It's been a busier year than most for myself, and now that the leaves are on the ground and the snow draws nearer to its fall to the earth, I've just returned recently from my very first plane ride and trip across the Atlantic - to London, England. Naturally, my enthusiasm overrides my productivity, and I have Britain on the brain in all aspects of my life.
Trademark Doctor Who
The United Kingdom played a crucial part to the history of film and television. For example, the oldest known celluloid film recorded, called ROUNDHAY GARDEN SCENE by Louis Le Prince, was filmed in West Yorkshire, England in 1888.
British inventor and photographer William Friese-Greene is credited with developing some of the first moving pictures and patenting his process in 1890. Friese-Greene is even said to have sent a report of his patent to Thomas Edison, who later helped develop the Kinetoscope.
In 1926, Scottish engineer and inventor John Logie Baird presented the first working television system to the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. Later, in 1927, the Baird Television Development Company/Cinema Television would broadcast the first transatlantic television signal from London to New York.
The British Broadcasting Company was also the very first national broadcasting company, created in 1922. It is considered to be the largest broadcaster today.
And lets not forget about William Shakespeare, whose influence changed the world of theatre and whose works can be seen in the earliest of silent era films.
Not only has the United Kingdom been influential on the history of film and
television, but it is also home to many of the forces that have inspired this writer. As a treat to myself and hopefully to you, I've compiled a small list of some of my very favorite things to have come out of the UK.
Elegance a la UK
5. Doctor Who
This popular British show holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-running science fiction television program. It has run a total so far of 30 seasons (or series, in the UK) and has 753 episodes to date. The protagonist, The Doctor, will have been played by eleven different actors when David Tennant gives the title away to Matt Smith sometime next year. The fantastical program is best known for its blue police box TARDIS, its cool and outlandish aliens, its surprising twists, and the metallic screaming of "EXTERMINATE!" It's a must-see for any science-fiction fan, and is only one of many pieces of evidence that proves fantasy is done right in the UK.
4. James Bond
A character that may be a cliche choice but worth the name drop. James Bond has been a unmistakable force in film culture for nearly half a century, and in the Ian Fleming novels for longer. EON Productions owns the film rights to the franchise and are based in Piccadilly, London. Growing up in the nineties, my first Bond boys were Dalton and Brosnan, whom I both enjoyed, but as I got older I was able to appreciate the standards set by Connery and the suave provided by Moore. Today, Daniel Craig has proved himself a talented actor with the ability to show new sides to our favorite British spy. One of the best parts about James Bond that he has become, well, a
he. More than a character, Fleming's beloved creation has evolved into a person that resides invisibly on Earth, and probably in the UK. James Bond has made the spy genre unequivocally cool, and the films that revolved around him are more often than not, breathtaking.
Genius of Suspence
3. Audrey Hepburn
A name that speaks for itself. Beyond elegant and talented, this British actress made a name for herself in Hollywood with such films as BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and ROMAN HOLIDAY. She was only the third actor to receive a pay cheque of $1,000,000, for her role in MY FAIR LADY. During World War II, she moved to the Netherlands and changed her name to avoid German capture, and survived the Dutch famine that was caused by German disruption of supplies to the area. Hepburn became a humanitarian and earned the title of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in the early nineties. Most importantly, she will always remain an influential force in film to me and stars in one of my all-time favorite movies, SABRINA.
2. Alfred Hitchcock
This innovative director is known best for his suspense films PSYCHO and THE BIRDS, and his television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He was born in United Kingdom and mad his earliest films there before moving to Hollywood. Hitchcock worked with well-known actors Cary Grant and James Stewart in four films each. He created an unparalleled presence of horror beginning in the 1930's and continuing through the 1970's that influenced many film makers and directors that followed. His trademark was his personal appearance in his films, although his uncanny ability to
produce continuity and pace no matter what the set (think REAR WINDOW) is a close second.
Creepy Cool from the gates of England
1. Neil Gaiman
It was hard to place any of these people/creations in order, and in fact, Mr. Gaiman hadn't even made my initial list. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important his works have been for myself, for other authors, and for the fantasy genre in general. Probably best known by the non-reading public as the author of the novels that inspired the movies STARDUST and CORALINE, Gaiman has been a household name in the reading and writing community since the new millennium, but popular in the comic book community since more than a decade before that. His award-winning comic series Sandman was published by DC Comics and made waves as a cult hit. It was even the very first comic to have an issue awarded a World Fantasy Award for best short story. His novels, such as American Gods and Anansi Boys, have topped best-selling charts everywhere and won numerous awards. Gaiman was born in Portchester, England, and lived in the UK until the early nineties.
There are plenty of other mention-worty runner ups, the first in my heart being actor Cary Grant. Although he was born in England, he moved to the United States as a teenager and has made his entire career in North America. Also on my list of United Kingdom loves are authors Phillip Pullman of the His Dark Materials trilogy and J.R.R. Tolkien of The Lord of the Rings, actor David McCallum of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS, Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg films, Monty Python, Harry Potter, Alan Rickman and the film LOVE ACTUALLY.
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