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October 9: Happy Birthday Steve McQueen and John Lennon

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Director and producer Steve McQueen turns 47 today (he should not be confused with the actor of the same name, who will be turning up here next March).  McQueen began making short films in the early 1990s; in 1999 he won Britain’s Turner prize for visual arts for some of his shorts, including Deadpan, which re-enacted a famous scene from a Buster Keaton silent film.

McQueen’s first feature, Hunger, about a 1981 hunger strike by IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland, came out in 2008.  He followed up with Shame in 2011, and then with 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, based on a memoir by Solomon Northrup, a free African-American who was illegally kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841.

12 Years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture, along with equivalent honors at the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards.  McQueen was also nominated for Best Director at all three ceremonies.  He is currently working on a new feature currently titled Widows.

I presume that John Lennon (1940-1980) needs little introduction.  As a member of The Beatles, he was part of the most successful recording group of all time.  With Paul McCartney, he formed quite possibly the most successful songwriting partnership of all time.  Unlike many such partnerships, the Lennon-McCartney duo did not have clearly divided composer and lyricist duties—both men wrote words and music at different times.

The Beatles had so many hits it would be silly to pretend that a single song could represent them adequately, but since one is all I really have space for, here goes:

After the breakup of The Beatles, Lennon of course pursued a solo career, in partnership with Yoko Ono—the two married in 1969.  He also became even more of a political activist than he had while with The Beatles, as seen in songs like “Give Peace a Chance,” “Working Class Hero,” and “Happy Xmas (War is Over).”  His murder in December 1980 was devastating to millions of people all over the world.

Sean Lennon, son of John and Yoko, turns 41 today.  He has had a lengthy career as a singer-songwriter in his own right, and has also written a number of film scores.

Director and writer Guillermo del Toro celebrates his 52nd birthday today.  He is known for his dark fantasy films, like Pan’s Labyrinth, which was nominated for two Oscars, Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.  He has also directed a number of somewhat unconventional action thrillers like Hellboy and Pacific Rim.

Scott Bakula, who turns 62, was a four-time Emmy nominee as the star of Quantum Leap, and also starred on Star Trek: Enterprise as Captain Jonathan Archer; he currently appears on NCIS: New Orleans as Dwayne Pride.  Tony Shalhoub starred as Adrian Monk on Monk for eight seasons, a role that brought him three Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy series.  Shalhoub, who turns 63 today, also starred on Wings and over the summer was seen in CBS’s BrainDeadBrian Blessed, who is 80 today, has appeared in an immense variety of roles in his long career.  He has done Shakespeare, in several of Branagh’s films, appeared in the London premiere of Cats as Old Deuteronomy and Bustopher Jones, and played Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon (“Diiiive!!”).  And that’s just a sampling.

Brandon Routh turns 37 today.  He starred in the poorly-received Superman Returns, and recently took on another DC Universe role as Ray Palmer/The Atom on the CW’s Arrow and its spinoff, Legends of TomorrowJodelle Ferland, who celebrates her 22nd, appeared as Bree Tanner in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and currently stars in Syfy’s Dark Matter.  Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, who is 37 today, is known for his work in Irish and British television, on series like The IT Crowd and Moone Boy, has appeared in films such as Bridesmaids and Thor: The Dark World, and was a Tony nominee for playing Lennie in the 2014 revival of Of Mice and Men.  Retired golfer Annika Sorenstam, who turns 46, won 90 tournaments during her playing career, a record for female golfers, including 72 on the LPGA tour.

Jackson Browne celebrates his 68th today.  The singer-songwriter started to become known on the California music scene in the late 196os and began recording solo albums in the early ’70s.  He had four top ten albums in a row, starting with The Pretender in 1976, and several hit singles.  “Running on Empty” is one of his best-known hits and captures his style:

Scottish actor Alastair Sim (1900-1976) had a long career in English theater and film.  In the US he was almost certainly best known for starring in an adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that was a regular on television every year during the holiday season.  Sir Donald Sinden (1923-2014) made about 30 films in his career, including sizable roles in The Cruel Sea and Mogambo, but was best-known as a stage actor, with a long career on the West End and periodic visits to Broadway.  Robert Warwick (1876-1964) had a screen career of nearly 50 years length, from the silent era to the early sixties.  In the 1940s he was a member of Preston Sturges’ unofficial “stock company.”  John Entwistle (1944-2002) was best known as the bass player for The Who; he is sometimes regarded as the finest rock bass player ever.  While Pete Townshend was the group’s primary songwriter, Entwistle contributed songs like “Boris the Spider” and “Heaven and Hell” to the group’s repertoire.

French director Jacques Tati (1970-1982) made only six feature films, but has a pretty towering reputation, built on his comedies centered on the character of Monsieur Hulot, a well-meaning but awkward figure who brings disruption wherever he goes.  Walter O’Malley (1903-1979) was the longtime owner of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.  His decision to move the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, and persuading New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham to move his team to San Francisco at the same time, was the first step to making Major League Baseball a nationwide enterprise.

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901; some sources give his birthday as October 10) was one of the greatest composers of opera ever.  He was the composer of four of the most popular and frequently performed operas ever: Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Traviata and Aida.  To those he added two works of genius composed late in his life, both adapted from Shakespeare: Otello and Falstaff.  And he also left us several other works of high quality such as Un Ballo in Maschera and Don Carlos.

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 9, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. 12 Years a Slave is the only one of Steve McQueen’s movies I have seen, but I thought it was a worthy Best Picture winner. John Lennon, as you say, needs little introduction. Too bad he’s not here to celebrate his birthday. Cosmic coincidence that it is also his son’t birthday. I’d say “what are the odds” but mathematically they are one in 365.

    I like Guillermo del Toro, but I frequently get frustrated with his movies. He’s clearly talented and that talent is on display. But like Tim Burton before him, his movies have a tendency to let you down with a weak narrative.

    Scott Bakula seems like a nice guy. He’s definitely a TV actor. If you need a handsome, but not overly so, likeable, but not overly so, lead actor, Bakula is your guy. He’s not going to “wow” you, but he can hold a series together. Just not Enterprise because no one was going to redeem Star Trek at that point in the franchise’s history.

    Tony Shalhoub is always terrific. I never watched Monk, but I have enjoyed Shalhoub’s many character roles. Brandon Routh, I thought, got a raw deal. If you watch him on those CW shows, you have seen what a charismatic guy he can be. If you are looking for someone to carry on the Christopher Reeve tradition of Superman, Routh could have done that. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a baffling interpretation of the character that didn’t showcase any of his strengths.

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    • I’m somewhat surprised that McQueen made both Shame and 12 Years a Slave; shame was a movie that was low on dialogue, sleek and modern to look at, doesn’t give away too much about it’s characters and doesn’t seem to have a clear point to make. The latter film is epic historical piece with a much more conventional look and narrative that could have just as well been a Spielberg film. But apparently he loves him some Michael Fassbender.
      John Lennon is the most interesting beatle and probably the hardest one to get along with, and had the best solo career of the 4. Paul’s post-beatles work was extremely commercial 70s stadium rock that boarded almost on cheese; George Started strong with the eclectic “all things must pass” and then spent the rest of the 70s and 80s making nicely lyricized, innocuous songs that didn’t stand the test of time but rather sound heavily dated to modern ears. Ringo Starr made music that sounded like it was meant for children. John is the only person who didn’t lose the edge or try too hard to match his sound to current trends.

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