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. 5 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. 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.


  4. 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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