December 14: Happy Birthday Jane Birkin and Patty Duke


Our two headliners today were both born on December 14, of course, but also in the same year, 1946.

English actress and singer Jane Birkin is turning 70 today.  Her first major film role was in the psychedelic film Wonderwall in 1968.  Following that she was cast as a lead in the French film Slogan, which was the beginning of a decade-plus professional and personal partnership with French musician and filmmaker Serge Gainsbourg (actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg is their daughter).  She and Gainsbourg then collaborated on an album which included the single “Je t’aime…mon non plus,” which was a huge hit in Europe and a moderate one in the US.

Birkin has worked in both French and English cinema through the years, and her recorded albums have often included songs in both languages.  She is a three-time Cesar Award nominee.  US audiences may be most likely to know her from the Merchant-Ivory film A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, or from a pair of Agatha Christie adaptations, Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun.

One can’t discuss Birkin without also mentioning her connection to the world of fashion, inspiring the Birkin bag.  It is perhaps fitting that the previous time Birkin came up here at Le Blog was in this article.

The late Patty Duke (1946-2016), who passed earlier this year, achieved her greatest fame while still a teenager.  She originated the role of Helen Keller on Broadway in William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker in 1959, and then reprised the role in the 1962 feature film.  Duke won Best Supporting Actress for the role (her costar Anne Bancroft won Best Actress as Annie Sullivan).  At the time she was the youngest winner ever of an acting Oscar.  ABC then made her the star of a TV series, The Patty Duke Show, where she played a dual role as Patty Lane, a typical American teen (early 1960s variety) and her “identical cousin” Cathy, a brainy and sophisticated girl raised in Scotland.

After her series ended its run, Duke transitioned to adult roles with a lead role in the film version of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls.  She won a Golden Globe for starring in the film Me, Natalie in 1969, and won three Primetime Emmys, all for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.  The third was for a 1979 TV movie of The Miracle Worker, where she played Annie Sullivan opposite Melissa Gilbert as Helen Keller.

In the 1980s, as she continued her acting career, Duke also became an advocate on mental health issues (having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the early eighties).  Her final acting role, interestingly, was a guest role on Liv and Maddie, another series featuring a young lead actress (Dove Cameron) in a dual role.

Vanessa Hudgens, who is 28 today, first became known for starring in the High School Musical movies as Gabriella Montez.  She has released two albums that reached #24 and 23 on the Billboard 200, done movies like Sucker Punch and Spring Breakers, and starred on Broadway in the title role of the 2015 revival of the musical GigiJackson Rathbone, who celebrates his 32nd, is best known for playing Jasper Hale in the Twilight films.  KaDee Strickland first became known as a “scream queen” in films like The Grudge, but then starred in the medical drama Private Practice for six seasons.  She turns 41 today.  British actress and comedian Miranda Hart, who is 44, received four BAFTA Award nominations for her BBC Two sitcom MirandaTammy Blanchard, who turns 40, is a two-time Tony nominee for revivals of the musicals Gypsy and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and won an Emmy for playing the teenage Judy Garland in a 2001 TV movie.

Natascha McElhone, who turns 47, stars on the new ABC series Designated Survivor opposite Kiefer Sutherland.  She is known for films like Ronin and The Truman Show.  Fans of Xena: Warrior Princess will remember Ted Raimi, who is turning 51 as Joxer the Mighty; he is the younger brother of director Sam Raimi.  Dee Wallace, who is 68 today, is known for playing movie mothers in two very different movies, E.T. and CujoMichael Ovitz, who celebrates his 70th, is known as the co-founder of entertainment industry powerhouse Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and for his brief and stormy tenure as president of Disney.

Our sports birthdays today include a sad note.  Ernie Davis (1939-1963) was the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, as college football’s outstanding player, in 1961.  He was selected first in the subsequent NFL draft, but never played a minute of pro football, having been diagnosed with leukemia, which proved fatal.  His life was the subject of the 2008 film The Express, starring Rob Brown as Davis.

Other sports birthdays include a couple of prominent names from tennis in the 1970s.  Stan Smith, who celebrates his 70th today, won men’s singles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, but was best known for his many doubles titles with partner Bob Lutz.  Vijay Armitraj, who turns 63, was one of the first Asian stars in professional tennis, and also has a short acting career (readers may remember his appearances in Octopussy and Star Trek IV).  Craig Biggio, who is 51 today, was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2015 in recognition of his outstanding career with the Houston Astros, that saw him named a National League All-Star seven times.  Finally, English football fans will want us to take note of the birthdays of former English national team stars Chris Waddle, who turns 56, and Michael Owen, who turns 37.

Charlie Rich (1932-1995) leads off our music birthdays today.  The country star had his greatest success in the 1970s, when his Grammy-winning single “Behind Closed Doors”  was a #1 country hit that reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Tori Kelly, who is 23 today, released her first album in 2015 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist.  Christopher Parkening, who celebrates his 69th, is one of the world’s leading classical guitarists, and a two-time Grammy nominee.  Spider Stacy, who is 58 today, was a longtime member of the Celtic punk group the Pogues, playing tin whistle and taking over as the band’s lead vocalist after they fired their perpetually smashed frontman, Shane MacGowan.  Mike Scott, who also is turning 58, is the founder, lead singer and main songwriter for the Celtic folk-rock (sometimes more folk, sometimes more rock) band The Waterboys.

Lee Remick (1935-1991) made her film debut as a baton-twirling teenager in A Face in the Crowd, and went on to receive Oscar and Tony nominations in the first decade of her career. She won two Golden Globes for her TV work in the 1970s.  Lewis Arquette (1935-2001) had a lengthy acting career, but is probably best known for having five children who all went into acting.  Elyse Knox (1917-2012) was a Universal contract player and a popular pin-up girl during World War 2, but is probably best known for her marriage to football star Tom Harmon; actor Mark Harmon is their son.  Frances Bavier (1902-1989) will be remembered by fans of 1960s television as Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry RFDRaj Kapoor (1924-1988) was a leading figure in Indian cinema and a winner of eleven Filmfare Awards during his career.

George VI (1897-1952) was King of England from 1936 until his death.  The Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech was about how therapist Lionel Logue helped George (played by Colin Firth in the film) overcome his stammer.  Thomas Cochrane (1775-1860) was a captain, and later admiral, of the British Royal Navy (as well as being the 10th Earl of Dundonald).  His exploits during the Napoleonic Wars inspired a great deal of naval-oriented fiction; in particular, he was the inspiration for C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey.

Spike Jones (1911-1965) could be listed with the music birthdays, but he is really more of a comic talent.  He was known—in his day, extremely well known—for his biting parody versions of all sorts of popular songs of the 1940s and ’50s, as well as of famous classical compositions:

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 14, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I was prepared to say that I had never heard of Jane Birkin before, but then you linked to the Movieline article in which the headline picture is of Birkin in Evil Under the Sun. So I guess I have heard of her. I’m not a fashion guy, but I was vaguely aware of the Birkin bag though I did not know where that name came from. I learn something new every day with these birthday articles.

    I’m not entirely certain when I first encountered Patty Duke. Probably the ’79 version of The Miracle Worker. I remember even at a very young age that it was a pretty big deal for the actress who had played Helen Keller to now play Annie Sullivan. I also remember Duke from those George Washington mini-series. I saw reruns of The Patty Duke Show on TV, but never actually tuned in.

    I have seen bits and pieces of High School Musical, but never the whole thing. Mostly, I’m aware of Vanessa Hudgens through tabloid stories as she tried to shatter his Disney Channel image. I did see Sucker Punch, but that movie didn’t do anyone any favors.

    Jackson Rathbone won Worst Supporting Actor in the 2010 Razzies for the double whammy of The Last Airbender and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Natascha McElhone was also on Californication. Ted Raimi has been on this season of Ash Vs. Evil Dead playing a new character (Chet Kaminski) and reprising his role as Possessed Henrietta from Evil Dead II. In addition to E.T. and Cujo, Dee Wallace also starred in The Howling.

    For a time, Michael Ovitz was arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood. (In 1998, “I Wanna Be Mike Ovitz” won Worst Song at the Razzies.) His brief tenure at Disney is fascinating. Short version: He and Michael Eisner were friends. Eisner had just fired his former protege, Jeffery Katzenberg which ended in a long, bitter and costly legal dispute. Eisner wanted to bring in someone he felt he could trust, so he hired Ovitz. Then he immediately turned on him. Classic Eisner.


  2. Patty Duke: I’ve viewed the 1962 version of “The Miracle Worker”, a couple episodes of her TV series, the 1980 TV movie “The Babysitter”, and know that she is the mother of Sean Astin (Rudy, Rudy!). I didn’t know that she passed on though.
    I watched the entire series of “Californation”, so I’m familiar with Natascha McElhone from that, but also 1998’s “Ronin with Robert De Niro and 1996’s “Surviving Picasso” as well.
    I knew her as Dee Wallace Stone as a kid, but I’ve seen Dee Wallace in many projects: “The Hills Have Eyes”, “10” , “The Howling”, “Secret Admirer” and “Critters”, as well as the films named in this article.
    Lee Remick, I thought she was great in “Days of Wine and Roses”; to me she had penetrating eyes and real girl next door looks. I was shocked when I saw on Canadian News in 1991 that she passed. He and I share a first name.
    Ernie Davis, what a tough break he had; I bet he would’ve been an excellent pro player.


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