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November 16: Happy Birthday Maggie Gyllenhaal and George S. Kaufman

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Maggie Gyllenhaal turns 39 today.  She began acting as a teenager, appearing in films like Waterland and A Dangerous Woman which were directed by her father, Stephen Gyllenhaal.  After graduating from Columbia University, she resumed her acting career in 2000.  Since then, she has made a few appearances in big-budget films, most notably as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, but also in World Trade Center and White House Down.

However, Gyllenhaal is more likely to be found in indie films or in “prestige” pictures with mid-sized budgets.  She first began to make a name for herself with her Golden Globe-nominated lead role in the 2002 film Secretary.  She then has small roles in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and 40 Days and 40 Nights, and larger ones in John Sayles’ Casa de los Babys and in Criminal.  Her lead role in Sherrybaby brought her a second Golden Globe nomination:

Gyllenhaal received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the 2009 film Crazy Heart, and more recently won a Golden Globe for starring in the British miniseries The Honorable Woman.  She has maintained a stage career alongside her screen work, making her Broadway debut in 2014 in a revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing.

George S. Kaufman (1889-1961) was a very big figure in American theater in the mid-20th Century.  He shared the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice, once for the musical Of Thee I Sing (shared with Morrie Ryskind and the Gershwin brothers) and once for the comedy You Can’t Take It With You (shared with Moss Hart); the latter was adapted into an Oscar-winning film.

I also had a lot of difficulty finding a usable picture of him. 🙂

There was at least one play either written or directed by Kaufman playing on Broadway every season from 1921 through 1958.  Besides his plays with Moss Hart, he wrote Dinner at Eight and Stage Door with Edna Ferber, and co-wrote a pair of musicals—both later adapted to film—for the Marx Brothers, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers.  As a director, he won a Tony for the musical Guys and Dolls.  His most notable work written directly for film was the screenplay for A Night at the Opera:

Dancer and actress Donna McKechnie, who turns 74, is best known for her work in musical theater.  She won a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for originating the role of Cassie in A Chorus LineMarg Helgenberger is 58 today.  She won an Emmy as K. C. Koloski on China Beach and starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as Catherine Willows.  Clu Gulager, who celebrates his 88th, starred on the TV Western The Tall Man, but was usually a character actor in films such as Don Siegel’s remake of The Killers and Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show.  Director Alison Anders, who is 62, is known for indie films like Gas Food Lodging and Mi Vida LocaMaeve Quinlan, who is 52 today, appeared with Maggie Gyllenhaal in Criminal and starred as Paula Carlin on South of NowhereValeria Bruni Tedeschi also turns 52 today.  The Italian-French actress has won a Cesar and several Donatello Awards, and had a small role in Steven Spielberg’s Munich.  Also turning 52 is Harry Lennix, who has played TV roles including Boyd Langton on Dollhouse and Harold Cooper on The Blacklist.

Martha Plimpton celebrates her 46th today.  The daughter of Keith Carradine and Broadway actress Shelley Plimpton, she began acting in her teens, appearing in The Goonies and Running on Empty, among other films.  She is a three-time Emmy nominee, winning Outstanding Guest Actress for an appearance on The Good Wife, and has also received three Tony nominations.  She currently stars on ABC’s The Real O’Neals.

Born the same day as Plimpton, director and writer Jamie Babbit is known for the lesbian rom-coms But I’m A Cheerleader and Itty Bitty Titty Committee, and the thriller The QuietLisa Bonet, who is 49 today, starred as Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and for one season on the spinoff series A Different WorldGemma Atkinson, who turns 32, is known for her work on the British soap operas Hollyoaks and Emmerdale.  Actor and pianist Noah Gray-Cabey, who is 21 today, has had regular roles on My Wife and Kids and on HeroesPete Davidson, who celebrates his 23rd, is the youngest current member of the cast of Saturday Night LiveIndia Ennenga, who is 22 today, had regular roles on HBO’s Treme and more recently on A&E’s short-lived series The Returned.

Two Olympic athletes from the former USSR share a birthday today.  Oksana Baiul, who turns 39, won Ukraine’s first gold medal at the Winter Olympics when she took the 1994 gold medal in women’s figure skating, edging out Nancy Kerrigan.  Alexander Popov, who is 45 today, won the 50 and 100 meter freestyle events at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, and repeated that double triumph four years later in Atlanta; he is considered one of the greatest freestyle sprinters in swimming history.

Canadian jazz pianist and vocalist Diana Krall turns 52 today.  She has been one of the most popular jazz artists in the world for the last 20 years.  Her 1999 album When I Look In Your Eyes won Krall her first two (of a total of five) Grammys, including Best Jazz Vocal, and was nominated for Album of the Year, the first jazz album nominated for that honor in 25 years.

Other music birthdays today include Paul Hindemith (1895-1963).  The German-born composer and conductor is known for a number of orchestral works, especially his Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Carl Maria von WeberW. C. Handy (1873-1958) was a leading pioneer of both blues and jazz.  His most famous composition may be the “Saint Louis Blues.”  Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960) had a brief film career, and was nominated for Best Actor for The Rogue Song.  But he will be remembered primarily for his long career at the New York Metropolitan Opera, where he was one of the principal baritones for nearly 30 years.  While the US is not the first country you’d think of as a cradle of opera stars, ever since Tibbett’s day there has been at least one world-class American baritone on the opera scene—his successors include Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill, Sherrill Milnes and Thomas Hampson.

Burgess Meredith (1907-1997) had a long film and television career.  In the 1930s and ’40s he had film roles like George in Of Mice and Men and Ernie Pyle in The Story of GI Joe.  He was yet another blacklisted actor in the 1950s, but revived his career in the 1960s with the help of director Otto Preminger.  He is probably best-remembered, though, for two roles—as Mickey Goldmill, Rocky Balboa’s trainer (Meredith was an Oscar nominee for Rocky), and as The Penguin on the Batman TV series:

Daws Butler (1916-1988) was a voice actor who worked primarily with Hanna-Barbera; he was the voice of characters such as Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw.  Royal Dano (1922-1994) had a long career as a film and television character actor, but many would recognize him for his voice—he provided the voice of Abraham Lincoln for Disneyland’s Great Moments With Mr. LincolnThomas Ince (1880-1924) was a pioneer of silent film known as “the father of the Western.”  He also influenced the business side of the industry, creating the first studio production facility.  His death aboard William Randolph Hearst’s yacht, only days after his 44th birthday, has been a cause of speculation for nearly a century.

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 November 16, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I don’t remember when I first saw Maggie Gyllenhaal. I saw Secretary, but it was some time after it was initially released. Obviously, I saw her in The Dark Knight. She’s a very talented actress. And I appreciate that she was given a full page spread at the top of the article instead of the usual split screen. No offense to George S. Kaufman.

    I never actually watched CSI, but I knew who Marg Helgenberger was before it made her a star. So I went back and looked at her filmography to see what I might have known her from. I guess it was Species. That’s embarrassing. Let’s just pretend I watched CSI.

    Clu Gulager! Man you are thorough! I wonder how many celebrity birthday articles are covering ol’ Clu. I know Clu from his son’s movie, Feast. Or more specifically from season three of Project Greenlight in which John Gulager was picked to direct and cheesy horror movie and then cast all of his family and friends in supporting roles.

    Martha Plimpton, I knew from The Goonies. She seemed to be in a bunch of movies for a while there. Lisa Bonet was the prodigal Cosby kid after starring in Angel Heart. And that was the last scandal ever associated with anyone from that show… The name Gemma Atkinson sounded familiar so I Googled her. The pictures that came up were not appropriate for work, so be warned.

    Burgess Meredith, I remember from Rocky, Batman and The Twilight Zone. He’s done a lot more, but those are the first three parts that come immediately to mind.

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    • I first saw Maggie Gyllenhaal, I am pretty sure, in John Sayles’ Casa de los Babys. I also saw her in Criminal (along with Maeve Quinlan), which is a remake of the Argentine crime/caper film Nine Queens.

