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1964 Twenty-five Years Ago

May 2024
1min read


The Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof opened on September 22 with Zero Mostel in the leading role. Eight year later it would break the record for Broadway performances set by Life with Father in 1947.

∗Sidney Lumet’s Fail Safe debuted at the New York Film Festival in September. Lumet’s film cast Henry Fonda as an American President facing an accidental nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union, dramatizing a theme that Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb had satirized earlier in the year.

∗The Warren Commission released its report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy on September 27. The seven-man commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded from reams of evidence and the testimony of 552 witnesses that Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who murdered President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and that neither he nor Jack Ruby, the man who killed Oswald two days later, was “a member of a foreign or domestic conspiracy of any kind.”

The report criticized the police and district attorney of Dallas, who in their efforts to keep the press informed about their investigation released “unchecked information [that] provided much of the basis for the myths and rumors that came into being soon after the President’s death.” The commission regarded the case as clear-cut, with Oswald’s motive being the only unanswered question. “The facts“,” declared The New York Times the next day, “destroy the basis for the conspiracy theories that have grown weedlike in this country and abroad.”

But rumors persisted that Oswald did not act alone, and in December 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations agreed. Its report, based on further examination of acoustical evidence, concluded that Kennedy “was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy” and that there was a “high probability that two gunmen fired.” The committee could offer no new evidence as to the identity of the other assassin, however, and the mystery remains unsolved.

∗The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., won the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14. Though King was pleased to be acknowledged as a world leader for peace, he considered the award to be “a tribute to the discipline, wise restraint and majestic courage of the millions … who have followed a nonviolent course in seeking to establish a reign of justice and rule of love across this nation.…” King donated the $54,600 in prize money to the civil rights movement.

∗On the night of October 29, thieves stole several of the most magnificent jewels in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Breaking in through a window and opening the jewel cases with a glass cutter, the thieves made off with the 565-carat Star of India (the world’s largest sapphire) and the 100-carat DeLong ruby, both priceless. Several days later the FBI arrested two professional swimmers, Allan Kuhn and Jack (Murph the Surf) Murphy, along with a beach bum named Roger Clark. The trio of thieves gave back most of the jewels in return for a lenient sentence after their conviction the following April; the DeLong ruby, which they had managed to fence before they were caught, was ransomed separately in September.

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