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September 21: Happy Birthday Bill Murray and Stephen King

0921murrayking

We have some big name birthdays today.

Bill Murray celebrates his 66th birthday today.  The actor and comedian started his career at Chicago’s Second City troupe, and in 1977 he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live for its second season.  His first starring role in film came in Meatballs in 1979, directed by Ivan Reitman, and he appeared in two more films directed by Reitman in the next 5 years, the military comedy Stripes, and then a film about paranormal activity that remains, in inflation-adjusted terms, the biggest hit of Murray’s career:

As with most actors, Murray’s career has had ebbs and flows.  After the failure of his first dramatic film, The Razor’s Edge, he took a lengthy sabbatical in the mid-1980s, but by the early 1990s he was enjoying successes like Groundhog Day.  In 1998, he was featured in Rushmore, beginning a lengthy collaboration with writer-director Wes Anderson.  His performance in 2003’s Lost in Translation brought him a Golden Globe and several other acting awards, along with an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.  He recently won an Emmy, his second, for his part in the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, and this year he voiced Baloo in The Jungle Book and cameoed in the Ghostbusters reboot.

Stephen King is 69 today.  He began writing for publication while in his teens, and sold his first novel within a couple of years of graduating from college—a horror novel about a teenage girl with psychic powers by the name of Carrie.  King went on to become one of the best-selling novelists of our time; according to this ranking, among living authors who write primarily for adults, only Danielle Steele, Dean Koontz (probably) and Nora Roberts (possibly) have sold more books than King.  He has moved adeptly between genres like horror, fantasy, science fiction and crime fiction.  An enormous number of his books and stories have been adapted into film, some of them, like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, receiving multiple Oscar nominations.  You could make a pretty good argument that King has had more impact on popular culture than any other novelist of the last 50-60 years.

Faith Hill, who turns 49 today, has been one of the most successful country singers of the past 25 years, as well as one with considerable pop crossover appeal.  Her albums have sold some 40 million copies worldwide, she has won five Grammys, and her Soul2Soul II concert tour of 2006, with husband and fellow country star Tim McGraw, was the highest-grossing country tour of all time.  Her most successful album, 1999’s Breathe, featured several charting singles including this one:

Ethan Coen, the younger of the Coen Brothers, one of the most productive filmmaking teams of the last 3 decades or more, turns 59 today.  Up until early in the last decade, the Coens’ films would always credit Ethan as producer and older brother Joel as director, even though in practice the two always work as a team.  This was because of DGA rules allowing a film to have only one credited director, except in the case of “established duos.”  I will do a full review of the Coens’ career on Joel’s birthday in November, simply because today is so crowded and I want to do them justice.

Jerry Bruckheimer, who turns 73, has been involved in film and television production since the early 1970s.  His film producer’s credits begin with the 1975 film noir Farewell, My Lovely, and include Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun, The Rock, Armageddon, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and Black Hawk Down (among many others).  His television producing credits include CSI and its various spinoffs, Cold Case, Without a Trace, The Amazing Race, and Lucifer.  While his productions are not always critical favorites, he has an impressive record of commercial success.

Leonard Cohen, who is 82 today, is a poet, folksinger and songwriter.  His records have never been big sellers in the US, except his 2012 album Old Ideas, but he’s been an influential songwriter, bordering on legendary, for over 50 years.  Actress and author Fannie Flagg (given name Patricia Neal) turns 72; she is the author of the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and the screenplay for the film adaptation.  Don Felder, who is 69 today, was the lead guitarist for The Eagles for over a quarter of a century.  Dave Coulier celebrates his 57th today.  The comedian and voice actor was Joey Gladstone on Full House for its entire run and currently reprises the role on Fuller HouseNancy Travis, who stars on ABC’s Last Man Standing, turns 55; she is also known for Three Men and a Baby and its sequel.

