With Albert Finney’s departure from the world stage on February 7, there’s plenty to say about his exceptional career. Two favorite scenes from The Dresser (1983) are included here. The film is about a small ragtag acting troupe that brings Shakespeare to the provinces. It’s a sendup of bombastic old-school acting and a poignant study of the lead actor’s personal assistant or “dresser.” The film opens with Finney's character in the role of Othello. As you can see from the above photograph, his entire body has been darkened. Tom Courtenay, his dresser, is shown assisting him with a post-performance bath.
Taken on its own and out of context, the image is both compelling and off-putting. It seems especially relevant to the current social moment when blackface is trending yet again. What does it mean when a white actor darkens his skin to play Othello? Is that the same as the kind of blackface historically used to denigrate African Americans? Or something different?
Why 'The Green Book' with Its Echoes of Greek Myth, Huckleberry Finn & Cyrano de Bergerac Is a Must See Movie of 2018
One critic calls it Driving Miss Daisy in reverse. But for my money The Green Book goes a lot deeper as it takes a long, hard look at what ails us—and hints at what’s required to heal our national divide. Even though it’s set during the early 1960s before passage of the Civil Rights Act, the movie’s themes could not be more relevant to today.
If you’ve never heard of the actual Green Book, which gives the film its name, you’ll learn during this two-hour excursion that even high-profile African-Americans were not allowed to eat or sleep in “whites only” establishments when they performed in the American Deep South. The film won’t tell you this, but it was a Harlem post-office employee, Victor Green, who published the book. Between 1936 and 1966, the Green Book was the essential guide for black travelers, providing a city-by-city list of restaurants, hotels, and gas stations where you would not be humiliated or harmed.
Stephen King's Carrie - Then, Now & the Coffee Shop; Vanity Fair Author, Thackery, Completes Barry Lyndon
It was on November 3, 1976, two years after this first novel by Stephen King was published, that the film version starring Sissy Spacek was released in theaters - and the rest, as they say, is history. Here is a look at Carrie, then and now, as well as the coffee-shop prank promoting the new film. Would you believe it's had 47 million hits so far - and counting?
No Fat, No Whip, No Blood Either - The Coffee Shop Prank
In 1844, three years before he began publishing his best known work, Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, finished writing The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century. One hundred, thirty-one years later, in 1975, Stanley Kubrick produced a film version starring Ryan O'Neal and Marissa Berenson, which may very well be one of Kubrick's best films. Some critics call it his "overlooked masterpiece."
"I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate, first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea, by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger, long suffering also in war, until he founded a city and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome. Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity, how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man, noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?" That's the first verse of Virgil's Aeneid. Could not segue to the following six-minute summary without offering this sample (translated here by A. S. Kline) as a taste of what this great story holds as myth, metaphor, poetry and story, now lodged forever in our Collective Unconscious.
Too busy to read Beyond Good and Evil, Thus Spake Zarathustra, or Twilight of the Idols? No worries. He was born on this day in 1844, and there's plenty about him on the web. Try one of the summaries on YouTube for a quick introduction.
And sure, why not add the music inspired by Nietzsche's great work. Here is Maestro Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra of Saint Ceclia in Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss
The star of TV's Laverne and Shirley is also a wonderful film director. Here's the trailer from her delightful movie, Big, with Tom Hanks.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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