Friday, March 21, 2008

Four Notable British Deaths

This week four notable British men died. Each one a leader in his field. Arthur C. Clarke, whose science fiction novels and non-fiction books assured us that the future of Mankind was tied to the exploration of outer space was one of the best known science fiction writers of our times. 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film that he created with American film director Stanley Kubrick revolutionized science fiction movies, and became the work for which Mr. Clarke would always be remembered.

It was also primarily in movies that director Anthony Minguella made his mark. Beginning with his first film Truly, Madly, Deeply back in 1990, Mr. Minguella showed that he was a true artist. His film The English Patient earned him an Academy Award for Best Director, and following that film he went on to direct The Talented Mr. Ripley, featuring a cavalcade of some of today's best actors. Mr. Minguella was once again in the limelight when he directed a production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly for the English National Opera. That same production opened Peter Gelb's tenure as general manager of The Metropolitan Opera in 2006. Mr. Minguella was only 54 years old.

Many young people today unfortunately do not know Paul Scofield. One of the great stage actors of the 20th century, he created the role of Antonio Salieri in the play Amadeus, as well as the role of Sir Thomas Moore in the play A Man for all Seasons, a role he would reprise on film, and for which he would win the Academy Award. An extremely private man, Mr. Scofield disappeared from public life for many years, carefully selecting very few acting projects, and then only on the London stage.

The photographs of war journalist Philip Jones Griffiths made Americans painfully aware that the Vietnam war was riddled with atrocities, and that the United States's involvement in that conflict had to stop. The publication of his landmark photography book Vietnam, Inc. helped turn public opinion against the war. Mr. Jones Griffiths, a pacifist born in Wales, never blamed the American soldiers, whom he often described as confused young men, but the American government that had sent them to kill.

The accomplishments of these four men will always be remembered.

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