October 31: Happy Birthday Peter Jackson and Michael Landon


Sir Peter Jackson is 55 years old today.  He was interested in making movies since he was a boy, and for many years he lived with his parents to save money so he could spend on film equipment.  He made his first film, a horror comedy called Bad Taste, on a minute budget, with many of the cast being friends of his who worked for free.  A reasonably positive reception to that led to him gradually getting bigger budgets for subsequent films: Meet the Feebles, a musical black comedy with Muppet style puppets; Heavenly Creatures, a psychological thriller starring a pair of talented young actresses named Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey; and the horror comedy The Frighteners, his first film on a Hollywood-sized budget.

And then, after prolonged negotiations to secure the rights to the books and then to get backing from a studio, he began filming J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings:

When the trilogy came to a conclusion, Jackson won or shared three Oscars for The Return of the King—Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Jackson’s main subsequent efforts have been an epic-scale remake of King Kong, an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, and the stretching of Tolkien’s The Hobbit into another trilogy by adding lots and lots of padding and filler.

For a period of about 30 years beginning in 1989, it was very rare for a season of network, prime-time television programming to not feature a show starring Michael Landon (1936-1991).  Landon began acting in the mid-1950s; one of his first major roles was as the title character in I Was a Teenage Werewolf.  Then, at a time when the TV schedule was packed with Western series, Landon was cast on one, about a widower-rancher with three sons:

Bonanza, which at its peak was the #1 show on television, went off the air in 1973.  Within a year Landon had returned to prime time in Little House on the Prairie, following which he starred on Highway to Heaven.  On the latter two shows, he was also heavily involved in directing and producing.  Little wonder that his 22 appearances on the cover of TV Guide is second only to Lucille Ball.

Barbara Bel Geddes (1922-2005) is probably know today as Miss Ellie Ewing from Dallas, but she had a long acting career.  Highlights included two Tony nominations, one for originating the role of Maggie “The Cat” in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, and playing the voice of reason in Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  A lowlight was being put on the Hollywood blacklist for several years by anti-communist witch-hunters.  Another blacklist victim was Lee Grant, who is somewhere from 87 to 91 today (her reported year of birth varies).  Grant was an Oscar nominee for the 1951 film Detective Story, but then ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Not until the mid-1960s did she get steady work again; she went on to win two Emmys, as well as an Oscar for Shampoo.

David Ogden Stiers, who turns 74, first became well-known as the skilled but pompous Major Winchester on MASH.  He has done quite a lot of voice work, especially in Disney features, such as voicing Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast.  More recently he was seen on USA’s The Dead Zone as Rev. Purdy.  Stephen Rea, who is 70 today, was nominated for Best Actor for his role in The Crying Game, but most of his career has been in character and supporting roles, in films such as Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins, and V for Vendetta.  He recently won a BAFTA award for the BBC miniseries The Honourable Woman.

Rob Schneider, who turns 53, is a Saturday Night Live veteran who starred in the Deuce Bigalow films and The Hot Chick.  Also turning 53 is Dermot Mulroney, a frequent leading man in romantic comedies such as My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Wedding DateMike O’Malley, who starred on Yes, Dear and was Emmy-nominated for his role on Glee, turns 50 today.  Robert Van Winkle, who performs and records as Vanilla Ice, turns 49.  His 1990 single “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip hop single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Deidre Hall, who turns 69, has been a regular on Days of Our Lives as Marlena Evans for 40 years.

Eddie Kaye Thomas, who turns 36, played Finch in several American Pie films and is currently starring on CBS’s ScorpionPiper Perabo, who starred in films like Coyote Ugly and Imagine Me & You, and on the USA Network’s Covert Affairs, celebrates her 40th.  Vanessa Marano, the star of Freeform/ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, turns 24 today.  Scott Clifton, whose current role on The Bold and the Beautiful has brought him two Daytime Emmys, turns 32.

Brian Stokes Mitchell turns 59.  He has had a respectable TV career—he starred on Trapper John, M.D. for its entire run, and currently plays recurring character Scott Knowles on Mr. Robot.  He has also been one of Broadway’s top leading men for over 20 years, primarily in musical theater.  He is a four-time Tony nominee, winning for playing Fred Graham in the 1999 revival of Kiss Me Kate:

John Candy (1950-1994) came out of the Second City comedy troupe, and before his death of a heart attack at 43 starred in films like Stripes, Spaceballs, and Planes, Trains and AutomobilesOllie Johnston (1912-2008) was one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” the core animators who created Disney’s classic animated features.  Johnston joined Disney in 1935 and worked on features from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Fox and the HoundDale Evans (1912-2001) was the wife and long-time costar of singing cowboy Roy Rogers; they appeared together in several B-Westerns in the late 1940s and on television on The Roy Rogers Show (for which Evans wrote the theme song, “Happy Trails”).

