SEPTEMBER 29 = Film Director Stanley Kramer is Born

On today’s date, September 29 in 1913, the celebrated Stanley Kramer, the director and producer was born in New York City. Throughout his career, Kramer had his share of flops, but his great films tackled previously taboo subjects as racism, nuclear war antisemitism – always putting the problem right there in the audiences face where it couldn’t ignored.  Many thought that his films lacked subtlety in this respect – became known as the maker of “message pictures”.  And while his best work was often nominated for Academy Award’s,  Kramer never won the Oscar Statue himself.

Kramer Arrives in Hollywood

Kramer arrived in Hollywood aspiring to be a writer and signed up to MGM, working various jobs such as carpenter, scenery mover, and then wound up as an Editor for three years.  He worked also for Columbia pictures, and on radio as well.  But in the early 1940’s he formed his own production company.  His first picture there bombed at the box office, but his next one, “The Champion”,

an exciting and intense anti-boxing picture was a hit, which propelled its star, Kirk Douglas to star status. Next came a string of hits, all of them hitting some nerve in American life. There was racial bigotry in “Home of the Brave” (1949). Then came the issue of disabled veterans in “The Men” (1950), and then the superb film “High Noon” (1952) which starred Gary Cooper (right) as a Martial who finds that the town whom he loved him was leaving him to face an old enemy on his own.

Kramer’s Best Period = 1954 – 1961 

Kramer then signed on with Columbia Pictures to make a string of films, all of them excellent. In 1954 he made “The Caine Mutiny” with Humphrey Bogart as the captain of a ship, who appears to go to pieces in a typhoon.  The Court Room scene where Bogie  breaks down, along with the party afterward where the attorney played by Jose’ Ferrer reads them all the riot act about who really was guilty is a classic. “The Defiant Ones” (1958), dealt with racism when Tony Curtis and Sydney

Portier play a pair of escaped convicts who were chained together. There was the drama “On the Beach” (1959) which dealt with nuclear war. Then came a pair of magnificent courtroom dramas; “Inherit the Wind” (1960) dealing with freedom of speech and my own favorite: “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961) which laid the question of responsibility for the Holocaust right there in the open. Spencer Tracy was in both off those last two, as were Gene Kelly in the first, and a whole raft of stars in the latter; Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift to name just a few.


Kramer’s Later Years

Stanley Kramer took a wild comedy turn in “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World” (1963) (below) about a group of strangers run across an old man (Jimmy Durante) who with his dying breaths gives them the directions to a cache of gold.  This launches them on a wild cross country race to beat each other to the gold. This cast was simply to large to list them all here; let if suffice to say that the main roles are played by Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, and a completely hilarious Jonathan

Winters.  In 1967 Kramer directed “Guess Who’s Coming Together” which tackled, albeit in a rather sugary-sweet Hollywood fashion, the subject of inter-racial marriage. Yes it was a very sweet handling, but a handling nevertheless of an extremely taboo subject as late as 1967. And the screenplay by William Rose contained some excellent dialogue on the subject. Stanley Kramer died at the age of 87 in Woodland Hills, California, on February 19, 2001. His autobiography was titled  “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World – A Life in Hollywood.”

Sources =,_Mad,_Mad,_Mad_World

SEPTEMBER 6 = The Marquis de Lafayette is Born

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, more commonly known as simply the Marquis de Lafayette was born on today’s date, September 6 in 1757, in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France, This man (above) deserves a place of honor among America’s Founding Fathers for the role he played in not only securing French assistance during our Revolutionary War, but also for taking an actual combat role — even though he presented himself to George Washington at the young age of 19.

“My heart was enlisted…”

Young Gilbert came from one of France’s oldest fighting families, with ancestry dating back to the crusades and even to Joan of Arc.  When his mother died by the boy’s eleventh birthday, Lafayette inherited one of the largest fortunes in France.  Yet this very rich young man had little taste for the of an aristocrat; he sought military action. In 1763, he obtained a Captain’s Commission in the Army.  In 1775 he was having

dinner in the city of Metz with the Duke of Gloucester who spent much of the time complaining about the American Colonists an their uprising against British rule. The Duke mocked the Americans nonsense about the equality of man, and people ruling themselves. And especially of their having made this George Washington their leader. This made a very ill impression on the young Lafayette: “My heart was enlisted,” he later recorded in his memoirs, “and I thought only of joining my colors to those of the revolutionaries.”

