September 20: Happy Birthday Sophia Loren and Asia Argento


The next three days present some interesting issues when it comes to selecting headliners.  Wednesday is packed—there are five or six people who would be clear-cut headliners most days of the year.  But on either side we have days where the list is a lot thinner.  So, today is going to be “buon compleano” day, as we have a pair of headliners who are Italian (although both have worked in English-language films).

Sophia Loren turns 82 today.  She began acting in Italian cinema as a teenager,and began getting starring roles before she turned 20.  In the late 1950s she began to appear in Hollywood features, signing a 5-picture deal with Paramount.  One of the first was a Eugene O’Neill adaptation, Desire Under the Elms, with Loren as the young Italian wife of a farmer with sons from previous marriages:

The biggest year in Loren’s career came in 1960 with Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women.  She won her first of six Donatello Awards (the Italian Oscar equivalents) for Best Actress, as the widowed shopkeeper Cesira.  Moreover, the film got some substantial distribution in the US, and as a result, Loren won the Oscar for Best Actress as well—the first acting Oscar for a foreign-language performance.

Like Sophia Loren, Asia Argento, who we wish a happy 41st birthday to, is a multiple winner of the Donatello Award for Best Actress; her first win came in 1994 when she was just 19, for the movie Perdiamoci di vista.  The same year, the multilingual Argento made her first French film, La Reine Margot.  Work in English and American film followed; probably her most “mainstream” work is as the heroine of the action thriller XXX, opposite Vin Diesel:

Argento has followed in the footsteps of her famous father, director Dario Argento.  In the 1990s she directed several short films, and then moved on to features like Scarlet Diva and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, all the while continuing her acting career.

Maggie Cheung, who turns 52, has had a substantial career in Chinese-language cinema.  She may be known to some as May, the long-suffering girlfriend of Jackie Chan’s character in the Police Story films, or for her part in the cult classic The Heroic Trio.  Others with somewhat different tastes may remember her as the assassin Flying Snow in Zhang Yimou’s Hero, for her films with Wong Kar-wai such as In the Mood for Love or As Tears Go By, or for Oliver Assayas’s Clean.

Kristen Johnston, who turns 49, was a 2-time Emmy winner as Sally Solomon on 3rd Rock from the Sun and also starred on TV Land’s The ExesJon Bernthal, who celebrates his 40th, was Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead and played Frank Castle, aka Punisher, on Netflix’s Daredevil (with a spinoff Punisher series in the works).  Moon Bloodgood, who is 41 today, played Anne Glass on TNT’s Falling Skies and was also in Terminator SalvationCharlie Webber, who was Ben during Season 5 of Buffy and is a regular on How to Get Away with Murder, turns 38 today.

Laura Dekker, who turns 21 today, became the youngest person to complete a solo sailing circumnavigation of the globe when she finished her round-the-world journey in 2012.  The documentary Maidentrip, primarily composed of footage Dekker shot herself, chronicles her voyage.

Anthony Denison, who turns 67, has been playing Detective Andrew Flynn on The Closer and its successor series Major Crimes for over a decade.  Gary Cole, who celebrates his 60th, played Mike Brady in the 1990s Brady Bunch movies and was Emmy-nominated as Kent Davison on VeepChad Stahelski turns 48 today.  After a lengthy career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator (frequently doubling Keanu Reeves), he turned to directing with 2014’s John Wick (starring Reeves).  Aldis Hodge, who turns 30, starred on TNT’s Leverage and was seen last year in Straight Outta ComptonMichael Hurst, who celebrates his 59th birthday, is well known as Iolaus in Hercules and Xena.

George R. R. Martin, who turns 68 today, began writing for publication as a teenager.  By 1980 he had won three Hugo awards for various short stories and short novels.  During the 1980s he also worked in television, writing scripts for The Twilight Zone (1980s revival) and Beauty and the Beast.  In 1996, he published the first volume of what was to become an epic fantasy series, A Game of Thrones.  He has written four further novels in the series, called A Song of Ice and Fire, with two more projected, and the series has, as many readers know, been adapted into the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Anne Meara (1929-2015) formed the famous comedy team of Stiller and Meara with her husband, Jerry Stiller (Ben Stiller is their son).  Meara also had four Emmy nominations for her television work.  Kenneth More (1914-1982) was a prominent British leading man known for films like North West Frontier and Sink the Bismarck!  American audiences may recall Fernando Rey (1917-1994) as drug lord Alain Charnier, aka “Frog One,” in The French Connection; he also appeared in several films directed by Luis Buñuel.  Patricia Collinge (1892-1974) was a stage actress whose most famous role was as Birdie Hubbard in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.  She was Oscar-nominated when she reprised the role in a 1941 film adaptation and also played small-town mother Emma Newton in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.

Victor Sjöström (1879-1960) was one of the pioneering directors of the Swedish film industry during the silent era, who also worked in Hollywood.  Ingmar Bergman cast him as the lead in Wild StrawberriesWilliam Kapell (1922-1953) was a gifted young American pianist who was just beginning to make an international reputation when he died in an airline crash at 31.  Arnold “Red” Auerbach (1917-2006) coached the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships, a record until Phil Jackson came along.  The NBA’s “coach of the year” award is named the Red Auerbach Trophy in his honor.

Jay Ward (1920-1989) was one of the first, if not the first, great creators of animated cartoons to work almost exclusively in television.  He was the creator or co-creator of characters like Crusader Rabbit, the well-meaning Mountie Dudley Do-Right, Mr. Peabody and Sherman (with their WayBack Machine), and George of the Jungle, who had a slight problem involving trees.  But comrades, is no doubting his greatest creations were Moose and Squirrel:

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 20, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Ooo la la. Birthdays today are very continental. Sophia Loren, in her prime, OMG! I have seen very little of Argento’s work. Sadly, I have seen XXX. Apparently she was in George Romero’s Land of the Dead, but I barely remember that movie.

    I’m glad to see Jon Bernthal survived his exit from TWD. He’s bounced back nicely with The Punisher – a character that really fits the Netflix model well. I’m an embarrassed Buffy fan this morning. I forgot who Ben was. Then again, season 5 wasn’t the greatest. Sorry Charlie Webber.

    Gary Cole is so freaking under-rated. I imagine most people think of him as the boss in Office Space, but he’s done so much more than that. He’s downright scary in A Simple Plan. Always happy when I see him show up in something.

    I have never read any of George R. R. Martin’s books, but I do enjoy Game of Thrones. So I have him to thank for that.

    Jay Ward created some great cartoons. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb when I say he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.


    • Along with Warner Brothers, Jay Ward’s cartoons were the ones I grew up on–Moose and Squirrel most of all, but also Peabody and Sherman and George of the Jungle. They could be incredibly funny.

      When the first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire came out, back in the mid-1990s, I got very into that series, but it’s gotten harder to stay involved when Martin’s pace in writing has gotten so slow.

      Besides XXX, I have been able to see Asia Argento in the British romantic thriller B. Monkey and in 2 or 3 of her French films. She’s done some interesting work.

      Also, today we had yet another gifted young musician who died, very young, in a plane crash. William Kapell may not be on people’s radar the way Buddy Holly is, but classical music buffs are quite capable of waxing eloquent about him.


      • I remember watching the Jay Ward cartoons as a kid and knowing that they were operating at a higher level that I wasn’t necessarily understanding. They also have a presence at Universal Orlando, although it’s not on the same scale as the immersive Harry Potter worlds.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Asia Argento is lovely, but I’ve only viewed her in one film, 1998’s crime caper “B. Monkey”, which I thought was decent.


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