This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 101st birthday to Lou Costello, born Louis Francis Cristillo, March 6, 1906, in Patterson, NJ. He’s a hard guy to get a grip on; so funny yet the legend is that off screen he was quite a nasty customer. Also, despite his 5’5″ stature, Lou apparently was a gifted athlete who excelled at basketball!

Unlike Laurel and Hardy, Lou and Bud Abbott barely tolerated each other, and their relationship eventually decayed to where they never spoke off screen. Lou was a fan of Curly Howard and “borrowed” Stooges shtick for his own screen persona, and Bud, the bullying straight-man slapping around funny fat-man Lou is straight Stoogery!

Ironically, like Curly, Lou’s health was poor, and he died shortly before his 53rd birthday.

He’s pictured here with Bela in every monster-kid’s favorite comedy, A&C Meet Frankenstein.


March 7, 1923: High school lit classes are forever changes as The New Republic debuts Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”


March 7, 1999: Stanley Kubrick dies in his sleep from a massive coronary at age 70.

I’m not a Kubrick fundamentalist, I disagree that everything he did was brilliant, but several of his works truly are, and the man did have style.

John le Carré, in his recent memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel, discusses working with Kubrick, who hired him to adapt Arthur Schnitzler’s novel Dream Story for the screen (it became Eyes Wide Shut). After studying the novel, le Carré told Kubrick that to capture the essence of Schnitzler’s Viennese setting and the characters’ true natures, the film must be shot in a small, walled city with narrow, claustrophobic streets to symbolize the protagonists anxiety and sexual repression. Without missing a beat Kubrick responded that he was shooting the film in Manhattan! Ya gotta laugh!

Here he is on set of A Clockwork Orange, my favorite.


Remembering the great George Martin a year after his passing (March 8, 2016). The fifth Beatle.


Birthday greetings to MWA Grand Master Mickey Spillane, born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn (but raised in Jersey), March 9, 1918. Mickey’s first professional gig was writing storylines for comics in the 1940s. Unbelievably, in college he did a stint as a trapeze artist for Ringling Bros (holy crap!).

Spillane isn’t the most refined literary stylist, but if you like stories where the detective beats the crap out of the bad guys before whipping out the ol’ slab sides .45 and ventilating them with hardballs, Mick is your man! His books have sold more than 200 million copies, so somebody is reading them! The Mike Hammers revamped by Max Allan Collins especially are a blast.

If you’re a detective-fiction fan and never read Spillane, pick up some at the next library book sale. They’re very politically incorrect by today’s over-sensitive standards, but still fun reads.


An anonymous buyer from Texas has ponied-up $37K for the brace of typewriters Larry McMurtry used when writing his Pulitzer-winning novel Lonesome Dove.

 


 

March 11, 1818: Mary Shelley, 20, invents science fiction with the publication of Frankenstein. Some would reject elements of that claim, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.

 


March 11, 1895: Solomon and Jennie Horwitz welcome the birth of their third son, Samuel. Because of his mother’s thick European accent, in his family’s ears Sam comes out sounding like “Shemp.”

Besides his noted Stooge work, Shemp enjoyed a thriving career as a solo actor and comic, appearing in numerous shorts and feature films alongside Abbott & Costello, William Powell and Myrna Loy in a Thin Man sequel, and even John Wayne.

Shemp was a master of adlibbing and rarely adhered to scripts.


Happy birthday to character actor/writer Mark Metcalf, born in Findlay, OH, March 11, 1946. He’s one of those guys that you’ve seen around but didn’t necessarily recognize. Metcalf was the “Maestro” on Seinfeld, the “Master” on Buffy/Angel, but will forever be remembered as annoying weasel asshole Doug Neidermeyer in National Lampoon’s Animal House.

Everyone’s life has a Neidermeyer.

Have a good one, Mark!


Michael Rogers (mermsr@optimum.net) is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

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