July 6, 1929 — Franz Werfel and Alma Mahler are married

Franz Werfel was husband number three for Alma Mahler. She’d already been having an affair with him and even living together for about a decade when they married. Unlike her other marriages, however, this one would last. Alma would stay with Franz until his death.

Along the way, she had a very beneficial effect on his career, inspiring him and promoting him, and she deservedly shared in the success of his most famous work, The Song of Bernadette. After the couple fled Austria in the wake of the Aunschluss in 1938, they settled in the United States, and when The Song of Bernadette became a Hollywood film, they became wealthy celebrities.

Franz and Alma Werfel in New York crop

As mentioned in:

Alma — Tom Lehrer

June 6, 1929 — “Un Chien Andalou” premieres

For a silent film running only 15 minutes, Un Chien Andalou casts a long shadow. It is seen as a predecessor to both low budget indy cinema and modern music videos. It helps, of course, that it was made by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, and is widely considered to be a masterpiece of Surrealism. But consider that it was Bunuel’s first film (Dali’s too, but he was already famous for his painting).

And, of course, it opens with what is still one of the most shocking scenes in cinematic history, an eyeball being cut open with a razor. (Don’t worry, it’s not a human eyeball – it’s that of a dead donkey. That is Luis Bunuel wielding the razor, though.) The rest of the film is a dreamlike series of disjointed images and scenes which creates a level of confusion in the audience that it takes Chris Nolan 2 or more hours to achieve. You should definitely see it if you haven’t yet.

As mentioned in:

Debaser — Pixies

May 21, 1929 — The Great King Rat is born

Little is known of the circumstances of the Great King Rat’s birth, other than its date of May 21st. Even the year is an estimate.

It is known that the Great King Rat would grow up to become a notorious dirty old man, and my feeling is that he was probably involved with organized crime syndicates in London. Given the cause of his death, it seems likely that he did not use condoms.

As mentioned in:

Great King Rat — Queen

January 2, 1929 — Wop May and Vic Horner fly badly needed medicine to Little Red Bay

Already a celebrated war ace (and one of the contenders for the title of “shot down the Red Baron”), Wilfred R. “Wop” May cemented his place as one of Canada’s greatest aviators when he and Vic Horner flew an Avro Avian from Edmonton to Little Red Bay (in Alberta) in the middle of winter to deliver medicine to treat a potentially fatal outbreak of diptheria. They succeeded in their quest, and were quite surprised to find themselves hailed as heroes when they returned to Edmonton.

This experience inspired May to create a new aviation company, Commercial Airways, to open up air services to northern Canada. Securing the contract to fly the mail kept them afloat until private freight and passenger flights got established. The company was eventually absorbed by Canadian Pacific Air Lines, which May continued to work for after the merger.