1949 — Doris Day becomes a star of the screen

Doris Day was already a successful singer, and had been since her first hit (1945’s “Sentimental Journey”), when she decided to make the transition to film. After a bumpy start in 1948’s “Romance on the High Seas”, she got decent reviews for her performance in the otherwise largely unexceptional “My Dream is Yours” (which opened on April 16, 1949) and really started to gain attention later in the same year, with “It’s a Great Feeling” (opened August 1).

From there, Day rarely looked back, starring in a string of comedies, romances and even a Hitchcock thriller (1956’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”). But she never forgot her roots, either, and almost all of her acting roles included at least one song sung by her (like that damned inescapable “Que Sera Sera” in the aforementioned “The Man Who Knew Too Much”). She would star in a total of 39 films during her career.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1949 — “South Pacific” opens on Broadway

“South Pacific” was a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, based on James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific”, an anthology of short stories. The musical has a single coherent narrative drawing on some of those short stories while also including what was, for its time, a progressive social message about race.

The musical was a hit, running for 1925 performances on Broadway (at that time, the second most of any Broadway production) and winning a Pullitzer prize for drama in 1950. It has been filmed several times, and remains a perennial favourite for revivals.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1949 — Cecil B DeMille’s “Samson and Delilah” is released

Cecil B DeMille’s “Samson and Delilah” was the second film version of the tale, and the first to be in colour and sound. The marquee stars were Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature in the title roles, along with George Sanders as the Saran, Angela Lansbury as Semadar.

The film would go on to become the highest grossing film of 1950, and win two Academy Awards (for Costume Design and Art Direction). A portion of the film’s sets and production would later be recreated in Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard”, with De Mille playing a character based on himself.

Referenced in:
Tombstone Blues — Bob Dylan

1949 – The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act comes into force in South Africa

The first of the pieces of legislation that would collectively form Apartheid to be created by the National Party after they took power in 1948. It was a self-evidently a pointless piece of law in its own right – only 0.23% of all marriages in South Africa from 1946-1948 were mixed – but it was the thin end of the Apartheid wedge, the beginning of that oh so slippery slope.

The law was repealed in 1995, after the fall of the Apartheid regime.

Referenced in:
Sun City — Artists United Against Apartheid

1949 — Harry S. Truman is inaugurated as President

Late breaking spoiler: the Chicago Tribune got it wrong. Truman defeated Dewey, and quite handily, at that. He received 303 votes in the Electoral College to Dewey’s 189 (the remaining 39 votes were won by Strom Thurmond). Harry Truman’s Inauguration was the first one ever to be televised live across the nation.

Truman’s second term as President would largely be concerned with foreign affairs, particularly the newly nuclear bomb enabled Soviet Union and the Korean War. Truman did not contest the 1952 election, having become increasingly unpopular with voters during his second term.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1949 – Georgia O’Keeffe moves to New Mexico

After her first visit in 1929, painter Georgia O’Keeffe became enamoured of the landscapes and colours of the American South West. She spent at least a part of each year there. Many of her paintings, including some of her best known, such as Summer Days (1936).

In 1945, she bought a property at Ghost Ranch, north of Abiquiu, New Mexico, and began renovating it. In 1949, she permanently relocated there, producing numerous paintings, sketches and sculptures. She eventually moved to Santa Fe as old age took its toll on her health, where she died in 1986. Her artistic legacy is vast and she is particularly noted for her contributions to abstract landscape painting.

Referenced in:
Splendid Isolation — Warren Zevon

I have been unable to pin this down any more clearly than August 1940 – if anyone out there knows the correct date, please let me know.

1949 – John George Haigh is executed for murder

The murderous career of John George Haigh is an object lesson in the importance of forensics in obtaining convictions. Haigh disposed of the bodies of people he killed by dissolving them in baths full of acid – he believed that the police needed a body in order to convict.

He was wrong, of course – although police originally began investigating him based on the items he stole from his victims, an analysis of the residue in his acid bath revealed three human gallstones and part of of denture. Haigh was arrested, and confessed to nine murders although he was convicted of only six. He was hanged in Wandsworth Prison, an execution that caused considerable controversy at the time (for its method – his guilt was not contested).

Referenced in:

Acid Bath Vampire – Macabre

1949 – Ben Chifley makes the ‘Light on the Hill’ speech

Ben Chifley is probably most remembered for two things: his serious efforts to implement some of the more socialist ideals of the Australian Labor Party, and this speech. Both, ultimately, come from the same wellspring: Chifley’s compassionate idealism.

He is also the only Australian Prime Minister never to have lived at the Lodge, and the only Labor Prime Minister to have sent the troops in to break a strike – and one from a communist trade union, at that.

I haven’t talked much at all about the speech here, for one very simple reason: I think you should read it yourself.

Referenced in:
Neighbourhood Watch – My Friend The Chocolate Cake