November 14: Happy Birthday Zhang Yimou and Olga Kurylenko


Today we have a pair of international headliners.

Zhang Yimou  turns 65 today.  He was one of the first class of students admitted to the Beijing Film Academy when it reopened in 1978 (after having been closed during the Cultural Revolution).  After graduating, he worked as a cinematographer for a few years, before directing his first film, Red Sorghum; it was his first of seven consecutive films starring actress Gong Li.

From 1990 through 2002 Zhang directed ten features, three of which were nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  Two of those, Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern, were historical dramas set in early 20th Century China.  The third was a wuxia action film based on events from much, much further in China’s past:

Zhang has directed seven additional features since Hero, with an eighth, The Great Wall, coming out in the near future.  He has also moved into stage direction, staging a production of Puccini’s opera Turandot and later Tan Dun’s opera The First Emperor.  He was in charge of staging the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Olga Kurylenko celebrates her 37th today.  Born in Ukraine, she moved to Paris in her teens to begin a modeling career.  Her first major film role was in the 2005 French film L’Annulaire.  She appeared in a segment of the anthology film Paris, je t’aime, and in the 2007 video game adaptation Hitman.  The role that really introduced her to audiences around the world, though, was when she was cast as a Bond Girl:

Since starring opposite Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace, Kurylenko has made a number of other films in the action-thriller mode, such as the historical action film Centurion, and the espionage thriller The November Man, in which she was cast opposite Pierce Brosnan.  She has also had a major role in Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, starred opposite Tom Cruise in Oblivion, and appeared in Russell Crowe’s first film as a director, The Water Diviner.

Paul Attanasio, who turns 57, is a co-creator of the medical drama House and wrote screenplays for films like Donnie Brasco and The Good GermanPaul McGann, who is also 57 today, was the Eighth Doctor for the Doctor Who franchise and played Lt. William Bush in the British TV series HornblowerLaura San Giacamo, who is 54 today, was a Golden Globe nominee as the star of NBC’s Just Shoot Me!, and had supporting roles in films like sex, lies, and videotape and Pretty WomanD. B. Sweeney, who turns 55, had some major film roles in the late 1980s and early ’90s, such as in John Sayles’ Eight Men Out (as Shoeless Joe Jackson) and as a lead in the figure skating rom com The Cutting EdgePatrick Warburton, who celebrates his 52nd, was the star of CBS’s Rules of Engagement and does a great deal of voice work.  Josh Duhamel, who starred on NBC’s Las Vegas for five seasons and played William Lennox in the Transformers films, turns 44 today.  Baseball star Curt Schilling, who turns 50, won over 200 games in his career, and played for three World Series winners; his most memorable moment was the “bloody sock” game in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

Ellis Marsalis turns 82 today.  A prominent jazz pianist in his own right, he is also the father of Wynton and Branford Marsalis.  Wendy Carlos (who was born Walter Carlos) turns 77 today.  Carlos won three Grammys for her 1968 album Switched-On Bach, an album of music by J. S. Bach played on a Moog synthesizer; she was also one of the first public figures to undergo gender reassignment surgery.  Yiannis Chryssomallis, known as Yanni, is turning 62.  He was one of the most popular artists of the new age music boom of the 1980s and ’90s, and continues to record and perform actively.

Actress Veronica Lake (1922-1973) first became known for the 1941 military drama I Wanted Wings, the movie where she adopted the “peek-a-boo” hairstyle that was her trademark for a few years.  Her best-known films were Preston Sturges’ classic Sullivan’s Travels and the film noir thrillers she starred in with Alan Ladd—This Gun for Hire, The Glass Key and The Blue Dahlia.  A fairly major star of the 1940s, she battle alcoholism which made it almost impossible for her to get work from about 1951 on.  Dick Powell (1904-1963) began his career as a leading man in light musical comedies like 42nd Street, but transformed himself into a tough guy in the 1940s with a terrific performance as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet.  In the 1950s he made another transition, into directing, turning out films like the World War 2 submarine-vs.-destroyer drama The Enemy Below.

Brian Keith (1921-1997) starred on television as Uncle Bill Davis on Family Affair and as Judge Milton Hardcastle on Hardcastle and McCormick, and in film played Theodore Roosevelt in The Wind and the LionMcLean Stevenson (1927-1996) starred on MASH for three seasons as Col. Henry Blake and latter headlined the short-lived Hello, Larry, which had periodic crossovers with Diff’rent StrokesSherwood Schwartz (1916-2011) was a television writer and producer who was the creator of several series, most notably Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch.

Engineer and inventor Robert Fulton (1765-1815) designed the first commercially successful steamboat in the United States.  Actor Richard Greene played him in the 1940 film Little Old New YorkJawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was the first Prime Minister of an independent India, an office he held from India’s becoming independent in 1947 until his death.  Actor Roshan Seth played Nehru in a number of film and television productions, including the 1982 biopic GandhiCharles, Prince of Wales, the longest-serving heir apparent to the English throne, turns 68 today.

Claude Monet (1840-1926), one of the leading figures in modern art, founded the French Impressionist school of painting.  The movement takes its name from Monet’s painting Impression, SunriseAstrid Lindgren (1907-2002) was a Swedish novelist best known for her children’s novels.  Her series about Pippi Longstocking is probably the best known; others include a series of books about the boy detective Kalle Blomkvist and the fantasy novel The Brothers Lionheart.

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was one of America’s most prominent composers.  He wrote several film scores, winning an Oscar for his score for the 1949 film The Heiress.  His best known and most popular compositions are some of his “populist” works of the 1930s and ’40s, such as Fanfare for the Common Man, the Lincoln Portrait, and the ballets Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring.

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 14, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Probably not surprising that I am less familiar with our international headliners than perhaps I should be. Zhang Yimou looks familiar although I can’t say for certain that I have seen any of his work. Olga Kurylenko I know from Quantum of Solace.

    I am familiar with some of the B-listers. I first saw Laura San Giacamo in sex, lies and videotape… Then I spotted her in Pretty Woman and occasionally checked in on her in Just Shoot Me. for some reason, I have seen both Memphis Belle and The Cutting Edge more than once, so I remember D. B. Sweeney. And Patrick Warburton, in addition to being on Seinfeld and playing the first live-action Tick, filmed the intro to the popular Disney theme park attraction, Soarin’.


  2. Yeah, I first seen Laura San Giacomo in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”, which I really liked, and I happed to catch an episode of “Just Shoot Me!” here and there. She was also in an episode of “Miami Vice”, but it was more of an episode that was intended to be a spin-off pilot to compete with “21 Jump Street” at the time.
    D.b. Sweeney was in a lot of projects in the late 1980’s that I recall quite easily ,like 1987’s “No Man’s Land” and “Eight Men Out”. yeah, I viewed “The Cutting Edge” too; it surprised me.
    I think Veronica Lake was a real head turner back in the day, but she definitely had her share of personal problems.
    I like Claude Monet’s paintings of lighthouses the best, probably because I also really like lighthouses.
    Brian Keith, so his stepmother was Peg Entwistle, the actress who jumped from the Hollywoodland sign in 1932? I didn’t know that until a few weeks ago. I remember “Hardcastle and McCormick”, as my parents watched that a lot, but I also remember him in the 1987 Fred Dryer vehicle “Death Before Dishonor”.


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