On this day in 1848, Louis Comfort Tiffany was born. He did a lot of “decorative arts,” but is primarily known for his wonderful stained glass work. He was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the jeweler would founded Tiffany & Co. But Louis’ work really does stand on its own. I recommend clicking over and checking out a bit of his work. Of course, I have a great fondness for stained glass. I’m not sure why.
Charles Schwab was born in 1862. He isn’t that Charles Schwab. He was an engineer who went on to lead Bethlehem Steel very effectively. And then he lost all his money in the mid-1930s and died in poverty in 1939. How many times have you heard this story? It makes sense. In a truly free market, this is exactly what you would expect: opportunity to succeed also means opportunity to fail. But we don’t see this kind of thing anymore. Sure, working class people crash and burn all the time. But not the elite. And that’s because we don’t have a free market. In 2007 and 2008, there should have been any number of billionaires who lost everything. There should have been a number who went to jail. Instead, they all kept their wealth and their freedom. I would have a much higher opinion of Republicans if they would be for allowing the rich to fail. And of course, they will tell you they are. But when it comes down to it, they never are. Modern conservatism is best characterized as a religion that worships rich people.
Pee Wee King was born in 1914. He was one of the great country songwriters of the last century. He is best known for writing the music to “The Tennessee Waltz.” And that’s as good a reason as any to listen to David Bromberg’s great version of the song:
Other birthdays: Bloody Mary (1516); inventor of the battery Alessandro Volta (1745); physicist Ernst Mach (1838); stainless steel inventor Harry Brearley (1871); actor Edward Arnold (1890); pediatrician Hans Asperger (1906); actor George Kennedy (89); cartoonist Johnny Hart (1931); novelist Toni Morrison (83); talentless rich person Yoko Ono (81); film writer-director John Hughes (1950); actor Cybill Shepherd (64); singer Juice Newton (62); actor John Travolta (60); actor Greta Scacchi (54); actor Matt Dillon (50); and Molly Ringwald (46).
The day, however, belongs to the great film director Milos Forman who is 82 today. He has made some of my favorite films: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ragtime, and The People vs Larry Flynt. And he’s had some notable failures like Valmont. One thing I really like about him is that he works closely with writers but generally doesn’t take screen credit. Of course, on Valmont he did take screen credit. And I think it is illustrative. The film is based upon Les Liaisons dangereuses. At more or less the same time, Dangerous Liaisons was released and it is the one that everyone has seen. There are many reasons why Valmont is an inferior adaptation, but the biggest one is that Forman and co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere decided that the ending where the Marquise de Merteuil gets her comeuppance wasn’t necessary. They decided that it was only in the book to appeal to the moralistic culture of the time. I totally disagree. I think we very much want to see her taken down—not because she is immoral but because she is an awful person. But I think it is great that they grappled with that question and made a reasonable, if ultimately incorrect decision.
My favorite of Forman’s films is the director’s cut of Amadeus. If you have not read it, I recommend reading my rather long discussion of the difference between the original released version of Amadeus and the director’s cut. The original version is very good. But the director’s cut is great. And I don’t think anyone else has addressed the issue, but I don’t think I’m alone in noting that something was slightly off in the original. However, I will warn you that most people seem to prefer the nice safe original version. But I expect more from my readers.
It is almost impossible to pick a scene from Forman’s work. Although he makes beautiful films, what’s more important is that he’s good at telling two hour long stories. But I picked a scene from Ragtime. This is a subplot in the movie (but a large part of the novel). It’s very sweet and funny:
Happy birthday Milos Forman!