This Day in Pop Culture for April 16

1978: NBC’s ‘Holocaust’ Premieres

It was on this day in 1978 that the first of the four-part miniseries Holocaust premiered on NBC. Spanning from 1938 to 1945, the miniseries showed events of World War II from the perspective of two fictional German families in Berlin. Erik Dorf (played by Michael Moriarty) was a Christian lawyer struggling to make ends meet during the depression and joins the Nazi Party at his wife Marta’s (Deborah Norton) insistence to earn more income. The other Jewish family was led by Josef Weiss (Fritz Weaver) and Berta (Rosemary Harris). They had three children Karl (James Woods) and his wife Inga (Meryl Streep in one of her first acting roles), Rudi (Joseph Bottoms) and Anna (Blanche Baker). It is estimated that the series was watches by as many as 120 million viewers in the U.S.

Holocaust was nominated for many awards winning Emmy’s for Outstanding Limited Series and acting for Streep, Moriarty and Baker. Moriarty also won a Golden Globe along with Harris. Despite this, some were critical of the program including Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who wrote in the New York Times that the miniseries was not only “untrue and offensive” but also “cheap as a TV production” and “an insult to those who perished and to those who survived.” Even so, the series was broadcast in Germany the following year where an estimated 20 million people (about one-third of the population) watched and is credited for educating many Germans on what exactly happened during the Holocaust. It was rebroadcast again in 2019 and this time, a survey showed that fewer than half of the German school children had any knowledge of the Auschwitz concentration camp.


1889: Charlie Chaplain is Born

On this day in 1889, Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London, England. When he was very young, Charlie and his brother danced on the streets to collect money. The two were sent to an orphanage and joined a children’s dance troupe. By age 17, Charlie created a trademark with a bowler hat, out-turned feet, mustache and walking cane. His first film was Making a Living where he played a villain. It is said that Chaplain resisted the arrival of sound movies. His 1931 City Lights only featured music and he didn’t speak on film until 1940’s The Great Dictator where he made fun of fascism. Chaplin never became a U.S. citizen. In fact, he, like many others in Hollywood, was accused of having communist ties (which he denied) and was detained while trying to re-enter the country after a vacation trip. He, his wife and eight children lived in Switzerland for 20 years before returning to America to accept a special Academy Award in 1972. He died in 1977.

2012: No Book Won the Fiction Prize

As the Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on this day in 2012, no books in the fiction category won. The three books nominated were The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, Swamplandia! By Karen Russell and Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Because none of the books received a majority of the votes, the Pulitzer Prize Board decided to not award any of the three. The really odd thing is this wasn’t the first time for this to happen. The last time was in 1977 and there were 10 other times before that in Pulitzer history where no fiction book won. Pulitzer Prizes first began giving awards in 1917.


Movies Released

  • Death at a Funeral (2010)
  • Kick-Ass (2010)
  • Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
  • Love & Basketball (2000)
  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
  • The Punisher (2004)

TV Series Debuts

  • Big Shot (2021)
  • Bless This Mess (2019)
  • Flip or Flop (2013)

Famous Birthdays

  • 1867: Wilbur Wright (inventor)
  • 1889: Charlie Chaplain (actor)
  • 1921: Peter Ustinov (actor)
  • 1927: Pope Benedict XVI
  • 1935: Bobby Vinton (singer)
  • 1947: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (basketball player)
  • 1963: Jimmy Osmond (singer)
  • 1965: Jon Cryer (actor)
  • 1971: Selena (singer)
  • 1984: Claire Foy (actress)
  • 1993: Chance the Rapper (rapper)
  • 1996: Anya Taylor-Joy (actress)
  • 2002: Sadie Sink (actress)

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