September 19, 1959 – Nikita Khrushchev at 20th Century Fox – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
In what was hoped for as a turn in U.S.-Soviet relations and a possible thaw, Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev came to the U.S. for a visit. It was considered something of a “return gesture” since vice-President Nixon’s visit to the American National Exhibit in Moscow earlier in the year made headlines. Beginning with his arrival in Washington on September 15, the Soviet delegation made their way across the country in what was described by some as a “cold war roadshow”.
Addressing the United Nations, visiting farms, calling out hecklers and discovering American cafeterias, Khrushchev and his entourage made their way to the West Coast and a visit to a soundstage at 20th Century Fox Studios on September 19th. During a luncheon at the studio commissary, Khrushchev launched into one of his trademark “monumental speeches” – equalled only to a speech made by Spyros Skouras, who was President of Fox at the time. The two speeches ended in a debate, much to the delight of the showbiz crowd.
The visit wasn’t a complete success, as a planned stop-off at Disneyland later that day was cancelled for what was called “security reasons”, although some suspected Walt Disney was a vehement anti-Communist and refused to allow Khrushchev to set foot in the “happiest place on earth”, the incident set off a tirade at a press conference where Khrushchev wondered aloud if there was an outbreak of Cholera at Disneyland.
For a reminder of how the Cold War was going, this day in 1959, here is that complete address at 20th Century Fox as well as the Skouras address and the resulting debate later, all from September 19, 1959.
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