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Posts Tagged ‘D.W. Griffith

“Devise, wit; write, pen; for I am for whole volumes in folio”*…

source

The ever-illuminating Jason Kottke dips into Statistical Reasoning for Everyday Life (Bennett, Briggs, and Triola; Addison Wesley Longman; Second Edition, 2002) for a measure of Shakespeare’s vocabulary.  Using a method recounted here, the authors concluded:

This means that in addition the 31,534 words that Shakespeare knew and used, there were approximately 35,000 words that he knew but didn’t use. Thus, we can estimate that Shakespeare knew approximately 66,534 words.

Linguist Richard Lederer observes (as cited in in this piece) that Shakespeare hadn’t begun to reach the bottom of the barrel:  there are currently over 600,000 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary (and in Shakespeare’s time things were especially fluid– as witnessed by the Bard’s own fevered invention of new words and phrases).

Still, Shakespeare’s facility is easier to appreciate in context when we recognize that the average English speaker has a vocabulary of (only) 10,000 to 20,000 words, and, as Lederer observes, actually uses only a fraction of that (the rest being recognition or recall vocabulary).

* Love’s Labour’s Lost I,ii

As we reach for our copies of Word Power, we might wish a glittering birthday to Anita Loos, who was born on this date in 1888. A writer from childhood, she sold a movie idea to D.W Griffiths at Biograph while she was still in her teens– and began a career through which she wrote plays, movies, stories/novels, magazine articles, and finally memoirs.

She’s probably best remembered for her 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Loos claimed to have written the spoof, which she started on a long train ride, as an entertainment for her friend H. L. Mencken (who reputedly had a fondness for Lorelei Lee-like blonds).  In any case, the book was an international bestseller, printed in 14 languages and in over 85 editions. It was a hit on Broadway in 1949, then adapted again into a movie musical in 1953– the Howard Hawks classic in which Marilyn Monroe reminds us that “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Loos with fellow writer (and sometime husband) John Emerson
by Edward Steichen for Vanity Fair, July 1928

Tres exclusif…

I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member…
– Groucho Marx

From DreyX, “Ten Places You Can’t Go“…  for example:

Since 1967,  Disney’s Exclusive Club 33: Walt Disney felt that he needed a special private place where he could entertain sponsors and other guests. After he had died Disney Land decided to make Club 33 open only to special members and their guests. Located at at the heart of New Orleans Square at Disney Land, it gives the members and their guests exclusive access to the club’s restaurant, and the premises which are not open to the public at large. After Disney’s death Club 33 had opened itself with special limited memberships to the public. As of June 2007, the membership waiting list was 14 years, and membership interest list was closed to new inquiries as of April/May 2007.

Or

Metro-2 in Moscow: Russia has a secret underground metro system which parallels the public Moscow Metro. The length of Metro-2 is rumored to exceed even that of the “civil” (i.e. public) Metro. (It is said to have 4 lines and lie 50 to 200 m deep. It is said to connect the Kremlin with the FSB headquarters, the government airport at Vnukovo-2, and an underground town at Ramenki, in addition to other locations of national importance. In the late 1940s Stalin had created the tunnels in the event of a nuclear war. In 1994, a group of urban diggers had stumbled on to the underground system. Though not much more information is known known to the public about this.

See the other eight– from the Vatican’s Archive to Area 51– here.

As we manage our aspirations, we might frame a close-up of D.W. Griffith, a father of cinema, who arrived in Los Angeles on this date in 1910 in search of a sunny climate and a range of scenery.  With a stock company that he brought with him (including such future luminaries as Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish), Griffith began producing one- and two-reelers for Biograph.  After shooting over 450 shorts for Biograph, Griffith struck out on his own to make his powerfully-influential– but equally-powerfully controversial– Birth of a Nation (1915).  On the heels of the criticism (and in some quarters, riots) that greeted this history of the Civil War and the Ku Klux Klan, Griffith made Intolerance (1916), meant to prove his opposition to racism; at $2.5 million, it was by far the most expensive film ever made– and ruined Griffith financially.  But he rebounded, and in 1919 co-founded United Artists with Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin.  To this day, the highest honor bestowed by the Directors’ Guild of America is “The D.W. Griffith Award.”

David Llewelyn Wark Griffith

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