Eighty-seven years ago, today, Robert Smith drank his last drink, the date marked by AA for its anniversaries.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid fellowship dedicated to abstinence based recovery from alcoholism through its spiritually inclined Twelve Step program. Following its Twelve Traditions, AA and autonomous AA groups are self-supporting through the strictly voluntary contributions from members only. The Traditions also establish AA as non-professional, non-denominational and apolitical, with an avowed desire to stop drinking as its sole requirement for membership. Though AA has not endorsed the disease model of alcoholism, to which its program is nonetheless sympathetic, its wider acceptance is partly due to many members independently promulgating it. A recent scientific review shows that by many measures AA does as well or better than other clinical interventions or no treatment. In particular, AA produces better abstinence rates with lower medical costs. As of 2020, having spread to diverse cultures, including geopolitical areas normally resistant to grassroots movements, AA has estimated its worldwide membership to be over two million with 75% of those in the U.S. and Canada.
AA marks 1935 for its founding when Wall Street analyst and newly recovering alcoholic Bill Wilson, then reeling from a failed proxy fight, sought to stay sober by commiserating with detoxing surgeon Bob Smith. After leaving the Oxford Group to form a fellowship of alcoholics only, Wilson and Smith, along with other early members, wrote Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism, from which AA acquired its name. Published in 1939 and commonly called “the Big Book”, it contains AA’s Twelve Step recovery program. Later editions included the Twelve Traditions, first adopted in 1946 to formalize and unify the fellowship as a “benign anarchy”.
In September of 2017, I paid a visit to a place I had not seen since I was about six years old…the Land of Oz. I remember bits and pieces of the trip. My parents took me in 1972 and two of my strongest memories are of riding on the balloon ride (a converted ski-lift) in a blinding mountain rainstorm and the wet ride in a bus, with no windows, down the mountain, leaving. For years, I wondered what had become of that park.
Originally opening on June 15, 1970, it was a grand place to visit and managed to stay open for a decade, even after a fire in 1975, before falling into disrepair and abandonment. Many things were stolen, vandalized or left to nature.
Appalachian State University had a cultural museum, at one time, that showcased saved pieces from the park including the yellow bricks, some munchkin houses, costumes, parts of the witch’s castle and other assorted props. All artifacts were eventually returned to the park.
In 1991, the park was included in a celebration for Independence Day for Beech Mountain. Watauga High School students dressed in costume. Emerald Mountain, Inc., purchased the property in 1994 and a slow restoration began. An “Autumn at Oz” was started as a reunion for former employees and became a yearly event. By 2010, the park drew 8,000 people.
Land of Oz (Official Website)
Eighty years ago, today, the crime–mystery Dick Tracy’s G-Men was released. A serial film with fifteen chapters, it was co-directed by John English and William Witney and, is over four and a half hours long in total. Produced by Robert Beche, it starred Ralph Byrd, Irving Pichel, Ted Pearson, Phyllis Isley (also known as Jennifer Jones) and Walter Miller (his last film). Based on Chester Gould‘s Dick Tracy comic strip, this serial had Tracy working for the FBI. As a sequel to the original serial, Gould’s contract barred him from production and payment. It was re-released on September 19, 1955.
A mad doctor named Zanoff uses a drug to bring himself back from the dead after his execution in prison. Dick Tracy sets out to capture Zanoff before he can put his criminal gang back together again.
International spy, Zarnoff, in the employ of “The Three Powers” (presumably a fictionalized reference to the Axis) is captured by Dick Tracy at the start of the serial, [then] tried and sentenced to death. However, through the use of a rare drug embedded by his agents in[to] the evening newspaper, he escapes from the gas chamber. His men pick up his “corpse” by ambushing the hearse and, administering another counter-drug. He continues his espionage plans, while taking the opportunity of revenge on Tracy.
From historian William Cline:
[Dick Tracy serials were] “unexcelled in the action field” [and] “in any listing of serials released after 1930, the four Dick Tracy adventures from Republic must stand out as classics of the suspense detective thrillers and the models for many others to follow.”
