Today in History: Oct. 23

Dumbo, the animated film about an elephant who could fly, premiered in American movie theaters 75 years ago today.

Only 64 minutes long, the film is the shortest of the Walt Disney Studios’ animated features. Dumbo was created in part to recoup financial losses incurred in producing Fantasia, which cost more than $2 million to produce and required Disney Studios to invest in sound equipment that it installed in the movie theaters that showed the film. Fantasia did not earn back its budget in its first release. Disney needed a hit, and a hit that did not cost too much to make.

Dumbo‘s animation is less complex than Fantasia‘s, and it is a much shorter movie. The film cost $950,000 to make and it earned almost double that on its first run release. Dumbo remains a beloved film.

“When I See an Elephant Fly” from Dumbo (after the jump):

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Ned Rorem is 93 today. The composer won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1976 for his work Air Music. He is also renowned as a diarist and essayist.

Carolyn Enger performs several of his compositions for piano (the video is photos of the composer and of objects in his apartment taken by the musician):

* * * *
This is America—a town of a few thousand, in a region of wheat and corn and dairies and little groves.
The town is, in our tale, called ‘Gopher Prairie, Minnesota.’ But its Main Street is the continuation of Main Streets everywhere. The story would be the same in Ohio or Montana, in Kansas or Kentucky or Illinois, and not very differently would it be told Up York State or in the Carolina hills.
Main Street is the climax of civilization. That this Ford car might stand in front of the Bon Ton Store, Hannibal invaded Rome and Erasmus wrote in Oxford cloisters.
—the opening of Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, which was published on this date in 1920 by Harcourt Brace. This heralded the start of the “Roaring ’20s” before the 1920s knew it was the “Roaring ’20s.”

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Jessica Savitch died 33 years ago today.

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Johnny Carson was born on this date in 1925. Michael Crichton was born on this date in 1942. Randy Pausch was born on this date in 1960.

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Senator Jim Bunning is 85. Chi-Chi Rodríguez is 81 today. Pelé is 76 today. Ang Lee is 62. Dwight Yoakam is 60. “The Streets of Bakersfield” with Buck Owens:

“Weird Al” Yankovic is 57. The Gregory Brothers (“schmoyoho” on Youtube) hired him for the latest “Songify the News” this week:

Doug Flutie is 54. Alex Zanardi is 50. Grant Imahara is 46. James Kotecki is 31.

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