Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
September 29
November 12, 1943
Wallace Shawn born

While many know Wallace Shawn as the loveable (or loathsome), pudgy clown in films like Clueless or The Princess Bride, there is another more serious side to him. Wallace Shawn was born among New York’s smart set. As the son of longtime New Yorker editor William Shawn, Wally went to the best schools (Dalton, Putney, Harvard, Oxford) and was on first-name basis with America’s best and brightest. Shawn later wrote about his teachers and others treatment of him: “I didn’t’ realize why they were groveling at my feet, and it made me a very self-confident person until the age of forty, when I figured it out––when I had a crisis of confidence.” In his confidence, Shawn was a daring playwright. Much of his early theatrical works were verbally violent and sexually explicit.  His 1971 A Thought in Three Parts became the center of public controversy when it was threatened with censorship as obscenity in London. Later work, often allegorical, focused on government repression. While often dark and abstract, three of his plays––The Designator Mourner, Marie and Bruce and The Fever––have been adapted into films. Shawn has also long been in a voice in left-wing politics, writing regularly for The Nation and starting his own short-lived political journal. Yet despite such high-brow pursuits, for many Wallace Shawn will always be the querulous, high-pitched voice of Rex the Dinosaur in Toy Story.


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