WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN AUGUST 1950:
 
 

Nat “King” Cole scores perhaps his most enduring hit with Mona Lisa, his his third #1 Pop hit since his mid-1940’s shift away from jazz, making him one of the few black artists with a large white following. Yet it also brought him his first #1 R&B Chart hit in six years making it the only record of his career to top both listings.

The song had first been heard earlier in 1950 in the film Captain Cary, U.S.A. performed by trumpeter bandleader Charlie Spivak with Tommy Lynn singing lead while backed by a female choir. Though the melody was appealing the performance was far too dainty, obscuring the emotional weight of the song in the process.

Cole’s cover version stripped down the arrangement while his mellow tone and unhurried manner gave the song additional gravitas, heightening the melancholy feel of the story considerably.

A flood of cover versions followed from all walks of the music scene with Billboard’s Honor Roll Of Hits listing twelve best selling versions including those by Harry James, Art Lund, Victor Young, Dennis Day, Jimmy Wakely and Ralph Flanagan as well as a Top Ten country entry by Moon Mullican. Not listed among them is an instrumental rendition by Frank “Floorshow” Culley which marked the only rock version of Mona Lisa to come out during the year.

Cole scored well over a hundred hits in his career that took him from one of jazz’s most acclaimed pianists in the early 1940’s to the premier romantic balladeer of the 1950’s, eventually having his own television show and starring in movies before his death from cancer at the age of 45 in early 1965.
 


 
 

With school starting around the corner you might want to move if you live in Tennessee and expect an education as one third of the counties in the state provide no high school for black students. In these areas only families who are willing to pay tuition and have their kids travel to other counties to attend all-black schools can gain a high school diploma. Of course every county has public high schools that are free of charge to all white residents.

This month four black children were turned away from enrolling in Clinton, Tennessee’s public high school which led to the parents filing a lawsuit four months later against the Anderson County School Board over the lack of public high schools for their children, a case that took years to work its way through the trial and appeal stage (not surprisingly the Knoxville District Court initially ruled in favor of the school board saying the families weren’t terribly inconvenienced by sending their children to another county!), by which time the Supreme Court had desegregated public schools in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, May, 1954.

Anderson County would see its first school desegregation come in September 1955 and in May 1957 Bobby Cain received his diploma from Clinton High School, becoming the first African-American to graduate a state supported integrated public high school in the south.

In spite of the eventual legal and moral victories, the stubborn resistance to… and ongoing protests over… integration and the inevitable violence that went with it, including the bombing of Clinton High School in October 1958 in a last ditch effort to stop certain American kids from receiving an education, showed that to white Americans it was far more important to desecrate the country’s Declaration Of Independence that had eloquently stated “All men are created equal (and) that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” than it was to actually teach those supposedly cherished ideals to every child in the nation.
 
 
 

Sunset Boulevard debuts at Radio City Music Hall, earning over a million dollars at that theater alone during its seven week run.

Perhaps the defining work of Billy Wilder’s career and one of the most celebrated movies of all-time, it stands as both the darkest of black comedies and the most cynical of film noirs and was nominated for eleven Academy Awards including all of the major categories – Best Picture, Director and one each of the principle Acting roles (Male and Female lead and supporting), yet came up empty in all of them, winning only for Best Original Screenplay, Art Direction and Score.

Yet no picture from that year cast as long of a shadow as this look at the skeletons rattling inside Hollywood’s closets. From the opening shot of William Holden’s corpse floating in the swimming pool while he narrates the story that led to his death the memorable scenes rapidly pile up on one another as faded silent screen star Norma Desmond ropes hack screenwriter Joe Gillis into re-writing her attempted epic big screen comeback script.

He soon goes from using her in order to enjoy luxuries long out of his reach to resenting the fact he’s essentially a kept man expected to provide romance and companionship to a proud but increasingly delusional strong-willed woman unable to cope with the loss of stardom.

The role ironically vaulted Holden into one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars and provided a triumphant return to the screen for real-life former silent movie star Gloria Swanson whose hauntingly over the top performance as Norma is one of Hollywood’s most powerful and iconic roles.

“You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures… you used to be big.”

“ I AM big, it’s the PICTURES that got small!”

 

 
 
 

Want to watch old movies in your home like Norma Desmond? You’re in luck as the home video market gets its start decades before the VCR made watching movies in the comfort of your own home commonplace.

Ideal Pictures of Chicago is willing to rent you 16mm prints of such classic films as 1934’s
It Happened One Night
, one of just three movies ever to sweep all five major Academy Awards and Pygmalion, another Oscar winner from 1938.

Prior to the advent of film rentals the only way to see these movies would be if the studio re-released them in theaters, which was a rarity. But with the advent of home projectors some studios saw there might be profit in renting them through an intermediary. The process was expensive however as they needed to send out copies of the actual prints themselves to Ideal’s offices around the country for people to pick them up.

As inviting as the top films in their catalog were, most major studios didn’t partake in this and so the majority of the movies available at the time were such gems as Konga The Wild Stallion and Out West With The Peppers and the B-movie serial The Green Archer.

Just who was this service marketed at? Civic clubs, town organizations and those throwing home movie parties! With that kind of target market chances are the studios were essentially treating this as almost a small scale single location re-release and charging a bundle for it rather thinking of it as a way for a family of three from Podunk to spend a Saturday night munching popcorn in their den while watching an old movie.
 
 
 

A New Jersey couple guilty of disturbing the peace were let off with a warning after police responded to an apartment complex in Perth Amboy upon receiving multiple complaints of doorbells in the building being rung incessantly that night.

Upon arriving to investigate the disturbance they found a young man kissing his date upon dropping her off as she inadvertently leaned back against the buttons for the doorbells in the lobby.

Because the perpetrators were not two African-Americans in the Twenty-First Century, police were somehow able to disperse the amorous couple without murdering them and didn’t bother even issuing them a citation for their crimes.
 
 
 

Tired of buying a box of cookies and not knowing what they even look like until you open the box after you get home, finding to your dismay that they’re the wrong shape, size or color?

Fear not, because Nabisco has solved that problem once and for all with their new line of cookies that come wrapped in cellophane.

Now you no longer have to get a job in the factory that makes them to know just how these cookies appear before taking them home, instead you can stand in the store aisle drooling over these delectable treats, anticipating how good they’ll taste when they’re out of that cellophane and in your mouth. Keep in mind these are the only cookies on the market that allows you a sneak preview of your snacking pleasure to come.

So be a flavor detective and look for Nabisco’s new cellophane wrapped wafer cookies at your grocer’s.

 
 
 
RECORDS REVIEWED FOR AUGUST 1950:

THE RAVENS: Get Wise Baby
DAVE BARTHOLOMEW: Messy Bessie
DAVE BARTHOLOMEW: Frantic Chick
JOE THOMAS: Raw Meat
EMMIT SLAY (with TODD RHODES): Beulah
PAUL GAYTEN: Goodnight Irene
PAUL GAYTEN: Ooh La La
IVORY JOE HUNTER: Old Man’s Boogie
IVORY JOE HUNTER: Living A Lie
EARL BOSTIC: Seven Steps
BIG JOE TURNER: Jumpin’ Tonight
BIG JOE TURNER: Story To Tell
ANDREW TIBBS (with SAX MALLARD): You Can’t Win
ANDREW TIBBS (with SAX MALLARD): Aching Heart
PAUL WILLIAMS: Paul’s Boogie
COUSIN JOE: Looking For My Baby
COUSIN JOE: High Powered Gal
LESTER WILLIAMS: Texas Town
GOREE CARTER: True Love Is Hard To Find
LITTLE ESTHER & MEL WALKER (with JOHNNY OTIS): Deceivin’ Blues
LITTLE ESTHER (with JOHNNY OTIS): Lost Dream Blues
ERLINE HARRIS: Spare Time Papa
ERLINE HARRIS: Blues At First Sight
CLARENCE SAMUELS: Got The Craziest Feeling
THE ORIOLES: I’d Rather Have You Under The Moon
THE ORIOLES: We’re Supposed To Be Through
EDDIE CHAMBLEE: Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep
EDDIE CHAMBLEE: Sweet Lucy
JOE MORRIS (ft. LAURIE TATE): Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere
JOE MORRIS (ft. LAURIE TATE): Come Back Daddy, Daddy
CHARLIE SINGLETON: H-Bomb Boogie
CHARLIE SINGLETON: The Late Creeper
THE FOUR TUNES: Say When
PEPPERMINT HARRIS: Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie
PEPPERMINT HARRIS: Hey Sweet Thing
ROY BROWN: Dreaming Blues
ROY BROWN: Love Don’t Love Nobody
CHRIS POWELL & THE FIVE BLUE FLAMES: Dance ‘Til The Break Of Dawn
BUMPS MYERS: Bumps And Lumps
MARGIE DAY (with THE GRIFFIN BROTHERS): Street Walkin’ Daddy
THE GRIFFIN BROTHERS: Riffin’ With Griffin
AMOS MILBURN: Sax Shack Boogie
AMOS MILBURN: Remember
THE CAROLS: If I Could Steal You From Somebody Else
THE CAROLS: I Should Have Thought
MEL WALKER (with JOHNNY OTIS): Strange Woman
MEL WALKER (with JOHNNY OTIS): Lonely Blues
HUBERT ROBINSON: Room And Board Boogie
HUBERT ROBINSON: Bad Luck & Trouble
CECIL GANT (as GUNTER LEE CARR): We’re Gonna Rock
FLOYD DIXON: She’s Understanding
SYLVIA VANTERPOOL (with HOT LIPS PAGE): Pacifying Blues
SYLVIA VANTERPOOL (with HOT LIPS PAGE): Chocolate Candy Blues

 

PREVIOUS: JULY 1950

NEXT: SEPTEMBER 1950