|Birth Day:||November 27, 1935|
Documentary film director known for his portraits of such American musicians as Dizzy Gillespie and Sam Lightnin' Hopkins and their respective musical genres. He also made two films about the life of German director Werner Herzog.
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He earned degrees in English and theater from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Following his university education, he worked for a production company called Operation Success, making films that he would later describe as "insipid films that promote business and industry." In 1967 he founded his own production company, Flower Films, with the release of God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance, a short colorful document of Los Angeles' Elysian Park Love-in. This was followed by The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins (1968) and The Sun's Gonna Shine (1968) about Houston blues musician Lightnin' Hopkins. He never went back to work making industrial films and all of his films were independently produced, often with the assistance of grants from cultural agencies, both governmental and non-governmental.
Blank was the first documentary filmmaker to earn the Edward MacDowell Medal in 2007, a national honor given to one artist a year. He was awarded in 1990 the American Film Institute's Maya Deren Award for outstanding lifetime achievement as an independent filmmaker. In 2011, the International Documentary Association honored Blank with a career achievement award.
Blank lived in the Berkeley Hills and for more than 30 years he was a resident of Berkeley, which celebrated Les Blank Day on Jan 22, 2013. His company, Flower Films, was based in El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California. Blank died of bladder cancer at his Berkeley Hills home on April 7, 2013.
Other notable films on non-musical subjects include a film about garlic and another about gap-toothed women, as well as two films about German film director Werner Herzog: Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980) and Burden of Dreams (1982), the latter about the filming of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1994) and Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995) were Blank's last two films using 16mm film. He later worked in digital video. One of his last films, All in This Tea, which was co-directed with his creative partner Gina Leibrecht, was a profile of the western Marin County-based tea importer and adventurer David Lee Hoffman. In 2014, his last film How to Smell a Rose: A Visit with Ricky Leacock in Normandy was completed shortly after his death by Gina Leibrecht, and was a portrait of the co-founder of Direct Cinema, Richard Leacock. In 2007 Blank was awarded the prestigious Edward MacDowell Medal in the Arts.
Currently, Les Blank is 86 years, 0 months and 9 days old. Les Blank will celebrate 87th birthday on a Sunday 27th of November 2022.
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