November 5: Happy Birthday Tilda Swinton and Vivien Leigh


Tilda Swinton turns 56 today.  Shortly after graduating from Cambridge she began working on stage, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984.  Her earliest film roles were in several films from British avant-garde director Derek Jarman; she also starred in Sally Potter’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

After working in indie and art house films for a decade or more, Swinton began appearing in more mainstream movies starting around 2000.  She was a Golden Globe nominee for The Deep End and won a BAFTA Award for Young Adam, and then was cast as one of the most memorable villains from C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Jadis the White Witch:

In 2007, Swinton won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, along with several other acting awards, for playing Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton.  She has worked with the Coen Brothers on Burn After Reading and Hail, Caesar!, and with Wes Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  She is currently seen as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange.

Although Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) was a two-time Best Actress winner, for a pair of very famous performances, she spent more of her acting career on stage than in film.  She had a long partnership with Laurence Olivier (the two were married in 1941 and were together for nearly 20 years); he acted with her and/or directed her in at least 16 major stage productions, beginning when she played Ophelia to his Hamlet in 1937.

But to film audiences, Leigh is most famous for what may well be the two most definitive “Southern belle” performances in movie history, the first of them in 1939:

Leigh’s Oscar for Best Actress as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind was followed by a second, twelve years later, for playing Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.  But like her most famous characters, Leigh’s life was often unhappy.  She suffered from bipolar disorder and tuberculosis from the mid-1940s on and died at the relatively young age of 53.

Famke Janssen, who celebrates her 52nd, first became widely known as one of the best Bad Bond Girls, Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye.  She has also played Jean Grey in the X-Men films and Lenore Mills in the Taken series, and will star in the upcoming NBC series The Blacklist: RedemptionTatum O’Neal, who turns 53, was one of the best-known child performers of the 1970s; she won an Oscar for Paper Moon at the age of 9—to this day she is still the youngest ever winner of an acting Oscar.  Another young star of the 1970s was Andrea McArdle, born the same day as O’Neal.  She was a Tony nominee as the originator of the title role in the musical Annie.  McArdle has continued to work in musical theater for 40 years, sometimes on Broadway, more often in regional theater.  Among the roles she’s played are musical theater’s other famous Annie, Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, and Miss Hannigan in regional productions of Annie.  Spanish actress Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, who turns 48, is known to American audiences for films such as A Walk in the Clouds and The Machinist.

Playwright and actor Sam Shepard turns 73 today.  His 1978 play Buried Child won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and a 1996 Broadway production was nominated for five Tony Awards.  A few of his other notable plays include True West, Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind.  A highlight of his acting career was being Oscar-nominated for playing Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.

Robert Patrick, who is 58 today, has had a variety of roles through the years, including portraying the fathers of Johnny Cash (in Walk the Line) and Elvis Presley (in the CBS miniseries Elvis), but is surely best known as the T-1000 from Terminator 2Armin Shimerman, who turns 67, played Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire SlayerSeth Gilliam, who turns 48 today, played Ellis Carver on The Wire and currently is seen on The Walking Dead as Gabriel Stokes.  Also turning 48 is Sam Rockwell, who has starred in films as diverse as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Moon, and also played Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2.

Elke Sommer, who turns 76 today, was one of the leading sex symbol actresses of the 1960s; she starred opposite Peter Sellers in A Shot in the Dark, the best of the Inspector Clouseau films.  Harris Yulin, who turns 79, has had a long career as a supporting player on television and in film; he was an Emmy nominee for Outstanding Guest Actor on Frasier in 1996.

In sports, Bill Walton turns 64.  He led UCLA to two NCAA Men’s Basketball titles; as a pro his career was hampered by foot injuries, but he led the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title, and later helped the Boston Celtics win the title in 1986.  Golfer Bubba Watson, who is 38 today, is one of the top players on the PGA tour and a two-time Masters winner.  Johnny Damon, who is 43, spend 18 seasons in major league baseball, where the highlight of his career was starting in center field when the Boston Red Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino” and won the 2004 World Series (and also making a cameo in the film Fever Pitch).

Gram Parsons (1946-1973) was tremendously influential during his short life; he is sometimes called the “father of country-rock.”  He began performing during high school, and dropped out of Harvard to start a band called the International Submarine Band.  He then spent a short period with The Byrds, having a substantial influence over their album Sweethearts of the Rodeo, and then founded a band called The Flying Burrito Brothers.  He recorded two albums with them, then left and eventually made a couple of solo albums and did some touring, with a backup band that included a young singer named Emmylou Harris.  And then he was gone, dead of an overdose of morphine and alcohol.

