10 Birthdays and A Funeral

'We have to make a birthday tea for 10 and a funeral tea...'

20 March – a big day in cultural history:

43 BC – Ovid

Take your fill of amusement, but cast the veil of modesty over your peccadilloes. Never make a parade of your good fortune, and never give a woman a present that another woman will recognise.” [The Art of Love]

Ovid by Ettore Ferrari

Death is not accustomed to injure genius, and greater fame arrives after we have become ashes…” [Epistle to an Envious Man].

1828 – Henrik Ibsen

“SOLNESS: Human beings haven’t any use for these homes of theirs. Not for being happy in. And I shouldn’t have had use for a home like that either. If I’d had one. [With a quiet, embittered laugh.] So that’s what it all amounts to, however far back I look. Nothing really built. And nothing sacrificed to get anything built, either. Nothing, nothing – the whole thing, nothing!

HILDE: And you’ll never build anything new again?

SOLNESS: [with vigour]: Oh, yes, I’m just going to begin!

HILDE: What? What? Tell me at once!

SOLNESS: The only thing I think human beings can be happy in – that’s what I’ll build now.

HILDE: [looking steadily at him]: Master Builder, – now you mean our castles in the air.

SOLNESS: The castles in the air, yes.

[The Master Builder (1892)]

1908 – Michael Redgrave

He is probably more known for his work on stage (Strindberg’s The Father, 1948) and off (famous children) but TVC loves his work in the films The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Quiet American (1958), and especially The Browning Version (1951 – the Asquith version) and his sensational bit as a loopy ventriloquist in Dead of Night (1945).

1918 – Jack Barry

We have admired the great morality play that is the film Quiz Show, easily the best film ‘Ordinary Bob’ Redford has directed.

Host Jack Barry might have been the innocent face of the rigged quiz show, but as the Scorsese character rightly says in the film, “Why fix them?  Think about it…”

“Call it a bonus round…” Vivienne Nearing, Jack Barry, and Charles Van Doren on “Twenty-One”

1925 – John Erlichman

After getting out of jail for Watergate-related matters, Erlichman wrote a nifty, pulpy, roman-à-clef called The Company, which became the mini series Washington: Behind Closed Doors, which was notable, among other things, for not featuring a character recognisable as Erlichman.  It does have a vivid, albeit pungent, portrayal of the 37th President.  Here is Dick – we mean, President Richard Monckton, recruiting Professor Henry – we mean, Carl Tessler:

“…let me explain, Carl,’ Monckton said with slightly exaggerated patience. ‘I will make foreign policy. At the White House. I will tell those little shits at State what to do and when to do it…”

1934 – David Malouf

Only we humans know, endowed as we are with mortality, but also with consciousness, what it is to be aware each day of the fading in us of freshness and youth; the falling away, as the muscles grow slack in our arms, the thigh grows hollow and the sight dims, of whatever manly vigour we were once endowed with. Well, all that happens. It is what it means to be a man and mortal, and as men we accept it. Less easy to accept is what follows from it.” [Ransom (2009)].

Soft and silly as I may be, I have survived.” [An Imaginary Life (1978) – after Ovid]

1950 – William Hurt

We honour Bill on his birthday for the bonkers sci-fi movie, Altered States (1980), his dumb and dodgy attorney in Body Heat (1981), stolid talking-head in Broadcast News (1987), mad doctor in A.I. (2001), low-life in A History of Violence (2005) and especially for his famous cabaret-turn in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985).

1957 – Spike Lee

Spike has had an interesting directorial career, and we particularly venerate the mock-Greek-tragic Do the Right Thing (1989), which is striking for its humanity and even-handedness in treating that particularly American bugaboo, race relations.  Bedford-Sty never looked so bleedin’ hot…

1958 – Holly Hunter

She has a really interesting catalogue of films, including Blood Simple (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Crash (1996), and O Brother,Where Art Thou? (2000).

We particularly like her scene in Broadcast News (1987), when, as Executive Producer,she confronts a network heavy (see at bottom).

1965 – William Dalrymple

A Scot in love with India, his lush history, White Mughals (2002) will be reviewed on this site in the fullness of time….Lesley?

…and now, a funeral:

1997 – V. S. Pritchett

Victor Sawdon Pritchett started life in 1900 and became almost as famous as Chekhov or Maugham for the short story form.

In his house Gilbert locked up, poured himself a strong whisky, then a second, then a third. Uncertain of whom he was addressing, Rachel or Sonia, he said, “Silly cow,’ and blundered drunkish to bed. He woke up at five very cold. No dog. The bed was empty. He got out of bed and went downstairs. For the first time since Sonia had died the dog was asleep on the sofa. He had forgotten to leave his door open.”

[“Did You Invite Me?”]

Here’s Holly in Broadcast News:


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