August 9: Happy Birthday Anna Kendrick and Melanie Griffith


Two actresses with Oscar nominations as well as musical theater experience headline today’s birthday post.

Anna Kendrick’s career started on Broadway, playing Dinah Lord in the musical adaptation of the movie High Society.  She was 12 on opening night in 1998, which did not prevent her from impressing enough people to get a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.  Her movie debut, at about 18, was in Camp, a musical about high schoolers at a summer theater camp.  Anna had a big scene performing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company:

Kendrick came to many people’s attention for her small role in the Twilight films, but her big break came when she was cast opposite George Clooney in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air.  She more than held her own with Clooney and other costars like Vera Farmiga and received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress.

Many of her film roles since then have featured her musical talents.  She has headlined the two critically and commercially successful Pitch Perfect films, returned to Stephen Sondheim territory as Cinderella in the film adaptation of Into the Woods, and costarred with Jeremy Jordan in the film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years.  Among her non-musical parts were playing Stacey Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, being a supportive police wife to Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch, and bonding with Melanie Lynskey in Happy Christmas.

As Anna celebrates her 31st birthday, where her future will take her is uncertain, but I expect she will end up with something shiny on her mantle in the future (an Oscar? a Tony? maybe both?).

Like Kendrick, WTHH subject Melanie Griffith got her first credited film role in her teens, appearing in Arthur Penn’s contemporary noir Night Moves at 17 years of age.  By the late 1980s she was, as lebeau’s article documents, a pretty clear A-lister, with Golden Globe nominations for Body Double and Something Wild, followed by a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination for Working Girl.

But then things went sour, with a string of critical and commercial flops.  By the end of the 1990s, Griffith’s film career had sunk to the point that many of her movies were being released direct to video.  As the WTHH piece spells out, she has dealt with an unusual amount of pressures in her life.  Growing up the daughter of actress Tippi Hedren was extremely hazardous (Hint–google “Melanie Griffith” plus “lion”).  Her marriages to fellow celebs like Don Johnson (actress Dakota Johnson is their daughter) and Antonio Banderas have put her in the tabloids’ crosshairs for much of the last 30 years.  And she’s struggled repeatedly with substance abuse issues.

But Griffith has also, over her career, shown an ability to bounce back from adversity.  At the same time as her film career cratered, she began doing stage work.  She made her Broadway debut in 2003, taking over the role of Roxie Hart in the long-running revival of the musical Chicago, and winning critical praise.  We wish her a happy 59th birthday.

Kendrick and Griffith share their birthday with quite a few other noteworthy celebrities.  Actress Gillian Anderson, of X-Files fame, was born on August 9, 48 years ago.  Although she hasn’t been in the public eye as much since her hit series went off the air, I learned while writing this article how amazingly busy she’s kept herself in the past decade and change.

Anderson, who now lives in London, has made several appearances on the London stage, including critically acclaimed performances as Nora Helmer in A Doll’s House and Blanch DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.  She’s done a number of films, mostly independent, and returned to US network TV as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier on Hannibal.  She has co-authored The EarthEnd Saga, a science fiction series, with Jeff Rovin.  And she’s been involved in a wide variety of activism and charity work.

Actor Sam Elliott turns 72 today.  Elliott has been a film and television fixture for almost fifty years, almost always as a character actor although now and then a lead role would come his way.  He’s often identified with Westerns but has branched out quite a bit.  Even a barely adequate review of his career would require a long article but I have to mention just a few favorite Elliott performances: he was a terrific Virgil Earp in Tombstone, provided voiceover narration as The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, was perhaps the ultimate in hard-boiled movie sergeants in We Were Soldiers, and was perfectly cast as Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass.   He also had a cameo (not with Anna Kendrick, unfortunately) in Up in the Air.

Audrey Tautou celebrates her 40th birthday today.  Since the release of Amélie in 2001, she has been a major star of French cinema, with four Cesar nominations (and one win).  She has also branched into English-language films form time to time, including Dirty Pretty Things and The DaVinci Code.

Other birthdays today: Eric Bana, from Hulk, Troy, The Other Boleyn Girl, and many other films, turns 48 today.  Rhona Mitra, recently on TNT’s The Last Ship, celebrates her 40th birthday.  Kevin McKidd, who plays Dr. Owen Hunt on Grey’s Anatomy, is 43 today.  Amanda Bearse, who played Marcy Rhodes/D’Arcy on Married…With Children for 11 seasons, turns 58.  And Adelaide Kane, who plays Mary Stuart on the CW’s historical fantasy series Reign, celebrates her 26th birthday.

