Joan Rivers died today at the age of 81.
Born Joan Molinsky, she was a barrier breaker and an icon. Gutsy, honest and ball breaking to the point of being almost rude or insensitive to some, she passes into history as a legend.
She was widely known for her red carpet and fashion commentaries with her daughter, Melissa.
The clip above is from my earliest memory of her, a cameo that she had in 1984 movie, Muppets Take Manhattan.
Sometimes, we don’t see the trailblazers until they are no longer with us. Joan was without a doubt a trailblazer. Without her influence, we would not have the women in comedy that we do today.
My thoughts and prayers are with those who knew her best.
Ask any comedian over the last forty years and they will probably tell you that Mel Brooks is a comedy g-d.
On this Throwback Thursday post, I’m going to talk about Young Frankenstein And To Be Or Not To Be
Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein. After years of trying to remove himself from his familial past, he is pulled back in and attempts to re-create his grandfather’s work. Co starring the late Peter Boyle (the monster), Marty Feldman (Igor), Teri Garr (Inga) and the late great Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth).
What can I say about this movie? It is immensely quotable and beyond funny. Brooks retains the origins of Mary Shelley’s original novel while putting his own stamp on the story.
And now for your viewing pleasure, the trailer for Young Frankenstein:
I’m also including Putting On The Ritz, it’s the funniest scene in the film.
To Be or Not To Be
To Be Or Not To Be is Brook’s 1983 remake of the 1942 original film starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard.
Just before World War II, a Polish acting troupe led by Frederick and Anna Bronski (Brooks and his late wife, Anne Bancroft) is preparing for their next production when they learn that it has to be scrapped. The Nazis are massing on the borders of Poland. When Anna starts receiving flowers and visits from a young Polish officer (Tim Matheson), the entire troupe becomes involved in the war.
Brooks and his collaborators kept much of the original screenplay intact while putting their own spin on the film. As he did in The Producers, Brooks taking the sting out of the Nazis (as much as one can), while pointing out the absurdity of their beliefs. This movie is perfect and funny and always enjoyable.
I recommend both films.
There are a lot of books on writing. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. It’s downright confusing.
I’ve read many books on writing. As far as I am concerned, there is only one book that should be required reading for every writer, regardless of the genre and the format that they write in.
Anne Lamott’s 1995 book, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life should pass through every writer’s hands at least once. This book is not about the craft of writing, but about the process of writing. From the shitty first draft (that is, if you have enough to have a shitty first draft) to the ups and downs of publication. Ms. Lamott does not miss a beat. Funny, sharp, but also providing real world advice to the writer who is stuck with writers block or finds themselves moving away from the natural voice of their characters.
This book is a must read for all writers and I highly recommend it.
Two days ago, I wrote about The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall. This post is about Anne Bronte’s other novel, Agnes Grey.
Agnes is the youngest daughter of a country parson. When her father gets sick, she has no choice, but to find some of sort of job. The only respectable profession open to middle class, educated, proper young women was that of a governess. The role of the governess was a precarious one in Victorian society. While she was still a paid household servant and not a member of the family, her education allowed her more opportunities to be on a more equal footing with the family than the other female servants.
Agnes finds her first set of charges to be unruly and disrespectful. Their parents expect her to take complete care of their children, but refuse to step in when the children become uncontrollable. Her second set of charges are more amiable. While working for the second family, Agnes falls for Mr. Weston, a local curate.
What I have always liked about Anne’s writing is that her characters are grounded in the reality of life in Victorian England. While elements of the supernatural or using the weather to predict a character’s fate work in her sister’s novels, Anne does not need to employ these story telling techniques. Her writing is story telling at it’s best and it’s simplest. The journey of the main character from point A at the beginning of the novel to point B at the end of the novel.
I recommend this book.