This Week in Literature and Arts [July 18—July 24]

July 18, 1937: Gonzo journalism instigator—and nutball—Hunter S. Thompson is born in Louisville, Kentucky.

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July 19, 1929: Knopf (Borzoi Books) releases Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse, a novel featuring Hammett’s nameless detective, the Continental Op. The murder mystery initially had been serialized in four installments in Black Mask magazine—two in 1928 and the concluding doses in 1929.

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July 19, 1954: Sun Records releases the first single by its latest artist, Elvis Presley, a week after signing the singing truck driver. The 45 r.p.m. sported “That’s All Right (Mama)” backed by an upbeat rockabilly version of Bill Monroe’s popular “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the flip side.

Hail to The King, baby!

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July 20, 1938: Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg is born in England’s South Yorkshire area (her family moved to India for eight years when she was an infant). Arguably, TV’s first female ass-kicker as Mrs. Peel in TV’s The Avengers (and she looked fabulous doing it!). A beauty and good actor. Alas, Diana passed at 82 on September 10, 2020.  

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Happy birthday to copy-editors’ nightmare, Cormack McCarthy, born July 20, 1933 in Providence, RI. Great guy to read if you don’t care for punctuation (and love violence!). Most know him from The Road  and No Country for Old Men, but I find his Border Trilogy, especially All the Pretty Horses¸ and the early stuff like Child of God superior. Hemingway’s fingerprints are all over McCarthy’s writing.

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Speaking of which…

July 21, 1899: Clarence and Grace Hemingway of Oak Park, IL, welcome the birth of their second child and first son, Ernest. Here’s the future Nobel laureate at three months christening himself with a martini at the Ritz Bar in Paris.

I’ll bet he was a rotten little kid!  

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July 21, 1899: Hart Crane is born in Garrettsville, Ohio. Struggling with his homosexuality, or so the story goes, he jumped overboard into the gulf of Mexico and drowned at age 32. The second popular writer born on this exact day and year who offed himself. A hell of a coincidence.

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July 21, 1924: Don Knotts is born in Morgantown, West Virginia. He began his career as a ventriloquist but moved to straight comedy when joining the army’s Special Services Branch in World War II. He appeared on Broadway with Andy Griffith in No Time For Sergeants, and when Andy landed a TV sitcom about a small-town sheriff, Knotts pitched the idea for a deputy—and won five consecutive Best Supporting Actor Emmys for his signature performance as bulldog of the law, Barney Fife.

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Happy 73rd birthday to Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens, born Steven Demetre Georgiou in London July 21, 1948.

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July 22, 1889: James Whale is born in Dudley, England. A troubled soul, he committed suicide in 1957. Whale (l. holding lamp) directing Claude Rains in one of his horror masterpieces, The Invisible Man.

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July 22, 1940: Alex Trebek is born in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. His first birthday since passing last November 8. Jeopardy isn’t the same without him.

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Happy 75th birthday to the versatile—and still working—Danny Glover, born July 22, 1946 in San Francisco. Rock solid in everything and equally adept at good guys (Silverado) and bad ones (Witness), but, perhaps, best known for playing Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon series. Congratulations, Danny, you’re now officially “too old for this shit!”

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July 23, 1888: Raymond Thornton Chandler is born in Chicago. One of the gods of American literature.

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Happy 60th birthday to Woody Harrelson, born July 23, 1961 in Midland, Texas. Seeing Woody on  Cheers 30 years ago thereabouts who would have imagined that goofball would be such a fine, diverse actor. I always enjoy him on screen; the man can do it all.

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July 24, 1956: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis part after a decade of wowing audiences. Unbelievably, industry insiders claimed it was career suicide for Martin, predicting he’d soon be forgotten (that’s funnier than their films). Sixty-five years ago.

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Lastly, a Shakespeare Sunday 70th birthday salute to the lovely Lynda Carter, born July 24, 1951 in Phoenix, Arizona. Just like Adam West always will be Batman to diehards, Lynda is the Once and Future Wonder Woman to countless fans. When the WW TV show first began filming, producers needed a quick—and cheap—means for Diana Prince to transition into her Amazonian alter ago, and Lynda, who’d had dance training, suggested pirouetting, thus inventing the “Wonder Woman spin,” so the statuesque, 5’11” beauty put her stamp on the character. Bravo, Lynda! You bend those bars, girl!

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Michael Rogers (mermsr@optimum.net) 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