Sep. 18, 2000

The Old Story

by Louis MacNeice

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 18 September 2000

"The Old Story," by Louis MacNeice, from Collected Poems (Faber & Faber).]]

It's the birthday of essayist Noel Perrin, born in New York City (1927). He's best known for his essays on rural life and small-time country farming: First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer (1978), Second Person Rural: More Essays of a Sometime Farmer (1980), and Last Person Rural (1991).

It's the birthday of choreographer Agnes de Mille, born in New York City (1905). She choreographed the ballet Rodeo (1942; music by Aaron Copland), and the Broadway hit Oklahoma! (1943).

It's the birthday of actress Greta Garbo, born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, in Stockholm, Sweden (1905). Her family was poor, and at 13 she dropped out of school to care for her ailing father. She took him every week to a charity clinic where they waited hours to see the doctor; she vowed that when she was an adult she would not live in such poverty. Once she became a Hollywood star, she managed her fortune carefully and behaved unlike other stars--she granted no interviews, signed no autographs, attended no premieres, and answered no fan mail. Her films include Flesh and the Devil (1927), Anna Christie (1930), Grand Hotel (1932), Anna Karenina (1935), and Ninotchka (1939). She sought seclusion at 36, then lived to be 84.

It's the birthday of drama critic Harold Clurman, born in New York City (1901). Along with Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, he founded the Group Theater (1931). His memoir of that time is called The Fervent Years (1945).

In 1850 on this day, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law, which required that runaway slaves be returned to their owners. This law moved Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).

A widely-heralded race between a steam locomotive and a horse was held on this day in 1830; the horse won. The first railroad engine built in America--the Tom Thumb-- broke down with a boiler leak and couldn't complete the 9-mile course between Riley's Tavern and Baltimore, Maryland.

It's the birthday of lexicographer Samuel Johnson, born in Lichfield, Staffordshire (1709). He wrote the Dictionary of the English Language (1755). Johnson died at 76, leaving his estate to his servant, a former slave whom he had freed.

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