November 19: Happy Birthday Jodie Foster and Meg Ryan


Two-time Best Actress honoree Jodie Foster turns 54 today.  She made her screen debut in an episode of Mayberry R.F.D. which aired one day before her 6th birthday, and her feature film debut in the 1972 Disney film Napoleon and Samantha.  She appeared in some additional Disney features later in the 1970s, such as Freaky Friday and Candleshoe.  But she also began appearing in roles that gave hints of her success as an adult, such as Bugsy Malone, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, and especially Taxi Driver, which brought her an Oscar nomination for playing the pre-teen prostitute Iris.

Starting in 1977, Foster apparently made a deliberate decision to scale her acting career back for several years, partly because she was attending Yale at that time.  In the mid-1980s, her career seemed stalled, as films like Siesta and Stealing Home were failures.  But in late 1988, in a role that she once described as making “one last try” at getting herself established as an adult actress, she gave one of her two most famous performances:

Three years after she won Best Actress as Sarah Tobias in The Accused, Foster was honored a second time for portraying Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.  Since then her career has been a little uneven, although she did pick up another Oscar nomination for Nell, and Golden Globe nominations for that film as well as Contact, The Brave One, and Carnage.  She received an Emmy nomination for directing an episode of Orange is the New Black, and her latest feature as a director, Money Monster, was out earlier this year.

Meg Ryan, a WTHH subject, turns 55 today.  She first became well-known for her supporting role in Top Gun in 1986, and then had major roles in films like Innerspace and D.O.A., a remake of the 1950 film noir.  But her first major success in a lead role was in a dark, brooding drama romantic comedy, playing one Sally Albright:

Ryan received the first of three Golden Globe nominations for When Harry Met Sally.  She was also nominated for Sleepless in Seattle and for You’ve Got Mail.  Films like those, as well as I.Q., Addicted to Love, and others, might leave you thinking that Ryan’s talents were limited to romantic comedy.  In fact, she seemed good at any kind of romance, including romantic drama (When a Man Loves a Woman) or romantic fantasy (City of Angels).  In the past two years Ryan has returned to feature films with Fan Girl and Ithaca; what happened between the 1990s and now is covered in her WTHH article.

Allison Janney, who turns 57, is a 7-time Emmy winner: four times for her work on The West Wing, twice for the CBS sitcom Mom, and once for Showtime’s Masters of SexKathleen Quinlan, who celebrates her 62nd, was an Oscar and Golden Globe nominee for playing Marilyn Lovell in Apollo 13Robert Beltran, who is 63 today, played the title character in the black comedy Eating Raoul, and was Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager.  Star Trek fans will also remember Terry Farrell, who was Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine.  She is 53 today.  Reid Scott, who stars on HBO’s Veep, turns 39 today.  Adam Driver, who celebrates his 33rd, is a three-time Emmy nominee for HBO’s Girls, a fact that many people who know him only as Kylo Renn are doubtless unaware.

Writer, director and producer Charlie Kaufman is turning 58.  He is a four-time Oscar nominee for screenwriting, winning Best Original Screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  That script as well as those for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are on the WGA’s ranking of the 101 greatest screenplays.

Dancer and choreographer Savion Glover, who turns 43 today, has worked on Broadway, in film, and on television.  He was nominated for two Tonys for the 1996 musical Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, winning for Best Choreography.  One of Broadway’s newest stars is Laura Osnes, who celebrates her 31st today.  She played Hope Harcourt in the much-acclaimed 2011 revival of Anything Goes and was a Tony nominee for playing Bonnie Parker in the musical adaptation of Bonnie & Clyde.  Mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa, who turns 72, shared a Grammy for Best Opera Recording for Strauss’s Ariadne Auf Naxos, and was one of the most-renowned Carmens of her time.

Douglas Henshall and Mark Bonnar are known for the British television work, where they both currently star on the crime drama Shetland.  Henshall is 51, while Bonnar turns 48.  English television and stage actress Katherine Kelly turns 37; she is known for her long run on the British soap opera Coronation Street.  English-born actress Sandrine Holt, who celebrates her 44th, has roles on House of Cards and Fear the Walking Dead on her filmography.

