Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

RIP, continued

Denis Healey (1917-2015), aged 98. Lord Healey may now seem the forgotten man of British politics, but thats what happens if you live to be almost 100 and have outlived your contemporaries. Healey though may well have been the best Labour leader/Prime Minister England never had. A titan of his time (that Harold Wilson Labour era of the 60s and 70s) Healey had a fascinating life, starting with a double first from Balliol college, and had so many other interests that politics was only the half of it. As "The Guardian" put it: "By 1945, Healey had already packed in a lifetime of experiences denied to future generations. A beach master in charge of logistics (US actor Lee Marvin was another) at the bloody Anglo-American Anzio landings in Italy (1944), Maj Healey would turn down a lieutenant colonelcy as well as an Oxford fellowship to study the philosophy of art in favour of politics. A reforming defence secretary (1964-70) who abandoned over-stretched Britain’s anachronistic role in the retreat-from-empire 1960s, he went on to became Labour’s indestructible chancellor of the exchequer (1974-79) during the worst peacetime crisis since the Great Depression.
He called his memoirs, "The Time of My Life" and used them to parade a range of interests – hinterland, he called it – that few at the top of high-pressure 20th-century politics could match. Despite a gruelling workload, even as chancellor Healey clung to his youthful enthusiasms for music, literature (from poetry to thrillers), painting and theatre. In pre-digital times he always carried a camera, usually managing to slip away from a dull conference abroad to visit a gallery, or sleep beneath the desert stars on a palace roof in Yemen".
Healey was also a bruiser, and a clown (appearing with aplomb with Morecame & Wise on television) with his bushy eyebrows and always gave good interview, both in print or on screen. He had a long happy marriage with his wife Edna, a literary biographer. He may never have achieved the highest offices, but he certainly enjoyed life to the full. In old age he wrote successful books and earned large fees in his long retirement. Perhaps the last of that generation of war heroes who went into politics for a career in public service rather than what they could get out of it. 

Brian Friel (1929-2015), aged 86. Often called "The Irish Chekhov" Friel was one of the finest playwrights of his time, his early plays like "Philadelphia Here I Come" and "Dancing at Lughnasa" were enormous hits, he also translated Chekhov and other plays included "Faith Healer" and "Translations". Friel was a private person who lived in Donegal and grew up in Londonderry. His view of life in rural Ireland (and that fictional village Ballybeg) is as intense as that of William Trevor Edna O'Brien or Colm Toibin. Young actors like Liam Neeson and Stephen Rea had their early successes in his works, while Meryl Streep led the cast of DANCING AT LUGHNASA in 1998 - its on TV again here next week.

John Guillermin (1925-2015), aged 89. One only has to think of THE TOWERING INFERNO or DEATH ON THE NILE to conjure up Guillermin's hits in the 1970s - though there was also that dud KING KONG in 1976! 
He was one of those proficient British directors like Basil Dearden, Lewis Gilbert, Ronald Neame or J Lee Thompson who could tackle most genres. Among his odder movies was that arthouse attempt RAPTURE in 1964 (odd viewing on Blu-ray last year), and war movies like THE BLUE MAX, THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN. GUNS AT BATASI and the thriller SKYJACKED. I particularly like his 1959 TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE, a sweaty, sadistic take on Tarzan with Anthony Quayle, a young Sean Connery and Eurobabe Scilla Gabel - they all come to sticky ends. TOWN ON TRIAL was a good thriller too in 1957, and Peter Sellers in nasty mode in NEVER LET GO in 1960, and there was young Peter O'Toole in THE DAY THE ROBBED THE BANK OF ENGLAND also 1960. 

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