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May 15: Chazz Palminteri and James Mason

0515PalminteriMason

Chazz Palminteri turns 65 today.  He had a lengthy period of paying his proverbial dues in the 1980s; after studying at the Actors Studio, he even worked for a time as a bouncer to pay his bills.  In the late eighties, he wrote a one-man play based partly on his own life, titled A Bronx Tale.  He was able to produce and perform it first in Los Angeles and then off-Broadway, where Robert De Niro saw it and collaborated with Palminteri to turn it into a 1993 film; De Niro directed from Palminteri’s script while the two starred.  The film was a critical success, and Palminteri followed it up with two of his most memorable film roles, as a gangster with unexpected writing talent in Bullets Over Broadway (receiving an Oscar nomination), and as a Customs agent in a twisty crime film.

While Palminteri’s subsequent career has not been as successful, he has had well-received performances in films like The Perez Family, Analyze This, and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.  In 2007, he was able to bring the original stage version of A Bronx Tale to Broadway.

Three-time Oscar nominee James Mason (1909-1984) began working in British film in the 1930s, but didn’t start to make a name for himself until the mid-forties.  He starred in British films like The Wicked Lady and Odd Man Out, and then made his Hollywood debut in 1949 in Caught.  He had a very successful decade in the fifties, appearing in a wide variety of roles.  He played German general Erwin Rommel in The Desert Fox, Brutus in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a Nazi spy in 5 Fingers, and Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  He received his first Oscar nomination for a remake of A Star is Born, and capped the decade as a master spy in one of Hitchcock’s most popular films.

Mason continued to be a major actor, and a busy one, for most of the rest of his life.  He received additional Oscar nominations for Georgy Girl in 1966 and The Verdict in 1982.  His other roles ranged from Humbert Humbert in the 1962 version of Lolita, to Trigorin in an adaptation of Chekhov’s The Sea Gull, to an effective (even though he was a tad too old for the part) Dr. Watson in Murder by Decree.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler, best known for playing Meadow Soprano on The Sopranos, turns 36 today.  David Krumholtz, who is turning 39, starred as Charlie Eppes on Numbers; Browncoats also know him as Mr. Universe in Serenity.  Also turning 39 is Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas, who starred as Jaye Tyler on the highly-acclaimed but short-lived Fox series Wonderfalls and played Dr. Alana Bloom on HannibalAlexandra Breckenridge, who turns 35, is known for a variety of TV work, including voice work on Family Guy and playing Jessie Anderson on The Walking DeadNicola Walker, who is 47, was a regular for several seasons on the BBC spy drama Spooks and won an Olivier Award for the original West End production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeSophie Cookson turns 27.  The English actress played Roxy Morton, aka Lancelot, in Kingsman: The Secret Service and will return in the sequel later this year.

John Glen, who turns 85, is known for his long association with the James Bond films.  After serving as the editor and second unit director on three of the films from the sixties and seventies, he directed all five Bond films of the 1980s, from For Your Eyes Only to Licence to Kill.  He was also a second unit director on Superman: The Movie.

Lainie Kazan, who is 77 today, is strongly associated with the role of Belle Carroca in the film and subsequent musical My Favorite Year; she was a Golden Globe nominee for the film and a Tony nominee for the stage production.  She also was an Emmy nominee for a guest appearance on St. ElsewhereNicholas Hammond, who celebrates his 67th, played Friedrich von Trapp in The Sound of Music and went on to play the title character on the short-lived late seventies series The Amazing Spider-Man on CBS.

Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett, who turns 64, played his entire career with the Kansas City Royals, where he starred at third base.  He made 13 All-Star games and won the American League MVP award in 1980, as well as leading the Royals to victory in the 1985 World Series.  Also in baseball’s Hall of Fame is pitcher John Smoltz, who is 50 today.  He was part of a brilliant Atlanta Braves pitching rotation in the 1990s that also included Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.  Switching to the NFL, Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, who turns 48, made eight Pro Bowls, led the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles, and is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.  Likely to join Smith in the Hall of Fame is ex-Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowler who led the Ravens to a pair of Super Bowl triumphs.  Tennis star Sir Andy Murray, who turns 30, is currently the #1 ranked men’s singles player in the world, and is probably focusing on defending his Wimbledon title next month.  Amy Chow, who is turning 39, was one of the “Magnificent Seven” who won the first gold medal for the US in women’s gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics, while also winning an individual silver medal in the uneven parallel bars.  She went to Stanford Medical School and is now a pediatrician.

Brian Eno has been a successful glam rocker, a pioneer of electronic and ambient music, and a producer for the likes of Talking Heads, U2 and Sinead O’Connor.  He turns 69 today.  Eddy Arnold (1918-2008), a pioneer of the “Nashville sound” in country music, had a long list of hits such as “Make the World Go Away” and “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.”

Our literary birthdays begin with Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940), a physician turned writer who was the author of the classic novel The Master and MargaritaL. Frank Baum (1856-1919) wrote dozens of children’s novels, but the one that will always be remembered is The Wonderful Wizard of OzSir Peter Shaffer (1926-2016) was best known for writing the Tony-winning plays Equus and Amadeus; he also won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film version of the latter.  His twin brother Anthony Shaffer (1926-2001) wrote the acclaimed play Sleuth and also wrote screenplays for Hitchcock’s Frenzy and for several adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels (including Evil Under the Sun, featuring James Mason).  Nancy Garden (1938-2014) was also an author of children’s and young adult fiction, most famously the teen-oriented novel Annie on My Mind, a rarity at the time it was published for its positive portrayal of a lesbian relationship.  Laura Hillenbrand, who is 50 today, is known for her two bestselling nonfiction books, Seabiscuit and Unbroken, which have sold over 10 million copies between them and both been adapted into successful films.

Joseph Cotten (1905-1994) played C. K. Dexter Haven on Broadway in The Philadelphia Story, opposite Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord.  He then starred in Orson Welles’ first three films, following which he played major roles in films like Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (as Uncle Charlie), Duel in the Sun, and, maybe most famously of all, as Holly Martins in The Third Man (opposite Welles as Harry Lime).  Beginning in the mid-fifties he appeared with increasing regularity on television.

Our second James Bond birthday today is Joseph Wiseman (1918-2009), who played Dr. Julius No, the title character in the first James Bond feature, and was also a regular on NBC’s Crime Story in the 1980s.  Hungarian-born director Andre De Toth (1913-2002) made a number of solid genre films in the forties and fifties, frequently Westerns such as Man in the Saddle or The Indian Fighter, but also an occasional film noir like Pitfall.  French actress Arletty (1898-1992) is best remembered for her starring role in Marcel Carné’s classic Les Enfants du Paradis.

Two men known for their wily political maneuvering skills top our historical birthdays today.  Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859) was the dominant political figure in Austria and the Hapsburg Empire in the first half of the 19th Century, and the key figure at the Congress of Vienna that shaped the political structure of Europe after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) was the Mayor of Chicago for the 21 years prior to his death.  He was very effective at helping Chicago avoid the kind of decline that plagued other Rust Belt cities, but his forays into national politics and issues were extremely controversial.  Pierre Curie (1859-1906) won one of the first Nobel Prizes in Physics (along with wife Marie) for his work on crystallography, magnetism, and most famously, radioactivity.

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 May 15, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. My favorite Joseph Cotten movie is “Love Letters”. He played a solider who wrote love letters for a friend who was in love with a girl back home, only realizing he was falling in love with the girl himself. Cotten played a vulnerable character (another solider) in some Christmas movie with Ginger Rogers (which I can’t remember the name of) who suffered from PTSD. The movie wasn’t very good, but it showed Cotten was not afraid to play vulnerable characters, unlike some of his peers at the time.

    The bets part about Cotten, though, is his hair. He has light brown wavy hair, whose waves I call “spaghetti waves” because they look like spaghetti. Cotten is the only actor who has spaghetti waves in his hair, and that makes him unique. 😉

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  2. We spoke previously about how Ving Rhames had quite a run for himself in the ’90s. That is even more true of Chazz Palminteri who was very close to leading man status for a little while. His involvement was critical to getting The Usual Suspects made.

