This week in Literature and Arts

August 28, 1978: John Huston, 81, dies of pneumonia linked to a variety of heart and lung ailments associated with heavy smoking.

A remarkably talented man, who, by numerous accounts, also was a real son of a bitch.

Happy 220th birthday to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, born August 30, 1797, in London. Here come ol’ flattop.

August 31, 1973: John Ford dies of stomach cancer (or crabbiness) at 79.

I can’t think of another director who made more great films, he’s certainly my favorite. Visited Ford’s grave at Holy Cross Cemetery last year in L.A. Shall we gather at the river.

September 1, 1998: Scholastic releases Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S.

The publisher reportedly paid $105,000 for the rights—a sum deemed high at the time, but when budget cuts forced schools to reduce/terminate book-buying programs, the magic kid on the broom kept Scholastic alive.

Attaboy, Harry!

Happy birthday to Edgar Rice Burroughs, born September 1, 1875, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. He created Tarzan, John Carter—and merchandising!

Monster kids, let’s wish a happy birthday to Yvonne De Carlo, born Margaret Yvonne Middleton, September 1, 1922, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Although she appeared with John Wayne, Charlton Heston, and Clark Gable, she’ll always be remembered as Lily Munster.

September 2, 1973: J.R.R. Tolkien dies of a bleeding ulcer at 81. He shares an Oxford grave and stone with his wife, Edith. Apparently, they referred to each other as Luthien and Beren, characters from Middle-earth. I guess it beats “bitch” and “asshole.”

Happy 94th birthday to Mort Walker, born September 3, 1923, in El Dorado, KS. I’ve read “Beetle Bailey” almost daily for ages, and had to opportunity to meet Mort at New York Comic Con a few times, nice guy.

When trying to establish himself as a cartoonist, he received as many as 200 rejections from newspapers and magazines but his persistence was rewarded—lucky for us!

Have a good one, Mort!

Happy 104th birthday to Alan Ladd, born September 3, 1913, in Hot Springs, AR. He tended to underplay his roles, but I always liked this guy.

Supposedly, he’s in Citizen Kane as one of the people shown only in shadow (the guy with the fedora and pipe), and—this one’s harder to swallow but who knows—was one of the animal-men extras in Island of the Lost Souls. with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi.

Alas, he died at only 50, overdosing on a combination of drugs and booze.

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.