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    December 14th: what was notable about the film Philadelphia?

    13 December 2020

    Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …

    December 12

    In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal, at St John’s in Newfoundland (now part of Canada). The message (sent from Cornwall) was three short clicks, the Morse code for ‘S’. The same code explains the ‘dur-dur-dur, durrrr-durrrr, dur-dur-dur’ mobile phone notification for text messages – it’s Morse code for ‘SMS’ (‘Short Message Service’).

    December 13

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    Jamie Foxx (born 1967). As a schoolboy Foxx was so funny that his teacher used him as a reward – if the rest of the class behaved, Foxx told them jokes.

    December 14

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    Philadelphia, starring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, had its world premiere. It was the first major Hollywood film to address the AIDs crisis.

    December 15

    In 1906 the Piccadilly Line (then known as the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway) opened. Knightsbridge remains the only Tube station whose name contains six consecutive consonants.

    December 16

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    Somerset Maugham (died 1965). The novelist once mentioned to a friend that he wrote every single day. ‘You mean including Sundays and holidays and birthdays?’ asked the friend. ‘Especially Sundays and holidays and birthdays,’ replied Maugham.

    December 17

    Image: Greg James

    Greg James (born 1985). Aged 14, the future Radio 1 presenter pestered his local hospital radio station in Bishops Stortford to give him a show. They finally agreed – but James discovered later that the transmitter was broken and his shows had never been broadcast.

    December 18

    Antonio Stradivari (died 1737). The legendary quality of the violin maker’s instruments is now thought to have been made possible by the climate. The colder weather in the 17th century resulted in slower tree growth, which made the wood denser, thereby producing a better sound.