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October 4: Happy Birthday Susan Sarandon and Christoph Waltz

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Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon turns 70 today.  Her first film role was in a supporting part in a 1970 film called Joe, which was made on a tiny $100,000 budget but was a critical and box office success.  By 1975, she was starring opposite Robert Redford in The Great Waldo Pepper, but it was her other film that year that would leave the lasting impression: The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  She received the first of her five Oscar nominations for Best Actress for a noirish 1980 crime drama/romance where she co-starred with the great Burt Lancaster:

Sarandon’s Oscar nomination for Atlantic City was followed by additional nods for Thelma & Louise, Lorenzo’s Oil, and The Client.  In 1995, her fifth nomination brought her her first Oscar for Dead Man Walking.  Her other notable films include Bull Durham, White Palace, Stepmom, and Igby Goes Down.

Two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz turns 60 today.  He had a long career in television—mostly German, some British—beginning in the late 1970s.  His first role in a major English language film was a small part in the 2000 crime comedy Ordinary Decent Criminal.  But it’s safe to say that very few American viewers knew of him until 2009, when Quentin Tarantino decided to make a World War II film:

After winning Best Supporting Actor as Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, Waltz re-teamed with Tarantino on 2012’s Django Unchained, winning a second Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  He is one of two actors in today’s article to play Cardinal Richelieu, in the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers, and was Ernst Stavro Blofeld in last year’s Spectre.

Alicia Silverstone, who turns 40 today, is a WTHH subject.  She rocketed to stardom in the 1995 film Clueless, and almost as quickly fizzled out in the wake of misfires like Excess Baggage and Blast from the Past.  She has kept working, primarily in independent films, and appeared in this year’s King Cobra with two other WTHH subjects, Christian Slater and Molly Ringwald.  Rachael Leigh Cook, who celebrates her 37th birthday, has a career pattern a bit like Silverstone’s (and might possibly have a WTHH article of her own some day).  She burst on the scene in a literary classic adapted into a teenage rom-com, She’s All That, and was an “it girl” for a short while in 1999-2000, but her chances of stardom vanished faster than you could say Josie and the Pussycats.  She worked very hard in indie films in the 2000s and recently was the lead on TNT’s Perception.

Dakota Johnson, who is 27 today, made her debut alongside her mother, Melanie Griffith, in Crazy in Alabama in 1999.  She starred as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey and will reprise the role in the upcoming sequels.  Melissa Benoist, who celebrates her 28th, first became known as Marley Rose on Glee, and now stars as Kara Zor-El on Supergirl.  Irish actress Catriona Balfe, who turns 37, is a Golden Globe nominee for the role of Claire Beauchamp Randall on Starz’ Outlander.  She appeared earlier this year in Money Monster.  Independent folk musician Matthew “M.” Ward turns 43.  He has recorded eight solo albums and also records and performs with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him.

Sarah Lancashire, who celebrates her 52nd, is a veteran of British television, best known for her roles on Coronation Street and, currently, Last Tango in Halifax and Happy ValleyLiev Schreiber, who turns 49, was in several of the Scream films as Cotton Weary and had a sizable role in last year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight.  Director Stephen Gyllenhaal, who turns 67, has done lots of TV work and also feature films like A Dangerous Woman and Losing Isaiah; he is Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s father.  Abraham Benrubi, who is 47 today, played Jerry Markovic on ER, starred in ABC’s Men in Trees, and has been in films like George of the Jungle and Open RangeTchéky Karyo, who celebrates his 63rd, is a Turkish-born French actor who has been in several of Luc Besson’s films as well as others ranging from Goldeneye to A Very Long EngagementArmand Assante, who turns 67, won an Emmy for playing John Gotti in the HBO miniseries Gotti and has had significant roles in films like Private Benjamin, Q&A, Judge Dredd and American Gangster.

I like to think of the French actress Sara Forestier, who turns 30 today, as sort of the Jennifer Lawrence of French cinema.  Like Lawrence, she made a big splash while still in her teens, winning a Cesar for Most Promising Actress for the teen romance Games of Love and Chance.  She then, again like Lawrence, won the top acting award while still in her early twenties, when her performance in The Names of Love, filmed when she was 23, earned her the Cesar for Best Actress.

Bernice Johnson Reagon, who turns 74 today, combined a career as a scholar with one as a musician and activist.  She was a cultural historian who specialized in music history, specifically music and performance in African-American culture, and over the years held positions at the Smithsonian and later at American University.  She was a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers in the 1960s, and in 1973, she founded the African-American women’s a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock:

In the world of books, Anne Rice turns 75 today.  Her biggest body of work is the series The Vampire Chronicles, which began with Interview with the Vampire, published in 1976.  The core series includes eleven novels, with a twelfth coming out later this year; there are also a pair of tie-in novels, the  New Tales of the Vampires, not to mention the crossover links to Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches series.  Jackie Collins (1937-2015) wrote novels full of things like glamor, sex and crime—very successfully, as a conservative estimate puts total sales of her books at over 250 million copies worldwide.  Her best-known books include those featuring mafia queen Lucky Santangelo, and her Hollywood series which began with Hollywood Wives, her most successful book.  Many of Collins’ novels were adapted into films or TV miniseries, two of which starred her older sister, actress Joan Collins.  Damon Runyon (1880-1946) was a newspaperman who also wrote short stories full of colorful characters and an equally colorful writing style.  Runyon wrote almost exclusively in the present tense and filled his stories with original slang, much of which became widely used (e.g., “shiv” for a knife or “roscoe” for a gun).  One of his stories was “Little Miss Marker,” which was adapted into the film that made Shirley Temple a star; two others, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure,” were adapted into the hit Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.

