1939 — Harvey Keitel born

One of those rare actors to not use a screen name, Harvey Keitel was a US Marine and later a court reporter before he became an actor. He first began to get attention for his roles in some of Martin Scorcese’s early films, such as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. His career took a downturn after he was replaced by Martin Sheen on the set of Apocalypse Now after only a week of filming, although Keitel remained a prolific supporting actor for years.

It was not until 1992, when he played the role of Mr White in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, that his career really took off again. Throughout the Nineties, Keitel was one of the most well-known and respected actors in Hollywood, having starred or guests in some of the highest profile films of the decade.

Referenced in:

The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1916 — Sholem Aleichem dies

Best known for his tales of Teyve the Dairyman, Sholem Aleichem was a Jewish writer born in Russia in 1859. His real name was Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich – Sholem Aleichem was a pen name he used, a play on the Yiddish expression “Shalom aleichem” (which means ‘peace be with you’). His stories of Teyve are best known in English by the title of their musical adaptation “Fiddler on the Roof”, which came to pass after he emigrated to New York City in 1905.

Aleichem died of a combination of tuberculosis and diabetes, still working on his latest novel “Motl, Peysi the Cantor’s Son”. He was 57 years old, and despite having been in America only a decade or so, his funeral was one of the largest in New York history, with over 100,000 mourners in attendance, and his will was read into the Congressional Record and published in the New York Times.

Referenced in:

Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond

1958 – The Algiers Putsch begins

Against the background of the troubled Fourth Republic of France and the ongoing Algerian War of Independence (which ran from 1954 to 1962), a group of French officers in Algiers mounted a coup with the twin goals of humiliating the current French government and creating a powerbase for the return of former French President Charles de Gaulle to power. They captured Algeria with little difficulty, and on May 24, invaded and captured the island of Corsica, another French possession.

They conspirators were very successful – De Gaulle was returned to power on May 29, little more than a fortnight later. De Gaulle immediately began a policy of sweeping reforms, including constitutional changes, and on October 5, the Fifth French Republic was proclaimed, with De Gaulle at its head. Things could have gone quite differently, though – the Gaullist faction had made plans for a military assault and seizure of Paris if their goals were not met.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel