February 3: Happy Birthday Nathan Lane and Isla Fisher


Two-time Tony winner Nathan Lane is 61 today.  He dropped out of college in the mid-seventies to go into acting, and paid his dues in the theater business for several years before making his Broadway debut in 1982.  It was not until the early nineties, though, that he had his first really big success, receiving his first Tony nomination for playing Nathan Detroit in the very successful 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls.

Lane began doing periodic film and television work in the eighties.  He has been nominated for six Primetime Emmys in the Outstanding Guest Actor category (three for playing Pepper Saltzman on Modern Family), and has won a pair of Daytime Emmys for voice work.  One of them was for reprising his voice role of Timon from The Lion King.  The high point of his feature film career was probably starring as Albert Goodman in The Birdcage, which brought him a Golden Globe nomination and a lengthy list of other acting accolades:

While he has had some major screen successes, at heart Lane seems to be a man of the theater.  He has been friends with playwright Terrence McNally for many years and appeared in several of his plays.  He has won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical twice, as Pseudolius in the 1996 revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and as Max Bialystock in the 2001 revival of The Producers.  Recently he has starred in a 2016 Broadway revival of The Front Page, as Walter Burns, and he will appear later this year in a London production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, as Roy Cohn.

Isla Fisher celebrates her 41st birthday today.  Her parents are Scottish, she was born in Oman, but she spent most of her youth in Australia and began her acting career there, where she became one of the very long list of Australian actors who have appeared on the long-running soap opera Home and Away.  Her first significant film role was in Scooby-Doo in 2002, following which she had a small role in I Heart Huckabees and then had a major role in a film that was a bit of a surprise hit in 2005:

In the last decade Fisher has had major roles in the rom-com Definitely, Maybe (as April, “the copy girl”), in the caper film Now You See Me (as magician Henley Reeves), in The Great Gatsby (as Myrtle Wilson), and in the Elmore Leonard adaptation Life of Crime (as Melanie Ralston).  She has done voice work in films like Horton Hears a Who and Rango, and published a children’s book called Marge in Charge.  Last year she had major roles in The Brothers Grimsby (produced and written by her husband, Sacha Baron Cohen) and in Keeping Up with the Joneses.

Blythe Danner turns 74 today.  She won a Tony for the play Butterflies Are Free and more recently a pair of Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress as Isabelle Huffstedt on Huff.  She played Dina Byrnes in Meet the Parents and its sequels, and she and her daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, played mother and daughter in the TV movie Cruel Doubt and in the feature film SylviaMorgan Fairchild, who is 67, was a Golden Globe nominee for the NBC series Flamingo Road in the early eighties and an Emmy nominee for a guest role on Murphy BrownMaura Tierney, who is celebrating her 52nd, has had starring roles on NewsRadio, ER, and currently is seen on Showtime’s The Affair, for which she won a Golden Globe last year.  South African actor Marius Weyers is 72 today; he is best known internationally for starring in The Gods Must Be CrazyFrank Coraci, who has directed a number of Adam Sandler’s films, such as The Wedding Singer and Click, turns 51.  Kenneth Anger, an underground/experimental filmmaker who has made a wide variety of shorts and featurettes, turns 90 today.

Warwick Davis, who turns 47, played the title character in Willow and Professor Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter films.  Bridget Regan, who is 35 today, starred as Kahlan Amnell on Legend of the Seeker and on the third season of The Last ShipElisa Donovan, who celebrates her 46th, played Amber Mariens, Cher’s rival, in both the film and TV series Clueless, and Morgan Cavanaugh on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and later starred as the title character on In Gayle We Trust.

The sports world today will be noting the birthdays of two NFL Hall of Fame Quarterbacks.  Bob Griese is turning 72 today.  He spent his entire pro career with the Miami Dolphins, making six Pro Bowls and leading the Dolphins to three Super Bowls, winning the last two.  He was a part of the Dolphins famed unbeaten team of 1972, although ironically, he missed over half of the regular season with a broken leg.  When the Dolphins returned to the Super Bowl a year later, they faced off against the Minnesota Vikings, quarterbacked by Fran Tarkenton, who is 77 today.  Tarkenton spent most of his 18 year NFL career with the Vikings, and when he retired he held almost every major career record for quarterbacks.  Like Griese, he led his team to three Super Bowls, but unfortunately for the Vikings, the other teams they faced—the Dolphins, Steelers and Raiders—were always better.

Carl Dreyer (1889-1968) may be the biggest name in the history of Danish cinema; his most famous film was The Passion of Joan of Arc.  Robert Earl Jones (1910-2006) was the father of a recent headliner; one of his best known film roles was as Luther Coleman in The StingJoey Bishop (1918-2007) starred in a sitcom and hosted a talk show during the sixties, both named for him, but will likely be most remembered as one of the “Rat Pack.”  John Fiedler (1925-2005) had a long career as an actor and voice actor, and will be remembered as Juror #2 from 12 Angry Men and as the voice of Piglet in many of Disney’s Winnie-the-Pooh productions.  Victor Buono (1938-1982) was an Oscar and Golden Globe nominee for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and played King Tut on the Batman TV series.  Michael Cimino (1939-2016) won an Oscar for Best Director for The Deer Hunter, but then went on to direct the legendary film industry disaster known as Heaven’s Gate.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), the author of the quasi-memoir The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and novels like The Making of Americans, spent most of her adult life in France.  Her Paris literary salon was frequented by the likes of Picasso, Hemingway and Fitzgerald.  Kathy Bates played Stein in Woody Allen’s Midnight in ParisJames Michener (1907-1997) was known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection Tales of the South Pacific (the basis for the Broadway musical South Pacific, which also won a Pulitzer) and for multi-generation historical novels like Centennial and ChesapeakeWalter Bagehot (1826-1877) was one of the great early figures of economic and political journalism, known for his nearly two decades as editor of The Economist and as the author of The English Constitution and Lombard Street.  The painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was one of the most popular artists in American history.  He was known for paintings like The Problem We All Live With and for his nearly 50 years worth of cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post.

For the third time in eight days it’s the birthday of a great from the world of classical music.  Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was one of the greatest prodigies in music history, composing his classic Octet in E flat for Strings at the age of 16.  He is remembered for his 3rd and 4th Symphonies, his Violin Concerto, and his oratorio Elijah along with many smaller-scale works.  He was also one of the most influential conductors in history, using his position as music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra both to champion then-new composers like Schubert and Berlioz, and to revive interest in the music of J. S. Bach.

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 February 3, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Nathan Lane gained immortality as Timone. I hear Hakuna Matata a few times a week during our morning drop-off routine. Birdcage is the highlight of his film roles. Always happy to see Pepper make an appearance on Modern Family.

    I am surprised Isla Fisher didn’t catch on more than she did after The Wedding Crashers. I just find her to be insanely hot. I saw the trailer for Keeping Up with the Joneses where she’s supposed to be this frumpy housewife living nextdoor to sexy spies. But I found Fisher far more appealing than Gal Gadot. Just me?

    Whenever I think of Morgan Fairchild, I think of Jon Lovitz’s pathological liar character claiming to be married to her. She was also a Worst Actress nominee for The Seduction in 1982, but lost to Pia Zadora who out-trashed her.

    Warwick Davis is something of a legend among genre fans even though Willow is a pretty mediocre movie.

    Not being a sports guy, I don’t usually have much to say when we get into the athletics section of the article. But Fran Tarkenton was a cohost on That’s Incredible! in the 80’s. I remember him from that. Apparently he also founded a software company?!?


  2. Did you know that IMDB is getting rid of its message boards? They’re going to leave them up until February 23, so people can archive them. I think this is a horrible idea. IMDB claims people use IMDB’s twitter and Facebook more than the message boards. Users at IMDB are in a uproar over this. I was just letting you know about this in case you wanted to archive anything about a movie. Anyway, I love your site, and read it often, but I think I’ve only commented here maybe one time.


    • Thanks for the heads-up, Becki! And thanks for reading. Call me old fashions, I like a good message board.


    • That’s horrible news and a terrible idea, but for many years IMDB has been wiping out message boards, to the point that some boards have barely any topics. For example, I looked up Barbara Hershey on there 3 weeks ago, and she had like three topics, and two were six degrees game. But what’s the harm in keeping the message boards, to save on the IT budget?


    • According to someone, who claims to be a former employee of IMDb, says the true reason for the shut down, is because IMDb can’t monetize the message boards.

      From a former IMDb employee

      “This is no surprise whatsoever. I’ve worked at IMDb (the worst and most discouraging experience of my professional life ) and believe me, the company is a soulless, empty corporate shell that has one goal: to sell advertising. It’s not about movies, TV, or being ‘guardians of data’ – everything is about making money. The entire site is setup to sell advertising, and movie data is simply a means to achieve that. End of story.

      The reason IMDb is getting rid of the message boards is simple: they can’t be monetised. If IMDb could make money out of the boards, they’d be staying, but there’s no cash in it for them, so they’re getting axed. The sell-outs who run IMDb will have looked at the ‘metrics’ (a risible corporate buzzword the Data Team loves so much) and decided that traffic is not high enough for them to make any real money.

      It really is that simple. I’ve experienced first-hand the obsession with metrics, and making money (at the expense of customer satisfaction), and it really is pathetic to behold. No decision is made at IMDb without greed being factored into the equation, and believe me, they will also shut down certain data sections at some point if they get in the way of making money. Forget the fact that the site has compiled 20+ years worth of important data – if one of the sections can no longer be monetised effectively (Literature, for example), they’ll just get rid of it.

