On this day in 1880, Francis Browne was born. He was a Jesuit, like our current Pope. But he is best known for his photographs—especially for his photographs of the Titanic. He had received a ticket to take the ship from England to Ireland. During that leg of the trip, a rich couple befriended him and offered to pay his way to New York and back again if he would hang out with them. He sent a telegraph to his superior asking for permission. The replay was no, “GET OFF THAT SHIP – PROVINCIAL.” So he did and didn’t die. Maybe there is a God after all.
The writer J R R Tolkien was born in 1892. He was a good writer and I enjoyed his work well enough as a child. But good God, is the man ever overrated. And now, thanks to Peter Jackson and company, he’s more exposed than ever. And you know one of my big complaints about books: padding. Tolkien was the king of padding. And then, to make things worse, Jackson divides The Hobbit into three parts. I hate to break it to the great director, but that was Tolkien’s shortest and best novel. It wasn’t a trilogy! But there is this great John Rogers quote:
Victor Borge was born in 1909. What was he exactly? A musician? A comedian? I don’t know. He was a very good performer. Here he is describing the history of the piano. It is very funny:
The great film director Sergio Leone was born in 1929. Interestingly, he isn’t even listed on the front page birthdays of IMDB. Who is? Danica McKellar who I’ve never heard of. Dan Harmon who I’ve never heard of. Actors I rather like Dabney Coleman (82) and Robert Loggia (84). And of course, bigot with real anger issues Mel Gibson (58). I’ll admit, Gibson is a fine director. But Leone he isn’t. He isn’t even close. Here is the trailer from what I think is his most underrated film, A Fistful of Dynamite:
Other birthdays: Roman philosopher Cicero (106 BC); playwright Douglas William Jerrold (1803); actor ZaSu Pitts (1894); overwrought Ukrainian composer Boris Lyatoshinsky (1895); actor Anna May Wong (1905); the great music producer and arranger George Martin (88); singer-songwriter Stephen Stills (69); and musician who I thought was dead, John Paul Jones (68).
The day, however, belongs to Marion Davies who was born on this day in 1897. She was a fine comedic actor and would doubtless have become a great comedic actor and probably an actor everyone knows. Unfortunately for her, she was William Randolph Hearst’s lover and companion. And Hearst didn’t like seeing her be silly on screen, so with his many connections and gobs of money, he got her to star in historical dramas. She was pretty, there is no doubt of that. But that wasn’t who she was. You need to be careful who your benefactors are.
The only reason I even know who Davies was is because I’m a big Orson Welles fan. In Citizen Kane, Kane tries to make his talentless mistress into an opera star. This was certainly a dig at Hearst who tried to make Davies into something she was not. But it most certainly wasn’t an attack on Davies herself, who Welles defended time and again. Anyway, here she is in her final role—the kind of role should should always have been playing. It is Ever Since Eve (not available on video anywhere), and although it is sexist as hell, it is quite a fun movie.
Happy birthday Marion Davies!