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March 3: Happy Birthday George Miller and Katherine Waterston

0303millerwaterston

Australian filmmaker George Miller turns 72 today.  Miller began his film career while attending medical school at the University of New South Wales, and made a few short films during the 1970s while also working on some other film crews.  In 1979 his first feature was released, an action thriller set in a near-future collapsing society, titled Mad Max.  Made on a very modest budget, it made over $100 million worldwide.  That enabled Miller to make a sequel that is considered one of the best action films ever—initially titled Mad Max 2, it is now generally known as The Road Warrior.

A third Mad Max film, Beyond Thunderdome, followed in 1985.  Miller has made a few ventures to Hollywood, directing The Witches of Eastwick and Lorenzo’s Oil.  He has produced notable Australian films like Dead Calm and Flirting, and wrote and produced a pair of films about a pig-turned-sheepdog (also directing the second of the two).  He won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for his 2006 film Happy Feet.  Most recently, he returned to his roots with a 2015 film that at least some people think was as good as or even better than The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Fury Road.

Katherine Waterston, who turns 37 today, seems to be something of an “it girl” at the moment.  The daughter of Oscar-nominee Sam Waterston, she worked in film for several years before making her breakthrough in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice in 2014.  Since then she has played Chrisann Brennan, the title character’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter in Steve Jobs, starred as Porpentina Goldstein in last year’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and will appear later this year in Alien: Covenant.

Miranda Richardson, who celebrates her 59th, is a two-time Oscar nominee, for Best Supporting Actress for 1992’s Damage, and for Best Actress two years later for Tom & Viv.  Her other major films include The Crying Game, Kansas City, and The HoursHattie Winston, who is 72 today, is remembered as a cast member of PBS’s The Electric Company in the 1970s (where she worked frequently with Morgan Freeman) and as a regular on CBS’s BeckerGloria Hendry, who played the treacherous but somewhat incompetent Bond Girl Rosie Carver in Live and Let Die, is 68 today.

Jessica Biel, who turns 35, first became known as Mary Camden on 7th Heaven.  For a while Biel, with her athletic physique and tough-girl demeanor, seemed about to break out as an action heroine, but none of her ventures in that direction (Blade: Trinity, Stealth, etc.) were successful.  Julie Bowen, who is turning 47, is a six-time Emmy nominee (with two wins) for playing Claire Dunpny on Modern Family, and has had regular roles on Ed and Boston LegalDavid Faustino, who played Bud Bundy on Married…With Children, turns 43 today.  Mercedes Mason, who is turning 32, plays Ofelia Salazar on Fear the Walking Dead.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who is celebrating her 55th, has held the world record in the women’s heptathlon for over 30 years.  She won the Olympic gold medal in the event at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, and finished second in 1984 by a mere five points.  Football star Herschel Walker, who is also 55, won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Georgia, was probably the biggest star in the short-lived United States Football League, and then made multiple Pro Bowls in the NFL.  Serbian footballer Dragan Stojković, who is turning 52, was a star for the Yugoslavian national side at the 1990 and 1998 World Cups.

James Doohan (1920-2005) was a journeyman actor with a fair amount of TV work on his resume when, in 1966, he was cast in the role of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Star Trek.  That pretty much became the rest of his life, as he played the role in seven feature films, the animated series, an episode of Star Trek: TNG, and in a number of video games.  That’s not to mention that he was a longtime favorite at fan conventions.

Our biggest music birthday today is Arthel “Doc” Watson (1923-2012), a legend in country, folk and bluegrass circles.  Although blinded in childhood by an eye infection, he developed into an exceptional guitarist, and won seven Grammys, most of them in Traditional Folk or related categories.  Country rocker Jennifer Warnes, who turns 70, is best known for singing three songs which won Oscars for Best Original Song, “It Goes Like It Goes” from Norma Rae, “Up Where We Belong,” a duet with Joe Cocker, from An Officer and a Gentleman, and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” from Dirty Dancing.  The latter two were #1 hits as well.  Robyn Hitchcock, who is 64 today, is an English singer-songwriter known for his work as leader of the bands The Soft Boys and The Egyptians and as a solo artist.

