Published On: Dec 20 2012 01:21:48 AM ESTUpdated On: Dec 20 2014 02:00:00 AM EST
2009: Actress Brittany Murphy, best known for her roles in movies such as "Clueless," "8 Mile" and "Just Married," dies at the age of 32. The Los Angeles County coroner would later rule that the primary cause of Murphy's death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication.
2007: Queen Elizabeth II becomes the oldest ever monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months and 29 days.
2002: U.S. Sen. Trent Lott resigns as Senate Republican leader two weeks after igniting a political firestorm with racially charged remarks at Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party regarding Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign. Thurmond had run as a Dixiecrat on an explicit States' Rights platform that challenged the Civil Rights Movement and called for the preservation of racial segregation.
1999: Canadian-American singer-songwriter and guitarist Hank Snow, who charted more than 85 singles on the Billboard country charts from 1950 until 1980, dies of heart failure at age 85 in Madison, Tennessee. Among Snow's hit songs were the No. 1 country hits "I'm Moving On," "The Golden Rocket," "I Don't Hurt Anymore," "Let Me Go, Lover!," "I've Been Everywhere" and "Hello Love."
1996: American astronomer and writer Carl Sagan, known for his popular science books, including the novel "Contact," and for the award-winning 1980 television series "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage," which he narrated and co-wrote, dies of pneumonia at the age of 62 in Seattle, Washington.
1996: The horror movie "Scream," starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Drew Barrymore and Rose McGowan, and directed by Wes Craven, opens in theaters. The movie follows the character of Sidney Prescott (Campbell), a high school student in the fictional town of Woodsboro, who becomes the target of a mysterious killer known as Ghostface. "Scream" was considered unique at the time of its release for featuring characters who were aware of real world horror films and openly discussed the cliché that the movie attempted to subvert. It would make more than $173 million at the box office, revitalizing the horror movie genre and spawning three sequels.
1995: American Airlines Flight 965, a Boeing 757, crashes into a mountain 40 miles north of Cali, Colombia, killing 160. The crash was the first U.S.-owned 757 accident and the highest death toll of any accident in Colombia. The Colombian Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics investigated the accident and determined it was caused by navigational errors by the flight crew.
1995: NATO begins a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. The troops were used to enforce the Dayton Peace Agreement, which brought an end to three and a half years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
1991: Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" opens in theaters. The movie examines the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and alleged subsequent cover-up through the eyes of former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, played by Kevin Costner. The movie's cast also includes Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman. Although the movie was met with controversy and started out slow at the box office, it would eventually earn more than $205 million worldwide, and $70 million in the United States during its initial run. It would also earn eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Jones, but would win only two, for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.
1989: The United States sends troops into Panama to overthrow the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega in a mission code-named Operation Just Cause. This is also the first combat use of purpose-designed stealth aircraft, the F-117A Nighthawk. Noriega remained at large for several days but eventually took refuge in the Vatican diplomatic mission in Panama City. He finally surrendered to the U.S. military on Jan. 3, 1990, and was immediately flown to the United States.
1987: The passenger ferry Doña Paz sinks after colliding with the oil tanker Vector 1 in the Tablas Strait in the Philippines. Upon the collision, the Vector's cargo ignited and caused a fire on the ship that spread onto the Doña Paz. Both ships then sank into the flaming waters of the shark-infested strait. Only 26 people were rescued from the two ships, with the official death toll placed at 1,749. However, survivors said the ferry was overloaded with passengers and that the toll could actually be between 3,000 and 4,000. Either way, the collision stands as the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history. The Doña Paz is seen here in 1984.
1983: Actor Jonah Hill, best known for his movie roles in "Superbad," "Knocked Up," "Get Him to the Greek," "Moneyball" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," is born in Los Angeles. Hill has earned Oscar nominations for his roles in "Moneyball" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
1982: Rock singer-songwriter David Cook, who rose to fame after winning the seventh season of "American Idol," is born in Houston, Texas.
1980: "(Just Like) Starting Over" gives John Lennon his first No. 1 single as a solo artist in the United Kingdom, 12 days after his murder. It would also reach No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of Dec. 27.
1978: The adventure comedy film "Every Which Way but Loose," starring Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke, opens in theaters. The movie, in which Eastwood plays Philo Beddoe, a trucker and brawler roaming the West in search of a lost love while accompanied by his friend/manager Orville and his pet orangutan Clyde, was panned by critics but proved a huge hit at the box office. The movie earned more than $104 million to become Eastwood's most commercially successful film at the time and spawned a sequel, 1980's "Any Which Way You Can."
