14 March 1931

India’s first talking film, Alam Ara, is released.

When the first talkie – Ardeshir Irani’s ‘Alam Ara’ came out on March 14 1931, India was already familiar with the concept of feature films. In fact a flourishing film industry already existed post the success of ‘Raja Harishchandra’. Filmmakers were making silent films in many states, each experimenting with filmmaking, and the idea of narrating a story through ‘moving pictures’.

Yet, when ‘Alam Ara’ was released in Mumbai’s Majestic Cinema, police had to be called for crowd control. The film, not only broke the dominance of silent films, which were being made till then, but it also introduced the concept of music and playback in Indian cinema- something that continues to be the highlight of Indian films till date.

The film had lot of firsts in it. It was the first talkie to be made and release in India. It introduced the concept of music, it also gave India its first playback singer in the form of Wazir Mohammed Khan, who also acted in the film along with actors Master Vithal, Zubeida, J.Sushila and Prithviraj Kapoor.

But while ‘Alam Ara’ was the first talkie to be released, there were several other filmmakers who were at the same time making talkies in regional languages. While ‘Alam Ara’ released in March 1931, Madan Theatre’s ‘Jamai Shashti’ released in April the same year and became the first Bengali talkie.
Multilingual ‘Kalidas’ released in October in Tamil Nadu and thus paved way for many more of such films. The advent of talkies also completely put a full stop on the silent films- something that many of the pioneering filmmakers like Dadasaheb Phalke couldn’t cope with as they felt that silent films was a form of art and introduction of sound corrupted the art form.

The innitial talkies could easily be called elaborate dance dramas. The stories were narrated not merely through dialogues but elaborate songs. While ‘Alam Ara’ had seven songs, subsequent films, which released in the same year, increased the songs in the films. Madan Theatres’ film ‘Shirin Farhad’ which released in May 1931 had 18 songs. A year later when Indra Sabha released, it had 69 songs in it- which was also a Madan Theatre production. Music became an integral part of movies in India ever since and eventually the song-dance routine gave Indian cinema its unique identity.

Talkies also heralded an era of new kind of stories. The silent era mostly fell back upon mythology for scripts, but talkies experimented with new ideas, some folklore, some fairytales, love stories and social themes.

Indian cinema changed and evolved immensely post the talkies. Films had an unique blend of tradition and modernity and tried to experiment with new technical aspects. The films were recorded live, and west influenced heavily in the films that were made. The society was also slowly opening up to the idea of this new kind of entertainment. While cinema viewing was earlier restricted to a certain section of the society-namely the elite, the talkies brought the middle class as well to the theatres.

By the 1940s, the formula for a box office hit was discovered- almost all films had an elaborate routine of song and dance- something that was introduced in the last decade and something that continues to be an integral part of our cinema till date.

14 March 1964

Jack Ruby is found to be guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the assumed assassin of John F. Kennedy.

Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who killed Lee Harvey Oswald–the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy–is found guilty of the “murder with malice” of Oswald and sentenced to die in the electric chair. It was the first courtroom verdict to be televised in U.S. history.

On November 24, 1963, two days after Kennedy’s assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was brought to the basement of the Dallas police headquarters on his way to a more secure county jail. A crowd of police and press with live television cameras rolling gathered to witness his departure. As Oswald came into the room, Jack Ruby emerged from the crowd and fatally wounded him with a single shot from a concealed .38 revolver. Ruby, who was immediately detained, claimed he was distraught over the president’s assassination. Some called him a hero, but he was nonetheless charged with first-degree murder.

Jack Ruby, originally known as Jacob Rubenstein, operated strip joints and dance halls in Dallas and had minor connections to organized crime. He also had a relationship with a number of Dallas policemen, which amounted to various favors in exchange for leniency in their monitoring of his establishments. He features prominently in Kennedy-assassination theories, and many believe he killed Oswald to keep him from revealing a larger conspiracy. In his trial, Ruby denied the allegation and pleaded innocent on the grounds that his great grief over Kennedy’s murder had caused him to suffer “psychomotor epilepsy” and shoot Oswald unconsciously. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to die.

In October 1966, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed the decision on the grounds of improper admission of testimony and the fact that Ruby could not have received a fair trial in Dallas at the time. In January 1967, while awaiting a new trial to be held in Wichita Falls, Ruby died of lung cancer in a Dallas hospital.

The official Warren Commission report of 1964 concluded that neither Oswald nor Ruby were part of a larger conspiracy, either domestic or international, to assassinate President Kennedy. Despite its seemingly firm conclusions, the report failed to silence conspiracy theories surrounding the event, and in 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in a preliminary report that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime. The committee’s findings, as with those of the Warren Commission, continue to be widely disputed.

14 March 1964

Jack Ruby is found guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, who is assumed to have assassinated of John F. Kennedy.

Jack Leon Ruby was an American nightclub owner and murderer from Chicago, Illinois, who lived in Dallas, Texas. On November 24, 1963, he fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald while the latter was in police custody after being charged with assassinating U.S. President John F. Kennedy two days earlier. A Dallas jury found him guilty of murdering Oswald and Ruby was consequently sentenced to death. Later, Ruby appealed his conviction, had it overturned and was granted a new trial. However, on January 3, 1967, as the date for his new trial was being set,Ruby became ill in his prison cell and died of a pulmonary embolism from lung cancer.

Ruby’s shooting of Oswald, and his behavior both before and after the Kennedy assassination, have been the topic of numerous films, TV programs, books, and songs. Articles of clothing that Ruby wore when he killed Oswald — including his suit, hat and shoes — are on display at the Historic Auto Attractions museum in Roscoe, Illinois.