January 22: Happy Birthday Diane Lane and John Hurt
Diane Lane celebrates her 52nd today. She was 14 when she made her debut as one of a pair of precocious teens falling in first love in A Little Romance, and not long after made the cover of Time Magazine for a story on “Hollywood’s Whiz Kids.” One of the films supporting players, one Laurence Olivier, dubbed her “the new Grace Kelly.” That was hype that anyone would have had a hard time really living up to, and Lane never quite did it, but she’s had a fine career. This article/interview discusses the first couple of decades of Lane’s career, including the burnout that forced her to take 2-3 years off after filming The Cotton Club.
Lane has appeared in a wide variety of films over the years. She played rocker Ellen Aim in Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire, Paulette Godard in Chaplin, Judge Hershey in Judge Dredd, race horse owner Penny Chenery in Secretariat, and Martha Kent in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman. She was an Oscar nominee, and received a bunch of other acting accolades, for starring in 2002’s Unfaithful:
Sir John Hurt turns 77 today. One of his first notable film roles was as Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, co-starring with yesterday’s headliner Paul Scofield. But he really put himself on the map as an actor at the end of the 1970s. He won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for his supporting role in Midnight Express. Then, he had was probably the most famous case of indigestion in film history as Kane in Alien. He then opened the 1980s with an Oscar-nominated performance as John Merrick in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man.
Space doesn’t permit me to do more than hit a few high points of Hurt’s post-1980 filmography. He played Winston Smith in the 1984 adaptation of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Harry Potter fans will probably remember his three appearances in the series as Garrick Ollivander, while given another of today’s birthdays, his appearance in Dead Man is worth noting. In recent years he played Control in the 2011 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the mentor figure with a secret, Gilliam, in Snowpiercer. He has done some notable voice work through the years, such as Hazel in the 1978 adaptation of Watership Down and General Woundwort in the 1999 animated series adaptation of the same book.
John Wesley Shipp has been involved in two TV series about DC’s The Flash, starring as Barry Allen in the 1990-91 CBS series and playing the dual roles of Henry Allen and Jay Garrick in the current CW series. Shipp, who is 62 today, also played Mitch Leery on Dawson’s Creek. South Korean actor Choi Min-sik, who is turning 55, is a major star in his homeland in films like Oldboy and The Admiral, and appeared opposite Scarlett Johansson in Lucy. Director Jim Jarmusch, who is turning 64 today, has been a leading figure in American independent film since the early eighties. His most noted films include Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law, and Dead Man.
Olivia d’Abo is turning 48 today; she is remembered for playing a virgin princess in Conan the Destroyer and Karen Arnold on The Wonder Years. Readers may remember the D’Abo Smackdown article from a little over a year ago. Beverley Mitchell, who is 36 today, starred as Lucy Camden-Kinkirk on 7th Heaven for its entire run; she was one of only two cast members to appear in every episode. Katie Finneran, who starred on Fox’s short-lived but acclaimed Wonderfalls, is 46 today. She is a prominent stage actress with Tony wins for Noises Off in 2002 and Promises, Promises in 2010. Gabriel Macht, who turns 45, starred as the title character in the 2008 film The Spirit and stars on the USA Network’s Suits. Sami Gayle celebrates her 21st; she is a regular on CBS’s Blue Bloods.
Piper Laurie is turning 85 today. She is a three-time Oscar nominee, for The Hustler, Carrie (as Carrie’s mother), and Children of a Lesser God. She won a Golden Globe, and was a two-time Emmy nominee, for her work on Twin Peaks. Seymour Cassel, who is 82, worked in many of John Cassavetes’ films, and was an Oscar nominee for Faces. More recently he has been a regular with Wes Anderson, in films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Our music birthdays begin with the short-lived but influential Sam Cooke (1931-1964), one of the pioneers of soul. Cooke had a long string of hits between 1957 and his death in a shooting in 1964, including “You Send Me,” “Chain Gang,” “Cupid,” “Another Saturday Night,” and many more—some of which were also hits for other artists as well. Steve Perry, who is turning 68, has had success as a solo artist but is best known for his two periods as lead singer of the progressive rock band Journey, known for hits like “Don’t Stop Believing.” Micki Harris (1940-1982) was a member of The Shirelles, one of the most popular girl groups of the early sixties, known for #1 hits “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy.” J. J. Johnson (1924-2001) was a leading jazz trombonist who started out with big band ensembles like Count Basie’s, but then embraced the newer sound of bebop and hard bop artists like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981) was one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th Century. A star at the Met for 20 years, she was known for her interpretations of many of the major Verdi soprano roles and for Bellini’s Norma.
Today was the birthday of two of the most important directors in the first fifty years or so of filmmaking. D. W. Griffith (1875-1948) began working in filmmaking in about 1908. He was a pioneer in many essential techniques of narrative filmmaking, especially in the area of editing. He also put those techniques to use in a film that is full of racist propaganda, which is why The Birth of a Nation is quite possibly the most controversial great work of art of the 20th century (if not ever). Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948), the first great Russian director, was a pioneer in the use of montage, known for silent films like Strike and Battleship Potemkin, and for his sound era epic Alexander Nevsky.
German actor Conrad Veidt (1893-1943) starred in silent classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Vehemently anti-Nazi, he left Germany after 1933 and went on to star in films such as the 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad (as the Grand Vizier Jaffar) and, most famously, as Major Strasser in Casablanca (his next to last film). Ann Sothern (1909-2001) worked on stage and screen for some sixty years. She was a five-time Emmy nominee as the star of the mid-fifties sitcom Private Secretary, and an Oscar nominee for The Whales of August. Bill Bixby (1934-1993) was a television mainstay from the sixties to the eighties, starring on My Favorite Martian, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and, the role most likely to be remembered by this blog’s readers, as Dr. David Banner on The Incredible Hulk. George Balanchine (1904-1983) was the co-founder of the New York City Ballet and the company’s artistic director from its 1948 opening until his death. He was one of the most influential figures in American dance in the 20th century.
We have three major literary birthdays. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), was one of the greatest of the British Romantic poets, known for his long narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and for both creating and living as examples of the so-called “Byronic hero.” With his many love affairs and generally extravagant lifestyle, Byron seems like a prototype for a number of modern celebrities. Richard Chamberlain, Hugh Grant and Gabriel Byrne are among the actors to have played Byron in film. Swedish playwright and novelist August Strindberg (1849-1912)is known for his novel The Red Room, a major contribution to Swedish literature, but his major accomplishments were as one of the most innovative dramatists of the 19th Century. Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) did not reach the literary heights of Byron or Strindberg; his milieu was pulp fiction. Known as one of the “big three” of Weird Tales, he is remembered primarily as one of the fathers of sword-and-sorcery fantasy and the creator of Conan the Barbarian.
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 January 22, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Beverley Mitchell, Conrad Veidt, D W Griffith, Diane Lane, George Balanchine, Jim Jarmusch, John Hurt, Katie Finneran, Piper Laurie, Sam Cooke, Sergei Eisenstein. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.