This Week in Movie History is Atom Insider’s column looking back at all the important events, biggest moments, and weird, fun trivia that happened in Hollywood history each week.

April 20

1841 – The world’s first modern detective story is published

Alright, this may not be specifically movie or TV history, but it’s a big piece of history that later influenced them. On April 20, 1841, American writer Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was published in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine. The story follows Parisian detective Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin as he uses his “analytical power” to solve a string of murders in the city and is largely considered to be the first detective story. Its influence on later books, and then movies and television, is undeniable.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes might be the world’s most famous detective, for example, but his books owe the fact they’re all narrated from roommate John Watson’s point of view to “Rue Morgue,” which itself used that framing device 46 years earlier. Thanks to Poe, authors like Wilkie Collins, who wrote detective novel The Moonstone in 1968, seized upon the new detective genre and expanded upon it, adding now-common elements like red herrings and false alibis. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series popularized the genre in the next century leading into the explosion of noir detective novels in the 1930s, and, more importantly, film. Films like M, The Maltese Falcon and The Man Who Knew too Much helped create the noir film genre that became a mainstay for the next few decades and helped cement the careers of stars like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Orson Welles. All of them owe a debt to poe and his strange, inventive short story from the century before.

Birthdays: George Takei (1937), Jessica Lange (1949), Clint Howard (1959), Crispin Glover (1964), Andy Serkis (1964)

April 21

1895 – First movie projector demonstration in the United States

In 1895, Woodville Latham and his sons, Otway and Gray, demonstrated their “Panopticon” movie projector. Although the public had already been introduced to motion pictures thanks to Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope (which you may remember from last week’s This Week in Movie History), the Kinetoscope was limited to one person watching the movie, peepshow style, through an individual box. The Panopticon was the first machine that projected films to a large audience.

The idea came about when Gray and Otway, who had a company that used Edison’s Kinetoscope to show prize fights to people, asked their father and former Edison Laboratory employees, W.K.L. Dickson and Eugene Lauste, to help them in a new project. They wanted to develop the technology for a device that would enable them to project life-sized or larger images on a screen so they could show them to multiple people at a time and cater to larger audiences. Small, simple innovations made the Panopticon a superior machine over the Kinetoscope even beyond the ability to project to more than one person at a time. For example, the Kinetoscope’s motion was rather jerky and often tore any strip of film that was longer than 100 feet. But Woodville Lantham invented the “Lantham Loop,” a loop placed in a strip of film just before it entered the camera. This extra loop of slack film allowed the projector to advance the film in a way that required no strain on the film strip, removing the tension that was so often the cause for tears. The day after the Lanthams showed off their Panopticon in a private exhibition, the small blurb about it in the New York Times was headlined “Pantopticon Rivals the Kinetoscope.”

1930 – Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front premieres 

At the time of its release, Milestone’s pre-Hays Code anti-war epic was well-received in the U.S. Critics praised it and audiences flocked to it. It was the first film ever to win for Best Director and for Outstanding Production at the Academy Awards and it has since been preserved in the United States Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

However, due to its strong anti-war and perceived anti-German themes, Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Party and other groups in German right-wing circles opposed it. Under the direction of his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler instructed the Berlin screenings to be disrupted. Goebbels and his Nazi brownshirts threw stinkbombs into theaters, released mice, and eventually escalating to attacking audience members they perceived to be Jewish. The Nazis’ disruption campaign was successful and on December 11, 1930, the German government banned the film. It was also banned in parts of Australia from 1930-41 on the grounds of citing “pacifism,” and it was banned outright by Italy, Austria, and France.

