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Happy Birthday Dr Seuss! Seven Things You Didn’t Know About The Lorax Author

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Mar. 2 2012, Published 6:00 a.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Reporter

Millions of kids and adults alike across America will be rushing out to see The Lorax this weekend, and many others will pick up their favorite old battered Dr. Seuss books in honor of the late author’s birthday.

While most people can endlessly quote quirky lines from The Cat In The Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, or How The Grinch Stole Christmas, they are clueless about the man behind the outlandish genius. presents seven things you didn’t know about the beloved scribe.

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7. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904, where the future bestseller’s German immigrant father worked in a brewery until it was closed during the Prohibition. As an adult, Dr. Seuss made his childhood neighborhood a household name in his first children's book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

6. The literary legend’s pen name was born from an illicit drinking session! Geisel studied at the prestigious Dartmouth College and first tried his hand at journalism in the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-O Lantern, where he rose to the ranks of Editor-In-Chief, until he got busted for drinking gin with some classmates in his room and was banned from all extracurricular activities. Determined not to give up his creative comical outlet, Ted began writing under the pen name, Seuss, which was both his middle name and his mother’s maiden name.

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Trying to fulfill his dad’s dream of him being a college professor, Ted traveled to England to study at Oxford University but quickly grew bored of the pomp and circumstance and opted instead to travel around Europe with pretty fellow student Helen Palmer, who went on to become his first wife. The couple was married in 1927 and Ted returned to the U.S., with a new bride but without a degree from Oxford.

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5. After publishing humorous articles for magazines such as Vanity Fair and Life, Geisel’s first career of creating advertising campaigns for Standard Oil, NBC and General Electric lasted 15 years until the onset of World War II shifted his focus to bigger issues and he began contributing weekly political cartoons to liberal publication PM magazine. He then poured all his energies into the war effort and joined the Army in 1943 as a Captain and Commander of the Cartoon Department of the First Motion Picture Unit, where he fell in love with the art of animation, developing a series of training films featuring a character called Private Snafu.

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4. A collection of children's sayings called Boners led to his big break in children’s literature with the eventual publication of And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, after it was rejected a whopping 27 times by Vanguard Press. Geisel and Helen moved to La Jolla, California, and he penned If I Ran the Zoo, Horton Hears a Who! and If I Ran the Circus.

Next came the title that would mould the dreams of generations of children to come, when Houghton Mifflin asked Seuss to write and illustrate a book with just 225 "new-reader" vocabulary words and challenged him to "bring back a book children can't put down,” and The Cat In The Hat was born in 1957 to phenomenal success and rave reviews. It was closely followed by How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Green Eggs and Ham, and his latest to make it to the big screen, The Lorax in 1971.

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3. Dr. Seuss’ signature style is based on anapestic tetrameter, a poetic meter used by many poets. It consists of four rhythmic units each composed of two weak beats followed by one strong beat, and often the first weak syllable is omitted, or an additional weak syllable is added at the end. A classic example is found in the story, Yertle The Turtle.

"And today the Great Yertle, that Marvelous he

“Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.”

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When it comes to his fabulous illustrations, Dr Seuss’ characters such as the Grinch and the Cat are known for their familiar round and droopy shapes, as are his buildings which melt and bend around free-standing staircases, ramps and platforms.

2. Geisel’s life story wasn’t all about brightly drawn pictures and rhyming verses, it was also marred by tragedy and scandal. After fighting a long battle with cancer and the emotional trauma of her husband’s affair with Audrey Stone Dimond, his wife Helen committed suicide in October 1967,  her ‘mourning husband’ married his former mistress six months later. Despite two marriages and a bibliography full of children’s classics, Dr. Seuss never had children of his own, instead living by the motto, "You have 'em; I'll entertain 'em."

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After several years of bad health, Seuss died of throat cancer on September 24, 1991 at age 81. He was cremated in La Jolla and Dr. Seuss Enterprises was left in the careful hands of ‘Mrs. Seuss,’ Audrey, including the rights to 44 books that had been translated into 15 different languages and sold more than 200 million copies. During his career, he was honored with two Academy Awards, two Emmys, a Peabody and the Pulitzer Prize.

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1. Dr. Seuss’ legacy continues to live on in countless modern-day versions of his work, from eleven TV speicals, the Broadway musicals Seussical and The Grinch, to Hollywood blockbusters, The Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey, and CGI animated works Horton Hears A Who, and opening Friday, The Lorax. Fans who want to jump into Dr. Seuss’ fantasy world feet-first can visit Seuss Landing at the Island Of Adventures theme park in Orlando, Florida.

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The author himself may soon be immortalized on the big screen after reports that Johnny Depp is planning to produce and possibly star in an upcoming film about his life.


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