1947: Houses and Baseball and Cars — oh, my!
Nineteen forty-seven is frequently cited as the year that saw the release of some of film noir’s most outstanding offerings, including Out of the Past, Brute Force, Crossfire, Nightmare Alley, Nora Prentiss, Body and Soul, Kiss of Death, and The Unsuspected. But 1947 was known for more than Tyrone Power turning into a geek or Hume Cronyn getting tossed into a sea of angry convicts. All kinds of interesting things were going on – from the introduction of Afro-Cuban jazz by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to Air Force Captain Charles Yeager exceeding the speed of sound in a Bell X-1 airplane. Read on to find out some of the other highlights of this banner film noir year!
In other movie news, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour teamed up again to star in Road to Rio, one of the series of popular “Road” pictures; Walt Disney mixed live action with cartoon sequences in Song of the South (which featured the popular song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”), and John Payne, Maureen O’Hara, and that adorable moppet Natalie Wood starred in what has become a Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street.
Inspired by the Lockheed P-38 fighter plan, Cadillac became the first company to incorporate tailfins on its car designs.
Speaking of cars, the Tucker debuted in June of this year – it was a six-passenger, four-door sedan touted as the “car of the future.” It had a rear-mounted engine made almost entirely of aluminum and the front of the car had three headlights – one of them would swivel to follow the curves of the road. Millions of dollars worth of Tucker stock and dealerships were sold, but the owner, Preston Tucker, was unable to mass-produce the car. Only 50 of the cars were ever made and Tucker wound up being put on trial for fraud by the Security Exchange Commission. (Tucker was ultimately acquitted – his story was made into a 1988 film, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, starring Jeff Bridges.)
Commercial television debuted – RCA sold a small television with a 6½ x 8½ screen for $325, plus a $55 installation charge. (Wonder what they were installing!)
After a disastrous grand opening in December 1946, the Flamingo Hotel reopened in Las Vegas in 1947. It was financed by famed gangster Bugsy Siegel, who would be gunned down before the year’s end.
At the age of 24, Marlon Brando earned widespread acclaim for his Broadway performance in A Streetcar Named Desire. (When the play was later made into a film, Brando reprised his role, along with most of the original Broadway cast, including Kim Hunter and Karl Malden.)
On July 4th, three thousand motorcyclists rode into Hollister, California, for a day filled with drag races and motorcycle stunts as part of the Gypsy Tour Motorcycle Rally. Some of the visitors got out of hand and caused a commotion in the town – although the incident was minor, it was labeled the “Hollister Riot” and was publicized nationwide. The incident helped foster the image of the outlaw biker, and served as the basis of the 1953 Marlon Brando film The Wild One.
Meet the Press debuted on television. Today, more than 65 years later, the show is still on the air, and is the longest running program in television history.
The microwave oven was invented by Percy Spencer.
Levittown, the United States’ first mass-produced tract housing project, was built in Island Trees, Long Island, and named after the builder, Levitt and Sons. On May 7th, the company announced plans to build 2,000 mass-produced rentals for war veterans and their families; two days later, half of the proposed homes had already been rented, and by July1948, the company was cranking out 30 homes a day. Two years later, Levitt and Sons stopped building the rentals and started building ranch houses, which they offered for sale at $7,990. Buyers could put down a deposit of $90 and pay $58 a month.
Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major league baseball on April 15th when he stepped onto Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His number 42, was retired exactly 50 years later, and became the first-ever number to be retired by all teams in the league. After Robinson, several other black players joined the league in 1947, including Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians.
Numerous future notables were born this year, including Stephen King, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Richard Dreyfuss, Minnie Riperton, Elton John, David Letterman, Farrah Fawcett, Meat Loaf, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steele.
What a year!