Happy Birthday W. Somerset Maugham

Today is the 141st birthday of the writer W. Somerset Maugham.  I was given a copy of “The Razor’s Edge” quite a while ago by a former employer stating “this is one of my favorite books and novels.”  He meant that he liked the story and like the look of the book, physically.  The book was given to him by the matriarch of a very prominent Seattle family when she was closing up and selling off her properties on the San Juan Islands.  I still have it and I hope to do the same with it one day.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Born: 25 January 1874 UK Embassy, Paris, France
Died: 16 December 1965 (aged 91) Nice, France
Occupation: Playwright, novelist, short story writer
Notable works: Of Human Bondage, The Letter, Rain, The Razor’s Edge

Today is the birthday of W. Somerset Maugham, born in Paris (1874). His father was in Paris as a lawyer for the British Embassy. When Maugham was eight years old, his mother died from tuberculosis. His father died of cancer two years later. The boy was sent back to England into the care of a cold and distant uncle, a vicar. Maugham was miserable at his school. He said later: “I wasn’t even likeable as a boy. I was withdrawn and unhappy, and rejected most overtures of sympathy over my stuttering and shyness.” Maugham became a doctor and practiced in the London slums. He was particularly moved by the women he encountered in the hospital, where he delivered babies; and he was shocked by his fellow doctors’ callous approach to the poor. He wrote: “I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief; I saw the dark lines that despair drew on a face; I saw courage and steadfastness. I saw faith shine in the eyes of those who trusted in what I could only think was an illusion and I saw the gallantry that made a man greet the prognosis of death with an ironic joke because he was too proud to let those about him see the terror of his soul.”

When he was 23, he published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, about a working-class 18-year-old named Liza who has an affair with a 40-year-old married man named Jim, a father of nine. Jim’s wife beats up Liza, who is pregnant, and who miscarries, and dies. The novel was a big success, and Maugham made enough money to quit medicine and become a full-time writer. For many years, he made his living as a playwright, but eventually he became one of the most popular novelists in Britain. His novels include Of Human Bondage (1915), The Moon and Sixpence (1919), Cakes and Ale (1930), and The Razor’s Edge (1944).
Somerset Maugham said,

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.

At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.

It was such a lovely day I thought it a pity to get up.

Happy Birthday Edith Warton

Today is the 153rd birthday of the writer who said, “Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.” She wrote about frustrated love in novels like The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

 

NAME: Edith Wharton
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: January 24, 1862
DEATH DATE: August 11, 1937
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: St.-Brice-sous-Forêt, France
ORIGINALLY: Edith Newbold Jones

BEST KNOWN FOR: Novelist Edith Wharton was born to an old New York family, but is better known for her books Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence.

Edith Warton came from a rich and snobbish New York family who lived off the inheritance of their real estate and banking tycoon ancestors, and she spent several years of her early childhood traveling around Europe. When she was 10, her parents re-settled in New York, around 23rd and Park Avenue. She was a teenage bookworm, reading insatiably from her family’s expansive library and feeling alienated and adrift in the New York high-society circles her family moved in. At 23, she married a family friend, a classy, good-looking sportsman named Edward “Teddy” Robbins Wharton, who wasn’t particularly fond of books. He had a tendency for manic spells, extravagant spending sprees, and infidelity. It was a long and miserable marriage.

She met Henry James in Europe and became good friends with him. He encouraged her to write about the New York City she knew so well and disliked. He said, “Don’t pass it by — the immediate, the real, the only, the yours.” And it was Henry James who introduced her to his friend Morton Fullerton, a dashing, promiscuous, intellectual American expat journalist who reported for the London Times from Paris. Edith Wharton fell hard for the man, filled her diary with passages about how their romance and conversation made her feel complete, wrote him pleading letters, and about a year into their affair, when she was in her late 40s, moved full-time to Paris, where he resided. The affair ended in 1911, the year she published Ethan Frome. She once wrote to him:

“Do you know what I was thinking last night, when you asked me, & I couldn’t tell you? — Only that the way you’ve spent your emotional life while I’ve … hoarded mine, is what puts the great gulf between us, & sets us not only on opposite shores, but at hopelessly distant points of our respective shores. Do you see what I mean?”And I’m so afraid that the treasures I long to unpack for you, that have come to me in magic ships from enchanted islands, are only, to you, the old familiar red calico & beads of the clever trader, who has had dealing with every latitude, & knows just what to carry in the hold to please the simple native — I’m so afraid of this, that often & often I stuff my shining treasures back into their box, lest I should see you smiling at them!

