1897 – Moe Howard of the Three Stooges is born

Born Moses Harry Horwitz, Moe Howard and his brother, Shemp Howard, were two of the original Three Stooges, one of the most successful acts of the vaudeville era, and also one of the few to make the jump to cinema. Moe would come to be seen as the leader of the Stooges over the years, being the longest standing member of the lineup and frequently playing that role in their appearances.

Moe was one of the only two members of the Stooges to be in every lineup (Harry was the other, and a total of four other actors filled the third slot at various points). He was also the longest lived of the original Stooges, surviving until 1975.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part I) — Adam Sandler

1953 – Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed

Julius and Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg were a married couple from New York City. Of Jewish-American origin, the two had met in 1936 at a meeting of the Young Communist League.

Julius joined in the army in 1940, where he served in the Signal Corps, working on radar equipment. He was recruited by the NKVD as a spy in 1942, and passed a considerable body of data to the Soviets, notably the proximity fuse used to shoot down Gary Powers in 1960.

But with the arrest of Klaus Fuchs at Los Alamos, the dominoes started to fall. Fuchs fingered another spy: his courier, Gold. Gold has also been a courier for David Greenglass – Ethel’s brother. Greenglass testified that he had been recruited by Julius, though he denied Ethel’s involvement.

The Rosenbergs were convicted on March 29, 1951, and sentenced to death on April 5. The conviction helped to fuel Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigations into anti-American activities by U.S. citizens. While their devotion to the Communist cause was well-documented, the Rosenbergs denied the espionage charges even as they faced the electric chair. They were the only two American civilians to be executed for espionage-related activity during the Cold War.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel

1975 – “Jaws” open in limited release

Along with “Star Wars” two years later, “Jaws” was the film that redefined Hollywood’s approach to films: it sent it searching endlessly for the next big thing, the next blockbuster.

It also made Steven Spielberg a star, one of the new breed of Hollywood auteurs. Unlike most of them, he actually lived up to the hype. “Jaws” was an unlikely film to make such a hit – monster movies are always a heard sell, and this one was infamously plagued by difficulties with the mechanical shark. Spielberg’s true genius showed itself in how he turned those limitations into strengths – the shark looks too fake to show on screen? Then keep it barely seen, a mysterious and deadly force more than a fish.

Referenced in:

Bicycle Race — Queen

1982 – Hezbollah abducts David Dodge

David Stewart Dodge was the acting President of the University of Beirut in Lebanon when he was abducted by members of the Hezbollah. He was one of the first foreigners to be abducted by Hezbollah, although far from the last.

Dodge’s previous work had included stints with Aramco, the Trans-Arabian Pipeline Company and US Military Intelligence – any or all of which may have been the motivations for his kidnappers. Hezbollah was, at the time, a very new movement – it had formed largely in reaction to Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The name means “Party of God”, and nowadays it is (among other things) a political party in Lebanon. It has also been, depending on where your sympathies lie, a resistance movement or a terrorist organisation (the diffference is largely one of perspective).

Dodge was lucky – he was released by his abductors, and lived a long and reasonably happy life.

Referenced in:

Doctor Jeep — Sisters of Mercy