This week in history: 28th April – 4th May

Sergio Leone and a poster for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Bing Crosby with a pipe.

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This week’s TWIH post celebrates the life of a certain Spaghetti Western legend, and showcases the births of two fantastic actors.

On the 2nd of May, 1901, Bing Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington. He started out singing in a band called Musicaladers. From then, he stormed the US, hitting his musical peak with his 1941 cover of White Christmas. His acting career was plentiful as well, with greats such as White Christmas (1954), Going My Way (1944), and The Bells of Saint Mary’s (1945).

The actor Daniel Day-Lewis was born on the 29th of April, 1957 in London. He has starred in a number of critically acclaimed films such as My Left Foot (1989), There Will Be Blood (2007) and Lincoln (2012). He is best known for his use of method acting. For example, in the filming for My Left Foot, in which Day-Lewis played the role of the Irish artist Christy Brown, he spent almost the entire film shoot in a wheelchair.

And now, on to a sadder note. On the 30th of April in 1989, the great western director, producer and screenwriter Sergio Leone passed away. He leaves behind a legacy of many fantastic Spaghetti Western films, and is renowned for his use of extreme close up shots combined with lengthy long shots. A selection of his best and most critically acclaimed films follows:

The Last Days of Pompeii (1954), The Colossus of Rhodes (1961), the Dollars Trilogy, and Duck, You Sucker! (1971).

This week in history: 19th April – 26th April

The 19th of April marks the anniversary of the release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Release 19th April 2002, the film is one of the highest budget-to-profit grossing films of all time, earning over $240 million to date. After a limited release, buzz surrounding My Big Fat Greek Wedding spread mostly by word of mouth, leading to the $5 million budget film to receive generally positive reviews.

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On the 26th of April 1926, American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) partnered with Warner Brothers Film Studios to officially introduce the Vitaphone. The technology, which give film makers the ability to add sound to their pieces, debuted with 1926 film Don Juan which featured an orchestral score by the New York Philharmonic.

The Panopticon, the first movie projector developed in the United States was demonstrated by Woodville Latham and his sons Otway and Gray on April 21st 1985. Motion pictures had been shown in the United States for several years prior using the Kinetoscope, invented by Thomas Edison. However, the films could only be viewed one at a time in a peep-show box, not projected to a large audience.

April 21st also marks another very special occasion. The 21st April 1993 is the day Inside Film writer, and professional legendary human being Andrew Crooks was born. Yes, that’s me.

This week in history: 12th April – 18th April

Audrey Hepburn in a black and white still from Breakfast at Tiffany's.


A black and white image of Barbara Streisand

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Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Streisand tie for Best Actress Oscar. At the 41st annual academy awards in 1969 were televised live for the first time worldwide, Ingrid Bergman proclaimed “It’s a tie!” upon opening the envelope for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The award went to both Katharine Hepburn, for her turn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, and Barbra Streisand, for her debut performance in Funny Girl.

New sound process for films was announced this week in 1926. Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of the American Telephone and Telegraph company (AT&T), and the Warner Brothers film studio officially introduce Vitaphone, a new process that will enable the addition of sound to film. Vitaphone debuted in August 1926 with the costume drama Don Juan, starring John Barrymore and featuring an orchestral score by the New York Philharmonic.

On April 12th 1914 the first movie ‘Palace’, (cinema) opened in New York City. Before 1914 movie makers would often showcase their creations behind storefronts, known as ‘nickelodeons’. This palace, known as ‘The Strand’ seated an impressive 3,000 people and featured a second storey viewing area. Another ‘first’ seen at The Strand was a two-storey rotunda where movie-goers would socialise before and after the presentation and during the intermission.


This week in history 31st March – 5th April

A black and white photograph of Sherlock Homes, watson and Beryl Stapleton look intently through a magnifying glass that Holmes holds towards the floor
A black and white photograph of Sherlock Homes, watson and Beryl Stapleton look intently through a magnifying glass that Holmes holds towards the floor

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This week marks the 1939 release of of 20th Century Fox’s The Hound of the Baskervilles on March 31st. The Sherlock Holmes adaptation starred Richard Greene as Sir Henry Baskerville, Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson and Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes.

The film was a hit and Rathbone and Bruce wet on to star in a total of 14 films based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective novels. Rathbone and Bruce were also hired to play Holmes and Watson on the radio series “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.

In 1975 The Hound of the Baskervilles was resored and re-released to theatres. It was a success and was even covered in the national evening news.

On March 31st 54 years after the release of The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1993, Brandon Bruce Lee was unfortunately killed on set while filming The Crow. 

The 28 year old actor was the son of martial arts film star Bruce Lee and had appeared in a handful of action films. He landed the lead role of Eric Draven in the film adaptation of James O’Barr’s comic book series The Crow. 

Lee died when he was accidentally shot while filming. A revolver containing dummy cartridges created by the props crew was used in a scene. Unintentionally, the percussion primer was left in place on one of these bullets and when the gun was discharged and the bullet unknowingly moved into the barrel.

When this revolver was later fired at Lee from a short distance, the dummy cartridges were replaced with blanks and when these were fired the dummy bullet already in the barrel was fired fatally striking Lee in the abdomen.

Video footage of Lee’s death was used as evidence in the following investigation then later destroyed as part of the lawsuit settlement after the shooting was ruled an accident.

This week in history: 24th March – 30th March

The actor Robert Carradine stood in a forest.

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This week’s TWIH post combines the births of some influential actors and actresses and the release of a first-of-its-kind film.

On the 24th of March in 1954, in Hollywood, the youngest of the Carradine brothers was born. Robert Carradine began his acting career in 1972 alongside John Wayne in the western classic The CowboysOne of his best known roles had him portraying Sam McGuire, the father in the Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire. Unknown to many, Robert Carradine also starred in 2012’s Django Unchained!

On the 26th of the same month, in 1985, Keira Knightley was born. She grew up in London, and her first role was a small part in 1993’s Royal Celebration. Since then, she has starred in a huge number of brilliant films, including Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Bend it like Beckham (2002), and Doctor Zhivago (2002). One of her most famous roles is that of Lady Elizabeth Swann, which began in 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

The première of Shaun of the Dead was on the 29th of March, 2004. Simon Pegg, one of the leading actors in the film, said that the film was the first ever “rom-com-zom”, or romantic comedy featuring zombies. The film went on to make $30,039,392. Horror great George A. Romero was so impressed with Simon Pegg’s work towards this film that he offered him a cameo role in his 2005 zombie flick Land of the Dead!