Friday, March 31, 2017

Born Today March 31: Nikolai Gogol



1809-1852

Ukrainian writer Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was born on this date in Sorochintsy, which was then part of the Russian Empire, and is now located in Ukraine.  The village was then made up almost entirely of Ukrainian Cossacks. His father, who died when Nikolai was only 15, was a writer in both Ukrainian and Russian, and had plays in the Ukrainian language--then considered (much as now)  not a proper literary language--though the elder Gogol was proud of his Ukrainian language work.  By this time, the younger Gogol already had experience in staging Ukrainian language plays; an activity that he shared with his uncle.  In 1820 Nikolai went to Nezhin to study higher education in the arts (the university there is now named after him).  Though not the most popular of students, he did develop a few lasting friendships at school and dealt with mockery by becoming a mimic of the first rate--which probably lead to his nickname of "Mykola."  He left the school in 1828 and headed for St. Petersburg, there he began to write on his own.  He published his first work there as well, a romantic style poem written in the German language.  Though magazines did publish the work, it was not well received and embarrassment caused him to buy as many copies as he could to destroy, also vowing never to write any sort of poetry again.  He then managed to get a story published which was much better received and ended up with his being introduced to writer Pushkin in 1831.  Also in the 1831, he self-published a volume of stories that he had written in Ukrainian.  His play writing then took off, with him concerning himself with subjects on topic with romanticizing the lives of Ukrainian Cossacks.  Despite this, he had not fully committed to a career as a professional writer--he had kept himself afloat by working in various minor government jobs.  Also, curiously, during this time there was an insistence that he wholly reclassified as a Russian writer.  It was after the successful staging of his play The Government Inspector in 1836, that he decided to devout his energies writing full time.  For more than a decade 1836-1848, Gogol spent living abroad, mostly in Germany and Switzerland, traveling most of the time.  He returned to Russia after his friend Pushkin's death.  Given the stature of Gogol in the modern literary world, it is hardly surprising that dozens and dozens of films have been made from his work--8 these came in the silent era.  The first was produced in 1909 with the comedy short Dead Souls, made in pre-revolutionary Russia.  The first full sound film produced from his work came out of Germany:  The Town Stands On It's Head was released in 1933.  Ironically, given the popularity of his works for modern film screenplays, it took until the year 1938 for an English language film using his work for source material to come out.  The Rebel Son was a British production.  The most recent released film from his work came out earlier this year; The Shadow Of Two Flies Upon A Pin is about 30 minutes in length, and in English and Russian.  Two films are in the works as well, with the most recent being an animated version of The Overcoat, slated to be released later this year.  A lot of speculation surrounds Gogol's decline and death.  One thing that seems clear, is that he suffered from ever worsening depression.  In most places his actual cause of death is listed as "self imposed starvation"--not suicide, owed to his mental state and state of mind on spiritual matters.  But he is reported to have died in great pain some 9 days after taking to his bed and refusing all food--that might speak to another underlying condition for which he was not properly diagnosed.  Whatever the real cause, he died at home in Moscow on the 4th of March in 1852 at the very young age of 42.  The intrigue didn't stop after his death either.  He was initially buried at a monastery in Moscow.  The Soviets decided to demolish the monastery in 1931, so they moved his tomb to Novodevichy Cemetery, but they removed the large Russian Orthodox cross and replaced it with a bust of Gogol.  When moving the tomb, it was discovered that Gogol body was lying face down--this sparked persistent claims (none proven to be more than speculation) that he was buried alive.  In 2009, the Russian Federation removed the bust on his grave to the museum at the cemetery and replaced it with a new Orthodox cross.  

