On this day in 1901, the television host Ed Sullivan was born. Like many of the people who made it big in the early days of television, he didn’t have much of a resume. He was a journalist in New York, writing mostly about the theater scene and the gossip associated with it. That led him to doing a radio show and led pretty directly to doing the television variety show Toast of the Town, which later became The Ed Sullivan Show. There isn’t a lot to tell from there. People remember Elvis Presley and The Beatles. But if you go back and watch the shows, they were pretty terrible. If you are old enough to remember guys who spun plates on sticks, then you have a very good idea of the caliber of talent that the show had. But it didn’t have great competition.
The actor Peter Finch was born in 1916. I don’t think much of him one way or another. Except, of course, for his great performance in Network. He had a very good career as an actor, but it also shows how dependent even excellent actors are on the parts that they get. Most actors have a lot more talent than they ever get to show. But anyway, Peter Finch will always be remembered as Howard Beale:
Other birthdays: academic painter Alexandre Cabanel (1823); the discoverer of gamma rays Paul Ulrich Villard (1860); boxer Max Schmeling (1905); cartoonist Al Capp (1909); computer scientist Seymour Cray (1925); actor Brigitte Bardot (79); actor Jeffrey Jones (67); comedian Janeane Garofalo (49); and actor Naomi Watts (45).
The day, however, belongs to the great filmmaker John Sayles who is 63 today. I don’t know much about his career. He started working for Roger Corman, who taught a lot of people how to make films on a budget. All of Sayles’ films are worth seeing, because he makes films about things that matter. Of particular interest are The Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, and Silver City, which I think made a lot of us feel better during the last years of the Bush fiasco. Here he is talking about his most recent film Amigo:
Happy birthday John Sayles!