NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD History Book.
Today, a brief look at a few notable moments in media history. Here’s WORLD senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.
KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Ah, the theater. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” as William Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It. But what about when there were no women on the stage? Dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, young men or boys played female characters. That all changed on December 8, 1660, when an actress first appeared on an English public stage.
OTHELLO: That handkerchief which I so loved and gave thee, thou gavest to Cassio./ No, by my life and soul! Send for the man, and ask him.
MUSIC: [From the ballet Otello, Act 3, Giuseppe Verdi]
That’s the crucial moment in Shakespeare’s Othello, when the title character kills Desdemona in a fit of jealous rage. And historians believe a production of Othello by the King’s Company at its theater on Vere Street December 8, 1660, featured for the first time a woman in the role of Desdemona—possibly Anne Marshall, but more likely it was Margaret Hughes.
Hughes was a favorite of senior British royal family member Prince Rupert. That provided some cover for Hughes to take the scandalous step of becoming an actress. Prior to Hughes’ debut, theater productions were considered too bawdy for women to participate in.
The 2002 movie Stage Beauty expanded on what’s known of Hughes’ real-life story. This scene captured the crowd’s exuberance over her performance on Vere Street all those Decembers ago:
STAGE BEAUTY: Mrs Hughes! Surely that was the finest night I’ve ever had at the theater. The performances!
With Hughes’ debut, the door opened for women to take to the stage and make The Bard’s romances much more believable.
MUSIC: [Bert Hirsch Orch Sweetheart Of My Student Days]
From the stage to the small screen: 90 years ago today, experimental broadcast station W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts, simulcast “The Fox Trappers” radio program to a handful of mechanical television sets. The program included a brief spot promoting I.J. Fox Furriers, making it the first documented commercial in television history. No recordings or transcripts exist of the advertisement, but it’s reimagined here by radio actor Kim Rasmussen:
KIM RASMUSSEN: The Fox Trappers radio program is sponsored by I.J. Fox Furriers, located at the corner of East 4th Street and Euclid Ave. America’s largest manufacturing furrier sells direct to wearers. It makes a difference when you buy from the maker.
While radio commercials were well accepted, television advertising was prohibited by The Federal Radio Commission at the time. All we know of the commercial is an entry in the FRC records that they reprimanded W1XAV for breaking the regulation.
Media historians don’t know how many people even saw the commercial that aired during the telecast as so few television sets existed at the time. But they suspect the program didn’t have many viewers at all.
What they do know, though, is that the first sanctioned commercial aired on television 11 years later in New York. It advertised watchmaker Bulova and lasted only a few seconds:
COMMERCIAL: America runs on Bulova time.
And thus began the time-tested tradition of folks rushing to change the channel.
And from TV to radio now…
MUSIC: [U.S. Army Band, 1942]
The first NFL title game broadcast on national radio aired 80 years ago tomorrow, on December 8, 1940. It also happened to be the most lopsided victory in NFL history. The Chicago Bears mauled the Washington Redskins, winning 73-to-0.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame notes the scoreboard wasn’t the only evidence of a blowout:
CLIP: The scoring onslaught was so great that there were no more game balls to be used. The Bears had kicked them into the stands on extra points throughout the afternoon. In fact, Washington pleaded with the Bears not to attempt point-afters on their last two TDs. The game was finished using practice balls.
Plenty of sports fans bore witness to the bloodbath. The teams faced each other at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., with a sellout capacity attendance of 36,000. The radio broadcast reached 120 stations across the country.
The Bears had a lot on the line. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall had been taunting the Bears in the press, calling them “quitters” and “cry babies.” But Bears coach George Halas used Marshall’s words to galvanize his team.
ANNOUNCER: Watch now as Chicago’s George Wilson takes out not one, but two Redskins, and Osmanski completes a 68-yard touchdown!
At least the loss didn’t cause legendary Redskins quarterback “Slinging” Sammy Baugh to lose his sense of humor. After the game, a reporter asked Baugh if the outcome would have been different if his receiver hadn’t dropped a pass on the first drive. Rumor has it Baugh replied that yes, the outcome would have been different, saying “We would’ve lost 73 to 7.”
That’s this week’s History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.