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March 24: Happy Birthday Jessica Chastain and Steve McQueen

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Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain celebrates her 40th birthday today.  Although she was interested in the performing arts as a young girl, her acting career got off to a relatively late start, compared with most actresses of similar stature.  After attending a community college for two years, she auditioned for and was accepted to Juilliard, graduating in 2003.  She made a variety of TV guest appearances before her 2008 feature film debut as the title character in Jolene.

Chastain began to emerge as a star in 2011, appearing in several films including Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Tate Taylor’s The Help, for which she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  A year later she starred in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, receiving a Best Actress nomination and winning a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama.

Chastain has appeared in a dozen features in the last four years, and has three more scheduled to come out in the near future.  Her biggest box office hits have been a pair of sci-fi films, Interstellar and The Martian.  She has received two additional Golden Globe nominations, for A Most Violent Year and last year’s Miss Sloane.

Steve McQueen (1930-1980) was one of the biggest stars of the sixties and early seventies.  After a youth filled with legal troubles, McQueen studies acting with Sanford Meisner at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse.  He began working in film in the mid fifties, winning major roles in films like The Blob and starring on the TV Western Wanted Dead or Alive.  However, it was in a pair of films directed by John Sturges that McQueen really established himself as a star.  He played the gunfighter Vin in The Magnificent Seven in 1960, and then starred as the individualistic Captain Virgil Hilts in The Great Escape three years later, a film that contains two iconic images of McQueen, one involving a motorcycle, the other a baseball and glove.

McQueen then starred in films like The Cincinnati Kid and Nevada Smith, and was nominated for Best Actor as Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles in 1966.  In 1968, he had two more of his most iconic roles, as the title characters in both Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair.  By this time he was one of the biggest box office draws in the industry, a status he maintained into the early seventies in films like The Getaway and Papillon.  However, after 1974’s The Towering Inferno, he largely walked away from the industry, preferring to spend time racing his motorcycles or with Ali MacGraw, his costar from The Getaway who he married in 1973.  By the late seventies he had developed lung cancer and died in 1980.

Kelly Le Brock, who is turning 57, is a WTHH subject known for the films Weird Science and Hard to KillPatrick Malahide, a British TV veteran who played Balon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones, is 72 today.  R. Lee Ermey, who is 73 today, is a former Marine sergeant who is best known for playing a Marine sergeant in Full Metal Jacket (for which he was a Golden Globe nominee).  Robert Carradine, the youngest of the three acting brothers, turns 63.  He is known for films such as The Long Riders (as Bob Younger), The Big Red One, and the Revenge of the Nerds films (as Lewis Skolnick).

Lara Flynn Boyle, who is celebrating her 47th, is known for television roles like Donna Hayward on Twin Peaks and Helen Gamble on The Practice and for films like Red Rock West and ThreesomeJim Parsons, a four-time Emmy winner as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, is turning 44.  Alyson Hannigan, who is 43 today, first became known as Willow Rosenberg on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  She went on to play Michelle Flaherty in the American Pie films and Lily Aldrin on How I Met Your MotherMegyn Price, who is 46 years old, is known for her starring roles on the sitcoms Grounded for Life and Rules of Engagement.

Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Best Actress in her film debut, Whale Rider—at the time she was the youngest ever Best Actress nominee.  While she has not gone on to major stardom, she has worked steadily, appearing on Game of Thrones as Obara Sand and in a Walking Dead episode, among a number of other roles.  She is 27 today.  Spanish actress Maria Valverde, who turns 30, won a Goya Award in her film debut and might be known to American audiences for films like Exodus: Gods and Kings and Broken HorsesLake Bell, who is 38 today, is known for her regular roles on series like Boston Legal and Children’s Hospital, and has done voice work in films like last year’s The Secret Life of PetsPhilip Winchester, best known for starring on the Sky1/Cinemax series Strike Back, is turning 36.  Finn Jones, who is turning 29, is our third Game of Thrones birthday (he played Loras Tyrell); he currently stars on Marvel’s Iron Fist on Netflix.

