Yup. (It’s Murray’s birthday today.)
I have often said that it’s interesting to consider what films made today might be considered classics to future generations. Something like Casablanca was not a “prestige picture”, it was not filmed with a ponderous eye towards posterity. It’s a couple steps above a potboiler. But LOOK at what has HAPPENED with that movie. I guarantee that the films that will last from our day and age won’t be the expected, won’t be the ones carefully tailored to address How We Live Now … because How We Live Now will date by next week. The ones that last have something to say about How We Live Always. And for me, top of the list of contemporary-and-future classics, is Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is the It’s a Wonderful Life of the late 20th century, and it will last long after we are all dust.
I “fell in love” with Bill Murray at age 13, 14, 15, when I was old enough to stay up late to see him on Saturday Night Live. I wasn’t watching SNL in grade school. How DID he come on my radar when I was so young? He seemed more childlike maybe than the other actors, definitely more childlike than Chevy Chase (whom I also harbored a crush on), but he also had a wink-at-the-camera sincere-un-sincerity which was ironic-adult-in-nature but I – a kid – got it. There was something attractive about a grownup man lampooning HIMSELF in some way even I could perceive. It was Murray’s nerdy “Todd” who really got to me, got under my skin as a kid, perhaps because Todd was an awkward high school kid, and I was also in high school. Huge crush.
I wrote about all this and more some years back in a guest-post for Jeremy Richey’s great site Moon in the Gutter: Bill Murray’s performance in Lost in Translation, and how the karaoke scene (in particular) summed up his career – but also transformed it into something else. One of my points was that Sofia Coppola saw what I (and many others) saw: Murray was not just a character actor, he was a plausible leading man.
Side note: As I am sure is well-known, Bill Murray headed to Memphis to attend Elvis Presley’s funeral in August, 1977. He just started on Saturday Night Live at the time. He wasn’t that famous yet. Murray was not friends with Elvis, and was not particularly a fan (although he did like him, and used him as inspiration in a lot of his work.) But he felt the enormity of the event, and wanted to be there to pay his respects, and bear witness to the exit of this enormous force of the 20th century. So off he went.
This, to me, is classic Bill Murray.
Here’s a picture of Murray at the funeral. It’s almost too good to be true.
Bill Murray told the story of attending Elvis’ funeral and grave-side ceremony on The David Letterman Show. There’s only audio, but it’s well worth checking out.