September 17: Happy Birthday Bryan Singer and Anne Bancroft


Bryan Singer, who turns 51 today, began directing immediately after graduating from USC.  His first feature, the 1993 film Public Access, was made on a $250,000 budget, and was very well-received at Sundance, where actor Kevin Spacey committed on the spot to whatever project Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie had going next.  That turned out to be an intricate caper film/thriller about “five guys who meet in a lineup.”

Singer followed up the critical and commercial success of The Usual Suspects with the less successful Apt Pupil, and then took on the project that has been his primary occupation since about 2000, Fox’s X-Men film series. Singer has been involved in all but one of the six ensemble films in the series, directing four and producing and receiving story credit for a fifth.  While X-Men: Apocalypse was a bit of a disappointment, overall Singer’s efforts with the X-Men have been well-received.  His film projects outside the series, such as Superman Returns and Valkyrie, have not done as well.

Anne Bancroft (1931-2005) started her career with a bang.  After studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, she made her Broadway debut in the play Two for the Seesaw, winning a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play, and followed that up by winning a second Tony, for Best Leading Actress in a Play, playing Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker.  When The Miracle Worker was adapted to film in 1962, Bancroft and Patty Duke (as Helen Keller) reprised their roles, and Bancroft added an Oscar for Best Actress to her Tony.

Bancroft received four additional Oscar nominations during her career, one of them for Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, perhaps her best-known role.  Over the years she received seven Emmy nominations and eight Golden Globe nominations, winning two of each, and is one of only 22 winners of the unofficial “Triple Crown of Acting.”  Married to Mel Brooks for over 40 years, she appeared in many of his films.

Australian director Baz Luhrmann, who is 54 today, has directed films like Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia, and the 2013 version of The Great GatsbySam Esmail, the creator of Mr. Robot, celebrates his 39th birthday.  He has won a Golden Globe and is nominated for two Emmys for his critically acclaimed USA Network series.  Neill Blomkamp, who turns 37, wrote and directed the highly acclaimed sci-fi thriller District 9, which he followed up with two more science fiction films, Elysium and ChappiePaul Feig, who turns 54 today, is best known as a director and writer.  He was the creator of the short-lived series Freaks and Geeks and directed several episodes of The Office and other series.  His feature film credits include several of Melissa McCarthy’s best-known films, such as Heat and Spy.

Actress Cassandra Peterson,  who turns 65, will be remembered by many as late-night horror film hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.  Kyle Chandler, who celebrates his 51st, won an Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Drama for Friday Night Lights.  He was recently seen as Harge Aird in Carol and in the Netflix series BloodlineMatthew Settle played Rufus Humphrey on Gossip Girl; he is 47 today.  Malik Yoba, who turns 49, starred on New York Undercover and in the first season of EmpireAnastacia, the American pop singer who has been extremely successful in Europe while battling breast cancer, turns 48 today.  Vietnamese-American actor Dustin Nguyen, who celebrates his 48th, played Officer Harry Ioki on 21 Jump Street.

Phil Jackson, who celebrates his 71st, has won more NBA titles as a coach than anyone else in the league’s history—six with the Chicago Bulls, five with the Los Angeles Lakers.  He also won two titles as a player with the New York Knicks.  The only man in this article taller than the 6-8 Jackson is Ian Whyte.  The 7 ft. 1 in. Whyte, who turns 45, is one of three actors who have portrayed Gregor Clegane, the “Mountain that Rides,” in Game of Thrones; he also played the giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun during the last two seasons of the series.  Another tall man with a birthday today is the 6-6 Bruce Spence, who Mad Max fans will remind us played the Gyro Captain in The Road Warrior and Jedediah in Beyond Thunderdome.  Spence also turns 71 today.

Ella Purnell, who celebrates her 20th today, was the lead in the well-received indie film Wildlike and will be seen in Tim Burton’s upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenDanielle Brooks, who turns 27, plays Tasha Jackson in Orange is the New Black and was Tony-nominated as Sofia in the 2015 revival of the musical adaptation of The Color PurpleElena Kampouris, who played Paris Miller (daughter of Nia Vardalos’s character) in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, turns 19 today.

John Ritter (1948-2003) had a lengthy TV and film career but will always be known for the role of Jack Tripper on Three’s Company, which brought him an Emmy and a Golden Globe.  He starred in the TV series Hooperman and Hearts Afire, received four Daytime Emmy nominations for his work on PBS’s Clifford the Big Red Dog, and was in the middle of filming for the second season of 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter when he died suddenly of an aortic dissection.  Don Knotts once described Ritter as “the greatest physical comedian on the planet.”

Roddy McDowall (1928-1988) started as a child actor in films like How Green Was My Valley and Lassie Come Home.  He appeared on Broadway in roles such as Mordred in Camelot, on TV as the Bookworm on Batman, but is best known for his various roles in the Planet of the Apes films.  Edgar Ulmer (1904-1972) was a director who worked almost entirely on low-budget B-movies; he is known for the horror film The Black Cat and the noir classic Detour.  Novelist Ken Kesey (1935-2001) saw his most famous work, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, adapted into an Oscar-winning film.  Dolores Costello (1903-1979) starred opposite John Barrymore in the silent film The Sea Beast and ended up married to him for several years; Drew Barrymore is her granddaughter.  Costello had a serious lisp, but took two years of speech therapy to adapt to sound films.  Dorothy Loudon (1925-2003) was a singer and actress who worked primarily in musical theater.  She is remembered as the original Miss Hannigan in Annie, which she won a Tony for.  Jerry Colonna (1904-1986) was a comedian and actor best known for being Bob Hope’s frequent sidekick on radio and in film, and for his enormous walrus mustache.  David Huddleston (1930-2016), who passed just a few weeks ago, was a regular supporting player for decades in television and film.  He was the title character of The Big Lebowski and also may be remembered as Olson Johnson in Blazing Saddles.

The world of popular genre fiction was enriched by two people born on this date.  Mary Stewart (1916-2014) wrote a number of well-regarded romantic suspense/mystery novels such as Nine Coaches Waiting, The Moon-Spinners (adapted into a film by Disney) and Airs Above the Ground.  She also wrote several historical/fantasy novels, such as The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills, which make up her Merlin series.  Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) is best known for his 40 novels,  beginning with The Godwulf Manscript, featuring a private investigator named Spenser, along with his tough-guy ally Hawk and his girlfriend Susan Silverman.  The TV series Spenser: For Hire was based on Parker’s novels.  Parker also wrote two other, shorter series, the Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall books, which are set in the same fictional universe.  While many of Parker’s later novels are considered very formulaic, the first dozen or so Spenser novels are a major addition to fiction about private detectives.

We have had several legends of country music in the birthday articles this month; now we have another.  Hank Williams (1923-1953) is, in fact, the second singer we’ve run into this month who has been called “The King of Country Music” (Roy Acuff being the first).  Williams had eleven #1 Country hits during a career shortened by alcohol problems that contributed to his death at 29.  This is probably the most famous:

Billy the Kid (1859-1881), aka Henry McCarty or William H. Bonney, has been played on the big screen by Johnny Mack Brown, Robert Taylor, Paul Newman, Kris Kristofferson, Emilio Estevez, and Val Kilmer, just to name some of the most notable examples.


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 September 17, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. John Ritter was an extraordinary talent. Don Knotts was probably right when he called Ritter “the greatest physical comedian on the planet”, but his approach to comedy was about so much more than just tripping over things on Three’s Company. Ritter was superb at delivering a line and getting the most out of it, he could take a good script and make it even better with his performance. I will argue that Three’s Company still holds up today as a first-rate comedy.

    It took me a good long while to realize that Ritter had much more to offer. In 1996 I caught Sling Blade, and while Billy Bob Thornton put in a career-best performance in the lead role, John Ritter also blew me away with his naunced dramatic performance.

    I wish John Ritter were still with us. I wish he were still on screen, giving us another opportunity to laugh. Or to be surprised.


    • Of all the forbidden shows on television when I was a kid, Three’s Company was the one that really drew my dad’s ire. Under no circumstances was it allowed to be shown in his house. I eventually caught it in reruns, but that was years after it’s moment had passed. I never connected with the show in any significant way, but Ritter’s talents were obvious. I would argue that the show itself wasn’t very good but he elevated it to whatever status it may have. I won’t go as far as to say it is first-rate. I will say that it was the best American sex farce on television and most of the credit for that goes to Ritter.


  2. I am about as big of a fan of The Usual Suspects as you will find. And I have to give Bryan Singer credit for helping to pioneer the superhero movie genre with the X-men films. Prior to X-Men, superhero movies were solo affairs with occasional sidekicks allowed. X-Men showed that it was possible to make a movie about a team. Outside of the X-Men and The Usual Suspects, he’s made some movies that are watchable and some that wildly missed the mark. Superman Returns is a real “What were they thinking?” movie. Of course the elephant in the room with Singer is the persistent rumors of sexual abuse. I have to admit I have a hard time putting those fully out of my mind while watching one of his movies.

    Like everyone else, when I think of Anne Bancroft, I think of The Graduate. Her marriage to Mel Brooks was one of the few Hollywood marriages that went the distance.

    Paul Feig has a lot of credits to his name. He directed several episodes of one of my favorite shows of all times, Arrested Development. I know, I know. Some around here don’t fully appreciate that show, but it still makes me laugh. Feig underwent a trial by fire this summer when he dared to remake a 30+ year old sci-fi comedy. Certain basement dwellers with an internet connection thought his take on Ghostbusters had cooties (and most came to this conclusion before the movie was even made).

    I always had an appreciation of John Ritter’s talent without ever actually liking very much of his output. He was an exceptionally talented guy who never seemed to find a project that could make use of those talents. Roddy McDowall brought me much joy. Obviously, he was best known for The Planet of the Apes. But I also enjoyed seeing him in several other movies. Fright Night was a particular favorite.


    • I would agree with you about Bryan Singer. I have to say, on a few occasions Singer has hit a bulls-eye as a director. Usual Suspects. The original X-Men and X-Men 2. X-Men: Days of Future Past. All bulls-eyes.

      It gets sketchy once you get past those films. I’m still scratching my head wondering what happened exactly with X-Men: Apocalypse. It wasn’t a horrible film exactly, certainly not the disaster that his Superman Returns movie was a decade ago. I found X-Men Apocalypse to be…. watchable. But utterly forgettable. Is this the same guy that delivered three above-average X-Men films? A real head-scratcher.


  3. ritter was an amazing actor its shame what happened to him. Comedy was his greatest forte but he was great in drama too evident by his dramtic turns in sling blad unforgivable and lethal vows. I do not agree with his wife suing hospital. Sometimes heart murmurs go unnoticed in cpr scans,


  4. There were a lot of interesting people today beyond the obvious choices. We have the creator of Mr. Robot, the Mistress of the Dark, the Gyro Captain, the original Miss Hannigan, the man who created Spenser, and another King of Country (how many were there, anyways?).


  5. hartman birthday is also in september iam sure u will have blog for that funny man


  6. I’ve enjoyed the occasional “Three’s Company” episode over the years (always prefer Priscilla Barnes over Suzanne Somers), and John Ritter’s reactions and line delivery in that show made all the difference. I agree with Lebeau that Ritter wasn’t involved with enough projects to showcase his talent (I do enjoy 1987’s “Real Men” though, which also stars film and TV viewer’s punching bag Jim Belushi.I think the film has quite a few funny lines).
    I definitely remember Anne Bancroft the best for her role in “The Graduate”, but not far off for me are her roles in 1985’s “Agnes of God” and (oddly) 1984’s “Garbo Talks”.
    I thought Roddy McDowall was always a lot of fun, and great at playing oddball characters; of my favorite roles of his (other than “Fright Night”), was the creepy assistant in the 1987 film “Dead of Winter”, but there are plenty of memorable turns he had that are on the shelf.


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