In sports, Roy Campanella (1921-1993) is a Baseball Hall-of-Famer and was a three-time National League MVP with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  French footballer Laurent Blanc turns 51.  He starred for the French side that won the 1998 World Cup and went on to a successful career as a manager.  Ahmad Rashād, who turns 67 today, was a star wide receiver in the NFL who became a broadcaster and was married for 16 years to Cosby Show star Phylicia Ayers-Allen.  Sprinter and hurdler Gail Devers, who turns 50 today, won the women’s 100 meter dash at two consecutive Olympics, 1992 and 1996.  She was a world champion in the event in 1993, and also won 3 world championships in the 100 meter hurdles.  Gymnast Kerri Strug, who is 39 today, competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, and will always be remembered for the memorable vault she turned in, despite an ankle injury, to clinch the team gold medal for the US team in 1996.

Dick Cavett, who turns 80, is a ten-time Emmy nominee, winning three times, for his famous talk/interview show The Dick Cavett Show.  Another famous television host and interviewer, Larry King, turns 83 today; he is a two-time Peabody Award winner.  Ted Turner, who celebrates his 78th, is one of the most important media businessmen of the last fifty years; as the founder of CNN, he created Larry King’s primary television home.  Calvin Klein, who turns 74, is one of the leading fashion figures of the past century and the founder of the clothing company that bears his name.

Gene Tierney (1920-1991) was one of the most beautiful actresses of the 1940s, if not all time.  She also was the victim of a famous Hollywood tragedy—in 1943 she gave birth to a daughter who was born deaf and mentally ill, as a result of Tierney’s being infected with German measles by an overzealous fan.  Tierney was known for her roles in films such as Tobacco Road, Heaven Can Wait, Night and the City, and her Oscar-nominated role in Leave Her to Heaven, but most of all as the title character in Laura:

One of Tierney’s costars in Laura was Clifton Webb (1889-1966), who was Oscar-nominated for that film as well as for The Razor’s Edge and Sitting PrettyDan Haggerty (1942-2016) was an actor and animal trainer best known for starring in the film The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and the TV series of the same name.  Alan Young (1919-2016) played Wilbur Post, an man with a talking horse named Mister Ed in a 1950s TV series and also voiced Scrooge McDuck in a variety of Disney productions.  Richard Alexander (1902-1989) spent the 1930s alternating between small roles in classics like Queen Christina and Modern Times with featured parts in serials like Flash Gordon and Zorro Rides Again.

Anton Walbrook 1896-1967) was an Austrian actor who emigrated to England and was best known for roles in films by the “Archers,” Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, such as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and The Red ShoesGillo Pontecorvo (1919-2006) was best known for his 1966 classic about the Algerian War, The Battle of Algiers, and later in his career won a pair of Donatello Awards for Best Director.

Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956) was a noted trombonist and conductor.  However, he was best remembered as  bandleader, one of the foremost figures of Big Band jazz from the 1930s to the 1950s.  The long, long list of musicians who played or sang with Dorsey and his band included Buddy Rich, Jo Stafford and Frank Sinatra.

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 19, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. I wouldn’t call The Accused one of Jodie Foster’s two most famous performances, notwithstanding the Oscar. Apart from The Silence of the Lambs she’s also better known for Contact and Panic Room, possibly others as well. The Accused is an atrocious film the public only remember for its titillation factor.

    The main reason her career has been uneven since she reached superstar status in the early 90s is that she shied away from playing conventional romantic leads. She typecast herself as a tough, intelligent and courageous woman with most of the roles she chose after Clarice.

    IMO the best Jodie Foster performances are Silence, Nell and The Brave One. Her hairstyle was detrimental to the latter, though. She should have gotten Oscar nominations for The Brave One and Contact. There’s a theory the main reason she was snubbed for Contact is because the Academy was prejudiced. She was pregnant at the time and refused to disclose the father’s identity which essentially confirmed the lesbian rumors.


    • I can certainly accept that you find Panic Room or Contact to be better films than The Accused, but do you really think that people associate Jodie Foster more with them than with The Accused?


      • Definitely. They were huge hits when they came out and a lot of people still watch those movies today. The Accused, which did so-so at the box office, has not withstood the test of time. Only people of a certain age remember that film, it does not have a large following on DVD and hasn’t been on TV in years.


        • And I honestly think the only reason she got an Oscar for that garbage was because Hollywood wanted to make her the new it girl (the suspicion of her sexuality did not begin on a public platform until TSOTL came out). It’s actually a common tactic, giving an actress an award for a mediocre performance in a mediocre movie to jump start her career. A lot of people cite Helen Hunt, Gwyneth Paltrow or Halle Berry but I think Foster is a much better example. At least the other actresses won for decent films.


        • The flashback sequence is the only reason the movie was greenlit. Apart from that sequence, the film has nothing to offer. So much pointlessness is there just to fill in screen time. Foster and McGillis discuss astrology in 3 scenes. Another 3 scenes thrown in just to emphasize that McGillis realizes that the blonde guy called the police. The dialogue is sophomoric yet presented in serious context. I’m shocked it didn’t sweep the Razzies.


        • Years ago when the Biography Channel did a profile on Jodie Foster, some film critic was interviewed for commentary since the whole documentary focused just on her career. When they got to The Accused the critic said it was one of the best performances ever. I was like, Are you SHITTING me!


        • I think that “huge hits” is a stretch for either Panic Room or Contact. On Panic Room, I’ll grant you that it was a financial success—it made just under $100 million at the US box office, right about double its production budget. Given that it was R-rated, if you wanted to call it a “hit” with no extra emphasis, I’d allow that. But it was only the 25th highest film of 2002 in domestic box office, and that’s not a “huge hit” by any reasonable measure. As for Contact, while it ranked 16th at the US box office for 1997, it barely made back its production budget.

          And The Accused did OK at the box office for an R-rated film; it made back about five times its production budget. Not a big hit, I agree, but a financial success. I can’t speak to DVD “following,” but it is currently in the Starz Encore lineup of movies, so it is in fact on TV.


        • I recently rewatched The Accused (free Starz as part of my promo pack) and while it was a bit dated, I thought overall it held up. I can understand why some people would feel that the flashback scene is exploitative. Maybe it is. But I remember watching the movie in the late eighties when these issues weren’t talked about as openly as they were today. I won’t say that the scene was essential to the movie, but I think it really brought home the impact of what had happened.

          I initially saw the movie on home video. I think that was true for a lot of people. I don’t think its box office numbers reflect its impact at the time. It’s got a 95% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and 79% approval from audiences. I don’t know that it’s all that significant, but the user rating at IMDB is 7.1 out of 10. The little chart graphic shows that it is ranked at 3,577 and on the rise. Panic Room and Contact were both ranked more highly, but they are also much more recent movies. While their popularity is higher, their user reviews are about on par with The Accused and critical reviews are significantly lower. The Brave One didn’t chart at all.

          For whatever that is worth. I think it’s pointless to try to quantify these things because people will always pick the metric that supports their preformed opinion.


        • By TV I did not mean pay cable.

          A good indicator of the contemporary audience of these films is the # of votes each has on IMDb.


        • It only has one fifth as many votes (~20K versus 200K) as the other titles so the rating is bound to be higher. The flashblack was essential to the movie because without it there would be no movie. Just watch the trailer. The marketing was all about sex and rape. What irks me is the fact that a lot of viewers buy it as a sincere piece carrying a political message. It’s not that at all. It’s Sexpolitation. Maybe if 80% of the script hadn’t been so hammy, the movie would have some merit, but as a straightforward drama it fails.


