bugs” in 1958. Six of Freleng’s other films were Oscar nominees.

Besides animating and producing the cartoon films, Freleng also was a talented director. He directed all three of the vintage Warner Brothers cartoon in which the drinking of Dr. Jekyll’s portion induces a series of monstrous transformations; “Dr. Jekyl’s Hide” with Sylvester the Cat  in 1954, “Hyde and Hare” with Bugs Bunny in 1955, and “Hyde and Go Tweet” with Sylvester and Tweety in 1960.

Calendar: August 20

A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of August

Waves Don’t Die

On August 20, 1951 Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” wion the Golden Lion at the 12th Venice Film Festival.

“Rashomon” is a 1950 Japanese period film directed by Akira Kurosawa, working in collaboration with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa. It was based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short story “In a Grove” which provided the characters and plot for the film. The plot device of the film involves various characters providing subjective, alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the murder of a samurai.

Akira Kurosawa, long a fan of silent films, wanted to simplify “Rashomon” in terms of sound and settings. Accordingly, there are only three settings in the film: the Rashomon Gate, the woods, and the courtyard. The gate and the courtyard are very simply constructed and the woodland is real. The film was scored by Fumio Hayasaka, who was among the most respected of Japanese composers. Hayasaka had already scored two of Kurosawa’s films, “Drunken Angel”  and “Stray Dog”, and had developed an artistic relationship with Kurosawa, contributing many ideas to the visual part of the films.

The cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa contributed numerous ideas, technical skill and expertise in support for what would be an experimental and influential approach to cinematography. For example, in one sequence, there is a series of single close-ups of the bandit, then the wife, and then the husband, which then repeats to emphasize the triangular relationship between them. “Rashomon” also had camera shots that were directly into the sun. The strong sunlight hitting the actors as if through tree branches was actually done by using mirrors to reflect the sun rays onto the actors.

Kurosawa often shot a scene with several cameras at the same time, so that he could cut the film freely and splice together the pieces which had caught the action more forcefully. He also used short shots edited together that trick the audience into seeing one shot. There are 407 individual shots in the body of the film, more than twice as usual films; however, these were edited so carefully that transitions never catch your attention.

The film appeared at the 1951 Venice Film Festival after being recommended to Italian film promotion agency Unitalia Film seeking a Japanese film to screen at the festival. However, the Japanese production company and the Japanese government had disagreed with the choice of Kurosawa’s work on the grounds that it was not representative enough of the Japanese movie industry. Despite these reservations, the film was screened at the festival and won both the Italian Critics Award and the Golden Lion award—introducing western audiences, including western directors, to both Kurosawa’s films and his techniques.

Calendar: August 19

A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of August

The Musician

August 19, 1883 was the birthdate of French fashion designer Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel.

Coco Chanel began designing hats initially as a diversion that evolved into a commercial enterprise. She became a  licensed milliner in 1910 and opened a boutique at 21 Rue Cambon, Paris, named Chanel Modes. Chanel’s millinery career bloomed once theater actress Gabrielle Dorsiat wore Chanel’s hats in the 1912 play “Bel Ami”.

In 1913, Coco Chanel opened a boutique in Deauville , financed by her long-time lover Arthur Capel, where she introduced deluxe casual clothes suitable for leisure and sport, constructed from humble fabrics such as jersey and tricot, at the time primarily used for men’s underwear. The location was a prime one, in the center of town on a fashionable street. Here Chanel sold hats, jackets, sweaters, and the mariniere, the sailor blouse. Her sister Adrienne and her aunt Antoinette were recruited to model Chanel’s designs; on a daily basis the two women paraded through the town and on its boardwalks, advertising the Chanel creations.

Chanel, determined to re-create the success she had enjoyed in Deauville, opened an establishment in Biarritz in 1915. Biarritz, situated on the Côte Basque, in proximity to wealthy Spanish clients, had neutral status during World War I, allowing it to become the playground for the moneyed and those exiled from their native countries by the hostilities. The Biarritz shop was installed not as a storefront, but in a villa opposite the casino. After one year of operation, the business proved to be so lucrative that in 1916 Chanel was able to reimburse Arthur Capel his original investment.

