On this day in 1894, the great film director John Ford was born. I do, however, think he’s a bit overrated. There are certain directors who have a certain buzz associated with them. Another good example is Hitchcock. I would argue that this does not apply to Welles, who has a different problem where a relatively small number of people vastly overrate him and the rest have never seen anything but Citizen Kane. It is still an indictment of the Academy that Ford’s How Green Was My Valley beat Kane for Best Picture. Regardless, Ford made some unquestionably great films. I especially like Stagecoach and The Grapes of Wrath.
Clark Gable was born in 1901. He is most associated with Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. And he does put in a very stylish performance that is hard not to love. The truth is, I very much like seeing him in any film. But what is most close to my heart is his role of Peter Warne in It Happened One Night. And, of course, this scene in particular:
Political commentator Fred Barnes is 71. He is as conservative as you can be—a Fox News regular and executive editor of The Weekly Standard. I mention him only to point out how conservatives mislead without lying. The McLaughlin Group was skewed so far to the right that Barnes came off as a moderate and even slightly liberal. This was a big show for the supposedly liberal PBS. Of course, since that time, Fox News has perfected this approach where conservative commentator Juan Williams comes off as a liberal. That is the most deceptive thing a news organization can do, and when it comes to economic issues, all of the networks do this. And they all claim to be objective.
Soul legend Rick James was born in 1948. I didn’t realize that he had died at just 56. Sad. But here’s his blockbuster “Super Freak”:
Actor and musician Bill Mumy is 60 today. He is best know for the part Will Robinson in Lost in Space. I know him even better as the go-to actor for 1970s television shows who needed someone to play a hippy. But he is also well know for his band Barnes & Barnes. Here they are doing their classic “Fish Heads”:
Other birthdays: lexicographer Emile Littre (1801); magician William Davenport (1841); discoverer of the antiproton, Emilio Segre (1905); cabaret singer Hildegarde (1906); the last man to totally sell out the Russian people, Boris Yeltsin (1931); comedian Garrett Morris (77); musician Del McCoury (75); my favorite Monty Python member, Terry Jones (72); actor Brandon Lee (1965); and pernicious propagandist Andrew Breitbart (1969).
The day, however, belongs to the great humorist S J Perelman who was born on this day in 1904. He is probably best known for co-writing a couple of Max Brothers films. But I never know what to make of that. I assume that these later films were completely scripted and not based upon their vaudeville act. On the other hand, I’m not sure just how funny those routines would have been without them. Regardless, I know Perelman from his short fiction in The New Yorker. I’ve always thought he was funnier and more consistent than Thurber. Ever humble, he wrote of himself, “Before they made S J Perelman they broke the mold.” I highly recommend checking out his work if you aren’t familiar. Most of the Most of S J Perelman is an excellent choice.
Happy birthday S J Perelman!