This week in Literature and Arts

June 11, 1979: John Wayne, 72, succumbs to stomach cancer.

How could John Wayne die? “The fuckin’ Indians got him.”—Lefty Ruggiero, Donnie Brasco

June 11, 1982/1993: Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and Jurassic Park open, respectively.

Fun films. Well done, Steven.

Birthday greetings to comedian, actor, and writer Gene Wilder, born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, WI, June 11, 1935. Fun to watch in so many things, but The Producers and, especially, Young Frankenstein” are my favs. “Sedagive!”

June 12, 1929: Anne Frank is born in Frankfurt, Germany. For her 13th birthday her father gave her the blank autograph book that became her diary—75 years ago today.

Happy 36th anniversary to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the perfect summer movie released June 12, 1981. This and The Wizard of Oz arguably are the two films that everyone likes.

Happy birthday to the great Ben Johnson, born on a reservation in Foraker, Oklahoma, June 13, 1918.

His father, Ben Sr., was a rancher and rodeo star (Ben Jr. also became a rodeo champion). Howard Hughes purchased horses from the Johnsons for his film, The Outlaw, and young Ben transported them to the Arizona shooting location. He stayed on to care for the animals and later followed the production to Hollywood and began getting stunt work.

The legend is that while stunting as Henry Fonda’s riding double in John Ford’s Fort Apache, horses pulling a wagon with a handful of actors aboard bolted. Johnson ran the wagon down and got the animals under control, preventing potential disaster on the set. A grateful Ford signed Johnson to a seven-year contract. Less than 25 years later he went home with an Oscar for The Last Picture Show.

A prolific and varied career from Mighty Joe Young, Shane, The Wild Bunch through The Sugarland Express, and Red Dawn, but if you grew up watching the Ford films, Johnson always will be Tyree.

June 13, 1865: Poet, Abbey Theatre founder, senator, and Nobel Laureate William Butler Yeats is born in Sandymount, Country Dublin, Ireland. Heavyweight.

June 14, 1965: At EMI Studios accompanied only by George Martin and his Epiphone acoustic, Paul McCartney records “Yesterday.”

June 15,  1914:

Stately, plump (fat) Mike Rogers wishes everyone a happy Bloomsday! Open your copy of the big “U” to any page and read a random pinch of Kinch. Yes you will Yes. It’s all good.

Birthday remembrances of the great Stan Laurel, born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, June 16, 1890.

Monster kids, join me in birthday remembrances of Ralph Bellamy, born June 17, 1907 in Chicago. We know him from The Wolf Man and Ghost of Frankenstein but if you’ve never seen Ralph in screwball comedies then you’re in for a treat. Track down His Girl Friday and, especially, The Awful Truth, he’s fabulous in them.


Happy 75th birthday Pauly! May you still be out there playing for another 75 years!

Love to you. Cheers!

Michael Rogers ( 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.