In 1918, Chanel purchased the entire building at 31 Rue Cambon, which was situated in one of the most fashionable districts of Paris. In 1921, she opened what may be considered an early incarnation of the fashion boutique, featuring clothing, hats, and accessories, later expanded to offer jewelry and fragrance. In addition to turning out her couture collections, Chanel threw her prodigious energies into designing dance costumes for the cutting-edge Ballets Russe. Between the years 1923–1937, she collaborated on productions choreographed by Diaghilev and dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, notably “Le Train Bleu” a dance-opera, “Orphee” and “Oedipe Roi”

Coco Chanel’s  design aesthetic redefined the fashionable woman for the post World War I era. Chanel’s initial triumph was the innovative use of the jersey fabric, a machine knit material manufactured for her by the firm Rodier. Prior to this, jersey tended to be used only in hosiery and for sportswear for tennis, golf and the beach. The Chanel trademark became the look of youthful ease, a liberated physicality, and unencumbered sportive confidence.

Calendar: August 18


A Year: Day to Day Men: 18th of August

The Shooter

August 18, 1933 is the birthdate of film director, Roman Polanski.

Roman Polanski attended the National Film School in Lodz, Poland. He began acting in the 1950s, appearing in Andrzej Wajda’s  1954 “A Generation”. During the same year, he was in Silik Sternfeld’s “Enchanted Bicycle”. Polanski’s directorial debut was the 1955 short film “Rower”, a semi-autobiographical feature film referring to a real-life violent altercation with a known Polish felon who severely beat and robbed Polanski. He graduated from the National Film School with recognition from his two films “Two Men and a Wardrobe” and “When Angels Fall”.

Polanski’s first feature-length film, “Knife in the Water”, was also one of the first significant Polish films after the Second World War that did not have a war theme. A dark and unsettling work, Polanski’s debut film subtly revealed a profound pessimism about human relationships with regard to the psychological dynamics and moral consequences of status, envy and sexual jealousy. “Knife in the Water” was a major commercial success in the West and gave Polanski an international reputation. The film also earned director Polanski his first Academy Award nomination, Best Foreign Language Film in 1963.

Polanski made three feature films in England, based on original scripts written by himself and Gerard Brach, a frequent collaborator. The 1965 film “Repulsion” was a psychological horror film focusing on a young Belgian woman living in London with her older sister. Its visual motifs and effects reflected the influence of early surrealist cinema as well as horror films of the 1950s. The 1966 “Cul-de-Sac” was a bleak nihilist tragic comedy. The third film was the 1967 “The Fearless Vampire Killers”, a parody of vampire films. Ironic and macabre, it was the first feature film of Polanski to be photographed in color which emphasized the striking visual fairy-tale landscapes of the film.

Roman Polanski made many famous films in his career, such as “Chinatown” and “The Ghost Writer”; however, the one that stands out for many is the 1968 “Rosemary’s Baby”, based on Ira Levin’s novel.  Paramount Studio had brought Polanski to the United States to direct “Downhill Racer”; but studio head Robert Evans wanted Polanski to see if a film could be made from Levin’s novel. Polanski read it non-stop through the night and the following morning decided he wanted to write as well as direct it. He wrote the 272-page screenplay for the film in slightly longer than three weeks.

Polanski’s film, “Rosemary’s Baby”, was a box-office success and became his first Hollywood production, thereby establishing his reputation as a major commercial filmmaker. The film, a horror-thriller set in trendy Manhattan, is about Rosemary Woodhouse, a young housewife who is impregnated by the devil. Polanski’s screenplay adaptation earned him a second Academy Award nomination for Best Writing for a screenplay form another medium.

Calendar: August 17

A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of August

The Birdcage

August 17, 1590 marks the date Governor John White returned to the Roanoke Island colony, only to find it abandoned.

The first attempted settlement at Roanoke Island was headed by Ralph Lane in 1585. Sir Richard Grenville had transported the colonists to Virginia and returned to England for supplies as planned. The colonists were desperately in need of supplies and Grenville’s return was delayed. While awaiting his return, the colonists relied heavily upon a local Algonquian tribe. In an effort to gain more food supplies, Lane led an unprovoked attack, killing the Secotan’s chieftain Wingina and effectively cutting off the colony’s primary food source. As a result, when Sir Francis Drake arrived at Roanoke, the entire population abandoned the colony and returned with Drake to England.

