The year was 1927. No really, that’s it. Today’s article is simply a break-down of 1927, as it went down in the U.S. of A. Off the top of my head, this is the year silent films were captured by the talkies and sent to the gallows. Booze was illegal, pot was not. Various people probably did the Charleston, and Hemingway was the rock star du jour.
Let’s start with the president, Calvin Coolidge. His reputation is split between people who admired the tenacity of his hairline and those who felt his promotion of laissez-faire economics may not have turned out well for America in the years after he left office. As for his vice-president, Charles G. Dawes, he won (well, he co-won) the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing World War I reparations, and he named his son Rufus Fearing Dawes, which is downright awesome.
1927 opened with the first trans-Atlantic phone call, from New York to London. Ironically, it was a telemarketing call, asking if London was happy with its long-distance carrier. It was.
The Roxy Theatre opened in New York City, just off Times Square. This was the era in which grand, elaborate theatres were constructed for showcasing movies. The multiplex was a distant dream – a dreary, bland distant dream. The Roxy, run by Samuel L. Rothafel, was architecturally stunning, and came to be known as the Cathedral of the Motion Picture. Rothafel left a few years later to bring Radio City Music Hall to life, and the Roxy carried on until 1960. No punchline here, just a great photo of Gloria Swanson (whose film, The Love of Sunya was the first show exhibited at the Roxy) standing amid the Roxy’s rubble.
The worst river flood in the history of the United States, the Great Mississippi Flood, went down in April. It was a horrible tragedy that caused millions of dollars of damage, but it had the courtesy to inspire a number of blues songs, including Memphis Minnie’s (and later, Led Zeppelin’s) “When The Levee Breaks”.
The Academy that would later inspire the lie that “it’s an honor just to be nominated” was founded on May 11. Interesting trivia: the Academy Award came to be known as an ‘Oscar’ after acclaimed performer Oscar the Grouch. Nobody will read this, so I feel safe in asserting this as fact.
On May 17, aviation pioneer Harold Geiger (and wouldn’t it be cool if the Geiger Counter was named after him? It wasn’t) died in a plane crash in Pennsylvania. Three days later, Charles Lindbergh stole the aviation headlines away from him by flying the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris. In your face, Harry.
May 21, Lindbergh lands. Two days later, media distraction claims its first victims, as the first live demonstration of television is held for 600 electrical and radio engineers in New York. All present were thrilled and hopeful that someday the technology could be used to follow around celebrities nobody likes in order to promote synergy and sell fragrance lines.
In early August the Peace Bridge opened between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo. According to the official Peace Bridge Wikipedia page, this actually occurred on June 1. It sounds like Wikipedia is having a tiff over this one, and I certainly don’t want to get involved.
The Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System started up in September of 1927 with a network of 47 radio stations. Later known as CBS, and still later known as “that channel that Magnum P.I. is on”, this was kind of a big deal.
As I mentioned above, the silent film era had its ass kicked in October when The Jazz Singer (not the Neil Diamond film, though I suppose that’s obvious) was released on October 6. This was a tragic event for some performers, whose voices were Drescher-esque at best. Nevertheless, silent cinema hit what I believe to be its peak less than a month later with the release of Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.
Also in October, “Murderer’s Row” decimated Pittsburgh on four brutal nights. For those of you who aren’t ‘hep’ to flapper-era baseball terms (and my hep-ness only began just now when I looked this up), “Murderer’s Row” refers to the dangerous stretch of batters on the New York Yankees’ roster, which included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and who shut the Pirates out in four games to win the World Series.
On November 12, the Holland Tunnel opens to unbelievably thick traffic between New York and New Jersey. About three weeks later, Ford announces the Model A will replace the Model T as their new production. There’s a T&A joke in there somewhere, but luckily I’m too classy to look for it.
A number of important people were born in 1927. A larger number of wholly unimportant people were as well, and if I run out of space with the important folks, maybe I’ll get to them:
– Robert “Benson” Guillaume. He bitched out the family he worked for on Soap and was rewarded with his own spin-off.
– Roger “That Other Bond” Moore. I’ve heard a number of people say A View To A Kill is one of the worst Bond movies ever, but I say, “it has a guy being thrown out of a zeppelin! Come on!”
– Sidney Poitier. Having finally gotten around to seeing In The Heat Of The Night and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner this year, I have no joke for this man; he’s one of the greatest actors ever.
– Jerry Stiller. “You got the hen, the chicken and the rooster. The rooster goes with the chicken. So who’s having sex with the hen?”
– Robert Shaw. He played the shit out of Quint in Jaws.
– Peter Falk. He had cancer at three, lost an eye, and conquered show business by haranguing it with questions until it confessed.
– George C. Scott, who won an Oscar for Patton but deserved one for Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers deserved three for the same film), was born twelve days after the movies started to talk.
That about wraps up 1927. This turned out to be one of the more ‘soft-ball’ articles I’ve been given by Wikipedia for this experiment, as my research was limited due to the multitude of things on the main page. Also, I got to use the word ‘hep’, so it’s really a big win for me.
I’m sure Wikipedia will have its revenge tomorrow.