Dick Tracy Depot (Watch all 15 chapters)
One-hundred, nineteen years ago, today, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz children’s novel was published. It was written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W. W. Denslow and published by the George M. Hill company in Chicago, IL. The title was shortened to The Wizard of Oz for the Broadway Musical adaptation in 1902 and the Musical Film adaptation in 1939.
The book is one of the best-known stories in American literature and has been widely translated. The Library of Congress has declared it “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.” Its groundbreaking success and the success of the Broadway musical adapted from the novel led Baum to write thirteen additional Oz books that serve as official sequels to the first story.
Baum dedicated the book “to my good friend & comrade, My Wife,” Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company completed printing the first edition, a total of 10,000 copies, which quickly sold out. It sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is considered the first American fairy tale because of its references to clear American locations such as Kansas and Omaha. Baum agreed with authors such as Carroll that fantasy literature was important for children, along with numerous illustrations but, he also wanted to create a story that had recognizable American elements in it such as farming and industrialization. Baum did not offer any conclusive proof that he intended his novel to be a political allegory.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has become an established part of multiple cultures, spreading from its early young American readership to becoming known throughout the world. It has been translated or adapted into well over fifty languages, at times being modified in local variations. For instance, in some abridged Indian editions, the Tin Woodman was replaced with a horse. In Russia, a translation by Alexander Melentyevich Volkov produced six books, The Wizard of the Emerald City series, which became progressively distanced from the Baum version, as Ellie and her dog Totoshka travel throughout the Magic Land. More recently, the story has become an American stage production (The Wiz) with an all-black cast, set in the context of modern African-American culture.
Sixty-five years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was Oh! My Pa-Pa (O Mein Papa) performed by Eddie Fisher. A lamentation, sung by a young woman grieving the loss of her clown-father, the song was written by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard in 1939 for the musical Der schwarze Hecht (The Black Pike). Reproduced and re-issued in 1950 as Das Feuerwerk (The Firework), the musical was made into a German film, Fireworks, in 1954 starring Lilli Palmer.
Trumpeter Eddie Calvert had a #1 with an instrumental version of the song in the UK at the very same time Fisher’s version was the #1 in the US.
On March 8, 1967, television audiences were treated to a version of the song by Jim Nabors, in character as Gomer Pyle, in the Season 3 episode (#85) “Sing a Song of Papa”. On October 24, 1991, Krusty the Clown sang the song as O mein Papa on The Simpsons in the Season 3 episode Like Father, Like Clown, a twist on the young woman’s sorrow over her father.
This song has been covered by many other artists, including The Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, Ray Anthony (last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra), The Bobbettes, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Björk (as “Pabbi minn”).
Eighty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was Kentucky, a Romeo & Juliet type film with elements of the Hatfields & McCoys thrown in. Starring Loretta Young, Richard Greene and Walter Brennan, the backdrop of the story is horseracing.
During the Civil War, two of the oldest families in Kentucky, the Dillons and the Goodwins, begin a long and bitter feud that has lasted into 1938. When Jack Dillon refuses to enter his father’s banking business he, under an assumed name, gets a job as a trainer in Sally Goodwin’s stables. A romance develops between them. When Sally’s father dies, the entire estate, including the horses, has to be sold at auction to pay his debts. A note turns up left by Sally’s father that, according to a wager made between him and the elder Dillon, any one horse in the Dillon stable can be claimed by the Goodwins. Complications arise when Sally finds out that Jack is a Dillon.
♦ A number of famous Kentucky-bred champion racehorses are presented including Gallant Fox, Omaha, Hard Tack, Chance Play and Man of War, who is called the greatest racehorse.
♦ Two Kentucky Derby winners, Willie “Smokey” Saunders and Charlie Burrell, were employed for the film.
♦ Don Ameche was originally cast for the male lead but, was replaced by Richard Greene after undergoing a tonsillectomy.
♦ Arleen Whelan was originally scheduled for the female lead.
There’s not really a trailer for this movie but, I did find this: