August 17: Happy Birthday Robert De Niro and Sean Penn
Our two headliners today co-starred in the 1989 comedy We’re No Angels; despite their talents it was not a hit.
Robert De Niro turns 73 today. One of the most distinguished film actors of his time, he is a seven-time Oscar nominee, with wins for The Godfather, Part II (for Best Supporting Actor) and Raging Bull (Best Actor), and an eight-time Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor (winning, again,for Raging Bull). He began acting in the 1960s but emerged as a star in 1973, when he starred in Bang the Drum Slowly and in his first of many films with Martin Scorsese, Mean Streets. The creative partnership of Scorsese and De Niro has produced some of the most memorable moments in film history, of which this is one:
Throughout his career, De Niro has been associated with crime films—often although not exclusively as some sort of gangster. Besides several of his Scorsese films, he has been in films like True Confessions, The Untouchables (as Al Capone), Michael Mann’s Heat (sharing the famous cup of coffee with Al Pacino), Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, the comic Analyze This and its sequel, American Hustle, and many more. He’s also branched out on many occasions, in films such as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Meet the Parents and its sequels, the romantic fantasy Stardust, and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.
Like De Niro, Sean Penn is a two-time Oscar winner, for Mystic River and Milk (both for Best Actor). His career began very strongly, with well-received performances in Taps and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. His first Best Actor nomination (of five, so far) came as death row inmate Matthew Poncelet in Dead Man Walking. In 2003, he was cast as Jimmy Markum in Clint Eastwood’s film of a novel by Dennis Lehane (one of my favorite writers, I might add):
As he turns 56, Penn remains a major actor, and many people would doubtless classify him as an A-lister. He has enough acting accolades to fill his mantle to the point of overflowing. Yet it’s interesting to note that until this year, when he was a voice actor for The Angry Birds Movie, he had never been involved in a film that grossed $100 million at the box office in the US. He has also never been involved in any kind of movie franchise or series.
Martha Coolidge, who has directed films such as Valley Girl, Rambling Rose and Real Genius, celebrates her 70th birthday today. Maria McKee, the lead singer of Lone Justice who went on to a solo career, turns 52 today. Donnie Wahlberg, who once was a New Kid on the Block, celebrates his 47th birthday. Ken Kwapis, the director of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and He’s Just Not That Into You, turns 59. Hong Kong cinema star Karena Lam turns 38, while Helen McCrory, known to Harry Potter fans for playing Narcisa Malfoy, turns 48. Taissa Farmiga, daughter of Vera and seen in The Bling Ring and The Final Girls, turns 22. Austin Butler, the star of MTV’s fantasy series The Shannara Chronicles, turns 25.
In the sports world, baseball All-Star Dustin Pedroia turns 33. Jorge Posada, catcher for several New York Yankees teams that won the World Series, celebrates his 45th. And French footballer Thierry Henry, the all-time leader in goals scored for France in international play, turns 39.
Belinda Carlisle, who turns 58 today, was the lead singer of the Go-Go’s from 1978 to their breakup in 1985, and in various reunions since then. The Go-Go’s had a #1 album in 1982 with Beauty and the Beat; it included the hit singles “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat,” and is usually said to be the only #1 album by an all-female band where the women wrote their own songs and played their own instruments. Carlisle went on to a successful solo career, with several hit singles including this #1 hit:
Maureen O’Hara (1920-2015), who passed away last fall, was Hollywood’s definitive fiery red-haired heroine. After making a few films in England, she came to Hollywood while still in her teens to make her debut as Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She appeared in many swashbuckling adventure films, often as a much more active heroine than was common in the 1940s or ’50s, and was John Wayne’s leading lady five times, most notably in The Quiet Man.
Mae West (1893-1980) started out as a vaudeville performer in her teens. As a stage performer on Broadway in the 1920s and a film star in the 1930s she was known for sexually suggestive dialogue and portraying independent, highly liberated women. Her most famous line of dialogue, in the film I’m No Angel, was of course “Come up and see me sometime.”
Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) was one of the founders of the company that became Paramount, and the G in MGM stands for Goldwyn, but he had little to nothing to do with those major studios; he made his mark as an independent producer. Samuel Goldwyn Productions often employed top-rank directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks and especially William Wyler. Six of Goldwyn’s films were nominated for Best Picture, including the 1946 winner, The Best Years of Our Lives.
Harve Bennett (1930-2015) was a producer and screenwriter who worked on a number of television series, including The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. He is best-known, though, for his involvement in the Star Trek films during the 1980s. He was the executive producer of Star Trek II and is credited with the basic story idea, and was the producer on the next three films.
Finally, Richard Hunt (1951-1992) is known for his work with Jim Henson. He became one of the Muppets performers after graduating from high school. On Sesame Street, he performed several characters, including Don Music, Gladys the Cow and Placido Flamingo. On The Muppet Show, in the Muppets’ feature films, and in various other specials, he performed Scooter, Sweetums, Janice, Beaker, and most memorably Statler:
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.