In 1587, a group of 120 English men, women and children now led by John White tried to settle in Roanoke Island again. At this point in time the Secotan Tribe and their Roanoke dependents were totally hostile to the English; but the Croatoan tribe, who were on better terms with the previous settlers, remained allies. Manteo. the Croatoan chief, remained aligned with the English and attempted to bring the English and his Croatoan tribe together. John White, father of the colonist Eleanor Dare and grandfather to Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World, left the colony to return to England for supplies. He expected to return to Roanoke Island within three months.

Instead, England itself was attacked by massive Spanish Invasion; all ships were confiscated for use for defending the English Channel. White’s return to Roanoke Island was delayed until 1590, by which time all the colonists had disappeared. The settlement was left abandoned. The whereabouts of Manteo and his people after the 1587 settlement attempt were also unknown.

Speculation has suggested that Manteo left with his people to live on Croatoan island. The only clue White found was the word “CROATOAN” carved into a post, as well as the letters, “CRO” carved into a tree. Before leaving the colony three years earlier, White had left instructions that if the colonists left the settlement, they were to carve the name of their destination, with an added  Maltese cross if they left due to danger.

Croatoan was the name of an island to the south, now known as Hatteras Island where the Croatoan people, still friendly to the English, was known to live. The 1587 colonists might have tried to reach that island. However, foul weather kept White from venturing south to search on Croatoan for the colonists, so he returned to England. White never returned to the New World. Unable to determine exactly what happened, people referred to the abandoned settlement as “The Lost Colony.” The fate of those first colonists remains unknown to this day and is one of America’s most intriguing unsolved mysteries.

Calendar: August 16

A Year: Day to Day Men: 16th of August

Builder of Dams

August 16, 1892, was the birthdate of Canadian-American cartoonist, Harold Foster.

Harold Foster, as a youth, captained a sloop through the Atlantic, and learned to hunt and fish in the wilds surrounding Halifax from his stepfather, cultivating a love for nature that is readily apparent in his art. He left school at an early age. Foster’s career as a professional artist began when he was about eighteen, producing catalog art for the Hudson Bay Company, but before and after that he made his living in the Canadian wilderness as a fur trapper, hunting guide, and gold prospector.

Foster studied at the Chicago Art Institute and other schools and eventually landed a job at an advertising firm that allowed him to move his wife and two sons to the city. But when the Great Depression hit, work slowed to a crawl. Despite his reservations about entering the field of comic strips, when Foster  was given the chance to adapt Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Tarzan of the Apes”, he took it.

Debuting in 1929, the “Tarzan of the Apes” daily heralded a new age for comic strips. A fine artist to his bones, Foster introduced dynamic action, perfect anatomy and fluid body movement to the comics page. Through his hands, the titular character was imbued with a balance of nobility and visceral barbarity, and Hal Foster’s dramatically-lit chiaroscuro panels, accurate nature drawing, and raucous action ensured that “Tarzan of the Apes” was a hit.

Hal Foster produced hundreds of pages, and continuing to adapt his illustrative approach to cartooning, but he grew tired of the material. If he was going to continue working in a medium he didn’t care for, at minimum he wanted creative control over his output. So Foster began working on a story set in Arthurian England that he intended to span decades. After months of research and planning, he pitched his new story to United Features Syndicate, distributor of “Tarzan”, and they turned him down. He made the same pitch to William Randolph Hearst and was offered an unprecedented portion of ownership.

“Prince Valiant”, debuted in 1937 and quickly became the gold standard of the Sunday cartoons. The story begins with Val as the five-year-old son of a deposed king and follows him to manhood, through battles with ancient monsters and beasts, knighthood with King Arthur in Camelot, fatherhood, and adventures all across myth, history, and the globe. It is epic, swashbuckling, painterly, ornate, endlessly clever, and brilliantly plotted story, and without the intrusion of word balloons to muck up the panels. Every frame of Prince Valiant is like a story unto itself: beautifully designed, and rendered with a precision. In the golden age of the newspaper strip it was considered by many to be the pinnacle of achievement in the medium.

Calendar: August 15

A Year: Day to Day Men: 15th of August

Behind Door One

August 15, 1939 marks the Hollywood premier of the film “The Wizard of Oz”.

In January 1938, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the rights to L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” from Samuel Goldwyn, who had toyed with the idea of making the film as a vehicle for Eddie Cantor who would play the Scarecrow. The final draft of the script was completed on October 8, 1938, following numerous rewrites from many screenwriters; Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf received the film credits.

