Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bowie video day (The Elephant Man)

Born in 1862, Joseph Merrick was known as the Elephant Man. He said that when his mother was pregnant she was knocked over by an elephant at the circus, thus causing his condition. He willingly put himself on display as  a medical oddity and only lived to the age of 27, when he died of asphyxiation  in his sleep.

"He often said to me that he wished he could lie down to sleep 'like other people' ... he must, with some determination, have made the experiment ... Thus it came about that his death was due to the desire that had dominated his life—the pathetic but hopeless desire to be 'like other people'."Frederick Treves 

His tragic life has been much documented in plays and movies. David Bowie took up the role in 1980 and refused to wear make up or props when he played him in the show. Rather, he contorted his face and body to make it appear distorted, believing that he could better portray the sensitive man inside the grotesque form.

Here is what Joseph Merrick's skeleton looked like.

Here is an interview with footage from the Broadway play. I remember when he was playing in Denver. I really wanted to go but didn't. I've regretted it ever since.

'Tis true my form is something odd,
But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.

If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind's the standard of the man.
—poem used by Joseph Merrick to end his letters


fernvalley01 said...

Thanks so much for that! I had the whole office in here watching with me! He is brilliant , and Joseph Merricks poem.Lovely, sad , telling ,and true

lytha said...

Interesting, I never knew that.

I have to tell you, my man just sat down at the piano and he's playing that song again (Under Pressure). So beautiful, the extravagant way he plays it! I think the neighbors can enjoy it too, it's reverberating through our entire house.


Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

Very interesting clips. I had no idea Bowie played the Elephant Man. Love the movie.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

I remember watching the movie about the Elephant Man and it was very moving.


Fantastyk Voyager said...

I guess I should clarify this more. Bowie was in the theater production, not the movie. The movie actor was John Hurt.
Bowie chose to do the theater part without makeup. Both before and after his time, the actors playing John Merrick wore makeup to show the disfigurement but Bowie only contorted his body to project it. See here for more information on his acting role:

Bowie decided to quit the role at the first of the year, partly because his friend John Lennon was shot dead on 8 December 1980 by
Mark Chapman who had seen The Elephant Man during his stay in New York. Coincidentally, John Lennon's last interview was on 6 December 1980 and included some discussion about The Elephant Man play. A play program was later found among Mark Chapman's belongings. He had also photographed Bowie as he left the theatre that night.
On the 8th December, his plan was to stake out the Dakota building for Lennon, and if that failed he'd head over to the Booth Theatre. He bragged later that he could have killed either of them.
When told of this Bowie decided to make himself less accessible in the future, taking security more seriously from then on. All this information is from the website.