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December 25: Happy Birthday Sissy Spacek and Humphrey Bogart

1225spacekbogart

There turn out to be quite a number of famous folks who were born on December 25.

Sissy Spacek is celebrating her 67th birthday today.  Interestingly, given one of her most famous roles, she was the homecoming queen of her high school.  Her first credited film role was the 1972 gangster film/black comedy Prime Cut.  She followed up with her first lead role, as Holly Sargis in Terrence Malick’s Badlands.  During filming, she met art director and production designer Jack Fisk; they have been married for over 40 years.

In 1976, Spacek was cast in an adaptation of a novel by an author named Stephen King, the first of his books ever adapted into a movie:

Spacek was nominated for Best Actress for Carrie, the first of her six Oscar nominations.  She won Best Actress four years later as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter.  Her subsequent nominations, all for Best Actress, were for Missing, The River, Crimes of the Heart, and In the Bedroom.  She won Golden Globes for Best Actress for the latter two films along with Coal Miner’s Daughter.  Her most recent project has been a regular role in the Netflix series Bloodline, the third and final season of which begins in 2017.

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) as the greatest male star of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  After serving in the Navy in World War One, Bogart began acting on Broadway in the early 1920s.  When theater productions dropped off after the stock market crash of 1929, he worked in film for a while, mostly in minor roles.  In 1935 he returned to Broadway, starring opposite Leslie Howard (of Gone With the Wind fame) in Robert Sherwood’s The Petrified Forest.

When Warner Brothers wanted to film The Petrified Forest, they willingly cast Howard to reprise his stage role, but wanted a bigger name in the role of gangster Duke Mantee.  Howard, however, owned a share of the rights to the play, giving him the leverage to insist on Bogart getting the role.  The movie was a success and Bogart’s performance was recognized as a big reason why.  Bogart never forgot the favor Howard had done for him—in 1952, he and Lauren Bacall named their newborn daughter Leslie Howard Bogart in the actor’s memory.

It still took a few more years—years of playing blackhearted gangsters a lot of the time—for Bogart to become a star.  His breakthrough came in two 1941 films.  In High Sierra, he played a “redeemable” gangster, a type of role that would normally have gone to James Cagney.  Then he got the first of his great “tough guy in a trenchcoat” roles, as private eye Sam Spade in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon:

The rest of the story is pretty well known: Bogart was one of the biggest stars of the 1940s.  He appeared in one of the most beloved classics of all time in Casablanca.  He had his storybook romance with Bacall, and made four films with her.  He won an Oscar for The African Queen.  He explored the darker side of his screen personality in films like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and In a Lonely Place.  And along the way, he became a cultural icon, not only in the US, but around the world.

German actress Hanna Schygulla, who is 73 today, starred in several of films made by the innovative German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, such as Mathias Kneissel and The Marriage of Maria Braun.  English actor Stuart Wilson, who has a long career in British television, turns 70.  His feature film roles, often villainous, include Lethal Weapon 3, The Mask of Zorro, and Hot Fuzz.  Four-time Emmy nominee C. C. H. Pounder, who is 62, currently stars on NCIS: New Orleans and was a regular on FX’s The Shield for seven seasons.  Rachel Keller, who is 24 today, appeared on the second season of Fargo and has been cast as a regular on the upcoming FX series Legion.

A number of people who had important directing or producing careers had birthdays today.  Ismail Merchant (1936-2005) was half of Merchant Ivory Productions, the most durable partnership in independent film history, responsible for over 40 feature films.  Merchant was the producer, James Ivory the director, and their frequent collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala wrote over half the screenplays.  Their notable films include A Room with a View, Howards End, Jefferson in Paris, and A Soldier’s Daughter Never CriesRod Serling (1924-1975) was the creator, producer and narrator of the anthology series The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, familiar to a generation of American TV viewers.  Lew Grade (1906-1998)—Baron Grade from 1976 on—was a television and film producer who has his finger in a lot of pots.  Among his best-known projects over the years were The Muppet Show, the revival of the Pink Panther movies in the 1970s, and the mid-1970s American TV miniseries Jesus of NazarethRick Berman, who celebrates his 71st today, ascended to the role of executive producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation starting with the 3rd season, and went on to supervise Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise.  Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who turns 55, is best known for directing and writing the 2007 film The Counterfeiters, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

In the music world, the big name birthday is Jimmy Buffett, who turns 70.  Buffett has been performing his “Gulf and Western” music, which blends pop, country, folk and Caribbean styles, for over 40 years.  Space precludes giving an account of his career that would satisfy his fan base (known as the Parrotheads), but we do have time for one of his best known songs:

Other music birthdays include Shane MacGowan, who is 59.  Through two stints as lead singer of The Pogues, MacGowan displayed one of the unique singing voices of our time (he always sounded half-smashed).  Country singer Barbara Mandrell, who celebrates her 68th, had six #1 Country hits from 1978-83.  Another country birthday is four-time Grammy winner Steve Wariner, who turns 62.  He has had over twenty top ten Country hits and has written #1 singles for Clint Black and Garth Brooks.  British pop singer Dido, who is 45, has had a lot of success in Europe and the British Commonwealth nations, and was nominated for an Oscar for her song “If I Rise,” the theme song for Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.  Scottish singer Annie Lennox, who celebrates her 62nd today, went Dido one better by winning an Oscar for “Into the West,” part of the soundtrack for The Return of the King.  Rolling Stone named her one of the 100 Greatest Singers of the 20th Century.  Cab Calloway (1907-1994) was one of the most popular jazz bandleaders of the 1930s, and received some late in life attention when he appeared in The Blues Brothers.

Today’s sports birthdays include stars of baseball, American football, and soccer.  Rickey Henderson, who is 58 today, is baseball’s all-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored, and is frequently considered the greatest leadoff man of all time.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.  Nellie Fox (1927-1975), also a Baseball Hall-of-Famer spent the bulk of his career as the second baseman for the Chicago White Sox, making 12 All-Star teams and winning the American League MVP award in 1959.  Ken Stabler (1945-2015), who was named to the Football Hall of Fame earlier this year, was a star quarterback who spent most of his career with the Oakland Raiders, leading them to victory in Super Bowl XI.  Larry Csonka, who turns 70 today, was a star for the 1972 Miami Dolphins team which recorded the only unbeaten season in NFL history, and helped them win Super Bowls VII and VIII.  He is also a Football Hall of Famer.  Jairzinho, who celebrates his 72nd birthday today, starred for the 1970 Brazilian side that won Brazil’s third World Cup, scoring in every match of the finals.  When World Soccer magazine published their rankings of the 100 greatest players of the 20th Century, he was ranked 27th.

Character actor Barton MacLane (1902-1969) appeared in a wide variety of film and television roles.  He appeared in a number of films with Humphrey Bogart, including The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  Towering former wrestler Mike Mazurki (1907-1990) was usually cast in tough guy supporting roles, such as Moose Malloy in Murder, My Sweet and a wrestler known only as The Strangler in Night and the City.  He also appeared in both the 1945 feature Dick Tracy, one of a series put out by RKO, and in Warren Beatty’s 1990 film of the same title.

There are several significant birthdays outside the entertainment world today.  Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) was the longtime leader of the Muslim League in British India, and after Pakistan became independent in 1947, served as the Governor General until his death.  Anwar el-Sadat (1918-1981) was the third President of Egypt and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, for the peace treaty between their countries negotiated in 1978.  Justin Trudeau, who turns 45 today, is the current Prime Minister of Canada, and the first Prime Minister of Canada to be related to a previous holder of the office (his father, Pierre).  It’s worth noting that Alexandre Trudeau, Justin’s younger brother, turns 43 today.  He is a documentary filmmaker.  Clara Barton (1821-1912) worked as a nurse during the American Civil War; her experiences during the war led her to found the American Red Cross in 1881.

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 25, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I believe the first film I viewed with Sissy Spacek was “The River” (I didn’t see “Carrie” until 1997!). I really like “Badlands” and “Welcome to L.A.”, and all this time I had no idea she was born on such a day as this.
    Same with Humphrey Bogart, who’s favorite of mine has to be “The Big Sleep”, but can one really go wrong with “The Maltese Falcon” (my father used to mimic certain scenes from that film on occasion” and “Casablanca”?
    C.C.H. Pounder, I think that’s a cool name, and I remember her best as a junkie in an episode of “Miami Vice” (one of the “lost” episodes that didn’t air on NBC, but on USA Network) titled ‘Too Much, Too Late’.
    Clara Barton, there was a Trivia Today segment on her a few weeks ago; it goes without saying that she left her mark, with a cross.
    Rod Serling (when I was a kid I thought his name was STERLING), I’m not a wild “The Twilight Zone” fan, but I’ve enjoyed nearly all the episodes I’ve viewed of that series. I also like the “Night Gallery” series. Overall I think Serling had an excellent sense of imagination and storytelling.

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  2. When I was a kid, I was aware Coal Miner’s Daughter was a big movie. I think I was also aware of Carrie, but didn’t actually see it until much later. I don’t remember exactly when I became aware of who Sissy Spacek was. She was in a lot of movies that didn’t really appeal to me as a kid. I think the first movie I actually saw her in was Crimes of the Heart although she did do voice work in The Man With Two Brains.

    I mentioned in yesterday’s write-up that I had multiple Casablanca posters hanging in my room as a kid. But I didn’t stop there. I also had other Humphrey Bogart posters from To Have and Have Not, The African Queen and The Maltese Falcon. I don’t actually watch a lot of Bogart today, but I was quite a fan in my youth.

    Around the same time, I watched The Twilight Zone any time it was on. Rod Serling was a genius. Rick Berman, not so much. I’m not all that invested in the Star Trek TV shows after the original series, but I know many people who blame Berman with running the series into the ground. Can’t really argue against that point of view.

    Jimmy Buffett is a legend here in the Cincinnati area. I have never been to one of his concerts, but when he is in town, it’s still a massive party. I remember Barbara Mandrell and her sisters from TV. We watched a lot of variety shows growing up. I still like that song by Dido and how can you not like Annie Lennox? I think I was aware of Cab Calloway outside of The Blues Brothers, but that’s always going to be how I think of him.

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    • The song I like from Dido is “Thank You” (you welcome, but pardon me) and I own Annie Lennox’s “Medusa” album (I got it for “No More I Love You’s”).

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  3. I am pretty sure that the first time I saw Sissy Spacek was in Missing, which was shown at my college during the early 1980s. She’s not the first one you might think of as a leading actress of her generation—in part because she seems to seriously avoid the limelight—but she has a very impressive filmography.

    Humphrey Bogart has been a favorite of mine since I first saw Casablanca over 30 years ago; interesting that his birthday was one day after the director of his most famous film.

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