On This Day: May 31 | Los Angeles Public Library
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On This Day: May 31

Keith Chaffee, Librarian, Collection Development,
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Great moments in history and popular culture happen every day, and ON THIS DAY will share a few of them with you. We’ll also point you to related resources in our collection, helping you to discover classic films, musical favorites, and historical tidbits. The primary focus will be on our e-material – e-books, e-audio, and downloadable and streamable music and film – but physical books and DVDs will also be part of the fun.

Johnstown Flood On this day in 1889, the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Flood occured. After a massive storm -- as much as ten inches of rain fell in 24 hours -- the South Fork Dam collapsed, releasing Lake Conemaugh into the Little Conemaugh River. Sixteen million tons of water rushed downstream, destroying the town of Johnstown, 14 miles away. The flood washed away 1,600 homes, and the death toll was 2,208 people, the largest civilian loss of life in US history to that point. Property damage totaled about $450 million (in today's dollars). Donations and volunteers arrived from around the world to aid in the cleanup, including Clara Barton and the recently organized American Red Cross. The story of the disaster is told in the documentary Johnstown Flood, available for streaming at Hoopla.
Shirley Verrett On this day in 1931, Shirley Verrett was born. Verrett was an operatic singer whose career began in the late 1950s and lasted for forty years. She began as a mezzo-soprano, and began to sing soprano roles midway through her career, an unusual transition; it is more common for singers to move to lower-pitched roles as their careers progress. Verrett sang a wide range of repertoire, but was particularly praised for her performances in operas by Verdi and Donizetti. Several of Verrett's recordings are available for streaming at Hoopla.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul And on this day in 1945, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was born. Fassbinder was a film and theater director and actor who was remarkably prolific in his short life (he died at 37). Fassbinder directed 40 full-length films, two television series, and more than 20 stage plays. He also acted in dozens of films by other directors, and served as cinematographer, editor, and composer on many of his own movies. He began to receive international recognition in the 1970s with a series of films inspired by 1950s Hollywood melodramas. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, loosely based on Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, is the story of the romance between a middle-aged cleaning woman and a younger Moroccan immigrant, and the hostility their relationship faces; it's available for streaming at Kanopy.