Fellini and Many Others

Federico FelliniOn this day in 1732, Richard Henry Lee was born. I only know him because he has a big number in 1776. He is, apparently, the guy who got the Continental Congress to debate independence. But being a rich man from Virginia, we can only assume he was a big slave holder. Does that make him a bad man or should we put him in the context of his time and place? I don’t know. I can kind of see accepting slavery in a general sense. But slavery not based upon the vicissitudes of life and rather on race? At a time when it still must have been in living memory that it only existed at all for purely economic reasons and all the “racial superiority” nonsense was just made up to justify (Like always!) the unfair wealth of the ruling class? So I’m not inclined to forgive, but Wikipedia doesn’t even mention slavery.

Comedian George Burns was born in 1896. I would just lump him in with the other birthdays if I thought he had been funnier. There is no doubt that he was a great straight man to Gracie. But Groucho Marx he wasn’t. But oh did he try!

Colin Clive was born in 1900. He is the actor best know for the line, “It’s alive!” which he repeated over and over again as Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein. And then in Bride of Frankenstein he doesn’t get any good lines. What I think is most interesting about Clive is that he is known for being a falling down drunk. According to Wikipedia, often “he had to be held upright for over-the-shoulder shots.” But the man died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis. Isn’t it possible that like Charlie Parker, his drug use was due to the fact that he was not being properly treated for medical issues? Now I don’t say this an apology for the way these men lived their lives; people have the right to live their lives any damn way they choose. But I’ve noticed that Wikipedia has a tendency to contain death sections that go something like this, “He was an alcoholic throughout his live. He died when an airplane crashed into his house.” What does alcoholism have to do with tuberculosis?! Anyway, I love him those Frankenstein movies!

Farhad Mehrad was born in 1944. He was a hugely successful Iranian singer-songwriter. And mostly, I just wanted you to hear this:

David Lynch is 68 today. When I was younger, I loved his work. Now I look back on it and I’m not so sure. He is interesting, but most of the stuff is unwatchable. For example, when it was on television, I loved Twin Peaks. I went back recently and watched it and I was amazed at how much I hated it. I think that all art is indulgent to some degree. But I’m afraid Lynch takes it to another level. However… He always seems to be trying to do something and that’s more than you can say for most filmmakers who have reached the level he has. Here is a scene from Living in Oblivion that has always reminded me of Lynch, but Tom DiCillo insists that it was not an attack on Lynch, who he admires. Regardless, it is funny as hell:

Other birthdays: “Bones” from Star Trek, DeForest Kelley (1920); musician Slim Whitman (1923); actor Patricia Neal (1926); comedian Arte Johnson (85); comedian Bill Maher (58); and MindVox co-founder (and someone I actually know), Patrick K Kroupa is 45.

The day, however, belongs to Federico Fellini who was born on this day in 1920. My perception is that among film fans, Fellini has fallen out of favor. Or at least he has compared to, say, Ingmar Bergman. But I remember as a teenager going to see a double feature of And the Ship Sails On and Amarcord. And it was a revelation. I had never seen anything like that in my life! But then, as I tend to do, I went back and looked at his films in the 1950s like I Vitelloni, and I was very disappointed. It took me a long time to see those films in their historical context. He was, from the beginning, an innovative filmmaker. I will say this, however, I’m not a big fan of . To a large extent, I blame that on Stardust Memories and All That Jazz and other films that have so ripped it off. But if directors as great as Allen and Fosse and Truffaut have been inspired to steal from it in such blatant ways, I don’t think you really need to say any more about Fellini. I really want you to see this magical (Short!) clip from And the Ship Sails On. But I can’t embed it. Do click over. And check this scene from I Vitelloni (From 1953!) that is, in its way, no less magical:

Happy birthday Federico Fellini!

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