Dustin Hoffman and I


Left to right: Tom Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly


My wife and I just finished watching a sad/comic 2012 film entitled Quartet — directed by Dustin Hoffman and starring Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly CBE, Pauline Collins OBE, Sir Michael Gambon, and several prominent older musicians and singers (e.g., Dame Gwyneth Jones) – that I really, thoroughly, enjoyed.  It would not, I’m sure, be to all tastes, but I found it quite moving.  I had, somehow, never heard of it.  Fortunately, my wife had.


Afterwards, we also watched the excellent supplemental materials from the DVD, which included snippets from interviews with Dustin Hoffman.


At one point, he talks about how short this life is, and how you should not “be a schmuck and wait too late.”  You should use every minute of life to the fullest.  “When you’re in an elevator,” he says, “nobody looks at anybody.  Everybody looks down.  ‘Hey!  What’s up?  I never saw you before and I’ll never see you again.  You can tell me the truth; we only got a few seconds before you hit your floor.  Bad day?’”


I got a kick out of that comment, because, quite a few years ago, I had exactly such an experience with, precisely . . .  Dustin Hoffman.  On this point, he clearly practices what he preaches.


My middle son was born in a hospital in Santa Monica, California, and, shortly after his birth, I returned to the hospital to visit him and his mother.  When I was done, I got into the elevator along with another man in order to go back down to the lobby.  The other man turned out to be Dustin Hoffman, whose wife had also just had a baby.  We were alone for several floors, and he was very friendly and talkative.


A curious memory that I hadn’t thought about for quite some time.  His comment regarding the point of Quartet brought it sharply back to mind.


Posted from Park City, Utah



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  • RaymondSwenson

    I enjoy films, and personally think that when Ted Turner is at the Judgment Bar, the major factor in his favor will be the creation of the Turner Classic Movies channel. Yet the product being one of fiction, there is great variability between the character of the actor and the character of the character he or she depicts, so I have no particular expectation of a positive correlation. So it is a pleasant surprise to find an actor who is actually a person of intelligent integrity, whatever they believe in.

    One venue where the genuineness of certain celebrities comes to the fore is a TV series, now on TLC, called “Who Do You Think You Are?” Its principal sponsor is Ancestry.com, and each episode is an hour exploration using the tools of family history research to discover the story of the ancestors of a celebrity, celebrating not their own achievements but discovering the character of their ancestors and their connection to historic events.

    In the current season, for example, Zooey Deschanel traveled to Pennsylvania to learn that her Quaker ancestors were deeply involved in the Underground Railroad, and that it was on their farm that runaway slaves bravely resisted capture and return to bondage by a slave owner operating in a free state under authority of the Federal Fugitive Slave Act. Chris O’Donnell traveled to St. Louis, Washington DC, and Baltimore to learn that one ancestor had served in the war against Mexico, served as a grave digger during the devastating cholera epidemic of 1849 in St. Louis and left a touching memoir of that tragedy, and donated his sword to the Smithsonian, where O’Donnell was able to hold that tangible connection to a man of character. Then in Baltimore he learned that an earlier ancestor manned the cannon during the defense of Fort McHenry that produced the poem that became our national anthem. I highly recommend the series.