You Must Remember These: 1900-1949
"Superman," Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club, and "War of the Worlds" are a few moments on our list
Sometimes you know entertainment history is being made in an instant: Jolson speaks, Garbo laughs, the Beatles Want to Hold Your Hand on The Ed Sullivan Show. But mostly what makes a moment memorable is the head-smacking realization — the next day or year or decade — that you can’t picture life without Satchmo and Ralph Kramden and Toto, too. You can’t imagine a world without fears from Stephen King and yo!s from Rocky Balboa and yum!s from Cookie Monster. In honor of the 100th issue of Entertainment Weekly, here are the 100 moments that make us who we are today.
CALIFORNIA, HERE THEY COME
Movie lovers, you’ll never know how close you came to hearing a song called ”Hooray for Flagstaff.” At the dawn of the film business, Cecil B. DeMille was sent to that Arizona town to shoot a Western called The Squaw Man. A few weeks later, his partners in New York, Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) and Jesse Lasky, received the following telegram from DeMille: FLAGSTAFF NO GOOD FOR OUR PURPOSE. HAVE PROCEEDED TO CALIFORNIA. WANT AUTHORITY TO RENT BARN IN PLACE CALLED HOLLYWOOD FOR $75 A MONTH. Rents have increased somewhat since.
When an unsung British music-hall performer stepped before a movie camera in Making a Living, one reviewer noted that ”the clever player who takes the role of the nervy and very nifty sharper is a comedian of the first water.” Good call. Within a few years, Charles Chaplin’s perfectly timed slapstick had made him the most famous person on the planet, and when he began to invest his Little Tramp with a delicate humanity, it was one of the first signs that a movie could be Art. The character remains so universally beloved that IBM uses Chaplin’s image to sell computers 14 years after his death.
YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN
On Nov. 12, in a small Chicago studio, jazz’s greatest artist made his best records ever. Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five featured Satchmo’s trumpet, Kid Ory’s trombone, Johnny Dodds’ clarinet, wife Lil Armstrong’s piano, and Johnny St. Cyr’s banjo. The Hot Five never played outside the studio, yet the handful of records they made are studied, dissected, and enjoyed 65 years later.
ON THE DIAL, A DO-SI-DO
It began under the name ”Barn Dance,” a country-music radio concert broadcast on Saturday nights on WSM, Nashville. Announcer George Hay gave it its new name in ’27. Mocking the fact that the show followed the NBC Symphony Orchestra on the air, he urged his listeners, ”Now get down to earth with the Grand Ole Opry!” Powered by a strong radio signal and its concentration on hard-core country, the Opry turned singer-fiddler Roy Acuff and comedian Minnie Pearl into household names, and became country’s showcase for new and established performers.
”THE RICH ARE DIFFERENT”
”Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” With those lines, F. Scott Fitzgerald closed the book on The Great Gatsby. ”This book will be a consciously artistic achievement,” he promised. Many have tried since the Jazz Age, but no writer has better expressed the yearning for the unattainable that marks American romanticism.