In the first couple of days of every month, Robert Horvat can be counted upon to give us a run-down of some of the interesting things that have happened in history during that month. Here is his entry for May, featuring Art Deco skyscrapers, the Marx Brothers, a sinking ocean liner and a tragic military retreat. Great job, as usual!
May 1st 1931
The Empire State Building scrapes the skies of New York City.
In dramatic fashion, President Herbert Hoover pressed a telegraph key in Washington, which turned on the Empire State Buildings lights, officially opening the tallest building in the world in New York City on May 1st 1931. The 102 storey steel skyscraper soared an incredible 380 metres above the city’s skyline. Incredibly, it was the city’s third new skyscraper built-in a frenzy of construction during that period. An intense rivalry amongst some of the richest men in America, turned into a competition to see who could erect the world’s tallest building. 40 Wall Street held that title briefly in 1930 before it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building. However, just a year later, the Chrysler Building would itself be dwarfed by the majesty of the Empire State Building’s Art Deco structure.
It is said that its dedication in May 1931 marked a deep sense of pride amongst New Yorker’s, something that was desperately needed especially during those bleak days of the Great Depression. Interestingly, by the early 1940’s, it would stand as a symbol of American ingenuity, prestige and power.
May 3rd 1929
The Marx Brothers’ The Cocoanuts premieres in New York.
By the early 1920s, the Marx Brothers began to realize that vaudeville was dying a slow death. People had grown tired of specialty acts such as burlesque comedy and song and dance as a form of entertainment. So in 1924, the Marx’s Brothers moved their successful act to Broadway. Of course, it wasn’t long before they became the toast of New York. All that remained was now to conquer Hollywood and in 1929 they transferred their successful Broadway version of The Cocoanuts to the silver screen.
On May 3rd 1929, the filmed version of The Cocoanuts premiered in New York City at the Rialto Theatre. In short, The Cocoanuts, set in a Florida resort, introduced Groucho Marx and his amusingly eccentric brothers Chico, Harpo and Zeppo to a wider American audience. With enough hi-jinxs, unforgettable banter and charming musical numbers, The Cocoanuts became a box office hit for Paramount Pictures…
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