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Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl!

September 13, 2010

Roald Dahl (which I found out a few years ago is pronounced “Roo-ul” rather than “Row-ald”…my bad) was born on September 13, 1916. He’s one of my favorite authors, and one of the “children’s” authors whose books I think are fantastic for adults to read. While they’re problematic (usually if someone is obese, they’re somehow villainous or stupid, if not both) they’re quite a bit of fun, because he doesn’t write down to children.

Dahl was born to Norwegian parents who lived in Wales, and was raised on stories of trolls and gremlins which, of course, later influenced some of his writings. He was a member of the RAF during WWII, and in 1953 he married actress Patricia Neal. They had 5 kids before Neal divorced Dahl in 1983. That same year, he married his 2nd wife, who was with him until he died on November 23, 1990.

Growing up, I read all of the Roald Dahl books they had in my Elementary school library.  And each one was just as good, if not better, than the others. Of course, everyone knows Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (born out of Dahl’s incredible love for chocolate and his desire to make a chocolate bar that Mr. Cadbury would like). A whole slew of his books have been made into movies: Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches (my favorite!), James and The Giant Peach, and The BFG.

One thing I didn’t know was that a couple of his short stories for adults have filmed adaptations. Remember “The Man From Hollywood” from Tarantino’s Four Rooms? Yeah, Roald Dahl wrote that. It was also filmed for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents under the name “The Man From The South” and it starred Peter Lorre and Steve McQueen. When the British anthology series Tales Of The Unexpected (which ran for 9 years and was created by Dahl) began, the first episode was a version of the story starring Jose Ferrer!

Also, Dahl wrote screenplays for two movies based on Sir Ian Fleming works; the screenplays for You Only Live Twice and Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang were first written by Dahl, and then later rewritten by other writers.

In Africa, the UK, and Australia, today is known as “Roald Dahl Day.” To celebrate, I’m going to find some delicious chocolate and eat the heck out of it! And maybe read a Roald Dahl book or two.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2010 10:51 am

    I knew he did some screenwriting, but didn’t know about “You Only Live Twice”! I have CV envy.

  2. September 13, 2010 10:54 am

    He is such a fascinating character – outside his literary works. I am still stunned that he would be married to the late Patricia O’Neal. It kind of reminds me of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. Also, “The Man from Hollywood” is the only vignette from 4 Rooms that I actually liked.

    Watch your fingers!

  3. September 13, 2010 10:55 am

    I totally remember Tales of the Unexpected!!!

  4. September 13, 2010 10:57 am

    Thanks eieioj! I think the best children’s stuff is by authors who are a bit twisted, like Dahl and Shel Silverstein.

  5. September 13, 2010 11:20 am

    I remember my parents thinking it only natural and logical that I love Roald Dahl books, since my favorite fairy tales were the original versions of things like The Little Mermaid and Cinderella rather than the Disneyfied versions.

    Shel Silverstein is another one of my favorites, and The Missing Piece is still one of my favorite books! I think it should be required reading for teenagers.

    When Patricia Neal suffered 3 cerebral aneurysms (while pregnant with their daughter Lucy!), Dahl was responsible for her rehabilitation, which is both impressive and sweet. Too bad he had an affair with her friend(his 2nd wife) 20 years later.

    Also, I totally have a crush on his granddaughter, Sophie.

  6. September 13, 2010 11:40 am

    Ahhh, there it is. Miss Sophie!

  7. aliciamaud permalink
    September 14, 2010 12:49 pm

    I shared a classroom with someone a number of years ago (who no longer teaches) who described the plot of Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter” to me as an actual incident that happened in her family. I was never quite sure if she believed what she was saying, or how tenuous her grip on reality was, so I didn’t call her out on it immediately. But when my kids read the story, I had them create the posters they imagined for a movie version. One kid’s had this cartoony looking lamb with crazy eyebrows, and the poster read “This time…the LAMB does the SLAUGHTERING.” Cracked me up, but my colleague had no comment.

    Anyway, the story is a favorite for my 9th graders!

  8. September 15, 2010 10:54 am

    Dahl’s brilliance when it comes to the stories we know and remember is that he no doubt wanted to write the stories he wanted to read, which, by the way, is the very, very best thing to do. The great thing about this is a lot of his work is rooted in childhood, but told in an adult format, and that’s why it is so outstanding. He’s not trying to “protect” kids from life, or sugar coat it (Willy Wonka not withstanding) and that’s what makes his work such genius.

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