On this day: 17th November


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The Independent Culture

17 November 1947

In October 1947 the “Hollywood Ten” – all screenwriters and directors – were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about their supposed Communist affiliations. Some in the Screen Actors Guild, like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Danny Kaye and Gene Kelly, supported them, but on 17 November the guild – whose president was Ronald Reagan (not known for his liberal sympathies – though he was still a Democrat at the time) – instituted an anti-Communist loyalty oath. The witch hunt began in earnest and eight days later the infamous Blacklist came into force. It would be 10 years before sanity was restored.

19 November 1990

When record producer Frank Farian discovered the models/dancers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus rehearsing in Munich he thought they could provide the perfect look for a musical project he’d put together using session singers. So, the lip-synching Milli Vanilli was born, and a Best New Artist Grammy followed in February 1990. Alas, one of the singers, Charles Shaw, spilled the beans, and on 19 November they were stripped of their gong.

22 November 1928

Maurice Ravel’s Bolero premiered at the Paris Opera. A ballet set in a Spanish tavern, and originally entitled Fandango, it was an instant success. The story goes that amid the first-night acclaim a woman was heard to shout that Ravel was mad. When he was told about it, he smiled and said she was the only person who had actually understood it. Reputed to be the most widely played piece of classical music, it has earned more than £50m in royalties.