This week in arts and entertainment history hosted five monumental events that’ll be remembered for decades to come. From the release of one of cinema’s most beloved films to the premiere of one of adult animation’s most successful shows, The PHOENIX looks back on five events that shaped modern entertainment.
“City Lights” premieres at the Los Angeles Theatre (1/30/31)
By 1931, English actor, writer and director Charlie Chaplin had become fairly well known after the release of his films “The Gold Rush” and “The Circus.” In addition, by 1931 the use of sound had been officially adopted by Hollywood as the next frontier for filmmaking. Despite what other filmmakers in Hollywood were doing, Chaplin demanded his film,“City Lights,” be soundless. His stubbornness resulted in what many film critics call one of the greatest silent films ever made.
The Los Angeles Theatre premiere of “City Lights” in 1931 attracted prominent figures such as Albert Einstein and received a standing ovation. The film’s timeless story about a hapless man’s love for a blind flower girl still resonates today with audiences of all ages, causing them to laugh and cry more than eight decades later.
“Of Mice and Men” is published (2/6/37)
John Steinbeck’s (“The Grapes of Wrath,” “East of Eden”) early masterpiece, “Of Mice and Men,” follows two of literature’s most iconic characters, Lenny Small and George Milton, as they work the fields of a California farm. The beautiful, honest and heartbreaking friendship between the two has compelled new readers since its release in 1937.
There’s a reason students across the country often study “Of Mice and Men.” The novel is a character study and examination of the distant promise of the American Dream, and Steinbeck’s prose is natural and digestible for readers. Although a story about migrant farm workers in Depression-era California might not sound appealing to high school students at first, “Of Mice and Men” will have readers of all ages heartbroken by its infamous last scene.
Buddy Holly’s plane crashes in Iowa (2/3/59)
On Feb. 3, 1959, rock-and-roll pioneer Buddy Holly boarded a plane to Moorehead, Minnesota that crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, with fellow rockers Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson also on board. Today, this tragic event is known as “The Day the Music Died,” a phrase made famous by Don McLean’s folk ballad, “American Pie.”
Holly is often credited as a major influence for artists, such as Bob Dylan and The Beatles, and an early superstar of rock-and-roll. His unique hiccupping vocals and iconic appearance have kept him relevant to this day. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him the 13th greatest artist of all time.
The Late Show with David Letterman premieres on NBC (2/1/82)
Before David Letterman was the legendary TV host he’s known as today, he was a sarcastic comedian from New York who just landed his own show. On Feb. 1, 1982, after an odd cold open featuring a group of female dancers dressed as peacocks, Letterman delivered his first monologue and proceeded to give a dry-humored tour of his new studio. Afterward, he welcomed his first guest, Bill Murray.
Over the next 33 years, Letterman grew to superstardom in Late Night television. On May 20, 2015, the final episode of the “Late Show with David Letterman” premiered to a viewership of 13.76 million, placing it just outside the top-50 most watched series finales in television history.
The pilot episode of “Family Guy” premieres (1/31/99)
“Death Has a Shadow,” the first episode of “Family Guy,” made its debut after Super Bowl XXXIII. The story, written by creator Seth MacFarlane, involved Peter Griffin signing up for welfare after losing his job. However, after receiving more money than anticipated, he ends up dumping much of it from a blimp above an ongoing Super Bowl game.
The pilot garnered 22 million viewers upon its release, but it immediately sparked controversy regarding its mature animated content. Today, “Family Guy” still divides audiences with its contentious sense of humor and sometimes-ravenous fan base. In 2013, TV Guide Magazine ranked the show the ninth greatest cartoon of all time.