Birthdays: James Morrison (1954), Andie MacDowell (1958), Rob Riggle (1970), James McAvoy (1979), Robbie Amell (1988)

April 22

1978 – The Blues Brothers made their debut on Saturday Night Live

On April 22, 1978, SNL‘s Paul Shaffer announced that week’s theatrical guest, then making their worldwide television debut: The Blues Brothers. The Blues Brothers, as Shaffer explained, were first discovered in a gritty blues club on Chicago’s South Side by the legendary Marshall Checker and went on to toil for nine years before getting their first truly big break with famed music industry heavyweight and talent scout, Don Kirshner. It was an underdog story worthy of legend…and not a bit of it was true. The Blues Brothers were a fictional construct of SNL cast members Dan Akroyd and John Belushi.

more Blues Brothers, John Belushi, Dan Akroyd and Saturday Night Live and 1,000,000 pictures at

The development of their characters, Elwood and Jake Blues, took over two years. In fact, their first prototype incarnation happened two years prior in 1976 during SNL‘s very first season, but in that skit, they called themselves Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band. There were no matching dark suits and ties and no sunglasses, but Belushi was on vocals and Akroyd on harmonica – even if they were wearing bee costumes. It was during the hiatus between SNL Season 2 and 3 that Belushi took a trip to Oregon to film Animal House and found his inspiration for what ultimately became the Blues Brothers in Curtis Salgado, a major player in the growing blues scene of the Pacific Northwest. When he came back to SNL, he had the sound and look of the Blues Brothers in his head and the rest is history.

2019 – Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame premieres in Los Angeles

Birthdays: Aaron Spelling (1923), Bettie Page (1923), Jack Nicholson (1937), Amber Heard (1986)

April 23

1961 – Judy Garland plays Carnegie Hall

Garland’s famous Carnegie Hall performance happened later in her life, seven years after her Hollywood comeback with A Star is Born. But during that time, she struggled with drug addiction and other issues. In 1959, she had a bout of hepatitis so bad that doctors told her she’d be a semi-invalid for the rest of her life and would never sing again.

But in 1961, she performed at Carnegie Hall and the night has since been dubbed “the greatest night in showbiz history.” Before Garland even touched the microphone, the crowd was on their feet. And then she sang, it was reported, as she hadn’t sung in years, unleashing the full range of her extraordinary voice over an epic 27-song set to a rapturous audience. That performance was recorded and released as an album, Judy at Carnegie Hall. The two-record album was certified gold, charting for an insane 95 weeks on Billboard, including 13 at #1. That performance won four Grammys, including Best Performance by a Female Vocalist, and Garland became the first woman to win in one of the “Big Four” categories when it won Album of the Year.

2018 – Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War premieres in Los Angeles

Birthdays: Shirley Temple (1928), Michael Moore (1954), John Cena (1977), Kal Penn (1977), John Oliver (1977)

April 24

1800 – The Library of Congress established

In 1800, President John Adams allotted the sum of $5,000 for the purchase of “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress,” and the Library of Congress was officially established. The Library was obviously predominantly for books, growing to become the de facto national library of the U.S. in the years after the Civil War, and one of the largest libraries in the world. But in the years since, it has grown to include maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints, and drawings. In 1988, the National Film Registry was founded. Each year, the NFR selects up to 25 “culturally, historically, or esthetically significant films” for preservation in the registry, with the final selection going to members of the Library of Congress.

Birthdays: Shirley MacLaine (1934), Barbara Streisand (1942), Cedric the Entertainer (1964), Djimon Hounsou (1964), Aidan Gillen (1968)

April 25

Slow day for notable history where the entertainment industry is concerned, so let’s just move on to the birthdays.

Birthdays: Al Pacino (1940), Hank Azaria (1964), Renée Zellweger (1969), Gina Torres (1969)

April 26

1954 – Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is released

Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune on the set of ‘Seven Samurai’

Seven Samurai is likely the most famous collaboration between legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and writer-actor Toshiro Mifune. The film was a game-changer, often credited as the first modern action movie. Commonly-used elements from cinematography, such as slow-motion actions sequences, find their origins in this movie, along with stock narrative elements like the reluctant hero. Kurosawa was the first to bring these all together and popularize them. It’s now regarded as arguably the greatest Japanese film of all time and has influenced a number of filmmakers that came after, most notably George Lucas, who borrowed elements from it and threaded them all throughout Star Wars.

Birthdays: Carol Burnett (1933), Giancarlo Esposito (1958), Jet Li (1963), Kevin James (1965), Tom Welling (1977), Channing Tatum (1980)

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