August 31, 2017

“She was the people’s princess” (but not the first) . . .


In 1995, after she was separated from but still married to Britain’s Prince Charles, Princess Diana said in a BBC television interview: “I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts.”

For many people, she was.

Diana became and remains beloved for her high-profile support for various charities, like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, her un-Royal-like rapport with the public and, of course, for her beauty.

Her tragic death in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997 led to a huge outpouring of emotion from those who knew her and from the public.

Tony Blair, Leader of Britain’s Labour Party, was British Prime Minister at the time of Diana’s fatal crash.

On the night of her death, he was one of many notable people the press asked for reactions.

Blair’s widely-published response was poignant and memorable. He said:

       “She was the people’s princess and that is how she will stay, how she will remain in our hearts and our memories forever.”

Since then, the phrase “the People’s Princess” has been inextricably linked to Diana.     

In his Yale Book of Quotations, quote expert Fred Shapiro notes that Blair wasn’t the first person to use that nickname for her.

More than a decade earlier, it had appeared in a souvenir booklet about Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s 1983 tour of Australia.

The heading of a section in in that publication was “Diana: the People’s Princess.”

However, it was Blair’s more widely-publicized use that made the phrase forever associated with the beautiful, doomed “Princess Di.”

Diana was not the first British Royal to be called “the People’s Princess.”

A century earlier, Royal watchers and the press used that nickname for Princess Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck (1833-1897).

This reflected the fact that Mary Adelaide was one of the first of “the Royals” to actively support a broad range of public charities.

Indeed, if she had been as stunningly beautiful as Diana, she might be more widely known today. Alas…

Well, you can judge for yourself about Mary Adelaide’s looks. Her other nickname was the highly unflattering moniker “Fat Mary.”

The photo shown here is one of the better ones I could find of the first “Peoples Princess.”

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August 29, 2017

Bring me the head of John the Baptist – and Alfredo Garcia...

Salome & John the Baptist's head, by Gustave Moreau-8x6
Director Sam Peckinpah’s 1974 film Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, starring Warren Oates, is one of my favorite movies from the Seventies.  

The film’s title comes from a line in the movie said by the main villain El Jefe (played by actor Emilio Fernández).

When El Jefe finds out his daughter has had a secret affair with his gang member Alfredo Garcia and is pregnant, he puts a hit out on Garcia, saying: “I will pay one million dollars. Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia!”

That second line is a modern descendant of a famous Biblical quotation associated with the date August 29.

About 2,000 years ago, according to the Bible, a rabble-rousing, hair-shirt-wearing, locust-and-honey-eating preacher known as John the Baptist mightily annoyed King Herod and his family.

Herod had married his own niece and they had a daughter.

Righteous John publicly denounced the marriage as incestuous and against Jewish law.

Herod threw John in prison. Not long after, the king threw himself a birthday party.

The featured entertainer was his daughter.

bring-me-the-head-of-alfredo-garcia poster TDIQShe’s not named in the Bible, but historical accounts say she was Salome – the one known for the exotic “Dance of the Seven Veils.”
Salome apparently tripped the light fantastic in an especially pleasing way at Herod’s birthday bash.

He told her he wanted to reward her by giving her anything she wanted.

At the suggestion of her mother, Salome replied: “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.” 

That’s the original King James Bible version of what she said, in Matthew 14:8. It uses the old English word charger, meaning a large platter or dish.

Later translations and paraphrases of the line generally used platter, giving rise to more commonly heard variations like “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter” (English Standard Bible version) and “Bring me the head of John the Baptist on a platter” (the King James 2000 Bible translation).

This led to the English idiom “to bring (or have) someone’s head on a platter,” which is a figurative way of suggesting that someone will be punished severely. 

Of course, in the Bible story (and in the movie Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) it was a literal punishment.

Herod gave Salome her wish, by ordering John’s head to be cut off and brought to her on a platter.

In the centuries since then, August 29 has been the traditional date the Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches have used to commemorate the beheading and martyrdom of John the Baptist.

Alfredo Garcia, the beheaded movie character, is less widely remembered.

But he does have a special place in the hearts of Sam Peckinpah and Warren Oates fans like me.

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August 15, 2017

“Yonder lies the castle of my fodder.” The famous movie “quote” that Tony Curtis didn’t say…


When actor Tony Curtis died at age 85, in September 2010, many obituaries and tributes mentioned what is widely believed to be one of his most famous movie lines.

In those articles, and in many books of quotations, the line is usually given as either “Yonder lies the castle of my fodder” or Yonder lies the castle of my faddah.”

According to legend he was saying the word father with a Bronx accent that reflected where he grew up.

Sometimes you’ll find it written as “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda” or “Yonder lies the castle of my fadda.”

Sometimes yonder is spelled yonda or yondah. It is also quoted in the more linguistically and less snarky accent-free variation “Yonder lies the castle of my father.”

Some websites and books claim Curtis said the line in his 1951 film The Prince Who Was a Thief.

Some claim it’s from his 1954 movie The Black Shield of Falworth.

Other sources say Curtis uttered the line in yet another of his early adventure flicks, Son of Ali Baba, which was released on August 15, 1952.

In fact, Curtis didn’t say that line in any of his movies.

But the Son of Ali Baba attribution comes closest to being the right one — up to a point.

Curtis does say something that includes the words yonder and father in Son of Ali Baba. But he doesn’t say “Yonder lies the castle of my father.” And, he doesn’t say father with a heavy New York accent that makes it sound like fodder or faddah.

I’ve watched Son of Ali Baba. Several times. (Yes, I love cheesy vintage adventure movies and Tony Curtis.)

If you watch Son of Ali Baba yourself (or just zoom ahead to about 30 minutes in), you can hear the actual words that Curtis speaks to his co-star Piper Laurie. 

What he says is: “This is my father’s palace. And yonder lies the Valley of the Sun.”

The story of how those lines morphed into the much-mocked misquote “Yonder lies the castle of my fodder” was recalled by Curtis in his autobiography American Prince: A Memoir (2008).

Ironically, in that, even Tony misremembered the original lines.

Curtis wrote:

     Son of Ali Baba was the movie where I gave a line that people unjustly made fun of for years afterward. There’s a scene where I’m on horseback and Piper is sitting next to me, and I say to her, “Yonder in the valley of the sun is my father’s castle.” After the film came out, Debbie Reynolds, who would later marry Eddie Fisher, went on television and said, “Did you see the new guy in the movies? They call him Tony Curtis, but that’s not his real name. In his new movie he’s got a hilarious line where he says, ‘Yonder lies the castle of my fodda.’”
     You could chalk her ridicule up to my New York accent, but when she mentioned the issue of my real name on television, I began to wonder if there was something anti-Semitic going on there. I’m probably just hypersensitive on that topic. But either way, she got the line wrong! Unfortunately, her version stuck with the public, and for a while it became popular for people to quote the incorrect line in a ridiculous New York accent.
     Years later, Hugh Hefner came up to me at a party and said, “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda.”
     I looked at him coolly. “Hef. I never said that.”
     “Then don’t tell anybody,” he said. “It makes a great movie story.”

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