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November 29: Happy Birthday Joel Coen and Don Cheadle

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Joel Coen, the older of the filmmaking duo of brothers, turns 62 today; he and his younger brother Ethan have made 17 features together (by my count), not including screenplays for films directed by others.  Their films often are homages to various film genres—Miller’s Crossing to gangster films, The Hudsucker Proxy to a certain type of screwball comedy, etc.—but commonly with strong undercurrents of irony and dark humor.  Film noir seems to be a favorite of theirs: their very first film, Blood Simple, had a lot of standard noir elements, as did the first of their films to win Oscar recognition:

The Coens won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Fargo, while Frances McDormand (who has been married to Joel since 1984) won Best Actress.  Joel was nominated for Best Director; although the Coens have always shared directing duties on their films, Joel was the credited director to comply with DGA rules that put strict limits on a film having more than one credited director.

Among the Coens’ best-received films in the 20 years since Fargo are the Preston Sturges homage, O Brother Where Art Thou, the Best Picture-winning No Country for Old Men, and their 2010 remake of True Grit.  Their latest film was this year’s Hail, Caesar!  They wrote the script for the upcoming Suburbicon, which George Clooney is directing, and they have a project in the works in collaboration with Dennis Lehane titled Dark Web.

Don Cheadle is turning 52 today.  After graduating from the California Institute of the Arts, he began acting, getting small film and television roles.  His first major role was in Devil in a Blue Dress, playing Mouse Alexander, the lethal sidekick to PI Easy Rawlins.  He had a significant role in Boogie Nights, and in the late 1990s, began working regularly with director Steven Soderburgh, including appearances in Out of Sight, Traffic, and a series of caper films:

Cheadle starred in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, as hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, a role that brought him a Best Actor nomination.  The next year, he starred in Paul Haggis’s Crash, which won Best Picture.  In recent years, he co-starred in The Guard (a blackly comic Irish take on a buddy-cop film) with Brendan Gleeson, has taken on the role of Jim Rhodes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and won a Golden Globe during his five-year starring run on Showtime’s House of Lies.

Three-time Oscar nominee Diane Ladd turns 81 today.  Her three nominations were for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (basis of the TV series Alice), Wild at Heart, and Rambling Rose.  In the latter two films, Ladd appeared alongside her daughter, Laura Dern; she and Dern made a bit of history when they were both nominated for Oscars for Rambling Rose.  Comedian Howie Mandel, who turns 61, is known for hosting the game show Deal or No Deal.   Andrew McCarthy, who is 54 today, was part of the 1980s Brat Pack, known for films like St. Elmo’s Fire and Pretty in Pink.  Today he is most active as a TV director on series like The Blacklist.

Hinton Battle, who celebrates his 60th, is a three-time Tony winner for his musical theater work; he will be remembered by Buffy fans for playing the demon Sweet in the musical episode “Once More, With Feeling.”  Cathy Moriarty’s film career is highlighted by an Oscar nomination for playing Vikki LaMotta in Raging Bull; she turns 56 today.  Kim Delaney, who turns 55, won an Emmy on NYPD Blue and most recently was a star on Lifetime’s Army WivesTom Sizemore, who shares a birthday with Delaney, had a run of great supporting roles in the 1990s—Heat, Saving Private Ryan, and also Devil in a Blue Dress—but more recently has been battling legal and substance abuse problems.

Anna Faris, who made her name in the Scary Movie franchise and other comedies of the 2000s, turns 40 today.  She currently stars on CBS’s MomSarah Jones, who turns 43, won a special Tony award for her one-woman show Bridge & TunnelLauren German, who is 38 today, currently stars as Chloe Decker on Lucifer and previously starred on Chicago FireLucas Black, the star of NCIS: New Orleans, who also plays Sean Boswell in the Fast and the Furious series, turns 34 today.  Indian actress Ramya, who also celebrates her 34th, is a two-time winner of the Filmfare Award for Best Actress and has also served in the Indian Parliament.

Chadwick Boseman, who turns 40, starred as Jackie Robinson in 42 and is one of the newest stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as T’Challa, aka Black Panther.  Brian Baumgartner, who is 44 today, is best known for his role of Kevin Malone in The OfficeLaura Marano, who starred as Ally Dawson on Disney’s Austin & Ally, turns 21.  English stage and screen actor Julian Ovenden turns 40; best known for his musical theater work on both sides of the Atlantic, he was also a regular on season 5 of Downton Abbey.

Musical birthdays today include Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967), the jazz pianist and composer known for his work with Duke Ellington and for composing “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Lush Life,” and other jazz standards.  Merle Travis (1917-1983) was a country and folk singer-songwriter known for songs such as “Sixteen Tons” and “Dark as a Dungeon,” and even more for his highly influential style of guitar playing, known as “Travis Picking.”  Denny Doherty (1940-2007) was one of the founding members of the 1960s “sunshine pop” group The Mamas & the Papas.  Jordan Knight, who turns 46, is known as the lead singer of the New Kids on the Block, the highly successful late eighties and early nineties boy band.  Chuck Mangione turns 76.  The smooth jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player was a two-time Grammy winner in the 1970s.

Authors born today include C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), author of the Chronicles of Narnia series, the so-called Space Trilogy of science fiction novels, and the satirical novel of Christian apologetics, The Screwtape LettersLouisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is best known for her trilogy of novels about the March sisters (based on Alcott and her own sisters), Little Women and its sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys.  Alcott had a sizable influence on children’s fiction in the US.  Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) is known for her young adult novels, the best-known of which is A Wrinkle in Time, one of a large series of interconnected novels known as the “Kairos” and “Chronos” books.

In the sports world, Minnie Miñoso (1923-2015) was one of the first Latin American stars in major league baseball.  He spent most of his career with the Chicago White Sox, and made the American league All-Star team nine times.  Russell Wilson, who turns 28 today, is currently one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and led the Seattle Seahawks to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII.  Retired soccer star Kasey Keller turns 47.  He was the US Men’s National Team goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup and had over 100 caps for the US; he was also one of the first American players to achieve a moderate degree of stardom in Europe, primarily in England.  Sportscaster Vin Scully celebrates his 89th today.  Although he covered football, tennis and golf in his career, Scully will be remembered most for his 67-year tenure as the play-by-play man calling games for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Emmy-winner Garry Shandling (1949-2016) was best known for the comedy series he created and starred in on Showtime and HBO, It’s Garry Shandlings Show and The Larry Sanders Show, respectively.

Yakima Canutt (1895-1986) was one of the pioneers of that hazardous side of film, stunt work.  A rodeo champion as a youth, he developed many of the standard techniques for stunts involving horses and riding.  As he got older, and accumulated injuries took their toll on his body, he transitioned to working as a stunt coordinator and second unit director.  Some of his most famous stunt work came in the famous chase sequence in Stagecoach.

Busby Berkeley (1895-1976) was born the same day as Yakima Canutt, and like Canutt, he had a particular specialty.  In Berkeley’s case, it was complex song-and-dance routines.  Berkeley began working on Broadway in the 1920s, choreographing dance numbers for musicals, then moved to Hollywood.  He first worked for Samuel Goldwyn on musicals starring Eddie Cantor, and at the end of the 1930s he made several Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney musicals at MGM.  But his most famous work was at Warner Brothers, on several classic mid-1930s musicals such as Gold Diggers of 1933:

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 29, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Yeah, Coen Brothers! Especially Fargo. Even their weaker efforts are worth watching. Don Cheadle sure did benefit from Terrence Howard’s contract renegotiation. Of course he’d been around for a while, but playing Iron Man’s buddy will raise your profile. Andrew McCarthy is one of the few Brat Packers I have yet to cover here.

    There was a Movieline article we ran here a while back that covered Cathy Moriarty’s attempt at a comeback in the 90’s. Spoilers. It didn’t take. Tom Sizemore is a WTHH waiting to, um, happen. Always enjoy Anna Faris who happens to be married to Star Lord. My kids watched Austin & Ally (which was painful even by Disney Channel standards, so I am familiar with Laura Marano.

    When Mindy was young, she had a crush on Jordan Knight. Then she saw him on some reality show and realized he was a jerk. My youngest is reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in school, so we discussed C. S. Lewis just this morning. I used to watch reruns of It’s Garry Shandlings Show on PBS. Hysterical.

    Busby Berkeley makes me think of Disney’s The Great Movie Ride. The effects for the Berkley scene haven’t worked in years. But if you haven’t experienced the ride, you should see it while you can. It’s scheduled to be replaced in the not too distant future.

    Okay, back to work. grumblegrumble

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  2. A lot of names today. Fargo was my first Coen Brothers film and still one I think highly of. My favorites are Miller’s Crossing and O Brother Where Art Thou, the True Grit remake is very good and a great career kickoff for Hailee Steinfeld, and although No Country For Old Men is not the easiest film to watch, it is very good and has a fantastic performance from one of my favorites, Kelly Macdonald.

    Yakima Canutt was one of the legends of stunt work. His list of second unit director credits is very impressive.

    That’s Ginger Rogers singing “We’re in the Money” in the final clip, by the way.

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    • My first Coen Brothers movie was Raising Arizona which I saw on video. I saw a lot of their movies a year or two after their theatrical release when they hit video. Barton Fink was the first one I saw in theaters. I’ll agree with you that Miller’s Crossing and O Brother Where Art Thou are among the brothers’ best. I like No Country For Old Men. It plays better the second time around after you know the ending is intentionally unsatisfying. The Big Lebowski is extremely popular and I like it, but I don’t love it the way its cultists do. True Grit was solid. I’m not a big fan of Westerns so I didn’t embrace it the way some people did.

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      • ” O Brother Where Art Thou?” would be my third choice. Yeah, I like “The Big Lebowski”, but it’s just been referenced so much by so many people that I indirectly got sick of it. Besides, I’d rather watch “The Hudsucker Proxy”, “Raising Arizona” or “Barton Fink” before that film anyway.

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  3. Yeah, I really enjoyed a large portion of the films The coen brothers have helmed; I guess I’d go with “Blood Simple” and “Fargo” as my favorites, but I can’t really go wrong with any of their offering.
    The first time I remember Don Cheadle was from the cable TV movie “Rebound: The legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault”. At the time, I didn’t know of Don Cheadle, Earl Manigault, or what a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) was. He was also in a 1988 episode of “Night Court”, when he played a confused stick-up kid. I though “Hotel Rwanda” was excellent.
    Tom Sizemore’s career seemed sidetracked by personal issues, but he used to play a lot of significant supporting parts (his turn in “Natural Born Killers” kind of sticks with me). He’s also another performer who voiced a character in “grand Theft Auto: Vice City”, voicing main bad guy Sonny Forelli (although he really only is directly involved in the beginning & end of the game, along with an occasional phone call after certain events take place in the middle of everything).

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    • I had seen Don Cheadle in enough things prior to 1997 that when he showed up in Boogie Nights, he looked familiar. When he played the bad guy in Out of Sight the following year, that’s when I put a name to the face.

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  4. Oh, and I have a book of poems by C.S. Lewis; I’ve had it for like 21 years, and used to carry it around in my Jansport backpack back in the day.

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