His Soviet era grave in Moscow

The 2009 refit of his tomb


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Born Today March 30: Gabriela Zapolska


1857-1921

Polish writer Gabriela Zapolska, birth name Maria Gabriela Stefania Korwin-Piotrowska, was born to a landed Polish gentry family on this date in what was then Galicia, Austrian Empire (now part of Ukraine).  She was educated there until she was forced into an arranged marriage by her family in 1876.  This did not last; she quickly left her military husband and formally divorced him ten years later.  She then became pregnant in an out wedlock relationship, which caused her to permanently sever any ties with her family.  During this period of time, she got into amateur acting at a local Philanthropic society in Warsaw.  In 1889, she moved to Paris to continue her artistic career.  She had already written and published her first short story by the time she made the move to France; upon arriving there, she continued act, but also increased her writing output.  After a time, she returned to her native country and settled in Krakow.  In 1904, she married for the second time and became a patron of a traveling theater.  Through all of this, she had continued to act and write.  In all, she was a extremely well rounded writer; her works range from plays, novels, stories, and many works of journalism--she even wrote one screenplay.  She was also a woman of letters.  In terms of film, 9 movies were made from her work in the silent era.  The first of these came in 1912 with Niebezpieczny kochanek, a Polish production.  The first sound film made from her work was Moralnosc pani Dulskiej released in 1930, also made in Poland and based on one of her plays.  The latest film to use her work for a screenplay came in 2015 with the Polish Panie Dulskie; it also based on one of her plays.  It does not appear that as yet, her screenplay has been filmed.  She died in what was then Lwow, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine) on the 17th of December in 1920 five years after the town was captured by the Russian Army.  She was 64 years old.  She is buried in that town in the Lychakiv Cememtery there.



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Wikipedia Poland  (can be translated)

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Born Today March 29: Octavius L. Pruden



1842-1902

Historical figure and civil war veteran Octavius Longworth Pruden was born on this date in 1842.  His place of birth is currently not recorded in public records.  He is likely to have been born somewhere north of the Mason/Dixon Line, as he served as Union soldier during the Civil War.  He was a lifelong civil servant who served as assistant secretary to many president's ranging from Grant to Teddy Roosevelt.  He is here because of his appearance in two Edison "newsreels" (one of which is embedded for viewing above).  The first of these was Admiral Dewey Taking Leave of Washington Committee on the U.S. Cruiser 'Olympia' and was shot in 1899.  The second is the film embedded above in which Pruden can be seen Admiral Dewey Receiving the Washington and New York Committees and also dates from 1899.  Pruden died on the 19th of April in 1902 at the age of 60, location not recorded, but possibly Washington D.C.  His burial details are likewise not currently part of the public record.

Still from the first Edison short that he appeared in.


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SNAC  (University of Virginia)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Born Today March 28: William Wycherley


1641-1715

It is thought that English Restoration dramatist William Wycherley was born on this day probably in the year 1641.  He was born in Clive, which was near Shrewsbury, located in Shropshire.  His baptism is recorded as taking place on the 8th of April 1641.  The family then departed for India, and settled on a estate in Malappuram with an income of £600 a year.  As an adolescent, he was educated in the France; while there he converted to Roman Catholicism.  He returned to England just before the restoration of King Charles II, settling in Queen's college, Oxford.  Thomas Barlow (who was later Bishop) was Provost there at the time; it is an understatement that he was fiercely anti-catholic.  Barlow managed to convince Wycherley to return to the Church of England. There are indications, however, that he may have secretly remained a Catholic at heart.  Though he was considered as professional fine gentleman, he did leave Oxford for the Inner Temple, but gave little energy toward the genuine study of law.  He spent most of his time at the theater and with the company of women instead.  His strong interest in the stage lead him to start writing plays of his own; the first of which was presented at the Theater Royal, in Drury Lane in 1671 (he had bragged of writing a play at the age of 19, but this has been demonstrated to more of boast than a reality).  The play,  Love In The Wood, was considered to not only to be the most shocking and daring comedy to date, but was equally considered brilliant.  It took no time at all for him to become the talk of the court. He also served in the Navy, though the time period that he undertook this service is a matter of conjecture.  Opinions are evenly divided on whether this came before, or after the production of his first play.  He was, for a time, the most imminent playwright in the UK.  Though a brilliant writer, he was also a rogue, with an immature character for most of his life.  He was only concerned with marriage, for example, if it was for money; because he was constantly spending on "wine and women," which left him perpetually in debt.  Despite his wide spread fame during his lifetime, only 3 films have ever been produced using his work as source material.  The first of those was The Country Girl in 1915; a Thanhouser film.  The second came with an installment of the BBC Play Of The Month, with his play The Country Wife in 1977.  The most recent came in 2011, with the short The Happy Husband.  Wycherley died at the age of 74 in Convent Garden on 31 December 1715 (some sources cite that he died in night after midnight, surviving, barely in to the year 1716). It is pretty sure that he was entombed in a vault somewhere in St. Paul's, Covent Garden (The Actor's Church) or in a lost grave in the churchyard there; though minority sources claim not to know where he was laid to rest.  As a point of trivia:  Wycherley is thought to have coined the phrase "nincompoop."