In his book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, Frank Baum describes Kansas as being “in shades of gray”.  Effectively, the use of monochrome sepia tones for the Kansas sequences was a stylistic choice that evoked the dull and gray countryside. Much attention was given to the use of color in the production, with the MGM production crew favoring some hues over others. Consequently, it took the studio’s art department almost a week to settle on the final shade of yellow used for the yellow brick road.

Though Judy Garland was set for the part, Nicholas Schenck, head of Loew’s Inc., MGM’s controlling parent company, felt box-office security in the person of Shirley Temple was needed to ensure a financial return against Oz‘s big budget. At an unofficial audition, MGM musical mainstay Roger Edens listened to Temple sing and reported that she lacked the robust vocal chops required for the extravaganza being prepared. So, the part of Dorothy remained Judy Garland’s, as intended.

Gale Sondergaard, a recent Academy Award winner, was originally cast as the Wicked Witch; however, she  became unhappy when the witch’s persona shifted from sly and glamorous into the familiar “ugly hag”. She turned down the role and was replaced on October 10, 1938, just three days before filming started, by MGM contract player Margaret Hamilton. After the filming of “The Wizard of Oz”, both Hamilton and Garland started filming  the Busby Berkeley musical “Babes in Arms” with Hamilton playing a role similar to the Wicked Witch.

An extensive talent search produced over a hundred little people to play Munchkins. They were each paid over 125 dollars a week, equivalent to 2200 dollars today. The MGM costume and wardrobe department, under the direction of costume designer Adrian Greenberg, had to design over 100 costumes for the Munchkin sequences. They then had to photograph and catalog each Munchkin in his or her costume so that they could correctly apply the same costume and makeup each day of production.

The Hollywood premiere was on August 15, 1939 at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. While the earnings for the film were considerable, the high production cost, in association with various distribution and other costs, meant the movie initially recorded a loss of over one million dollars for  the studio. It did not show what MGM considered a profit until a 1949 re-release earned an additional $1.5 million. The film has been inducted into National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and is listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Calendar: August 14

A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of August

Tropical Paradise

August 14, 1951 was the release date for the film “A Place in the Sun”.

“A Place in the Sun” is a 1951 American drama film based on the 1925 novel “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser. It was directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by Harry Brown and Michael Wilson. The starring roles were played by Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters; supporting actors included Anne Revere and Raymond Burr.

This noir masterpiece merges suspense and romantic tragedy with director George Stevens composing each shot and scene with an eye for detail. Montgomery Clift plays George Eastman, a financially poor but personable young man, who lands a job in his wealthy uncle’s business. He begins dating Alice, played by Shelley Winters, who works on the factory floor. Clift, however, falls in love with a beautiful socialite, played by Elizabeth Taylor, and must rid himself of the affections of Alice. Her death ensues from a boating trip and the detective, played by Raymond Burr, appears with questions.

Montgomery Clift reached the peak of his Hollywood career with Steven’s “A Place in the Sun”, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. His physical beauty and the emotional intensity of his performance as the doomed lover, especially in his scenes with costar Elizabeth Taylor, confirmed his status as a romantic screen idol. Clift’s performance is regarded as one of his signature method acting performances. He worked extensively on his character. For his character’s scenes in jail, Clift spent a night in a real state prison to seek the right mood.

Although the film was released in 1951, it was shot in 1949. Paramount Studios had already released its blockbuster “Sunset Boulevard” in 1950 when this film wrapped. The studio did not want another possible blockbuster competing for Oscars with “Sunset Boulevard” so it waited until 1951 to release “A Place in the Sun”. This wait actually pleased director George Stevens as he would use the extra time to edit the film. His painstaking methods of producing resulted in more than 400,000 feet of film to edit. Stevens and editor William Hornbeck worked on cutting the footage for more than a year.

The film “A Place in the Sun” was a critical and commercial success, winning siX Academy Awards and the first-ever Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture-Drama. However to many, the film’s acclaim did not completely hold up over time. Reappraisals of the film find that much of what was exciting about the film in 1951 is not as potent now. Critics cite the soporific pace, the exaggerated melodrama, and the outdated social commentary as qualities present in “A Place in the Sun” that are not present in the great films of the era, such as those by Hitchcock and Kazan, although the performances by Clift, Taylor, and Winters continue to receive praise.