“Well! And what if you do? It’s your loss, after all! And if you can’t come into the room without my feeling all over me a ripple of flame, & if, wherever you touch me, a heart beats under your touch, & if, when you hold me, & I don’t speak, it’s because all the words in me seem to have become throbbing pulses, & all my thoughts are a great golden blur — why should I be afraid of your smiling at me, when I can turn the beads & calico back into such beauty —?”

He left her in 1911, and she stayed married to Teddy for a couple more years, though the two lived apart from each other during the last part of their 28-year marriage. She loved living in Paris, and there she mingled with people like André Gide, Jean Cocteau, Theodore Roosevelt, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom she once told: “To your generation, I must represent the literary equivalent of tufted furniture and gas chandeliers.” But she wasn’t prim or overly proper, and she famously enjoyed one of Fitzgerald’s scandalous stories, about an American couple in a Paris brothel, which he drunkenly related the first time he met her.

Modernist writers were among her contemporaries, but she didn’t use modernist techniques like stream-of-consciousness in her own writing, and she wasn’t a fan of it in others’. She once said about James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), “Until the raw ingredients of a pudding make a pudding, I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation and thought can make a work of art without the cook’s intervening.”

She died in Paris at the age of 75. At the time of her death, she was working on a novel called The Buccaneers, about five rich American girls who set out to marry landed British men, so that they can have English feudal titles in their names, like “Duchess.” In her last days, she lay in bed and worked on the novel, and each page that she completed she dropped onto the floor so that it could be collected later, when she was through.
Many of her novels have been made into movies. The House of Mirth, The Glimpses of the Moon, and The Age of Innocence were all adapted into silent films around the 1920s. John Madden directed a version of Ethan Frome in 1993, the same year Martin Scorsese directed a film adaptation of The Age of Innocence. In 2000, Gillian Anderson starred in The House of Mirth, directed by Terence Davies.

Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Happy Birthday Porfirio Rubirosa

Today is the 105th birthday of Porfirio Rubirosa.  He is quite possibly the last of the famous international playboys.  As a impeccably-dressed multiple-heiress-marrying polo playing race car driver, he set the standard for jet-set men in the mid 20th century.  The world is a better place that he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left it.

Born: January 22, 1909 San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic
Died: July 5, 1965 (aged 56) Paris, France
Occupation: Diplomat, polo player, race car driver

LAST OF THE FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOYS

Porfirio Rubirosa Ariza (January 22, 1909 – July 5, 1965) was a Dominican diplomat and adherent of Rafael Trujillo. He made his mark as an international playboy, for his jet setting lifestyle, and his legendary prowess with women.  Among his spouses were two of the richest women in the world.

Rubirosa was married five times, but never had any children. His wives were:

  • Flor de Oro Trujillo, Rafael Trujillo’s daughter, December 3, 1932-38
  • Danielle Darrieux, French actress, September 18, 1942 – May 21, 1947
  • Doris Duke, American heiress, September 1, 1947 – October 1948; with marital gifts and final settlement he received an alimony ($25,000 per year until remarriage), a fishing fleet off Africa, several sports cars, a converted B-25 bomber (La Ganza), and a 17th Century house at Rue de Bellechasse, Paris.
  • Barbara Hutton, American heiress, December 30, 1953 – on or before March 14, 1954; in the settlement he received a coffee plantation in the Dominican Republic, another B-25, polo ponies, jewelry, and she paid him a reported $2.5 million.
  • Odile Rodin, French actress, age 19, October 27, 1956 – July 5, 1965 (his death)

Why he’s a style icon

Porfirio Rubirosa is the archetypal man’s man. He drove Ferraris at Le Mans, was a champion polo player, flew fighter planes from the South of France to South America for fun, married the two wealthiest women in the world back to back, and set the bar for all other Latin lotharios. While he stood only 5’9″, it was his manhood that made him a legend and the most desired man on the planet. He often described himself as half diplomat (which he actually was, after being appointed to numerous positions by Dominican dictator Generalissimo Trujillo, who happened to be Rubirosa’s first father-in-law) and half gigolo. While he was far too much of a gentleman to make mention of his now-legendary endowment, it is said that this alone caused women the world over to literally drag him into closets, bathrooms and under tables for a sample of what had entranced so many of the most beautiful and powerful women. He never held a steady job, and his goal was never to make money — but rather to spend it. Luckily, when a man can lay claim to romancing Barbara Hutton (a Woolworth heiress), Doris Duke (heiress to a tobacco and energy fortune), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jayne Mansfield, Ava Gardner, Eva Peron, and countless other wealthy and powerful women, money tends to fall into one’s lap. Even his ex-wives were getting in on the action, as it is rumored that Rubirosa’s second wife, famed French actress Danielle Darrieux, received $1 million from Doris Duke to consent to a divorce so that she could lay a claim to Rubi herself. Has a woman ever paid someone $1 million to get a chance with you? Didn’t think so. At the age of only 47, Rubi died the night his team had won the Coupe de France polo cup. He died when his Ferrari skidded off the road and into a tree, and the steering column went through his heart. A true romantic even in death.

Dress the Rubirosa way

Rubirosa didn’t just act the part of Latin lover, he dressed the part. He was famously seen wearing thin three-piece suits of the finest quality, often with double-breasted jackets. His style of dress was equally influenced by the Latin flair that ran through his veins and the smooth, subtle cool of the Riviera. If you want to emulate Rubi you must remember that despite his generous endowment, he was not a showman and not a braggart, so the look must be quietly confident. In essence, he’s a prime example of “walk softly but carry a big stick.” One way to look like Rubi is to find a pink-gold Rolex like the one mentioned in American Psycho, but an even easier way is to buy a suit from Argentinean boutique Etiqueta Negra, whose polo-inspired flair would have certainly been a favorite of Rubi’s.

World War II, Rubirosa became engaged in two major passions, polo and car racing, both expensive sports that would be supported in years to come by his American wives. He organized and led his own polo team Cibao-La Pampa that was an often successful contender for the Coupe de France cup. Rubirosa played polo until the end of his life. In the same period, Rubirosa started to acquire fast cars and form friendships with race car drivers. He would own a number of Ferraris. His first race at 24 Hours of Le Mans took place in June 1950 with his partner Pierre Leygonie, and his second race, this time with Innocente Baggio, was four years later; in both races his car did not finish. Rubirosa participated in a number of races at Sebring, all but once as a private entry.

Rubirosa died early in the morning on July 5, 1965, when he crashed his Ferrari 250 GT into a chestnut tree and the steering column went through his heart after an all-night celebration at the Paris nightclub “Jimmy’s” in honor of winning the Coupe de France polo cup.  A true romantic even in death.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Happy Birthday Cristóbal Balenciaga

Today is the 120th birthday of the Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.  The world is a better place because he is in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Cristóbal Balenciaga
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1895
DEATH DATE: March 23, 1972
PLACE OF BIRTH: Getaria, Spain
PLACE OF DEATH: Valencia, Spain

BEST KNOWN FOR: Cristóbal Balenciaga was a Spanish-French fashion designer and the leading couturier of Spain in the 1920s-30s. He moved to Paris during the Spanish Civil War.

Balenciaga was born in Getaria, a fishing town in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, on January 21, 1895.[1] His mother was a seamstress, and as a child Balenciaga often spent time with her as she worked. At the age of twelve, he began work as the apprentice of a tailor. When Balenciaga was a teenager, the Marchioness de Casa Torres, the foremost noblewoman in his town, became his customer and patron. She sent him to Madrid, where he was formally trained in tailoring.[1] (Balenciaga is notable as one of the few couturiers in fashion history who could use their own hands to design, cut, and sew the models which symbolized the height of his artistry.)

Balenciaga was successful during his early career as a designer in Spain. He opened a boutique in San Sebastián, Spain, in 1919, which expanded to include branches in Madrid and Barcelona. The Spanish royal family and the aristocracy wore his designs, but when the Spanish Civil War forced him to close his stores, Balenciaga moved to Paris. Balenciaga opened his Paris couture house on Avenue George V in August 1937.

However, it was not until the post-war years that the full scale of the inventiveness of this highly original designer became evident. In 1951, he totally transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. In 1955, he designed the tunic dress, which later developed into the chemise dress of 1957. And eventually, in 1959, his work culminated in the Empire line, with high-waisted dresses and coats cut like kimonos.

In 1960 he made the wedding dress for Fabiola de Mora y Aragón when she married king Baudouin I of Belgium. The Queen later donated her wedding dress to the Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation.

His often spare, sculptural creations were considered masterworks of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s.

Balenciaga closed his house in 1968 at the age of 74 after working in Paris for 30 years. He decided to retire and closed his fashion houses in Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, one after the other. Balenciaga died March 23, 1972 in Xàbia, Spain.

He taught fashion design classes, inspiring other designers such as Oscar de la Renta, André Courrèges, Emanuel Ungaro, Mila Schön and Hubert de Givenchy. Today the Balenciaga fashion house continues under the direction of Alexander Wang and under the ownership of the Gucci Group.[5]

On 24 March 2011 at San Francisco’s M.H. de Young Museum they celebrated the opening of “Balenciaga and Spain,” a 120-piece fashion retrospective of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s career. “You can’t even measure it,” said Rodarte designer Laura Mulleavy of Balenciaga’s influence. The $2,500-a-ticket fund-raiser for the museum drew 350 guests, including Marissa Mayer, Jamie Tisch, Gwyneth Paltrow, Orlando Bloom, Balthazar Getty, Maggie Rizer, Connie Nielsen, Maria Bello and Mia Wasikowska.

On 7 June 2011, the Balenciaga Museum was inaugurated in his hometown of Getaria by Queen Sofía of Spain and with the presence of Hubert de Givenchy, honorific president of the Balenciaga Foundation. The museum has a collection of more than 1,200 pieces designed by Balenciaga, part of them donations by disciples like Givenchy or clients, like Queen Fabiola of Belgium and the heirs of Grace Kelly.

Happy Birthday Christian Dior

Today is the 110th birthday of the fashion designer Christian Dior.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Christian Dior
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1905
DEATH DATE: c. October 23, 1957
EDUCATION: École des Sciences Politiques
PLACE OF BIRTH: Granville, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Montecatini, Italy

BEST KNOWN FOR: Christian Dior was a French fashion designer whose post–World War II creations were wildly popular, and whose legacy continues to influence the fashion industry.

Christian Dior was born on January 21, 1905, in Granville, a seaside town in the north of France. He was the second of five children born to Alexandre Louis Maurice Dior, the owner of a highly successful fertilizer manufacturer, and his wife, Isabelle. When he was a boy, Dior’s family moved to Paris, where he would spend his youth. Although Dior was passionate about art and expressed an interest in becoming an architect, he submitted to pressure from his father and, in 1925, enrolled at the École des Sciences Politiques to begin his studies in political science, with the understanding that he would eventually find work as a diplomat.

After his graduation in 1928, however, Dior opened a small art gallery with money he received from his father, who had agreed to lend his son his financial support on the condition that the family name would not appear above the gallery door. In the few years it was open, Dior’s gallery handled the works of such notable artists as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Max Jacob. He was forced to close the gallery in 1931, a year that included the deaths of both his older brother and mother and the financial collapse of his father’s business.

Following the closing of his gallery, Dior began to make ends meet by selling his fashion sketches, and in 1935, landed a job illustrating the magazine Figaro Illustré. Several years later, Dior was hired as a design assistant by Paris couturier Robert Piguet. However, when World War II began the following year, Dior served in the south of France as an officer in the French army.

Following France’s surrender to Germany in 1940, Dior returned to Paris, where he was soon hired by couturier Lucien Lelong. Throughout the remaining years of the war, Lelong’s design house would consistently dress the women of both Nazis and French collaborators. During this same time, Dior’s younger sister, Catherine, was working for the French Resistance. (She was captured and sent to a concentration camp, but survived; she was eventually released in 1945.)

In 1957, several months after appearing on the cover of Time magazine, Christian Dior traveled to Italy to vacation in the town of Montecatini. While there, on October 23, 1957, he suffered what was his third heart attack and died, at the age of 52.

Marcel Boussac sent his private plane to Montecatini to bring Dior’s body back to Paris, and Dior’s funeral was attended by an estimated 2,500 people, including all of his staff and many of his most famous clients. He was buried in Cimetière de Callian, in Var, France. At the time of his death, Dior’s house was earning more than $20 million annually.

Happy Birthday Federico Fellini

Today is the 95th birthday of Frederico Fellini.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left it.

NAME: Federico Fellini
OCCUPATION: Director
BIRTH DATE: January 20, 1920
DEATH DATE: October 31, 1993
EDUCATION: Ginnasio Giulio Cesare
PLACE OF BIRTH: Rimini, Italy
PLACE OF DEATH: Rome, Italy

BEST KNOWN FOR: Italian film director Federico Fellini was one of the most celebrated and distinctive filmmakers of the period after World War II.

