Monday, February 27, 2006

Don Knotts, Darren McGavin and Dennis Weaver in their final takes. New DaVinci Code Controversy.

Last Take for Three 70s Actors

This weekend was not a good one for actors. Mayberry Deputy Don Knotts, Night Stalker reporter Darren McGavin and McCloud hero Dennis Weaver all passed away, taking with them a mix of good memories from their collective careers.

Don Knotts had a high, squeaky voice that was made to be parodied, as I did when, in a flash of brilliance, envisioned Knotts, rather than Samuel L. Jackson as the hit man Jules in Pulp Fiction. Try not to laugh when you picture Knotts throwing down in the apartment where Frank Whalley is intimidated into giving up his Big Kahuna burger and Sprite just before the infamous "What! That don't sound like no country I ever heard of! They speak English in what?" scene.

Weaver was the cowboy hat wearing McCloud, and the subject of one of the worst jokes ever by a colleague of mine. Here goes: Hugh Hefner is hosting one of his parties at the Playboy Mansion. All the 70s celebs are in attendance. The theme is a costume party based on a current or most famous role. At one point, Hugh, for some reason, decides to sit on Dennis Weaver's lap. Weaver is dressed as McCloud. A drunken Peter Falk, as Columbo, staggers past, and, offended at the sight of Hef in his robe sitting on an uncomfortable Weaver's lap, and says: "Hey Hugh, get off of McCloud!" Okay, stop moaning, you'll wake the neighbors...

Finally, Darren McGavin, for those who remember him as the impossibly old father in Billy Madison, or the foul-mouthed dad in A Christmas Story, you'd do well to remember him as the intrepid reporter who drive Simon Oakland batshit crazy every week on The Night Stalker. That show was a timeless collection of stories about the weird and wacky in which Karl Kolchack (McGavin) managed to wiggle in and out of trouble to get stories that could never be printed because they were so unbelievable. The Night Stalker and Rod Serling's Night Gallery were two of the best shows on TV for an imaginative kid in the mid-70s, and I don't see anything on TV today that comes close to what these programs provided.

Farewell TV icons. You'll be missed.

New DaVinci Code Controversy

Dan Brown's international best-selling novel "The DaVinci Code" is stirring up more controversy. This time, it is the object of a lawsuit brought by the authors of the cult classic "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" because the authors, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh maintain that Brown basically cribbed from their work to produce much of what appears in his novel. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

LONDON - It's the latest twist for the mega-selling conspiracy thriller "The Da Vinci Code": a lawsuit against the book's publisher for breach of copyright that could taint the novel and delay the much-anticipated movie version.

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of the 1982 nonfiction book "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail," are suing publisher Random House, Inc. over the allegation that parts of their work formed the basis of Dan Brown's novel, which has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and remains high on best seller lists nearly three years after publication.

If the writers succeed in securing an injunction to bar the use of their material, they could hold up the scheduled May 19 release of "The Da Vinci Code" film, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard.

Brown, who rarely speaks to the media, sat attentively before a judge in London's High Court, a short walk from Temple Church, the place of worship founded by the Knights Templar, which figures in his novel. A New Hampshire native who still lives in his home state and has been working on a new novel, Brown is expected to give evidence here next week.

Brown, was "interested in taking, and took, short cuts rather than doing any of the work himself," Jonathan Rayner James, lawyer for Baigent and Leigh, told the court.

Baigent, born in New Zealand, and Leigh, originally from the United States, are suing Random House, which also published their book. The company denies the claim and chief executive Gail Rebuck said in a statement that she believed the lawsuit was without merit.

Both books hinge on the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a child, and that blood line survives to this day. The earlier book set out the notion that Christ did not die on the cross but lived later in France.

James said his case was not attempting to "stultify creative endeavor," or to claim a monopoly on ideas or historical debate, but to prove that Brown had "relied heavily" on the earlier work, published in Britain in 1982 and the following year in the United States.

Though it does not relate to theft of specific sections of text, the case involves the alleged appropriation of themes and ideas from the earlier work, James said.

Phrases used in both books to describe arguments that Jesus had been married showed similarities, James said. He told the court Brown's work also appeared to reproduce "unusual and unlikely" connections between historical and religious figures set out in the earlier work.

"This is not an idea that I would ever have found appealing. Being raised a Christian and having sung in my Church choir for 15 years, I'm well aware that Christ's crucifixion is the very core of the Christian faith," Brown told reporters outside the courtroom, referring to the argument in the 1982 book that Christ had not died.

Brown has denied claims that he reproduced sections of argument from the 1982 book and said he disputes the proposition it makes that Jesus did not die on the cross. "Suggesting a married Jesus is one thing, but questioning the Resurrection undermines the very heart of Christian belief," Brown said in a statement released to reporters.

Having read both books, I can see obvious similarities in the works. I also own several other books such as James, the Brother of Jesus by Robert Eisenman, as well as several others (if you're curious, leave a comment and I'll expand on this theme), mostly having to do with the Knights Templar, that propose similar scenarios to those presented in the works in question in this case.

I'm no expert in this subject, but I think, based on my own research into this fascinating subject, that there is more than enough information to go around for everyone, and to think that Brown relied upon one source for his inspiration is a bit of a reach.

So, unless Baignet and Lincoln have solid evidence to support their claim, I don't see how this case can proceed. What is certain, is that this case will absolutely result in a sales boon for both books.

Full Story


Bella said... again I'm so bummed...I knew about Don Knotts and Darren McGavin...but I didn't know about McCloud!!! Dennis Weaver aka Chester from Gunsmoke - isn't odd that they always come in three's? So now we've lost Deputy Fife, The Night Stalker and Chester...thanks for the memories...RIP

Bella said...

Hey Lister - so glad i was able to provide you with fodder for the next bash! See what you can learn when you cruise blogs...yours is very entertaining by the way...but the political ones get me boiling!!! We're doomed!!

I see you are a Zappa fan - love Black Napkins...take care and I appreciate your visits/comments on my blog