Five People Born on April 28

Today is April 28, 2010 and the 118th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar.  There are 247 days left in the year 2010. According the Mayan calendar, there are 968 days till the end of the current cycle.  On this date, in 1789, there is a mutiny on the HMS Bounty leaving Captain William Bligh adrift.    Here are five people born on this day.

James Monroe 1758-1831
The fifth President of the United States, Monroe served two terms from 1817 to 1825. His presidency was marked both by an “Era of Good Feeling” – a period of relatively little partisan strife – and later by the Panic of 1819 and a fierce national debate over the admission of the Missouri Territory.  Monroe is most noted for his proclamation in 1823 of the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the United States would not tolerate further European intervention in the Americas (both North and South).  The doctrine was a landmark in his presidency and in American foreign policy.  Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Monroe fought in the American Revolutionary War.  After studying law under Thomas Jefferson, from 1780 to 1783, he served in the Continental Congress.  As a delegate to the Virginia convention that considered ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  Monroe opposed ratification, claiming it gave too much power to the central government.  Nonetheless, Monroe took an active part in the new government and in 1790 he was elected to the Senate.  He sided with the Jeffersonians and helped to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.  During the War of 1812, Monroe served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War.  He ran for President and won 80% of the electoral vote.  Following his retirement in 1825, Monroe was plagued by financial difficulties.  He died on July 4 – 55 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence – from tuberculosis and heart failure.

Lionel Barrymore (1878-1954)
This actor was a star of stage, radio and film. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in A Free Soul (1931).  He is well known for the role of the villainous Henry Potter in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946).  He was born Lionel Herbert Blythe in Philadelphia and was the great-uncle of Drew Barrymore.  He worked with some film greats as D.W. Griffith, of which he performed in four of the director’s early films.  He also played Dr. Leonard Gillespie – a reoccurring role in a series of Dr. Kildare films throughout the 1930s and 40s.  While most people wouldn’t recognize most of the films that Barrymore starred in today, he was featured in almost 100 films between 1911-1953.

Oskar Schindler (1908-1974)
If you happened to see the Steven Spielberg movie, Schindler’s List, then you have an idea who this Moravian industrialist was.  He is credited with saving almost 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunition factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic.  He is the subject of the novel Schindler’s Ark, which Spielberg based his movie upon.  He was born in Moravia, which was then part of Austro-Hungary.  Today, this is part of the Czech Republic. In 1939, after many tries at business, he joined the Nazi Party.  His participation helped pave the way for the German occupation of Poland.  As an opportunistic businessman, Schindler was one of many who sought to profit from that occupation.  He gained ownership from a bankruptcy court of an idle enamelware factory in Krakow, Poland.  With the help of his German-speaking Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, Schindler obtained around 1,000 Jewish forced labourers to work there.  Schindler soon adapted his lifestyle to his income. He became a well-respected guest at Nazi SS Elite parties, having easy chats with high-ranking SS officers, often for his benefit.  Initially Schindler may have been motivated by money — Jewish labour was less costly — but later he began shielding his workers without regard for cost. He would, for instance, claim that certain unskilled workers were essential to the factory.  After witnessing the brutality in the Krakow Ghettos in 1943, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many of the Jews who had been working for him.  He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all of his skills to protect his Jewish workers.  Schindler went out of his way to take care of the Jews who worked at his plant, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations.  By the end of the war Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers.  Virtually destitute, he was reduced to receiving assistance from Jewish organizations.  He died, penniless, from heart failure, at the age of 66.

Lee Falk (1911-1999)
Born Leon Harrison Gross, Lee Falk was was an American writer, director and producer, best known as the creator of the popular comic strip superheroes The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, who at the height of their popularity attracted over a hundred million readers every day.  Falk also contributed to a series of pulp novels about The Phantom.  As a director and playwright, Falk also directed Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, and Chico Marx.  When Falk began his comic strip and comic book writing and drawing career, his official biography claimed that he was an experienced world traveler who had studied with Eastern mystics, etc. In fact, Falk had simply made it up in order to seem more like the right kind of person to be writing about globe-trotting heroes like “Mandrake the Magician” and “The Phantom”. His trip to New York City to pitch Mandrake the Magician to King Features Syndicate was at that time the farthest that he had traveled from home in St. Louis. In later life, however, he became an experienced world traveler for real – at least partly, he said, to avoid the embarrassment of having his bluff inadvertently called by genuine travelers wanting to swap anecdotes.  During World War Two, Falk also worked as chief of propaganda for the new radio station KMOX at St. Louis, where he became the leader of the radio foreign language division of the Office of War Information.  Falk died of heart failure in 1999. He lived the last years of his life in New York, in an apartment with a panoramic view of the New York skyline and Central Park; he spent his summers in a house on Cape Cod. He literally wrote his comic strips from 1934 to the last days of his life, when in hospital he whipped off his oxygen mask to dictate his stories. However, new episodes of The Phantom, and also Mandrake the Magician, are still being drawn by others, both as comic strips and in comic books.

Saddam Hussein (1937-2006)
This ex-president of Iraq and leading member of the revolutionary Ba’ath Party, helped to play a key role in the 1968 coup that brought his party into power.  In the early 1970s, Saddam spearheaded Iraq’s nationalization of the Western-owned Iraqi Petroleum Company, which had long held a monopoly on the country’s oil. Through the 1970s, Saddam cemented his authority over the apparatuses of government as Iraq’s economy grew at a rapid pace.  He led his country to war against Iran from 1980-1988, in which he accepted help from the United States.  Later, in the Gulf War (1991), he fought against the U.S. led coalition after he invaded the country of Kuwait.  During these conflicts, Saddam suppressed several movements, particularly Shi’a and Kurdish movements seeking to overthrow the government or gain independence, respectively. Whereas some Arabs venerated him for his aggressive stance against foreign intervention and for his support for the Palestinians, other Arabs and Western leaders vilified him as the force behind both a deadly attack -using illegal gas warfare – on Northern Iraq in 1988 and, two years later, an invasion of Kuwait to the south.  In 2003, the U.S., led by President G.W. Bush, considered Hussein a threat and sought to have him overthrown.  The U.S. invaded in March of that year and by December he was captured and brought to trial.  On 5 November 2006, he was convicted of charges related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites convicted of planning an assassination attempt against him, and was sentenced to death by hanging.  He was executed on December 30, 2006.