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Monday, March 27, 2017

Born Today March 27: Henri Murger


1822-1861

French writer Henri Murger, given name Louis-Henri, was born on this date in Paris, France.   His father was a native Savoyard who had moved to Paris, where he worked two jobs: one as a tailor and the other as a janitor for an apartment building.  Young Henri's education was very fragmented, owed to the family's poverty.  He, in fact, left school at the age of 15 to work.  He toiled at a variety of menial occupations, before landing work in a lawyer's office.  While working there, he began to write poetry.  These were circulated, and that brought him to the attention of writer Étienne de Jouy, who in turn secured him a position in the home of Russian nobleman who was living in Paris at the time.  This allowed him to began a full-fledged literary career; this was some time around the year 1841.  He began writing poetic essays, but soon found that in order to actually make a living by writing, he'd have to broaden his genres; he began writing prose with such speed, as he put "at the rate of 80 francs an acre."  He also spent time editing a fashion newspaper; and he edited a paper for the millinery (or hat) trade.  He then decided to change his name in bid to gain more attention, first adopting "Henry Mürger," then dropping the umlaut.  All of his work from this change on are published under the name "Henry Murger."  Though, he did eventually find success, it took some time and was fleeting.  He was part of a group of writers who dubbed themselves "the water drinkers," because they were too poor to afford wine.  While he found success from a number of works during his lifetime, he is best remembered today for just one work:  Scénes de la vie bohéme.  If this looks  familiar, it is because it was the source material for 4 opera's and one Broadway musical Rent, including the very famous Puccini opera La Bohéme.  Six films were made from his work in the silent era; all but one was based bohéme.  The first was released in 1912 with La Bohéme, a French production.  The only film produced from works other than Bohéme also came in 1912; The Kind Old Man, also a French production, was based on one of his plays.  The first English language film produced from his work was the U.S. produced La vie de Bohéme in 1916.  In 1926, MGM produced a lavish version of Bohéme, starring Lillian Gish and directed by King Vidor; it's IMDb page can be found here.  The first film produced in the sound era using his work for source material, came in 1935 with the British production Mimi, starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr.  The most recent film using his work is La Bohéme, Oper in vier Bildern, a made for television film broadcast in 2012.  Murger spent the last ten years of his life in financial trouble and increasingly ill health.  In serious decline, he died in  Paris hospital the 28th of January 1861 at only 38 years of age.  The French government paid for his funeral, which attended by over 250 "luminaries."  He is buried in Montmartre Cemetery there.



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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Born Today March 26: Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge


1819-1904

Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge, full given name: George William Frederick Charles in the House of Hanover, was born on this date in Hanover, Germany.  His father was Prince Aldophus; his grandfather was King George III.  He was at first educated in Hanover, then after 1830, in England.  He would go on to have a life-long military career, and even saw action in war. He created quite a stir when he married secretly; ignoring an arranged, up-coming marriage with a cousin who was a Princess.  He instead married an English commoner who was, shockingly for the time, an actress.  He, unlike several relatives before him, was allowed to remain married, despite that he was  was in breach of the Royal Marriages Act.  He died in London, at the age of 84 on 17 March 1904.  He is buried in a family mausoleum in Kensal Green Cemetery, also located in London.  The reason for his inclusion here stems from his appearance in 3 newsreels, the first of which, Duke of Cambridge Opening Earl's Court Exhibition, was shot in 1899.  The next:  Duke of Cambridge Bidding Goodbye to Imperial Yeomanry was shot in 1900. The last of these was Duke of Cambridge at the Richmond Horse Show, and was shot 1901.  All of these were produced by the Warwick Trading Company.  


