There is an imperturbable grace about Stanley Kauffmann’s writing, a plainspoken clarity in the face of the onslaught that is the movies. Arriving for lunch in his favorite Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, Stanley exuded that grace and clarity; he looked ageless in a beautiful sports jacket purchased in London decades earlier. Movies, plays, books! This was the air he breathed—together, of course, with his friendships and his great marriage with Laura. The cultural life of New York was for Stanley quite simply the natural order of things, never the dangerous drug it becomes for so many opinion makers, the adrenalin junkies always looking for their next fix. Stanley knew that the way to care about the arts is to care about them day by day, to make them a part of your ordinary regimen—which turns out to be an extraordinary regimen. It was a regimen Stanley invited everybody—his readers, his students, his friends—to embrace. He had come of age when George Bernard Shaw was considered a playwright comparable with Shakespeare, he had flourished when Bergman, Antonioni, and Fellini were the new news from Europe, and a generation and more later he was still at his post, eager to comment on whatever appeared next. His longevity was inextricably tied to his optimism—a quietly impassioned optimism about our culture that informed everything he ever wrote. That optimism is his legacy.
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