There are some big sports legends born on this day.  Hockey great Brett Hull, the 4th leading goal scorer in NHL history, turns 52.  Tennis superstar Rod Laver was the dominant men’s tennis player of the 1960s; he turns 78 today.  And Bob Cousy, one of basketball’s all-time greats, celebrates his 88th birthday.

Director Robert Aldrich was born this day in 1918.  His lengthy filmography includes some very good Westerns (Apache, Vera Cruz, Ulzana’s Raid), war films (Attack, The Dirty Dozen), crime thrillers (Kiss Me Deadly), adventure-dramas (The Flight of the Phoenix) and psychological thrillers (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?).  Often he eschewed a traditional happy ending, and most of his films will leave an impression on you.

Robert Shaw was born on August 9 in 1927.  Many people will remember him as the shark hunter Quint from Jaws, while James Bond fans will recall him as Donald Grant in From Russia With Love, and the incredible fight between Bond and Grant on the Orient Express.  One of the best villains and/or anti-heroes of his time, he was also a published novelist and playwright.

One thing I plan to do from time to time in this series is highlight people who are what I like to think of as “interesting footnotes” in film or television history.  Today’s interesting footnote entry is Tom Tyler, born this day in 1903.  A hard-working actor in B-Westerns and other programmers, Tyler is remembered for two things.  First, he played Luke Plummer in Stagecoach, the man waiting at the end of the stage line to gun down the Ringo Kid (John Wayne).  Second, in 1941, Republic Pictures chose him to portray the first flying, costumed superhero in a live action film, their serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel.

The interesting thing about the serial is the special effects used to make it appear plausible that Captain Marvel was actually flying.  This was done with a combination of 1) a few shots of Tyler’s head and shoulders against a back-projection or matte painting, 2) shots of a dummy suspended on very fine wires, and 3) takeoffs and landings perfromed by acrobatic stuntman David Sharpe.  Crude by today’s standards, but pretty impressive for 1941, especially for a Poverty Row studio like Republic.  This trailer for the serial has a short clip of Captain Marvel in “flight:”

The sad note in today’s post concerns Whitney Houston, born this day in 1963.  Her death in February 2012 broke quite a few hearts.  Again, she has a career that would be impossible to do justice to in a paragraph or two, but I should mention her amazing mezzo voice, her seven Grammys, and her long list of hits, including this one:

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.


Posted on August 9, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Oh Anna Kendrick…would you be America’s girlfriend please?


  2. For the last week, Jestak has been adding supplemental material to birthday updates I had in the pipeline (not to mention correcting Dustin Hoffman’s age when I missed it by 8 years). Today, he’s taking the reigns officially. I think he knocked this one out of the park!


  3. Sam Elliott & Melanie Griffith share a birthdate? I had no idea. They both did very well for themselves in the 1980’s (I’m all about Elliott in 1987’s “The Quick and the Dead”, vintage Sam Elliott right there), albeit in different ways.
    My favorite Whitney Houston song is “How Will I Know”. My 3rd grade music teacher had us study & listen to her music, which was SO MUCH BETTER than dressing up as a California Raisin for a musical (glad we dodged that bullet, as the teacher donned the costumes instead).
    Hey, Bob Cousy was in 1994’s “Blue Chips”, as an athletic director. I like that film, which audiences really didn’t respond to, nor to 1993’s “The Program” (starring Halle Berry and James Caaaaaan!!!), which I also like. I guess Hollywood was going through a college athletics phase back then.


    • Sam Elliott has had a very good career, but he’s such a natural for Westerns that you have to wonder—what if he had been born maybe 12-15 years earlier, and gotten his career started when Westerns were all over the schedule on TV, and when Hollywood was making enough Western films that a young actor could get himself established acting in them? How big a star might he have been then?


      • That’s a good question, as I think Sam Elliott would’ve been good in something like the TV series “Laramie”, “Gunsmoke”, “The Big Valley”, or “Maverick”. Nevertheless, I thought he was great in 1985’s “Mask” as well (one could say that bikers are the modern day Western Cowboys).


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