1. 1973: Riggs vs King Battle of the Sexes
More than 50 million people tuned in to watch the highly publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match on this date in 1973. The match was between 29-year-old Billie Jean King and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs who at one time was the top men’s player in the world and it was held at the Houston Astrodome. This was actually the second “Battle of the Sexes”, and the second that Riggs was a part of when he defeated Margaret Court in two straight sets just a few months prior. Riggs was known for being the epitome of the male chauvinist and publicly boasted how women were inferior and “couldn’t handle the pressure of the game and even at his age could beat any female player on the tour. An estimated 30,000 spectators flocked to the Astrodome to watch these two titans of tennis battle it out. King made quite the entrance when she came in “Cleopatra-style” carried by a group of men dressed as ancient slaves. Riggs was not one to be outdone very easily so he made his entrance in a rickshaw pulled by female models. It was obvious right from the start that Riggs had totally underestimated his opponent. King came out to win the match in three straight sets forcing Riggs to leave the match with his tail between his legs. Not only did King’s win make her one of the most popular female athletes in the world, but also made a huge impact on women’s right as a whole.
2. 1946: First annual Cannes Film Festival
It was on this date in 1946 the Cannes Film Festival made its debut in the small resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera. The festival was originally created as an alternative to the Venice Film Festival that had started in 1932. The Venice festival was put on mainly by Italy, who was under the control of Benito Mussolini, and Germany when under the control of Hitler. Soon the Venice festival became a perfect opportunity to spread Nazi and Fascist propaganda to the world. So France stepped in and decided to create their own film festival. Originally, they had planned on debuting the festival September 1st, 1939, but coincidentally on that very day, Hitler invaded Poland. The Festival has canceled because France and Great Britain declared war on Germany just two days later. It was six long years before World War II ended and at that time the French government decided to give the Cannes Film Festival another attempt. They thought it would be a great way to bring tourists back to the French Riviera. Rather than focusing on the competition aspect like with other festivals, Cannes organizers instead focused on the creative processes between the 18 different nations represented. In total it was reported that an estimated 3,000 people were in attendance at the first festival, as a comparison, today’s festival will see as many as 30,000 film enthusiasts each year.
3. 1934: The lovely Sophia Loren was born
It was on this date in 1934 that Italy’s most famous film star, Sophia Loren, was born in Rome. Her given name was Sofia Villani Scicolone but throughout her life, she would go by a few different names before eventually settling on Sophia Loren to help her with an international film career. She made her Hollywood debut in 1957 when she landed a starring role in the film, The Pride, and the Passion, which also starred Hollywood legends, Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. That was the beginning of her love triangle with Cary Grant and Italian producer Carlos Ponti that was made public. Both Ponti and Grant had declared their love for her and to most people, Grant was the easy choice, especially considering the press constantly joked about how Ponti was only half her height, but twice her age. She shocked the world when she announced that she had chosen the Italian producer and the two got married in 1957. Unlike most other Hollywood couples, Loren and Ponti appeared to be a picture perfect marriage that would last 50 years until Ponti passed away in 2007. Loren became an international star thanks to the Italian World War II film, Two Women, that was released in 1960. It was so popular, and Loren had a brilliant performance, that it was featured at the 1961 Academy Awards. Loren actually won the Best Lead Actress award that night becoming the first to do so with a non-English speaking film. She started to step out of the spotlight after giving birth to her two sons but would occasionally show that beautiful face on screen here and there. The most popular recent film was when she starred with Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, and Jack Lemmon in Grumpier Old Men in 1995.