Category Archives: A.A. Milne

A.A. Milne 1.18.13 Thought of the Day

“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”
–A.A. Milne

 A.A. Milne; Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear  by: Howard Coster


A.A. Milne; Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear by: Howard Coster

A. A. Milne was born  on this day in Kilburn, London, England in 1882. Today is the 131st anniversary of his birth.

Alan Alexander Milne  was the youngest of three boys born to John Vine and Sarah Maria Milne. John Milne ran a school, Henley House, and it was here that the boys took their first steps in the world of learning. One of the teachers at the school was H.G. Wells and he and Alan would remain friends for the rest of their lives. After Henley House Alan went on to Westminster School before attending Cambridge on a mathematics scholarship.

A.A. Milne’s first literary efforts came during his Cambridge days. He edited the college’s humorist publication, The Granta. Alan and his brother Ken worked together, by mail, on light verse that was published in The Granta under a mash-up of their initials A.K.M.

After graduation Alan moved to London and worked as a freelance writer. He had articles published in both newspapers, like the St. James Gazette, and in humor magazines, such as Punch.

In February of 1906 he became an assistant editor and weekly contributor to Punch magazine. His  contributions included stories on sports (especially cricket and golf), the exploits of the fictional middle class Rabbit Family, and children stories that he wrote with his niece Marjorie in mind.

In 1913 he married Dorothy “Daphne” de Selincourt. When World War I broke out he volunteered as a signalling officer. He saw action in France until returning to England in November 1916 with a fever. Once recovered he was

…put in charge of a company at a new formed signalling school at Fort Southwick. He stayed there until he was released from the army on February 14, 1919. [Pooh-Corner.org — The Author]

A.A. Milne on the Western Front 1916. [Image courtesy Spartacus.Schoolnet.co.uk]

A.A. Milne on the Western Front 1916. [Image courtesy Spartacus.Schoolnet.co.uk]

While in the Army he wrote his first play Wurzel-Flummery. Alan didn’t go back to Punch after the war — his job had been given to some one else — and he preferred the freedom of not having a weekly deadline. He also liked writing plays and collaborating with the actors.

…he had several successes, both in London and in New York. Mr Pim Passes By… opened in London on January 5, 1920, and ran for 246 performances in London. It also had a successful run in New York…. Within the next year, Milne had another four plays running in London. Other notable plays include Belinda, The Lucky One, The Romantic Age, The Dover Road, and The Truth About Bladys. … At one time, A. A. Milne was England’s most successful, prolific, and best-known playwright. [Pooh-Corner.org — The Author]

Ironically his biggest flop was called Success.

He wrote an adaptation of Mr. Pim Passes By and a mystery, The Red House Mystery. When he proposed writing Red House his agent bulked, suggesting the public wanted more humor stories. But Milne stuck to his guns, and The Red House Mystery was “his most successful book other than his four children’s books.” [Ibid]

The Red House Mystery

The Red House Mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alan and Daphne Milne had a son Christopher Robin in 1920. They called the little boy “Billy Moon”  at home and among friends (the first name was a nickname, the “Moon” came from Christopher’s mispronunciation of his last name). Alan wrote the first Billy Moon poem “Vespers” after watching the little boy say his prayers before going to bed. It proved so popular that Milne was

asked to provide another children’s verse for a new children’s magazine entitled The Merry-Go-Round. That poem was “The Dormouse and the Doctor“, and also became quickly famous. Alan toyed with the idea of writing a whole book of children’s verse, and the result was When We Were Very Young, published in 1924. To illustrate the book, Milne enlisted the aid of Punch illustrator, Ernest Shepard. The combination of Milne’s poetry and Shepard’s drawings proved to be a winner, as the book sold over 50.000 copies within eight weeks of its first publication. [Ibid]

The family moved to Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex, in 1925 and Alan used the bucolic setting as his backdrop for his next book,Winnie-the-Pooh. Shepard was on board again as illustrator. Milne thought so highly of Shepard’s role in the success of the first children’s books that he insisted Shepard get an 80/20 share of the royalties of Winnie-the-Pooh instead of a flat rate. Winnie-the -Pooh was enormously well received.

