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Culture Briefs

- - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The real Churchill

"'The King's Speech' is an extremely well-made film with a seductive human interest plot, very prettily calculated to appeal to the smarter filmgoer and the latent Anglophile. But it perpetrates a gross falsification of history. One of the very few miscast actors — Timothy Spall as a woefully thin pastiche of Winston Churchill — is the exemplar of this bizarre rewriting. He is shown as a consistent friend of the stuttering prince and his loyal princess and as a man generally in favor of a statesmanlike solution to the crisis of the abdication.

"In point of fact, Churchill was — for as long as he dared — a consistent friend of conceited, spoiled, Hitler-sympathizing Edward VIII. And he allowed his romantic attachment to this gargoyle to do great damage to the very dearly bought coalition of forces that was evolving to oppose Nazism and appeasement. Churchill probably has no more hagiographic chronicler than William Manchester, but if you look up the relevant pages of 'The Last Lion,' you will find that the historian virtually gives up on his hero for an entire chapter."

Christopher Hitchens, writing on "Churchill Didn't Say That," on Jan. 24 at Slate

Vick back

"Unequal Technologies, makers of sports equipment including the protective vest that Michael Vick wore this season to protect his ribs, is making Vick the face of their company. It's Vick's first national endorsement deal since he spent 19 months in the pokey for his role in an interstate dogfighting ring. A few months ago, he had done some endorsement work for Woodbury Nissan, but it was just a local gig, and Vick reportedly wasn't paid.

"Before any of that dogfighting mess went down, Vick was one of the most sough-after endorsers in sports. There was the Madden cover, the Michael Vick Experience, Coca-Cola, and a bunch of others. Vick was on TV more than Ryan Seacrest.

"Unequal Technologies isn't exactly Nike, so it's not like this means that Vick has snuggled his way back into the hearts of the American public. We don't know yet what the Unequal people plan to do with him, but the company's CEO, Rob Vito, described Vick's earnings on the deal as 'sizable.' … Score one for forgiveness and moving forward. And for capitalism."

Matthew J. Darnell, writing on "Michael Vick lands a national endorsement deal" on Jan. 26 at the Yahoo Sports blog Shutdown Corner

Chairwoman of Board

"At the same time that his career was apparently falling apart, his affair with Ava Gardner had gone public and by 1951 they were married, a marriage that would last just under two years (a good deal longer than Ava's two previous marriages).

"This well-publicized and subsequently much-analyzed debacle — a series of violent quarrels and passionate (and, eventually, not so passionate) reunions, punctuated by a number of apparently halfhearted suicide attempts or threats on Sinatra's part — has become the crucial episode in capsule lives of Sinatra, in which he plumbs the limits of suffering and emerges a great artist, boyish seductiveness burned away into a harsher and more rueful emotional realism. ('Ava taught him how to sing a torch song,' in Nelson Riddle's formulation.) …

"It might suffice to say that he had met the female Frank Sinatra — a woman he could neither dominate nor leave alone — and leave it at that. In a cold light this pair of ennui-ridden insomniacs might seem a poor substitute for Antony and Cleopatra, but who would want to see them (any more than Antony and Cleopatra) in a cold light? If they exist for us at all it is as figures of myth, or what in this latter era has passed for such."

Geoffrey O'Brien, writing on "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" in the Feb. 10 issue of the New York Review of Books