August 12: Happy Birthday Casey Affleck and Cecil B. DeMille
Casey Affleck was born this day in 1975 so he’s 41 today. He started acting a little over 20 years ago, appearing in supporting roles in two Gus Van Sant films, To Die For and Good Will Hunting, and in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. The latter two films saw him appearing with his older brother Ben. During the “aughts,” he appeared in Ocean’s Eleven and its two sequels as Virgil Malloy, one of the Mormon brothers who are the wheelmen for Danny Ocean’s heist crew.
In 2007, Affleck was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for playing Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a critical success but not a commercial one. In the same year, Affleck was cast as one of the leads in Gone Baby Gone (written and directed by his brother), adapted from one of Dennis Lehane’s novels about his working-class PI team of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. As a big fan of Patrick and Angie, I didn’t like everything about the movie, but I did like Casey’s performance as Patrick Kenzie, filled with a quiet intensity that belies his boyish appearance:
While A-list stardom has elude Affleck, as it does so many, he has remained a presence on the big screen. This year he has had major roles in the action drama The Finest Hours and the noirish crime thriller Triple 9.
Now, about the other guy. Let us recall the words of the Waco Kid:
“I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille.”
So who was this Cecil B. DeMille? Did he really kill a lot of people, or was the Kid being metaphoric?
Cecil B. DeMille was born on August 12, 1881. In 1913, he, Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn and others formed a movie production company that evolved over time into Paramount. in 1914 DeMille produced and directed his first feature, The Squaw Man, choosing to film in a small California town called Hollywood—it was the first feature-length film made in Hollywood.
In his career, DeMille produced over 80 feature films, directing the vast majority of them himself. While he was not as important a technical innovator as contemporaries like D. W. Griffith, he adapted successfully to changes in the industry for over 40 years to consistently make commercially successful films. His last four films as a director were, in order, Unconquered, Samson and Delilah, Best Picture Winner The Greatest Show on Earth, and the sound remake of The Ten Commandments. Each one was the top grossing film in the US in its year of release; The Ten Commandments is still one of the top ten all time in inflation-adjusted receipts.
DeMille was known for 1) Westerns (beginning with The Squaw Man, he made a number of notable ones), 2) films on Biblical subjects (see two of the four titles above), and 3) big, spectacular set-piece scenes with lots of extras (some of whom, depending on the type of scene, might well be “killed”). Perhaps the signature scene from all his work, so well-known it became part of the Studio Tour attraction at Universal Studios, was this one:
Jazz musician Pat Metheny turns 62 today. One of the most successful jazz artists of our time, Metheny has won 20 Grammys in his career. That is more than any other jazz musician other than Chick Corea, and only a dozen other living artists in any type of music have won as many Grammys as Metheny.
Another prominent musical birthday today is Mark Knopfler, who celebrates his 67th. Knopfler is the lead guitarist, lead singer and principal songwriter for Dire Straits, and was ranked 27th in Rolling Stone’s listing of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Knopfler has also written the scores for several films, one of them being The Princess Bride. In an interesting coincidence, August 12 is also the 85th birthday of William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride and adapted it into a screenplay. Goldman is a two-time Oscar winner for his screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men.
Others celebrating birthdays today include George Hamilton, who turns 77. Hamilton is probably best remembered for his comic portrayals of two fabled fictional characters—Dracula in Love at First Bite and Zorro in Zorro, the Gay Blade—both of which earned him Golden Globe nominations. However, after the latter film’s box office failure, Hamilton found lead roles hard to come by. Today, he can be seen as the Extra Crispy Colonel on the latest KFC commercials playing on his world-famous tan.
Bruce Greenwood, the veteran character actor who played Captain Christopher Pike in two of the Star Trek reboots, celebrates his 60th birthday today. Peter Krause, from Parenthood and Six Feet Under, turns 51. Maggie Lawson, who plays Jules O’Hara on Psych, turns 36. Leah Pipes, known as Camille O’Connell on the first 3 seasons of The Originals, celebrates her 28th birthday today. And Cara Delevingne, currently featured in Suicide Squad, is 24 today.
Star Trek fans will also want to note that Jane Wyatt (1910-2006), who played Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson, in the original series episode “Journey to Babel,” and in Star Trek IV—and who won three Emmys for playing the mother on the early sitcom Father Knows Best—was born on August 12. So was Marion Lorne (1883-1968), who had a long stage career, but is remembered today as the oblivious mother of psychopath Bruno Anthony in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, and as forgetful Aunt Clara on the first four seasons of Bewitched, for which she won a posthumous Emmy. And country music fans will remember Buck Owens (1929-2006), the longtime cohost (with Roy Clark) of Hee Haw, who had a long succession of #1 hits on the country charts in the 1960s.
While Casey Affleck had his breakthrough in one film about the James Gang, director Sam Fuller’s (1912-1997) first feature was another, I Shot Jesse James from 1949. Fuller directed film noir classics like Pickup on South Street and House of Bamboo, Westerns like Forty Guns, and the terrific World War 2 film The Big Red One, based on his own experiences in the war. Fuller was almost always working on modest budgets, but over time he’s been recognized as a major director.
Actor John Cazale (1935-1978) appeared in only a handful of films, but all were excellent. His five feature film appearances in the 1970s were The Godfather, Parts I and II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter. That’s five Best Picture nominees, three of which won.
Baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson (1880-1925) led the New York Giants to several National League crowns and a World Series triumph in 1905. He was one of the “first five” elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame when it opened in 1936. He was also known and respected for his sportsmanship and integrity, at a time when baseball had a very tarnished image; Mathewson was one of the leaders in trying to free the sport from the influence of organized gamblers.
Finally, August 12 was the birthday of Michael Kidd (1915-2007), an almost legendary dancer and choreographer. Kidd’s choreography career started out with ballets such as Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid, but he then began working in musical theater. He was the co-winner of the first Tony for dance choreography in a musical for his work on Finian’s Rainbow. He eventually won five Tonys for choreography, out of a total of eight nominations, and was also nominated three times for stage direction of a musical.
Kidd also worked extensively in film, choreographing dance sequences for films like The Band Wagon (with Fred Astaire), Guys and Dolls, and Hello, Dolly! The Academy doesn’t give any kind of Oscar in dance, but Kidd did win an honorary Oscar in 1996. Another film with choreography by Kidd was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which includes this famous dance sequence:
A couple of final trivia points. First, in the above scene, the man in the blue shirt is Russ Tamblyn, father of actress Amber Tamblyn of Joan of Arcadia, while the young lady in the purple dress is Julie “original Catwoman” Newmar.
Second, when Kidd shared that first Tony for choreography, he shared it with none other than Agnes de Mille, niece of Cecil B. DeMille.
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 12, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Casey Affleck, Cecil B. DeMille, Mark Knopfler, Michael Kidd, Pat Metheny, Sam Fuller, William Goldman. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.