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September 10: Happy Birthday Colin Firth and Guy Ritchie

0910FirthRitchie

Colin Firth turns 56 today.  In the late 1980s he was identified as part of a loosely-defined “Brit Pack” of young British actors starting to become known; others included Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, and Tim Roth.  His first big role didn’t come until 1995, when he played Mr. Darcy in a BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.  Supporting roles in a pair of Best Picture winning films, The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love, raised his profile, but he really emerged in 2001, playing another character with the last name Darcy:

After his success in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Firth worked hard for another decade before reaching what is, so far, the peak of his career.  At the end of the last decade, he received back-to-back Best Actor nominations for A Single Man and The King’s Speech, winning the Oscar for the latter film as well as a Golden Globe, and winning BAFTA awards for both.  Since then, he’s been seen recently trying to find Magic in the Moonlight with Emma Stone, and trying on action hero duties in Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Guy Ritchie turns 48 today.  Ritchie came on the film scene almost out of nowhere in 1998—he had been making promo videos for bands—when he teamed with a young producer named Matthew Vaughn to make a low-budget crime film.  Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which featured then unknowns like Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng and ex-footballer Vinnie Jones, was a success, and Ritchie then followed up with Snatch, a similar film with a bigger budget and a cast leavened with more recognizable names like Brad Pitt and Dennis Farina.  The two films established Ritchie as a director with a talent for crime, complex plots and blackly comic dialogue:

In the years after Snatch, Ritchie seemed to lose his touch, with 3 relatively unsuccessful films in a row.  But he had major commercial successes with Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, while Ritchie and star Robert Downey, Jr. received praise for their revisionist take on the title character.  His film adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was less well received, and he is now at work on a King Arthur film.

Joe Perry, who turns 66 today, has been the lead guitarist for Aerosmith for almost all of their four-plus decades together.  He has also done some solo projects and was named to Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time.  Amy Irving celebrates her 63rd today.  She made her film debut as Sue Snell in Carrie, and in the early 1980s, seemed to be a bit of a Razzie target.  Despite Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, her career never took offChris Columbus is 58 today.  After starting out writing screenplays for films like Gremlins and The Goonies, Columbus made his directing debut chronicling Elisabeth Shue’s Adventures in Babysitting.  He had big hits in the early 1990s with the two Home Alone movies and Mrs. Doubtfire, and then directed the first two Harry Potter films.  His being chosen to helm the film adaptation of Rent is still puzzling a decade later.  Judy Geeson, who turns 68, began her acting career in British films in her late teens, then moved to television and to the US, where she had recurring roles on Mad About You and Gilmore Girls.

Kate Burton, who is 59 today, is the daughter of actor Richard Burton.  She has had a very fine stage and screen career, including three Emmy nominations for her work on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and three Tony nominations.  In 2002 she was nominated for Tonys in two different categories for her work on revivals of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (for Best Actress) and of The Elephant Man (for Best Featured Actress).  Philip Baker Hall worked for decades in theater and in minor film and television roles, and at 65 years of age suddenly had a small dose of celebrity when Paul Thomas Anderson wrote a lead role specifically for Hall in his film Hard Eight.  He subsequently had supporting roles in Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia.  He turns 85 today.

From the “fine arts” world, baritone Thomas Allen celebrates his 72nd birthday.  Allen has sung dozens of roles in opera houses all over the world, and has ventured into musical theater (e.g., in Sweeney Todd) and Gilbert and Sullivan.  What he is best known for, though, is Mozart; his performances of Mozart baritone roles like Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, and even more so of the title role in Don Giovanni, are sometimes considered the best in a generation.  Dancer Misty Copeland turns 34 today.  Copeland did not start her ballet training until she was 13 (considered “too old” in ballet circles) and was sometimes told she had “the wrong body type” for ballet.  She proved skeptics wrong when she became the first African-American woman ever named a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

Ryan Phillippe turns 42 today.  Around the turn of the century, when he was doing films like Cruel Intentions and The Way of the Gun, some might have seen him as a potential star, but these days much of his film work is Direct-to-VOD.  Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist for whom the Bechdel Test is named, turns 56.  Twin brothers Harry and Luke Treadaway celebrate their 32nd birthdays.  Harry starred in the film City of Ember and on the Showtime/Sky series Penny Dreadful, while Luke has been in Attack the Block and Unbroken.

In sports, Arnold Palmer, who had one of the greatest careers of any golfer of the 20th Century, turns 87.  Baseball player Roger Maris (1934-1985) played for 12 seasons, but by far the most famous was his 1961 season, when he broke Babe Ruth’s record for most home runs in a single season.