Federico Fellini was born January 20, 1920, in Rimini, Italy. In 1944 he met director Roberto Rossellini and joined a team of writers who created Rome, Open City, often cited as the seminal film of the Italian Neorealist movement. Fellini made his directorial debut with Variety Lights, 1951. One of his major works is La Dolce Vita which starred Marcello MastroianniAnouk Aimée and Anita Ekberg. Fellini won best foreign-language Oscars for La Strada (1954),The Nights of Cabiria (1957), 8 1/2 (1963) and Amarcord (1974). He also took home a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1993.
FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
The Voice of the Moon (31-Jan-1990)
Intervista (18-May-1987)
Ginger & Fred (13-Jan-1986)
And the Ship Sails On (10-Sep-1983)
City of Women (28-Mar-1980)
Orchestra Rehearsal (4-Dec-1978)
Casanova (7-Dec-1976)
Amarcord (18-Dec-1973)
Roma (14-Mar-1972)
The Clowns (10-Mar-1971)
Satyricon (3-Sep-1969)
Spirits of the Dead (17-May-1968)
Juliet of the Spirits (22-Oct-1965)
8 1/2 (14-Feb-1963)
Boccaccio ’70 (22-Feb-1962)
La Dolce Vita (3-Feb-1960)
Nights of Cabiria (10-May-1957)
The Swindle (9-Sep-1955)
La Strada (6-Sep-1954)
Love in the City (26-Nov-1953)
I Vitelloni (26-Aug-1953)
The White Sheik (6-Sep-1952)
Variety Lights (6-Dec-1950)FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
We All Loved Each Other So Much (21-Dec-1974) · Himself
The Clowns (10-Mar-1971) · Himself
Alex in Wonderland (17-Dec-1970) · Himself
Ciao, Federico! (Oct-1970) · Himself

Happy Birthday Berthe Morisot

Today is the 174th birthday of the artist Berthe Morisot. There are so very few female French Impressionist painters that she deserves note. You recognize her paintings, but probably didn’t know her story. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Berthe Morisot
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: January 14, 1841
DEATH DATE: March 2, 1895
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bourges, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: Berthe Morisot was a French Impressionist painter who portrayed a wide range of subjects—from landscapes and still lifes to domestic scenes and portraits.

Born January 14, 1841, in Bourges, France. Berthe Morisot’s father was a high-ranking government official and her grandfather was the influential Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. She and her sister Edma began painting as young girls. Despite the fact that as women they were not allowed to join official arts institutions, the sisters earned respect in art circles for their talent.

Berthe and Edma Morisot traveled to Paris to study and copy works by the Old Masters at the Louvre Museum in the late 1850s under Joseph Guichard. They also studied with landscape painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot to learn how to paint outdoor scenes. Berthe Morisot worked with Corot for several years and first exhibited her work in the prestigious state-run art show, the Salon, in 1864. She would earn a regular spot at show for the next decade.

In 1868, fellow artist Henri Fantin-Latour introduced Berthe Morisot to douard Manet. The two formed a lasting friendship and greatly influenced one another’s work. Berthe soon eschewed the paintings of her past with Corot, migrating instead toward Manet’s more unconventional and modern approach. She also befriended the Impressionists Edgar Degas and Frédéric Bazille and in 1874, refused to show her work at the Salon. She instead agreed to be in the first independent show of Impressionist paintings, which included works by Degas, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Alfred Sisley. (Manet declined to be included in the show, determined to find success at the official Salon.) Among the paintings Morisot showed at the exhibition were The Cradle, The Harbor at Cherbourg, Hide and Seek, and Reading.

In 1874, Berthe Morisot married Manet’s younger brother, Eugne, also a painter. The marriage provided her with social and financial stability while she continued to pursue her painting career. Able to dedicate herself wholly to her craft, Morisot participated in the Impressionist exhibitions every year except 1877, when she was pregnant with her daughter.

Berthe Morisot portrayed a wide range of subjects—from landscapes and still lifes to domestic scenes and portraits. She also experimented with numerous media, including oils, watercolors, pastels, and drawings. Most notable among her works during this period is Woman at Her Toilette (c. 1879). Later works were more studied and less spontaneous, such as The Cherry Tree (1891-92) and Girl with a Greyhound (1893).

After her husband died in 1892, Berthe Morisot continued to paint, although she was never commercially successful during her lifetime. She did, however, outsell several of her fellow Impressionists, including Monet, Renoir, and Sisley. She had her first solo exhibition in 1892 and two years later the French government purchased her oil painting Young Woman in a Ball Gown. Berthe Morisot contracted pneumonia and died on March 2, 1895, at age 54.