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December 4: Happy Birthday Jeff Bridges and Marisa Tomei

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Oscar winner (and six-time nominee) Jeff Bridges is turning 67 today.  The son of actor Lloyd Bridges, his first major film role, and first Oscar nomination, was in the role of Duane Jackson in The Last Picture Show in 1971.  Bridges has been working consistently in film ever since then.  While his career has had the ebbs and flows you’d expect, every few years he seems to have one or more films that are commercial and/or critical successes.

After his debut, he went on to win another Oscar nomination for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and star in films like John Huston’s Fat City, the 1976 remake of King Kong, the contemporary noir Cutter’s Way, and the pioneering sci-fi film Tron.  He received his third Oscar nomination, and his first for Best Actor, for the 1984 sci-fi romance Starman.

A few highlights of Bridges’ career since then would include returning to Amarene, Texas for Texasville, starring in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King and working with the Coen Brothers for the first time in The Big Lebowski, receiving his fourth Oscar nomination for The Contender, and helping get the Marvel Cinematic Universe off to a flying start as Obadiah Stane in Iron Man.  He won the Oscar for Best Actor for the 2009 drama Crazy Heart, was nominated the next year for the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit, and will appear next year in Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Our second headliner today is also an Oscar-winner, and has also recently joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Marisa Tomei is celebrating her 52nd birthday.  Tomei made her feature film debut in the 1984 comedy The Flamingo Kid, and a few years later was a regular on the first season of A Different World.  She also made her stage debut in the Off-Broadway play Daughters, followed by her Broadway debut in a revival of Wait Until Dark.  But she first really came to people’s notice when she played a major supporting role in a courtroom comedy:

Tomei won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny, and has never really lacked for work since then.  She has had a knack for combining roles in commercially successful comedies like What Women Want and Wild Hogs, with critically acclaimed dramas like In the Bedroom (which brought her a second Oscar nomination), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and The Wrestler (her third Oscar nomination).  Recently she played Peter Parker’s Aunt May in Captain America: Civil War, a role she will reprise in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Patricia Wettig, who turns 65 today, won three Emmys as Nancy Krieger Weston on thirtysomething and more recently co-starred on Brothers & SistersTyra Banks, a former Victoria’s Secret Angel, won two Daytime Emmys for hosting The Tyra Banks Show on The CW; she is 43 today.  Fred Armisen celebrates his 5oth.  The former Saturday Night Live cast member has received four Emmy nominations (three for writing, one for acting) for the sketch comedy series Portlandia, which he co-created with Carrie Brownstein.  Jacob Tomuri, a stunt man and actor from New Zealand, turns 37.  He worked on all three Lord of the Rings films, and more recently has become a regular double for Tom Hardy, working on Mad Max: Fury Road, Legend, and The Revenant.  Basketball Hall-of-Famer Bernard King turns 60 today.  A four-time NBA All-Star, King made a bit of history in the mid-1980s; in a 1985 game he suffered a severe knee and leg injury, including a torn ACL as well as a broken leg bone, and became the first player to make a complete recovery from an injury of this sort.

Max Baer, Jr., who played Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies, turns 79 today.  He is the last surviving major cast member from the series.  Cheng Pei-pei, who turns 70, starred in a number of Hong Kong films from the 1960s and early ’70s, often as an action heroine, and made a return to wuxia cinema as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  English character actress Gemma Jones turns 74.  She played Pam Jones in the Bridget Jones films and Poppy Pomfrey in some of the Harry Potter films, and won a BAFTA Award for the British TV movie Marvellous.

Music birthdays include Terry Woods, who is turning 69.  The Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has been a member of a number of English and Irish folk-rock groups, including Steeleye Span and The Pogues.  English folkie Kate Rusby, who turns 43, released her fifteenth solo album, Life in a Paper Boat, earlier this year.  Anna McGarrigle, who turns 72, is a Canadian folksinger who performed with her sister Kate (1946-2010) for over 40 years; two of their albums won Juno Awards for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year.  Jazz musician Cassandra Wilson, who is 61 today, has won Grammys for her albums New Moon Daughter and LoverlyDennis Wilson (1944-1983; no relation to Cassandra) was one of the founders of the Beach Boys, and was the group’s drummer until substance abuse and erratic behavior got him fired from the group shortly before his death by drowning in 1983.  Hip hop artist Jay Z (given name Shawn Carter) turns 47.  His twenty-one Grammys tie him with Kanye West for the most ever won by a rapper—and also puts him one ahead in the race for most Grammys in his household; his wife Beyoncé has twenty.  Three of his albums made Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Deanna Durbin (1921-2013) began starring in musicals for Universal as a teenager; her movies, beginning with Three Smart Girls, are credited with saving the studio from bankruptcy.  Horst Buchholz (1933-2003) was a major star in European cinema in the 1950s and ’60s who also was known for a few Hollywood films, especially The Magnificent Seven.  Director and editor Mark Robson (1913-1978) was a two-time Oscar nominee, for Peyton Place and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, during a career of over 30 years in Hollywood.  Claude Renoir (1913-1993), the nephew of directing great Jean Renoir, worked for over 40 years as a cinematographer; one of his films was The Spy Who Loved MeVictor French (1934-1989) was primarily known for his television work; he had major roles on Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven.

Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) was a leading American crime fiction author of the mid-20th Century.  He is notable for the large number of films adapted from his novels in short stories, well over thirty in total.  A few of the most famous are the 1940s noirs Phantom Lady and The Black Angel, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and Francois Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black and Mississippi MermaidRainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was an Austrian poet and novelist.  He was know for his poetry collections such as The Book of Hours and the Duino Elegies and his novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Francisco Franco (1892-1975) took power in Spain after the brutal Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, and ruled as the nation’s Caudillo until his death.  It was a very unpleasant period to live through, but the Spanish Civil War did lead to some great works of literature, such as Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, and art, most notably Picasso’s GuernicaGregory “Pappy” Boyington (1912-1988) was a Medal of Honor winning American pilot during World War 2.  He fought with the “Flying Tigers” in China and with the Marines in the South Pacific.  The mid-1970s TV series Baa Baa Black Sheep was loosely based on Boyington’s experiences in the South Pacific and starred Robert Conrad as Boyington.

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 December 4, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. At the risk of stating the obvious, Jeff Bridges has been around a long, long time. I always remember him being respected, but it took a long time for him to be recognized as one of our better actors. I’m not sure he has ever been a movie star. He’s just consistently delivered interesting performances in a very wide variety of movies. His career is about as close to a straight line as you are going to find which is especially surprising given his longevity. I’m not even going to attempt to name my favorite Jeff Bridges movie as it changes with my mood.

    Like George Costanza, a lot of us here are fans of Marisa Tomei. Like everyone else, I first took notice of her in My Cousin Vinny where she made quite an impression. People who question her Oscar win don’t understand how difficult light comedy is.

    Confession, I watched a lot more of Tyra Banks’ America’s Top Model than I would care to admit. Portlandia gets all the hype, but Fred Armisen’s spoof Documentary Now is also hysterical.

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    • As I was looking over Bridges’ career in writing the article yesterday, I had the same impression you did. He’s never really been a big box office draw—the biggest hit he’s ever been in was Iron Man, where he was the villain—but there’s never been a time when he has really fallen out of major actor status, either.

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  2. Jeff Bridges has had a hell of a career, and Jeff Bridges is a hell of an actor. For me Starman, Fearless, Crazy Heart, Iron Man and Tucker: A Man And His Dream are big career standouts.

    It’s impossible to dislike Marisa Tomei, isn’t it? My Cousin Vinny was a winning comedy, and Tomei was charming and delightful in her part. I still watch it every once in a blue moon. Her Oscar win was deserved. The Wrestler was another real gem of a film, Tomei was terrific of course but Mickey Rourke put in the performance of a lifetime. An affecting movie, one I heartily recommend if anybody hasn’t seen it yet.

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  3. Bridges was amazing actor He currently has tons of oscar hype for hell and high water hopefully he gets it . here is a quote by bridges talking about his hit and miss box office As far as the lack of hits goes, I think perhaps it’s because I’ve played a lot of different roles and have not created a persona that the public can latch on to. I have played everything from psychopathic killers to romantic leading men, and in picking such diverse roles I have avoided typecasting. Which goes to show you that sometimes being versatile can cost any actor from having big career . Bridges has appeared in a fair number of hits won an oscar and received 6 nominations not to mention worked with respected actor so its safe to say bridges has done good. Not every actor has to go movie star route to become big. I would say his career has always been better then mickey rourke who before wrestler pretty much was in direct to dvd territarty . Right now bridges career is doing better then mickey who could use a page on this blog

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  4. Iam surprised tomi never made it to your blog

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  5. Marisa Tomei has a definite talent for comedy, but she’s also been able to hold her end up when it comes to serious drama as well. One of my favorite films to feature her is The Lincoln Lawyer, where she plays Maggie McPherson, Mickey Haller’s ex, who is a deputy DA. As a fan of Michael Connelly, and the Harry Bosch/Mickey Haller fictional universe, I thought she was a very good choice as “Maggie McFierce.”

    I am not much of a hip-hop fan, but there’s no doubt that Jay Z is one of the most influential artists in that genre.

    Bernard King was a very good basketball player, but he’s most distinctive as a landmark in the history of sports medicine. Back in the day, a torn ACL was often the death knell of an athlete’s career; King’s full recovery from ACL surgery was, as I recall, almost totally unprecedented.

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  6. Jeff Bridges has played everything from hanging out with Lassie to being trapped in a computer. I always say my favorite era of Jeff Bridges is the films he did from 1982- 1988, beginning with “Tron” and ending with “Tucker: A Man and His Dream” (I used to end that era with “8 MIllion Ways to Die”, but now I want to end with a dream), but really I could be here all night naming and mentioning film, since his career is so robust.
    I think Marisa Tomei was great in “My Cousin Vinny” (love the “my biological clock is ticking” scene), and in general have enjoyed her work (and her look) through the years.
    Pattrica Wetting, sure, “Thirtysomething”; that was a show I never really viewed, but I’m familiar with a few of the cast members: Timothy Busfield (kind of has a Richard Dreyfus thing going on?), Mel Harris, Wetting’s husband Ken Olin (I like his role in the 1995 TV movie “Dead By Sunset”), and Peter Horton (I’m still fascinated by how he was there for Michelle Pfeiffer when that cult had their hooks in her). I really haven’t seen much of Wetting though, except to day that I think she has really nice eyes.
    A friend of mine had a Bernard King poster on his wall back when he played for the Washington Bullets. We called him Bernard “he’s hard” King. He was hard, hard to stop (“hard” was a popular slang back then, I guess).

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  7. Wow, I found a function on this site that allows me to sign in with my ubiquitous FB account. Makes too much sense! I’m just posting this to say that I liked Craig Hanson’s post.

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