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August 14: Happy Birthday Halle Berry and Mila Kunis

0814BerryKunis

Halle Berry celebrates her 50th birthday today.  One of many fashion models to attempt to make the transition to film, she has been one of the most successful.  She made her film debut in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever in 1991 and had her first lead role that same year in Strictly Business.  In 1999, she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing the lead in the HBO biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, about the first black woman ever nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress:

That casting turned out to have a prophetic twist to it when, two years later, Berry became the first (and so far only) woman of color awarded the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball.  The first part of the oughts also saw Berry make her first appearances as Storm in the X-Men series, play a Bond Girl in Die Another Day, and, more infamously, headline the box-office and critical disaster Catwoman, which “earned” her a Razzie—which, as lebeau has reminded us, she showed up to accept in person.

It seems, at least to me, that Berry’s star has faded a little since her Oscar-winning days, but she is still a major actress if not quite an A-lister.  Her 2013 film The Call, a modestly budget thriller, was a surprise financial success, and she recently was the lead in the CBS series Extant.

Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis turns 33 today.  She is one of a seemingly endless cohort of actors and actresses who got their start in the 1990s in one or more of 1) the line of hip horror films inspired by Scream, 2) high school romantic comedies, or 3) teen-oriented television series, often airing on The WB network or Fox.  Out of them all, she is one of the few to go on to a successful career–if, like Berry, she’s not quite an A-list actress, she’s pretty high on the “B-list.”

Kunis got her first big breaks in US television in the late 1990s.  She was cast as Jackie Burkhart on That ’70s Show when she was 14–even though the producers were reportedly looking to cast only performers 18 or older.  A year later, she added vocal acting to her resume by taking over the role of Meg Griffin on Family Guy, a part she continues to voice today.

About a decade later her film career started to take off when she played the lead in the romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  She followed that up in 2010 by receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress, along with a lot of other critical praise, for her role as Natalie Portman’s understudy in the ballet drama Black Swan:

Kunis has continued to be successful since then; her current movie, Bad Moms, has already earned domestic box office that’s nearly triple its production budget; this follows in the wake of successes such as Ted and Oz the Great and Powerful.

Oscar and Tony-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden turns 57 today.  Her Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress, was for the film Pollock; her Best Actress Tony was for Yasmina Reza’s play Gods of Carnage.  She also has two Emmy nominations for acting—should she ever win one, that would complete a so-called “triple crown of acting.”  Favorite Harden performances of mine include Verna Bernbaum in Miller’s Crossing (her film debut) and Celeste Boyle in Mystic River.

The multi-talented Steve Martin celebrates his 71st birthday today.  He is one of the great comics of his generation, and has won Grammys in four different genres–Comedy, Country, Bluegrass and American Roots.  He’s won an Emmy as a writer, for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and starred in films like The Jerk, Three Amigos! and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Born the same day as Martin, German director Wim Wenders has split his career between German cinema and Hollywood.  He directed two films that are almost universally accepted as modern classics—Paris, Texas was made during one of his US sojourns while Wings of Desire was made in Germany.  More recently, Wenders has become a noted documentarian, with three nominations for Best Documentary Feature; he has also had a noteworthy career as a photographer.  Celebrating her 88th birthday today is Italian director and screenwriter Lina Wertmuller.  She was the first woman ever nominated for the Oscar for Best Director, for the 1975 film Seven Beauties.

Others celebrating birthdays today: Brianna Hildebrand, featured in this year’s surprise hit Deadpool, turns 20.  Susan Saint James, a mainstay of network television for over 20 years in series like McMillan & Wife and Kate & Allie, celebrates her 70th.  James Buckley, a star of the British sitcom The Inbetweeners and its film spinoffs, turns 29.  French star Emmanuelle Béart, known to American audiences for the first Mission Impossible film, is an eight-time Cesar nominee (winning for the 1986 film Manon des Sources).  She turns 53 today.  And Catherine Bell, star of series such as JAG and Army Wives, turns 48.

Musical theater and classical crossover singer Sarah Brightman turns 56 today.  She has had a lengthy association with Andrew Lloyd Weber and his works—she was Jemima in the original London cast of Cats and then originated the role of Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera, both in London and on Broadway.  She has also had along career as a concert singer and solo recording artist. Here she is singing a duet from Phantom:

Another musical birthday today is David Crosby, celebrating his 75th.  A founding member of the Byrds, he is best known for his decades long association with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills (they form the group Crosby, Stills & Nash)–sometimes joined by Neil Young.  He is the author or coauthor of songs such as “Eight Miles High” and “Wooden Ships.”

As I write this article, US Olympic Swimmer Katie Ledecky just won her third individual gold medal of the Rio Olympics.  Her wins in the 200, 400 and 800 meter freestyle events equals a feat accomplished in 1968 by American swimmer Debbie Meyer, who won all three races in world record times at the Mexico City Games, making the then 16-year-old the star swimmer of the Games.  Meyer turns 64 today.

A second sports birthday today is that of NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson.  In over a decade with the Los Angeles Lakers, he led them to five NBA titles, and his rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird through the 1980s rejuvenated fan and media interest in professional basketball.  Any basketball fan of my generation probably remembers where they were the day that Magic announced that he had tested HIV-positive.  In retirement, he has become a very successful Los Angeles area businessman.

James Horner (1953-2015), who passed just over a year ago, was one of the busiest and best composers working in film of the past four decades.  He won Oscars for Best Original Score for Titanic and for Best Original Song for “My Heart will Go On” from the same film.  A very short list of his other notable scores would include Star Trek II, Krull, Braveheart and A Beautiful Mind.  His final score was written for the remake of The Magnificent Seven, to be released this September.  One of my favorite Horner scores was for The Rocketeer:

Also born today: Wellington Mara (1916-2006) was the co-owner of the NFL’s New York Giants for over 40 years.  Actresses Kate and Rooney Mara are his granddaughters.  Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles to several American League pennants and a World Series win in 1970.

Francis Ford (1881-1953) was a major star of the silent film era; like many stars of that time, a lot of his filmography is lost.  Modern audiences are more likely to know his sound era work.  He was the older brother of legendary director John Ford, who consistently gave Francis cameos in his films.  One of his most memorable, and also one of his last, was as Dan Tobin in The Quiet Man—the old man who gets up from his death bed because he doesn’t want to miss the big fight between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen.

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 14, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I remember Emmanuelle Beart from 1987’s “Date With An Angel” (I think that was her American debut; well, at least she got to be an angel) and 2006’s “A Crime” with Harvey Keitel, which I thought was rather good.

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    • Interestingly enough, if you go to Marcia Gay Harden’s official website, there’s virtually no mention of “Spy Hard” (where Marcia played a Ms. Moneypenny spoof). And yet, she’s seemingly not too ashamed to be associated w/ “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

      http://www.avclub.com/articles/marcia-gay-harden-on-her-favorite-character-and-wo,86533/

      Spy Hard (1996)—“Miss Cheevus”
      MGH: Ugh. I hated doing that movie. [Laughs.] It was, I thought, going to be an opportunity to have a lot of fun, but it was just chaos and, uh, not so much fun. And not so funny. I mean, Leslie [Nielsen] was great, but it was really his show, and it was just… very chaotic. Behind schedule, over budget. People mention her to me, but I’ve never really seen the movie. All I know is that she was supposed to be sexy, and I don’t know if she even was.

      Like

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