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December 7: Happy Birthday Ellen Burstyn and Sara Bareilles

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Ellen Burstyn turns 84 today.  She made her Broadway debut in 1957 and then spent over a decade paying her dues in television guest roles.  In the early 1970s, she made a big breakthrough, receiving three Oscar nominations in four years.  After a Best Supporting Actress nomination for playing Lois Farrow in The Last Picture Show, she was nominated for Best Actress in consecutive years, for The Exorcist and as the title character of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore:

Burstyn’s performance as Alice Hyatt won her an Oscar, and the same year, she also won a Tony for starring in Bernard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year.  The film version of the play brought her a Golden Globe and her fourth Oscar nomination (out of a total of six in her career).  Burstyn keeps busy working both in film and television; in the last decade she has won a pair of Primetime Emmys, making her a winner of the unofficial Triple Crown of Acting.

With several major names in music to choose from as today’s second headliner, I decided to go with the relatively new face.  Sara Bareilles is turning 37 today.  After graduating from UCLA, Bareilles spent about three years working at open-mike nights at Southern California clubs and bars.  She released an independently produced album in 2004 that led to a contract with Epic Records.  In 2007, Epic released her first major label album, Little Voice, along with her first single:

Although she has yet to have another hit single as successful as “Love Song,” Bareilles’ next two albums reached #1 and #2 on the Billboard 200.  She has been nominated for six Grammys.  The most recent is for the original cast album of the musical Waitress, adapted from the Adrienne Shelly film.  Bareilles wrote the music and lyrics and was nominated for a Tony for Best Original Score.

Nicholas Hoult, who turns 27 today, has been acting for 20 years.  His first major role was in the 2002 film About a Boy.  He played Beast in X-Men: First Class and its sequels and Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road.  Also in the cast of X-Men: First Class was Caleb Landry Jones, who  played Banshee; Jones was born the same day as Hoult.  Emily Browning, who celebrates her 28th, first became known as Violet Baudelaire in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  She has since been seen in Sucker Punch, Sleeping Beauty, Pompeii and LegendShiri Appleby, who is turning 38, played the lead role of Liz Parker on Roswell.  She has been in films like Swimfan and Charlie Wilson’s War and currently stars on Lifetime’s UnrealJack Huston, who is 34 today, is a fourth generation film and television performer (yes, he’s part of that Huston family).  He played Richard Harrow on Boardwalk Empire and the title role in this summer’s remake of Ben-Hur.  Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju, who is turning 38, is known for the role of Tormund Giantsbane on Game of ThronesJennifer Carpenter, who is celebrating her 37th, starred on Dexter as Debra Morgan, and more recently on the short-lived CBS series Limitless.

Independent director and writer Jeff Nichols turns 38.  He is known for well-received films such as Take Shelter and Mud, and this year had two films come out: the sci-fi thriller Midnight Special and the historical drama LovingMark Duplass, who turns 40, is another independent director-writer, who usually works in tandem with his brother Jay; their films include The Puffy Chair and Jeff, Who Lives at Home.  Duplass also starred on the FX sitcom The League.

James Keach is another member of a well-known film/television family.  Keach is known for starring in The Long Riders as Jesse James; his brother Stacy played Frank James.  Keach also worked as a director on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman—which starred his then-wife, Jane Seymour—and was a producer of Walk the Line.  He turns 69 today.  C. Thomas Howell, who is turning 50, was at the fringes of the Brat Pack in the 1980s; he had a small role in E.T. and starred in The Outsiders, Red Dawn, and The HitcherJeffrey Wright, who turns 51, won a Tony for his role in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America as well as a Golden Globe for the television adaptation.  He played Felix Leiter in two of the Daniel Craig Bond films and currently stars on Westworld.  Still another member of an entertainment family is Tony Thomas, who turns 68.  The son of actor Danny Thomas, he is a prominent television producer, generally in partnership with the husband-and-wife team of Paul Junger Witt and Susan Harris.  He has worked on shows such as Soap, Blossom, Beauty and the Beast, and The Golden GirlsPriscilla Barnes, who is 61 today, had the tough job of replacing Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company during its final three seasons.  Her film appearances include a small role in Licence to Kill.

Singer-songwriter and actor Tom Waits turns 67 today.  Although he has never been a big commercial hit, he is enormously respected and has won Grammys for his albums Bone Machine and Mule Variations.  His songs have been covered by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles.  His score for the film One from the Heart was Oscar-nominated, and he has had a number of small but memorable film roles.  And his singing voice—one of a kind:

The sports world celebrates a few big birthdays.  Larry Bird turns 60 today.  As noted earlier this year, Bird’s rivalry with Magic Johnson, and that of their respective teams, gave a huge boost to the NBA in the 1980s.  Bird was a three-time MVP of the NBA, and is the only person in NBA history to be the league’s MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.  Baseball fans will remember Johnny Bench, who turns 69.  The Hall-of-Fame catcher, one of the all-time greats at the position, was one of the stars of a powerhouse Cincinnati Reds team that has gone down in history as The Big Red Machine.  And not to leave the NFL out, Terrell Owens turns 43.  An enormously talented wide receiver, who holds a number of NFL records and is second all-time in total receiving yards, he also had a huge talent for wearing out his welcome.

American novelist Willa Cather (1873-1947) was one of the great fictional chroniclers of the American West—particularly the Great Plains.  Her best known novels include O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning One of OursLeigh Brackett (1915-1978) was a science fiction novelist; she was known as the “queen of space opera” for her novels and stories about Eric John Stark.  She was also a screenwriter.  She worked a number of times with Howard Hawks, on films like The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and El Dorado, and also contributed—just how much is unclear—to the script for The Empire Strikes Back.

Eli Wallach (1915-2014) began acting in the late 1940s and was still making film appearances as late as 2010.  He will be long remembered for a pair of Western roles, as the bandit leader Calvera in The Magnificent Seven, and as Tuco, “The Ugly,” in The Good, the Bad, and the UglyTed Knight (1923-1986) was a six-time Emmy nominee for playing the talentless anchorman Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, winning Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy in 1973 and 1976.  Rod Cameron (1910-1983) was a leading man in a variety of B-movies in the 1940s, and transitioned to doing a lot of television work in the fifties and sixties; a lot of his roles were always in Westerns.

Our final big music name today is Harry Chapin (1942-1981).  The folk-rocker, who was known both for his music and his humanitarian activities, left behind a body of heartfelt, often incredibly intricate “story songs” when he died in an auto accident in the summer of 1981.  Everybody knows his #1 hit “Cat’s in the Cradle,” but the test of a true Chapin fan is the ability to join in at the appropriate points in this song:

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 7, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I usually comment on the first time I became aware of one of our birthday subjects. But I have no idea when I first saw Ellen Burstyn or when I actually figured out who she was. I have seen her in a lot of things including The Exorcist and Last Picture Show, but I’m not sure when I really put a name to her face. I can tell you that Burstyn was in the recent Lifetime movies adapting V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic books and she was by far the best thing about them.

    I like Sara Bareilles’ Love Song way more than I probably should. I know it got overplayed and most of you are probably sick of it. It’s going to be stuck in my head all day and I don'[t mind one bit.

    I had not put two and two together to realize that Nicholas Hoult was in X-Men and About a Boy. I love when these articles make these kinds of links for me. Emily Browning is somewhat interesting. She went from a child actor to… I’m not sure what. But she was definitely trading on her sex appeal. I saw Sucker Punch and it was all kinds of Zach Snyder awfulness. I watched Sleeping Beauty and I don’t remember if I made it all the way through. It was obviously dealing with some kinky subject matter, but it did it so in the most boring manner possible. I caught it late one night and I may have fallen asleep. I honestly don’t remember.

    When we get into the supporting players on Game of Thrones, I need to do a quick Google search because I don’t know all their names. Yep, I recognize Kristofer Hivju now that I have seen his face. I saw Jennifer Carpenter in Quarantine which was a decent remake of the excellent found footage horror flick, REC.

    I have heard that Loving is tremendous. I saw and enjoyed Jeff Nichols’ previous films, Take Shelter and Mud. I have seen Mark Duplass in two things. He was terrific in the indie comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed. I really loved that movie. Creep was a better-than-average found footage horror movie in which Duplass played an annoying guy who may actually be dangerous.

    C. Thomas Howell has actually been included in the WTHH poll from time to time. In the New York Magazine article that gave the Brat Pack their name, some of the other actors were talking about how one of their peers had suffered several recent flops and I’m pretty sure Howell was the guy they were talking about. Jeffrey Wright is one of those character actors I always enjoy seeing.

    Priscilla Barnes is currently on Jane the Virgin, one of my wife’s favorite shows. She also had a memorable role in Mallrats. I was never a sports guy but growing up in Cincinnati I was a fan of Johnny Bench. I have heard horror stories about how he treats his fans in person, though. Even a guy who knows as little about sports as I do will recognize the names Larry Bird and Terrell Owens. I mostly remember Bird from an old computer game in which he played one-on-one with Dr. J.

    Leigh Brackett’s involvement in Star Wars is an interesting topic for those who are interested in how the series took form. There are a lot of funny guys in Caddyshack, but Ted Knight’s flustered straight man cracks me up despite not having very many punchlines.

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    • That Dr. J vs. Larry Bird game is really a landmark game (I understand Dr. J. went with being paid more over time for the intellectual use of him, so he made me money at the time than Larry Bird for his participation. John Madden took a lump sum too, but because Electronic Arts made more Madden games, he made more). The technology wasn’t quite there yet, but the intent really got the ball rolling for licensed sports games.

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  2. I’m someone who loves the film About A Boy. When it released in May 2002 it was sold as a basic romantic comedy, but the film is so much more than that. Really the story of “boy getting girl”, i.e. Hugh Grant winning the heart of Rachel Weisz, is not really the point of the movie, it’s really the friendship that Hugh Grant strikes with young Nicholas Hoult that grounds the story.

    And when we’re talking about a middle-aged man striking up a friendship with a young 12 year old boy, that is really tough ground to base a story upon. Why would a grown man develop a friendship with a kid? Is he a child molester? That is really tough to build a whole film around, and yet astoundingly About A Boy is a damn good film.

    Nicholas Hoult has made a name for himself in more recent years for his work in the X-Men franchise and Mad Max: Fury Road, but I still think his best work was in About A Boy.

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  3. the trailer sold it as another Hugh rom com but about had a lot of dramatic undertones to it. It was about a grown man learning that friendship is one of the most important things in life. Hugh was snubbed for oscar nod

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  4. I’m glad you mentioned Leigh Brackett and her contributions to The Empire Strikes Back. Let’s be honest, Empire will most likely be the best Star Wars film ever made, especially with Disney now in charge and with their obvious fear of doing anything the slightest bit new (watch The Force Awakens and tell me that’s not a straight-up remake of A New Hope).

    The truth is, Lucas hired Leigh Brackett to help him write Empire when he himself was still figuring out what this thing was. As a fan who probably has invested way too much time reading about the making of these films, the most interesting thing I can contribute is this:

    When George Lucas hired Leigh Brackett to help him write Star Wars II (as it was titled on the screenplay back then) in late 1977, Luke Skywalker’s father and Darth Vader were distinctly still two separate characters. That’s right guys, Darth Vader was not always Luke Skywalker’s father. Not even in the original film.

    Remember how in the original Star Wars film Luke laments over a glass of blue milk to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru that he never knew his father? In the first draft of Empire that George Lucas and Leigh Bracket wrote in late 1977, the ghost of Luke’s father visits him and has a long discussion with him. Yes, Luke’s father and Darth Vader were two separate characters in Leigh Brackett’s first draft of Empire! And this was George Lucas’ decision, as Brackett was writing whatever Lucas decided.

    It was after Leigh’s unfortunate passing that George spent some months on his own writing the next drafts of Empire, and if you ever get a chance I can’t recommend enough Michael Kaminski’s book The Secret History of Star Wars, as it explores how Lucas came up with the brilliant idea of turning Vader, the hugely popular villain from the first film, into the main hero’s father during this solo writing time.

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  5. Ted Knight, man how I miss him. He may not be the biggest name in comedy, but he surely made a big impression on me with his performances in The Mary Tyler Moore show from the early to mid 70’s, Caddyshack from 1980, and Too Close For Comfort in the early to mid 80’s.

    All these years later what probably still connects most with general audiences is Caddyshack, which is an all-time great comedy film. There’s no question Knight just killed in his scenes. Too Close For Comfort has just fallen off the radar over the years as I have never seen it aired in reruns, but obviously Mary Tyler Moore show which was huge in the 70’s I still see air on ME-TV, so at least I can still appreciate his performance as the wonderfully egocentric yet insecure Ted Baxter.

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  6. Regarding Ellyn Burstyn, I’ve got a story I rarely tell. But I thought I might share it with you here. The Exorcist was released in late 1973, just shortly after I had turned two years old. Trust me, this is relevant to the story.

    For those that weren’t around when The Exorcist was released, the film dealt with a young girl that was demonically possessed by a demon from Hell. When the film released it shocked even grown up moviegoers at the time; stories circulate that in a number of movie theaters around the country showing the film, movie goers vomited during the film and even fainted. And these were adult movie goers reacting to the film.

    As it turns out, my mother took me to see The Exorcist at that time. And again…… I had just turned two years old. Now I realize that most people don’t have many memories from their earliest years, but to this day I still vividly remember this. I even recall something specific: as far as I can recall I had never been to a movie before, and I remember trying to figure out what was happening on this huge screen. This isn’t real, right? It can’t be because it’s on a screen, but is this something that really happened and was filmed? Again, I just turned two years old then so keep in mind I was very confused and didn’t really understand what this whole experience was. Maybe if I had seen a Disney cartoon first that might’ve been a better transition. But to this day I do remember that going in I was disoriented about what was happening on this screen. As a two year old I wasn’t sure if this was real or not.

    Throughout the film, highly frightened throughout it all, I sat with my mother on my left, and my sister – in her early teens back then – on my right. I am beyond petrified at what I am seeing on screen to put it bluntly. This is dealing with demonic possession before I even understood such concepts as “God” and “Devil”. Perhaps the only thing holding me together at this point was that my mother and sister were on each side of me, protecting me from what I was seeing.

    You remember the scene where Ellyn Burstyn walks into her daughter’s room to find her daughter sitting on the bed, and her possessed head slowly spins around? At this moment in the film, my sister leans over and whispers to me “And she’s going to take her head off and throw it at you.”

    What I remember next is when my sister suggested she might take her head off and throw it at me, I let out the biggest most fear-filled scream anybody has probably ever heard. I have no recollection of how that packed audience reacted. Maybe I made someone faint? All I know is that was way, way too much for a two year old to process. I’d probably have been better off if I had fainted.

    I wasn’t too sure of what happened after that. I remember hiding under my coat, shaking in fear for the remainder of the film. Yep, that’s right I let out the largest shriek in cinema history, yet my mother decided she wanted to finish the film and I hid under my coat for the rest of the film. I’m not kidding you when I confess that film gave me nightmares for much longer than I care to admit.

    All of this is true, by the way.

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    • Wow, that sounded real intense, and what your sister said was likely the last straw in keeping it together.

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    • Holy crap. That’s some questionable parenting right there, no offense to your mom who I’m sure was terrific. I saw The Exorcist on cable in grade school and it scarred me for years. Can’t imagine what a toddler would make of it. Having been a movie theater manager for 7 years, I tend to look sideways at people who take toddlers to movies, much less a movie like The Exorcist. It would have served your sister right if you had projectile vomited all over her.

      I have a similar early movie memory. I don’t know how old I was, but I was young. Maybe 2 or 3. My dad was in the Army reserves and we were visiting him at whatever camp he was stationed at. I don’t remember much except that they showed a movie that night. It was some cheesy sci fi movie in which children were being replaced by robots. It’s probably the first movie I ever saw and I don’t know what it was. But I was fascinated. It was a bit unnerving, but nothing like the freaking Exorcist.

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  7. Looking back at a few of the older birthday articles earlier today, I noted that Ellen Burstyn is the third major cast member of The Last Picture Show to have been a headliner so far in the series, after Jeff Bridges a few days ago and Eileen Brennan back in September, with 2 or 3 future possible headliners still to come.

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  8. One of the regrets I have is that I never got to know Harry Chapin’s music—except for “Cat’s in the Cradle,” which was inescapable in the seventies—until after his death. So, here’s a little Harry Chapin bonus content:

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  9. I have the highest of regards for Ellen Burstyn as an actress, and always thought she was a good-looking lady (well, the haircut from “The Exorcist” isn’t the greatest). Other than “The Exorcist”. Two of my favorite performances from her are in 1980’s “Resurrection” and Requiem for a Dream” (although that film is a tough watch).
    Sara Bareilles, I’m all about her song “Brave”; I think it’s inspirational.
    Jennifer Carpenter, yeah, loved her character of Debra in “Dexter”. I thought she was the best character on the show, and have such a flithy mouth that it was funny.
    When it comes to C. Thomas Howell, I liked his early work, so what happened after, say, “The Hitcher” doesn’t matter too much to me.
    James Keach, he was in that 1984 film with Jamie Lee Curtis, “Love Letters” (I thought it was good), and was in 1985’s “Moving Violations” with Bill Murray’s brother John. He was married to Jane Seymour? That’s hot.
    Priscilla Barnes I prefer on “Three’s Company” anyway; she kind of does it for me, and I also find her funnier.

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  10. Significant sports guys on this birthday list too: I thought Terrell Owens was a fantastic player (what a physical specimen!), but such a destructive locker room guy, and he continues to put his foot in his mouth post-career (like when he complained about not qualifying for the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, he’s kind of a guy that seems perpetually unhappy, no matter what).
    Larry Bird is a legend, and that’s why he’s called Larry legend. He really has (since he’s an Indiana Pacer executive, I him active) a burning desire to win, and that allowed him to achieve great things. His backstory is more complicated than that, of course.
    I know stories of Johnny Bench and The Big Red Machine, and have seen him in quite a few commercials through the years. My mother was a big fan. I don’t know, he has to be cooler than Johnny Manziel, who to me seems like a tool (Josie Cotton would say, “Johnny, what’s your deal boy?”

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  11. Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Emily Browning Anymore

    http://www.nickiswift.com/66901/hollywood-wont-cast-emily-browning-anymore/

    At 14-years-old, Emily Browning was already a regular on Australian TV when she was cast in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” in 2004. Acting opposite A-listers like Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep. Browning basically hit a home run on her first-bat in the Hollywood scene. But then it was two years before her next starring role in the smaller film, “Stranded”. Then another three until her next role in “The Uninvited”. As of this writing, Browning has only returned to big studio films twice since her big break despite the fact that she gets generally rave reviews on her performances, so what gives? Here’s why Hollywood won’t cast Emily Browning anymore.

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