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November 28: Happy Birthday Ed Harris and Alfonso Cuarón

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Four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris is turning 66 today.  He began working in films in the late 1970s, and his first attention-getting role was as astronaut John Glenn in The Right Stuff.  He starred opposite Sally Field and his wife-to-be, Amy Madigan (they have been married for over 30 years) in Places in the Heart, and then received a Tony nomination in his Broadway debut in George Furth’s  Precious Son in 1986.

Having made a breakthrough as an astronaut, it was fitting that Harris received his first Oscar nomination in another film about astronauts, although this time Harris was the man in charge at Mission Control:

In the years since Apollo 13, Harris has kept very busy; space precludes doing more than giving a few highlights.  His three subsequent Oscar nominations were for The Truman Show, Pollock, and The Hours.  He won Golden Globes for The Truman Show and for the HBO film Game Change, while receiving Emmy nominations for the latter as well as for the HBO miniseries Empire Falls.  He is currently a regular on Westworld.

One of Harris’s recent roles was as the voice of Mission Control in Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who is 55 today.  Cuarón has regularly moved back and forth between working in his native Mexico and in Hollywood.  After his directing debut, Sólo Con Tu Pareja, he made a pair of English-language literary adaptations, A Little Princess and Great Expectations.  Then came a second Mexican film, which really put Cuarón on the map, and gave many people an introduction to Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna:

Cuarón received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Y Tu Mamá También.  His direction of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is often seen as getting the Potter films on track after the pedestrian direction of the first two films.  He then adapated P. D. James novel Children of Men, which was followed by the film that has brought him the most acclaim.  Cuarón won two Oscars for Gravity, for Best Director and Best Editing (shared with Mark Sanger).  His next project will take him back to Mexico City.

Scottish actress Karen Gillan turns 29 today.  She is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy and its upcoming sequel, and also has a role in next year’s Jumanji.  She first became known, though, as Amy Pond on Doctor Who, companion to the Eleventh Doctor.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead celebrates her 32nd.  Known early in her career as a scream queen for films like Black Christmas and Final Destination 3, she has expanded her repertoire a bit.  She still does thrillers like The Thing and 10 Cloverfield Lane, but she has also played Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and done indie films like Smashed and Alex of Venice Johnny Simmons, who is turning 30, appeared with Winstead in Scott Pilgrim, as Young Neil; he does a lot of indie film work these days, such as The Phenom and Frank and Cindy.  French actress Louise Bourgoin is 35 today.  She was a Cesar nominee in her film debut, The Girl From Monaco, and has starred in films like The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec and I Am a Soldier; she appeared in the 2015 American thriller Mojave with Oscar Isaac and Mark Wahlberg.  Ryan Kwanten, who turns 40, was a regular for five seasons on the durable Australian soap opera Home and Away and then played Jason Stackhouse on True BloodAlan Ritchson, who is 32 today, played Aquaman on Smallville and was the voice of Raphael in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboots.

Director Joe Dante turns 70.  We have a detailed WTHH article here on Dante with plenty of detail about his career directing films like Gremlins, Innerspace and Looney Tunes: Back in ActionJon Stewart is 54 today.  The comedian and talk show host is best known for his long tenure hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central.  Judd Nelson celebrates his 57th.  His roles in The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire stamped him as part of the “Brat Pack.”  Since then many people have asked “What the hell happened” to him?  Polish director Agnieszka Holland, who turns 68, is known for directing the films Europa, Europa and In Darkness, the latter an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film; she also directed Ed Harris in Copying Beethoven.

Major music birthdays today include Berry Gordy, Jr., who is 87.  Gordy had a lot of success as a songwriter, especially in the 1950s and ’60s, writing or co-writing hits for Jackie Wilson, The Miracles, The Contours, The Jackson Five and more.  But his biggest impact was as a record producer and businessman.  Motown Record Corporation, which he founded, was the home of an amazing array of pop, soul and R&B talent, much of it African-America: The Jackson Five, the Temptations, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and many more.  R&B singer Trey Songz, who is 32 today, is a three time Grammy nominee whose last two albums have reached #1 on the Billboard 200.  Randy Newman turns 73.  The singer-songwriter and film composer is a twenty-time Oscar nominee, winning twice for Best Original Song.  In the pop-rock world he is know for his huge 1977 hit “Short People.”  Out of his many film scores, one of the best, an Oscar nominee and a Grammy winner (for Best Instrumental Composition), is this one:

Our list of birthdays in the writing world is headed by William Blake (1757-1827).  The poet, who was either a Romantic or a precursor to the Romantic poets, depending on who you talk to, is best known for his Songs of Innocence and Experience; he was also a noteworthy painter.  John Bunyan (1628-1688), a writer and preacher, was the author of the religious allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, sometimes cited as the first novel in English (it depends on how broadly you define a novel).  Dennis Brutus (1924-2009) was a South African poet and journalist; because of the times in which he lived, he was also, inevitably, a political activist, known for his campaigns against apartheid.  Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) is said to have been one of the world’s most popular writers in the 1920s and ’30s; director Wes Anderson cited Zweig’s novels Beware of Pity and The Post Office Girl as inspirations to his film The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Journalist and amateur social scientist Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) had a big impact on world history through The Communist Manifesto (which he coauthored with Karl Marx) and The Condition of the Working Class in England, a pioneering work in sociology.

Hope Lange (1933-2003) was an Oscar nominee for the 1957 melodrama Peyton Place, and a two-time Emmy winner for playing Carolyn Muir on The Ghost & Mrs. MuirAlexander Godunov (1949-1995) was a Soviet-era Russian dancer famous for his dramatic defection during a Bolshoi Ballet tour of the US in 1979.  He had a short acting career that included significant supporting parts in Witness and Die Hard.  Director Michael Ritchie (1938-2001) was known for a variety of films—the political satire The Candidate with Robert Redford, the original of The Bad News Bears, and Fletch and its sequel.

Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (1923-1981) had a short but memorable career as a major actress.  She was impressive in a supporting part in It’s a Wonderful Life, and then was Oscar-nominated the next year for her supporting role in the noir classic Crossfire.  She had several other important film noir roles, in films like In a Lonely Place, Macao and The Big Heat (famous for the scene where Lee Marvin throws scalding coffee into her face).  But she wasn’t exclusively a noir actress—she won her Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress, in the melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful, and played Ado Annie in the film version of Oklahoma!  By the end of the 1950s, Grahame was finding work hard to come by, partly owing to the scandal of her marriage to her former stepson Anthony Ray.

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 28, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Happy Birthday Ed Harris. Your fans from Oklahoma. Mike and Jane Sparks

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  2. Ed Harris has given a lot of performances I enjoy. A few I didn’t have space to include in the article for reasons of space are China Moon, Gone Baby Gone, Appaloosa (which he also directed) and Snowpiercer.

    Mary Elizabeth Winstead seems to be a bit underrated to me. She brings quite a bit more to the table as an actress than you’d expect from a “scream queen.” I liked her as the heroine in Scott Pilgrim, and as a very tenacious protagonist in The Thing.

    Besides the TV work mentioned in the article, Ryan Kwanten starred in the low-budget horror comedy Knights of Badassdom, which was filmed right here in my adopted hometown of Spokane. Unfortunately, neither that nor the awesomeness of my perma-crush Summer Glau can save it form not being very good.

    Randy Newman’s epic score for The Natural is a big favorite of mine.

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  3. In my humble opinion Glengarry Glen Ross has the greatest ensemble cast I’ve ever seen in a film; Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Johnathan Pryce, Alec Baldwin and Alan Arkin all deliver tremendous performances. Only Pacino was nominated for an Oscar, but theoretically any of them could have been nominated in this fine film.

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  4. ed harris great actor amazing playing villains is his specialty. With leo winning oscar i pray ed is next he was robbed for trumans show

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  5. I’ve always enjoyed the work of Ed Harris (he was positively wicked in “A History of Violence”), and he’s even done some narration for NFL Film, specifically their “America’s Game” (it’s everybody’s game though) series.
    Joe Dante, yeah, I mentioned in the article on this site that many of his films have entertained me, and he’s kind of an audience’s director, since he’s clearly a big fan of many pop culture things himself.
    Yeah, I see Mary Elizabeth Winstead as more tan a Scream Queen (now Linnea Quigley, there’s a Scream Queen), though there’s nothing wrong in being that, but I just think that there just aren’t Scream Queens anymore, as that era was more for those slasher films of the late 1970’s through the 1980’s.
    Judd Nelson is another guy that’s been covered quite a bit here; I’d have to say he’s my favorite male brat packer.
    William Blake, I like some of his word: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend”. He also later illustrated some of Dante’s (not Joe Dante though) Divine comedy.
    Hope Lange, well, it’s back to that impression that the rape/beating scene in “Death Wish” left me, and she was the mom in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge”.

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  6. he was great in truman show apollo 13 rock pollock right stuff place in heart a beautful mind and hours. He is underatted he gets no credit. Probaly due to fact he is charactor actor and they rarely get creidt

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  7. I had seen Ed Harris in The Right Stuff, but I didn’t really know who he was until The Abyss. I have seen and enjoyed Alfonso Cuarón’s most mainstream movies, as well as his literary adaptations. I had no idea I was so familiar with his work! Didn’t Alan Ritchson start out as a contestant on American Idol? Pretty sure I read that somewhere.

    Joe Dante and Jon Stewart!! That’s enough for me right there. Big fan of them both. Judd Nelson was a major movie star in 1985. By 1986, that was pretty much over. For a while, I thought Randy Newman was going to sing a song on every Pixar movie,

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  8. ed harris is always intense. Right stuff is full of good acting with exception of dennis quaid who was flat like he always was. Sam shepared was good . I heard about a controversy he had in oscars of 98 where he refused to clap for this one director.

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