Calendar: August 13

A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of August

White Roses

August 13, 1860 was the birthdate of Phoebe Ann Mosey, known to history as the American sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Annie Oakley began trapping before the age of seven, and shooting and hunting by age eight, to support her six siblings and her widowed mother. She sold the hunted game to locals in Greenville, Ohio, such as shopkeepers who shipped it to hotels in Cincinnati and other cities. Oakley also sold the game herself to restaurants and hotels in northern Ohio; she paid off her mother’s house mortgage by the age of fifteen.

On Thanksgiving Day of 1875, the Baughman & Butler shooting act was being performed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler placed a $100 bet per side with Cincinnati hotel owner Jack Frost that Butler could beat any local fancy shooter. The hotelier arranged a shooting match between Butler and the 15-year-old Annie Oakley , saying, “The last opponent Butler expected was a five-foot-tall 15-year-old girl named Annie.” After missing on his 25th shot, Butler lost the match and the bet. He soon began courting Annie and they married.

Annie Oakley and Frank Butler joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1885. This three-year tour only cemented Oakley as America’s first female star. She earned more than any other performer in the show, except for Buffalo Bill Cody himself. In Europe, she performed for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, King Umberto I of Italy, President Marie Francois Sadi Carnot of France and other crowned heads of state. Oakley supposedly shot the ashes off a cigarette held by the newly crowned German Kaiser Wilhelm II at his request.

Oakley promoted the service of women in combat operations for the United States armed forces. She wrote a letter to President William McKinley on April 5, 1898, offering the government the services of a company of fifty lady sharpshooters who would provide their own arms and ammunition should the U.S. go to war with Spain. Oakley’s offer was not accepted.

In 1901, Annie Oakley was badly injured in a train accident, but recovered after temporary paralysis and five spinal operations. She left the Buffalo Bill show and in 1902 began a less taxing acting career in “The Western Girl”, a stage play written especially for her. Oakley played the role of Nancy Berry who used a pistol, a rifle and rope to outsmart a group of outlaws.

Annie Oakley continued to set records into her sixties. She hit 100 clay targets in a row from 16 yards at age 62 in a 1922 shooting contest in North Carolina. Oakley also engaged in extensive philanthropy for women’s rights and other causes, including the support of young women whom she knew.  Oakley’s health declined in 1925 and she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville, Ohio at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926. Her husband Frank Butler, greatly grieved, died eighteen days later and is buried next to Annie Oakley in Brock Cemetery near Greenville, Ohio.

Calendar: August 11

A Year: Day to Day Men: 11th of August

Smoke  in the Air

August 11, 1866 marks the opening of the first roller rink in the United States.

The four-wheeled turning roller skate, or quad skate, with four wheels set in two side-by-side pairs (front and rear), was first designed, in New York City by James Leonard Plimpton, a New York city furniture dealer, in an attempt to improve upon previous designs. Instead of being directly attached to the sole of the skate, the wheel assembly was fastened to a pivot with a rubber cushion. The pivoting action allowed the skater to skate a curve just by pressing his weight to one side or the other, most commonly by leaning to one side.

James Plimpton received a patent for the design in 1863. A modification of leather straps and metal side braces was added to the design in 1866. This addition to the quad skate allowed easier turns and maneuverability, and the quad skate came to dominate the industry for more than a century.

James Plimpton started the New York Roller Skating Association (NYRSA) and leased the The Atlantic House Hotel in Newport, converting the dining room into a skating area. On August 11th in 1866, the first roller rink opened to the public in the United States. The sport was not promoted for the masses but as an acceptable supervised activity for young ladies and gentlemen. To control the quality of his clientele, Plimpton did not sell his skates, but rented them. As rinks proliferated, James Plimpton toured them in the 1870s, giving lessons to new and current skaters for two dollars a week, which included the skate rental.

In America, roller skating was most popular first between 1935 and the early 1960s. When polyurethane wheels were created and disco music made its appearance, roller rinks were again the rage in the 1970s. Roller skating made a third resurgence with in-line outdoor roller skating, thanks to the improvement to the skates by Scott and Brennan Olson.

In 1979, seeing the potential for off-ice hockey training, the Olson brothers redesigned inline skates, made in the 1960s by the Chicago Roller Skate Company, using modern materials and attaching ice hockey boots. A few years later they began to heavily promote the skates and launched the company, Rollerblade, Incorporated. The Rollerblade skates became synonymous in the minds of many with “inline skates” and skating, so much so that many people came to call any form of skating “Rollerblading”.