November 27: Happy Birthday Kathryn Bigelow and Jimi Hendrix
Kathryn Bigelow celebrates her 65th today. After studying painting as an undergraduate, she went to film school at Columbia. Her first feature (co-directed with Monty Montgomery) was an indie biker film called The Loveless. She directed six films in the next twenty years, almost all some sort of thriller:a thriller about non-sparkly vampires, Near Dark, a thriller about bank robbers who surf (Point Break), a thriller aboard a submarine (K-19), and so on.
Then, about 6 years after K-19, she directed the first of two highly-acclaimed films about what could be called the post-9/11 world. She was inspired by an article by freelance journalist Mark Boal (who also wrote the screenplay), about military bomb disposal units in Iraq:
The Hurt Locker won six Oscars in 2010; Bigelow herself won Best Director (the first woman honored) and shared Best Picture as a co-producer. It also boosted the careers of stars Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. Bigelow’s next film, Zero Dark Thirty, about the takedown of Osama bin Laden, was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture. She is currently at work on a film about the 1967 Detroit riots.
So now, let’s play word association. I throw out the phrase Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970). The word that should come to people’s mind, of course, is “guitar.” Or maybe, “greatest rock guitarist ever.” His active career lasted only about four years, and he released only three studio albums during his lifetime (all of them reached the top 5). But his recordings and live performances, not to mention further recordings released after his death, had an enormous impact.
Jaleel White, who is 40 today, played the breakout character of the hit 1990s sitcom Family Matters, Steve Urkel; he also voiced Sonic the Hedgehog in several animated series. South African actor Sharlto Copley turns 43. His best known roles include Wikus van der Merwe in District 9, H. M. Murdock in the film The A-Team, Agent C. M. Kruger in Elysium, and the title character in Chappie. Alison Pill celebrates her 31st. She has had supporting roles, sometimes rather small but often interesting, in a wide variety of films: Dan in Real Life, Milk, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (as Kim Pine), Midnight in Paris (as Zelda Fitzgerald), Snowpiercer, and Hail, Caesar! She was a Tony nominee in the original Broadway production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore.
Samantha Bond, who is 55 today, is a British television veteran, most notably on Downton Abbey, but many American viewers know her best as a somewhat liberated Miss Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films. Fisher Stevens, who celebrates his 53rd, played the comic character of Ben Jahrvi in the Short Circuit films; he is also an Oscar winner, for Best Documentary Feature, for his 2009 film The Cove. Curtis Armstrong, who turns 63, is likewise remembered for one comic role, Dudley “Booger” Dawson in the Revenge of the Nerds films. William Fichtner, who is 60 today, currently is a regular on Mom and starred on the short-lived ABC series The Invasion; he has done a lot of supporting roles in film, both big-budget films (The Perfect Storm, The Dark Knight) and indies (Drive Angry). Callie Khouri, who turns 59, won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Thelma & Louise, and is the creator of Nashville, the former ABC series recently moved to CMT.
Okay, word association again. I say Bill Nye, you should hopefully say—“science guy!” After working as an engineer with Boeing for a number of years, Nye began appearing in the live-action education segments incorporated into the animated Back to the Future series. This led to his PBS series, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and an ongoing career in blending science education with entertainment.
Other music birthdays today: Eddie Rabbitt (1941-1998) was a singer-songwriter, mostly in country. He wrote hits for other singers—“Kentucky Rain” for Elvis Presley, #1 country hit “Pure Love” for Ronnie Millsap—and then embarked on a recording career of his own. He had six consecutive Top 10 Country albums from 1977-82, and around a dozen #1 Country singles. Hilary Hahn, who turns 37 today, has been one of the leading classical violinists in the world since she was in her teens. Hahn has commissioned a variety of original compositions, while also performing and recording the standard repertoire. She identifies J.S. Bach as the composer she enjoys playing most:
In sports, Football Hall of Famer Larry Allen turns 45. The offensive lineman spent most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys and was selected to eleven Pro Bowls. Ivan Rodriguez was born the same day as Allen, but his sport was baseball. One of the best catchers in baseball in the last 25 years, he was a 14-time All-Star and the American League MVP in 1999. Another former catcher, Mike Scioscia, was not as exceptional a player as Rodriguez, but has gone on to a distinguished career as a manager; he guided the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to their first and only World Series crown in 2002 and is the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball at present. He turns 58 today. Chick Hearn (1916-2002) was a sportscaster known for two things. One was his amazing streak of broadcasting 3,338 consecutive Los Angeles Lakers basketball games. The other was the collection of phrases he habitually used in calling games. Some have become part of the standard lingo of basketball—slam dunk, air ball, give-and-go, etc. Others were unique to him—Chickisms, we used to call them: “He faked him into the popcorn machine,” “the mustard’s off the hot dog,” and many more.
Today’s writer birthdays include the multi-talented James Agee (1909-1955). Agee collaborated with photographer Walker Evans on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a powerful report on the lives of sharecropping farm families. He was one of the first influential American film critics, wrote screenplays himself (such as The African Queen), and won a posthumous Pulitzer Price for his novel A Death in the Family. L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000) was a prominent writer of science fiction and fantasy. He may be most famous for the Harold Shea stories he wrote with Fletcher Pratt. He also wrote a number of popular science books and biographies of fantasy authors Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.
Buffalo Bob Smith (1917-1998) was once a name and face known to all American children (at least with televisions) as the host of Howdy Doody, one of the first big hits of the television era. Ernie Wise (1925-1999) was well known to English television viewers for his partnership with Eric Morecambe. The duo’s Christmas specials were often the highest rated episodes of their durable comedy show. American actor James Avery (1945-2013) starred as Philip Brooks, the head of the family on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and also did quite a bit of voice acting.
Another “short life, big influence” figure born today was Bruce Lee (1940-1973). It’s pretty safe to say that martial arts movies would not be what they are today without the San Francisco-born martial artist and actor. Films like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon are landmarks in martial arts cinema.
Okay, one final word association game for today—I say Cal Worthington (1920-2013). If you grew up in the same part of the country as me, in the 1970s or 80s in particular, you know that the answer is “and his dog Spot.” Just as Bill Nye made science education fun and entertaining, Cal Worthington, owner of a group of West Coast auto dealerships, did the same for auto dealer’s ads.
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 27, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Alison Pill, Buffalo Bob Smith, Cal Worthington, Callie Khouri, Chick Hearn, Hilary Hahn, Jaleel White, James Agee, Jimi Hendrix, Kathryn Bigelow, Samantha Bond, William Fichtner. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.