Terry Southern 1924 - 1995
The Hippest Guy On The Planet
Just after 10.30 on the morning of September 11, 2001 as planes flew into the World Trade Centre the world entered a moment which could have been created by the late great screenwriter Terry Southern. The U.S. was under attack and high over the polar waste a B52 of Strategic Air Command would have received a coded message. The pilot would have opened a safe and extracted a sealed envelope. The crew would have been instructed to arm their weapons and move to attack positions. The United States was under attack and it’s military were preparing to hit back. But at who? The political hierarchy and it's military must have retreated to fortified bunkers in case it was the beginning of a nuclear attack. These events must have happened and happened probably the way they did in Terry Southern’s great script for Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. We're betting this sequence in the clip below happened on September 11, 2001.
Southern had the knack. He wrote scripts that summed up the time. The New York Times called him the “hippest guy on the planet”. From Easy Rider, to Candy, Barbarella, The Magic Christian and Dr Strangelove - Southern’s razor sharp writing and incisive understanding of absurdity made his films eccentric crowd pleasers. Making a comedy about nuclear devastation just after the Cuban Missile crisis when that devastation was a real possibility takes some doing. The possibility of trivialising the concept is ever present but Southern treads the tight rope with panache. The humour opens the subject up and the laughs are truly black.
The Magic Christian is probably one of his best. Sir Guy Grand finds a homeless guy and instructs him in the ways of money and power so that he can become Sir Guy’s heir. Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr play the leads in the most quietly mad assessment of Western capitalism ever committed to film. It’s a rare gem that many people haven’t heard of and fewer seen. It’s hard to find, but worth the effort.
Southern’s wildest piece, as yet unproduced, is “Blue Movie”. It all starts with an argument at a Hollywood party between the world's leading auteur and a studio producer about how to make the greatest porn film ever. The Producer challenges the auteur to make it. And the director sets about casting the biggest stars to play in his porn film. A hilarious, scabrous take on the film industry. Names are changed but it’s easy to identify everyone in the cast. Hollywood’s never had the courage to take it on but we’re negotiating to get the rights. Terry Southern, a hero of ours.
For more info on Terry Southern check this, a site run by his son Nile.