      In financial terms, keeping the message boards live costs IMDb basically nothing, bar the human cost of maintenance, which – when considered in the context of the site’s huge annual profit margin – is less than miniscule.

      There’s no point complaining about it, making suggestions, or suggesting alternate, viable solutions – the hacks at IMDb don’t give a toss. There’s no money in it for them, so they’re not interested. They’ll fob you off with the usual hollow platitudes, but make no mistake, the IMDb that people love died years ago. Now, the site is just a shiny, corporate plaything, pimped out by Amazon for the purposes of making money, with greed – not customer focus – being its primary driving force.

      One final note: it probably burns IMDb that the majority (over one third) of their users come from China, the audience for which is far less valuable to advertisers than, say, the USA and the UK. Only about 5% of IMDb’s users come from the UK, which is ironic considering the site originated in England. But, I digress – this post will, of course, be deleted, but what the hell. I don’t care!”


      • I guess IMDB Pro didn’t bring in enough money (I was never a subscriber to that service)? If this is true, attempting to charge for the right to comment is a sad approach I don’t comment as much as I used to (mostly I use it as reference, but I still read some comments), but it’s still too bad that commenting won’t be an option anymore.


  3. Nathan Lane—the big names from Broadway just keep coming, don’t they? A big talent.

    Isla Fisher has been a favorite of mine for over a decade now. She is simply adorable and has a very winning screen personality, but still can bring a little edge to her characters when it’s appropriate. I haven’t seen Keeping Up with the Joneses yet, but somehow I doubt that Fisher could ever come across as frumpy. 🙂

    Does anyone else remember that brief moment in time when Michael Cimino was all the rage?

    Felix Mendelssohn wrote some of the most listenable classical music ever.


    • Michael Cimino just never recovered from the financial fiasco of “Heaven’s Gate” (which I don’t think is too bad, and I haven’t even seen the proper version). I also like 1985’s “Year of the Dragon” and 1987’s “The Sicilian” more than a lot of other people seem to. I didn’t know he passed away though.


      • Michael Cimino’s story would’ve been a terrific What the Hell Happened to retrospective. After the “Heaven’s Gate” fiasco and getting booted off of “Footloose” (because Cimino was again being too demanding and egocentric), he was for all intents and purposes, forever done as an A-list director. Now, Cimino is looked at pretty much as a one hit wonder and the guy who almost single handedly destroyed United Artist and the New Hollywood era.


        • It doesn’t seem that Cimino’s overall legacy is a positive one; I’ve even read that if the Academy could have taken back his Oscar, they would have, which is a goofy notion to me. I mean, “The Deer Hunter” still counts (actually I find that film to be one of the most terrifying and intense films I’ve ever seen).


  4. I thought Nathan Lane stole some scenes in the Pacino/Pfeiffer 1991 flick “Frankie and Johnny” and I liked his guest turn as a comedian in the episode ‘Buddies’ (James Remar!) from “Miami Vice” (It was not a funny way in which his character died). All around, I enjoy seeing him in projects.
    Blythe Danner, I like 1972’s “1776”, and wow, from her younger photos, one could see where her daughter gets her looks from.
    Morgan Fairchild, yeah, I watched “The Seduction” with my parents in the 1980’s, while I checked out 1989’s Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge” all by myself. I’m sure other people are familiar with Fairchild from less cornball stuff though (I think 1987’s “Deadly Illusion” is a solid flick. Flicky do!). I think she’s done well with guest spot on TV.
    Maura Tierney, I know there was “NewsRadio”, but I strongly associate her with the parts she played in 1991’s “White Sands” and “Primal Fear”, plus I heard she’s a real shark at poker.
    Warwick Davis, I remember the hype involving “Willow” (I think it’s okay), and he played the Leprechaun in the “Leprechaun” films (I only viewed the first two. Ha, a pre-“Friends” Jennifer Aniston).
    I really have a hard time remembering Elisa Donovan from “Clueless”, though I remember the rest of that cast pretty well. I definitely remember her from the later years of the Sabrina show though.
    Bob Griese, I have a Pro Football Preview book from 1973 that named him the best quarterback in the NFL. What helped was the the Dolphins were coming off an undefeated season (although Griese was hurt in the 4th game and Earl Morrall did the heavy lifting until the second half of the AFC Championship Game). The Dolphins had a style (run, run, and then run some more) and he fit it.
    For a time, Fran Tarkenton had all the NFL passing records. Not bad for a who wasn’t considered a prototypical NFL quarterback.
    Norman Rockwell, I really dig some of his paintings and illustrations.


  5. A little bit of bonus content for today—here is Nathan Lane in Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit, with Faith Prince as Miss Adelaide:


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