Luke Wilson, the youngest of three acting brothers, turns 45 today.  He appeared in the Charlie’s Angels films and the Legally Blonde films and stars in Showtime’s Roadies.  Australian actor David Wenham, who is 51 today, became known worldwide as Faramir in the Lord of the Rings films.  Comedian and actress Cheryl Hines, also 51 today, was a two-time Emmy nominee for HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm Ricki Lake, who is 48 today, played Traci Turnblad in the cult classic musical/romance HairsprayLiam Gallagher, the longtime lead singer of British rock band Oasis, celebrates his 44th.  Maggie Grace turns 33.  She played Shannon Rutherford on Lost, was Taken in the film of that title (and returned for both sequels without being kidnapped again), and made her Broadway debut in a revival of William Inge’s PicnicChristian Serratos, who is 26 today, was in several of the Twilight films and plays Rosita Espinosa on The Walking Dead.

Maurice Barrymore (1849-1905) was a distinguished 19th century stage actor and the patriarch of the Barrymore acting family—the father of Ethel, John and Lionel and great-grandfather of Drew.  Larry Hagman (1931-2012) had a long acting career but is best known as J. R. Ewing from Dallas; he was the son of musical theater star Mary Martin (who will definitely be covered when her birthday comes around).  Actor and singer Henry Gibson (1935-2009) was on Laugh-In for three seasons, played country star Haven Hamilton in Nashville, and had a recurring role on Boston Legal.

Another novelist with a large cultural impact was H. G. Wells (1866-1946).  Wells was one of the pioneers of science fiction, the author of novels like The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man.  Several of his novels have been adapted to film, and Wells himself was the protagonist of the 1979 film Time After Time (played by Malcolm McDowell).

Chuck Jones (1912-2002) went to work for Leon Schlesinger, the independent producer who made cartoons for Warner Brothers, in the early 1930s; Jones was assigned as an animator on cartoons supervised by director Tex Avery.  He began directing cartoons himself in the late 1930s, eventually turning out over 200 animated shorts before Warner Brothers shut down their cartoon studio in the early 1960s.  The late 1940s, when Avery and Bob Clampett had left Warners and when Jones started teaming consistently with writer Michael Maltese, is when you begin to see most of the work that Jones is best known for.

Jones created what are probably the most enduring characterizations of Warners’ biggest cartoon stars, casting Bugs Bunny as a cool smart-aleck who it was impossible to get the best of, and Daffy Duck as a “duck bent on self-preservation” who endlessly overrated his abilities.  He created new characters like Marvin the Martian, a little fellow obsessed with blowing up the Earth, and a one-shot amphibian eventually known as Michigan J. Frog (who became the mascot of the WB network).  After Warners closed their cartoon shop down, one of Jones’ best-known works was the 1966 Christmas special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, adapted from the Dr. Seuss classic.  But his best-known original characters, and the stars of many of his best cartoons, were an eternally-famished desert-dwelling canine and the extremely speedy bird he was trying to chase down:

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 21, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I think my appreciation of Bill Murray is well-documented here. He, along with the rest of the early Not Ready For Prime Time Players, was a comedy idol of mine growing up. If I’d have had to pick a favorite, it probably would have been Murray. As time past, that decision became a no brainer. While Belushi left us too soon and Chase fizzled out, Murray has only gotten better with time.

    Mindy isn’t a fan. She thinks Murray is too ugly. It’s the pock marked skin. She can’t stand to see him get the girl. I mention that because this summer, Josie took an interest in Ghostbusters. She expressed an interest in seeing the remake, so I took her and we both enjoyed it. This made her curious about the original, so we watched that too and she liked it even better. We even watched Ghostbusters II which she enjoyed even if we all agreed it wasn’t as good as the other too. Then one day, out of boredom, I put on Caddyshack which I think either makes me a bad dad or an awesome dad depending on your point of view. I did fast forward through a couple of spicier bits if that helps.

