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February 15: Happy Birthday Matt Groening and Jane Seymour

0215groeningseymour

Matt Groening turns 63 today.  After graduating from college, he moved to Los Angeles and while working a variety of jobs, he began creating a comic he titled Life in Hell.  One of his jobs was at a local alternative newspaper, the Los Angeles Reader, and in 1980, the paper became the first to carry Groening’s strip.  As Groening became somewhat better known, he was invited, in 1985, to create a series of animated skits for The Tracey Ullman Show.  Eventually the skits became a series of their own, which made its debut on Fox in 1989.

The Simpsons is now in its 28th season, and is the longest-running scripted primetime series, sitcom, and animated program in US television history.  It has won over 30 Primetime Emmys, including ten for Groening himself.  Groening is also the co-creator of the animated sci-fi sitcom Futurama, which aired on Fox and later on Comedy Central and brought him two more Emmys.

Jane Seymour celebrates her 66th today.  She began her acting career in her late teens with an uncredited appearance in Oh! What a Lovely War.  She then starred in the World War 2 drama The Only Way, and appeared in a supporting role in Young Winston.  However, the role that first made her well-known was playing a Bond Girl, in Roger Moore’s first outing as 007, Live and Let Die.

Seymour has likely had the most successful post-Bond career of any Bond Girl.  She made a few interesting films, such as the sci-fi romance Somewhere in Time, but her greatest success has been on television.  She has received five Primetime Emmy nominations, winning for playing Maria Callas in the miniseries Onassis: The Richest Man in the World.  She has won Golden Globes for a miniseries adaptation of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and as the title character of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.  Her other notable television roles include starring in miniseries adapted from Taylor Caldwell’s Captains and the King and Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance.

Alex Borstein, known for her long run on MADtv and as the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy, turns 46 today.  Born the same day as Borstein, Renee O’Connor is remembered for playing Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior PrincessMiranda July, who is turning 43, wrote and directed the feature films Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future, and recently published her first novel, The First Bad Man.

Amber Riley, who celebrates her 31st, played Mercedes Jones on Glee and stars as Effie White in the original West End production of DreamgirlsJessica De Gouw, who is 29 today, currently stars as Elizabeth Hawkes on WGN America’s Underground and played Helena Bertinelli on ArrowZachary Gordon, who has starred as Greg Heffley in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films, is 19 today.

Claire Bloom, who turns 86 today, has had a distinguished stage and screen career.  She is known for a number of Shakespeare roles but her favorite stage part was Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.  In film, she was known for appearances in Olivier’s Richard III as Lady Anne, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Charly, and Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester is 66 today.  She had hits in the 1970s like “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and won a Grammy for her 1982 hit “You Should Hear How She Talks About You.”  Gloria Trevi, who turns 49, is a Mexican-born pop singer who has had a number of hits on the US Latin charts and three albums which have made it onto the Billboard 200.  Composer John Adams, who is 70 today, is one of the leaders of the “minimalist” school, known for his orchestral composition Harmonielehre and operas such as Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer.

Arthur Henry Ward was better known under his pen name of Sax Rohmer (1883-1959).  He is remembered for novels such as The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu, which introduced one of the greatest of fictional master criminals.  Norman Bridwell (1928-2014) was a children’s author who is remembered for the over 40 books in the Clifford the Big Red Dog series.

Two NFL Hall of Famers have or had birthdays today.  Darrell Green, who turns 57, was one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history.  He spent his entire 20-year career with the Washington Redskins, making seven Pro Bowls and starting for two Super Bowl winners.  Like Green, Gene Hickerson (1935-2008) spent his entire career with one team.  He made six Pro Bowls as an offensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns and started for their 1964 NFL champions.