Two important figures in animation were born on this date.  Ubbe “Ub” Iwerks (1901-1971) was an early colleague of Walt Disney.  He is generally credited as the co-creator of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and then Mickey Mouse, and animated the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons.  He had a falling out with Disney around 1930, tried to run his own studio for a while and also worked at Warner Brothers, but returned to Disney in 1940.  Joseph Barbera (1911-2006) was known for his long partnership with William Hanna.  They teamed up at MGM, where they were the creators of the Tom & Jerry cartoons (seven of which won Oscars).  When MGM closed their animation department, the two formed their own studio, where they produced animated television programming—they created The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, and many more.

Music birthdays today include Nick Lowe and Sharon Corr.  Lowe, who celebrates his 68th, was a leader in the new wave rock movement of the late seventies, who had hits in the US with “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll).”  Corr, who is 47, is the fiddler with the family rock band The Corrs (she also plays piano and guitar).  Our literary birthday is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who turns 98.  The poet, often identified with the Beat generation, is also a publisher and bookstore owner, the founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.  We also have two sports birthdays.  Baseball Hall of Famer George Sisler (1893-1973) was one of the best first basemen of his time and set a record for hits in a season that stood for over 80 years.  Peyton Manning, the recently retired NFL quarterback, turns 41.  He made 14 Pro Bowls in his career and quarterbacked the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos to Super Bowl victories.

Norman Fell (1924-1998) appeared with Steve McQueen in Bullitt and played Stanley Roper on Three’s CompanyRichard Conte (1910-1975) appeared in a number of film noir classics like Call Northside 777, Thieves’ Highway, and The Big Combo, and played Don Barzini in The GodfatherRoscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (1887-1933) was a great silent comic, one of the biggest stars of the 1910s, but in 1921 he was charged with manslaughter and rape in the death of an actress named Virginia Rapp.  He was ultimately acquitted, but his reputation and career never recovered.  Writer and director Curtis Hanson (1945-2016) shared the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with Brian Helgeland for L.A. Confidential; his other films include The Bedroom Window, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile.

Historical figures born today include Harry Houdini (1874-1926), the magician and illusionist known for his fantastic escape stunts.  He had a short film career and has been played in film by Tony Curtis and Harvey Keitel.  John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) was famous for leading the Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869, a three month journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers that included passing through the Grand Canyon.  He became a prominent advocate of land conservation and sound water policy for the American West.  Clyde Barrow (1909-1934) was far more famous in death than in life, when he was simply a small time robber who caught the media’s eye for a time.  Warren Beatty’s portrayal of him in Bonnie and Clyde is the most famous, but not the only film depiction of the man.  Thomas Dewey (1902-1971) was a crusading prosecutor and governor of New York for over a decade, but will always be remembered for an election he lost:

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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 24, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I’m a big Steve McQueen fan. He was amazing in “The Magnificent Seven” and “Bullitt”. McQueen is the only actor I know who is just amazing on horseback and on motorcycle. I know McQueen did not make many friends, but he stayed good friends with Robert Vaughn until his death.

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    • Why do you say he did not make many friends? I have not done a whole lot of reading on McQueen, but I have watched a few documentaries and there are a lot of people in them who claim to have been his friend. Including women, who were never romantically involved with him, like Kathryn Haber and Suzanne Pleshette.

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      • I heard he was friends with James Garner, and they had a mutual interest in cars and racing (Garner did his own driving & stunt work for “The Rockford Files”). Ah heck, you only need a few good friends in life anyway, and to this day McQueen has many admirers, but I could see it as likely that he also kept many people at arm’s length, which is understandable.

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  2. First saw Jessica Chastain in The Help. She’s one of our top leading ladies. I have never been a big Steve McQueen guy, but the stories about him are fascinating. Writing the article on Kelly Le Brock, I gained a lot of respect for her. That was unexpected. She’s a pretty tough lady who made the tragic mistake of marrying Steven Seagal.

