On this day in 1386, King Henry V was born. He died of dysentery at the age of 36. It wasn’t always so good to be king. The truth is that what the conservatives say is true: it is better to be poor in America today than it was to be King of England in the 14th century. The problem is, if we followed conservative policy, our presidents would today be dying of dysentery at the age of 36. We have gained much as a result of the free market, but we have gained even more by having a strong and stable government that has worked for the general welfare.
A couple of businessmen have birthdays today. The first is James Cash Penney, the man who started the department store that bears his name, was born in 1875. He lived to be quite old, so when I was a little boy eating a grilled cheese at the J. C. Penney coffee shop (they really had them), the old man was still alive. Just two years after he was born, Jacob Schick was born. He got the first ever patent for an electric razor. After the United States government gave him this monopoly right, he paid it back by evading taxes. In order to avoid prosecution, he moved to Canada. That’s a typical American businessman for you: all in favor of the rights that the government provides but totally against any responsibilities toward it. He died soon after, so there’s that.
The fine French composer Nadia Boulanger was born in 1887. But she is better known as one of the greatest music educators of the twentieth century. A partial list of her students is shocking: Aaron Copland, Igor Markevitch, Dinu Lipatti, Astor Piazzolla, Quincy Jones, and Philip Glass. I enjoy her work very much, but I don’t think she ever got beyond her love of Debussy. But if you have to be stuck somewhere, that’s a very nice place to do so. Here his her Fantaisie Variée pour Piano et Orchestre:
Two giants of television were born in the 1910s. First was Paul Henning, who was born in 1911. He was a comedy writer who went on to create some of the classics of “ruralcom,” such as Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies. Then in 1914, Allen Funt was born. He actually did a lot of different things in radio and television, but he will always be remembered for Candid Camera. It’s very interesting to watch it now because it is so sweet compared to similar shows now. Here is a very funny bit with a woman who drives into a gas station without a motor:
Actor Peter Falk was born in 1927. He is most remembered for Columbo, but he was a whole lot more than that. Here he is in A Woman Under The Influence as Nick , who is not really dealing well with the life he finds himself leading:
The great B.B. King is 88 today. He is not one of my favorite guitarists. It isn’t because his playing is bad, of course. It is simply that just about every rock musician of the last 60 years has ripped him off so thoroughly that he sounds kind of generic to me. Still, he’s very pleasant to listen to, with an easy and soulful style that most people can’t copy:
The day, however, belongs to the great actor Lauren Bacall who is 89 today. No one can quite compare to Rosalind Russell, but Bacall is a close second. She’s just so great up there on the screen, so smart and sexy. And she outlived both her actor husbands, although admittedly Bogart was 25 years older than she was. Here is a great scene from The Big Sleep, although you really can tell that it is a reshoot. It is great to see the two of them together, but it doesn’t belong in the story at that time:
Happy birthday Lauren Bacall!