Adele Astaire (1896-1981) was her younger brother Fred’s partner in a 27-year career in theater and vaudeville.  Bessie Love (1898-1986) was a film actress in the silent and early sound era; she was an Oscar-nominee for the 1929 film The Broadway MelodyRobert Wise (1914-2005) was a film director, producer and editor.  A seven-time Oscar nominee, he won both Best Picture (as a producer) and Best Director for West Side Story, and repeated the dual victory for The Sound of Music.

Edmond O’Brien (1915-1985) was a point-of-view character in film noir classics like The Killers and White Heat, although he tended to be overshadowed by stars like Burt Lancaster or James Cagney in those films.  In the 1950s he did a lot of character roles.  He won Best Supporting Actor for The Barefoot Contessa and was a nervous, edgy Casca in Julius Caesar.  The 1960s found him moving into “oldtimer” roles, although he didn’t turn 50 until the middle of the decade.  He won a Golden Globe and was Oscar-nominated for Seven Days in May and played “old” Freddie Sykes in The Wild Bunch.

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 10, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. We’re very British these past couple of days. Who knew Bridget Jones’ love interests had back-to-back birthdays. Grant was the bigger star of the two, but I bet if we took a poll right now most people prefer Firth. I will admit, I enjoy them both pretty equally. Guy Ritchie, on the other hand, never really did much of anything for me one way or another. I’m neither a fan nor a detractor. Although his Razzies for Swept Away were undeniably deserved!

    The woman Stephen Spielberg left for Kate Capshaw, Amy Irving, was just about too beautiful for movies in her youth. It’s a shame she couldn’t find better roles cause her career really took a nosedive.

    When I see Chris Columbus’ name on something, I know it will be watchable, but not good. The exception being Gremlins which I largely credit to Joe Dante,

    Note to self: What the hell happened to Ryan Phillippe?

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    • To me, Chris Columbus comes across as a very play-things-safe, follow-the-formula type of director. That would seem to make him less than ideal to direct, say, the film adaptation of what may be the biggest break-the-mold musical of our time.

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    • Speaking of Chris Columbus, say what you will about his directing abilities but I love Home Alone. It’s one of those perennial Christmas Classics that I watch almost every year. You know what’s interesting about Home Alone? 26 years later and it still stands as the highest-grossing live-action comedy film of all time, with $285M domestically. How is it possible that in 26 years no other live-action comedy has not displaced it yet? Mind boggling as very few films hold major box office records for a quarter of a century (and counting).

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      • That is a pretty impressive accomplishment. I would say that part of the reason has to be the changing demographics of movie audiences over the past few decades.

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        • Going back to that article in Wired we were discussing earlier, it used to be that a movie like Home Alone could cross demographics and play in theaters for months. Even then, success on the scale of Home Alone was uncommon. In the Facts You Need to Know I wrote on the movie, I shared the story of Billy Crystal growing more and more irritated as movie after movie failed to unseat Home Alone from the top of the box office while he was working with Daniel Stern. Today, theatrical windows run weeks instead of months and movies rarely cross demos. They appeal to their base and that’s about it.

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      • I remember seeing Home Alone at a sold-out sneak preview and the audience went nuts. I think I saw it again on video at some point. When it turned out to be a surprise hit, I was very gratified to see the movie make good. But I was too old to develop much of an attachment to it. I can’t remember the last time I watched it and I don’t anticipate revisiting it.

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  2. Guy Ritchie looks pretty dour in that photo, like he just heard some bad news, but happy Birthday to him anyway.
    I never knew Kate Burton was Richard Burton’s daughter, I just thought they shared a last name. Cool fact!
    Phillip Baker Hall: I always enjoy seeing him around, even in small roles like “The Talented Mr. Ripley” or when he played a judge on an episode of “Miami Vice”.
    Yeah, with Amy Irving, I don’t know what happened there (after “Carrie” I thought she was good in “Yentl” and “Crossing Delancy”). Maybe it was the Spielberg divorce, I don’t know.
    Happy Birthday to my late father, who was born in 1931 and passed just short of the New Year in 2006. I see he keeps good celebrity company!

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    • When I pick the photos of the headliners, my #1 criteria is the dimensions—I want photos that I can easily resize and stitch together in my photo editor. But I do seem to recall that the Guy Ritchie photo I found that was the ideal size was one taken from an article about court proceedings from his divorce from Madonna.

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  3. Speaking of Ryan Phillippe, it seems that after he and Reese Witherspoon divorced, he’s been doing nothing but straight-to-DVD type stuff and was recently on the first season of “Secrets and Lies” with Juliette Lewis. As Lebeau said on top, I would like to see a WTHH article being done on him in the future as well.

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