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February 22: Happy Birthday Drew Barrymore and Lea Salonga

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Drew Barrymore turns 42 today.  The granddaughter of John Barrymore, she became famous in her own right at a very young age for playing Gertie in E.T. and then starring in Irreconcilable Differences.  But her childhood was far from idyllic—google “Drew Barrymore” along with “rehab” and you’ll probably learn more than you wanted to.

In the early nineties she began working regularly in film, although often in films that weren’t very well-received by either critics or audiences.  1996 was a bit of a turning point, as she appeared in Woody Allen’s ensemble film Everyone Says I Love You and was memorably terrified in the opening scene of Scream.  Two years later she starred in a pair of financially successful films that showed she had a talent for romance, The Wedding Singer, her first film with Adam Sandler, and a somewhat revisionist take on a classic fairy tale:

Barrymore went on to have a decade or so as a fairly major star.  She formed her own production company and produced or co-produced several of her films form 1999 on, including Never Been Kissed, the Charlie’s Angels films, Fever Pitch, and He’s Just Not That Into You.  She made her directing debut in 2009 with Whip It, which was critically well received although not terribly successful at the box office.  She was an Emmy nominee for the HBO film Grey Gardens and currently stars on Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet.

Lea Salonga celebrates her 46th birthday today.  She began her performing career as a child in the Philippines, appearing in musical productions (including starring in Annie when she was nine), hosting a TV show when she was in her early teens, and releasing a pair of albums.  Her international career began when the producers of a new musical conducted a worldwide talent search for a lead actress from an East Asian background.  The outcome was that Salonga was cast as Kim in Miss Saigon, originating the part first in London, where she won an Olivier Award, and then on Broadway, where she won a Tony and several other acting awards.

From Miss Saigon, Salonga moved to the “other” Boubil-Schönberg musical.  In early 1992 she joined the Broadway production of Les Misérables as Eponine, and in 1995 she was selected as part of the “Dream Cast” for the 10th Anniversary concert performance of Les Miz, which aired on PBS in the US before being released on home video.

Salonga has returned to Broadway in a revival of Flower Drum Song in 2002, in the 2006 revival of Les Misérables (replacing Daphne Rubin-Vega as Fantine), and most recently in the musical Allegiance.  She also sang Fantine in the 25th Anniversary concert performance of Les Miz.  She has provided the singing voices of two Disney Princesses, Jasmine in Aladdin and Fa Mulan in Mulan.

English actress Julie Walters turns 67 today.  She is a two-time Oscar nominee, for Educating Rita and Billy Elliott, and has won six BAFTA Awards, two for film and four for television.  Kyle MacLachlan, who is 58, is best known for his work with David Lynch.  He played Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks, winning a Golden Globe and being nominated for two Emmys, and also starred in Lynch’s Dune and Blue Velvet.  Director Jonathan Demme, who is 73, won Best Director for The Silence of the Lambs, and then directed Tom Hanks in an Oscar-winning performance in PhiladelphiaKarin Dor, who is turning 79, played a bad Bond Girl in You Only Live Twice and starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s TopazEllen Greene, who is 66 today, hit the peak of her career starring as Audrey in the stage musical Little Shop of Horrors and its 1986 film adaptation.  Miou-Miou (given name Sylvette Herry), who turns 67, is a ten-time Cesar Award nominee, winning Best Actress for the 1979 film La Dérobade.

Jeri Ryan, who turns 49 today, is known to sci-fi fans as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, and also has been a regular on Boston Public and, most recently, the second season of Amazon’s BoschThomas Jane, known for his roles in films such as Deep Blue Sea, Original Sin, and The Punisher, is 48.  Elodie Yung, who celebrates her 36th, plays Elektra Natchios on Daredevil and will also reprise the role on The DefendersZach Roerig, who is turning 32, played Matt Donovan on The Vampire Diaries.  Comedian and actress Rachel Dratch, who turns 51, was a seven-year cast member of Saturday Night Live and in 2012 published a memoir, Girl Walks Into a Bar.  Stuntwoman Sara Holden turns 36.  At 5-2 she frequently doubles smaller actresses like Kristen Bell or Michelle Williams.  Paul Lieberstein, who celebrates his 50th, is an actor, writer, director, and producer.  He is best known for his association with The Office, where he played Toby Flenderson, wrote and directed several episodes, and was the showrunner for several seasons (winning a Primetime Emmy in the process).