Lafayette Sneaks to America and Meets George Washington

But it wasn’t such an easy matter just to go over to America.  First of all, King Louis XVI denied him permission to go. But the defiant young officer simply ignored the King’s order and left for America in early 1777. James Lovell, a Congressman  saw in the 19 years old was a man

of substance and recommended him for the rank of Major General. Lafayette met Washington on Aug. 5 (above), and the two men immediately formed a strong bond.  Washington had no natural son of his own so naturally he was warmed by Lafayette’s enthusiasm and positive attitude for the American cause. Lafayette stood in awe of Washington: “Although he was surrounded by officers and citizens, it was impossible to mistake for a moment his majestic figure and deportment; nor was he less distinguished by the noble affability of his manner.” he wrote later in his memoirs. Indeed, the two men would develop a father and son relationship during the war.

Lafayette Serves in Combat 

Washington assigned Lafayette to join in a tough battle to turn the American flank at the Battle of Brandywine Creek, where he served under the command of Gen. John Sullivan’s forces. Sullivan was being surrounded, and was obliged to retreat, but Lafayette distinguished himself in this action, sustaining a wounded leg. Washington sent his

own surgeons to tend to the wound telling them: “Treat him as if he were my son.” Lafayette gradually became a trusted member of Washington’s inner circle. He also shared in the misery of the brutal winter of 1777 at Valley Forge. The Marquis also took part in the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778). After this he returned to France to take part in the organizing of troops to go to America as a part of the new Alliance between France and the new United States.  Overall command of these troops was given to the Comte de Rochambeau (above).

Lafayette is There at the End

By the summer of 1781, Lafayette had returned to the U.S. and was assigned to lead troops in Virginia along with other generals such as “Mad” Anthony Wayne to attack the British foraging parties as well as their rearguard. These various raids kept the British under Gen. Lord Cornwallis from bringing the Americans to full battle until he finally withdrew to the Peninsula at Yorktown, Virginia. There Cornwallis

found himself being encircled with his back to the sea, and the combined armies of the Americans and the French. On Sept. 5, 1781 in the Battle of Virginia Capes the British fleet was decisively defeated by the French. By now the land vice was tightening.  In fact, Washington’s own forces linked up with those of Lafayette on Sept. 14. With his sea escape cut off, and thee French and the Americans barking at the door, Cornwallis gave up the ghost and surrendered his army on Oct. 18, 1781 at a ceremony (above) in which Lafayette gladly took part.

“Hero of Two Worlds”

Upon his return to France in January of 1782 Lafayette was hailed as a national hero, in fact “A Hero of Two Worlds” for his service to France and to America. But revolution was in the air in France of a much bloodier kind than it had been in America. With help from Thomas Jefferson – the U.S. Ambassador – He was part writer of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. When the Bastille was stormed

in July of 1789 and a revolutionary government was formed, Lafayette sent the key to the old prison (above) to George Washington as a symbol of French freedom from tyranny. This “Hero of Two Worlds” attempted to steer a middle course between the extremes of the men who unleashed wholesale executions via the Guillotine during the Terror.  His arrest was ordered by radicals in Aug. of 1792.  He attempted to escape but was captured by the Austrians spending 5 years in jail. But the government of Napoleon Bonaparte restored his French citizenship on March 1, 1800. He made a grand tour of America in 1824 to an adoring reception.  He died on May 20 1834 at the age of 76.

AUGUST 30 = First African-American Astronaut Blasts Off!

On today’s date, August 30 in 1983, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford became the first African American to take part in a mission to space when the space shuttle Challenger embarked on its third mission, STS 8.  As this was the first night lift-off of a space shuttle, it blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:32 a.m.

Buford Studies and Flies Hard and Makes an Astronaut

Born in Philadelphia in 1942, Guion “Guy” Stewart Bluford II at an early age showed an interest in flight, and building airplanes. He graduated from Penn State with a degree in aerospace engineering. He joined the U.S. Air Force and got his pilot wings in 1965. He was assigned to a fighter squadron in Vietnam, where he flew 144 combat missions. Later, Guy received a master’s degree and doctorate in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. There were 10,000 applicants to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) space program, Guy Bluford wound up as one of 35 chosen to join the new space shuttle team in January 1978. And in August 1979 he officially became an astronaut with NASA.

