Saturday, December 9, 2023

Getting Low At Highgate Cemetery

Yup, I’m at it again with the cemeteries. 

Not that I would romanticize death or think that far ahead, but these aren’t just random places. Highgate, one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries, is the same as Père Lachaise. A large space where thousands upon thousands are buried, it is both a preserved park with sprawling trees and plants around the memorials as well as a piece of Victorian-era architecture. It opened in 1839 outside of central London to take in more of the deceased and is split East and West. It’s 37 acres and has more than 170,000 internments which have made Highgate the most well-known of the Magnificent Seven.

The most famous permanent resident of Highgate is Karl Marx, who attracts thousands of his political followers to pay tribute to him. His grave, like Oscar Wilde’s, is noteworthy because of the large sculpture of his head with his famous phrase engraved, “Workers of all lands, unite!” Others buried here include singer George Michael, alongside his sister and mother, Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy author Douglas Adams, and artist/talent manager Malcolm McLaren, whose most famous act was the punk band The Sex Pistols. Of course, many more British figures from the last two hundred years are here, plus notable figures from the world of film.


Bob Hoskins (1942-2014)

Hoskins was one of those actors that could be menacing while also someone who has a soft side. Actors who worked with him used the word “gentleman” to describe Hoskins’ persona, being able to extend the range of characters he could fit into. In The Long Good Friday, he was a gangster who tried to put on a business face; his best performance by far was in Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, playing a released convict who serves as a chauffeur for a prostitute he starts to fall in love with. Most famously, Hoskins played a private investigator mixed within the world of real humans and living cartoons breathing the same space in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? A Londonite all of his life, it was fitting to be buried in the city.


Carl Mayer (1894-1944)

Mayer does not seem like a significant figure in movies, but he played a role during the 1920s in Germany’s expressionism era of film, which carried over into Hollywood. He co-wrote The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, one of the greatest films of the era and what Roger Ebert called, “the first true horror film.” Later, Mayer would start a working collaboration with F.W. Murnau; first with the acclaimed The Last Laugh in 1924 and again three years later when Murnau went to Hollywood. That film was Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans in 1927 which gave Fox Films (prior to merging with 20th Century studios) a breakthrough using their sound-on-film system and won not Best Picture – which went to Wings – but Unique and Artistic Picture, the only time that has been awarded. After his death, Mayer’s friends paid for his headstone which reads, Pioneer in the art of the cinema.”


Ralph Richardson (1902-1983)

Among the legendary trio of actors in the twentieth century that graced the British stage the most (alongside Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud), Sir Ralph Richardson was a leader of the Old Vic as one of the best Shakespeare actors of the time. This includes over 60 film roles, and while he never won an acting Oscar compared to Olivier and Gielgud, his performances on screen were still spectacular. This includes The Heiress opposite Olivia de Haviland, the 30s sci-fi classic Things To Come, Long Day’s Journey Into Night opposite Katherine Hepburn, and Doctor Zhivago. He was posthumously nominated for an Oscar for his role in Greystoke, The Legend of Tarzan. 


Anthony (1926-2001) & Peter Schaffer (1926-2016)

The twin brothers would have equal success on stage and screen as writers. Anthony won a Tony Award with his play Sleuth which was later adapted for the screen twice; the more noted adaptation was in 1972 starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. He would write Frenzy for director Alfred Hitchcock and the original version of the horror classic The Wicker Man. Peter would top that with two Tony Award-winning plays, Equus and Amadeus. For the latter, he would also win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay while the film, directed by Milos Forman, would win Best Picture. The brothers are buried separately with Peter buried alongside his longtime partner who predeceased him.


Follow me on Twitter: @brian_cine (Cine-A-Man)

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