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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Born Today March 25: Mrs Linnaeus Banks (Isabella Varley Banks)


1821-1897

Isabella Varley, later Banks--known professionally of Mrs. (G.) Linnaeus Banks was born on this date in Manchester, England, UK.  Her father was a pharmacist in the northern part of the city.  As a child, she developed a deep interest in the history of the city and it's political development. This came about because of her parents active involvement in politics; her father held several civil posts during her childhood.  This lead her, later in life, to become a progressive supporter of women's rights.  She also starting writing at the relatively early age, actually having one of poems published in The Manchester Guardian. By 1844, a full volume of her poetry had been published.  In 1846 she married prominent journalist George Linnaeus Banks--who was also a poet and playwright--as well as an actor.  She then began to publish works under her married name, though a few works continued to be published under her maiden name.  Though she was a prolific writer, and all of her works were published, it is principally for one work that she is known:  The Manchester Man.  It is a serial novel that is considered to be an important contribution to the historical social novel form.  With it's publication, she gained a fan in fellow British novelist Anthony Trollope.  Although the work remains widely read to this day, it has only been made into a film once:  in 1920.  The Manchester Man was produced in the UK, directed by Bert Wynne, and was the only film made by a company called itself Ideal.  She died in her home in the outer skirts of London on 4 May 1897, she is buried in the Abney Park Cemetery next to her husband whom had passed in 1881.  She was 76 years old.

Later in life.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Born Today March 24: George Francis Train


1829-1904

Ecentrentic industrial millionaire George Francis Train was born on this day in Boston, Mass.  His family soon relocated to New Orleans.  The vast majority of his immediate family, including both of his parents and at least 3 siblings died there from a yellow fever epidemic.  He was then sent back to Boston to be raised by very strict Methodist grandparents, who very much wanted him to become a minister.  He instead went into the mercantile trade, and soon became a wanderer--and adventurer.  It is possible that reports of his crossing the planet by many transportational modes was the inspiration for Jules Verne's Around The World In 80 Days.  He was considered "different" from early adulthood, a trait that would only increase as he aged.  Thought many thought him insane, many of his actions and speeches, especially in the realm of politics and individual rights, may have had a "method in their madness" (he was, for example a financial supporter of Susan B. Anthony, but also once stood for "dictator of the United States").  More of his decidedly colourful life can be found in the links below.  The reason for his presence on a silent movie blog stems from one sole film that featured him and one other person dating from 1898.  Billed as "Citizen George Frances Train" and "Professor Mike Donovan," the short "mockumentery" Train vs. Donovan was produced by American Mutoscope was probably a spoof on an earlier film by the Edison Corp. Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph, which was shot 4 years earlier.  It was filmed at the New York Athletic Club.  Train lived for nearly 5 years after the film was shot, dying on the 5th of January 1904 at the age of 74 in New York City.  He was buried in the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  He is entombed in his well off father-in-law's mausoleum there.



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Smithsonian article on Train's support of Susan B. Anthony's publication


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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Born Today March 23: Joan Crawford


