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September 3: Happy Birthday Garrett Hedlund and Eileen Brennan

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Garrett Hedlund turns 32 today.  Hedlund has been acting since he was 19, and two or three times in that decade-plus, he has won “Rising star” or “Best young star” awards of some sort, but he has never taken that step forward to become a leading man; he is the sidekick, part of the “beta couple,” or part of an ensemble cast.  His film debut, Troy, is a good example—he played Patroclus, who those who remember their Greek mythology will recall as the, you guessed it, sidekick to one Achilles:

Hedlund has worked in a variety of films since then.  Four Brothers is a dark action thriller, Eragon an action fantasy, Inside Llewyn Davies a black comedy from the Coen Brothers, etc.  He has significant roles in most of these, and he frequently gets good reviews of his work.  This fall he is in a major, but supporting, role in Ang Lee’s latest film.  You would expect someone following a career path like this to start moving into leading man roles, yet he hasn’t.  It’s a bit of an enigma.

Eileen Brennan (1932-2013) is our second headliner in three days to be an alumni of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, although since she only spent a few months on the show she did not have the same impact as Lily Tomlin.  Brennan spent much of the 1960s working on stage, and had her first big film role in 1971 in The Last Picture Show.  She had steady film and TV work through the 1970s—a highlight was playing Tess Skeffington in Murder by Death—before getting the role she is most identified with in 1980:

After Brennan was an Oscar nominee for playing Capt. Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin, she reprised the role for the CBS series adapted from the film, winning both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.  Although her career was interrupted when she was hit by a car and had to recover not only from her injuries but from a painkiller addiction, she came back with a solid performance in the 1985 film Clue.  Starting in the late eighties, she picked up a variety of good TV guest roles, winning Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress for her work on Newhart, thirtysomething, and Will & Grace.

Charlie Sheen would probably prefer that people not pay too much attention to his 51st birthday, since these days he seems to be a magnet for bad publicity.  After a promising film career (build on roles in Platoon and Wall Street) fizzled out in the 1990s, Sheen made an impressive comeback on television.  He won a Golden Globe for Spin City (where he replaced Michael J. Fox), and then went on to further accolades during his years on Two and a Half Men.  But his firing from that show was the climax to years of mounting personal problems—substance abuse issues, spousal assault, two messy divorces, just for starters.  Still more bad news came with last year’s revelation that Sheen is HIV-positive.

Noah Baumbach turns 47 today.  He is one of the most prominent independent filmmakers in the US today.  He was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay for The Squid and the Whale, a partly autobiographical coming of age film.  Recent notable films of his include Frances Ha and Mistress America, both of which were co-written by, and star, Baumbach’s creative and romantic partner, Greta Gerwig.  French director and writer Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who is 63, may be most famous (or infamous) in the US for directing Alien: Resurrection.  However, among those who follow European cinema, he is highly regarded for films such as his quirky debut, Delicatessen, and for two films which introduced the world to Audrey Tautou, Amélie and A Very Long Engagement.

Al Jardine, who turns 74, was a founding member of the Beach Boys, serving as their rhythm guitarist and sometimes lead vocalist.  Steve Jones, who celebrates his 61st, is known as a guitarist with the Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop.  Valerie Perrine, who is 73 today, was a Best Actress nominee for Lenny, and is also remembered as Eve Teschmacher in the first two Superman films.  English actress Pauline Collins is 76 today.  She is known to American audiences of a certain generation as Sarah Moffat from Upstairs, Downstairs, and has also had a distinguished stage career in England and on Broadway, highlighted by her one-woman show Shirley ValentineIrene Papas, who turns 90, appeared in a number of films made in her native Greece as well as international movies like The Guns of Navarone and Anne of the Thousand Days.

Buffy fans will wish Clare Kramer a happy 42nd; she played the Season 5 Big Bad, Glory, and was seen last year in the horror film Tales of HalloweenNick Wechsler, who celebrates his 38th, played Jack Porter on ABC’s Revenge.  Australian actor Costas Mandylor turns 51 today; he played Mark Hoffman in several of the Saw films, and will be remembered by Picket Fences fans as Kenny Lacos.  And our sports birthday today is Jennie Finch, who turns 36.  Finch is considered one of the best softball players of all time, winning gold and silver medals with the US team at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

John Len Chatman (1915-1988), who performed under the name Memphis Slim, was a blues musician who made over 500 recordings in a career stretching from the 1930s to the’80s.  Actress and singer Kitty Carlisle (1910-2007) starred opposite the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera and was a panelist on the TV game show To Tell the Truth for many years.  Helen Wagner (1918-2010) spoke the very first line of dialogue ever on the long-running soap opera As The World Turns in 1956 (it was “Good morning, dear, what would you like for breakfast?”) and played the role of Nancy Hughes McClosky until the year of her death, making her the longest serving actor ever on an American soap opera.

A sad note in today’s article comes from three people who all died prematurely and tragically.  Blues musician Freddie King (1934-1976) was known as one of the “Three Kings” of the blues guitar (Albert King and B. B. King being the others).  His 1961 single, “Hide Away” crossed over to become a Top 40 hit.  Jenny Maxwell (1941-1981) was a busy film and TV actress of the 1960s who costarred with Elvis Presley in Blue HawaiiMerritt Butrick (1959-1989) is known to all Star Trek fans for playing David Marcus, son of a certain James T. Kirk, in Star Trek II and III.  He also starred in the short-lived but critically acclaimed 1982 TV series Square Pegs.

Alan Ladd (1913-1964) had a run of just over a decade as a major star, peaking right in the early 1950s, when he rode his starring role in the classic Western Shane to rank among the top 10 box office stars.  While he was known for Westerns, Ladd first made his name in some film noir thrillers where he was cast opposite Veronica Lake; my favorite is The Glass Key:

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 September 3, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I read that gangster and former longtime F.BI. fugitive James “Whitey” Bulgar & Ferdinand Porsche (never drove one, unlikely I ever will:-) also have a birthday today.
    Eileen Brennan: yeah, I’ve seen her in many projects, but “Private Benjamin” and “Clue” (I thought her Mrs. Peacock was the funniest character) is what I closely associate her with.

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  2. I did not know about Eileen Brennan’s accident. That’s a shame. I am a bit embarrassed to admit I used to watch the Private Benjamin TV show regularly. I had forgotten that thing even existed until just now.

    Poor Merritt Butrick. I used to watch Square Pegs around the same time I was watching Private Benjamin. 80’s TV wasn’t so great. I was very sad to hear of his passing at such a young age.

    Like

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