Good News on This Day in History – December 28

125 years ago today, what is believed to be the first paid audience for a motion picture saw 10 short films by the Lumière brothers in Paris, including what turned out to be the birth of cinema: 46 seconds of Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory.

Auguste and Louis Lumière started in the film business as manufacturers of photography equipment, best known for their Cinématographe motion picture system. Their history-making film presentations—about 9 minutes long in total—were produced by hand-cranking their films through a projector.

WATCH the first cinema, including feeding a baby, a hose prank pulled on a gardener, and men pouring drinks while playing cards. (1895)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Westminster Abbey was consecrated (1065)
  • Cyrano de Bergerac, an Edmond Rostand play, premiered in Paris – about a real-life French dramatist and his nose (1897)
  • The Peak District became the UK’s first National Park (1950)
  • President Richard Nixon signed a strengthened version of the Endangered Species Act, which led to the recovery of the bald eagle and other species (1973)
  • The first American test-tube baby, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, was born in Norfolk, Virginia (1981)
  • Nepal‘s parliament abolished the country’s monarchy to replace it with a democratic Republic (2007)

And, 98 years ago today Stan Lee, the Marvel Comics writer and publisher who co-created Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four, was born.

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Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC

He introduced a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books, and – with his knack for business – rose from being a lowly assistant who filled ink-wells to the president and chairman responsible for transforming Marvel Comics from a small division of a publishing house into a large multimedia corporation.

Marshaling his childhood ambition to be a writer, young Stanley Lieber made his comic-book debut with the text filler “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge” in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941), using the pseudonym Stan Lee. His initial story also introduced Captain America’s trademark ricocheting shield-toss.

Charged with creating a new superhero team in the 1950’s for the company, which was then known as Atlas Comics, Lee created the Fantastic Four, and gave them human frailties complexities–a first for the industry. His characters, could have bad tempers, fits of melancholy; and they bickered amongst themselves, worried about paying bills or impressing girlfriends, and even got physically ill. The comic’s popularity led to Lee’s creation of a string of new characters, including the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and the X-Men.

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In the 70s, Lee began using comic books for social commentary, which often dealt with racism, discrimination, intolerance, or prejudice. He also introduced the practice of regularly including a credit panel on the splash page of each story, naming not just the writer and penciller but also the inker and letterer. Before he died in 2018, he had overseen the charitable Stan Lee Foundation since 2010 to focus on literacy, education and the arts, written a how-to book for writing comics, and introduced his digital graphic novel God Woke at the 2016 Comic-Con International. (1922–2018)

2014 Photo by Sachyn Mital, CC license

Happy 42nd Birthday to John Legend, the singer–pianist–composer who recently became the 15th person (and first black man) ever to achieve EGOT status (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), after he was honored as a producer on the musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live. He scored his first big hit in 2005 with ‘Ordinary People,’ and has won 10 Grammy Awards.

Legend has also collaborated with dozens of artists, such as Jay-Z and Kanye West. His song ‘Glory’ (with rapper Common) nabbed the Oscar for Best Original Song after being featured in the film Selma. Legend’s 2013 single ‘All of Me’ from his fourth studio album—Love in the Future—became a Billboard No.1 hit. (1978)

And, Happy Birthday to Denzel Washington who turns 66 today. The acclaimed actor grew up in a blue-collar household in Mount Vernon, New York, and in Florida, after which he attended university and discovered his talent for acting while working at a summer camp. He went on to win a Tony and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for the historical war film Glory and Best Actor for the crime thriller Training Day.

Denzel’s consistently stellar performances since the 1980s included many portrayals of real-life figures such as anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in Cry Freedom, the boxer Rubin Carter in The Hurricane, the Virginia High School football coach who fought racism in Remember the Titans, the Muslim civil rights activist Malcolm X, and the educator Melvin B. Tolson in The Great Debaters—a movie he also directed. His third film as a director, Fences, in which he also starred in 2016, was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

A devout Christian, he’s been married for 36 years to Pauletta Pearson, and has served as the national spokesperson and a board member for Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over a quarter century. He’s done so much for one New York City public elementary school that they decided to officially rename their school after him. WATCH Denzel earlier this year accepting the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award… (1954)

 

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