On this day in 1819, the great English writer George Eliot was born. When I was reading her as a young man, I found her work rather dense. And I stand by the that assessment. But her work is remarkably clear. Since then, I’ve come to see that many of the American writers of that time were perhaps trying too hard. They created overly dense prose that is often hard to unravel. (It got better in the late 19th and early 20th century.) But Eliot’s work is wonderfully clear. Of course, she’s also really sad. But at least she never wrote Jude the Obscure. (Which is one of my favorite novels, actually.)
The great film director Terry Gilliam is 73 today. In some ways, he’s overrated. But he has made one perfect film, 12 Monkeys. Things don’t get any better than that. It shows what movies can do. Of course, it is helped by a great collaboration, most especially with screenwriters David and Janet Peoples. His other work is good but it generally has what I consider fatal flaws. But check out 12 Monkeys!
Other birthdays: Abigail Adams (1744); French leader Charles de Gaulle (1890); comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921); AR-15 designer Eugene Stoner (1922); comic book writer Roy Thomas (73); actor Tom Conti (72); tennis player Billie Jean King (70); musicians Steven Van Zandt and Tina Weymouth (both 63); actor Jamie Lee Curtis (55); actor Mariel Hemingway (52); actor Mark Ruffalo (46); and actor Scarlett Johansson (29).
The day, however, belongs to one of the greatest comedic film directors, Arthur Hiller who is 90 today. He directed some of my favorite films: The Out-of-Towners, The Hospital, Silver Streak. He also directed the iconic Love Story. But most of all, he directed one of the funniest movies ever made, The In-Laws. Now most of that comes from working with Andrew Bergman’s great script. But the thing about Hiller is that he generally worked for great writers like Paddy Chayefsky and Neil Simon. Anyway, here is the classic “serpentine” scene from The In-Laws:
Happy birthday Arthur Hiller!