In the world of the written word, Dick Francis (1920-2010) spent over a decade as a professional jockey, and after retiring from that began writing novels, taking advantage of his experience to set them in the world of h0rse-racing.  Katherine Paterson, who turns 84, is a prominent author of children’s literature.  She has won two Newberry medals and two National Book Awards for her work, and her novels Bridge to Terebithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins have been adapted into feature films.  Andrew Sarris (1928-2012) was one of the most influential American film critics of the 20th century.  In his 1968 book The American Cinema, as well as in other writings, he introduced the auteur theory into the US.  In his short life, the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) wrote some of the most beautiful and admired poetry ever composed in the English language.  Ben Whishaw played Keats in the 2009 film Bright Star.

Finally, folksinger and songwriter Tom Paxton turns 79 today.  Paxton has been writing, recording and performing since the late 1950s; his songwriting output has included children’s songs like “The Marvelous Toy;” edgy political songs like “What Did You Learn in School Today” and “On the Road from Srebrenica;” what Paxton calls “short shelf life” songs that are generally topical and humorous, like “I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler;” and ballads like “The Last Thing on My Mind” and “Ramblin’ Boy.”  I’ll give him the last word today:

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 October 31, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Peter Jackson has been knighted? I did not know that. I first discovered Jackson on The Frighteners which I recommended to just about everybody I knew. Everyone I introduced the movie to enjoyed it, but man did it flop. I went back and caught up with Heavenly Creatures (which I liked) and Bad Taste (which I did not). The first Lord of the Rings trilogy was one hell of an accomplishment. King Kong was okay for a what it was. The Hobbit wasted an awful lot of goodwill.

    I grew up with Michael Landon on TV. As a kid, it was Little House. My mom watched that show regularly which meant the rest of us did too. Remember when most families had one TV? After that, Landon was on Highway to Heaven which I never watched. But it seemed like that show ran forever.

    I knew Barbara Bel Geddes from Vertigo and an episode of Alfred Hitchcock presents. I didn’t realize she was on Dallas. David Ogden Stiers will always be Cogsworth to me, but he actually played the Martian Manhunter in a Justice League pilot that was thankfully never picked up. Stephen Rea sure seemed like he was going to go far after The Crying Game.

    Rob Schneider was a major Razzie winner for a while there. I mentioned just a couple days ago that I used to confuse Dermot Mulroney with Dylan McDermott. I still have to stop and think about which handsome guy is which. I can’t let Vanilla Ice’s birthday pass without a little Ice, Ice Baby.

    I saw Coyote Ugly. Going in, there were expectations that Piper Perabo could be the next Jennifer Beals. In a way, I guess she was. She just cut right to the TV roles and skipped over the hit movie phase.

    John Candy left us too soon.


    • As much as I love Beauty and the Beast, Ogden-Stiers will always be Charles Winchester III from MAS*H to me. That voice is just too memorable. He’s a very castable type and has a real deft comic touch to go with some actual gravitas when it’s needed. A pretty laudable combo.


  2. Peter Jackson earned all the success and accolades (and then some) from his LOTR trilogy of films. Though to be honest, just my humble opinion, but I think the trilogy offers diminishing returns as it goes on. Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture, but I think it’s the least of the three films and won more as an recognition of the trilogy as a whole moreso than that film itself.

    Even though I own the LOTR trilogy on DVD and have watched it several times, I admit I never have seen the Hobbit trilogy of films. I was turned off to begin with when I heard that a slim book like The Hobbit was being turned into 3 different 3-hour films; it just came off as a cash-grab to me, and once those reviews came out I had no interest in looking at them. From what I gather I saved myself some time by avoiding them.


  3. Vanilla Ice is a punch line nowadays, but for one brief moment in 1990 he was huge on the music scene. And when I say huge I do mean huge – his debut album To The Extreme (which featured his big hit Ice Ice Baby) spent 16 consecutive weeks in the #1 spot on Billboard’s Album Chart. That is four straight months as the best selling album in the nation! If you ever want proof that teenagers have shitty taste in music, well, there you go.


  4. I never viewed “The Lord of the Rings” films, but I do know of them. The Peter Jackson-directed film I have viewed is 1992’s “Braindead” (or “Dead Alive”, whatever one wants to call it).
    My mother’s a big viewer of “Little House on the Prairie”, but I guess I remember him best from “Highway to Heaven” due to seeing many advertisements for the show during its run. There was an “Unsolved Mysteries” segment in which his daughter said he communicated with her from beyond the grave by leaving a rose at a certain monument, or something like that.
    John Candy was gone too soon; seems that “wagon’s East!” shoot may have been too taxing for him. I think some good times can be had with the finished work John Candy left behind though.
    I see Vanilla Ice pops up here and there at celebrity social events. I remember he was in that Adam Sandler film “That’s My Boy”. Seriously, the guy has either been a part of the music or Hollywood industry since the mid-1980’s. That’s a lot of ice ice, baby.
    That Hollywood blacklist deal really crippled a lot of careers; it’s too bad really. I wasn’t aware that Lee Grant was a victim as well.


  5. Frightners is great movie i tihnk the reason it flopped is it was original suppose to be released in October but studios decided to release it in the summer with heavier competition. it would done better in october


  6. A young Deborah Norville with Michael Landon:

    Throwing it back to Georgia’s Junior Miss! And to think, my talent was sewing and I still won!


  7. Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Rob Schneider Anymore


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