Shuttle Mission STS 8

On mission STS-8 aboard the space shuttle Challenger, Bluford had the job of a specialist for mission.   Bluford and and his crew mates (below) performed several biophysiological experiments, while successfully

operating a Canadian-built robot arm while Challenger orbited Earth 98 times over the course of 145 hours. On September 5, 1983, the mission concluded when Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. And just as she had left, Challenger returned in a night landing. (Pictured: Seated (L-R): Daniel C. Brandenstein, Pilot, Richard H. Truly, Commander, and Guion S. Bluford, Jr., Mission Specialist. Standing (L-R): Dale A. Gardner, Mission Specialist, and William E. Thornton, Mission Specialist.) Just as with her nocturnal departure, this night landing had been a first. Guion Buford went on to participate in a total four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. After the tragic explosion of Challenger in 1986, Buford wanted to assure that space travel would continue so his last two missions were aboard the Shuttle Discovery. By the time of this final mission Buford had logged over 688 hours in space. Guion S. Buford retired from the Air Force in 1993, and has since worked with such companies as Northrop/Grumman.

How Guion Buford Felt About Being the First African American Astronaut?

Not surprisingly, when asked this, Guy Buford felt a high degree of responsibility, not only as an African American, but also as a scientist and a space aviator:

“I felt an awesome responsibility, and I took the responsibility very seriously, of being a role model and opening another door to black Americans, but the important thing is not that I am black, but that I did a good job as a scientist and an astronaut. There will be black astronauts flying in later missions … and they, too, will be people who excel, not simply who are black . . . who can ably represent their people, their communities, their country.” 

AUGUST 11 = Reagan Jokes About Russia

While we’re all bemoan- ing the “gaffes” of Donald Trump, and wringing our hands

about all of the ruin that they portend for our country, I thought that it might do some good to mark the anniversary of another celebrated “gaffe” made by a U.S. President which left a lot of people in fits of anger, which wound up doing no real harm whatsoever.  For it was today’s date, August 11 in 1984 that President Ronald Reagan made his (in)famous joke about “Outlawing Russia” and “we begin bombing in five minutes.”

Reagan’s Actual Speech and What He MEANT to Say…

Reagan was making a regularly scheduled radio address, and he was being checked for sound levels before he began.  He had already silently read the first line of his speech which went this way:

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you that today I signed legislation that will allow student religious groups to begin enjoying a right they’ve too long been denied: the freedom to meet in public high schools during nonschool hours, just as other student groups are all owed to do.”

Having already seen this line, Reagan decided to engage in what was to him a bit of levity.  So during his few seconds of sound checking, he said: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Although Reagan’s press aides, as well as technicians and pool reporters in the room chuckled, a tape soon leaked. According

to Gannett News Service and the Associated Press, the joke was made in a ”voice check,” in which technicians make adjustments to their recording equipment to the level of the President’s voice. There were two networks present who elected not to  report it, those being CBS, and CNN.  The president of CNN,  Burt Reinhardt (above), remarked: ”We thought about it a great deal, talked about it a lot. But anything talked about before the radio broadcast would be off the record.”

The “Joke” Gets Out and Causes a Furor

But as usually happens in campaigns, word of the “joke” did get out and raised a furor.  Reagan was at the time running for re-election against former vice president Walter Mondale (below).  His get tough policies  visa-vie the Soviet Union were making a lot of people nervous at what seemed like the new level of confrontation. Reagan’s joke gave

even more fuel to those commentators and pundits both in the U.S. and abroad who believed that Reagan was a senile old man who simply didn’t understand the forces he was dealing with in his pursuit of his “Cowboy Diplomacy” In fact, “” has since recorded this very dark reaction:

“The moment the president’s flippant remark was released, it immediately caused a stir both in the United States and abroad. Most international media responded with outrage, fearing that the joke about “outlawing” the Soviet Union had once again put the two superpowers on the verge of a third world war.

Upon hearing the news, a leading Parisian newspaper, suggested in dismay that Reagan’s jest be tested by a trained psychologists to determine whether it was “a statement of repressed desire or the exorcism of a dreaded phantom.” As the imminent danger of such a comment was obvious, a Dutch news service ironically remarked, “Hopefully, the man tests his missiles more carefully,” referring to the possibility of the Soviets turning their weapons toward the US after hearing such a threat.”

But the fact is that White House officials quickly assured Russian officials what was the fairly obvious fact that it had all been a minor joke, although to some a tasteless one and that no attack was forthcoming. There were reports in some papers that the Soviet Far East Army was placed on alert and that the alert was not withdrawn until 30 minutes later. But nothing came of that. 30 minutes later everything was fine. In the words of CNN Vice President, Ed Turner, “The President is a guy who drops one-liners. In this case it was a little careless of him, considering he’s hardly a neophyte.” 

The careless joke that had so many pundits crowing resulted in a minor jump in the polls for Walter Mondale for a short time.  But then Reagan regained the lead which he carried to a land slide win taking every state except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota, and the District of Columbia. And during his second term, Reagan went on to establish the friendliest relations with the Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev (above) that had ever been seen between two such leaders before. The U.S. Arms build up coupled with the close relationship wound up bringing the “Cold War” to a victorious end for the West. And in all of those world changing events, the “gaffe” about “bombing in five minutes” was little more than a foot note to be discussed by Bloggers like me!

