Did You Know . . . ?

Psycho, probably Alfred Hitchcock’s best known film, was adapted from the book of the same name by Robert Bloch.  For years Bloch wrote stories of the supernatural for pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, but at a point he says he “realized as a result of what went on during World War II and of reading the more widely disseminated work in psychology, that the real horror is not in the shadows, but in that twisted little world inside our own skulls.”  That’s when he started writing about psychopaths.

In 1957 police in Plainsfield, Wisconsin found the nude, headless body of a woman hanging by its heels in a shed owned by Ed Gain.  Her heart was found in a coffee can on the stove.  Knowing only the facts that were in the media, Bloch imagined a character who, he thought, might have been like Gain.  In 1959 the resulting book,  Psycho, was published.

Bloch wrote many books after Psycho including American Gothic (1974), the story of a serial killer named G. Gordon Gregg.  It was based on a real-life serial killer named H. H. Holmes.

He wrote the scripts for various programs during the heyday of radio, and later wrote scripts for movies, and  television programs (including three episodes of Star Trek).

“Despite my ghoulish reputation,” he once wrote, “I really have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

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Nahum Tate (1652 – 1715) was an Irish poet, hymnist, and lyricist who became England’s poet laureate in 1692.  In 1681 Tate rewrote William Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear, and gave it a very different ending.  In Tate’s reworking Lear doesn’t walk onto the stage at the end of the play carrying the corpse of his daughter Cordelia because in his version Cordelia marries Edgar and lives happily ever after as does King Lear who regains his throne.  Some criticized Tate’s version, but many, including Samuel Johnson, approved of it.  In fact, Tate’s version was more popular on stage than Shakespeare’s version until 1838.

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Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731) is best known for his novel Robinson Crusoe which was published in 1719.  It is the story of a man marooned on an island for many years.  Crusoe is ingenious, so he turns the island into a paradise of sorts.

Moll Flanders, the other Defoe novel you may be familiar with, was published in 1722 and has been criticized and banned many times in many places because of its racy heroine.  To understand why it has been attacked you only have to read its full title: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest, and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums.

Speaking of often banned books, Fanny Hill (or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure), published by John Cleland in London in 1748 while he was in debtor’s prison, is considered to be the very first pornographic novel.  Having read it recently I call tell you that the sexual encounters are quite explicit.  It’s almost inconceivable that it was published at that time.

In the U.S. the word “fanny” means “buttocks.”  In Great Britain it refers to a woman’s vagina.  One source for the etymology of the British meaning of the word states that it may come from the name of the heroine in Cleland’s book, Fanny Hill.

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Arthur Conan Doyle grew tired of thinking up plots for his creation, Sherlock Holmes, to solve.  He was also troubled by the relative lack of interest in his more serious writings such as his historical novels.  But Doyle wasn’t the only one frustrated by being involved with the great detective.  Basil Rathbone, who was perhaps the most memorable Sherlock Holmes in the movies, felt that a dozen Holmes movies left him type-casted as Holmes and overshadowed his  other film work.  And Jeremy Brett, who portrayed Holmes in the British TV series, became so obsessed with his character that he seemed to believe that he and Sherlock Holmes were the same person.  That obsession, along with other mental problems, lead to his institutionalization a number of times during the final years of his life, and at one point during a hospitalization he is said to have cried out, “Damn you, Holmes!”

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Ray Bradbury said at one time that he wanted his ashes to be put in a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can and sent to Mars.  However, when he died on June 15, 2012 at the age of 91 he was buried in the Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles with a simple headstone bearing his name and “Author of Fahrenheit 451.”  A few months after his death the rover Curiosity landed on Mars and NASA named the landing site “Bradbury Landing.”

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The song “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Bob Hilliard was published in 1949.  They were inspired to write the song after learning that a scrap of paper containing the words “Dear friends and gentle hearts” was found in the pocket of songwriter Stephen Foster when he was discovered dying in a New York hotel room in January 1864.

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