December 1: Happy Birthday Woody Allen and Bette Midler


Our two headliners for today starred together in Paul Mazursky’s Scenes from a Mall.

Woody Allen is turning 81 today.  He began working as television writer while just out of his teens, writing for a number of comedy shows, most notably for Sid Caesar.  He was a prominent stand-up comedian of the 1960s, and also began writing plays, including Play It Again, Sam, which starred Allen and Diane Keaton when it ran on Broadway and again in a film remake.

By the early 1970s, Allen was establishing himself as a film director.  Early slapstick comedies evolved into movies which, while still comic, had a more serious, sophisticated tone.  When the 1978 Oscar ceremony arrived, teenage moviegoers who had yet to discover a cinema world beyond popcorn movies were astonished that the Best Picture winner for the previous year was not Star Wars:

Along with winning Best Picture,  Annie Hall brought Allen a pair of Oscars, for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, along with a Best Actress Honor for Diane Keaton.  Allen has received 16 Oscar nominations for screenwriting, more than any other writer, and won two more Oscars, for the screenplays for Hannah and Her Sisters and Midnight in Paris.

His personal life? Controversial.

Bette Midler celebrates her 71st birthday today.  The Divine Miss M moved to New York at about 20 to work in theater, and made her Broadway debut in 1967, taking over the role of Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof.  She became a prominent recording star in the 1970s, releasing several traditional pop albums; this was her first hit single:

Midler made her film debut in The Rose in 1979, winning a pair of Golden Globes.  She has starred in several successful movies, including Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People, and The First Wives Club.  She has won a total of four Golden Globes, three Grammys and three Emmys (for Variety and Music performances).

Emily Mortimer turns 45 today.  She was featured in Woody Allen’s Match Point, and while never a really big star has done interesting work in a variety of films such as The 51st State, Lovely and Amazing, Young Adam, Lars and the Real Girl, and TranssiberianJeremy Northam, who is 55 today, played Mr. Knightley in Emma opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and has had major roles in films like Enigma and Gosford Park, and in British television series like The Tudors (as Thomas More) and The Crown (as Anthony Eden).  Comedian and actress Sarah Silverman, who is 46, is a two-time Emmy winner, once for an appearance on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, the other for writing for her special Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles.

Zoë Kravitz, who turns 28, has had notable roles in films like X-Men: First Class and Mad Max: Fury Road, and in the Divergent series.  Riz Ahmed, who is turning 34, appeared earlier this year in Jason Bourne and HBO’s The Night Of, and will be seen very soon in Rogue OneJanelle Monáe, who is 31 today, is an up-and-coming R&B/soul singer who has received six Grammy nominations during her relatively short career.   Akiva Schaffer, who turns 39, won an Emmy for the SNL Digital Short “Dick in the Box,” created for Saturday Night Live.

Obba Babatundé, who turns 65, was a Tony nominee for playing C. C. White in the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls and starred opposite Halle Berry in Introducing Dorothy DandridgeTreat Williams, who also is 65 today, was an Emmy nominee for playing superagent Michael Ovitz in the TV movie The Late Shift and starred as Andy Brown on EverwoodCandace Bushnell, who celebrates her 58th, is a journalist and novelist known for her New York Observer columns, the basis for HBO’s Sex and the City, and for follow-up novels like The Carrie DiariesAndrew Adamson, known for his directing,writing and producing roles in the Shrek franchise and the Chronicles of Narnia films, is 50 today.

Mary Martin (1913-1990) spent many years as a classic struggling actress before becoming successful.  Her first big break was starring in Cole Porter’s musical Leave It To Me!  She was a three-time Tony winner for Best Lead Actress in a Musical—for South Pacific (as Nellie Forbush), for Peter Pan (in the title role), and for The Sound of Music (as Maria).  Peter Pan (not to be confused with the Disney animated film) was also performed live for NBC’s Producers’ Showcase; Martin won an Emmy for the program.

Another legend of comedy born today was Richard Pryor (1940-2005).  Known for his topical, often political content and strong language, Pryor won five Grammys for Best Comedy Album from 1974-82.  He had an uneven film career, but could be extremely effective in combination with Gene Wilder.

David Doyle (1929-1997) played John Bosley for the entire run of Charlie’s Angels; he and Jaclyn Smith were the only two cast members in every episode.  William Daniels (1901-1970), no relation to the actor of that name, was a four-time Oscar nominee in cinematography, winning Best Black-and-White Cinematography for The Naked City.  Character actor Dick Shawn (1923-1987) had a variety of film roles, but at this time of year he perhaps should be remembered as the voice of Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa ClausRex Stout (1886-1975) was one of the early giants of American mystery fiction, the creator of private investigator Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin.  Lou Rawls (1933-2006) had a #1 R&B hit with “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” and won three Grammys in the Best R&B Male Vocal category.  Marie Tussaud (1761-1850) was a French artist known for her wax sculptures and for the famous Wax Museum in London that bears her name.

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 December 1, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Today was a happy accident. I was trying to arrange the monthly Movieline articles and just by random chance I had an interview with Tony Scott ready to run today. But then I looked up and saw your headline that today was Bette Midler’s birthday and I also had a cover story with Midler to schedule. So I flipped them. The Tony Scott interview should run next week assuming I don’t further alter the schedule. Conveniently enough, in the Movieline article, Midler discusses Woody Allen and Scenes From a Mall which had been released earlier that year.

    I like that you summed up Woody Allen’s personal life in one word. “Controversial” pretty much covers it, doesn’t it. I first discovered Woody Allen in middle school. My dad, who didn’t like Allen much, really enjoyed the mockumentary “Take the Money and Run”. It’s Woody Allen at his silliest. I saw Annie Hall and Manhattan at a Woody Allen film festival downtown and became a fan. Since then, it’s been a bumpy road. There’s a lot of lows. Interiors is a slog to sit through. Allen is a prolific filmmaker, but he frequently repeats himself. After decades of Allen movies, his weaker efforts feel tedious. But more often than not, I still enjoy them. And Midnight in Paris was a joy.

    Having said that, my feelings about Allen are complicated. His personal life is icky even if there’s no hard evidence of criminal activity. I won’t go too far down that wormhole, but it’s hard to ignore. I find my mixed feelings extending to Allen’s creative output. I recently rewatched Manhattan and while there was still a lot to like, I found certain elements off-putting. His recent TV show on Amazon just felt half-hearted. While I liked Cafe Society, Irrational Man, Magic in the Moonlight and Blue Jasmine, the last movie Allen made that really stuck with me was Midnight in Paris in 2011. That movie followed You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger which I could not sit through.

    Bette Midler, I am completely neutral on. I just have no opinions whatsoever. I am not the target demographic for most of her movies.

    I really haven’t seen as much of Emily Mortimer’s work as I would have thought. Apparently she voiced a car in Cars 2, she was in the Pink Panther movies and on the TV show Newsroom. I saw her in Match Point and 30 Rock. Jeremy Northam seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place him. So I pulled up his filmography and I finally noticed that he was in the 1997 thriller Mimic as well as Emma. Apparently it’s been a long time since I have seen anything he’s done.

    When I think of Sarah Silverman, I think of her recent appearance at the DNC when she and Al Franken had to stretch for time and she told the Bernie or Bust contingent that they were being ridiculous. I wonder how she feels about that in light of the elections results. Apparently she and Sanders had a speaking engagement just yesterday although Silverman mostly just cracked wise. She’s a talented, funny lady and drop dead gorgeous to boot.

    I have seen X-Men and Mad Max, but I couldn’t place Zoë Kravitz. She is the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet and played Angel in First Class.

    “Dick in the Box” is a funny sketch.

    I remember watching the Mary Martin Peter Pan as a kid. Must have been a repeat. The movies never did justice by Richard Pryor. I remember seeing him in The Toy, Superman II and Brewster’s Millions. You’d never guess based on those movies that he was a funny guy. The episode of SNL he hosted in the show’s first season was a classic.


    • The version of Peter Pan with Mary Martin was originally on Broadway in 1954 and then broadcast on NBC. NBC then did another broadcast in 1960, with the same staging and sets, and with the same cast except that the three Darling children were recast. It’s that 1960 version that was then reshown many times in later years—I can remember seeing it sometime in the 1970s.

      Another note about Mary Martin is that she was the mother of Larry Hagman of “Dallas” fame.


  2. As soon as I saw that Woody Allen & Bette Midler shared a birthday, I though “Scenes from a Mall”, which I think is okay. I’m not that big on Woody Allen, but I think he’s made some irreverent films and has made some cool observations on general human behavior. I like his 2004 film “Match point” the best, because that’s one film in which he really changed up the mood and tone he seems to normally go far.
    For Bette Midler, in a project in which she is the main attraction I like 1979’s “The Rose” (I also really like the song of the same name), but for films that are the opposite of that I’d go with “Ruthless People” and “Outrageous Fortune”.
    Emily Mortimer, she’s in “Match Point”, so that’s the first time I viewed her in anyway, but later on she was in “Lars and the Real Girl”, a film I’m fond of (I mentioned that for ryan Gosling’s birthday).
    Jeremy Northam, I remember him best as the bad guy from “The Net”, but I thought he was pretty good in “Emma”, and I think 1999’s “Happy, Texas” is delightful.
    Like Lebeau said, Sarah Silverman is a real stunner, and I think she’s pretty funny.
    Zoe Kravitz, she was in Season 4 of “Californication”, so that’s how I learned about her.
    Richard Pryor, wow, some of his standup was so funny. I know his film career was all over the place (“1982’s “The Toy”? Um, sure?), but I mentioned before that I really like 1978’s “Blue Collar” and as a pure Pryor vehicle I’d go with 1981’s Bustin’ Loose (probably not a lot of people’s first choice, but I enjoyed it).


  3. What is Woody Allen’s Most Overrated Film?

    I ask because I just had to shut down “Husbands and Wives” before it ended. What a non-stop arguing and shouting fest between 2 heterosexual couples. Awful, awful film.
    —Anonymous (1268 views)

    164 replies 152 Yesterday at 11:23 AM

    That’s probably my favorite Woody Allen film, so the most overrated I would say would be:

    “Broadway Danny Rose” because Mia is wearing her insides on the outside as their life begins to crumble, and her performance is uncomfortable.


    reply 1 Yesterday at 11:30 AM

    Annie Hall is a near-perfect film. So is Crimes and Misdemeanors. Hannah and Her Sisters was also solid. Manhattan would be a great film, but the pedo subplot is so bad it just takes you right out of the movie. Bananas is straight up f***ing hilarious.

    Matchpoint was overrated in the sense that it was a good film, but it was just retread of ideas Allen had already addressed so well in Crimes. Pretty much everything since then has been way overrated, except for Blue Jasmine which was solid. I think critics are so itchy to have Allen make a great film again that they imagine his recent output to be much better than it is. Even Blue Jasmine, good as it was, was only that good because of Cate Blanchett.

    He’s mined his shtick to death. He really should slow down the output. He might have another great film in him but it’s getting chopped up amongst a bunch of mediocre ones.


    reply 16 Yesterday at 12:26 PM

    “Overrated” is the tough word here since it implies that it must be considered one of his classics: with that in mind, I might have to say “Midnight in Paris”, mostly because any moment with that shrieking bitch Rachel McAdams and her equally c***y parents made me want to shoot them.

    I mean, there are worse films (and I am a big fan nonetheless), things like “Scoop” and “Cassandra’s Dream”, but nobody thinks they are amazing so “Overrated” does not apply. There’s one with Joaquin and Emma that I have yet to see. And one of his personal favorites that I don’t get at all, after a few tries, is the one with Jason Biggs and Moonpie Face, even it’s title is vague and cutesy and I don’t want to look up if it’s “Anything” or “Anybody” but it’s one of the two “…Else”.

    Underrated is another story: “Stardust Memories” probably wins but I also like “Hollywood Ending” far more than most do. Including its colorful poster that I have hanging framed over the Woody DVDs on the shelf.


    reply 17 Yesterday at 12:29 PM

    P.S. “Deconstructing Harry” is probably my personal favorite, easily the one I have watched the most times. But hardly overrated since he got yet another Oscar nom for writing it. More “forgotten” than anything.


    reply 18 Yesterday at 12:32 PM

    All of them. Woody is a creepy, neurotic person. Someone told Mia Farrow after Woody Allen married her daughter that he probably would have turned out to be a serial killer if he hadn’t gone to a psychiatrist everyday.


    reply 21 Yesterday at 1:01 PM

    Woody is a genius. I own everyone of his films on DVD and eagerly line up for the next one to arrive in theaters each summer.

    Yes, the last 15 or haven’t been as perfect as the golden age, but there’s usually something to like and none of them are unwatchable.

    Husbands & Wives is flat-out brilliant. Judy Davis is beyond anything one could hope for.

    I agree with someone above that Anything Else is one of the weaker films, but it’s not really rated highly by anyone.

    Purple Rose of Cairo is my personal favorite, but really it’s so hard to choose just one.


    reply 23 Yesterday at 1:56 PM

    Most of the European movies are terrible, but for some reason Match Point was considered a great movie. But It’s just a remake of Crimes with younger, sexier actors.


    reply 25 Yesterday at 2:06 PM

    and BTW Husbands and wives is great Not only because of Judy Davis, also because that movie really depicts Mia Farrow for what she really is: a passive aggressive, self serving, phony and cunning b****.


    reply 26 Yesterday at 2:08 PM

    Both H&W and BJ benefit tremendously from career-high performances from JD and CB, respectively. Biut besides that, both films are hugely entertaining and eminently watchable


    reply 30 Yesterday at 2:14 PM

    By far his worst film, which I cannot call overrated because no one liked it, is Cafe Society.


    reply 43 Yesterday at 2:31 PM

    Midnight in Paris is overrated. It’s a nice little flick but he didn’t deserve a writing Oscar for it. Juliette Lewis deserved an Oscar for having to act moist for him in Husbands and Wives.

    —Rain’s unbelievable moisture

    reply 45 Yesterday at 3:04 PM

    “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” got generally good reviews. I found it unbearable – one of the most boring and trite films I’ve ever seen. I would have walked out of the cinema if I hadn’t been with a friend. I apologized to him afterwards for having suggested the film.


    reply 46 Yesterday at 3:24 PM

    I kinda hated “Midnight in Paris”. I can’t stand watching – or listening to – Owen Wilson. The only thing I liked was Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway. And speaking of Hemingway, I love the cinematography of “Manhattan”, but I find it repulsive that a 40-something year old man is having a “relationship” with a 17 year old girl. As if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Woody, you are disgusting. But yes, NYC – we all love you.


    reply 48 Yesterday at 3:40 PM

    Agree that “Midnight in Paris” is very overrated.

    I’ve always loved “Annie Hall” and it still makes me laugh.

    “Crimes and Misdemeanors” might be his masterpiece. The final scene between Woody and Martin Landau is brilliant and gives you the one thing you needed. Hope


    reply 53 Yesterday at 4:59 PM

    Having worked in show business in New York City, “Broadway Danny Rose” is a personal favorite. All those crazy-a**ed people hanging on to the fringes of the business are so completely real. Allen knows show biz and he perfectly presented it in this film.


    reply 54 Yesterday at 5:35 PM

    The worst by far (for me) was “Deconstructing Harry”. Watching Woody spout profanity constantly was very off-putting for some reason. Another one I hated was “Scenes From A Mall” (I know he didn’t write or direct it, but still…any movie that had Woody and Bette Midler in it and be absolutely devoid of laughs is a true crime).

    I really like “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Broadway Danny Rose” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, but my all-time favorites are “Manhattan”, “Radio Days” and strangely “Manhattan Murder Mystery”.


    reply 60 Yesterday at 6:13 PM

    Big Allen fan here, though I’ve only seen about 70% of the films he’s directed in the past 15 years. He’s so flippin prolific, sometimes too prolific, I think. I have to agree with a couple of posters that his “return” with Match Point was way overhyped. It was such an overly serious and dreary film. Similarly, I thought Midnight in Paris was cute, but was puzzled as to its massive (by Allen standards) global success. Guess it was good timing, the right cast and perhaps an appealing title.

    I’m curious to know what others think are his underrated and underappreciated films. They don’t always have to be great cinematic masterpieces, they can also just be Woody Allen films where everything clicks and you find yourself grinning and laughing for 90 solid minutes. I’ve always thought ‘Alice’ shouldn’t be forgotten the way it has. It was sort of an inbetweener. It was hardly panned, but instead got solid B-ratings. But, I dunno, I find the whole film utterly charming. And, despite how disastrously their personal lives crumbled, at that moment in time, the film felt like a valentine to Mia.


    reply 71 Yesterday at 6:51 PM

    People in flyover territory hate New Yorkers because they think New Yorkers are like characters in Woody Allen films. Argumentative, self-centered, living in big Park Ave or CPW apartments, neurotic, going to therapy 5 days a week, having discussions about philosophers — having actual arguments about philosophers.

    In all my years in NYC, I never met a group of people like the people who populate Woody Allen films.


    reply 73 Yesterday at 6:58 PM

    Match Point is easily the most overrated. It’s such a miserable slog and I remember it getting slavishly good reviews when it was released. And the tennis stuff, meh. But I love Radio Days. Saw it when I was a teenager in the late 90s and it jump-started a hopelessly nerdy fascination for old time radio shows and productions that I still cultivate to this day. I was 15, ordering tons of CDs of old 30s and 40s radio dramas and stuff, listening to them all night. I loved the ads. God, what a geek I was.


    reply 78 Yesterday at 9:52 PM

    Decustructing Harry- Awful! Racist, woman hating, thematically recycled trash.

    —The black hooker

    reply 79 a day ago

    “Midnight in Paris” had some lovely things in it: Corey Stoll at his hottest and funniest as Hemingway, Adrien Brody as Dali, and Mimi Kennedy as the hilariously materialistic mother-in-law-to-be (“I say, cheap is cheap. You get what you pay for.”)

    But it’s very shallow (the literary celebrities are not celebrated because they have literary talent but simply because they’re famous personalities), Owen Wilson is cringe-inducingly awful, and the finding joy by hooking up with a beautiful 16 year-old is offensive.

    My favorite is “Radio Days” (his masterpiece), then “Love and Death,” then “Manhattan.” He hasn’t made any really great movies since the 1980s.


    reply 80 a day ago

    I really, really enjoyed “Small Time Crooks”, which doesn’t get much love.
    Agreed. Hands down, one of his most consistently funny films ever — not just of his later period(s). I can only take Tracey Ullman’s sketch comedy in small doses, but she was pitch perfect as his Allen’s trashy nouveau riche wife. And the brilliant Elaine May almost stole the film as Allen’s dimwitted cousin.

    i’ll get s*** for this, but as slight and silly as they were, I loved Scoop in which Allen (thank God) played a fatherly figure to ScarJo to great comic affect and in which Hugh Jackman was a surprisingly good villain. Also, the two films that followed Small Time Crooks always make me laugh — Curse of the Jade Scorpion which used the old trope of hypnotism and Hollywood Ending in which he played a film director suffering form hysterical blindness. Screwball and physical comedy are so hard to get right and, while they’re far from perfect, I remember both those films being very funny.


    reply 81 a day ago

    Manhattan Murder Mystery is a little gem that has mostly been forgotten — a very fun movie, and Anjelica Huston is really good in it. Crime and Misdemeanors and Husbands and Wives are my two absolute faves.

    Match Point was really overrated. His ear for British slang was laughable, and not in a good way. That movie was bad.

    I would love to see the first version of September that he completely filmed (with Sam Shepard, Maureen O’Sullivan and Charles Durning before scrapping the whole thing and re-filming from scratch with Denholm Elliot, Elaine Stritch and Jack Warden. I’d bet it isn’t better, but I’d love to see it for the comparison.


    reply 1494 hours ago


  4. I learned from that Bette Midler has been Tweeting and Facebooking about support for the preservation of Ron Finley’s “Gangsta Garden” in South Central L.A.; seems to me like a worthy cause.


  5. Congratulations tonight to Bette Midler for winning the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical as Dolly Levi in the new revival of Hello, Dolly! She won a Special Tony back in the seventies but this is her first in a competitive acting category.


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