Comic actor Harvey Korman (1927-2008) first became known on The Danny Kaye Show, but his greatest fame was for the variety/comedy series The Carol Burnett Show, where he was a regular and won four Emmys.  He also appeared in a number of Mel Brooks’ films, most notably as Hedy Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.  Before his substance abuse caught up with him, Chris Farley (1964-1997) was known for his five year run on Saturday Night Live and for films like Tommy Boy and Beverly Hills NinjaCesar Romero (1907-1994) had a long film career but will most likely be remembered as the Joker from the Batman television series.  Gale Sondergaard (1899-1985) was the first winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the 1936 film Anthony Adverse and had a run of about a decade as a prominent character actress.  Irish actor Arthur Shields (1896-1970) had a long career at Dublin’s Abbey Theater and also appeared in a number of John Ford’s films, such as Drums Along the Mohawk and The Quiet Man (where he appeared with Barry Fitzgerald, his older brother).  Kevin McCarthy (1914-2010) won a Golden Globe and was an Oscar nominee for the film adaptation of Death of a Salesman and starred in the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Historical figures born today begin with Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).  One of history’s greatest scientists, he made major contributions to the development of modern physics and especially astronomy, and was also a talented engineer who, among other things, designed and constructed the telescopes he used to observe the other planets of the solar system.  Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) was a famous explorer of the Antarctic in the early 20th century, best known for the Endurance Expedition of 1914-1917.  Like Galileo, Shackleton has a crater on the moon named after him.  Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was a leading social reformer in the 19th century US.  Best known as a women’s voting rights advocate, she was also active in the anti-slavery movement and on other issues.

 

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 February 15, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Today we have our third Bond Girl headliner, and, I am pretty sure, the first time we have a headliner who has played another headliner.

    Like

  2. http://officialfan.proboards.com/thread/562090/fall-simpsons-happened?page=2

    Post by HMARK Center on yesterday at 11:04am
    That was a pretty darn good overview of things in the video, solid stuff.

    Really like how it works from a simple, multi-pronged thesis:

    -First, The Simpsons was a show conceived with three tentpole principles in mind: Groening’s anti-authority/counterculture rebelliousness and satire, Simon’s experience in keeping smart sitcoms grounded in consistent characters and characterizations instead of flying off into needlessly complex narratives, and Brooks’ insistence that the show demonstrate that it had an emotional core and a was not cynical to the point of becoming an existential nightmare. Maintaining these principles was very taxing, necessitating long hours, many writers, numerous rewrites, and in some ways put a time limit on how long the show could maintain its style…the fact that it was probably the best thing to happen to television for seven whole seasons is a monumental accomplishment in and of itself.

    -Second, The Simpsons was a product of its era, representing a countercultural voice against the perceived prevailing pop cultural/political consensus of that time, much of which existed as an extension of nostalgia for the 1950s among 1980s adults who had been children in those older days. See: the change in many sitcoms from family-based stories in the 1950s (Leave it Beaver, et. al.) toward more sitcoms that focused on single/working adult leads in the 1960s and 70s (Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi, etc.), back toward an era of family-based sitcoms by the 1980s (Family Ties, Full House, etc.), aging alongside the 40s/50s Boomers they were marketing toward. This gave The Simpsons an exceptionally strong voice during its early years that would become harder to maintain as the cultural status quo shifted to better reflect The Simpsons’ style, but the show seemed to not even attempt to maintain its edge as time went on when they could have put in more of an effort (e.g. having more and more celebrities on as themselves for no real purpose, rather than using them as original characters, more organic components of the narrative, or as another avenue by which to satire celebrity-obsessed culture).

    -Third, the show’s longevity shifted the show’s core tenants because after so much time the humor stopped being about skewering the wider culture that the show originally targeted and instead became much more self-referential. This is where the Frank Grimes episode becomes an issue: it was a very well done episode, and an occasional self-aware/lampshade-hanging episode is often welcome in a long-running series, but now the joke turned from “here’s how these dysfunctional characters live, work, and still manage to find contentment in a dysfunctional world” toward “oh my God, how stupid is Homer, right?” The example the video cites from that blog post at the end about how old Simpsons and new Simpsons would handle a similar joke setup was really telling, it was something I hadn’t considered before: older Simpsons was too iconoclastic for its time to adhere to the simple “set up –> punchline –> laugh track” structure, yet new Simpsons seems to embrace both it and, again, celebrating hollow celebrity rather than making fun of its inanity.

    Like

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