Significant News and Cultural Events this month – include the milestone Cuban Missile Crisis (16-28) a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union over the installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba. Perceiving an imminent threat to the U.S., President Kennedy demanded their dismantling and removal. After the U.S. Naval fleet encircled and blockaded Cuba, and more than a week of tense negotiations and incidents, the crisis came to an end when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles in exchange for a U.S. assurance not to invade Cuba and also remove American missiles in Turkey near the Soviet border. United Nations General Secretary U Thant then met with Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro to ensure the agreement would be followed. Castro had urged the Soviets to use the missiles if the U.S. invaded the island nation. The world was gripped by the tumultuous event, as no other issue before or since has brought the world so close to a nuclear conflagration.
Other noteworthy events include the registration of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, accompanied by federal marshals as protection from segregationists (1). Astronaut Wally Schirra orbited the earth six times, following in the space path of John Glenn earlier in the year (3). Newly independent Algeria was accepted into the United Nations (8). China and India, the world’s two most populous nations, went to war over a border incident (10). LED lighting is discovered by engineers at the General Electric Company. Its’ widespread usage would not occur until the 21st century (17). The Seattle World’s Fair (aka Century 21 Exposition) officially closes after a six month run (21). Ongoing protests and unrest at the attempt to desegregate Ole Miss lead the U.S. Attorney General’s office to declare that anyone attempting to interfere with Meredith attending classes would be held in “contempt of court.” (30).
In Pop Culture – Johnny Carson becomes the host of the late night Tonight show, a post he would hold for thirty years. Among his first guests are Joan Crawford, promoting her new as yet unreleased movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Tony Bennett. Earlier in the day another TV host and daytime fixture Merv Griffin, premiered his new talk show (1). Dr. No, a spy thriller based on the novels of Ian Fleming, opens in the UK. Lead character James Bond would not make his American debut until May 1963 (5). Edward Albee’s first full-length play,“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opens on Broadway. Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill starred as Martha and George, roles that would be inhabited by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the 1966 film version (13).
On the Music Charts:
Sherry by The Four Seasons continued its 5 week total run at the top of the singles chart for the first two weeks of the month, yielding to Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Cryptkickers, a future perennial novelty smash that held the #1 position during, appropriately, Halloween in a two week reign. Other top ten hits and peak positions include Do You Love Me by The Contours (#3), Let’s Dance by Chris Montez (#4), I Remember You by Frank Ifield (#5), Patches by Dickey Lee (#6), and Venus in Blue Jeans by Jimmy Clanton (#7). Peter, Paul and Mary ascended to the top of the album chart with their eponymous Lp. Among the songs are Pete Seeger’s folk anthems “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have all the Flowers Gone.” Other strong entries for the month are Ramblin’ Rose by Nat King Cole, and the soundtrack for The Music Man.
At the Movies, the top ten grossing films of the generally slow month at the box office are the Cinerama spectacular The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (#1) playing exclusively in limited roadshow engagements; West Side Story (#2), Walt Disney’s Almost Angels (#3), bolstered by playing on double bills with the reissue of Disney’s animated hit Lady and the Tramp; The Chapman Report (#4) a censored adaptation of female sexuality, directed by veteran George Cukor with a female-centric cast headed by Shelley Winters, Claire Bloom, and newcomer Jane Fonda; Art-house crossover hit Boccaccio ’70 (#5); The Pigeon That Took Rome (#6), a WWII comedy starring Charlton Heston in a rare comic turn; I Thank a Fool (#7) an implausible drama with Susan Hayward and Peter Finch; No Man is an Island (#8) a WWII tale set in the South Pacific with Jeffrey Hunter. Two art house entries also broke into the top ten: Waltz of the Toreadors (#9) a British period comedy starring rising star Peter Sellers, and a critically derided French-Italian collaboration, A Very Private Affair (#10), directed by Louis Malle, featuring two of Europe’s biggest stars, Brigitte Bardot and Marcello Mastroianni.