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AUGUST 1 = Hitler Opens the 1936 Olympics in Berlin

“The Olympic games held in Berlin in August of 1936 afforded the Nazis a golden opportunity to impress the world with the achievements of the Third Reich and they made the most of it.  The signs of  “Juden unerwuenscht” (“Jews not welcome”) were quietly hauled down from the shops, hotels, beer gardens and places of public entertainment…”   – William Shirer

“almost religious event, the crowd screaming, swaying in unison and begging for Hitler. There was something scary about it; his cult of personality.” – Thomas Wolfe

The Games of the XI Olympiad were opened on today’s date, August 1 in 1936 in the city of Berlin, the capitol city of Germany. That nation was then governed by the murderous Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, one of if not the foremost monster in history.  And I thought that with the games of the XXXI Olympiad coming up in Rio de Janeiro in just a few days, that it might be a good idea to take a look back at what happened when Hitler ran the opening show. Because even though, as William Shirer points out the Nazis were determined to put the brightest face on their ugly regime, to many such as the novelist Thomas Wolfe, there was something scary lurking beneath.

Berlin Builds the Biggest Stadium Ever

Berlin had been chosen over Barcelona, Spain, on 26 April 1931, at the 29th IOC Session two years before the Nazis came to power. Hitler was actually indifferent to sports, so it took some convincing on the part of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to convince Der Fuehrer that the whole thing was worth the effort.  But now that Hitler’s crew had the reigns, they were determined to out-do the 1932 Games in Los

Angeles. Towards which end, the Nazi regime sunk 42 million Reich- marks into a fabulous Olympic sports complex comprising some 325 acres. And the centerpiece was to be an enormous Olympic Stadium, built of stone and which could accommodate 110,000 spectators. These Opening Ceremonies were of course held in this brand new edifice beginning with the Parade of Nations (above). A speech by the head of Germany’s Olympic Committee, and then Hitler declared the Games open.

The Opening Ceremony Shows Nazi Precision

The idea of having a torch relay first came up with the Amsterdam games of 1928, but it was Nazis who came up with the idea of having the torch relay originate in Olympia and then be carried all the way to the top off the stadium wherein it would burn throughout the games.

“The Guardian”, a British newspaper summarized the precision of this opening ceremony in its edition of Aug. 3 :

“The opening ceremony of the eleventh Olympic Games took place here this afternoon in the Stadium at the Reich Sports Field. It was probably the longest ritual that has ever heralded the opening of these Games. It was arranged and carried out with mathematical exactitude by the German Organising Committee, and in the course of it there were moments of beauty and significance which one will remember.

“There were others – not many of them – when one felt that the strength of German national feeling had a little outgrown discretion, but it was a memorable ceremony, immensely enhanced by the nobility of the great Stadium in which it was carried out.”

The Pigeons Finish It Off by Making a Deposit on the 1936 Olympics

But the military precision of it all, the determination to glorify the Nazi regime and Hitler himself could not control everything. One bit of pomp turned to poop as related by an athlete who witnessed it, Distance Runner Louis Zamperini:

“They released 25,000 pigeons, the sky was clouded with pigeons, the pigeons circles overhead, and then they shot a cannon, and they scared the poop out of the pigeons, and we had straw hats, flat straw hats, and you could heard the pitter-patter on our straw hats, but we felt sorry for the women, for they got it in their hair, but I mean there were a mass of droppings, and I say it was so funny…”

The Thin Veneer of Nazi Hospitality at the 1936 Olympics

Uncooperative pigeons notwithstanding the truth of this regime and it’s vicious anti-semitic, anti- religious character were always there lurking, except for the more gullible observer. As William Shirer wrote:

“the persecution of the Jews, and of the two Christian Churches temporarily halted, and the country put on its best behavior.  No previous games had seen such a spectacular organization nor such a lavish display of entertainment.  Goering, Ribbentrop, and Goebbels gave dazzling parties for the foreign visitors …..The visitors, especially those from England and America, were greatly impressed by what they saw; apparently a happy, healthy, friendly people united under Hitler — a far different picture, they said, than they had got from reading the newspaper dispatches from Berlin.”

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“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer, Simon & Schuster Publ. 1960

The 14th Amendment is Passed

On today’s date, July 28 in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was adopted following its by the required two thirds of states.  The amendment basically guaranteed the full rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship to all African Americans who had been freed from the chains of slavery by the passage of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) during the civil war.