1904?-1977

Born Lucille Fay LaSueur in either 1904, 1905 or 1906 (with either 1904 or 1906 being the most likely year of her birth) in San Antonio, Texas to a working class family.  Her birth father soon abandoned the family and her mother, who made ends meet by toiling as a laundry laborer, later remarried and the family relocated to Oklahoma, where her stepfather managed a local opera house.  Since earliest childhood Lucille's (who preferred to be called "Billie") greatest desire was to become a dancer; she relished watching the vaudeville acts in the theater that her stepfather (whom she thought was her biological father) ran.  In the early 1920's she began working as a dancer in chorus lines under her birth name.  This lead to an arranged screen test.  Stories and rumors from the period in life have persisted that she supplemented her income by appearing in blue, or soft core porn, films; but zero evidence of this has ever been produced.  She did become a fashionable art model for photographers and some these were, in fact, nudes; and it would be her physique that landed her a film role. Indeed, it had also landed her a $70 a week contract with MGM.  This came in 1925 when she, under her birth name, was hired to be the body double of Norma Shearer in Lady Of The Night--a big budget film at the time, featuring state-of-the-art  tinting and a sequence in very early 2-strip technicolor.  She would assay similar roles for her next few films, as either a dancer or a showgirl; in one film--A Slave Of Fashion (another Norma Shearer feature)--she had a bit part as a mannequin.  The head of publicity for the studio took notice of her, and quickly realized that she had plenty of star power in her own right, but didn't like her name.  This is how she wound up with the stage name of "Joan Crawford," a name that she reportedly disliked--nonetheless, it would remain with her for the rest of her life.  Despite the name "make over," she continued to get only small roles, which frustrated her greatly.  This prompted her to launch a self-promotion campaign.  This she did by attending hotel dance competitions, many of which she won.  This eventually paid off for her, when the studio gave her a major part in Sally, Irene and Mary (1925) in the role of Irene.  It was at this time that she came out publicly with her first rivalry.  From the beginning of her acting career, she had deeply resented Norma Shearer, who was married to studio head Irving Thalberg, quipping "How can I compete with Norma? She sleeps with the boss!"  Despite this, her star still rose; she would go on to have roles is some very famous silents, including:  Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926)Across to Singapore (1928) (with Ramon Novarro) and The Unknown (1927) (a Tod Browning film starring Lon Chaney Sr.).  In 1926, she was included in that year's WAMPAS Baby Stars.  In 1929, she married Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in Manhattan--a marriage that his father and stepmother--Mary Pickford--disapproved of.  She eventually became friends with her father-in-law, but was never accepted by Pickford, who she thoroughly despised.  The marriage, however, did not last (she would go on to wed 3 more times in her life).  Around this time, it was clear that the era of silents was over (she had already had roles in partial silents), and Crawford knew that if she wished to continue to act, she needed rid herself of a her heavily inflected southwestern accent.  She was able to do this by practicing diction and elocution tirelessly.  The first full sound film that she acted in was Untamed in 1929 with Robert Montgomery--it was the last film that she made in the 1920's.  Her next film, required her to fall back on her chorus line days; Montana Moon (1930), was a western romantic musical with a comedy bent.  She was nominated 3 times for an Academy Award, and in 1945, she won for Mildred Pierce.  In the 1950's she began doing some television, though she never really warmed up to that work in the same way other members of her generation did (she only had one recurring TV role).  In 1962 she starred with her biggest rival, Bette Davis in the horror/drama What Ever Happened Happened To Baby.  In 1969, she was directed by Steven Spielberg in an episode of Night Gallery.  The last film that she made was the schlocky Sci-Fi/Horror Trog.  Her last acting job came in the television series The Sixth Sense.  Crawford died at the age of either 71, 72 or 73 on the 10th of May in 1977 in Manhattan, after suffering a heart attack brought on by complications from cancer.  She is interred, along with her last husband, under the banner "Steele," in the mausoleum section of Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County, New York.  The marker listed her year of birth as 1906



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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Born Today March 22: Matt Snyder

Seen here with actress Beatriz Michelena in Salomy Jane (1914).

1835-1917

Early film actor Matt B. Snyder was born on this date.  At this time, his place of birth is not known, but it is likely to have been somewhere in the northeastern United States, as he served in the US Navy during the Civil War.  How he got his start in acting is also not known, but by at least the 1890's he was acting on the stage.  He performed mostly with his wife, both on Broadway and on tours.  His first appearance in the film came quite late in his life in 1913.  He played a police inspector in The Cub Reporter's Temptation.  He enjoyed a major role in Herbert Brenon's 1913 rendition of Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The last film that he is listed as acting in was The Garden Of Allah (1916); but apparently a civil war drama shot before this film--The Crisis--was released after Synder's death (a copy of this film reportedly survives in the Library of Congress).  Matt Snyder died on the 17th of January in 1917; at the time of his death, at 81, he was listed as the oldest person in the movie industry.  Though he died in San Francisco, California, no details as to his burial seemed to have survived.  

Poster for the 1913 film of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Snyder played the father in this adaptation.