    I was trying to figure out what I knew James Mason from. I have seen him in several things including North by Northwest and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I paid special attention to his filmography from the time period when I was young and might have seen him for the first time. I certainly saw him in Salem’s Lot and Heaven Can Wait. But it’s Lolita I was thinking of.

    David Krumholtz, I knew from 10 Things I Hate About You. Up until now, I never put a name to the face. Poor Alexandra Breckenridge. The Walking Dead did not do right by her.

    The John Glen Bond movies include some real clunkers (Octopussy and A View to a Kill) and no real standouts. But For Your Eyes Only is one of the better Moore movies and the two Dalton entries are solid.

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  3. Chazz Palminteri’s run as a top-level actor was short, but he had a couple of great performances in there in Bullets Over Broadway and The Usual Suspects.

    James Mason was ideal as the suave villain in North By Northwest and was in one of my favorite films from the seventies, which I just brought up the other day, The Last of Sheila.

    I enjoyed Sophie Cookson’s performance in Kingsman; hopefully the sequel will be as entertaining as the first film.

    John Glen made a very good Bond movie his first time out in For Your Eyes Only. The two Dalton films had script problems but Dalton was very good, he had good supporting casts (Maryam d’Abo!), and Glen always had a sure hand with action. Octopussy, for me, has always been just sort of there—neither one of the good Bond films nor one of the clunkers. A View to a Kill, however…

    Lainie Kazan is delightful in My Favorite Year.

    Aside from his films with Orson Welles (as director), Joseph Cotten gave two performances I will always treasure, in Shadow of a Doubt and The Third Man. He was pretty good as the cuckolded husband (of Marilyn Monroe) in Niagara, too.

    When I was young, I read quite a few of the Oz books, which were, too say the least, of varying quality (even considering only the ones Frank Baum wrote himself). Eventually I outgrew them—by the sixth grade I had discovered Tolkien.

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    • I have been wanting to see “Shadow of a Doubt” FOREVER, but TCM always plays it at 1 am. I have read Cotten delivers an amazing performance, and that’s why I have been wanting to see it. (I’m also a fan of Teresa Wright.)

      As I already stated above, “Love Letters” is my favorite Cotten film. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you do.

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      • Shadow of a Doubt is definitely worth watching; Hitchcock sometimes identified it as his favorite of all his films. And Teresa Wright is also terrific in it, one of my favorite Hitchcock heroines.

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  4. A final note to today’s article. Of the seven performers who played the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music, Nicholas Hammond was one of three who had significant acting careers. The other two were Heather Menzies (who played Louisa) and Angela Cartwright (Brigitta). Menzies went on to star on the short-lived TV series adaptation of Logan’s Run as Jessica 6, and in Joe Dante’s horror film parody Piranha. She married actor Robert Urich and did occasional guest roles on his two series, Vega$ and Spenser: For Hire. Cartwright came to the movie with a lot of experience, having played Danny Thomas’s stepdaughter on The Danny Thomas Show for several years. She went on to star as Penny Robinson on Lost in Space. Both Cartwright and Hammond made guest appearances with Menzies on Logan’s Run. Hammond is the only one of the three still working today.

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  5. Chazz Palminteri, I enthusiastically enjoyed “A Bronx Tale” (even before learning that it was large autobiographical), and when I watched the simulcast of the New York sports talk show program “Mike and the Mad Dog”, he would call in every now and then, especially since he is a New York Giants fan & friends with one of the hosts, Mike Francesa. Intense actor, I like him.
    Jason Mason, I remember him best from “The Verdict” and know that his son Morgan has been married to Belinda Carlisle for a long time.
    David Krumholtz, I watched “Numb3rs” a few times, but also remember him from “The Ice Storm” and “10 Things I Hate About You”.
    George Brett, too bad he didn’t hit .400 back in 1980, but I think it’s pretty impressive that he came close.
    I have two Emmitt Smith shirts, one with the words “Defend the Star” and the other signifying when he broke the all-time rushing record. Big fan of his running game, and I actually liked him on TV, with his style of making up his own words (“They got debacled!”).

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