July 22, 2021

#ThrowbackThursday – 22 July

More often than not, fortune favours the bold … other times, not so much.

Lady Luck is wont to bestow success – or tragedy, if she’s feeling vicious enough – on certain persons, to the point that their places in history are cemented, for better or worse.

By taking a look at these five events that went down on 22 July, you will clearly see which people have benefitted from Lady Luck’s helping hand (or felt the wrath of her iron fist):

1844 – A Mouthful of Spoonerisms

William Spooner was a distinguished English clergyman and Oxford warden, but history remembers him best for his supposed manner of speech – or should we say “spanner of meech”?

According to legend, Reverend Spooner – who was born on this day – was a slightly nervous man known for his “spoonerisms”, which saw him switching certain consonants and vowels. For example, he allegedly referred to God as a “shoving leopard” instead of a “loving shepherd”. In another alleged incident, while speaking about Queen Victoria, he cried out, “Three cheers for our queer old dean!”, rather than the intended “dear old queen”.

Although the poor reverend himself claimed that he only made one known spoonerism (“The Kinquering Congs” instead of “The Conquering Kings”), students and colleagues took to making up spoonerisms for fun, often with hilarious results and sometimes attributed to him. Lad buck, Reverend!

1933 – Opera Noir

For the first time in history, Caterina Jarboro became the first black woman to ever sing on an American opera stage.

A talented soprano from North Carolina who performed across Europe, Jarboro returned to the USA in 1933 to play the title role in Verdi’s “Aida”. Taking to the stage of the New York Hippodrome Theatre, the 30-year-old singer performed alongside an all-white opera company.

Jarboro’s performance was well-received by the audience and critics alike; from the music editor at “The New York Times” to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, they praised her presence, her vividness, and her ability to perfectly pull off Italian diction.

Jarboro went on to enjoy a largely successful career in both the USA and Europe, before she retired from singing in 1955 at the age of 57. Undoubtedly, the impact of her performance 22 years ago helped to open doors for other black women in the opera world.

1934 – Dillinger Bites the Dust

Exactly one month after celebrating his 31st birthday, notorious gangster John Dillinger was killed by federal agents.

Considered one of the most renowned criminals of the Great Depression era, Dillinger orchestrated daring bank robberies across the USA, and carried out equally daring break-outs from prisons with the aid of his gang.

Dillinger’s life of crime came to an end on 22 July after he, his girlfriend and Anna Sage – a friend of theirs – went to see “Manhattan Melodrama” at the Biograph Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. Little did he know that a trap had been set up between FBI agents, the local police and Sage herself.

So, after the movie finished, the trio exited the theatre, where they were met by the agents. Dillinger’s near-escape was hardly glamorous – he attempted to flee through an alley. Unfortunately for him, he was shot to death.

1959 – “Plan 9 from Outer Space” Enters Existence

Critics and audiences alike have called it the worst film ever (and no doubt it has been called even more unpleasant things than that); nevertheless, 22 July marks the day on which Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space” made its premiere.

Starring notable names such as Gregory Walcott, Bela Lugosi and Maila Nurmi, the plot is simple as it is ridiculous: aliens attempt to take over Earth in order to save humanity from nuclear destruction. With zombies thrown into the mix, horrendous dialogue, questionable acting, and blooperifically-shot sequences, the plot takes an unpredictable turn for the bizarrely worst.

“Plan 9” was not exactly deemed Oscar material upon its release; however, it has gained cult status over the years, with many of its supporters dubbing it as the “epitome of so-bad-it’s-good cinema”. Indeed, in and amongst the cringe, there lies a semblance of charm within Wood’s famous flop.

1994 – “Absolutely 100% Not Guilty”

After his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were found killed outside her home on 12 June in Los Angeles, California, O. J. Simpson was suspected of involvement by the police.

Following their subsequent murders – as well as a highly-publicised car chase – Simpson was arraigned in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. When asked how he pleaded to the murders, the former footballer’s response was firm and confident: “Absolutely 100% not guilty.”

Simpson would go on to be trialled for Brown and Goldman’s murders in January the following year, an affair that lasted for ten months. It was marked by the testimonies of more than 150 witnesses, racism allegations against the local police department, and the infamous quote by Simpson’s lawyer, Johnnie Cochran: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit”, in reference to the leather gloves found at the scene of the crime.

Throughout the trial, Simpson staunchly maintained his innocence. He would ultimately be acquitted on 3 October 1995, although he would find himself running into legal troubles for the next couple of years.