    This is a long set-up… Really I am going somewhere with all this…

    So Josie starts six grade and she has to fill out one of those “getting to know you” type questionnaires. One of the questions is “Who is your favorite actor?” but she doesn’t really get into all that. So I threw out there, “You’ve been watching a lot of Bill Murray lately.” as a suggestion. She eagerly latched on to that as an answer, much to her mother’s dismay. But I bet she earned some comedy credit with her teacher. In a sea of questionnaires with answers like The Rock or Selena Gomez, I bet she was the only one who picked Bill Murray.

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  2. It’s been a while since I have read anything from Stephen King. But at various points in my life, I went through King phases. In high school, I read all of his major works up to that point including all the short story collections. He’s probably the author I have read the most.

    I am a Coen brothers fan as well. I am working on the next WTHH article and it includes an offbeat movie cowritten by Ethan Coen but directed by someone else. My favorite Coen brothers movie will probably always be Fargo, but there are lots of good ones to choose from.

    There are a couple of potential WTHH subjects with birthdays today. Anyone interested in a WTHH on Luke Wilson or Nancy Travis?

    Two pop culture icons share a birthday; H.G. Wells and Chuck Jones. The Looney Tunes were an early influence on most of my generation, I would imagine. We all grew up with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. The good ones, not the new stuff. The vintage Chuck Jones cartoons are classics.

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    • I read a lot of Stephen King in the mid-1990’s; I’d sometimes take the books to the local beach and read them. The last book I read of his was “Cell” (which I have stacked next to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Timequake” and Robert Lacey’s biography on Grace Kelly), but I think it’s just okay.

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      • Let’s see. My last King book was The Regulators in 1996. I also read Desperation which was sort of a companion book. Some of the same characters were in both books, but they took place in completely different worlds. So a character might be very successful in one book and a homeless drug addict in the other. It was interesting because King played with some of the same ideas and themes in very different ways. But that’s it. It’s been 20 years since my last Stephen King novel.

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  3. This was a very full day when it came to birthdays. On an ordinary day, a singer with a career like Faith Hill’s, or a director like Ethan Coen, would be a pretty clear choice as a headliner. You could make a good case that Chuck Jones could be one as well (or at least I could, and I’m the one writing the articles, after all). And while I’m not a big fan of most of Jerry Bruckheimer’s films, he does have quite a track record.

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  4. Oh yeah, I think Bill Murray’s great. A guess a definitive Bill Murray for me would be “Groundhog Day” (rarely a day goes by when that film doesn’t cross my mind), but I could go for about anything, even a “Quick Change”.
    Leonard Cohen: from viewing films like “Pump Up the Volume” and “Natural Born Killers” I got into his music, and have played the heck out of the two greatest hits albums I own. Some of my favorites are “Suzanne”, “Bird on a Wire”, “Last Year’s Man”, and “Closing Time”. His words really speak to me.

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    • Groundhog Day is a classic. It’s a transitional film from his Caddyshack/Stripes days to Rushmore and Lost in Translation. Quick Change is a movie I have long considered under-rated. It’s not one of Murray’s best, but it deserves more appreciation than it gets.

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  5. The film that made Bill Murray quit acting

    http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/21537/1/the-film-that-made-bill-murray-quit-acting

    After his biggest success, he suffered a huge flop and ditched acting for four years to study philosophy in Paris.

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    • Murray, who was tired after filming Ghostbusters and Razor’s Edge back-to back, takes four years off and the headline is “The film that made Bill Murray quit acting”? Or more accurately, “The two movies made before Bill Murray took a few years off from acting.” But I guess that wouldn’t get as many clicks.

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      • Even though “The Razor’s Edge” didn’t work out, I think subsequent roles of Bill Murray’s, especially since I’d say “Rushmore”, have had that detached but spiritual feel to them (“Lost ib Translation” & “Broken Flowers” stick out to me), so he got to play in character how he wanted to play and it eventually paid off.

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