There's a great deal made of anniversaries these days. The great thing about an anniversary is that we know when it's coming round, so the media people can prepare something in advance, during slack periods. Sometimes these anniversaries can seem a bit contrived, or they commemorate something that isn't very interesting, or that nobody has heard of (which is a special case of "not very interesting", I suppose).
Recently it was the 54th anniversary of my Uncle Harold accidentally reversing into the lady next door's car, in Bromborough. The stature of this anniversary is limited by the fact that very few folk who knew of the incident at the time are still alive, and those who are cannot remember it anyway, so it is unsatisfactory on a number of counts - not helped by the fact that no-one was hurt.
No - we have to aim higher. This post is all the Duc de Gobin's fault, by the way, since he reminded me of the classic Waterloo film from 1970. Subsequently I was browsing around the subject of the movie - online, like - and I discovered that Dan O'Herlihy, the Irish actor who played Marshal Ney in the movie, was born on 1st May 1919. If Steiger will always be the true Napoleon to many of us, then for me O'Herlihy will forever be the iconic Ney, the man who told the Emperor to abdicate, for goodness' sake. You can't get any more important or influential than that - though it surprises me that I never saw O'Herlihy, as far as I know, in anything else. It has been suggested that they had to pay so much to secure the services of Steiger, Plummer and Orson Welles in the Bondarchuk movie that they economised by filling the rest of the cast with lesser lights - first-rate actors who were less well-known. And Terence Alexander, of course.
Anyway, this means we are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the birth of The-Man-Who-Played-Ney. I don't expect this to get into the BBC Radio 4 world news on 1st May, so I guess I'll have to commemorate Ney Day privately. I can always watch Waterloo again, of course, with a mug of cocoa, but I'd welcome any good ideas about a suitable way of celebrating.
To get myself in the mood, here's the classic opening sequence, in which we discover that Napoleon's Marshals were trained to speak in turn, in the best traditions of panto, that Marshal Soult was a Scotsman (played by an Italian actor), that Napoleon wore specs and that Marmont was a rotten scoundrel. Great stuff. Love it.
***** Late Edit *****
Scrapbook stuff, courtesy of the Interweb.
Ney (Michel, not Dan the Man) was born in Saarlouis, which these days is in Germany - his birthplace is now an Italian restaurant, but the situation is rescued by the fact that its address is 13 Bierstrasse, which is more like it. I don't know if the restaurant is the original building, but since his father was a cooper, it is no surprise that they had a big cellar.
Here's young Michel in the 4th Hussars, 1792.