Birth of Lillian Gish

Lillian GishOn this day in 1644, the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn was born. He was well known for his humility. Oh, I’m kidding! He was a great man. At the time of the Revolutionary War, Philadelphia was the biggest and most prosperous city in America. And why? Because Penn was a champion of democracy and tolerance. And that is always the way it is. If you want a great economy, tolerate your neighbors. Diversity is good for the economy and everything else that makes life worth living. I have to tip my hat a bit toward the libertarians, because they understand this. (Unfortunately, they define liberty so bizarrely that they ruin it.) The big problem in America is the large part of the country who are religious fundamentalists. They would be better to learn from William Penn. Live and let live. The best things in America today owe a great debt to the great man. Of course, it wasn’t genetics. After William’s son Thomas took over the colony, he tried to stop Catholics from practicing in the colonies. Oh well. Freedom is fleeting. (Also: just another name for nothing left to lose.)

The great poet E. E. Cummings was born in 1894. Look, I know I’ve said some very nasty things about him. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire him. Mostly, I just don’t think he is as good as a number of poets who are less known. But I still enjoy reading him, pretentious as he sometimes is.

Magician Harry Anderson is 61 today. I’m not that fond of him, but he is a good example of what I think makes magic work. It is just an excuse for telling stories. The magic doesn’t much matter. At its best, it adds something special. But mostly, it just gives the performer a focus—a reason to be telling the story, even though most magicians aren’t aware of that. Here he is performing something akin to magic, although I’m not quite certain it is magic:

And musician Thomas Dolby is 55. I don’t know that much about him, but I thought it would be nice to listen to his big hit done live, which is kind of like hearing it on album. But before we listen to it, I have a question, “Why are all techno-music stars bald?”

Other birthdays: Dwight Eisenhower (1890); Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (1913); actor Roger Moore (86); and probably my favorite person in the Nixon White House, John Dean (75).

The day, however, belongs to one of my favorite actors, Lillian Gish who was born on this day in 1893 and only died 20 years ago at the age of 99. She was key to the popular success of D. W. Griffith’s films. But, of course, with Griffith there is always the fact that he created that great but racist film Birth of a Nation (which starred Gish). It is just easier to appreciate the great films by focusing on her than on Griffith, even though there is no doubt that he was the greatest filmmaker ever. But what I especially like is Gish when she is older, working in sound film. I think you can see this clearly on display in this scene from The Night of the Hunter:

Happy birthday Lillian Gish!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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