Remembering Peter Benchley, who died from pulmonary fibrosis (scarred lungs), February 11, 2006 at age 65. I wrote him fan letters when I was young. He always wrote back. Good guy.
February 12, 1931: Tod Browning’s Dracula premieres at the ROXY Theater in Manhattan before opening nationwide on Valentine’s Day. The film establishes Universal as Hollywood’s horror studio and makes a bonafide star of newcomer Bela Lugosi.
February 13, 2000: The last original Peanuts strip is published hours after creator Charles Schulz succumbs to colon cancer at 77. Schulz’s contract with United Features prevented other artists from continuing Peanuts after his passing. Recycled strips run in more than 2000 daily newspapers.
February 14, 1930: Knopf publishes The Maltese Falcon in revised novel form, catapulting hard-boiled pulp fiction to literature. One of the great American novels and the ultimate Valentine to PI mystery lovers.
Happy 199th birthday to Susan B. Anthony, born February 15, 1820 in Adams, Mass., but raised primarily in New York.
B is for badass!
February 17, 1939: RKO releases Gunga Din. Howard Hawks, reportedly, was assigned to direct the film but was fired after Bringing Up Baby flopped (hard to believe now) and George Stevens got the job. Also, Cary Grant originally was assigned the role of Ballantine, the romantic interest, while Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was cast as the adventure-seeking Cutter, a role greatly resembling those played by his dad. Grant wanted to infuse more comedy in his career, so Stevens flipped the two actors’ parts. Nonetheless, Fairbanks said that of the many films he did, Gunga Din was the masterpiece. Truly.
February 17, 1975: John Lennon bids the public eye adieu with the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll, an album of 50s cover songs that lured him into music as a teen. The album’s jacket sports a photo of 20-something greaser Lennon leaning in the doorway of Jagerpassage 1, Wohlwillstrasse 22 in Hamburg, Germany.
The picture was shot in April 1961 by 21-year-old Jurgen Vollmer when The Beatles were playing at the Top Ten Club. The ghostly figures on the sidewalk were Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe, who was on the verge of leaving the band to pursue his art studies. He would be dead within weeks from a brain hemorrhage.
Before running a roll of monochrome 120 through his tripoded Rolli, Vollmer had Paul, George, and Stu practice walking to find a speed that left their pointed boots sharp and their bodies blurry (although successful, the pic, ironically, was cropped for the cover).
Rock ‘n’ Roll was Lennon’s last album release for five years.
(firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.
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