Charlton Heston (1923-2008) starred in over 100 feature films during his career.  He was best known for a pair of historical epics, playing Moses in The Ten Commandments and the title role in Ben-Hur (winning Best Actor for the latter role).  Two of my favorite Heston roles were as Mike Vargas in Touch of Evil, and as Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers and The Four MusketeersGeorge Sidney (1916-2002) was a director at MGM; he was nominated for the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement award four times.  He was best known for musicals—Anchors Aweigh, Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate—and for biopics like Young Bess and The Eddy Durchin Story.  Sidney also directed MGM’s 1948 version of The Three Musketeers.

Buster Keaton (1895-1966) was one of the greatest masters of silent film comedy.  He was nicknamed “The Great Stone Face” for the stoic demeanor he maintained while performing some of the most amazing physical comedy of his day (or any day).  He made a number of shorts, and in 1923 made Our Hospitality, the first in a series of comedy features that his reputation rests on.  It was followed by other features like Sherlock Jr., The Navigator, Seven Chances, Go West, The General (often regarded as his masterpiece) and Steamboat Bill Jr.  He continued working in the sound era, both in film and television, but his genius is found in his silent films.

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 October 4, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Susan Sarandon is just fantastic. I know her politics probably turn some people off. Even if you agree with her, sometimes you wish she would just tone it down a bit. But she is always a welcome presence on the screen. I believe my first Sarandon movie was The Hunger. I have no idea how I ended up seeing that one. But it made an impression. Rocky Horror was next. As a naive high school kid, that movie didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I did enjoy Sarandon in her skivvies. Bull Durham was probably the first movie where I really took notice of Sarandon as an actress and Thelma and Louise officially made me a fan.

    Christoph Waltz sure was good in Inglorious Basterds. He’s given similar performances in later movies with diminishing returns. His Blofeld was more silly than truly menacing, but that’s probably an issue with the character more than the actor who portrayed him. There’s a lot of historical cheese built in.

    Someone with a birthday today will have a WTHH article soon. Probably this month if my real world obligations will cooperate.

    An Oscar highlight was the red carpet interview with Dakota Johnson and her mom in which Griffith refused to watch 50 Shades. Awkward.

    I didn’t watch very much Glee at all. So my first real exposure to Melissa Benoist was when she was cast as Supergirl. My youngest daughter (named Kara which was partially inspired by the character) love watching Benoist save the day. Can’t wait for season two to start next week!

    You know it’s a heavy birthday day when Liev Schreiber is so far down in the article. I generally enjoy his work, but I would stop short of calling myself a fan. I won’t seek him out, but I’m never sorry to see him show up.

    Confession time. I went through a mild Anne Rice phase. Nothing too embarrassing. A girl I liked got me reading the books. And man, some of them are really, really bad. But I did enjoy the first two.

    As a fan of cheese, I am fond of Heston’s Charlton Heston’s sci fi work. Planet of the Apes is just a great movie, but Soylent Green and The Omega Man are cheesetastic classics. Ben-Hur was an annual event on Good Friday in our house. The Ten Commandments ran on Easter I think. We watched them both.

    I don’t know how you do it, Jestak! I’m exhausted and I didn’t even get to Buster Keaton!

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    • I’ve always enjoyed her performances but wasn’t til recently that I actually started going out of my way to watch her movies rather than catching them on cable. Thelma & Louise was the first movie I saw her in and I still think it’s her best role.

      What was the impression The Hunger made on you? Apparently it has a huge following even though it flopped in the 80s. Catherine Deneuve is ravishing and this is one of her few English-speaking roles so it has that appreciation/rarity value.

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      • I was a sheltered little Catholic boy with no idea what I was sitting down to watch. And here I was watching a very stylish vampire movie that included what was likely the first exposure to a same sex love scene. I came away intrigued but mystified. It was all very slick and superficial, but I hadn’t seen anything like it up to that point.

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  2. A lot of big birthdays today. Susan Sarandon is pretty much an automatic headliner, and Christoph Waltz has done a lot of interesting work lately, even though his Blofeld was disappointing (I am from the school that thinks Blofeld is more menacing when he is not actually seen). Buster Keaton is a legend who might easily have been a headliner, and Dakota Johnson and Melissa Benoist are both making names for themselves.