      Martha Plimpton I kind of lost sight of since she hasn’t done any major movies in a while, but she’s had a pretty impressive career; her stage resume is very impressive.

      Sometimes people confuse Gemma Atkinson with Gemma Arterton, who was in Quantum of Solace as “Fields—just Fields.” Ms. Atkinson has done quite a bit of lingerie modeling so it’s no surprise there’s a lot of NSFW pictures of her out there.

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      • I believe I am guilty of confusing the two Gemmas. Both are lovely, but yes, Ms Atkinson has done a lot of lingerie modeling. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But when I plugged her name in Google, the right side of the screen was filled with nothing but those images. I don’t think the college intern who was passing by minded all that much, but you know, gotta minimize that stuff.

        Plimpton’s stage credits are impressive. It looks like for most of the 21st century, she has been doing theater and TV with occasional big screen appearances.

        Chronologically, the first movie I think I would have seen Maggie Gyllenhaal in was Riding in Cars with Boys. But it was a relatively small role and she didn’t especially stick in my memory. She was in Secretary the following year, but I was late to that party. I saw Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in which she had small parts, but again I don’t think I really took notice of her. Probably the first time I became aware of her as an actress was in Mona Lisa Smile in which she was the least famous of the three main girls behind Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles. I never saw the movie because I heard it was terrible. So it was probably either Secretary (whenever I got around to seeing it) or Stranger than Fiction which served as my first real intro to her work.

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      • I first saw Maggie Gyllenhaal in Cecile B. Demented, but I didn’t like it, so I didn’t remember her really. She got my attention in ‘Secretary’, but I didn’t realize she’d been the Satanic cinephile terrorist/makeup artist until a friend pointed it out.

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        • Hollywood Hype Machine

          http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HollywoodHypeMachine

          Jake Gyllenhaal and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Hollywood seems entranced by the both of them, despite their continued failure to gain traction with audiences. The movie Bloom turned down, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, performed under expectations, and even Maggie’s presence in The Dark Knight hasn’t been enough to bolster her career, with most of the praise she received only being in comparison to Katie Holmes, the woman she replaced. Her unconventional facial appearance (big jowls and looking much older than the current crop of young starlets) is part of it as well. But the suits seem undeterred, so who knows? Maybe someday, one of them will hit it big. Family Guy, naturally, was not above pointing all of this out with a cutaway gag in which the two bickered over which one was “more off-putting” and “more unappealing in a lead role.”

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  2. I first saw Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Secretary” when it aired on HBO in the early 2000’s. She definitely stuck to smaller productions throughout (with the exception of “The Dark Knight”). I especially like “Sherrybaby” (though the title caused my mind to play song of the same name by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons).
    Ha, Clu Gulager; I especially remember him from 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead”, the second Nightmare on Elm Street film, his cameo in “Into The Night”, and 1987’s “The Hidden”.
    I never viewed much of the CSI show, but I was aware of Marg Helgenberger due to her roles in “China beach”, “Species” and the 1995 indie film “Just Looking”.
    I remember Martha Plimpton from many roles, from “Family Ties” to 1984’s “The River Rat” with Tommy Lee Jones, to 1999’s “200 Cigarettes”, playing a character who was concerned about how well her New Year’s party was going to go. I also think “Raising Hope” is an alright show,
    I just learned some details about Thomas Ince (there’s that man William Randolph Hearst again!). Man, whatever happened behind his death seems real shady.
    Lisa Bonet, I liked her role in 200’0s “High Fidelity”. I can’t say I’ve ever liked “Angel Heart” though, it just never really sat right with me. I don’t think it bad though.
    yeah, I though Burgess Meredith made a great Penguin, and an excellent trainer for Rocky. I also liked his efforts in some of those “The Twilight Zone” episodes.

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  3. ‘Secretary’ is one of my favorite films (I’m also pretty into James Spader).
    I actually never knew that Martha Plimpton was a Carradine until now. I actually associate her most with her activism and “Raising Hope”.

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