1976: Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley suffers a massive heart attack while visiting his doctor's office and dies at the age of 74. Daley, seen here applauding at right during the 1976 Illinois State Democratic Convention in Chicago, served for 21 years as the mayor and undisputed Democratic boss of Chicago and is considered by historians to be the "last of the big city bosses."
1973: Singer and actor Bobby Darin, best known for the songs "Splish Splash," "Dream Lover", "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea," dies at the age of 37 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after undergoing surgery to repair two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971.
1971: Roy O. Disney, the older brother of Walt Disney and the co-founder of what is now The Walt Disney Company, dies from a seizure at the age of 78 in Burbank, California. He is seen here in October 1971 at the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida.
1971: The triple album set "Concert for Bangladesh" is released. The album captured two Aug. 1, 1971, charity concerts at New York's Madison Square Garden featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and Badfinger held to raise money for the homeless Bengali refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War.
1971: The Rolling Stones' double album "Hot Rocks," the first compilation album of the band's music, is released. It would end up as their highest-selling album, reaching No. 4 in the U.S., selling more than six million copies and being certified 12-times platinum.
1968: The Zodiac Killer shoots and kills teenagers Betty Lou Jenson and David Faraday in Benicia, California. Although law enforcement authorities suspect the serial killer may have begun as early as 1963, Jenson and Faraday are his first confirmed victims. The serial killer, whose identity remains unknown, is responsible for killing at least five people and injuring two more, but could be responsible for up to 37 murders. Pictured is a police sketch of the Zodiac Killer.
1968: American writer John Steinbeck, the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of novels such as "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men," dies of heart disease and congestive heart failure at the age of 66 in New York City.
1966: Singer-songwriter and guitarist Chris Robinson, best known as the lead singer of the rock band The Black Crowes, is born in Marietta, Georgia.
1963: The Berlin Wall is opened for the first time to West Berliners, who are allowed one-day visits to relatives in the Eastern sector during the Christmas season. Similar, very limited arrangements were made in 1964, 1965 and 1966.
1957: Elvis Presley receives his U.S. Army draft notice. In January 1958 he was granted a deferment to finish the forthcoming movie "King Creole," and would be inducted into the U.S. Army as a private on March 24, 1958.
1946: The Frank Capra film "It's a Wonderful Life," starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, has a preview showing for charity at New York City's Globe Theatre, a day before its official world premiere. The film was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made.
1946: TV producer Dick Wolf, best known for specializing in crime dramas such as "Miami Vice" and the "Law & Order" franchise, is born in New York City.
1945: Rock musician Peter Criss, best known as the original drummer for hard rock band Kiss, is born George Peter John Criscuola in Brooklyn, New York.
1924: Adolf Hitler is released from Landsberg Prison after being pardoned early. He was serving a five-year sentence for an attempted 1923 coup, but served a little more than a year.
1922: Film director George Roy Hill, best known for such films as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "The World According to Garp" and "Slap Shot," is born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He died at age 81 from complications of Parkinson's disease in December 2002.
1920: At the age of 17, Bob Hope, then known by his birth name Leslie Townes Hope, becomes a American citizen by virtue of his father's naturalization. Hope was born in England and his family emigrated to the United States when he was 4 years old.
1881: Branch Rickey, the baseball executive famous for creating the farm team system and hiring the first black players, including Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers, is born in Stockdale, Ohio. The Baseball Hall of Famer died of heart failure at age 83 on Dec. 9, 1965.
1880: A stretch of New York City's Broadway Street between Union Square and Madison Square is illuminated by Brush arc lamps, making it among the first electrically lighted streets in the United States. By the turn of the century, the well-lit street would become known as the "Great White Way."
1879: Thomas Edison privately demonstrates his incandescent light at Menlo Park, New Jersey.
1868: Automobile pioneer Harvey Firestone, the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, is born in Columbiana, Ohio.
1860: When it becomes clear that Abraham Lincoln would be the next president, South Carolina becomes the first state to declare its secession from the Union.
1812: Sacagawea, a Native American member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, dies of an unknown sickness at Fort Manuel Lisa Trading Post on the Missouri River about 12 miles north of what would become Omaha, Nebraska.
1803: The Louisiana Purchase is completed as the territory is formally transferred from France to the United States during ceremonies in New Orleans.