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August 13: Happy Birthday Paul Greengrass and Alfred Hitchcock

0813GreengrassHitchcock

Today’s headliners are a pair of prominent directors, one active and one from the past.

Paul Greengrass celebrates his 61st birthday today.  He got his start in British television, and also directed a couple of features during that period.  His well-received third film, Bloody Sunday, won several film festival awards for its depiction of some infamous events of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland.  Subsequently, he has become one of the primary cinematic chroniclers of the post-9/11 era, with films like United 93, Green Zone and Captain Phillips, and has received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Director.

Most people, however, probably know Greengrass best as the director of the action thrillers The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.  Among the most successful action films of the past 15 years or so, they are known for their relatively hard-edged tone, their long, elaborate car chase sequences, and their “shakycam” fight sequences, a style that Greengrass seems to make work better than anyone else:

I have not yet seen Jason Bourne, Greengrass’s third in the series, so I will leave it to any of you who have to comment on it.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)—“Sir Alfred” in the final months of his life—was known as the “Master of Suspense,” and seldom strayed very far from that genre in his over four decades of directing.  Often quoted, or possibly misquoted, as saying that “actors are cattle,” Hitchcock definitely had complex relations with his stars, especially the women, as we have discussed here recently.  Tippi Hedren, for instance, has talked at times about how much she learned from him, but has also described a “sickening” turn in their relationship.

One of my favorite Hitchcock films is his early classic The 39 Steps, a very entertaining film with many of the characteristics common to his movies, such as 1) a plot centered on a “MacGuffin,” 2) an “ordinary man” protagonist, caught up in extraordinary events, who is also 3) a “wrong man,” being pursued not only by the villains but by the legal authorities, who becomes involved with 4) a “Hitchcock blonde” heroine, with matters coming to a climax during a memorable scene:

Romanian-born actor Sebastian Stan turns 34 today.  He migrated to the US at the age of 12, and started getting a variety of supporting film and TV parts during the last decade.  His big break came with the role of Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger, who as of the second Captain America film is also known as the Winter Soldier.

Debi Mazar, who turns 52 today, is currently seen on the TV Land original series Younger, where she plays Maggie, best friend of the lead character Liza (Sutton Foster).  She was also seen regularly on Entourage.

German actor Moritz Bleibtreu, who celebrates his 45th birthday today, has starred in a number of notable German films, such as Tom Tykwer’s thriller Lola rennt, or Run Lola Run—he was the one Lola was running to save—and in the romantic comedy Im Juli.  He has crossed over to Hollywood from time to time for films such as Munich, Speed Racer and World War Z.

Other birthdays today include John Slattery, the Mad Men star who also has played Howard Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who turns 54.  Danny Bonaduce, who played precocious Danny Partridge on The Partridge Family, before becoming a radio and TV host, turns 57.  Alex Gonzalez, the Spanish actor seen as Riptide in X-Men: First Class, celebrates his 36th birthday.  Lennon Stella, one half of the Canadian pop duo Lennon & Maisy (Maisy being her sister), is 17 today—the sisters are seen on ABC’s Nashville.  Lyric soprano Kathleen Battle, heard on the soundtrack of Fantasia 2000—and formerly heard frequently at the New York Met until a spectacular falling out with the Met management in the 1990s–is 58 today.

Neville Brand (1920-1992), a highly decorated soldier turned actor, did most of his work in B-movies, but sometimes got parts in premium pictures like Tora !Tora! Tora! (about the Pearl Harbor attack) or Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17Charles “Buddy” Rogers (1904-1999) is best remembered for starring across from Clara Bow in Wings, the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture.  Austrian-born Kurt Kasznar (1913-1979) was best known as a stage actor, appearing in the original Broadway casts of Waiting for Godot, The Sound of Music, and Barefoot in the Park, but he also had a significant film career.

Finally, Bert Lahr (1895-1967) is best know for a role where he believed himself a little lacking in nerve:

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.

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Posted on August 13, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Fidel Castro was born on this day too, and his emptying of his prisons, the whole “Mariel Boatlift” situation, and the chaos caused by the bad refugees in Florida that came out of all that were events that inspired Oliver Stone’s screenplay of “Scarface”.

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  2. Just in time for the weekend – a definitive list of the best horror films each year since 1960! http://trib.al/6DPWPQc

    In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock adorned the poster for his latest movie with a very clear message: “It is required that you see Psycho from the very beginning.” You probably know why now: because Janet Leigh, an extremely famous actress who appeared on a different poster for Psycho, was shockingly slashed to death before you even hit the halfway point of the movie. From there, the horror genre was changed forever. Hitchcock’s film pioneered the horror twist, innovated the use of scores in horror, brilliantly proved that not seeing everything can be even scarier, and maybe most importantly, asserted that these movies were winning commodities. Since then, horror movies have dovetailed into almost countless subsets, from thriller to sci-fi to supernatural, and on and on.

    Rather than list off the best horror movies ever without any parameters, we wanted to do something a little different this Halloween. Which horror movies stood above the rest and dominated and defined the year in which they were released? With the genre taking on so many different shades over the past five-plus decades—and gaining in popularity and abundance as time went on—we were forced to make some difficult decisions. The Shining, Friday the 13th, and Prom Night all came out in 1980; Aliens, Henry: A Portrait of a Serial Killer, and The Fly each dropped in 1986. But for each year, there could only be one.

    What you’re about to read is Complex’s list of the best horror movies every year since Psycho. If you disagree with some of the calls we made, well, you know where to reach us. But yes, it is required that you read this from the very beginning…

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