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second Pooh book, The House at Pooh Corner was equally loved. (Except by Dorothy Parker who famously quipped in her Constant Reader column in the New Yorker that by page 5 of the book the “tonstant Weader fwowed up”. Milne was unfazed by Parker’s quip, noting that “no writer of children’s books says gaily to his publisher, “Don’t bother about the children, Mrs Parker will love it.””[Ibid])

Milne House at Pooh Corner1000

Alan wrote more plays. His Toad of Toad Hall, based on Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, got it’s stage debut in 1929. The play was hailed as a “family classic” and Milne was quickly getting painted into a corner. Especially in London, his works for adults were being ignored as the public clamored for more Pooh, or at least more children’s fiction. New York was more forgiving and his plays had longer runs on Broadway, including The Ivory Door and Michael and Mary. In 1933 his adult novel Four Days of Wonder sold moderately well, but he didn’t publish another novel for another 13 years.

At the dawn of World War II Milne, the pacifist, wrote Peace With Honour in which he outlined that nothing was

“worth repeating the Somme for. He would later change his mind and would write a pamphlet called War With Honour, in which he explained his changed views. ‘If anyone reads Peace With Honour now, he must read it with that one word HITLER scrawled across every page. One man’s fanaticism has cancelled rational argument.’ [Ibid]

The Milnes had moved away from the ‘Hundred Acre Woods’ and Cotchford Farm for London and New York, but with the War they moved back to East Sussex. Alan was Captain of the Home Guard for the area. His relationship with Daphne, which had waned, rekindled, but his ties with Christopher, which had always been strong, weakened. Christopher joined the Royal Engineers as a Sapper.

In 1946 Milne’s Chloe Marr, his last novel, came out to good reviews. It sold well. He continued to see success with his plays, which were now running in repertory.

[Image courtesy pdxretro.com]

[Image courtesy pdxretro.com]

But his relationship with Christopher — who ” had begun to resent his father and hated the books that made his name famous” [Ibid] — was crumbling. By the early 1950’s Christopher was married and living 200 miles away.

In October 1952, Milne had a stroke which left him an invalid for his remaining years. … A. A. Milne died on January 31, 1956. [Ibid]

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Sterling Holloway 1.4.13 Thought of the day

“If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
–Sterling Holloway

Image courtesy deviantart.com

Image courtesy deviantart.com

 

Sterling Price Holloway, Jr. was born on this day in Cedartown, Georgia, USA in 1905. Today is the 107th anniversary of his birth.

 

The Holloways owned a grocery story in Cedartown and were prominent citizens the town. His father was mayor for a while when Sterling was in elementary school. He went to the Georgia Military Academy and got his first taste of acting while performing in school plays there. Upon graduating from the GMA at 15  he went to New York and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He worked with the Shepherd of the Hills touring stock company.

 

On stage he worked in musicals, vaudeville shows and reviews. He gained national attention in 1925 when he introduced the song Manhattan (as in “We’ll have Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island too…”)  by Rodgers and Hart. The following year he had another hit with “Mountain Greenery” also by the song writing duo.

 

Primed for success he moved to Hollywood to try his hands at the movies. He started in silent films with The Battling Kangaroo.  He made several silents, but when a director told him he was “too repulsive” for the screen he went back to the stage for a few years. He returned after the stock market crash. The studios were switching to talkies, and the money was good.

 

His bushy reddish-blond hair and trademark near-falsetto voice made him a natural for sound pictures, and he acted in scores of talkies, although he had made his picture debut in silents. His physical image and voice relegated him almost exclusively to comic roles, [IMDB]

 

To say he was prolific would be an understatement. Holloway made 19 movies in 1933 alone. He preferred to play in ensemble movies. When Louis B. Mayer offered him a contract at MGM he turned it down because he didn’t want to be a star.

 

In the 1930s and 40s, the lanky redhead who had a knack for playing country bumpkin roles appeared in such films as “Gold Diggers of 1933,” with Dick Powell, and “Blonde Venus,” with Marlene Dietrich.[Disney.go.com]

 

Soon his unusual voice came to the attention of Walt Disney and in 1941 Holloway made his first movie  for the Walt Disney company voicing the part of Mr. Stork in Dumbo.

 

His first Disney performance led to subsequent voice roles including, the adult Flower in “Bambi” and the Cheshire Cat in “Alice in Wonderland.” Sterling also played Kaa, the snake, in “The Jungle Book,” in which he sang the memorable song “Trust in Me.” His most beloved role, however, was as the voice of Winnie the Pooh in such featurettes as the Academy Award-winning “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.“[Ibid]

 

 

He was also featured in The Three Caballeros, the Aristocats and he narrated Peter and the Wolf.

 

Sterling Holloway

Sterling Holloway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Later in his career he work in television, guest starring on a score of episodic and variety shows.

 

Holloway died at the age of 87 in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 


Secondary Character Saturday: Piglet!

 

[It’s Second Character Saturday! Today’s character is Piglet. I’ll be going straight to the source and discussing the AA Milne Piglet with illustrations by Ernest Shepard— not the Disney-fied Piglet.]

“But Piglet is so small that he slips into a pocket, where it is very comfortable to feel him when you are not quite sure whether twice seven is twelve or twenty-two.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Piglet and Pooh think about fall.

Piglet and Pooh think about fall.

 

 

Who: Piglet

 

 

From: Winnie-the-Pooh

 

 

By: A.A. Milne

 

 

Date: 1926

 

 

Why: Piglet is shy, but brave. He reminds us that no matter how small and un-impowered we are… we are still big enough to stand up for what is right and face our fears.He is a role model for friendship.

 

 

In the stories he grounds the more popular (and more flighty) Pooh. He has a very strong relationship with Pooh, Eeyore and Christopher Robin. As readers (especial children) we relate to him because of his size and soft voice and WE want to be his friend too.

 

 

Piglet plants a haycorn plant.

Piglet plants a haycorn plant.

 

 

Pros: Loyal, brave, innocent, earnest, creative, humble, good listener, hard worker.

 

 

Cons: Excitable, follower, gullible.

 

 

Pooh and Piglet on an adventure

Pooh and Piglet on an adventure

 

 

Shining Moment: I love all the moments with Piglet in the books. I especially the quiet moments between Pooh and Piglet that just say “friendship” to me…

 

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

 

 

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.
“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”

 

 

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh”

 

 

When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”

 

Piglet gets ready for the party

 

I love when he listens to Eeyore and does something to help him out of his funk.

 

 

He’s there for his friends and always willing to help. Despite his diminutive size he is brave enough to face great odds. He may be afraid of everything, but that doesn’t get in the way of his standing up for what is right, or standing next to a friend to face a challenge.

 

 

The Disney-fied version of my beloved porcine friend. [Image courtesy: render-graphiques.fr]

The Disney-fied version of my beloved porcine friend. [Image courtesy: render-graphiques.fr]

 

 

Least Shining Moment: I do not like what Disney did with Piglet. They turned his innocence into a cartoon. I was OK with that as a kid, but as I get older, and Disney keeps chugging out more and more Pooh related crap, I resent that they are forcing the Milne characters into cookie-cutter cartoons of themselves to sell more DVDs and plastic  stuff. Piglet just gets squeekier and squeekier and the tender, brave, humble pig gets more and more diluted. SHAME.

 

Well loved and well used, this is the original Piglet. One of Christopher Robin Milne's surviving stuffed animals, Piglet resides at the New York Public Library.

Well loved and well used, this is the original Piglet. One of Christopher Robin Milne‘s surviving stuffed animals, Piglet resides at the New York Public Library.

In 1921, as a first-birthday present, Christopher Robin Milne received a small stuffed bear, which had been purchased at Harrods in London. Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger soon joined Winnie-the-Pooh as Christopher’s playmates and the inspiration for the children’s classics When We Were Very Young (1924), Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), Now We Are Six (1927), and The House at Pooh Corner (1928), written by his father, A.A. Milne, and illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard.

You can see just how small Piglet is compared to the other stuffed animals in this photo. [Image courtesy: The New York Public Library

You can see just how small Piglet is compared to the other stuffed animals in this photo. [Image courtesy: The New York Public Library

Brought to the United States in 1947, the toys remained with the American publisher E.P. Dutton until 1987, when they were donated to The New York Public Library. [Treasures of The New York Public Library.]

 

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh

Cover of Winnie-the-Pooh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

One more image... Piglet dancing with delight. Keep that image in your heart today, OK?

One more image… Piglet dancing with delight. Keep that image in your heart today, OK?

 

 


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