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January 20: Happy Birthday David Lynch and George Burns

0120lynchburns

David Lynch, often considered to be America’s leading surrealist filmmaker, is turning 71 today.  After many years of making short films, Lynch first came to people’s notice with the horror film Eraserhead, which became a popular midnight movie during the late 1970s.  He followed up with the highly acclaimed The Elephant Man, and went on to explore various genres through the years—epic science fiction (Dune), contemporary noir (Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive), road movies (Wild at Heart), and more.  Three of his films—The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive—have brought him Best Director nominations.

Lynch has at various times sampled being a singer-songwriter and a painter and photographer.  However, his other big venture has been the Twin Peaks project, which has so far consisted of the 1990-91 TV series, a 1992 prequel feature film, and the upcoming revival miniseries on Showtime.  The original series has often been ranked among the greatest TV programs of all time.

George Burns (1896-1996) had a long career in vaudeville, radio, film and television, working with his wife Gracie Allen as the comedy duo Burns and Allen.  She was the comic, he was the straight man.  Their 1950s television series, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, received eleven Emmy nominations during its 8 year run.  By the late 1950s, Allen was ready to retire, having had heart trouble for several years (she died in 1964).

After Allen’s death, Burns spent a number of years on the nightclub circuit, then had a film career resurgence in the mid-seventies in a variety of “elder statesmen” roles.  He appeared in films like Oh, God! (which was successful enough to have two sequels), Going in Style, Just You and Me, Kid, but above all the one which brought Burns an Oscar, The Sunshine Boys.

If you mention Doctor Who to people of a certain generation, the image which will be conjured up is of a tall man with a mass of curly brown hair topped by a felt hat.  He will wear a frock coat and a very, very long, multicolored scarf.  While Tom Baker, who celebrates his 83rd today, has had plenty of other roles on film and British television (he was a great villain in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad), he will always be remembered as the Fourth Doctor.

James Denton, who played Mike Delfino on Desperate Housewives and currently is a regular on Good Witch, turns 54 today.  Margaret Avery, who is turning 73, won Best Supporting Actress for The Color Purple and is currently seen on BET’s Being Mary Jane.  Comedian and television host Bill Maher, known for his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, is turning 61 today.  Lorenzo Lamas, who turns 59, was a Golden Globe nominee on Falcon Crest and starred in the syndicated 1990s series Renegade.  Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 mission who was the second man to walk on the moon, turns 87 today.

Rainn Wilson, a three-time Emmy nominee for playing Dwight Schrute on The Office (American version), turns 51 today; he is also known for his recurring role of Arthur Martin on Six Feet UnderSkeet Ulrich, who is celebrating his 47th, will be remembered as Billy Loomis, Sidney Prescott’s homicidal boyfriend from ScreamStacey Dash, who is turning 50, is also remembered for a 1990s film role, as Dionne “Dee” Davenport in Clueless (and in the television series adapted from the film).

No less than three actors from X-Men: Days of Future Past share today as a birthday.  Evan Peters, who played Quicksilver, turns 30.  He has been a regular on American Horror Story since its debut and returned to the role of Quicksilver last year in X-Men: Apocalypse.  The towering Daniel Cudmore, who is 36 today, was returning to the role of Colossus, which he played in X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand.  Cudmore has also had parts in the Twilight films and the Percy Jackson series.  French actor Omar Sy, who played Bishop, starred in the French comedy Intouchables, and won the Cesar for Best Actor.  Sy, who is 39 today, also appeared in Jurassic World.

Paul Stanley (given name Stanley Eisen) turns 65 today.  He is best known as the rhythm guitarist, frequent lead vocalist and one of the main songwriters for the hard rock band KISS, and is one of the two members to have been with the group throughout their existence.  Huddie Ledbetter (1889-1949) was often know by his nickname of “Lead Belly” and sometimes as the “king of the 12-string guitar.”  He is remembered for his influence on folk and blues music, and for a body of songs that he either wrote, or discovered and popularized, such as “Goodnight Irene,” “Rock Island Line,” “Alabama Bound,” and “Bourgeois Blues.”

DeForest Kelley (1920-1999) worked for nearly 20 years in film and television before landing the role that made him famous.  Western fans would recognize him from prominent roles in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (as Morgan Earp), The Law and Jake Wade, and Warlock.  But for innumerable film and television viewers around the world, he will always be the man who was “a doctor, not a _____.”

Director Federico Fellini (1920-1993) was one of the giants of Italian cinema.  He directed four films that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for Best Director several times.  A few of the films recognized as among his greatest are La Strada, La Dolce Vita, , Giulietta degli spiriti, and Amarcord.  Scottish actor Finlay Currie (1878-1968) was a leading character actor of English film in the thirties and forties, in roles such as Ruairidh Mhór in Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going, and Abel Magwitch in David Lean’s Great Expectations.  He then began working in Hollywood, with major roles in historical dramas like Quo Vadis (as St. Peter), Ivanhoe, and Ben-HurPatricia Neal (1926-2010) won the Oscar for Best Actress for the 1963 film Hud.  She was later nominated for a second Oscar for The Subject Was Roses, and won a Golden Globe for starring in The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which was a de facto pilot for The Waltons (she did not appear in the series itself).  The short-lived Colin Clive (1900-1937) is remembered for playing Dr. Henry Frankenstein in the 1930s horror classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.

Two prominent American leaders of the Revolutionary era were both born on January 20.  Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794) was one of the leaders of Virginia during the Revolution; as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress he introduced the motion to declare the American colonies independent of England.  Lee later served as one of the first members of the US Senate.  In the musical 1776, Ronald Holgate plays a comic Richard Henry Lee who bears little resemblance to the historical figure.  Robert Morris (1734-1806) was one of the wealthiest merchants in Philadelphia at the time of the Revolution.  His essential role in repeatedly helping to get George Washington’s troops paid and supplied earned him the title of “Financier of the Revolution.”  Like Lee, he later served as one of the first US Senators.

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 January 20, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Another jam-packed day! Good, I could use a distraction…

    I don’t have to tell regular readers what a David Lynch fan I am. I’m an advocate for some of his least loved movies like Fire Walk With Me and Lost Highway. I have never seen a David Lynch movie I didn’t enjoy on some weird level. Heck, I’ve watched Dune multiple times (including several different cuts) and it’s lousy. For the year and a half it was on, Twin Peaks was my favorite TV show. For twenty-five years since its cancellation, I have been hoping that somehow Lynch could be convinced to revisit this world and give it some sense of closure… at least to the extent Lynch is prone to do that sort of thing. If I make a list of things I am looking forward to in 2017, the Twin Peaks revival is near the top.

    Fair warning to readers: I will be covering the revival here. You have a few months left to get caught up on the first two season. Or, at a minimum watch the pilot. It’s fantastic.

    Growing up, George Burns was the guy from the “Oh God” movies. Yesterday I mentioned that Dolly Parton was the punchline for every boob joke on TV. Burns was a frequent punchline of old guy jokes.

    My Dr. Who experience is limited to Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant so far. I don’t see ever going back to Tom Baker, but I remember seeing him on TV. That scarf was something!

    I stuck with Desperate Housewives through most of its run purely out of habit. As with most long running shows, the writers ran out of stories to tell about James Denton’s character long before the show ended. Bill Maher is, I realize, a controversial figure. Sometimes, he offends me. But I usually find him to be pretty damn funny even when we disagree.

    I’m willing to bet this is the first time Buzz Aldrin has ever followed Lorenzo Lamas on any list! 😉

    Rainn Wilson brought the kooky on The Office. If you don’t mind some edge in your superhero comedy, check out Super. With a name like Skeet Ulrich, he kind of had to be a young heartthrob. I love Clueless, but I don’t talk about Stacey Dash anymore…

    I know Evan Peters primarily from American Horror Story. But he has stolen the last two X-Men movies with his one-scene-appearances as Quicksilver. Daniel Cudmore stands around in the background very well in the X-Men and apparently Twilight movies. Omar Sy pulled off Bishop’s hair which is really all he was asked to do.

    DeForest Kelley was the heart of Star Trek. The original Kirk-Spock-McCoy triangle will never be equaled.

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  2. David Lynch, I think “Twin Peaks” was made for premium cable, where one’s artistic vision isn’t as compromised as on regular networks; it could be a great thing for the franchise.
    George Burns, man, that guy was born in the 19th century and almost saw the end of the 20th century. That’s just as impressive to me as his long career.
    Bill Maher, ha ha, I remember when he was in such films like “D.C. Cab” and “House II: The Second Story”, but I’m glad he switched gears to shows like “Politically Incorrect” and “Real Times With Bill Maher” (I always liked the “New Rules” segment).
    Lorenzo Lamas, I know of him, but I haven’t seen much of his work except for 1996’s “Terminal Justice”, when I was going through a Kari Wuhrer phase.
    Rainn Wilson, I’ve found him interesting in things other than “The Office”, like I thought he was the best thing about “Sahara”.
    Skeet Ulrich, he was promoted as the next Johnny Depp (those “next” deals rarely work out), but I always thought he was alright.
    Stacey Dash, I think she’s lovely, and her politics don’t bother me one bit.
    Federico Fellini, I think he’s someone who’s name gets thrown about in pop culture a lot when in comes to films (like so and is no Fellini, and such), but I’m not really that familiar with his work.

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  3. I was in grad school while Twin Peaks was airing; I wasn’t hugely into the series myself, but as I was living in a kind of co-op housing, where we had one TV in a common room, I found myself watching a few episodes. Since I was slightly acquainted with actress Alicia Witt, I made sure to watch the episode she appeared in. Since then, I’ve watched and enjoyed Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart.

    I am one of that generation for whom “the Doctor” means Tom Baker.

    DeForest Kelley was an indispensable part of Star Trek TOS. He was the heart, as lebeau says, and he got some of the best lines of all.

    Finally, how about a little bonus content from Lead Belly:

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  4. This may surprise many but the George Burns movie “Oh, God!” was actually a blockbuster for its time, finishing as the 6th biggest film of 1977. It’s pretty much unheard of to see a movie headlined by an 80 year old become one of the biggest hits of the year. My mom took me to see “OH God!” when I was a little kid, while I may not remember too much of the film itself anymore I do remember enjoying it. I guess it didn’t demand too much from a 5 year old kid. John Denver was good in it too, despite being 5 years old I knew who he was as his music was constantly on the radio in the early to mid 70’s (Sunshine On My Shoulders, Thank God I’m A Country Boy, etc.), and Denver had been a presence on tv shows like Tonight Show and such. If anything I probably knew who John Denver was much more than George Burns at that point.

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    • Dever had a close association with The Muppets at the time. That’s how I knew who he was.

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    • Mark me down as not being surprised, as I was first aware of the far inferior “Oh, God!” sequels (oh dear), and once I saw the first film, it made sense to me why there were two sequels, as I felt the initial film was very good.

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  5. Since David Lynch is in the conversation today, I’ve got a question to ask you guys. Back in the early 80’s as George Lucas was in pre-production for Return of the Jedi, believe it or not Lucas actually approached David Lynch to ask him if he would be interested in directing it. If this sounds crazy (and it sure does to me) Lynch actually confirmed this in an interview several years ago, so this is 100% true.

    Lynch obviously has a unique voice of his own as a filmmaker, but I wonder why in the world Lucas would have approached Lynch of all people to direct Jedi, as I would never pair up “Star Wars” and “Lynch” in my mind in a thousand years. As I look at Lynch’s filmography by 1981-82 (when Lucas was prepping Jedi) Lynch had only directed two films by that point: Eraserhead and Elephant Man, so Lucas must have seen at least one of those films to have been impressed by him.

    So my question to you Lynch fans is, what are your thoughts about a Lynch-directed Return of the Jedi? Could you imagine it? The one area where I think Lynch really would have shined in the film is the whole opening act in Jabba’s palace, I’m sure he would have took that to a whole other level in his own way.

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  6. In regards to Buzz Aldrin, he is among the rarest group of people on all of Earth. One of the 12 men in all of human history to ever walk on the Moon. That is as elite a group as you get folks. And with the recent passing of Eugene Cernan (the last man to step on the moon on Apollo 17) we are now down to just 6 Moon men still alive. Think about that for a second: there are 7.4 Billion people on Earth, and Buzz is one of only 6 people alive that can say they have been on the Moon. That’s some heady stuff.

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  7. Whatever Happened to Skeet Ulrich?

    http://www.nickiswift.com/55007/ever-happened-skeet-ulrich/

    Skeet Ulrich made a name for himself in 1996’s “Scream” and over the next few years, he starred in a handful of movies that seemed to make him an A-list star. After hitting the big screen in “As Good As It Gets” and “The Newton Boys”, his rise to fame seemed to take a detour into more obscure roles. What happened, and where is he now?

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