  2. One of the oddest films I’ve ever seen is 1976’s “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” (like the title isn’t eerie enough), which starred Jodie Foster. I like it. I like “The Brave One” too, it’s a little like “Death Wish” for females. Yeah, Jodie Foster had definitely gravitated towards roles in which she plays tough, no-nonsense individuals.
    Meg Ryan, well, she’s been discussed on this site pretty thoroughly. She definitely had her era, which I guess kinda ended after “Proof of Life” (a film which I think is pretty solid).
    I first remember Allison Janney from that Howard Stern film “Private Parts”; overall I think she had good comedic timing, which was on display in that film.
    Maybe it’s just me, but I thought a young Kathleen Quinlan bears a striking resemblance to Ashley Judd.
    Dick Cavett; I’ve seen reruns of his talk shows, and they seemed pretty intelligent to me. I also liked that time he turned into Freddy Kruger.
    Gene Tierney, what a beauty with a ability, and what an unfortunate situation with her baby. I read about her a couple of years ago, and it seems she got a bit of a bad deal.
    Robert Beltran; yeah, “Eating Raoul”, I love it.


    • I’ve only seen Meg Ryan in 3 movies, all incidentally and never understood how she became such a big star. There were many highly skilled, better looking actresses on the scene. Ryan was waspy and conventionally attractive yes, but a great beauty? No. She wasn’t very charismatic either. Granted I have not seen much of her work, this is just my impression.


      • That conventionally attractive aspect made her approachable and relatable to the audience, which afforded her starring opportunities in the genre of romantic comedies. In the end, that was both a blessing and a curse, as the audience at large couldn’t accept her as anything other than that (which really can be typical for anyone in life, when a group sees an individual as one thing and can’t accept them any other way. Kind of demonstrates that popularity has major drawbacks at times, especially when it comes to personal growth).


        • The question is: why HER?

          I mean, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock were average looking, hence “relatable” to the majority of female audiences, so in that sense their looks were part of their appeal. On the flipside of the coin, Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger and Michelle Pfeiffer were supremely beautiful and could land high profile roles for that reason alone, without being a box office draw.

          There is a middle place in which Meg Ryan could be categorized: pretty but not beautiful, an adequate but not exceptional actress. Many fit into this category. The one who immediately comes to mind is Melanie Griffith, often likened to Meg for a lot of reasons. But Griffith never achieved the level of stardom Ryan did, despite having an important qualities Ryan didn’t (charm, charisma, and general likability). Ryan came across as cold and bitchy.


      • My best answer to the question “Why HER?” is “”When Sally Met Sally…”; when that film took off, Ryan’s career went into overdrive.


      • Meg Ryan’s Beauty Evolution

        Happy birthday, Meg Ryan! The accomplished actress turns 55 today. It seems like just yesterday we were watching Meg in “Top Gun” saying our favorite line to Tom Cruise: “Take me to bed or lose me forever.” To celebrate the star’s birthday, check out how Meg’s beauty looks have evolved (or maybe just stayed classic) over the years.


  3. In my opinion Silence of the Lambs is one of the great horror films of all time, a stone cold classic. Funny to think that Jodi Foster had to fight hard for the role before convincing director Johnathan Demme.


  4. Wow, Alan Young lived a real long time (When I think of 90’s, I come up with the 1990’s); I watched “Mr. Ed” on Nick at Nite when I was a kid, and caught an episode or so over the last years.


  5. Our headliners were two of my favorite actresses from back in the day. There’s a picture of Michelle Pfieffer, Meg Ryan and Jodie Foster from an Entertainment Weekly photo shoot and I’d be hard pressed to think of three actresses I liked better in the later eighties/early nineties. I think I have told my Jodie Foster story here multiple times. But if anyone hasn’t heard it, let me know and I will share.

    Ryan’s birthday always makes me thing of Paul, the creator of Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies. His annual commemoration of Ryan’s birthday is part of what lead to the notion of daily birthday posts here. I hope he had a good day on Saturday. Cheers, Paul!

    Allison Janney was one of those actresses I recognized from lots of things, but I hadn’t put a name to her face until American Beauty. That’s right around the same time as The West Wing, but I didn’t watch that show.

