Birthday Family Values
The Democratic National Convention kicked off last week with a Day One whose theme of putting American family life front and center resonated with speeches from First Lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Vermont Senator/Presidential Contender Bernie Sanders and other activists who presented their views of the impact this election cycle portended for issues regarding the prospects of the next generation. Three noteworthy birthday celebrants today, all tied to the Twilight Time Blu-ray library, evoke similar elements of commitment to change and shaping the future of youth. The true story and nation-gripping 1925 trial of educator John T. Scopes (August 3, 1900 - October 21, 1970, father of two children) formed the basis of the 1955 play and towering Stanley Kramer produced/directed film of Inherit the Wind (1960), which related in its slightly fictionalized but highly charged way the ongoing struggle in American classrooms between fundamentalist religions and scientific thought in public schools, a topic of ongoing relevance. Starring Spencer Tracy as defender Henry Drummond (in real life, Clarence Darrow) and Fredric March as Matthew Harrison Brady (in real life, William Jennings Bryan), this cinematic courtroom clash over the fate of defendant Bert Cates (the Scopes character played by Dick York) and the validity of intrusive local legislation controlling curriculum content engages in a dialogue that needs to be ongoing and pursued with rigorous diligence.
Indelibly cast as the Native-American mother of rebellious mixed-race son Elvis Presley in director Don Siegel’s Western Flaming Star (1960), breathtakingly beautiful Hollywood and Mexican cinema icon Dolores Del Rio (August 3, 1904 - April 11, 1983) not only blazed a trail for Latina actresses and performers in the entertainment industry but also co-founded the Society for the Preservation of the Artistic Treasures of Mexico as well as Rosa Mexicano (Mexican Rose), the latter established to further the protection of the rights of female artists and provide for their children (an internationally renowned Mexico City day nursery is named in her honor).
A long-time contemporary voice of dissent and social activism, Emmy® Award winner Martin Sheen (born August 3, 1924, father of four) is appropriately cast as the tragically widowered NYPD psychologist who finds that his own son may be the next target of a murderous cult in director John Schlesinger’s unnerving thriller The Believers (1987). He is known to have said: “While acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive.” His causes are manifold: opposition to war, preservation of the environment, aiding genocide victims, advocating same-sex marriage, speaking out for gun control measures and immigration policy reforms. Though he’s won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards playing the U.S. President in The West Wing, his greatest role is that of a real-life liberally minded populist. The Believers, Flaming Star and Inherit the Wind make for a wildly diverse set of family values on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray, but their stars and/or inspirations whose birthdays we mark signal the questing spirit of the better angels of human nature that should be passed along to generations that follow.