July 14

There are 3 entries for this date: Ingmar Bergman Jane Lynch Woody Guthrie

    Ingmar Bergman

    Ingmar Bergman

    On this date in 1918, Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsala, Sweden, the son of a strict Lutheran minister. He studied art and literature at the University of Stockholm, went into theater, and made his directorial film debut in 1944. His 1955 “Smiles of a Summer Night” attracted international acclaim, followed by “Wild Strawberries (1957) and “The Seventh Seal” (1957), in which a knight portrayed by Max von Sydow challenges Death to a chess match.

    He then made “The Virgin Spring” (1960), “Persona” (1966), “Scenes from a Marriage,” co-starring one of his favorite actresses, Liv Ullman (1974), and “Fanny and Alexander,” which won a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1983. His 50 feature films often explored existential questions. Bergman once said, “I believe in other worlds, other realities. But my prophets are Bach and Beethoven.” (New Yorker Staats-Zeitung July 9, 2005.) 

    He was married five times: to Else Fisher, Ellen Lundström, Gun Grut, Käbi Laretei and Ingrid von Rosen, and had nine children. He died at age 89. (D. 2007)

    PHOTO: Bergman in Amsterdam in 1966; Joost Evers/Anefo photo under CC 3.0.

    “You were born without purpose, you live without meaning, living is its own meaning. When you die, you are extinguished. From being you will be transformed to non-being. A god does not necessarily dwell among our capricious atoms.”

    —Bergman, "The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography" (1987)

    Jane Lynch

    Jane Lynch

    On this date in 1960, actress and comedian Jane Marie Lynch was born in Dolton, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is known for playing Sue Sylvester in the hit TV show “Glee” and for recurring roles in “Two and a Half Men” and “The L Word.” Lynch earned her undergraduate degree in theater from Illinois State University and her MFA from Cornell University. She then performed for several theaters, including the Steppenwolf Company for 15 years and doing stand-up for Second City in Chicago.

    Lynch began appearing in movies in 1988 and has since appeared in over 100 films, TV shows and shorts. She has hosted “Saturday Night Live” and the Emmys and won many awards for her work, including Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

    Lynch is known for her social activism. She is vegan, an avid supporter of PETA and helps facilitate the adoption of animals from animal shelters. She advocated for state-church separation in a humorous song performed with Jordan Peele and produced by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Lynch, an out lesbian, is a strong advocate for LGBT rights.

    She made a video for the It Gets Better campaign and performed in a play titled “8,” which focused on marriage equality and California’s Proposition 8. She is active in several organizations that promote equality for people of all sexual orientations. She was married to Lara Embry, a Ph.D. clinical psychologist, from 2010-14.

    “Yes. They say you die just a little bit when you sneeze. And I’m kind of an atheist, but yet I will say that just in case.”

    —Lynch in response to a TMZ reporter asking her “Is it still necessary to say God bless you when someone sneezes?” (May 28, 2013)
    Compiled by Sarah Eucalano; photo by S_Bukley, Shutterstock.com

    Woody Guthrie

    Woody Guthrie

    On this date in 1912, singer-songwriter Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in Okemah, Okla., to musically inclined parents Nora Belle (Sherman) and Charles Guthrie. It’s hard to categorize Guthrie, who rose to fame during the Great Depression as champion of the dispossessed and downtrodden, as one thing or another. He was poet, philosopher, political revolutionary, environmentalist, an admirer of Jesus Christ who scorned organized religion.

    His life was filled with tragedy early on and ended that way. His sister fatally set herself on fire during an argument with their mother when he was 7, his father was severely burned in a home fire and Woody’s firstborn died at age 4 when she was burned in an electrical fire. His mother was committed to the Oklahoma Hospital for the Insane when he was 14, while he unknowingly carried the Huntington’s chorea gene that killed them both after long hospitalizations.

    Musically inclined like his parents, he dropped out of high school as a senior and began playing for dances with his uncle in Texas. He married Mary Jennings in 1931. They divorced in 1940. He married twice more, to Marjorie Greenblatt (1945–53) and Anneke Van Kirk (1953–56), fathering eight children.

    He had headed to California in the Dust Bowl migration, leaving the family temporarily in Texas. He hosted a “hillbilly” music radio show, made friends with people like Will Geer and John Steinbeck and wrote a column titled “Woody Sez” for the communist newspaper People’s World in 1939-40 but never joined the political party. He joined the U.S. Merchant Marine in 1943 and was drafted into the Army in 1945. He wrote patriotic songs backing the U.S. fight against fascism.

    Guthrie wrote what became “This Land Is Your Land,” arguably his most famous song, in February 1940. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing “God Bless America” on the radio, he sarcastically called his song “God Blessed America for Me” before renaming it when it was first recorded in 1944, when God was excised from the title and lyrics. As originally written, it said:

       One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
       By the Relief Office I saw my people —
       As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
       God blessed America for me.

    Guthrie wrote over 3,000 song lyrics, including fanciful ones for children, songs which have influenced succeeding generations of musicians, most personally his son Arlo. His first album, “Dust Bowl Ballads” (1941), sold more than any other. His songs took the side of the economic refugees and those beset by tragedy against the “interests” and bankers. A line in “Pretty Boy Floyd” sums it up: “Some will rob you with a six-gun / And some with a fountain pen.” He also published two novels, created artworks and wrote numerous published and unpublished manuscripts, poems, prose and plays. Over 400 of his songs are in the Library of Congress.

    Baptized as a young adult, he never attended church on a regular basis. Asked once to name the people he most admired, he replied, “Will Rogers and Jesus Christ.” (Ron Briley, History News Network, 2005) To him, Jesus was a working-class carpenter who championed the common people and was betrayed by the rich and their selfish interests.

    In Born To Win (ed. Robert Shelton, 1965), Guthrie wrote: “Fear before none. Quiver before nothing. Kneel at no spot. Beg no cure. Be a slave to none and master to none. … Love is the only God I’ll ever believe in.” He came to that conclusion, trying to define what God meant to him, “when I was ready to throw so-called fearful cowardly thieving poisoning religion out my back door.” He once said that while he rarely darkened the door of a church, he “always had a deep love for people who go there.”

    By the late 1940s, Guthrie’s health was declining and his behavior was becoming extremely erratic, with loss of muscle control and increasing inability to speak. He was diagnosed with Huntington’s and was hospitalized for 12 years from 1956 until his death at age 55 at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, N.Y., where the 19-year-old Bob Dylan had visited him in 1960. His ashes were sprinkled into the waters off Coney Island, where he had once lived. D. 1967. 

    “Some of the preachers that promise you hamburgers in the hereafter get on my nerves; what I’d really like to do is to give ’em a hunk of blackberry pie right in the face.”

    —Guthrie, quoted in "Bring Your Own God: The Spirituality of Woody Guthrie" by Unitarian minister Steve Edington (2012)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

Freedom From Religion Foundation