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.


Posted on August 17, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Should we discuss De Niro’s recent output? I’ll throw that grenade out there and see if anyone wants to pull the pin.

    When I was a freshman in college, one of the guys down the hall had a Belinda Carlisle fixation. Can’t say as I blame him.

    Lots of luminaries in today’s birthdays, but I’m especially gratified to see some appreciation given to a Muppets performer. They brought me so much joy over the years.


    • I haven’t seen a lot of De Niro’s films from the last five years or so. The two David O. Russell films (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) are both good; as I recall De Niro’s role in the latter film was rather small. Killer Elite was a routine Jason Statham film; De Niro’s part could have been filled by almost any competent actor of reasonable maturity (since he was supposed to be a mentor-figure to Statham’s character). The Family was a very bland action comedy from the Luc Besson factory, and De Niro seemed to be largely going through the motions, as did the rest of the cast, Michelle Pfeiffer excepted.

      And as a Muppets fan–and a Statler and Waldorf fan–from way back, I was delighted to include Richard Hunt in today’s piece, even though it’s sad to know that he’s gone.


      • I haven’t seen a lot of De Niro’s recent movies either. There’s a reason for that. Most of them look really bad. In the ones I have seen, outside of the Russell movies, he’s totally phoning in his performance and cashing paychecks. If you were an alien from another planet and all you knew of De Niro’s work was his output from this century, you wouldn’t imagine he was ever a respected actor.

        It’s hard to pick a favorite Muppet. But Statler and Waldorf are arguably the most reliable characters when it comes to delivering laughs.


  2. penn and madonna birhtday are only a day apart. Truth is for deniro its the age factor. Their not might b e a lot of juicy parts written for deniro age. Plus the quality of movies since deniro time has diminished its superhero flick its rare to find something in the league of taxi driver. Deniro has accomplished all he could he has nothing to prove he just wants to have fun.Hes entitled to roles that allow him to have fun. No actor stays on top forever, Look at Harrison ford he not the box office draw he once was. Lastly some of the the so called bad deniro flops still make a ton of money in the box office so its not like hes itching for a hit. Sean penn is incredible actor however he has tendency of putting his foot in his mouth,Like he when he trashed he freind nic cage career choices.Its none of penns business what cage does in his career plus penn has made fair share of crap as well . In my opinion cage is a better actor then penn is just some of nic work does not justify his talent


    • I had not put that together on Penn and Madonna. I guess I forget they were a thing way back when. I did notice Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas’ birthdays were only a day apart.


  3. Brando later work was not great either but again its rare for the quality of actors work to remaine the same at older age. Pacino is not doing nay better. Michael caine is one of few actors i can think of where his older work is better then his work in his younger days. Caine work in his prime was good but he made more bad movie then then now. He is more consistent now he appears in less flops now.


  4. As soon as I saw that Sean Penn & Robert De Niro shared a birthdate, I thought of “We’re No Angels”. No, I didn’t think it was great; better than “Shanghai Surprise” or “Rocky and Bullwinkle” though:-).
    As for De Niro’s recent output, other than the David O. Russell films and “Limitless” (which I liked), there isn’t much else to write home about. But like Brethartfan said, his overalls overall body of work more than makes up for him taking it easy in the latter stages of his career, and many of the landmark films we was a part of just can’t be duplicated.
    Yeah, I like The Go-Go’s, so I’m cool with Belinda Carlisle (when I was a kid, I called MTV to request “Heaven Is a Place on Earth”; VJ Adam Curry was hosting at that time, but my request wasn’t fulfilled). I have a lot Belinda’s solo work on my YouTube playlist.
    Maureen O’Hara was a real screen spitfire who could hold her own (and then some) with the guys. She’s fun to watch.
    Mae West was something else in her own way too. I don’t mean this as an insult, but if she was around in this era, I bet she’d have a reality show (more Osbornes-like than Kardashians). I think she’s known more for her presence and personality than her films.
    I’m all set with Marta Coolidge due to “Valley Girl” and “Real Genius”. With those two films, she left an everlasting mark on me.


  5. Like

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