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. 4 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”.


    • Veronica Lake (I) : Re: SO WHY did her career ended so?

      Many reasons

      She didn’t get along with a lot of people apparently.
      After she cut her hair, the studio gave her a rather conventional, not particularly memorable hairstyle and she wasn’t quite as attractive.
      She was never a super-duper box office star like a Betty Grable or Dorothy Lamour or really had the strong public interest of a Lana Turner or Rita Hayworth re her personal life.
      Seems quite a few fans didn’t like her, particularly Alan Ladd’s femme crowd to whom he was a heartthrob. I have several 40’s movie mags where Jane Q. Public writes in the letters to the editor section about how much she loves Alan but cannot stand Veronica. Jealousy no doubt was part of their venom but bad word among the public can damage a star’s box office appeal.
      She was very attractive but not one of the better actresses among the sex symbols.
      (most likely) studio politics. Very shocking how lowly billed she is in those all-star Paramount things like Star Spangled Rhythm and Variety Girl, clearly some of the powers that be there weren’t interesting into building her into a long-term star.


      • How F***ing Crazy Was Veronica Lake?

        She was not wonderful. I generally don’t rain on the parade of fanboys who want to drool over a star they like, because everyone’s got different tastes, etc. etc. But Veronica Lake was demonstrably TERRIBLE in everything she did. She literally could not perform. She would stumble on lines (and we’re seeing the best takes, remember). Her face would have an expression that didn’t match her words, she’d forget her line for a split second before reciting it like a grade schooler at their first play. You can see her staring blankly at actors she’s working with and their lines don’t register with her, and you can also see when she’s been coached, like, “When Joel McCrea says the word ‘worst’ you should chuckle and look at your coffee cup.”

        Lake is the epitome of someone who had zero talent being praised because they were pretty and because they ended tragically. I just wish people would admit that instead of pretending as though she was a talented actress, when she was empirically one of the worst actresses ever to star in A-list films during the Golden Age.


        reply 34 03/05/2016

        Veronica Lake was a great movie star. But the poor lady was fragile emotionally, and being a famous movie star didn’t do anything to help her become more stable.

        Her look was iconic. Her cascading blonde hair (it was called the “peek-a-boo” hairstyle) was her trademark.

        In her best roles, she was very charming and had a flair for comedy.

        She WAS very tiny; she was less than five feet tall. Edith Head, who designed costumes for her said “Her figure problems seemed insurmountable. She was short, like me, and very tiny, possibly the smallest normal person I had ever seen. Her waist was the smallest in Hollywood: 20 3/4 inches. That was 5 1/2 inches smaller than the average waist. Far from a designer’s dream like Dietrich or Lombard. Yet everyone was telling me to make her into a sex symbol. She had a good bust, but I couldn’t show it because Hay’s Office’s anti-cleavage rules. I was forced to be extremely careful in every costume she wore. The fabrics I used in Veronica’s clothes always had some type of vertical interest; horizontal lines would shorten her. I devised necklines that called attention to her bust without actually exposing it. I always played up the fact that she had big breasts, which made her seem like a larger woman.”


        reply 82 03/05/2016

        It is Veronica Lake that ushered in the look and demeanor or the 1940s screen siren. The huskier more masculine voice, the loose sultry long hair, a colder sardonic presence…it was new, very different than the 1930s ideal.

        Veronica Lake was first with “I Wanted Wings” in 1941. Gene Tierney, Hayworth, Bacall, Lizabeth Scott followed.


        reply 152 03/15/2016

        As a child she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, but her mother chose to do nothing to help. Later, Lake exhibited many of the classic signs of schizophrenia-heavy drinking, child abuse and promiscuity. Among her lovers were comedian Milton Berle, producer William Dozier, playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, actor Victor Mature, millionaire Aristotle Onassis and many studio hands whom she invited to orgies at her home.

        She was a temperamental actress. Actor Eddie Bracken said about her, ‘She was known as ‘the bitch’ and deserved the title.’ However, Lake had no illusions about her abilities-‘You could put all the talent i had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision’-nor her sex appeal-‘I wasn’t a sex symbol, i was a sex zombie.’

        When she died of acute hepatitis, aged 50, only one of her children (son Michael) and none of her husbands attended her memorial service.


        reply 156 06/21/2016


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: