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January 22: Happy Birthday Diane Lane and John Hurt

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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 SuitsSami 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 AugustBill 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.

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Posted on January 22, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Besides sharing the same birthday together, Diane Lane and John Hurt also co-starred in Walter Hill’s 1995 western “Wild Bill” starring Jeff Bridges.

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  2. Diane Lane, now here’s a birthday I was aware of: to use a professional sports reference, she’s like that #1 overall pick who great things was excepted of, then had some rocky moments and was called a bust, but manage to carve out a long career anyway that included some sweet moments. She’s a gamer though, and I enjoy the heck out of her performances,

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  3. I think the first film I saw Sir John Hurt in was his “Spaceballs” cameo, but I believe 1987’s “From the Hip” (hey, I like it) is the film in which I really became aware of him. My favorite film with him though is “1984”, a film that, once I discovered it) became essential watching in my late teenage years (the book, the book is on fire as well). There’s “The Elephant Man”, “Alien”, and “The Osterman Weekend” (yeah, I like that one too), so I could go my forever with his filmography.
    Jim Jarmusch, I’ve enjoyed his offbeat films; offbeat is for me (and many others, of course:-).
    Olivia D’ Abo, I can’t remember if she won or lost that smackdown to her cousin on here, but anyway, I think her face was one that was tough to forget.
    Piper Laurie, I know her best as Carrie sane (just kidding) mom from “Carrie” and in the 1981 film “Tim” with Mel Gibson.
    Steve Perry, I’ve always enjoyed the song & music video “Oh Sherry”. The music video has Perry in an airport meeting a woman, what a Journey.
    Seymour Cassel, I first saw in in “Tin Man”; always fun to see him in projects.
    Bill Bixby, The Hulk had me running out of the room as a kid, but once I got unsettled into life and viewed the TV Hulk, I ended up liking the stories the show told (and that sad instrumental at the end of every episode).

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    • I’m not sure how it happened. I wrote the article. Olivia is my favorite d’Abo. And yet, somehow I crowned Maryam the winner. I demand a recount!!

      Speaking of which, there’s a poll at the end of the article. Currently Olivia is winning by a slim margin.

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  4. We have some Diane Lane fans here at Le Blog. I count myself among them. She never did become the big star that some might have predicted, but she’s always fantastic even in a turkey like Batman V Superman.

    I really don’t recall whether the first time I saw John Hurt was in Alien or The Elephant Man. I was really interested in the latter as a kid. I wanted to check out the book from the local public library but the librarian told me it was too adult. I eventually watched the movie on TV. Of course I had no idea who Hurt was beneath the make-up. His death in Alien is just one of those iconic movie scenes that sure did shock me as a kid. The other day, I had on a few scenes from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… on second thought, forget I brought that up.

    I watched the first Flash TV show when I was able. I recall that it got moved around the schedule at some point. John Wesley Shipp struck a heroic profile. The show just coul;dn’t do much with the limits of special effects of the time. I’m glad to have Shipp on board for the current Flash series.

    I may be in the minority here, but Olivia is still my favorite d’Abo. They are of course both great. You really can’t go wrong.

    I have been publicly geeking out over Twin Peaks in the birthdays this year. I knew Piper Laurie from Carrie in which she was scary as hell. But she was a lot of fun on Twin Peaks as well. I haven’t looked at the cast list to see if she is involved in the reunion. I’m trying to let myself be surprised.

    It’s been a working weekend for me which is why I’m commenting on the birthday article at 11:00 PM. While I was working on some projects, I was jamming to 80’s hits many of which were sung by Mr. Steve Perry.

    The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was a favorite of mine as a kid. Later, I followed Bill Bixby to The Incredible Hulk.

    Speaking of Olivia d’Abo, I wonder what Robert E. Howard would have thought of Conan the Destroyer.

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    • It doesn’t get much bigger for me than Diane Lane (for Christian Slater and her ever become a couple on TV or screen, then that’s the mountaintop). The next Grace Kelly though? I mean what was she supposed to do, retire young and marry a Prince (with her luck, the prince probably would’ve turned into a frog anyway. I think Grace Kelly’s great though, and have a biography on her)? I’ve seen most of her films, but I can go back and watch that “Lonesome Dove” set my neighbors gave me, and I’ve never seen films like 1988’s “Priceless Beauty”, 1992’s “The Setting Sun”, or 1997’s “The Only Thrill” (I don’t count 1982’s “Ladies and Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains” because I’ve seen parts of it), but some of those are hard to find, especially the genie in a bottle one (“Priceless beauty”).