Other music birthdays include Bryan Adams, the Canadian singer-songwriter who turns 57.  He has had many successful albums and singles, including the #1 album Reckless, but may be best known for several songs written for film, including the hit “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” written for Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesRyan Adams, no relation to Bryan, turns 42 today; he is a five-time Grammy nominee.  Art Garfunkel, who turns 75, is best known for his partnership with Paul Simon, but has had a successful solo career as well, with a number of successful records and a Grammy in 1998 to go with five as a member of Simon & Garfunkel.  Ike Turner (1931-2007) was best known for his work with his wife Tina, but had a long career as an R&B and blues performer and a producer.  Kevin Jonas, one of the Jonas Brothers, turns 29 today.  Peter Noone, the lead singer of the successful 1960s pop band Herman’s Hermits, celebrates his 69th today.

Roy Rogers (1911-1996) was known as the “King of the Cowboys” in his heyday.  He was one of the most popular B-Western stars of the 1940s—and probably the most popular “singing cowboy” of all—and along with his wife and frequent costar Dale Evans, made a smooth transition to television in the 1950s.  Natalie Schafer (1900-1991) had a lengthy film and stage career, but will be remembered for a single TV role, as Eunice “Lovey” Howell on Gilligan’s Island.

Joel McCrea (1905-1990) was a major leading man of Hollywood’s Golden Age who never quite reached the top rung on the stardom ladder.  Although never really thought of as a comic performer, he was effective in comedies like Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story, and George Stevens’ The More the Merrier, because he was a very good straight man who played off comic actors and actresses very well.  He also was a good leading man in action pictures like Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, but what he was known for most of all were Westerns.  From his starring role in 1937’s Wells Fargo to his co-lead performance with Randolph Scott in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, McCrea was a mainstay of the Western for 25 years.

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 November 5, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. First film I ever saw Tilda Swinton in was “The Beach”, and I think the second was 2003’s “Young Adam”. I think she’s pretty interesting.
    I find Bill Walton pretty interesting too; more than just basketball, I understand he palled around with counterculture individuals like Abbie Hoffman and Jack Scott back in the 1970’s. Walton also had a basketball color analyst style that was pretty unique.


    • I remember Jack Scott’s name coming up in articles about Bill Walton in the LA Times, back in the 1970s. I sort of recall that Scott had vague connections with the Symbionese Liberation Army (the extremist group that kidnapped Patty Hearst in 1974)


      • Yeah, I guess Jack Scott believed that Patty Heart was in deep with the organization, having fallen in love with another member and also fashioning her own list of people to kill. Bill Walton was apparently on the periphery of the dialogue going back and forth due to being a roommate of Scott’s around that time.


  2. I found it interesting that Tatum O’Neal and Andrea McArdle were born on the same day—other than Jodie Foster, they were probably the two most prominent child actresses of the 1970s.


  3. I hear Tilda Swinton steals the show in Dr Strange. Haven’t seen it yet, but plan to. Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind, does it get more iconic? I don’t think so. Famke Janssen is a relatively rare Bond girl/henchwoman. There are others, but I’d say Janssen’s was the most successful.

    If and when I start branching into the 70’s, Tatum O’Neal will need a WTHH article. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 was just a great movie bad guy. I’m sure it had to be a bit intimidating playing a new Terminator after Arnold defined the part in the previous movie. I enjoyed Armin Shimerman on both Star Trek and Buffy.

    Sam Rockwell really seemed like he was going to be a bigger star than he turned out to be, am I right? Elke Sommer, holy cow!

    Seriously, Bryan Adams and Ryan Adams were both born on the same day? God, I hated that Robin Hood song! Art Garfunkel also had an acting career. Go check out Carnal Knowledge if you haven’t seen it. Great movie. Ike Turner, boo.

    Am I the only one who thinks of roast beef sandwiches whenever you hear the name Roy Rogers? My dad swears they were better than Arby’s.


    • I wouldn’t say Swinton steals the show in Dr Strange, but she’s pretty good in it despite the controversy attached to her casting in the role. Cumberbatch on the other hand does an excellent job at embodying Stephen Strange in all stages. It’s an entertaining and visually fantastic movie with a complex and arresting central character. Maybe not on the short list of Marvel’s very best, but easily in the top range of the second tier.


    • Yeah, I thought Sam Rockwell would be a biggest hit as a performer than he is.


  4. Robert Patrick also voiced Lebeau in an episode of “Superman: The Animated Series”. Maybe Lebeau will let us know how real and raw the performance was.


  5. The Real Reason We Don’t Hear from Famke Janssen Anymore

    At six feet tall, Famke Janssen has always stood out from the crowd. The Dutch beauty started her career as a model before breaking out as orgasmic Bond villain Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye and beloved mutant Jean Grey in the X-Men franchise. But since her character’s dramatic death in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, the once high-profile Janssen has somewhat disappeared from the spotlight. If you’ve been missing her as much as we have, here’s where she has gone – and why.


  6. Sam Shepard died yesterday at the age of 73. Here is one of the early appreciations of his contributions to stage and screen:


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