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Born Today March 21: Modest Mussorgsky (Not So Silent Edition)


1839-1881

Russian composer Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was born on this date in Karevo, Russian Empire.  The place of his birth is located about 400 KM/250 miles south of St. Petersburg.  His family claimed that they were descended from the first Ruthenian ruler Rurikbasically, a kind of royal Viking ancestry, who seems to have been some sort of Slavic viking established chieftain.  There were, at the time of his birth, a very wealthy, land-owning family with broad influence and acknowledged serious noble ancestry.  There are several theories about his surname (all of which are explored in the Wikipedia link below), with questions about how seriously the family took to the various spellings of the name.  They were certainly a very proud lot.  Modest's mother was a trained pianist, and she began to teach the instrument to him at the age of six.  Reportedly, by the age of nine he was an extremely accomplished player.  At the age of 10 years, he and his brother were taken to St. Petersburg to study at the very exclusive German language St. Peter's School.  There, he continued his piano studies; at the age of 12 published as self-penned compositional polka, which his father paid for.   Despite his obvious talent for composition at an early age, the family, because of their position in society, intended both of their sons to follow a military career.  He was sent off to a military school at the age of 13; reportedly a brutal environment that lead to difficulties, including, possibly, the beginnings of his serious struggle with drink; yet he was still able to indulge his passion for music there.  He did graduate and in 1856, when he was 17,  he formally entered the army and made the acquaintance of A. Borodin, who was 22 at the time.  They were both serving at a military hospital; Borodin had already become aware of the talent Mussorgsky possessed.  Ever the student of German, but equally proud of his ancient Slavic ancestry, he was a keen admirer of composers from both backgrounds.  He did, though suffer from the tendency to be overtly influenced, even "ruled" by teachers who were conductors/composers of his time.  He seemed also to suffer from the romanticizing of generational ideas.  Through his life, he was never truly a person who supported himself with his musical work, and never became a "true" career composer.  He, through almost all of his adult life, was a civil servant; a civil servant of high rank, but not a self supporting artist.  He apparently was a very heavy lifelong alcoholic and developed some type of seizure disorder.  He was also apparently given to serious bouts of depression as well.  Complications from his heavy drinking, and what may have been other physical problems that went undiagnosed, lead to his seriously premature death on the 28th of March 1881 at the age of 42, exactly one week after his birthday.  He died in a St. Petersburg hospital; the same at which his portrait had been painted only a week or so prior to his death.  He was buried in the Tikhvin Cemetery in St. Petersburg.  In regards to this cemetery, it is reported that when the Soviet government wished on construct a square in front of the famous cemetery, the area contained graves that they never actually moved.  It is rumored that they only moved the headstones and not the bodies.  Supposedly Mussorgsky's burial was amongst them.  If this is true, his actual grave site lies beneath a modern bus stop.  In regards to film, the first real credit of his music being used came in 1929 in the not so silent and partially lost Dark Red Roses.  In the year 2000, his "Pictures At An Exhibition" was used as part of the restored release of the 1913 epic The Last Days Of Pompeii.  Curiously, the same piece was used in the lost and found cult horror classic White Zombie (1932) starring Bela Lugosi.  The most recent use released of his music came in the music heavy comedy drama Mozart In The Jungle; with Murder, I Wrote, an Indian production, yet to be released.  

Modest Mussorgsky's eleaborate grave marker--most likley defret of a body in St. Petersburg.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Born Today March 20: Ovid


