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Aug 29: Happy Birthday Rebecca De Mornay and Ingrid Bergman

0829DeMornayBergman

Rebecca De Mornay celebrates her 57th birthday today.  Her father was an eccentric, reactionary TV host named Wally George who used to be well-known in the Los Angeles area.  She trained at the Lee Strasberg Institute and began her acting career in Coppola’s One from the Heart.  Major roles followed in films such as Risky Business (opposite Tom Cruise) and the intense thriller Runaway Train:

De Mornay appeared to be a rising star for a short while in the 1980s, but that did not materialize.  As she is a WTHH subject, we have copious detail available about her career; the short version, though, is that in the late 1980s a few box office bombs detonated her career as a leading lady.  She made a brief resurgence as a villainess, with The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, but faded again, relegated to supporting parts or TV movie/direct-to-video roles.  Recently she had a recurring role on the web series Jessica Jones.

Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) started her acting career in her native Sweden, and was invited to Hollywood by David O. Selznick for an English-language remake of her Swedish film Intermezzo in 1939.  Within four years, she was Oscar-nominated for her role in For Whom The Bell Tolls.  But it was a film made one year before that which became the one she is, for a great many people, most strongly identified with, when of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walked into Humphrey Bogart’s in Casablanca:

Bergman was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1940s.  She won the Oscar for Best Actress for Gaslight, and also became a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock, who cast her in films like Notorious.  She appeared on Broadway, winning a Tony for Best Actress for Maxwell Anderson’s Joan of Lorraine, and then got her third Best Actress nomination when it was filmed in 1948 as Joan of Arc.  And then, she met Italian director Roberto Rosselini…

Bergman’s affair with Rosselini, her giving birth to his son while they were both still married to other people, and her subsequent divorcing of her husband to marry him, would have lead to a lot of gossip if it happened in our cynical times, but nothing compared to the outrage it provoked in 1950, when, for starters, a US Senator introduced a bill to ban actors “guilty of moral turpitude” from American movie theaters—and explicitly identified Bergman as his target.  For a time, it seemed like she was going to be exiled from Hollywood for good.  But only for a time.

In 1956, Bergman made a triumphant return to American cinema, winning her second Best Actress Oscar for Anastasia.  She followed this in 1959 by winning her first Emmy Award, for an episode of the NBC anthology series Startime.  This made her a winner (one of only 22 ever) of the so-called Triple Crown of Acting.  She continued to work steadily up to her death in 1982.  In her last decade, she won a third Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express (for Best Supporting Actress), worked for the first time with her compatriot Ingmar Bergman (no relation) on Autumn Sonata, and won a second, posthumous Emmy for the television biopic A Woman Called Golda.

Elliott Gould turns 78 today.  Gould’s big break came when he was Oscar-nominated for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.  For a time in the 1970s he was in vogue as a leading man, especially in Robert Altman’s films, such as M*A*S*H and The Long Goodbye (where he played Philip Marlowe).  But by the end of that decade he was transitioning to character roles.  During the past couple of decades he has been best known for playing Jack Geller on Friends and Reuben Tishkoff in Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels.

Carla Gugino, who celebrates her 45th birthday today, is known for several of Robert Rodriguez’s films, including the Spy Kids films and Sin City.  Singer and actress Lea Michele turns 30.  She starred on Glee, has been appearing on Broadway since she was eight, and released her debut album, Louder, in 2014.  Mexican singer and actress Lucero, who turns 47, has sold over 20 million albums worldwide and acted in several Mexican films and telenovas.  Jay Ryan celebrates his 35th; the New Zealand born actor recently starred in the CW’s series Beauty and the Beast.

August 29 is, or was, the birthday of a number of prominent directors.  William Friedkin turns 81 today.  He was a hot item in the early 1970s, winning Best Director for The French Connection, and following up with The Exorcist, a huge box office smash.  But his next film, Sorcerer (a remake of the French classic Wages of Fear) was a bomb, and his subsequent career has been undistinguished.  Joel Schumacher, who celebrates his 77th, had a number of commercial successes in the 1980s and ’90s, such as St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, and two John Grisham adaptations.  He also directed Batman & RobinRichard Attenborough (1923-2014) had a long acting and directing career.  As an actor his films included The Great Escape and Jurassic Park.  As a producer-director, he won two Oscars for Gandhi (Best Picture and Best Director).  Preston Sturges (1898-1959) had one of the most meteoric careers in Hollywood history.  After several years as a writer, Sturges was given a chance to direct one of his scripts, and then a few more when he showed he could do so successfully.  Over a five year period, Sturges turned out a series of brilliant, classic comedies like The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story.  And then he left Paramount in a contract dispute, and seemed to lose his touch, never really getting it back.

John McCain III turns 80 today.  The son and grandson of admirals in the US Navy, he survived captivity and torture during the Vietnam War.  He is serving his fifth term in the US Senate and was the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008.

Barry Sullivan (1912-1994) had a fifty year screen acting career that included some 100 feature films and an even greater number of TV episodes.  Charles Gray’s (1928-2000) long career included two appearances in the James Bond films, as Bond’s ally Henderson in You Only Live Twice, and as Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever; Gray also portrayed Mycroft Holmes in the long-running BBC Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett.  German actor Gottfried John (1942-2014) also appeared in the Bond films, as General Ourumov in Goldeneye, and also in several of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films.

We’ll wrap today’s article with a pair of musicians, both extremely talented, both of whom had—issues.