Sports birthdays today are headed by basketball legend Julius Erving.  “Dr. J,” who turns 67, starred in the last few seasons of the American Basketball Association, leading the New York Nets to two titles, before joining the Philadelphia 76ers in, appropriately, 1976, and eventually winning an NBA title as well.  He was a pioneer in popularizing the “above the rim” style of play that nowadays, in the post-Michael Jordan era, seems commonplace.  Niki Lauda, who is 68, was a three-time world champion of Formula One auto racing.  He was played by Daniel Brühl in the 2013 movie RushGeorge “Sparky” Anderson (1934-2010) was the first Major League Baseball manager to win World Series titles in both leagues, and ranks 6th all time in total games won.  Bill Klem (1874-1951) was one of the first two baseball umpires named to the Hall of Fame.  A variety of stories are told about his umpiring days, such as the time a young player was so irate when Klem called him out on strikes that he threw his bat into the air.  Klem calmly responded “Son, if that bat comes down, you’re out of the game.”

American singer Marni Nixon (1930-2016) had a career that included appearing in opera, on Broadway, and as a cabaret singer, but she was best known as a playback singer in movie musicals.  She provided the singing voices for Deborah Kerr in The King and I and An Affair to Remember, for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.  She also provided the singing voice of Grandmother Fa in Mulan.  And in The Sound of Music, she got to appear onscreen as Sister Sophia.

I believe that Nixon is the one whose singing part begins “She waltzes on her way to Mass…”

Robert Young (1907-1998) was a hard working film actor of the thirties and forties, appearing in such films as Northwest Passage and Crossfire.  He then became a television mainstay, first as Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best, then as the title character on Marcus Welby, M.D., winning three Emmys over the two series.  John Mills (1908-2005) won best Supporting Actor for Ryan’s Daughter, the high point of a career of over 100 films, including David Lean’s Great Expectations (as the adult Pip) and Disney’s The Swiss Family Robinson (as the father).  Jules Munshin (1915-1970) was a prominent stage actor, known for Call Me Mister, Barefoot in the Park, and other plays and musicals, and for his work in MGM musicals in the forties and fifties, such as Easter Parade and On the TownMarguerite Clarke (1883-1940) was an early 20th Century stage actress who began working in silent films around 1914 and became a major silent film star; sadly, almost all her filmography is lost.

Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) is almost always ranked among the greatest filmmakers ever.  Born in Spain, he spent much of his career based in either Mexico or France.  Among his most highly-regarded films are Un Chien Andalou, Los Olvidados, Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Belle de jour, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.  Italian actress Giulietta Masina (1921-1994) was the wife and longtime collaborator of director Federico Fellini, starring in many of his best-known films such as La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, and Juliet of the Spirits.

Steve Irwin (1962-2006) became one of the most famous Australians in the world during the heyday of his wildlife documentary show, The Crocodile Hunter.  Some readers may recall the shocking day when he died from being stabbed in the heart by a stingray.  Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) had an influence on young people all over the world as the founder of the Boy Scouts Association and of the Girl Guides.  His wife Olave Baden-Powell (1889-1977) was born the same day as he and was herself a major leader in the Girl Guides.

The biggest birthday of all today, of course, is one George Washington (1732-1799), the commander-in-chief of the American army during the American Revolution, the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and the first President of the US.  Actors who have played Washington on screen include Barry Bostwick, Jeff Daniels, Kelsey Grammer, and David Morse.

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 22, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I lost track of Drew Barrymore and have even considered her for WTHH treatment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was ever a fan, but I saw her involvement in a movie as adding value. Her personal life story is more interesting than any movie.

    When I saw Lea Salonga as a headliner I thought “She must be in musical theater because I have no idea who she is.” 😉 Turns out I am familiar with her singing even though I didn’t know it.

    I hope Kyle MacLachlan enjoys a damn fine cup of coffee and a slice of his favorite pie on his birthday. I saw in an interview that he wasn’t actually all that fond of cherry, but I can’t remember which pie was his favorite. I have been geeking out over Twin Peaks in the birthday articles all year and today is no different. But let’s not forget MacLachlan also had a film career… coughShowgirlscough

    I was a Jonathan Demme fan starting with Something Wild and Married to the Mob. No one did “quirky” like Demme. Then he went and made The Silence of the Lambs. Loved the movie, but did not see that coming from him despite the darkness in Something Wild. Philadelphia was something of an apology for the controversy surrounding the Buffalo Bill character. Since then, Demme kind of got lost. These days, he’s doing documentaries.

    Ellen Greene was fantastic in Little Shop. I know her since she reprised her role in the movie. Also saw her in Pushing Daisies.

    Voyager was one of the weaker entries in the Star Trek television franchise, but Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine helped. Her costume was pure fan service, but her character was more interesting than just about anyone else on that ship. Thomas Jane seemed like he might be a bigger star for a while there. I got a real kick out of Deep Blue Sea, but I’m still pissed off about The Mist.

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    • As for Jonathan Demme’s later work, I kind of like “The Truth about Charlie” and I do enjoy “The Manchurian Candidate” (I feel the same way about that film as I do the remake of “Fun With Dick & Jane”, they work for me as time period updates), but I see what you mean about him getting lost, and I had no idea that he’s done so many documentaries (I knew about “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” though).

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    • If or when Drew Barrymore gets a WTHHT profile, I do wonder what exactly “went wrong”? I think (and unfortunately, I can’t immediately use the IMDb message boards anymore as a point of reference) in part, Drew while a very charismatic and appealing performer, didn’t really have the most range. Maybe something like that became very problematic as Drew started “aging out” of her core roles (i.e., light, romantic comedies).

      And as such, it became harder to plausibly reinvent herself as an older, more mature actress. Drew perhaps suffers from a similar predicament as somebody like say Winona Ryder, in that she somehow managed to look “eternally young”. Because of Drew Barrymore’s kewpie doll features, naturally quirky, free spirited persona, and Cindy Brady-esqe lisping habit, can be hard to take her seriously or credible in something decidedly harder edge (despite her troubled past ironically enough).

      I also think that Drew Barrymore may have made the mistake of continuing to hitch on Adam Sandler’s wagon (i.e. that movie we’re they go to Africa) when everybody else was way over Mr. Sandler. And since Drew couldn’t exactly go back to the “Charlie’s Angels” well (after the relative indifference to the second movie back in 2003) and “traditional” romantic comedies were no longer in vogue, she really didn’t have much else to fall back on.

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  2. I am at least a bit of a fan of both of today’s headliners. Drew Barrymore has, at least in many of her roles from Scream on, a very appealing screen personality. It’s usually really easy to like her characters. She may not have enormous range as an actress, but when you put her in any kind of romance, her innate likability is going help make the movie work. On the other hand, I didn’t necessarily find her quite as plausible as a “bad girl” (and by that I am not necessarily referring to Bad Girls the movie).

    I first became aware of Lea Salonga when I saw some rebroadcasts of that Les Miz 10th Anniversary concert back in the 1990s; PBS stations would run it during their inevitable fund drives. It was only later that I learned that she was also the singing voice of Jasmine. She is part of a terrific generation of musical theater actresses who were born in the late sixties or early-mid seventies, most of whom started working sometime in the nineties or early 2000s. Of them all, Salonga is one of my favorites, along with Kristin Chenoweth. While she doesn’t have Cheno’s comic genius or opera-sized voice, she has a very beautiful, very listenable voice and always seems to just pour her heart and soul into her singing.

    I am much less familiar with Mulan than with Aladdin, but I would imagine that there’s at least a little bit of Lea Salonga and Marni Nixon singing together.

    It’s interesting to note how, while there have been a large number of major movies about Abraham Lincoln, there really haven’t been any about George Washington—the screen portrayals mentioned in the article are all from television.

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    • Ha, I had a difficult time digesting “Bad girls” in general; I like the four main actresses, but beyond that, I thought the film struggled.

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  3. Drew Barrymore, since I a child around the time she was, I remember her early roles like “Firestarter” (never really liked it really) and “Cat’s Eye” (I love cats), but it was when I was a teenager who hung around with some females and “Mad Love” came out that I introduced to the modern day Drew Barrymore. I did watch that documentary “My Date With Drew” a decade ago, but like Lebeau, I’ve lost track of her.
    Julie Walters I remember best from the Phil Collins vehicle “Buster”.
    Kyle MacLachlan, I didn’t view “Blue Velvet” until much later, but I saw 1987’s “The Hidden” (just love that film) with my father in the theater and also recorded it off HBO in 1988 (still have the tape, but it got ruined), and I’ve come to learn that role is typical MacLachlan: offbeat and individualistic. His filmography is loaded with those type of characters, and I think that’s cool.
    Jonathan Demme, he’s directed some really excellent films.
    Ellen Greene I first knew as Audrey in “Little shop of Horrors”, then from 1988’s “Talk Radio” (really like that film), and of course as a cool English teacher in “Pump Up the Volume”. But then, in the 200’s, I viewed her initial film, 1976’s “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” (I like the film overall; recommended), and I thought she looked great in it.
    Jeri Ryan, I never knew much about her, but I learned a few years ago that at one time she had a really extreme stalker.
    Thomas Jane, he’s seemed to settle into a more supporting character groove after years in which he was touted as a leading man; nothing wrong with that really.
    Julius Erving, I was not born, then too young and not into sports when Dr. J. played, but due to ESPN Classic and the cassette of the 1982-1983 Philadelphia 76ers titled “That Championship Feeling!” (musician Andy Clark has an instrumental which is played during some highlights titled “World Beater”; I’ve been listening to it since I learned of Dr. J’s b-day), I’ve retroactively watched some of his games and highlights.
    It turns out some of these birthday people have more sentimental value to me than usual.

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