On this day in 1936, the great puppeteer Jim Henson was born. For someone like me, there is nothing better than The Muppet Show. I love puppets, but it is more than that. It is the zeitgeist of the whole show. The fact that it is a collection of marginally talented characters who decide to “put on a show” that makes it especially compelling. It also has a very high silliness to funny ratio.
Of course, Henson did a lot more than that. And his legacy will long out live him. I continue to see non-Muppet related work being done by the Jim Henson Company. It is the kind of stuff that goes back to the great film Labyrinth. Here is a collection of clips of the Swedish Chef, which was apparently the Henson character that all the staff most loved:
The film director Bert I. Gordon is 91 today. He is best known for his B-movie classic The Amazing Colossal Man, which is really quite good. But I know what you are thinking, “Didn’t you slam one of his films just last year?” Yes, in Earth vs. Burt I. Gordon! I did review Attack of the Puppet People. But even though I was critical, I concluded, “As drama goes, Attack of the Puppet People is a disaster, and yet it somehow works.” And that is a lot more than I can say for most big budget action films that are produced today. Regardless, Gordon has greatly improved the world with his work. I assume that his 91st birthday finds him well, because he is currently in post production for a new film, Secrets of a Psychopath. Totally fucking awesome!
The day, however, belongs to one of the very greatest American writers F. Scott Fitzgerald who was born on this day in 1896. He wrote beautiful prose at a time when most writers were more inclined to play with language. Probably the best of these writers was Gertrude Stein, but even on the micro-scale, I don’t think she compares. What’s more, Fitzgerald crafted great characters existing in complex worlds. What most appeals to me is the thematic thread that I think links all of his work together: the power of love simultaneously for good and ill. We see this most explicitly in Tender Is the Night, where love is effectively transferred from one declining character to another ascending character.
Of course, I need to be careful in discussing Fitzgerald’s work. A couple of years ago, I wrote about The Love of the Last Tycoon and how the line “There are no second acts in American lives” didn’t mean what people thought. In addition, I noted that the book was written in the first person and just because a character thinks something, doesn’t mean the writer thinks that. Some idiot took exception, “I truly love it here online when people with pretty thin resumes take on the dead masters. Amazing to read.” What I find amazing is that people take the time to comment on articles they clearly haven’t read. I wasn’t criticizing Fitzgerald; I was criticizing those who ignorantly quote him. So I always worry that there are idiots waiting around to bash me for things that exist only in their own very limited minds. Perhaps this time people will defend the “dead master” for the slight of only considering Fitzgerald “one of the very greatest American writers” rather than the greatest writer in any language ever. Whatever.
Happy birthday F. Scott Fitzgerald!