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April 14: Happy Birthday Julie Christie and John Gielgud

0414ChristieGielgud

Julie Christie, who celebrates her 77th today, has won every major Best Actress honor (Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG Award, BAFTA Award) in the English-speaking world.  She has done a little bit of television work and selected stage roles, but the core of her career has been in feature films.  Her breakthrough role was in 1963’s Billy Liar, and she had such a good year in 1965 that Life dubbed it “the year of Julie Christie.”  The blockbuster Doctor Zhivago, in which she played Lara Antipova, is the film everyone probably remembers her for from 1965, but her Best Actress Oscar for that year was actually for Darling.

Christie remained a major leading lady for over a decade, starring in a variety of films, including adaptations of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.  She received her second Oscar nomination for Robert Altman’s revisionist Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

While Christie continued to star in high-profile films through the end of the seventies—Don’t Look Now, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait—over time she has changed her emphasis.  She still does a few big projects, like playing Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and appearing in a Harry Potter film.  However, she is more likely to be found in smaller, indie-style films, such as Sarah Polley’s Away from Her, for which she won a Golden Globe and a SAG Award and received her fourth Oscar nomination.

Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000) was one of the unquestioned giants of 20th century British theater, alongside Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier.  His acting career lasted just shy of eighty years, so all that can be done here is hit a few high points.  He was one of the short list of winners of an EGOT, having won an Emmy (for the miniseries Summer’s Lease), a Grammy (for Best Spoken Word Album), an Oscar (for Best Supporting Actor in Arthur), and three Tonys.

It goes without saying that he was a great Shakespearean.  He was known for his performances of several characters in Julius Caesar as well as Romeo, Oberon, Lear, Macbeth, Richard II, and especially Hamlet, which he played some 500 times in his career.  He began appearing in film in the 1920s, and starting around 1964 he did at least as much film and television work as he did onstage.  He appeared in two film versions of Julius Caesar, once as Cassius, the second time in the title role.  His other notable film roles included Becket, Oh! What a Lovely War, Murder on the Orient Express, The Elephant Man, and Prospero’s Books, along with that Oscar-winning performance in Arthur.

Peter Capaldi, who turns 59, is a four time BAFTA Award nominee for the BBC series The Thick of It and currently plays the Twelfth Doctor on Doctor WhoGina McKee, who celebrates her 53rd, was an Olivier Award nominee as Goneril in a 2010 London revival of King Lear, and plays Dr. Jane Andrews on Emerald CityBrad Garrett, a three-time Emmy winner as Robert Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, turns 57 today.  Robert Carlyle, who is 56, won a BAFTA Award for starring in The Full Monty and was a Bond villain in The World is Not Enough.

Anthony Michael Hall, who turns 49, is best known for his Brat Pack days, when he starred in films like The Breakfast Club and Weird ScienceAdrien Brody, who is 44, won Best Actor for starring in The Pianist, and also became the only American actor to ever win a Cesar Award for the same film.  Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is turning 40, will always be remembered as the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; she also won a Daytime Emmy as Kendall Hart on All My Children.  Also 40 today is Rob McElhenney, who is the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and stars in the role of Mac McDonald.  Claire Coffee, who was a regular on NBC’s just-concluded Grimm, turns 37 today.

Abigail Breslin turns 21 today.  She was an Oscar nominee for Little Miss Sunshine, has starred in films like Nim’s Island and Zombieland, currently stars on Fox’s Scream Queens, and made her Broadway debut as Helen Keller in The Miracle WorkerSkyler Samuels, who starred on the first season of Scream Queens with Breslin, turns 23 today.  Chris Wood, who is turning 29, plays Mon-El on Supergirl.

Our biggest music birthday today is Loretta Lynn, who turns 85.  One of country’s biggest stars of the sixties and seventies, she was known as the “Queen of Country Music” in her heyday.  One of her most successful hits, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” provided the title of her autobiography and of a biopic that starred Sissy Spacek.

Other music birthdays include Ritchie Blackmore, who is 72.  He was a founding member of the hard rock/metal band Deep Purple, and later he and Candice Night (now his wife) founded the folk rock band Blackmore’s Night.  Julian Lloyd Webber, younger brother of Andrew, is a prominent cellist and conductor.

Baseball Hall of Famer Greg Maddux turns 51 today.  He won 355 games in his career, the second highest total of any player who began his career after the beginning of the “live ball” era in 1920, and won four straight National League Cy Young Awards from 1992-95.  Pete Rose, who is 76 today, is baseball’s all-time leader in hits and games played, and “Charlie Hustle” would most likely be in the Hall of Fame if he had not bet on the Cincinnati Reds at a time when he was their manager.  Marvin Miller (1917-2012) served as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-1982.  In that role he helped the players win the right to free agency and brought about an enormous change in the economics of professional sports.

