Mr. Know-it-All: Schooled in the history of Oxford


Q: When was Oxford University in England founded? -- T.J., New York City

A: According to legend, Oxford University was founded in 872 when King Alfred met some monks and had a scholarly debate that lasted several days. However, most scholars will tell you the university was never founded, but evolved. As early as the late 11th century, Oxford became a center for training clerics. In the 12th century, famous teachers began lecturing there, and groups of students came to live and study in the town.

In the mid-1100s, England's Henry II was in a dispute with France. He ordered all English citizens studying in France to return home. Many of the students attended Oxford, while others went to Cambridge. In 1214, the first chancellor was appointed.

Q:What actress played Kim Novak's little sister in the movie "Picnic"? How old was she? What became of her career? -- M.R., Prescott, Ariz.

A: Susan Strasberg played Millie Owens in the 1955 classic. Strasberg was born in New York City on May 22, 1938, to famed acting coach Lee Strasberg. In 1953, she made her acting debut in an episode of "Goodyear Television Playhouse." In 1955, she made her Broadway debut as Anne Frank in "The Diary of Anne Frank." "Picnic" was her film debut. Strasberg alternated among the stage, TV and film, and she spent part of her career in Europe making films. On Jan. 21, 1999, she lost her struggle with breast cancer in New York City. She was 60.

Q: Does Popeye have a last name? -- M.K., Pine Bluff, Ark.

A: Apparently, Popeye's creator, Elzie Crisler Segar, didn't think the sailor needed a last name, nor did anyone who continued to draw him after Segar's death in 1938. As Popeye would say, "I yam what I yam."

Q: Who played the role of Joey in the 1953 movie "Shane," starring Alan Ladd? -- F.H., Wyomissing, Pa.

A: Wide-eyed 8-year-old Joey Starrett was played by Brandon de Wilde. He was born into an acting family in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 9, 1942, and was pushed into acting at a young age. His father was an actor and stage manager; his mother was an actress. De Wilde made his Broadway debut at age 7 in "The Member of the Wedding" after his father volunteered him for the role. Although he had a shaky first night, he received critical acclaim eventually. He was the first child ever to win the Donaldson.

De Wilde became internationally famous as the child star of the classic Western "Shane," a performance for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. From 1953 to 1954 he starred in his own TV series, "Jamie," and later played youthful roles in a variety of films, including "Blue Denim," "All Fall Down" and "Hud."

De Wilde died on July 6, 1972, at the age of 30 as a result of injuries suffered in a traffic accident near Denver.

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