    Like everyone else, I discovered Lara Flynn Boyle on Twin Peaks. I don’t think she’s back for the reunion which is a shame. But it’s not unprecedented. She was replaced by Moira Kelley in the movie just a couple years later. Sounds like the character just won’t be appearing on the new show but who knows with David Lynch.

    I was also a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. Love Alyson Hannigan and I’m glad she had some success after the show ended. She’s about the only one who did save for David Boreanaz. I have also seen Hannigan hosting the Penn and Teller magic show.

    Lots of Game of Thrones people today. I like that show as well, but not as devoted as I was to Twin Peaks or Buffy.

    “Ub” Iwerks is a legend. Most people just don’t know it. He doesn’t get as much credit as he should for Mickey Mouse. And without Mickey, there would be no Disney. Joseph Barbera isn’t in the same league, but Hanna-Barbera cartoons sure did bring me a lot of joy as a kid.

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  3. Norman Fell also showed up in the original Oceans 11 and The Graduate. For those of us who grew up with him as Mr Roper on Three’s Company these appearances are a little distracting. Of course that’s not Fell’s fault in the least.

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  4. Maybe she can be considered a late bloomer, but I think Jessica Chastain has more than made up for it, and it’s made her rise intriguing. She’s just brillant (and from what I’ve seen, a good interview), and I really enjoyed “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.
    Steve McQueen, I know the legend more than his performances, but I liked him in “The Blob” of 1958, the original “The Thomas Crown Affair”, “Bullitt”, the original “The Getaway”, and “Tom Horn”.
    Kelly Le Brock, good “What The Hell Happened?” article on here. She seems like a cool person who all along had a mind of her own.
    R. Lee Ermey, I’m no maggot (more of a pansy), but I got a kick out of his portrayal (which was really more of a riff on himself) in “Full Metal Jacket”, and he’s surprised me over the years with some other appearances (“Toy Story”, “Scrubs”). He was in an episode of “Miami Vice” too, ‘The Rising Sun of Death’.
    Robert Carradine, how about that film he did with Billy Dee Williams, 1987’s “Number One With a bullet”? I kind of liked it.
    Lara Flynn Boyle, I’d like to cite 1993’s “Red Rock West”; I thought she was an awesome Femme Fatale there.
    Jim parsons, I’ve watched a little of “The big Bang Theory”. His character of sheldon Cooper has been compared to Dexter Morgan, minus the homicidal tendencies.
    Alyson Hannigan, I was totally unaware that she was a child actor, as I initially knew her as the “One time, at band camp…” female from “American Pie”.
    Peyton Manning, he might be the most intelligent quarterback in NFL history; his brain beat the opponent’s ability most of the time (on rare occasions, he suffered through paralysis by analysis, but it’s just that sometimes our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses.

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    • Like with so many other upcoming actresses there was never really a role that cemented Lara Flynn Boyle as a star so after a while she quickly faded. She had some leading roles but none in a significant movie or a role that established her as a star. She’ll probably be more remembered for “Twin Peaks” than anything else.

      All her films from her youth were either quickly forgotten or the ones that made some impact only showed her in supporting or ‘the girl’ roles. In 2002, she was in “Men in Black 2”, but then again she was obscured by the two main stars of the film. After that she had anorexia and it seems she has some sort of illness plus bad plastic surgery, she looks very sick in recent photos.

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  5. Kelly Lebrock’s first husband Victor Drai was formerly the longterm live-in boyfriend of Jackie Bisset who was in Bullitt with Steve McQueen.

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    • That’s a cool fact.

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      • Just a little 6 degrees trivia:) Nothing in the world of showbiz is totally separate.

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        • That’s for sure: in matter of fact, You can again take Victor Drai, who produced “Weekend at Bernie’s”, which starred Andrew McCarthy, who was in “Class” with Jacqueline Bisset, who was once Victor Drai’s live-in lover, bringing everything back to the beginning.

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