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.

Happy birthday to scholar and poet A.E. Housman, born in Bromsgrove. Worcestershire, England, March 26, 1859.

A Shropshire Lad is the real thing.

Happy 76th birthday to Bronx boy James Caan, born March 26, 1940. He attended Hofstra University in Hempstead out on the Island where he met fellow student Francis Ford Coppola (what are the odds?).

He’s been good in everything from John Wayne Westerns to comedies to science fiction, but, of course, he’ll always be thought of as The Godfather‘s Sonny Corleone.  As such you can thank him for introducing “bada bing” into the vernacular. The phrase appears neither in Mario Puzo’s novel nor Coppola’s script, he ad libbed it, saying later it just sounded like something Sonny would say.

Caan’s most recent film, The Good Neighbor isn’t half bad. He’s still got the goods.


March 26, 1827: Bedridden for months (his liver was shot—too much booze), Beethoven dies in Vienna. He was 56.

The legend goes that his last words were “I shall hear again in heaven.” In reality they probably were, “Huh, what?”

Happy birthday to Bohumil Hrabal, Born March 28, 1914, in Brno, Austria-Hungary. Probably not the most widely read guy on American shores, but he’s one of the greats.

Fellow Pythoners join me in wishing Eric Idle a happy 74th birthday (March 29, 1943). Still one of my favorite twits!

March 30, 1939: Sporting “64 Pages of Action!,” Detective Comics No. 27 featuring “the amazing and unique adventures” of mysterious new crimebuster “The Batman” debuts.

Take the day off.

Happy 72nd birthday to Eric Clapton, born March 30, 1942, in Surrey, England.

And, yeah, he’s god.

March 30, 1986: James Cagney, 86, takes his final bow, dying of heart failure at his Stanfordville, New York, farm.

Happy birthday to Vincent van Gogh, born March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands.

I believe he’s about 20 in this pic and was working as an art dealer before starting to paint himself as his mind still was intact.

On his birthday in 1987, his work Sunflowers sold for nearly $40 million.

March 31, 1958: Chess Records releases Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”

How many singers, musicians, and songwriters did this spawn? Can’t be measured.

Alright, monster kids, let’s wish a happy birthday to Lon Chaney, born Leonidas Frank Chaney in Colorado Springs, CO, April 1, 1883.

Arguably, the man who started it all. Attaboy, Lon!

Happy 88th birthday to Milan Kundera, born April 1, 1929, in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Despite having fled to France in 1975 to escape political persecution as a writer, he’ll probably never win the Nobel Prize because he abandoned politics as a theme in his latter novels.

Enjoy your birthday, sir.


Birthday greeting to classic character actor Abner Biberman, born April 1, 1909. This guy was in countless films and TV shows ranging from Gunga Din to Gilligan’s Island as an actor and was nearly as prolific as a director. He even wrote one of the films he appeared in.

Biberman is one of those faces you’ve seen many times in all genres but never knew his name. He was a bit dark skinned so often played a foreigner despite being born in Milwaukee.

He’s pictured here with Cary Grant as young Toadface in the action-adventure Gunga Din and the criminal “Louie” in the screwball comedy His Girl Friday.

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.