It’s March 15th, and with it come two ides-of-March birthdays I’d like to note — but first, a note about the post’s title, which came to me from an 1874 novel I had heard of, but never read: MIDDLEMARCH, by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). It turns out that MIDDLEMARCH has nothing to do with the middle of March; it’s the name of a town in the Midlands of England (the novel’s setting). But let’s forget that I told you that. What’s the harm in letting it seem as if I made an educated choice for the title of this post?
In any case, what this is leading up to is a selection of George Eliot quotes, which I daresay you will find to be an oasis of reflective relief in America’s desert of bombastic hot air:
What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?
All meanings depend on interpretation.
No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.
A toddling little girl is a center of common feeling which makes the most dissimilar people understand each other.
What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?
Adventure is not outside man; it is within.
Now, as to those two birthdays, I expect that neither of the persons (both deceased) I am about to introduce is known to you (for which you are forgiven, but don’t let it happen again). But all is not lost — I remember them well. Their names: Philippe de Broca and Zarah Leander.
DE BROCA, born March 15, 1933 in Paris, was a French film director from 1959 to the year of his death in 2004. Of the 30 full-length feature films he directed in his career, I have seen only two….but those two are among my favorite movies of all time: THAT MAN FROM RIO (1964) and the cult classic KING OF HEARTS (1966). Here are three short clips from the former and one from the latter:
LEANDER, born March 15, 1907 in Karlstad (west of Stockholm), was a Swedish singer and actress who achieved her greatest success in Germany in the 1930s-40s. The German film industry had been seeking a new Marlene Dietrich since Marlene left for the U.S. in 1930. Leander made a name for herself in the same homeland as had Swedish screen diva Greta Garbo, which (beginning in 1936) led to starring roles for Leander in German language films in the hope of filling the void. In her memoir, Leander tells of her initial difficulties dealing with the German Ministry of Propaganda, since “Goebbels was highly displeased that the leading lady should be a foreigner. The fact that the mighty Third Reich could not produce its own Greta Garbo seemed to him an admission of inadequacy.”
For years, I exchanged correspondence with an elderly German first cousin (on my father’s side) who had remained in Germany until her death a decade or so ago. In one of my letters, I mentioned that I had a number of Zarah Leander recordings in my record collection and liked her voice. My cousin informed me that “The German soldiers were infatuated by her songs during the war.” Perhaps this clip will help you understand why: