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Tymon Smith

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Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

Footnotes: Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud had been living in London for just over a year when he died there on 23 September 1939 at his home at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead.

Having fled his native Vienna due to persecution by the Nazis, the father of modern psychoanalysis had been suffering from cancer of the mouth, first diagnosed in 1923, the result of his love of cigars.

Honouring an agreement they had made years earlier in the event of Freud’s illness becoming unbearable, his physician, friend and fellow refugee Max Schur, after consultation with Freud’s daughter Anna, administered heavy doses of morphine, which resulted in Freud’s death.

Although he had spent most of his life in Vienna, Freud was cremated at London’s Golders Green Crematorium. Later his ashes were placed in the crematorium in an ancient Greek urn, given to Freud by Princess Marie Bonaparte, who had helped him leave Vienna. Bonaparte had also tried to help Freud’s four sisters leave the Austrian city but she was unsuccessful and all four died in Nazi concentration camps.

In the year before his death, Freud was visited by London’s famous artists and literary set, including Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Stefan Zweig, HG Wells and Salvador Dali – whose meeting with Freud forms the basis for playwright Terry Johnson’s farce Hysteria. Zweig, a popular Austrian writer, was also present at the cremation.

When Freud’s wife, Martha, died in 1951, her ashes were placed in the urn with her husband’s. Their daughter Anna, who was also a psychoanalyst, was cremated at the same crematorium in 1982 and her ashes rest on a shelf next to those of her parents.


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Footnotes: Sir Alec Guinness

He was 86 when he died on 5 August in 2000, and in an acting career spanning three decades Sir Alec Guinness immortalised many classic literary roles on screen.

Born in London, Guinness began his acting career on stage at the age of 20. In 1939, he adapted Great Expectations for the stage and played the role of Herbert Pocket. Film director David Lean, who saw the production, would later have Guinness reprise the role for his 1946 screen adaptation and the two would collaborate on a series of films for which Guinness was most well known. With Lean, Guinness would appear in a number of films adapted from novels including his Oscar-winning performance as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, Fagin in Oliver Twist, Yevgraf Zhivago in Dr Zhivago from the novel by Boris Pasternak and Professor Godbole in A Passage to India.

Guinness also appeared in the role of James Wormold in Carol Reed’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana and as Major HO Jones in the Elizabeth Taylor/ Richard Burton film of Greene’s The Comedians. He was nominated for an Oscar for his adapted screenplay of Joyce Cary’s novel The Horse’s Mouth in 1958.

In the late ’70s and ’80s, Guinness again garnered acclaim for his portrayal of John Le Carre’s spook George Smiley in the BBC adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People. Of course, for a younger generation Guinness was immortalised for his role as Obi-Wan Kanobi in George Lucas’s Star Wars films, a role for which he received an Oscar nomination. He was knighted in 1959 and wrote three volumes of his bestselling autobiography from 1985 until his death in 2000.


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Footnotes: Eugene O’Neill

It is said that when he died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel in Boston on November 27 1953 at the age of 65, Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, America’s greatest playwright, uttered these last words: “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and, Goddamn it, died in a hotel room.”

The 1936 Nobel laureate and four-time Pulitzer Prize winner was born 123 years ago today in a room of the Barrett Hotel in what is now Times Square, New York (according to Wikipedia, the site is now home to a Starbucks coffee shop).

The son of an Irish immigrant actor, O’Neill spent several years at sea after expulsion from Princeton University and developed a great love of the ocean which became a prominent subject in many of his plays. He suffered from depression and alcoholism and spent a year at a sanatorium in 1912 recovering from tuberculosis. The events leading up to his departure for the sanatorium formed the basis for his most well-known play, Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Although not published until three years after his death, the autobiographical masterpiece received critical acclaim and earned him his fourth, posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

Credited with being a pioneer in American theatre of the realist genre popularised in Europe by Chekhov, Ibsen and Strindberg, O’Neill wrote mostly tragic works that are among the touchstones of theatre around the world and are still performed today.


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