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March 6: Happy Birthday Rob Reiner and Stephen Schwartz

0306reinerschwartz

Rob Reiner is celebrating his 70th today.  The son of nine-time Emmy winner Carl Reiner, he first became known in the 1970s for the role of Mike “Meathead” Stivic on All in the Family, winning a pair of Emmys of his own as Archie Bunker’s liberal son-in-law and foil.  In the 1980s he began directing.  His first feature was the cult classic This is Spinal Tap.  He followed with the coming-of-age story Stand by Me, the fantasy/romance The Princess Bride, and a pair of romantic comedies, the second of them one of his biggest hits:

Reiner began the nineties strongly.  Misery was a critical success and brought Kathy Bates an Oscar, while A Few Good Men, which he also produced, was Reiner’s biggest financial success and a Best Picture nominee.  But North was a giant flop and although a few of his films since then have been moderately successful, Reiner never really seems to have gotten his touch back.  He’s still making movies—mixed in with political activism—but his latest film LBJ currently lacks a distribution deal.

Musical theater and film composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz is turning 69 today.  He began working on a potential musical while at Carnegie Mellon University in the sixties, but his first big success came when he was asked to contribute music and lyrics for a book written by another CMU alum.  This became the musical Godspell, which became a hit all over the world starting in 1971 and came to Broadway in 1976.  Schwartz then returned to his own musical, Pippin, which opened on Broadway in 1972 and ran for nearly 2000 performances.  He followed with a third hit, The Magic Show, which also ran for nearly 2000 performances when it opened in 1974—when Godspell made it to Broadway, Schwartz had three hit musicals running at once.

Schwartz then had a dry spell when it came to musical theater (although less so when it came to film; see below), but in 2003 he made a triumphant return to Broadway with a new musical adapted from a novel by Gregory Maguire, a musical which is still in its original run, over 13 years and well past 5,000 performances later.

Schwartz has also had a very successful career writing film music.  He has worked regularly with Alan Menken, contributing lyrics to Menken’s music for Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Enchanted, and wrote the music and lyrics for the Dreamworks animated feature The Prince of Egypt.  He has won three Oscars and three Grammys and is a six-time Tony nominee.

Director Lewis Gilbert, who turns 97, is best known for directing three James Bond films, You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker, and two of Michael Caine’s better-known films, Alfie and Educating Rita.  He made a number of documentaries early in his career and also directed the World War II film Sink the Bismarck.

Moira Kelly, who celebrates her 49th, never fulfilled the promise suggested in this article, but she had a busy nineties in films like The Cutting Edge and Chaplin, doing voice work in the Lion King films, and playing Donna Hayward in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  During the 2000s she was a regular on One Tree HillConnie Britton, who turns 50, has done several films but is best known for her television work.  She is a four-time Emmy nominee, for Friday Night Lights (twice), American Horror Story, and Nashville.  Born the same day as Britton, Shuler Hensley is best known for his musical theater work.  He won an Olivier Award as Jud Fry in the 1998 West End revival of Oklahoma! (starring opposite Hugh Jackman), and added a Tony a few years later in the same role when the production moved to Broadway.  Tom Arnold, who is 58, first became known for his recurring role on Roseanne (and for his marriage to the show’s star) and also played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sidekick in True LiesAmy Pietz, who is 48, was a SAG Award winner as Annie Spadaro on Caroline in the City and is currently a regular on The CW’s No TomorrowYael Stone, who plays Lorna Morello on Orange is the New Black, is turning 32.

The biggest name today in sports, no pun intended, is Shaquille O’Neal, who turns 45.  The Basketball Hall of Famer and 15-time NBA All-Star won four championships in his career, three with the Los Angeles Lakers and a fourth with the Miami Heat.  Lefty Grove (1900-1975) was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, possibly the best left-hander of all time.  He won 300 games with the Philadelphia A’s and Boston Red Sox from 1925-41 and two World Series with the A’s and made the Hall of Fame.  Willie Stargell (1940-2001), who spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hit 475 career home runs and led the Pirates to two World Series titles; like Grove, he is in the Hall of Fame.

Hal Needham (1931-2013) was a top-notch stuntman in the sixties and then directed several films starring his friend, Burt Reynolds, such as Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run.  One of Poland’s greatest filmmakers was Andrzej Wadja (1926-2016), known for his trilogy of films about World War 2 that ends with the classic Ashes and Diamonds, and for directing four films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, including Man of Iron, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1981.  Lou Costello (1906-1959) was one half of the Abbott and Costello comedy duo, known for their work on stage, in radio, and in over 30 films.  Guy Kibbee (1882-1956) started his career on the stages of Mississippi riverboats, then moved to Broadway, and into film in the thirties.  He appeared in pictures like 42nd Street, Captain Blood, Babes in Arms, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, often but not always in comic roles.

David Gilmour, who is turning 71, was the longtime guitarist and lead vocalist for Pink Floyd, and also has had two solo albums reach #1 in the UK and the Top 1o in the US.  Dave Alvin, who is 62 today, was a founder of the roots rock band The Blasters and has had an extensive solo career.  Bob Wills (1905-1975), the “King of Western Swing,” was one of the pioneers of that dance-oriented subgenre of country.  In his heyday in the late thirties and forties he had hits like “San Antonio Rose” and “Smoke on the Water.”  Mary Wilson, who is 73 today, was a founding member of The Supremes and the one member of the original group to remain with them until they disbanded in 1977; she has also written two volumes of best-selling memoirs.  Operatic soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was born the same day as Wilson.  During a four-decade career in opera houses all over the world, she was particularly renowned for her work in the operas of Mozart and Richard Strauss.  Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) was one of the most prominent American-born conductors of the 20th century, and had lengthy tenures as music director at the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

The biggest art or literary birthday today is Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, universally known as Michelangelo (1475-1564).  He is known for his great works of sculpture, such as the Pietà and David, for his fresco paintings, such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Last Supper, and as the architect who designed buildings like the Laurentian Library in Florence.  Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655), a French playwright and duellist, was immortalized in Edmond Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac.  The play has been adapted into multiple films, including one starring Gerard Depardieu.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was a Victorian poet remembered for her collection titled Sonnets From the Portuguese, and for her romance with poet Robert Browning.  Ring Lardner (1885-1933) was one of the first important sports journalists and also a short story writer and satirist.  He appears as a character in John Sayles’ Eight Men Out, played by Sayles himself.

Valentina Tereshkova, who turns 80 today, was the first woman to fly in space when she was the one-person crew of the Soviet space flight Vostok 6 in 1963.  Alan Greenspan, who chaired the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1987-2006 and was probably the world’s first “rock star” central banker, turns 91.

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 6, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Rob Reiner was on a glorious run there for a while. He made some of my favorite movies from the 80’s. Misery and A Few Good Men are solid too. Then, right off the cliff. you don’t recover from North I guess.

    I can forgive Lewis Gilbert for You Only Live Twice and Moonraker. That’s how much I love The Spy Who Loved Me.

    How funny that Moira Kelly shows up right after that Movieline article ran. My brother was a huge fan of The Cutting Edge. Seriously. I liked Kelly well enough in the things I saw her in including (obviously) Twin Peaks.

    I know Connie Britton from the first season of American Horror Story. I gradually grew to tolerate Tom Arnold.

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    • jeffthewildman

      After North he did do The American President. But since the end of the 90s Flipped has been the only thing he’s done that’s been good. A similar thing happened to Barry Levinson. After making some of my favorite films of the 80s and 90s, he went off a cliff in the 2000s.

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      • Rob Reiner’s Incredible Directing Hot Streak

        http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/rob-reiner/260339/rob-reiner-s-incredible-directing-hot-streak

        What happened next?

        All good runs must come to an end, and if Reiner felt like he had a target painted on his back by his prolonged period of success, then it didn’t dampen his courage. He thus dressed Bruce Willis in a rabbit suit for the underwhelming family movie North, that impressed neither critics nor bean counters. The knives were duly out, and plunged in.

        It’d be remiss to say that was that for Reiner, though. He bounced back with some style with the aforementioned and quite excellent The American President, a film in which you can see the foundations of The West Wing. Audiences this time didn’t take to the movie, though, and box office was less than expected.

        Reiner kept going, though. Ghosts Of Mississippi is a very worthy film, if not a great one, and it’s most notable for a terrific standout supporting performance from James Woods. Reiner then took two movie starts – Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer – and delivered a surprisingly downbeat romantic drama, The Story Of Us. He would step in at the last minute – well, a few weeks into production – on the equally humdrum Rumor Has It, starring Kevin Costner, a few years later, slipping the generally forgotten Alex & Emma in the middle of those.

        The most acclaimed film Reiner has made in recent times is arguably The Bucket List back in 2007, that gave lead roles to Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson as two men heading towards death’s door, with a list of things they need to do. A solid box office hit that, too, that got interest from awards bodies, but I think most of us would say it was still in the shadow of that amazing earlier run.

        Reiner has a new film, Shock And Awe, due in cinemas next year, and I remain keen to see it. I also can’t help but salute the work of a man who not only had a successful sideline in acting, but also directed a run of films that feature so many favourites, across so many genres. Who else can match the run that he had?

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        • This write-up here is about how I feel about R. Reiner. Seattle film critic Robert Horton once stated that he felt Reiner’s creative apex was “The Sure Thing” (which he freely admits on the DVD commentary of that film that it’s basically a retelling of “It Happened One Night”), but I think he deserves much more credit than that.

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  2. Rob Reiner, I think the first 7 films he directed were great, and I like those all on some kind of level (especially “The Sure Thing”, “Stand by Me” and “Misery”). Of the films I’ve seen since “North”, I only like “The American President” and Ghosts of Mississippi”. I’ve heard his interest in politics has taken precedence over filmmaking.
    Moira Kelly, I’ll defend what I said about her in that article posted on here a few days ago to the death; I don’t know, 1992’s “Chaplin” didn’t seem to go down well for audiences or critics (I like it), but I thought all the ladies did well in it, although they weren’t given a lot to do.
    Connie Britton, I thought “Friday Night lights” was pretty awesome, and I’ve retroactively caught some of “Spin City”, and I thought she was good in that. I’ve seen the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” remake too, and what little she has to do there I thought she did well.
    Tom Arnold, hey, I remember 1996’s “Carpool” and when he was on the talk show “The Best Damn Sports Show Period” (with recent birthday guy Michael Irvin). Well, Arnold never wowed me, but he’s never bothered me either.
    Shaquille O’Neal, back in the day I had a Shaq Orlando Magic jersey (gave it to the Goodwill in 1995), a Shaq t-shirt, and his first rap album (which I thought was pretty good). The films? Well, there’s “Blue chips”, and I think “Steel” is a cool character in theory.
    Willie Stargell, I’ve heard of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, who have the nickname “We Are Family”. I like that.
    David Gilmour, yeah, I think as a musician he pretty much rules, and thanks for discovering Kate Bush too.
    Michelangelo, wow, what a painter.

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  3. Rob Reiner had a terrific run as a director for about a decade. The Princess Bride is an all-time favorite of mine and This is Spinal Tap has some great comic moments.

    Stephen Schwartz has been a major creative contributor to musical theater in the past several decades—although not the most significant one we will be seeing in this month’s articles.

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