Good News in History, April 16

100 years ago today, Peter Ustinov, the iconic actor, writer, filmmaker, and diplomat was born in London (just barely because his Russian parents had just arrived there).

He won plenty of awards, including two Academy Awards for Supporting Actor (in Spartacus and Topkapi, and a nomination for Quo Vadis); 3 Emmys (Omnibus: The Life of Samuel Johnson, Barefoot in Athens, and A Storm in Summer); and a Grammy for Best Recording for Children (as narrator of Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf with the Philharmonia Orchestra).

An avid intellectual who spoke many languages, he held various academic posts and served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF for over 30 years. He raised money and visited some of the world’s most disadvantaged children—always making them laugh.

A novelist and screenwriter, he was knighted by the Queen, and Durham University changed the name of its Graduate Society to Ustinov College in honor of the significant contributions Ustinov had made as chancellor of the institution from 1992 until his death 12 years later at age 82.

You might remember his appearances (mimicking a variety of accents expertly) on The Muppet Show, or in the 70s and 80s, when he played Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot in half a dozen films.

In his autobiography, Dear Me, he described his life while being interrogated by his own ego, with forays into philosophy, theatre, fame, and self-realization. WATCH him speak in that eloquent voice on happiness, life lessons, perfection, and baby talk… (1921)

Photo credits: by Allan Warren, CC license (and, right, in Spartacus)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Charlie Chaplin was born in London, the first moviemaker to take complete control over his films, as the actor, writer, and director (1889)
  • Boston Arena, the oldest existing indoor ice hockey arena still used for the sport in the 21st century, now called Matthews Arena and considered a spectator’s dream venue, opened for the first time (1910)
  • Walter Cronkite first anchored the CBS Evening News broadcast; later he became “the most trusted man in America”, turning public opinion against U.S. aggression in Viet Nam (1962)
  • Bob Dylan debuted his song Blowin’ in the Wind on stage at Gerde’s Folk City in New York, and added a third middle verse later (1962)
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail while incarcerated in Alabama for protesting against segregation., saying, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (1963)
  • The Rolling Stones released their debut album, The Rolling Stones, it was issued in the US as England’s Newest Hit Makers (1964)
  • The National Zoo received two giant pandas, Ling-Ling (female) and Hsing-Hsing (male), a gift from China two months after President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to that country (1972)
  • The Treaty of Accession is signed in Athens admitting 10 new member states to the European Union (2003)
  • A Russian billionaire, Elena Baturina, said to be richest woman, invested $100 million in BeOpenFuture.com, a creative think-tank devoted to improving the world (2012)

And, 102 years ago today, Mahatma Gandhi organized a day of prayer and fasting in response to the massacre of hundreds of defenseless Indian protesters by the British in the Jallianwalla Bagh public garden. The tragedy caused many moderate Indians to abandon their loyalty to the British and become nationalists. It fueled the Non-cooperation Movement of 1920–22, directed by Gandhi, involving hundreds of thousands of Indians in non-violent protest and support of local goods and services. (1919)

Of the thousands of opening-day baseball games in MLB history, only once has a pitcher allowed zero hits from opposing batters from start to finish. In 2021, Bob Feller’s world record was safe for another year. In the last 81 years of Major League Baseball, no one has broken this pitcher’s record of throwing the only opening day no-hitter in the history of the game.

During that year, Bob Feller went on to accomplish a pitching triple crown for the Cleveland Indians, leading the American League in ERA (2.61), wins (27) and strikeouts (261)—the latter two led the entire majors. During his career, the phenom threw two more no-hitters and tallied 12 one-hitters.

Feller was ranked 36th on the Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players of all time. Of his death in 2010 at the age of 92, Mike Hegan, Indians broadcaster and son of former Feller teammate Jim Hegan, stated, “The Indians of the 40s and 50s were the face of the city of Cleveland, and Bob Feller was the face of the Indians.” Interrupted only by four years of military service in World War II, Feller played for the team for 18 years and remained loyal to the city for seven decades. (1940)

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