"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, June 3, 2011

Birthdays Today

Somewhat mediocre birthdays today:

First, it's Jefferson Davis' birthday, born in 1808.   The President of the Confederate States of America, Davis ought by rights be viewed as a villain for helping put America through a horrific Civil War.  It is somewhat due to the genius of Lincoln, and the luck of America, that we chose largely to forgive and forget those sins.   Here is Ulysses S. Grant in his great Memoirs (possibly the greatest military memoirs ever), talking at the end of the war about the men who fought for the Confederacy:
I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.
By the way, the Grant memoirs are a must-read for any history buff.

It's also the birthday of Paulette Goddard, the great actress of the 1930s, who starred with Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator, to whom she was then married.  Goddard later married Burgess Meredith and, later still, the author Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front).   She accumulated a fortune, and, upon her death in 1990, gifted $20 million to NYU, among other charities.

Finally, it's the birthday of Tony Curtis, born in 1925.  Curtis was very good in light comedies, and brilliant in perhaps the greatest Hollywood comedy ever, Some Like It Hot.   Here's the original trailer:

But I happen to like him best in more serious roles, and particularly where he plays someone slightly sleazy, as in his best role in The Sweet Smell of Success:

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