Good News in History, January 5

Happy 75th Birthday to the Oscar-winning actress Diane Keaton, who is also a producer, photographer, writer, and fabulous fashionista.

Her acclaimed 1972 breakout performance came in The Godfather, playing Michael Corleone’s wife throughout the trilogy. But, perhaps she’s best known for her starring roles in Woody Allen comedies, including her fourth, Annie Hall, which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Keaton became famous—a goal she’d set as a little girl—with another huge hit alongside co-stars Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler in The First Wives Club, which brought in $180 million after its 1996 release. Her new movie, the romantic comedy Love, Weddings & Other Disasters co-starring Jeremy Irons, came out last month.

Her heart is just as special—and she was spotted last week dropping off a $25,000 donation at a Los Angeles food bank. She joined several reunion streaming specials during the 2020 pandemic to benefit World Central Kitchen with the casts from The Parent Trap and Father of the Bride. WATCH an intimate interview from 2020, and check out her real estate passions, and three tell-all memoirs… (1946)

Ruven Afanador, 2012, Creative Commons license

Keaton is active in campaigns to save and restore historic buildings in L.A., and has been passionately buying, renovating and decorating, then reselling, mansions in the area.

She wrote her family memoir, Then, Again, in 2011, and a tell-all autobiography in 2014 about her life in a beauty-fixated industry, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty—which detailed which leading men she was most attracted to. (Al Pacino was one whom she regrets breaking up with.) In her new memoir, Brother and Sister, she opens up about her brother’s mental illness…

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • 125 years ago, the discovery of a type of radiation, later known as X-rays, was first reported (1896)
  • Nellie Tayloe Ross in Wyoming succeeded her late husband becoming the first female governor in the US (1925)
  • The FCC heard the first transmission of FM radio—invented by Edwin H. Armstrong to be a clear, static-free signal—broadcasted in a long-distance relay network, via five stations in five states before it was assigned its own spectrum later that year (1940)
  • The Daily Mail became the first transoceanic newspaper (1944)
  • Pope Paul VI met the Greek Orthodox leader, the first time since 1439 the two sides had talked (1964)
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival released their second album, Bayou Country, featuring the singles Good Golly, Miss Molly and Proud Mary (1969)
  • Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., was released, but sold just 25,000 copies in its first year (1973)
  • The Wiz opened at the Majestic Theatre in New York City—the musical adaption of The Wizard of Oz by Charlie Smalls that ran for 1,672 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical (1975)
  • A 15-year-old Mumbai, Indian schoolboy, Pranav Dhanawade, became the first batsman to ever score more than 1000 runs (1009) in a cricket single innings in an officially recognized match (2016)

On this day 16 years ago, Eris, the largest known dwarf planet in the solar system, was discovered by Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David L. Rabinowitz at the Palomar Observatory. A minor-planet named after the Greek goddess of strife and discord, Eris is the most massive and second-largest known dwarf planet and the ninth-most massive object directly orbiting the Sun. With a diameter 0.27% as large as the Earth, it is also the largest object in our solar system that has not been visited by a spacecraft. (2005)

2010 Photo by David Shankbone, CC license

And,  Happy Birthday to actor and filmmaker Robert Duvall who turns 90 today. Born in San Diego, the star of stage and screen has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won for his 1983 performance in Tender Mercies. But it was his was role in one of the greatest films ever made, The Godfather—and its sequel The Godfather Part II, that made him a household name. Other important films or roles included The Conversation, Network, Apocalypse Now, The Great Santini, The Natural, and The Apostle. At age 84, Duvall became the oldest actor at that point ever to be nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role opposite Robert Downey Jr. in The Judge. (1931)

2013 photo by jdeeringdavis, CC

Also, sending birthday wishes to Philadelphia native Bradley Cooper, who turns 46 years old today. Before pursuing drama, the multiple Academy-award nominated actor earned an honors degree in English from Georgetown University. (1975)

And, 53 years ago today, the Prague Spring began after a true reformer, Alexander Dubcek, was elected within the Communist party of Czechoslovakia. The liberal-minded leader started to grant additional rights to citizens—loosening restrictions on the media, speech and travel.

The Soviet Union finally brought down its iron hammer to halt the democratization eight months later, invading the country with a half a million heavily-armed troops. But it wasn’t enough to stop a spirited non-violent resistance mounted throughout the country. While the Soviet military had predicted that it would take four days to subdue the country the resistance held out for eight months, and was only circumvented by diplomatic strategies. Although a new Soviet-controlled government reversed almost all of Dubček’s reforms, the Prague Spring inspired iconic civil disobedience, music and literature such as the work of Václav Havel, Karel Husa, Karel Kryl, and Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. 20 years later, freedoms were finally restored when the Velvet Revolution ended pro-Soviet rule peacefully. (1968)

And, 116 years ago today, the National Association of Audubon Society, the nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation, was incorporated—and not a minute too soon. Americans were using bird feathers in their fashionable hats at a rapid rate. White egrets, in particular, were so highly prized that “their feathers were worth twice their weight in gold.” These magnificent creatures and many more were saved by a grassroots movement of men and women who each rallied Americans in their own way to pledge that they would not harm bird species. It was first named the Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds, to honor of the famed wildlife and bird artist, John James Audubon.

Harriet Hemenway used her home in Boston as the gathering spot for local friends who started the Massachusetts Audubon Society. From there, Audubon Societies sprang up across the country and, finally, in New York City, leaders from 31 state organizations formed the national group, later renamed the National Audubon Society. At nearly the same time federal legislation was brewing that supported the group’s goals: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protected migratory species of birds, and the Lacey Act banned trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that were illegally taken, transported, or sold.

Currently, the Audubon Society is conducting their 120th annual Christmas Bird Count, during which tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers participate in collecting species data across the Western Hemisphere from mid-December and ending today. (1905)

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