    Then we have some big-name authors, and there’s Sara Forestier, who is big in European cinema but hasn’t done much in the way of English-language films. And of course I can’t ignore my perma-crush, Rachael Leigh Cook. 🙂

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  3. WOW Susan Sarandon is 70 today? That is unreal- she looks amazing and has always been one of my favorite actresses.

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  4. susan is amazing actress. I never cared for her ex tim robbins acting always found him over the top. How popular was susan in her prime was she in the same level as roberts in the 90s. I like to think the box office success of dead man walking had more to do with her then penn

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    • Sarandon has never been a huge box office star. If you don’t adjust for inflation, her biggest movie ever in box office receipts is Enchanted; if you adjust for inflation, it’s almost certainly The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is kind of a special case. I believe that the only film she’s ever starred in that finished in the top 10 in box office receipts was The Witches of Eastwick.

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      • The guy with the website Vanietyfear.com wrote an article on Susan Sarandon a few years ago, theorizing that before “Witches of Eastwick” came about, she was one ghost whisperer away from being irrelevant (to be fair, her career had stalled at that point, and the writer professed to be a big fan of hers as well). I’m glad things picked up for her (an understatement really), because that would’ve been a total waste. I’ve enjoyed her work overall, but I’ve especially thought that opening scene from “Atlantic city” was sensual, and for a time I was hot for 1990’s “White Palace”.

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        • Her career didn’t really stall per se (mid ’80s). She went several years w/o having any commercial success but was doing quality work in projects that were receiving wide release. Did a couple TV movies too (one for cable) that got plenty of awards and nominations. She had a baby in 85 with her Italian boyfriend and was living outside the US, so besides taking time off she was picky about what films she accepted. She also turned down the Eastwood flick Tightrope at a time when she would’ve benefited from a surefire hit, b/c it went against her integrity (the movie was exploitative with lots of rape and violence). Bull Durham, her 1st appearance after Witches, was much more important to her career and she would not have gotten that role without the chutzpah to campaign for it. Bull Durham thru Dead Man Walking (’88 to ’95) were the prime years of her career. Only The Client bordered on blockbuster territory but T+L and Little Women did above solid box office. Two of her greats were also made in that timeframe, White Palace and Lorenzo’s Oil. Later Stepmom was a big hit but Julia got the credit for it because she’s Julia.

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        • I was just looking at her film career post “Atlantic City” (“The Hunger” became popular later), and although I like the films “The Buddy System” (1984) and “Compromising Positions” (1985, and it also stars Raul Julia!), they weren’t in any way commercial hits. I didn’t think of the big picture though, with her television and theater work though. However, I still don’t completely dismiss what Alan Mott (couldn’t remember the name before) from vanietyfear.com wrote.

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      • Apart from Streep, none of the over-30 actresses who started to hit their stride in the early 80s were big box office draws. Lange, Close, Weaver and Spacek come to mind. Sarandon was/is definitely a bigger star than all of them.

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        • I’m not sure I’d put Sarandon ahead of Weaver. True, none of these actresses were big box office draws. But Weaver had the Ghostbusters and Alien movies. Those alone probably make her more of a movie star than Sarandon ever was.

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      • Top ten for the year? that may be true. Witches just barely nabbed the 10th spot in 1987. And it’s debatable that she “starred” in it. Nichoson was the star. There were three female leads of which Cher was arguably the most dominant. The Client fell just outside the top 10 in 1994. She was never a major box office draw, but then she rarely made those kinds of movies.

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  5. I think Armand Assante has had a nice, workmanlike career. I don’t know if that’s how he wanted it, but it’s allowed him to do a little bit of everything.
    I remember when Rachael Leigh Cook was highly touted (part of me will always remember her as “Angry frying pan girl” from that Partnership of a Drug-Free America commercial. I learned to flip out in the kitchen from watching you, Rachael!), but I like two films she was in, “Josie and The Pussycats” and 2001’s “Antitrust” (with Susan Sarandon’s former beau Tim Robbins playing a thinly veiled Bill Gates). I think J. & the ‘cats especially ruled.
    I like the new “Supergirl”. I haven’t seen a lot of Supergirl material through the years, but so far this show looks to be up, up, and away up.
    I haven’t seen Dakota Johnson in anything other than her role in “The Social Network” (I viewed “21 Jump Street”, but don’t remember her from it, I remember Brie Larson. As her dad once sang, “…and that’s the way it’s got to be”. Well, at least for now).
    Liev Schreiber, he’s one of those performers that has done extensive narrator work as well, and I think he'[s good at it. Hey, I see his birthday isn’t far off from former partner Naomi Watts. Not quite Michael Douglas-Catherine Zeta-Jones territory, but still close together. I first seen Schreiber in the 1996 indie film “Walking and Talking” (I viewed 1995’s “Party Girl” after that), and don’t remember him from “Mad Love”.

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  6. Error in this writeup: she didn’t star in The Great Waldo Pepper. I recently watched that movie for the first time and she barely has a supporting role. Shocked because I had watched it just for her. A lot of things I’d read indicated it was a much bigger part.

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