Arts: This was the week that was

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The Independent Culture
Today On this day in 1931 a New Jersey television station became the first to schedule films regularly. Mainly travel documentaries, early slots included People Who Live in the Desert and a log rollercoaster entitled Lumbering in British Columbia.

Tomorrow The first television service for schools started 50 years ago in Philadelphia on Station WPTZ: Operation Blackboard was transmitted to 20 schools which possessed large-screen sets.

Wednesday Theatre audiences no longer had to worry about the weather, when the first purpose-built covered auditorium opened in 1585. The Teatro Olimpico in Vincenza, Italy, is still in use today and its first production, Oedipus Rex, is still showing occasionally at a highbrow stage near you.

Thursday In 1877 the Russian Imperial Ballet in Moscow put on the first production of Swan Lake; critics initially thought Tchaikovsky's music was about as successful as his brief (three months) marriage. The song "Happy Birthday to You" was published in 1923, and in 1966 John Lennon remarked, "We're more popular than Jesus Christ right now", which led to a period of unpopularity.

Friday Rex Harrison was born in 1908; six times married, "Sexy Rexy" played Dr Dolittle opposite Samantha Eggar, born on the same day 31 years later.

Saturday Nasally-challenged writer Cyrano de Bergerac was born in 1619. The 1,000 duels he fought over his hooter inspired the play by Rostand, the film with Gerard Depardieu and the updated Roxanne with Steve Martin. Premiered in Cardiff in 1987, Coming Up Roses was the first feature film in Welsh on general release, a Celtic version of The Last Picture Show.

Sunday The first jazz record was released in the USA in 1917: The Dixie Jazz Band One Step recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Pieter Mondriaan was born in 1872; as a painter, he jettisoned colours, curves and the double-A in his name. The large transvestite known as Divine passed away in 1988; he had starred in John Waters' film Pink Flamingos, in which he acquired a taste for fresh poodle droppings.

Jonathan Sale

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