The Need For the 14th Amendment

The American Civil War had left the southern states in a state of physical and political chaos. Although the masses of African Americans were legally free their precise legal status had been nowhere spelled out specifically. The death of Abraham Lincoln had left the pro-southern Andrew Johnson (below) as the president, and he had been battling

with the Radical Republicans for control of Reconstruction (which was the process for the former Confederate states to rejoin the Union). Such barriers as literacy tests, poll taxes and outright intimidation had been set up to prevent citizens of color from exercising their right to vote. So the Radical Republicans pushed for and passed the 14th Amendment on June 13, 1866.  Johnson in announcing the amendment denigrated it by stating that his actions should “be considered as purely ministerial, and in no sense whatever committing the Executive to an approval or a recommendation of the amendment to the State legislatures or to the people.”

The Passage of the 14th Amendment and Its Legaacy

Ratification of the amendment caused bitter debate throughout the State legislatures especially in every single formerly Confederate state. Except for Tennessee, they all refused to ratify it. This brought about the passage of the Reconstruction Acts. which ignored all such existing state governments and instead imposed military governments which remained in place until the 14th Amendment was finally passed on today’s date. It took more than two years but with some troubles over rescinded and re-ratified acts in Ohio and New Jersey, Secretary of State William Seward announced the unconditional certificate of ratification, declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment had been ratified by the required three-fourths of the states.

The Amendment has since been used for both good and ill; it was used to justify the Plessy -vs- Ferguson decision of 1896 which admitted legal segregation of “separate but equal” into law.  But then again, it was used to strike down that very decision with “Brown -vs- the Board of Education” of 1954 (above). The 15th (equal voting rights) and a whole host of laws and amendments had to be put in place before African Americans achieved full legal equality with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Meanwhile the “Equal Protection Clause” of the 16th amendment has since been cited in a whole host off non-racial cases ranging from abortion to gay marriage.

The actual text of article 1 of the 14th amendment reads as follows:

“Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

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JULY 26 = Postal Service Born, Sam Houston Dies

On today’s date, July 26 in 1775, the Second Continental Congress the U.S. postal system was established  Benjamin Franklin was appointed as its first postmaster general. Franklin (1706-1790) put in place the foundation for many facets of the mail system as we know it today.

The Mail of Colonial Days

Back in colonial times here in America most mail whether business or private was carried by hand along roads that were not well marked or well kept. Often it was carried by sea along the coastal routes.  And the carriers could be sailors, sea captains, slaves or simply travelers along the route. Needless to say, this was neither a very efficient, nor reliable way to move correspondence around.  And the “post office” was often a local inn, a tavern or a coffee house in the area. And time it would take for delivery could vary from several days or weeks between points on land to one to three months from overseas.

Ben Franklin Fixes the Mess in the Postal Service

Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, Joint Postmaster General of the colonies for the Crown in 1753, and Postmaster for the United Colonies in 1775. And it was due mostly to Franklin efforts that the time of delivery was cut by 50%. He had already made many improvements to the postal service between the colonies by the time of his appointment on today’s date.  He had already set up standard routes for postal delivery between the colonies,

and had the mail wagon traveling day and night by way of relay teams. Franklin standardized the cost of delivery by basing all the mail expenses on weight and distance over which it was to be carried. Franklin made tours of each of the major post offices to inspect their operations and suggest improvements. And routes were surveyed and were set up to be more direct from point to point. He left his post late in 1776 to serve as the U.S. Minister to France but left in place a system that ran all the way from Florida to Maine and all points in between.

Sam Houston Dies

And a brief note marking the passing of one more casualty of the Civil War. Sam Houston (below) had been one of if not THE founding father of the state of Texas.  He had lead her through her War of Independence from Mexico (1835 – 1836), served two terms as President of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846), and helped guide her into statehood with the United States (1846). He was Governor of the

State of Texas as the winds of civil war began blowing across the south and into his state. But he wanted no part of secession talk.  He was an unshakable supporter of the Union, and saw only misery for his state from joining the Confederacy: “In the name of the constitution of Texas, which has been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.” was what he said when refusing to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. As a result, he was deposed from office on March 15, 1861. He died on today’s date in 1863.  He had said of his approaching death:

“…(I) ask that He who buildeth up and pulleth down nations will, the mercy preserve and unite us. For a Nation divided against itself cannot stand. I wish, if this Union must be dissolved, that its ruins may be the monument of my grave, and the graves of my family. I wish no epitaph to be written to tell that I survive the ruin of this glorious Union.”

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Postal Service:

Sam Houston :