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Robert Preston, who made a career of playing the fast-talking band instrument salesman in the stage and screen versions of The Music Man, died at the age of 68. Friends of the actor said Preston had been suffering from lung cancer for a long time. He entered Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital two days ago and died peacefully, supervisor Elifa Statzer said. He was best known as The Music Man, in which he starred on Broadway for two years. Born Robert Maservy on June 8, 1918, in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, Preston grew up in Los Angeles and was signed by Paramount Studios when he was 19 after he appeared in a string of local stage productions. He starred in three forgettable films, King of Alcatraz, Disbarred and Illegal Traffic, before winning recognition by playing opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Union Pacific in 1939. Married first to actress Kay Felton and then to actress Catherine Craig, Preston said he had one rule for actors: “You are a blessed man if you are working and doing things you like.”

Other important events:

1934 Fire destroys Hakodate Japan, killing about 1,500.

1935 Persia officially renamed Iran.

1939 Germany annexes Memel from Lithuania.

1945 After bombing the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, British RAF planes mistakenly bomb the French School killing 86 children and 10 nuns.

1953 Sudan achieves self-governance.

1963 Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay is emptied of its last inmates at the order of Attorney-General Robert F. Kennedy.

1960 At least 69 Africans are killed in Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa.

1975 Ethiopia ends monarchy after 3,000 years.

1977 Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi resigns after losing her seat in parliamentary polls.

1990 Namibia gains independence in South Africa and Sam Nujoma becomes first president.

1991 A Saudi transport plane crashes as it tries to land at Ras Al Mushab airport near the Kuwaiti border, killing 92 Senegalese soldiers and six Saudi crew members.

1992 American sailors stage a farewell ceremony at the Subic Naval Base in Olongapo, Philippines.

1997 US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin hold summit in Helsinki and agree to slash their nuclear arsenals.

1998 Dubai Heritage Village is officially opened in Shindagha.

1999 Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov escapes an assassination attempt.

2000 Taiwan approves direct links between part of its territory and mainland China for the first time in 50 years.

2001 Saudi Arabia and Qatar sign the final border agreement in Doha.

2005 A teenage student goes on a shooting rampage at the school in the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, gunning down nine people before committing suicide.

2006 The social media website Twitter is launched with the first tweet by co-founder Jack Dorsey.

2012 The project of Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District is launched.

2013 The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby is enthroned, taking over the leadership of 80 million Anglicans worldwide.

2014 Russia completes the annexation of Crimea.

2015 Kiwi cricket Martin Guptil hits the highest score in World Cup history with 237 not out against the West Indies.

2016 American president Barack Obama arrives in Cuba in the first visit by a US president in 88 years.