BC43-AD17

Classical Roman poet Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) was born on this day in the year BC 43 in Sulmo, Italy, Roman Empire, just one year after the murder of Julius Caesar. His birthplace is located in a valley east of Rome.  He was born into a an important and influential equestrian family.  He was later educated in rhetoric in Rome; with his father wishing him study the law.  When his brother died at the age of 20, Ovid abruptly abandoned the study of law and started traveling.  He went to Athens, "Asia Minor" (what is today Turkey) and wound up in Sicily.  During this time, he held several minor public posts.  Around the year 29 BC, he decided to dedicate his life to the writing of poetry.  It is a matter of record that he gave his first public recitation in the year 25 BC, when he was 18 years of age; he became an instant success.  He gained the patronage of Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus.  Along with Horace and Virgil, he is often listed as one the top three canonical Roman writers.  Where he differs from them, is in that he wrote much more about his own personal life.  This is how we know as much as we do about his exile later in life.  In the year 8 AD, Emperor Augustus single handily banished Ovid to Tomis on the Black Sea (it is now known as Constanta, and is the oldest continuously inhabited town in modern day Romania).  No one is completely sure what prompted this; Ovid himself wrote curiously that is was "a poem and mistake," and that his crime was worse than murder.  What is known for sure, it that his granddaughter's husband was executed around this same time for a conspiracy against the Emperor; and that she and and adopted grandchild of Ovid's were also exiled at this time.  It would seem that Ovid may have had some knowledge of this conspiracy; or at least the Emperor thought he did.  In exile, he continued to write, though the event had a profound impact on his writing style.  Only a handful of films have been made utilizing his poems as source material; but the first of these dates from the year 1918.  Il mistero di Galatea, was a full length feature, filmed on location in Rome.  It would take some 49 years to make another film based on his work.  The Spanish film Acteón was released in 1967.  Almost half of the films made from his poems were released after the turn of the millennium, with the latest coming in 2014 with Metamorphoses, a French film. It is thought that Ovid died in Tomis in either the year AD 17 or AD 18, that would have made him between the ages of 58 to 60, depending on the date--the precise time is year is not known.  There are some reports that he may have died in Britain, or possibly even Vienna, but these are not reliable.  Obviously with no precise date or location of his death, his funerary rites are equally unknown.

Memorial statue to Ovid in Romania


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Born Today March 19: Józef Korzeniowski


1797-1863

Polish writer Józef Korzeniowski (not to be confused with Joseph Conrad AKA Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski, who is no relation) was born on this date in Brody, Galicia, Habsburg Monarchy (now located in Ukraine).  Though he was schooled in science, he is largely also regarded as one of the creators of romantic drama.   would go on to teach literature as a university professor. His work is considered to be deeply philosophical.  He was deeply religious--a devout Catholic; this lead to his romantic writings wading into notions of injustice and revenge, juxtaposing them with his belief that the only true way to combat these were through Christianity and "moral science."  This had the effect of rendering a good deal of his work into the genre of dark romanticism.  He is also considered to be the founder of positivistic novella, a precursor to the psychological novel.  Only two films have ever been made using his work as source material, both of them produced in Poland, and one of those came in 1915 with Karpaccy górale.  The other is Mistrz tanca--a short horror film--and was released in 1969.  He died on the 17th of September in Dresden, where he had moved to just prior to his passing.  He was 66 years old. He is buried in the Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw Poland.



For More:

Wikipedia (in Polish, can be translated)


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Born Today March 18: Friedrich Hebbel


1813-1863

Christian Friedrich Hebbel, German dramatist and poet, was born on this date in Wesselburen.  He was the son of a bricklayer.  He showed a very early talent for composing poetry, and even managed to get some of them published in local newspapers.  This emboldened him to send a small volume of his work to then famed journalist Amalie Schoppe, who found them impressive enough to become his patron, which, in turn, allowed him to attend the University of Hamburg.  After one year there, he went to Heidelberg to study law, but soon abandoned that to attend the University of Munich, where is specialized in literature, philosophy and history.  In 1840, he finished his first play, a tragedy entitled Judith, it was published the following year.  He would produce several more plays in the years to come.  During this time, he had been given a travelling studentship by King Christian VIII, and he spent time in both Italy and Paris, France.  On his way back to his native Germany, he stopped in the Austrian capital of Vienna, where he was persuaded to remain.  He married a wealthy actress there for money only.  This firmly established both his place in the arts and in society.  He became one of the most respected playwrights of his time both in Austria and back in Germany.  In regards to film, the first film to use one of his plays for a story came in 1914:  Maria Magdalena was produced in his home country.  It as remade again in 1920 under the title Maria Magdalene in 1920.  The last film in the silent era to use his work as source material came in 1924 with Mother and Child.  The first full sound film that used his work for a screenplay was a remake of Mother and Child in 1934.  The most recent use of his writings for source material for a film came was in 2011 with Gioia Osthoff Demovideo, which was produced in his adopted country of Austria.  Hebbel died at the tragically young age of 50 in Vienna on the 13th of December.  He is buried there in the Matzliensdorf Protestant Cemetery.



