This week in Literature and Arts

June 26, 1997: Bloomsbury releases Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK. Game changer for sure.

Happy 20th anniversary, Harry.  Bravo, Jo Rowling

Give it up for Peter Lorre, born June 26, 1904, in Hungary. Along with Casablanca  and The Maltese Falcon, etc., he appeared in numerous horror films. His horror fare is mostly silly stuff, but he’s such a good actor that he’s able to pull off anything.

Here’s Lorre with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in You’ll Find Out. Goofy as hell, but Lorre and the horror boys show a surprising ability for comedy.

June 28, 1928: Louis Armstrong, 26, and His Hot Five (pianist Earl Hines, clarinetist Jimmy Strong, trombonist Fred Robinson, banjoist Mancy Carr and drummer Zutty Singleton) record “West End Blues.”

Everybody on earth must wish Mel Brooks a happy 91st birthday. He was born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, June 28, 1926.

The world can’t be that bad with Mel in it.

Happy birthday to Charles Laughton, born July 1, 1899, in Scarborough, England. Solid in The Hunchback… and his performance in Island of the Lost Souls, arguably, is the best of the screen Dr. Moreaus. And, of course, he was married to Elsa Lanchester for more than 30 years.

Alright, Star Wars geeks, let’s give it up for big Dave Prowse, born 82 years ago on July 1, 1935, in Bristol, England.  A Clockwork Orange, and a handful of Hammer horrors besides playing you know who, he’s done okay for himself.

Happy 125th birthday to noirasaurus James M. Cain, born in Annapolis, MD, July 1, 1892.

Always fun surprises in his books.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) responds to a blitzkrieg of parents’ complaints over the excessive gore in the PG-rated Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” notably hearts being ripped from chests, people eaten by crocodiles, and enslaved children starved and beaten (plus a shitty script and loads of bad acting), by debuting the slightly more severe PG-13.

The numerical addition warned parents that some material may not be suitable for viewers younger than 13, but what the MPAA really was saying is that irresponsible assholes should read reviews to learn what a movie is about before taking a five-year-old to a film made for adults and then blaming everyone but themselves for their kids’ nightmares.

The first film adorned with the PG-13 rating was John Milius’s Red Dawn, which premiered the following August 10. Wolverines, bitches!

July 2, 1961: In the early morning hours, Ernest Hemingway, physically, mentally, and emotionally ravaged and knowing he is finished as an artist, places this shotgun’s muzzle in his mouth and meets death on his own terms. He was 61.

July 2, 1956: Elvis Presley, backed by the Jordanaires, records “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” at RCA’s Studio 1 in New York City. The songs were released as the A and B sides of a single. Not a bad day’s work.

Hail to The King, baby!

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.