It Happened…

Each week, writer and photographer Michael Rogers (with a long history in book publishing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week in his own words (and through his own pictures). It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain. Follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook (which these posts are drawn from).

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 158th birthday to the great Arthur Conan Doyle, doctor, author, spiritualist, and inadvertent father of forensic science, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 22, 1859.

Most readers have introduced themselves to Holmes and Watson, but if you’re unfamiliar with his adventure stories, try them. The Lost World and other Professor Challenger stories are great fun. Stay away from his romances though, just awful.

Arthur, old son, I love you with my heart and soul.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy birthday to Henry Fonda, born in Grand Island, Nebraska, May 16, 1905. His mother, Elma, was friends with Dorothy Brando, mother of you know who and director of a local theater group, who suggested the shy Henry take an interest in theater (thank you, Mrs. Brando!).

He pursued a journalism degree at the University of Minnesota, but dropped out at headed east for theater work, starting in New England before landing Broadway jobs. In New York he roomed with Jimmy Stewart, who he already knew from back home.

Fonda was top shelf in so many films, but my favorites are his collaborations with John Ford: My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, and, especially, The Grapes of Wrath. The studio pushed for Tyrone Power to play Tom Joad, but Ford knew that Fonda was born to be Tom (thank you, Mr. Ford!).


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 77th birthday to Al Pacino, born in East Harlem April 25, 1940. He’s one of the guys who put 1970s film on the map—The Godfather, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, all solid. Since snagging an Oscar for portraying Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman, Pacino has spent most of his screen time shouting—his characters apparently are all ferocious.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Pacino on-stage twice; in The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel back in the day and Huey roughly a decade or so ago, and he’s equally affective in theater as in film.

My favs of his Hollywood work are as Michael Corleone in The Godfather I & II and Lefty Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco. Both characters are Mafiosos and killers with no consciences, but Pacino’s approach to Michael and Lefty couldn’t be more different. Something as simple as sitting in a chair reveals each character’s personality: Michael is a king; calculating, intelligent, in full control. His tailored suit and posture reflect his power. Lefty is a dumb slob. He’s a mutt slouching in a T-shirt and cheap track suit.

Perfect, Al.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 99th birthday to William Holden, born—YIKES!—Billy Beedle, Jr., in O’Fallon, Illinois, April 17, 1918. With his hard face and I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude, it’s a shame he never played Philip Marlowe. But, he more than made up for it in many other roles.

Holden is pictured here in his Oscar-winning performance in Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17. Remarkably, he was the third choice for the sleazy, wheeler-dealer Sefton, landing the part after Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas passed. Ach so!


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy birthday to Ward Bond, born in Benkelman, Nebraska, April 9, 1903. One of the great character actors and a pillar of John Ford’s ensemble, Ward spent most of his career (more than 200 films) portraying cops and cowboys. He played football at USC with teammate John Wayne (still Marion Morrison then)—what are the odds?

For most, he’s probably best known as Bert the cop in Frank Capra’s holiday crowd-pleaser It’s a Wonderful Life. He also had small roles in Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, Dead End, and Bringing up Baby.”

My favorites are the Ford films (he did 25 of them), and he’s solid as Tom Polhaus in The Maltese Falcon.

Bond in the “chew” shot from the creme de la creme, The Searchers.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Birthday greetings to Sir Alec Guinness, born in London’s Paddington vicinity, April 2, 1914. I like him best in the David Lean films, and he brought a touch of class as Kenobi, and, of course, the man was born to play Smiley.

Guinness wrote a few memoirs, very charming and worth breezing through.


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This week in Literature and Arts

March 26, 1959: Raymond Chandler goes for the big sleep, dying at age 70.

He didn’t invent the hardboiled PI, but nobody had done it better since.


March 26, 1920: F. Scott Fitzgerald catapults into the American literary scene with the Scribner’s publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise (the book started life as The Romantic Egoist, but was revised after failing to sell).

He was 25 years old and working on cars for money.


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This week in Literature and Arts

March 19, 1962: With the release of his eponymously named first album, the world meets Bob Dylan.


Happy 48th anniversary to John and Yoko, married March 20, 1969, by registrar Cecil Wheeler in a ten-minute ceremony at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar (near Spain).


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This week in Literature and Arts

March 12, 1922: Jack Kerouac is born in the second floor bedroom at 9 Lupine Road in Lowell, MA. His folks were French-Canadian imports who spoke French at home (Jack, baptized Jean-Louis, didn’t learn to speak English until attending grammar school).

Jack’ now been dead longer than he was alive. The short unhappy life…, but how many little boys grow up to write books that launch a literary movement?

A decade ago, I covered the opening of a sterling Kerouac exhibit at the New York Public Library that included the “On the Road” manuscript on a roll of teletype paper. Amazing to see it.

Happy 95th birthday, Jack.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 101st birthday to Lou Costello, born Louis Francis Cristillo, March 6, 1906, in Patterson, NJ. He’s a hard guy to get a grip on; so funny yet the legend is that off screen he was quite a nasty customer. Also, despite his 5’5″ stature, Lou apparently was a gifted athlete who excelled at basketball!

Unlike Laurel and Hardy, Lou and Bud Abbott barely tolerated each other, and their relationship eventually decayed to where they never spoke off screen. Lou was a fan of Curly Howard and “borrowed” Stooges shtick for his own screen persona, and Bud, the bullying straight-man slapping around funny fat-man Lou is straight Stoogery!

Ironically, like Curly, Lou’s health was poor, and he died shortly before his 53rd birthday.

He’s pictured here with Bela in every monster-kid’s favorite comedy, A&C Meet Frankenstein.


March 7, 1923: High school lit classes are forever changes as The New Republic debuts Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 85th birthday to Johnny Cash, born into a farming family in Kingsland, Arkansas, February 26, 1932.

Before finding success, Cash held a variety of mundane jobs including a stint as an appliance salesman. A few years later you can picture some guy sitting in his living room with his wife’s meatloaf and mashed sitting in his stomach like an anchor watching Cash on the TV, scratching his head thinking, “Didn’t we buy the washing machine from that guy?”


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy birthday to Lee Marvin, born February 19, 1924, in New York City. He was named Lee after Robert E. Lee, a distant cousin (shockeroo, eh!).

After getting expelled from a handful of schools, Marvin enlisted in the marines in WWII and was twice wounded fighting in the Pacific. Post war he was working as a plumber’s assistant in a theater, and when one of the actors took ill, he filled in and the rest is our good fortune.

After portraying a plethora of gritty cowboys, soldiers, and crooks, Marvin, ironically, snagged his lone Oscar for a comedy (Cat Ballou).

The eyes of a killer.

Lee Marvin collage


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 89th birthday to William Kennedy, Born January 16, 1928 in Albany, NY. Possibly my favorite living writer, I think this guy is one of the all-time greats. The Joycean “Ironweed” is a 20th-century masterpiece. I’ve interviewed him twice (I think), and he’s a good guy as well as a brilliant writer.

He’ll never will the Nobel Prize because he’s not political enough, but he deserves it.

Kennedy Continue reading This week in Literature and Arts