Rod Steiger (1925-2002) won the Oscar for Best Actor as the southern police chief Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night, and was nominated two other times, for On the Waterfront and The Pawnbroker.  British actress Valerie Hobson (1917-1998) is best known for starring in David Lean’s adaptation of Great Expectations and in the classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and CoronetsGerry Anderson (1926-2012) was known for his futuristic children’s programs, produced with the “Supermarionation” method, of which the most notable was Thunderbirds.

Anne Sullivan (1866-1936) was famous as the teacher of Helen Keller.  As the central character of The Miracle Worker, she has been played on stage and screen by Anne Bancroft, Teresa Wright, Patty Duke, and Alison Pill (opposite Abigail Breslin as Helen Keller).  Former New York policeman Frank Serpico turns 81 today.  He was famous for his role in exposing police corruption, at the risk of his own life, in the late 1960s and early ’70s.  Al Pacino played Serpico in a 1973 film based on his career.

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 April 14, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Happy Good Friday, everyone!

    I remember John Gielgud best as Hobson from “Arthur”. He had good chemistry with Dudley Moore, (who will be in a birthday article next week) and that was part of the reason why “Arthur” is so memorable. (Whatever you do, DO NOT watch the remake. It is hot garbage.)

    Anthony Michael Hall (along with Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and Andrew McCarthy) is one of my favorite Brat Pack actors. My favorite Hall movie is “The Breakfast Club”. Hall’s most memorable part in the movie was why he got into detention; he brought a flare gun into school to make his wooden lamp light up. Hall’s speech in the movie still holds true today.

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  2. I’ve got a soft spot for the film Arthur, such a sweet, funny and very charming comedy. One of my favorite 80’s films for sure. John Gielgud absolutely earned his Oscar for his delightful performance. If anybody here has never seen this movie, go ahead and rent it immediately. You will not be disappointed.

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  3. When I was in 8th grade, our lit class read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Subsequently, the lit teacher dragooned us all off to a local revival theater that was showing the 1953 MGM film version, with James Mason as Brutus, Marlon Brandon as Antony, and Gielgud as Cassius. Over the years I’ve come back and re-watched this one a few times. While I find Mason to be a somewhat indifferent Brutus, Gielgud is a terrific Cassius and Brando a surprisingly good Antony.

    For a great Julie Christie performance, I highly recommend McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

    While the story of Abigail Breslin’s career as an adult remains to be written, she was a very good juvenile lead in Little Miss Sunshine and terrific in Zombieland.

    It’s interesting to note that in the past few days, we’ve had the birthdays of the only American actress and actor ever to win a Cesar Award.

    Assuming that lebeau wants to continue this birthday series for a second year, one thing I’d like to do would be to do more detailed writeups on people who, for reasons of having finite time to write the articles, I have had to give short shrift to. From today’s article, Rod Steiger and Loretta Lynn would be obvious candidates for more detailed coverage in the future.

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    • Lebeau definitely wants to continue the birthday write-ups indefinitely. It’s your baby for as long as you want to continue doing it. Feel free to play with the format or change it completely.

      I remember reading Julius Ceasar, but I believe it was in high school. Can’t remember which year. We watched a stage production that had been video taped rather than the film version.

      Note to self: Watch McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

      I’ll be interested to see what the future holds for Abigail Breslin. I agree, she did solid work as a child actor. Fingers crossed she can navigate the difficult transition to mature roles.

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  4. In my mailbox, the headline for this article popped a couple of days ago, so I already knew who the headliners were. Maybe that happened to other people.
    I was trying to figure out when this series reached its one year point, which I thought was sometime in July. My birthday is at the end of May, so I know the articles weren’t being done then at this time last year.
    Julie Christie, I like “Fahrenheit 451” (the book as well; one I actually read in high school instead of feigning it) “Dr. Zhivago”, “Power”, and I can’t get that “Shampoo” out of my head.
    I really know John Gielgud best from “Arthur”; I know it’s crazy, but it’s true.
    Brad Garrett, I like his voice work on “Superman: the Animated Series”, and overall I find him funny.
    Adrien Brody, I think he’s good.
    Rod Steiger, he definitely could take his acting to a few different levels; I thought he was interesting to listen to on that one “Dinner for five” episode.
    Frank Serpico, I believe that against all odds, he’s still alive. I think he did the right thing back in the day, as it seemed all he wanted to be was an honest cop.

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    • Yes, Frank Serpico is still alive, and it is a bit against the odds.

      The birthday series started last July but didn’t run every day at first.

      I had a little hiccup in drafting this article and accidentally hit “publish” when I was trying to schedule it—that’s probably why you got the premature notice.

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  5. I’m not a Julie Christie completist but I’ve seen a good deal of her work. I think her best performances are in Darling and Afterglow. Those would make a great double feature for new viewers. The latter film is subpar, but her brilliant acting makes up for it.

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