    We have a couple of Star Trek birthdays. I never liked Voyager very much, but I recently made the connection that Robert Beltran was in the 80’s B-movie, Night of the Comet. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. In addition to Deep Space Nine, Terry Farrell was the girl in Back to School. Less obscure, but also worth a look.


    • I’ve never came across your Jodie Foster story, so I’d like to hear it.
      Some great one-liner in “Back to School” have stuck with me through the years, so I’m pretty fond of that film, as I am of “Night of the Comet”


      • Okay, here it is then. Lebeau’s Jodie Foster encounter in 3… 2… 1…

        (Apologies to those who have heard this story before)

        In the summer of 1990, Little Man Tate was filming in Cincinnati. A friend of mine and I responded to a cattle call for extras. We went downtown, filled out a form and dropped off a snapshot of ourselves. Then we waited and waited for a call. If they called you, they would tell you when and where to report if you were available. My friend got his call first. He was in a classroom scene. When the teacher announces the subject of the class, several students get up and leave. He was one of those students, but unfortunately for him he ended up being just outside of the frame of the shot. So he isn’t actually visible in the movie.

        I am. If you know where to look, you can see me in a scene about midway through the movie in a cafeteria. It’s right around the time the kid gets hit in the head with a globe. It’s been a while since I have watched it, so I can’t remember if that happens right before or right after my 3 seconds of fame. I’m the skinny kid with glasses and an ill-advised mustache.

        The scene I was in was filmed at the Cincinnati Club. We were all held in a room awaiting our call. We waited and waited. There were some very basic pastries and coffee. I had too much of the latter given how long we had to wait. Every now and then, someone from the production would show up and give us instructions. We were told not to make eye contact with Jodie Foster or to address her in any way. If we were overheard by anyone making reference to John Hinckley, we would be asked to leave. At the end of the day, we would be given $50 in cash and if we wanted one we could get an autographed picture of Foster, so don’t ask her for an autograph.

        After a few hours and many cups of coffee, we were called to the set. I decided to make a quick stop at the men’s room so I could be comfortable during filming. Too much coffee, remember. I was in a hurry and I guess I wasn’t looking where I was going because I just about plowed into this little woman in the hallway. I apologized profusely for nearly knocking this woman over. She didn’t say a word, but she seemed to me to be shocked. There was something about her reaction that I couldn’t put my finger on. I was in the wrong for not looking where I was going, but she seemed way more upset about it than I would expect someone to be. Especially after my quick and sincere apology.

        As she walked away down the hall, I started to process what had happened. She looked vaguely familiar. She was wearing sweat pants and no make-up. Nothing glamorous about her at all. But she kind of looked a little bit like Jodie Foster. As I watched her walk away, I grew more and more confident that I had just about knocked over Clarice Starling.

        I went about my business and hurried back to the set. They had us sitting at tables pretending to talk without actually saying anything. We had plates of cold food in front of us that we weren’t supposed to actually eat and a stack of books. The idea was we were studying during lunch time. The guy I was paired with was a theater guy. He’d been an extra in a few other movies that had shot in the area and fancied himself a professional. He got angry with me once for trying to upstage him. It was pretty funny how seriously he took it all.

        This scene was between Harry Connick Jr. and the main kid (Adam Hann-Byrd). Foster wasn’t in the scene, but she was on the set because Little Man Tate was her directorial debut. Then the little woman in the sweat pants came walking out on to the set to start setting up shots. Yep, it was Jodie Foster. Thankfully, if she was mad about what had happened in the hallway, she didn’t recognize me. She didn’t interact with the extras at all. They had people who wrangled us on her behalf.

        After about an hour of shooting, we were released. All in, I spent about four hours there and got paid $50 which was a pretty decent deal for a college student on summer break. I didn’t wait in line for my autographed picture of Jodie Foster, but I did get a story which I have been telling for years.


    • Nice Jodie Foster story—thanks for sharing for those of us who hadn’t heard it before.

      Night of the Comet is pretty good as B-movies go, and I definitely agree it’s worth checking out.


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