September 13 in Sci-fi History: In Praise of Roald Dahl

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Mar 25, 2021, 5:00 PM EDT (Updated)

It was on this day in 1916 that Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff. Dahl was an Intelligence Officer and Diplomat in WWII and was also married to Patricia Neal. You likely became aware of Dahl as a child, reading his award winning books, many (all?) of which have been made into movies:

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Dahl famously hated this movie. He wrote the screenplay but didn't meet a lot of the deadlines and it was thus rewritten by David Seltzer. Dahl objected to the film being too much about Wonka and not nearly enough about Charlie.

The Witches (1990)

Featuring Anjelica Huston in the role of the head witch, the movie became a cult classic pretty instantly and is still celebrated via Halloween screenings throughout the country.

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

The epic story of a sweet little boy whose parents were eaten by a rhino featured Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margolyes as Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker in the live-action bits. Much of the film was animated and had a disappointing series of musical numbers added, featuring the voice talents of Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Leeves, and Pete Postlethwaite, among others.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

The Wes Anderson stop-motion animation movie sticks mostly to the book but also takes some notable departures. It features George Clooney and Meryl Streep and is one of the most successful in the "children's movies for adults" genre. Pro-tip: if you’re lucky enough to watch with both your children and your parents, the movie is a great cross-generation delight.

The BFG (2016)

Steven Spielberg pulled together this mostly delightful but kind of meandering movie that audiences watched. That pretty much sums it up. They watched it. And mostly shrugged over it.

Roald Dahl died in 1990 and is the subject of multiple monuments, festivals and celebrations throughout England.

Tomorrow: Mork and Mindy.