5 forgotten facts about 1954

The debuts of the Mercedes ‘Gullwing’ and the Jaguar D-type meant that 1954 was a vintage year for motor cars – but as we discover here, there were also some wider-world happenings of interest taking place six decades ago…

Ernest Hemingway survives 2 plane crashes in as many days

Ernest Hemingway was blessed with an extraordinary writing ability, but his aviation fortunes were the polar opposite. During a trip to Africa in 1954, Hemingway’s plane crash-landed. The next day, he boarded another aircraft in search of medical help – only for it to explode on take-off. Incredibly, he survived this too, but the injuries he sustained (compounded by the burns he received in a bush fire later that year) attributed to the decline of his physical and mental health in later years.

Rock 'n' Roll is born

Many see 1954 as the dawn of the rock 'n' roll era, as it not only saw a young Elvis Presley make the transition from truck driver to worldwide superstar, but also the launch of the Fender Stratocaster. In addition, The Crows’ song ‘Gee’ – credited by genre authority Jay Warner as “the first rock 'n' roll hit by a rock 'n' roll band” – first charted in April, having been released a year earlier.

Godzilla: King of... the octopi?

Representing a metaphor for the nuclear weapons that were making the news at the time, Godzilla terrorised Japanese cinema-goers of 1954 (and a couple of years later, American audiences too). But it could all have been very different, had the special effects director had his way: rather than a reptile, he envisaged Godzilla as a giant octopus.

11 April 1954: The most boring day of the century

Back in 2010, Cambridge scientist William Tunstall-Pedoe fed a self-constructed computer programme three million newsworthy facts about ‘people, places, businesses and events’, and determined that 11 April 1954 was outstanding only for its insignificance. Bar a general election in Belgium and the birth of a Turkish academic named Abdullah Atalar, the date was said to be the most ‘exceptionally boring’ of the 20th Century, according to Tunstall-Pedoe.

Marilyn Monroe and 'that' dress

It was in 1954 that Marilyn Monroe and her ivory cocktail dress had their legendary ‘encounter’ with a ventilation grate. The image would not only prove to be one of the most memorable of the 20th Century, but also cause the disagreement with husband Joe DiMaggio that would eventually lead to their divorce later that year. In 2011, against an estimate of $1-2 million, the now-ecru dress fetched $5.6 million – thought to be a record price paid for an item of clothing.

Photos: Getty Images