Terry Southern

By: Adrienne Crew
May 1, 2014


“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.” TERRY SOUTHERN (1924–95) wrote those words for Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Two perfectly timed sentences mocking authority with irony and absurdity. The film’s irreverence did more to break the Establishment’s grip on mainstream culture than any other form of counterculture protest. (It’s been suggested that Peter Sellers, playing President Merkin Muffley, improvised those lines; but when I visited the Kubrick exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year, the original typescript of that scene was on display — Southern and his collaborators deserve the credit.) A satirist, journalist, and author of extraordinary skill, Southern mixed with existentialists and pornographers in postwar Paris, toked with Beats in Greenwich Village, and at the apex of the Sixties helped write the screenplays for Barbarella (1968), Easy Rider (1969), and The Magic Christian (1969). The latter was loosely based on Southern’s 1959 satirical novel of the same title; also well worth reading today is Candy, a 1958 pornographic satire of Voltaire’s Candide.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Joanna Lumley, Calamity Jane.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the New God (1914-23) and Postmodernist (1924-33) Generations.

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