Today happens to be the birth anniversaries of three distinguished artists from three different fields of the world of arts. One was a prominent British actor, Rex Harrison; another a controversial Italian film director, Pier Paolo Pasolini; and last but not least a teenage music sensation of the 70’s, Andy Gibb.

The Actor & The Film Director

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Rex Harrison (1908-1990)

I’ve known Rex Harrison, ever since I was a little kid, especially thanks to his roles of Professor Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady (1964), and Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963). I have a vague memory of having watched Doctor Doolittle (1967) as a kid as well, but I don’t remember it at all, except for a talking parrot, and lots of animals in a dried up deserted location. I’m not that familiar with Harrison’s works from the 1930’s & 40’s, but have loved most his work from the 50’s & 60’s.

My favourite Harrison character happens to be from My fair Lady.

Professor Higgins

Professor Higgins happens to be a very uniquely brash yet likable, highly sophisticated yet ill mannered, dignified yet indecent, eccentric yet admirable, Edwardian gentleman, who doesn’t know how to treat a lady. A Professor of phonetics, who’s appalled with the modern day butchering of the English Language, which he upholds with the highest regard.

Love the bugger !!! Whoops!! (my apologies to Professor Higgins) Mainly for his penchant for the highly polished use of the English Language. I wonder what he’d say, if he’s existed today. Worst if he were to meet an Australian. Higgins would die of a heart attack. “Poooor Professor Higgins” (sing along).

What’s most interesting is the fact, when Eliza Doolittle (played by my all time favourite star, the adorable Audrey Hepburn) has an argument with him, throws his bedroom slippers at him and leaves, for being treated as doormat, he genuinely has no clue as to why she was so mad at him. You actually feel sorry for “Poooor Professor Higgins”. And I love the way he screams for his “Mother!!!”. Well, they really don’t make such uniquely crafted, timeless, unforgettable characters anymore.

My Fair Lady, was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (the title of the play’s refers to a tale from Greek Mythology).

Julius Caesar

Hail Caesar!! Another great role, where he is seduced by the bewitchingly beautiful Cleopatra (played by an equally bewitching beauty, Elizabeth Taylor). It’s not just Caesar and Marc Anthony (and the actor playing Anthony, i.e. Richard Burton), but we, the people who have watched this movie, too were seduced by both Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor was Cleopatra incarnate, can’t think of any one better to play this milk bathen beauty. But Caesar wasn’t just seduced by her beauty, he saw her as an equal, an intellectual, powerful and fit to rule a country. He was seduced by her knowledge of the world, geographical locations, and her modernist views to have equality beyond borders so the world would be a peaceful place to live without any more wars. Yet, ironically, she ended up being the woman responsible for burning of a thousand ships. Very powerful roles from all three cast members. As a teenager I read Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, and for my Bachelors I studied Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Love both these plays, and Cleopatra, the movie that’s not based on these plays, but historical accounts. 

Rex Harrison also appeared in a pretty good (not great) Bollywood gem heist of a movie in the late 70’s, Shalimar (1978), with an international cast from various different countries. 

Rex Harrison Films

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Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975)

Unlike Rex Harrison, film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, is not somebody I knew as a child. Makes sense as majority of his flicks happen to be not really eligible for innocent little minds. It’s somewhere in in the early mid-90’s as a teenager, that I first heard of Pasolini, but it was much later that I finally actually got a chance to watch his masterpieces, i.e. within last decade.     

Pasolini, and fellow Italian director Fellini, happen to be two of the most controversial characters of modern cinema, cinema of the 50’s, 60’s and the 70’s. They were a rare two, who dared to challenge censorship laws, and their works contained very graphic content, in reference to sex, nudity, violence and very mature unorthodox concepts itself. The two directors were also famous, having worked together a few times before,  for a spat during the making of a project called ‘Satyricon’ in the late 60’s, to the extent that Fellini renamed this surrealist movie and released it as Fellini – Satyricon (1969).  I’ve actually watched more works of Fellini than Pasolini. Like Salvador Dalí was to art world, both Fellini and Pasolini were supremacist surrealist in the world of cinema.

Two of the best films of Pasolini’s I’ve watched, happen to be, Teorema (1968) and Il Decameron (1971)

Teorema

Teorema, was unusual story of a stranger (Terence Stamp) who comes to live with a bourgeois Italian family in their beautiful luxurious villa, and manages to seduce everyone sexually. The father, the mother, the two teenage children and the family maid.

Il Decameron

Il Decameron is anthology film based on nine stories from Decameron, by the 14th Century poet Giovanni Boccaccio. Pasolini, himself was a poet and writer. Pasolini’s lover, actor Ninetto Davoli, appeared in small roles in many of Pasolini’s films, including a small role in Teorema, and a more significant role in Il Decameron. 

Am yet to watch his most controversial, and last, movie,  Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975), based on the famed Libertine novel by Marquis de Sade (18th Century French aristocrat, philosopher and writer). But I have watched a movie based the Marquis’ life in prison, called Quills (2000) starring Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet. 

Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in 1975 under mysterious circumstances, post the release of Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma.

Pasolini directed films

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Andy Gibb (1958-1988)

Andy Gibb

Andy Gibb was a teenage pop music sensation of the 70’s & early 80’s. The youngest (4th) of the Gibb brothers, the elder trio formed the band Bee Gees. Andy Gibb’s success was always overshadowed by the fame of his older brothers, and never got a chance to join the famed group. Especially as he was a whole decade younger that his three elder brothers (who were all born post WWII, mid to late 1940’s). Andy Gibb never got the recognition the Bee Gees enjoyed. Soon drugs and depression took over, and was root cause for his decline, and ultimate demise. Although towards the end of his life he did clean up, and drugs were out of his life, his depression remained, and just after celebrating his 30th Birthday on the 5th of March 1988, he was admitted to hospital for chest pains. Five days after his 30th Birthday Andy Gibb passed away.   

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Nuwan Sen’s Musical Sense

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