This Day In History
1993 D.A. announces negligence caused Brandon Lee’s death
As a nearly month-long police investigation draws to a close, North CarolinaDistrict Attorney Jerry Spivey announces on this day in 1993 that the death of 28-year-old Brandon Lee on March 31 of that same year during filming of The Crow was due to negligence on the part of the film’s crew, not foul play.
Lee was the son of the martial-arts legend Bruce Lee, whose performance in Enter the Dragon (1973) catapulted him to fame in America and Europe. Already a huge star in Hong Kong thanks to such movies as Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon, Bruce Lee would not live to see the film’s release. On July 20, 1973, he died at the age of 32 after being found unconscious in his Hong Kong home. His death was attributed to a brain edema, or excess of fluid. Controversy swirled around the incident, and rumors persisted that he might have been murdered by gangsters in the Hong Kong film industry or by a drug gang.
Brandon Lee made his own acting debut at age 21, in the TV movie Kung Fu: The Movie (1986), based on the 1970s series Kung Fu. He starred in one Hong Kong action film, Legacy of Rage (1986), and made his American big-screen debut opposite Dolph Lundgren in the cop-buddy action movie Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991). In early 1993, Lee landed the lead role of Eric Draven in The Crow, based on the popular underground Gothic comic book series about a rock musician who returns from the dead to avenge his and his fiancee’s murders.
Filming of The Crow began in February 1993. Around midnight on the morning of March 31, the cast and crew were filming a scene at Carolco Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina. As Lee entered a room, another actor shot him from a distance of 15-20 feet. Though the gun was supposed to have been loaded with blanks, police later found that a .44 bullet entered Lee’s abdomen and lodged in his spine, fatally wounding him. He died in the hospital hours later of internal injuries, blood loss and heart failure.
As the police investigation began, little was certain about how Lee died, and rumors circulated that the film set was jinxed (there had been a series of accidents), or that his death had been plotted by some unknown enemy. In the end, the truth was far less sinister, but no less tragic. Hollowed-out cartridges are often used to film close-ups of a gun being loaded; the “dummy” cartridges are then supposed to be removed and replaced with blanks before being fired. The police investigation into Lee’s death concluded that a tip of one of the cartridge’s bullets broke off from the cartridge and lodged in the gun, then fired at Lee along with the blank.
D.A. Spivey eventually decided against bringing charges against Crowvision, the production company making the movie. Though Lee was to have appeared in nearly all of the scenes left to be shot, the filmmakers completed The Crowusing another actor as a double and a good deal of digital technology. The movie went on to make $50 million at the box office.
This Day In History
Truman announces development of H-bomb
U.S. President Harry S. Truman publicly announces his decision to support the development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.
Five months earlier, the United States had lost its nuclear supremacy when the Soviet Union successfully detonated an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan. Then, several weeks after that, British and U.S. intelligence came to the staggering conclusion that German-born Klaus Fuchs, a top-ranking scientist in the U.S. nuclear program, was a spy for the Soviet Union. These two events, and the fact that the Soviets now knew everything that the Americans did about how to build a hydrogen bomb, led Truman to approve massive funding for the superpower race to complete the world’s first “superbomb,” as he described it in his public announcement on January 31.
On November 1, 1952, the United States successfully detonated “Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb, on the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device, built upon the Teller-Ulam principles of staged radiation implosion, instantly vaporized an entire island and left behind a crater more than a mile wide. The incredible explosive force of Mike was also apparent from the sheer magnitude of its mushroom cloud–within 90 seconds the mushroom cloud climbed to 57,000 feet and entered the stratosphere. One minute later, it reached 108,000 feet, eventually stabilizing at a ceiling of 120,000 feet. Half an hour after the test, the mushroom stretched 60 miles across, with the base of the head joining the stem at 45,000 feet.
Three years later, on November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb on the same principle of radiation implosion. Both superpowers were now in possession of the “hell bomb,” as it was known by many Americans, and the world lived under the threat of thermonuclear war for the first time in history.
This Day In History
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, is assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu extremist.
Born the son of an Indian official in 1869, Gandhi’s Vaishnava mother was deeply religious and early on exposed her son to Jainism, a morally rigorous Indian religion that advocated nonviolence. Gandhi was an unremarkable student but in 1888 was given an opportunity to study law in England. In 1891, he returned to India, but failing to find regular legal work he accepted in 1893 a one-year contract in South Africa.
Settling in Natal, he was subjected to racism and South African laws that restricted the rights of Indian laborers. Gandhi later recalled one such incident, in which he was removed from a first-class railway compartment and thrown off a train, as his moment of truth. From thereon, he decided to fight injustice and defend his rights as an Indian and a man. When his contract expired, he spontaneously decided to remain in South Africa and launched a campaign against legislation that would deprive Indians of the right to vote. He formed the Natal Indian Congress and drew international attention to the plight of Indians in South Africa. In 1906, the Transvaal government sought to further restrict the rights of Indians, and Gandhi organized his first campaign of satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience. After seven years of protest, he negotiated a compromise agreement with the South African government.
In 1914, Gandhi returned to India and lived a life of abstinence and spirituality on the periphery of Indian politics. He supported Britain in the First World War but in 1919 launched a new satyagraha in protest of Britain’s mandatory military draft of Indians. Hundreds of thousands answered his call to protest, and by 1920 he was leader of the Indian movement for independence. He reorganized the Indian National Congress as a political force and launched a massive boycott of British goods, services, and institutions in India. Then, in 1922, he abruptly called off the satyagraha when violence erupted. One month later, he was arrested by the British authorities for sedition, found guilty, and imprisoned.
This Day In History
U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects first members
On January 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects its first members in Cooperstown, New York: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson.
The Hall of Fame actually had its beginnings in 1935, when plans were made to build a museum devoted to baseball and its 100-year history. A private organization based in Cooperstown called the Clark Foundation thought that establishing the Baseball Hall of Fame in their city would help to reinvigorate the area’s Depression-ravaged economy by attracting tourists. To help sell the idea, the foundation advanced the idea that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown. The story proved to be phony, but baseball officials, eager to capitalize on the marketing and publicity potential of a museum to honor the game’s greats, gave their support to the project anyway.
In preparation for the dedication of the Hall of Fame in 1939—thought by many to be the centennial of baseball—the Baseball Writers’ Association of America chose the five greatest superstars of the game as the first class to be inducted: Ty Cobb was the most productive hitter in history; Babe Ruth was both an ace pitcher and the greatest home-run hitter to play the game; Honus Wagner was a versatile star shortstop and batting champion; Christy Matthewson had more wins than any pitcher in National League history; and Walter Johnson was considered one of the most powerful pitchers to ever have taken the mound.
Today, with approximately 350,000 visitors per year, the Hall of Fame continues to be the hub of all things baseball.
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