Birthdays are not created equal. Yesterday, I almost gave up having a winner. Today, I have four easy winners who did not win. On this day in 1048, the great Persian mathematician Omar Khayyam was born. He’s winner number one. Another great mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was born in 1872. Unlike his colleague Wittgenstein, Russell was a decent human being. And he’s winner number two. Bauhaus founder and architect who I really don’t much like, Walter Gropius was born in 1883. Flutist, Music Man composer, and so much more, Meredith Willson was born in 1902. He’s winner number three. Singer Perry Como who underwhelms me, and director Richard Brooks who whelms me, were both born in 1912. The last dead pope, John Paul II was born in 1920. And insane cartoonist Don Martin was born in 1931. He’s winner number four.
Keyboardist Rick Wakeman is 64 today.
But let me tell you about one of my very favorite movies. It Happened One Night is the perfect Depression era film. It has a working class hero who teaches a silly rich girl important life lessons. It has good rich people (father) and bad rich people (King Westley). And it is funny as hell. This is my favorite scene, “Do you love my daughter?”
“Yes! But don’t hold that against me, I’m a little screwy myself!” I just love that.
The film was written by Robert Riskin, who I really like, and somehow missed on his birthday back on 30 March. But that was also van Gogh and Goya’s birthdays, so I think I can be forgiven. Today is the birthday of longtime Riskin collaborator, director Frank Capra who was born in 1897. And he wins the day. It is not without some reserve that I do this. Although Capra made It Happened One Night, his excesses caused him to make other films that although I don’t hate, bug me: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life. But one thing is for sure, Capra had a good heart. The less said about his parochial views of sex and religion, the better. He was still a liberal by any definition. And by today’s standards a communist.
Happy birthday Frank Capra!