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  5. While Diane Lane never became a really big star, she also never dropped into irrelevance. Although she had to take a couple of sabbaticals at different times, she always bounced back and resumed making reasonably major films.

    Conrad Veidt is a very interesting man to learn about. Many of his most famous Hollywood roles were villainous, but in real life he was known for helping people escape from Nazi-dominated Europe, including the family of his wife Lilli (who was Jewish) and also his future Casablanca costar, Paul Henreid.

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    • Yeah, that’s why I don’t like those far reaching predictions, as they just don’t help anybody. From what I understand, Diane Lane definitely took a long break after “The Cotton Club” fiasco (not a bad film, but I don’t think it was great either), and didn’t return until 1987 with “Lady Beware” (which I really like and have two copies of it) and “The Big Town” (I like that one too, and I think it has a great cast overall). My favorite Diane Lane film is probably 1992’s “My New gun”; it’s slight, but I dig it.

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      • 19 Ambitious Movies That Didn’t Go as Planned

        http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/movies/261820/19-ambitious-movies-that-didnt-go-as-planned

        The Cotton Club (1984)

        Robert Evans, involved in the production of The Godfather, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, became interested in the story of The Cotton Club because he read a picture book about it and met a theatrical impresario with similar ambitions, who was introduced to him by a coke dealer (who would later be found guilty of arranging the impresario’s murder after he was cut of a producing credit). Turning down Paramount, Evans needed to raise a budget for the movie. Funding was drawn from sources as diverse as Las Vegas casino owners and Arabian arms dealers (although apparently that money was returned as they wanted script input). Evans was originally going to direct and produce, but decided not to at the last minute. He got Francis Ford Coppola to do the job, which sounds like quite a good last minute substitute, but Coppola was mainly taking the job because he was in debt.

        The rehearsal script was written in eight days, and the sheer number of rewrites (estimates suggest around 30–40 drafts) resulted in a lack of cohesion in the ambitious multiple storylines, all the while costs of recreating 1920s Harlem doubled the projected budget (the sets and costumes reportedly costing $250,000 a day). The threat of bankruptcy loomed over the production, and Coppola clashed with Evans (eventually banning him from the set). Coppola added to the costs and strife by firing the original crew and replacing them with his own, and his fondness for improvisation caused further script rewrites.

        Oh, and Sylvester Stallone was going to play the lead instead of Richard Gere, but then Sly discovered that Evans was having an affair with his girlfriend.

        The obvious lessons here are to not let your ego get in the way of securing funding, establish and stick with a long-term creative vision, and don’t have sex with other people’s partners, especially if you might have to work with them.

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        • That’s about the size of it with this film, including the murder of promoter Ron Radin on the side, which overshadowed the film itself. Today it would probably be more of scandal, and likely make the travails of “Waterworld” look like the behind the scenes of an old Flash Gordon short.

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    • I’ve noticed Diane Lane’s name is in the poll for potential future “What the Hell Happened to” subjects. It seems like after reading your comment, Diane Lane could be considered a bordering case. I do think that the key measuring stick in getting a “What the Hell Happened to” is that if you were either once a huge A-list star (e.g. Mel Gibosn or Meg Ryan), who somehow suffered a great career crash (to the point in which your credibility is irrevocably harmed). Or you showed great potential (e.g. Alicia Silverstone, Leelee Sobieski, Jason Patric, Josh Hartnett, etc.) only to seriously drop off into irrelevancy, as you mentioned.

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      • Diane Lane you can argue, has had an almost Kurt Russell type of career within the context of this blog. What I mean is that she like Russell has had a very long, otherwise successful career (as far back as when they were literally kids) but never really became a true, bonafide major star.

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        • Yeah, I think their careers have a similar theme to them (especially taking projects they like vs. going for highly touted fare), but I feel Diane Lane was bigger as a child/teenager (TIME magazine, c’mon), while Kurt Russell was more high profile as an adult.

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  6. John Hurt, Oscar-nominated star of ‘The Elephant Man,’ dies at 77 (report) http://thr.cm/HR7q9Q

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