Elaine May

Elaine MayBefore we get to the birthdays, I have to share something I wrote last year on this day. James Dobson is a very vile conservative Christian who founded Focus on the Family. To give you some idea of the man, he once said, “It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely.” So last year, I wrote what I think is a wonderful bit of snark, “Since I mentioned Hitler’s birthday yesterday, I guess I have to mention that James Dobson is 77 day.”

The great comedian Elaine May is 82 today. She is a brilliant screenwriter, and not just of funny material. For example, she wrote the screenplay for Primary Colors, which is a really fine film. But comedy is her thing. She wrote one of the funniest screenplays ever, The Birdcage, which really is far better than the original (which is still excellent). And she wrote and directed Ishtar. It’s actually a very good, very funny movie. It seems it got a bad rap because of its budget. Big budgets are fine for action films but not for comedies. But most of all, it is an example of studio infighting. It seems that David Puttnam came in as head of production towards the end of the film, and as is standard, he wanted to kill it because it wasn’t his film. So he put out as much negative stuff on the film as he could. If you haven’t seen the film, you should.

But Elaine May is mostly known as one half of Nichols and May, her short-lived but hugely popular comedy act with Mike Nichols (who also directed The Birdcage and Primary Colors). Here is their classic “Mother and Son” skit:

Happy birthday Elaine May!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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