Farrago for March 15–21

Highlights for the coming week.

farrago, n. — A confused group; a medley, mixture, hotchpotch.


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Jean-Léon Gérôme. “La Mort de César.” ca.1859-1867. Oil on canvas. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

International Holiday for Shakesnerds for all the obvious reasons.


“Here again, I found myself thinking about history by thinking with it.”

1915: Carl Emil Schorske is born in the Bronx. While it is accurate to call Schorske a “historian,” the simple articulation of the term fails to do justice to the broad legacy of his work. If you do any research involving Europe around the year 1900, you tread at some length on the path Schorske blazed for cultural studies. Fin-de-Siècle Vienna is the proudly dog-earred Bible for many of us.

My copy of Schorske’s masterwork. The pristine cover hides a thousand scribbles within.


1974: The series Fall of Eagles premieres on BBC1 with the first episode “Death Waltz.” Created by John Elliot, the series explored the downfalls of the great continental European dynasties—the Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, and Romanovs, whose crests all carried heraldic eagles—between 1848 and 1918. It remains a program admirable for the ambition of its epic scope, though the results are admittedly mixed given the vast tapestry/tapestries of narrative threads and varied team of writers who each took different tones with the individual episodes. It is a veritable who’s who of British acting talent, including an intense Patrick Stewart as Lenin and affably pompous Barry Foster as Kaiser Wilhelm II. The arc of Nicolas (Charles Kay) and Alexandra (Gayle Hunnicutt) consumes the majority of the episodes, somewhat detrimentally given the unsympathetic qualities of the characters. Personal favorites among the episodes are David Turner’s “Requiem for a Crown Prince,” depicting the death of the Archduke Rudolf at Mayerling (featuring the always essential Rachel Gurney as the Empress Sisi—”One does not leave Majesty with one’s back turned!”), and Jack Pulman’s “Dress Rehearsal,” which captures the gleeful pace of cross-continental intrigue. Below, a gem from the latter episode, wherein Wickham Steed (Andrew Keir) leaves King Edward VII (Derek Francis), Georges Clemenceau (John Bennett), and Baron Isvolsky (Peter Vaughan) with jaws dropped about the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


1916: Mercedes McCambridge is born in Joliet, Illinois. Known to eternity as the voice of Pazuzu in The Exorcist (thereby giving the phrase “Your mother sucks cocks in hell, Karras! Faithless slime!” immortality), McCambridge had long résumés on the big screen (where she won an Oscar for Supporting Actress in All the King’s Men), television, Broadway, and radio, where her voice was displayed to full effect.


1982: Victor/Victoria premieres at the Los Angeles International Film Exposition, and a shady dame became le jazz hot in gay Paris.


1927: Mezzo-soprano Betty Allen is born in Campbell, Ohio. Highly active in recitals and concert performances, Allen was a favored associate of Leonard Bernstein and Virgil Thomson.


1933: Myrlie Evers-Williams is born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. As the wife of Medgar Evers, she assisted her husband in civil rights activism for the NAACP and carried on a legacy of her own after Evers’s murder in 1963.


1893: Wilfred Owen is born in Shropshire. The greatest of the Great War poets, he left a corpus of work assembled at the time of his death at 25 which is astounding.

“Sonnet” (undated)
To a Child

Sweet is your antique body, not yet young;
Beauty withheld from youth that looks for youth;
Fair only for your father. Dear among
Masters in art. To all men else uncouth;
Save me, who know your smile comes very old,
Learnt of the happy dead that laughed with gods;
For earlier suns than ours have lent you gold;
Sly fauns and trees have given you jigs and nods.

But soon your heart, hot-beating like a bird’s,
Shall slow down. Youth shall lop your hair;
And you must learn wry meanings in our words.
Your smile shall dull, because too keen aware;
And when for hopes your hand shall be uncurled,
Your eyes shall close, being open to the world.

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1942: Kathleen Collins is born in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her remarkable and pioneering career as a filmmaker, author, teacher, and activist was cut short by her death from breast cancer in 1988, but her legacy remains to inform and challenge us.


1923: Elmer Rice’s THE ADDING MACHINE premieres at the Garrick Theatre on Broadway.

“But this—this is maddening! What becomes of justice? What becomes of morality? What becomes of right and wrong? It’s maddening—simply maddening!”

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1888: Artist, educator, and color theorist Josef Albers is born in Bottrop, Germany. Albers was a fixture of the Bauhaus School in both Weimar and Dessau, and later steered the course of the visual arts in America teaching at Black Mountain College and Yale after emigrating from Nazi Germany. Initially trained as a craftsman in a family of blacksmiths, Albers worked between multiple media, including stained glass and, most famously, painting and printmaking with his Homage to the Square series.


1915: Rock-and-roll’s godmother Sister Rosetta Tharpe is born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Hardly a pop music genre in the mid-twentieth century did not owe much to her influence.


1919: Screenwriter James B. Allardice is born in Canton, Ohio. Active in many of the best sitcoms of the 1950s and 60s, Allardice’s most regular handiwork was visible Alfred Hitchcock’s television shows, where he wrote the director’s intros and outros for every episode, miraculously with no complaints from Hitchcock.


1839, New Style: Composer Modest Musorgsky is born in Karevo in the Russian Empire. Nuff said.

Until next week!

Author: Ryan M. Prendergast

Ph.D. Candidate @ the University of Illinois. Theater, opera, music, media, art, history, detritus. I smile, of course, and go on drinking tea.

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