For More:


German Wikipedia (can be translated)



Friday, March 17, 2017

Born Today March 17: Brigitte Helm


1906-1996

Famed early German actress Brigitte Helm was born on this date as Brigitte Eva Gisela Schittenhelm, to a Prussian military family (her father was an officer in the Prussian army).  She made her film debut in one of the most famous of silent films:  Fritz Lang's Metropolis in 1927.  She was cast in the lead as Maria/The Robot.  She worked steadily throughout the end of silent era, but was ambivalent about film acting and did not last long into the sound era.  She is a prime example of an actor, so loved for her work in silents, that just could not seem to make the successful transition to sound work.  Though her fame did allow for her casting in a very early German sound film in 1929 Alraune. It's not that she lacked for talent; she had that in spades--she just didn't care for the lifestyle.  Couple that with the rise of Hitler in her native country, and incurring the wrath of the Nazi party when you married her second husband, a wealthy Jewish industrialist (she was charged with "race defilement"), she was simply fed up with it all.  In 1935 she retired from acting and fled to Switzerland, where she remained until her death.  There she raised a family of 4 children. She reportedly would not speak at any time to any one about her days in the movie industry.  The last film that she voluntarily made was Ein idealer Gatte (1935); though she was featured in the 1978 short Wie im Traum.  Helm died on the 11 June 1996 is Ascona, Switzerland at the age of 90; her husband had preceded her in death by ten years.  There are no details as to her funeral or burial.

As The Robot in Metropolis (1927)




For More:



Leave Virtual Flowers @ Find A Grave (this entry gives the wrong year of birth for her)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Born Today March 15: Camilo Castelo Branco


1825-1890

Portueguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco (Camilo Ferreira Botelho Castelo Branco, 1st Viscount de Correira Botelho) was born on this date in Lisbon.  He born out of wedlock and soon orphaned; he was taken in by three unmarried aunts, and was schooled by them at home. At the age of 13, he was enrolled in a Catholic seminary run near Vila Real, and educated there by priests; he soon showed a remarkable talent with the ancient languages of Greek and Latin and took to reading great Portuguese poets--though he ultimately proved an easily distracted and undisciplined student.  From the age of 17 until sometime in his early 20's, he studied medicine and theology.  From then, he spent a short time as a journalist in Lisbon and Oporto.  During this period of time, he wrote several works of a religious nature.  He also attended the episcopal seminary with the aim of becoming a priest.  He did take holy orders, but didn't remain a priest for very long.  He instead decided to devout his life to writing.  And that he did, becoming one of Portugal's most prolific writers of all time.  His works included plays, essays and novel.  He also wrote memoirs, one of which was about his time spent incarcerated (he was sent to prison twice in life, strangely, one of the crimes that he was convicted of was that of digging up the remains of his first wife).  In terms of film, 3 movies were made during the silent era utilizing his work for source material.  The first of these was Love Of Perdition which was a Brazilian production and was released in 1914; it was based on his novel Amor de Perdiçao.  In 1918 another Brazilian production company came out with Amor de Perdiçao. And finally, 1921 saw the release of the first Portuguese production of his work, again it was Love Of Perdition.  The first film using his material for a screenplay in the sound era came in 1943 with Ill-Fated Love, also produced in his native country.  The latest use of his work came with the television mini-series Mysteries of Lisbon in 2011; it was a joint Portugal/France production.  Branco was made Viscount in 1885 and when his health declined, he was given a government pension to live off of.  He suffered from syphilis which was causing him to slowly go blind.  He also suffered from a degenerative nerve disorder.  With his eyesight failing, he committed suicide by revolver on the 1st of June in 1890 at the age of 65.  He was living in Sao Miguel de Ciede at the time of his death. He did have three children by two marriages; at the time of his death, he reportedly had several grown grand-children and some 20 great grand-children.

Public monument to him in Vila Real Portugal


For More:


Portuguese Wikipedia (can be translated)