We celebrated the Queen of Pop’s birthday earlier this month; Madonna’s male counterpart on the throne in the 1980s was unquestionably Michael Jackson (1958-2009).  Jackson started performing with the family act, the Jackson Five, and became a solo performer in his early teens.  His 1982 album Thriller is generally listed as the #1 selling album of all time.  His 1987 follow-up, Bad, did not sell quite as many copies, but contained a record five singles that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And then, Jackson spent much of the last 15 or so years of his life dealing with two separate sets of accusations of child sexual abuse.  The first case, in the early 1990s, did not result in any criminal charges, while the second case, about a decade later, result in Jackson’s acquittal of all charges.  But the concurrent revelation that Jackson regularly had “sleepovers” at his Neverland ranch where he shared a bed with children as young as seven, left his reputation with a stain that, for many people, never lifted.  When Jackson died, the circumstances were such that Conrad Murray, his physican, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for causing Jackson’s death.

Charlie Parker (1920-1955), known as “Bird” or “Yardbird,” was one of the most influential figures in jazz during his short life.  A saxophonist and composer, Parker moved to New York in 1939.  There, he and other young musicians such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, drummer Max Roach began developing the revolutionary “bebop” style of jazz.  Parker and his friends made a number of incredibly influential recordings in the years right after World War II.  Sadly, as a teen, Parker had been addicted to morphine while recovering from an auto accident, an addiction which transferred to heroin over the years.  When he died at only 34, the listed causes of death were pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer, but it’s hard to avoid concluding that years of heroin use had ravaged his body.

Of Parker’s influence, no less a figure than Miles Davis once said that the history of jazz could be summarized as “Four words.  Louis Armstrong.  Charlie Parker.”

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 29, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I count Casablanca among my Top 5 favorite films of all time, so we’re talking full-blown love here. And not for nothing, but Ingrid Bergman was one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.

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  2. I am on record as a major Ingrid Bergman fan. I’m a bit embarrassed by how big of a fan I was in high school. I wrote and directed a video biography of Bergman for our History Day competition which won me a free trip to compete at the national level in DC.

    While nowhere near the same level, I also liked Rebecca De Mornay a lot. Risky Business made Tom Cruise a star, but De Mornay owned every scene she was in. It’s a shame Hollywood didn’t know what to do with her afterwards cause she had loads of star potential. And she still looks amazing.

    On a similar note, why didn’t Carla Gugino ever make it big? She’s fantastic.

    Joel Schumacher, I forgive you for Batman & Robin. It’s taken a long time, but Zack Snyder has made it easier to let go.

    When I think back to my childhood, Michael Jackson was just inescapable. Like Star Wars, Pac-Man and E.T. Jackson was everywhere. Such a shame that things deteriorated the way they did.

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    • As people can probably tell from the detailed write-up I did here, I am also a serious Ingrid Bergman fan. For me it started in college. When I was in college, home video was in its infancy, and the college was a bit out in the sticks. So most weekends of the year, there would be a movie or two playing in the college auditorium. It was on one Friday or Saturday night during, I think, my sophomore year, that I saw Casablanca for the first time, and became wild about Ingrid Bergman.

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      • My Junior year in high school, I discovered The Movies Repertory Cinema in downtown Cincinnati. I wish it was still around today so I could revisit it. Sadly, it is not. That month, they had an Alfred Hitchcock film festival. Every few days, they had a different movie and the first one was Notorious. Holy crap, I was bowled over by that movie on the big screen with a packed audience. And the leading lady was so beautiful and radiant! Back then, there was no internet to look these things up. So I just started looking for any opportunity to see a movie starring Ingrid Bergman. Casablanca was on cable almost immediately. (Incidentally, Claude Raines costarred in both.) I challenge anyone to watch Notorious and Casablanca in high school and not develop a massive movie crush on Ingrid Bergman. I scoured cable listings and video stores for the next several years crossing movies off my list. Eventually, I saw every one of her American movies and quite a few foreign releases as well. Today, you could do this in a matter of weeks. But back then it was a much more impressive accomplishment.

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  3. I am lucky enough to have seen Casablanca on the big screen. And no, I am not 90 years old. Back in 1998, Warners was celebrating its 75th Anniversary and they had a multi-day film marathon in a small movie house on Michigan Avenue. Though I am sure this played in each major city across the nation. Each day covered a handful of films from each decade, and over that weekend I got to see Mildred Pierce, All About Eve, Casablanca, Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven and the director’s cut of Blade Runner on the big screen, among others.

    Attendance dipped and rose according to what film was playing, as you could buy a day-long pass or just a ticket for that one film. I myself bought the weekend pass to get full advantage. Blade Runner and Unforgiven were pretty packed, while surprisingly Mildred Pierce and All About Eve (my introductions to both) were relatively empty. I fell in love with Mildred Pierce that day. However, nothing beat Casablanca. It was filled to capacity, and I had to watch it from the upper balcony seats as I arrived late and underestimated how popular the film would be. But seating arrangements aside, it was a great experience watching it with a packed audience. It wasn’t my first time watching Casablanca, but it was among my most enjoyable. There is nothing like watching an all-time cinematic classic on the big screen with a large group of people, especially when the audience is readily receptive to the film.

    And it’s true what they say about Casablanca, it gets even better on repeat viewings.

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  4. Maybe William Friedkin tailed off since “The Sorcerer”, but I really like 1985’s “To Live and Die in L.A”.
    Glad Jestak2 showed included a clip of “Runaway Train” here; I think it’s a fantastic film in which everybody (De Mornay & Jon Voight) did a great job. great idea to not have much of a soundtrack either, and anytime I’m out in the cold, this film crosses my mind. But yeah, De Mornay should have been bigger; at least she has “Risky Business”, “Runaway Train” & “The Hand That Rocks the cradle” to her name/
    I agree with Lebeau, I think Carla Gugino is pretty cool. She’s been around quite a while and has always flown under the radar.
    I thought Clint Eastwood’s interpretation of Charlie Parker’s life in 1988’s “Bird” was really good. Truly the blues though.

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