We have three sad tales to relate related to today’s birthdays.  Most famous is Jean Harlow (1911-1937), one of the first great sex symbols of the sound era (her literal nickname was “the Blonde Bombshell”).  She made her film debut in 1930 in Hell’s Angels, and by the mid-30s was a bigger star than fellow MGM player Joan Crawford, known for films like Red Dust, Dinner at Eight, and Libeled Lady.  Her death of kidney failure at only 26 shocked the nation and gave rise to a host of rumors and legends.  Diana Barrymore (1921-1960) was never as famous as other members of her family, but being the daughter of John Barrymore meant that her death at 38 was widely noticed.  Bobby Driscoll (1937-1968) was a child and adolescent star, largely for Disney.  He played the juvenile leads of Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart, played Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island, and was the reference model and voice actor for Peter Pan.  But when he left Disney, he developed a severe drug problem, spent time in prison, and died a homeless vagabond in 1968.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was a brilliant engineer and inventor who is famous as the first man to develop a practical, working telephone.  Don Ameche played Bell in a 1939 biopic.

So as not to end on a downer, we’ll let Doc Watson have the closing number with one of his signature tunes:

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

  1. Yay George Miller! I always liked the Mad Max movies, but Fury Road really heightened my appreciation. The Babe movies were also excellent. Don’t you wish we lived in a world in which Miller had gotten to do his Justice League movie instead of the one we live in with Zack Snyder in control? I know I do.

    I did not recognize Katherine Waterston (despite having seen Steve Jobs) until you mentioned Fantastic Beasts. In fairness, her character looks quite differently from the picture at the top of the article. As it turns out, I have her in Lego form (as you will see in a future article I’m sure).

    Jessica Biel is potential WTHH material. She’s talented and lovely but for whatever reason most of the movies she has appeared in were not well received. I discovered Julie Bowen on Modern Family but later found her while binge-watching Weeds. Like most of the cast of Fear the Walking Dead, Mercedes Mason deserves better material than she gets.

    Even a casual fan of Star Trek is going to have fond memories of James Doohan as Scotty.

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  2. I think its awesome that George Miller went back to the Mad Max series…with a vengeance too! I always liked “The Witches of Eastwick” (I still have part of it recorded on an old tape), I think “Dead calm” is a good thriller, and “Happy Feet” is pretty fun.
    Miranda Richardson, yeah, the films mentioned in the article I know her best from (isn’t she the one depicted on “The Crying Game” poster? That film is all about the misdirection anyway; thanks to me recording that film on an “NFL Primetime” tape and someone transferring it to disc, I now have it on that format. No crying game for me). I think “Tom and Viv” is fantastic.
    Gloria Hendry, yeah, her character in “Live and Let Die” wasn’t much of a survivor.
    Jessica Biel, I still remember that issue of Gear magazine my buddy had on his living room tabletop, back when she was transitioning away from her “7th Heaven” image. It hasn’t entirely worked out for her, as the projects (“Stealth”? Awe man…) just haven’t resonated. I like “Cellular” though, but her part is thankless.
    I think Julie bowen is cool; seems she took over as Neutrogena’s commercial face after Diane Lane’s (sadly) brief run. She’s a good choice.
    David Faustino, yep, “Married…With Children” as Bud Bundy. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that character.
    Herschel Walker, one of my all-time favorite football players. I think he got a raw deal in Minnesota, but he still had a solid professional career (USFL & NFL).
    Jennifer Warnes, I love “Up Where We Belong”; I’ll always think of high snow mountains in the winter at Lake Erie Beach when the song crosses my mind.
    Jean Harlow, such a short life, but she did make an impact.
    Alexander Graham Bell, I recently learned his middle name was not given, that he took it up from a family friend he was close to. “Mr. Watson, come here- I want to see you”; classic.

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  3. When the low-budget film Mad Max released here in America in 1979 it was barely a blip on the radar playing more like an underground cult hit, but over in Australia it was a blockbuster. It actually became the biggest box office hit ever in Australia at the time.

    I am among those people who say The Road Warrior is one of the greatest action films of all time. Beyond Thunderdome was lousy and for many years I thought another Mad Max sequel was a bad idea, but boy oh boy did George Miller ever prove me wrong. Fury Road is an incredible movie, astonishingly it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture which virtually never happens for action films. So we’ve got three bad-ass action movies out of a four film franchise, those are better than average odds as far as film franchises go.

    And yes Lebeau, I agree in a perfect world Miller would have gotten to do his Justice League movie over Snyder.

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