Thursday, March 7, 2013

Historical Characters in "These Are The Times"

Father Charles Edward Coughlin (1891-1979) was a Canadian-born Catholic priest who amassed an audience of millions of Americans through his radio broadcasts. A supporter of FDR 1932, his greatest foray into politics including promoting the National Union for Social Justice Party to defeat the President four years later.

Howard Da Silva (1909-1986) was born in Cleveland, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. Originally a steelworker, he founded the Peoples’ Theatre, producing the Cleveland premiere of “Waiting for Lefty” in 1935. A successful Broadway performer (playing Jud in the premeier of “Oklahoma!”) he suffered under the blacklist.

Robert William Andrew "Bob" Feller (1918-2010) rookied with the Cleveland Indians at the age of 17, throwing 15 strike-outs in his first start. He played his entire career for Cleveland, except for four years in military service during WWII.

Hallie Flanagan (1890-1969) received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study theater in Europe. She was developing experimental theater at Vassar when was tapped to head the Federal Theater Project. She volunteered to testify before HUAC to defend the project, but failed to save it from being defunded in 1939.

Alan Freed (1921-1965) was a DJ at WJW and is credited with popularizing the term “rock and roll” and staging the first “rock concert” at the Cleveland Arena in 1952. He relocated to New York in 1954, before being convicted in 1959 for accepting bribes to promote hit records.

George Gund II (1888-1966) the son of a Cleveland brewer, he was first in his class at Harvard business school. He began a career in banking in Seattle before returning home to become a director and eventually chairman of the Cleveland Trust Company. He founded the George Gund Foundation in 1957.

K. Elmo Lowe (1899-1971) came to Cleveland in 1921, joining Cleveland Play House. His matinee idol looks made him a very popular actor. As director he fostered the careers of many (Dorothy Hamilton, Joel Grey) and became CPH managing director in 1958. Nobody knows what the “K.” stands for.

William F. McDermott (1891-1958) was Plain Dealer drama critic from 1921 until his death. In addition to criticism, McDermott was a worldly opinion page columnist, even taking time from a vacation in Austria in 1938 to wire a dispatch critical of Nazi policies towards the Jewish people.

Edna Staley Ness (1900-1988) grew up in Chicago where she met Eliot Ness. They married in 1929. She moved to Cleveland with Ness in late 1935, and divorced less than three years later. They had no children. She returned to Chicago and never remarried.

Eliot Ness (1903-1957) was Cleveland Safety Director for six year and unsuccessfully ran for Mayor in 1947. He and his third wife adopted his only child in 1946. in Ineffective in business, he died penniless in Coudersport, PA but not before authoring “The Untouchables” which began his legend as a Prohibition-era crimefighter.

James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (1913-1980) won four gold medals in 1936 Olympics: the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and as part of the 4x100 meter relay team. He attended East Technical High in Cleveland, and Ohio State University. A chronic smoker, he died from lung cancer.

Beverly Potts (1941-1951?) was last seen heading home on her own after a twilight summer concert in Halloran Park in Lakewood.

Bernard Schrader (1914-1981) is a fictional character.

Sam Sheppard (1923-1970) was an osteopath living in Bay Village. In the early morning of July 4, 1954 his wife was bludgeoned to death in their bed. Sheppard was first convicted, later acquited due to denial of due process, a result of the firestorm of publicity surrounding the case.

Writer Jerome Siegel (1914-1996) and artist Joseph Shuster (1914-1992) were friends who graduated from Glenville High School in 1932. Six years later they successully published their creation, the comic book hero Superman.

Paul Sills (1927-2008) was a director at the Playwright’s Theater Club, and utilizing techniques developed by his mother, Viola Spolin (1906-1994) worked with David Shepherd to found Compass Players, the first improvised theater in the United States.

Noble Sissle (1889-1975) was a WWI vet, leading the 369th Infantry Band, contributing the love of jazz not only to American soldiers, but also the citizens of France. He broke racial barriers, his band welcomed into previously white-only theaters and clubs.

Sam Wanamaker (1919-1993) was a Chicago-born actor who was driven to work in Great Britain due to the blacklist. He is singularly responsible for the construction of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and is father to noted British actress Zoë Wanamaker.

George Orson Welles (1915-1985) was an actor, director, writer and producer in radio, theater and film. He terrorized gullible Americans with his radio adaptation of War of the Worlds in 1938. At the age of 26, he wrote, directed and starred in Citizen Kane, the greatest film ever made.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor (1894-1972) ascended the throne of England as King Edward VIII upon the death of his father, George V in January 1936. On December 11 of that year, he abdicated so that he could marry twice-divorced American citizen Wallis Simpson.

Dare Wright (1914-2001) attended Coventry Elementary School in Cleveland Heights, and later Laurel School. The daughter of Edith Stevenson Wright she was a successful fashion model and photographer, and is best known for authoring a series of children’s books starting with The Lonely Doll.

Edith Stevenson Wright (1883-1975) lived and worked in a studio penthouse apartment in the Hanna Building. Among her subjects were Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge, and Cleveland Play House company member Helen Watkins.

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