Death comes for Max von Sydow.



The great Swedish actor was 90. From the NYT obituary:
Carl Adolf von Sydow was born on April 10, 1929, in Lund, in southern Sweden.... He was said to have adopted the name Max from the star performer in a flea circus he saw while serving in the Swedish Quartermaster Corps....

For all his connection to the land of his birth and of Bergman, Sweden became distant to Mr. von Sydow.... "I have nowhere really to call home... I feel I have lost my Swedish roots. It’s funny because I’ve been working in so many places that now I feel at home in many locations. But Sweden is the only place I feel less and less at home."
Did he really name himself after a flea?! From a 2012 interview (in The Guardian):
Is it true he named himself after a flea? "Ha ha ha!" booms Von Sydow, his laugh filling the room. "Yes! Ha ha ha! During my military service, I performed a sketch in which I played a flea called Max. So when critics kept misspelling my name, I decided to change it and thought, 'Ah! Max!'"
Ah, so it was not an actual flea "in a flea circus he saw," as the New York Times put it. He himself was in a show playing a character that happened to be a flea.

A flea circus is a show on a tiny stage that has real fleas performing (or tiny imitation fleas):
The first records of flea performances were from watchmakers who were demonstrating their metalworking skills. In 1578, Mark Scaliot produced a lock and chain that were attached to a flea. The first recorded flea circus dates back to the early 1820s, when an Italian impresario called Louis Bertolotto advertised an “extraordinary exhibition of industrious fleas” on Regent Street, London. Some flea circuses persisted in very small venues in the United States as late as the 1960s....
Here's Charlie Chaplin with his flea circus in one of my all-time favorite movies — "Limelight" (which I'll put up as a meditation on death alongside "The Seventh Seal," so please make that your double feature):

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