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June 3: Happy Birthday John Dykstra and Tony Curtis

0603DykstraCurtis

John Dykstra, who is turning 70 today, got his first job in film shortly after graduating from Cal State University, Long Beach; he worked with Douglas Trumbull on the latter’s first film as a director, the environmentally themed sci-fi film Silent Running.  A few years later, filmmaker George Lucas contacted Trumbull about working on the special effects for his new sci-fi film.  Trumbull, who was already committed to another sci-fi film being directed by one Steven Spielberg, recommended Dykstra instead.  And so John Dykstra wound up in charge of special effects for a film called Star Wars.

Dykstra won two Oscars for his work on Star Wars, one for Best Visual Effects, a second for Technical Achievement, for developing the Dykstraflex camera.  He later won a third Oscar for Best Visual Effects for Spider-Man 2.  His relationship with Lucas, tense even during the making of Star Wars, broke down soon after, and Dykstra went his own way in the industry.  In addition to his three Oscar wins, he received nominations for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Stuart Little, and Spider-Man.

Tony Curtis (1925-2010) began working in films at the end of the 1940s.  Within a couple of years he was getting lead roles, and he had a big breakthrough in 1953’s Houdini, where he played the title role and starred opposite his first wife, Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis is their daughter).

Curtis made a lot of films in the late fifties and early sixties; some forgettable but some outstanding.  He kissed up to Burt Lancaster in Sweet Smell of Success, received an Oscar nomination for spending much of The Defiant Ones chained to Sidney Poitier, and was a “teller of tales” in Spartacus.  Maybe his most challenging role—since it actually involved three screen personas—was in Some Like It Hot.

Curtis remained a major star well into the sixties and continued working in film on a regular basis until the late nineties.

Dame Penelope Wilton, a distinguished British stage and screen actress, turns 71.  She is a six-time Olivier Award nominee, winning Best Actress in a Play for Mark Hayhurst’s Taken at Midnight.  Her film career includes everything from Cry Freedom to Shaun of the Dead to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, while on television she played Isobel Crawley on Downton AbbeyJames Purefoy, who is 53 today, starred as Mark Antony on HBO’s Rome and currently is one of the title characters on Sundance’s Hap and LeonardArianne Zucker, who turns 43, is best known for her long run on Days of Our Lives as Nicole Walker, for which she has received three Daytime Emmy nominations.

Imogen Poots, who is turning 28, has starred in films such as Need for Speed, Green Room, and Frank & LolaJosh Segarra, who is 31, was a regular on USA Network’s Sirens and on season 5 of Arrow, and has appeared on Broadway in the musicals Lysistrata Jones and On Your Feet!  Anne Winters, who has had regular roles on FX’s Tyrant and ABC’s short-lived Wicked City, is 23 today.  Sean Berdy, who turns 24, is best known for his regular role on Switched at Birth as Emmett Bledsoe.

Sports birthdays include Billy Cunningham, who turns 74.  The “Kangaroo Kid” joined the Philadelphia 76ers in 1965, and in his second season was the sixth man for a legendary powerhouse team that got past the Boston Celtics and won the NBA title.  After injuries ended his playing career, he became the Sixers’ coach and led them to another title in 1983.  Retired golfer Hale Irwin, who is 72, is one of only half a dozen golfers ever to win three or more titles at the US Open.  Rafael Nadal, who celebrates his 31st, is one of the top men’s singles players of the last 15 years or so.  He is especially dominant on clay courts, having won the French Open nine times and earned the title the “King of Clay.”  He has also won Olympic gold medals in both singles and doubles.  German footballer Mario Götze, who is turning 25, is one of the top stars of the German national side today and scored the goal that won the 2014 World Cup for Germany.

Marion Zimmer Bradley (1930-1999) was one of the 20th Century’s most prolific authors of science fiction and fantasy.  Her best known works include the long Darkover series of science fantasy/planetary romance novels, and the Arthurian fantasy The Mists of Avalon and its sequels.  Larry McMurtry, who turns 81, is known for his novels set either in the American West or contemporary Texas.  Several have been adapted into feature films, including The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, and Horseman, Pass By (adapted into Hud), or into TV miniseries, like Lonesome Dove and Buffalo Girls.  He also co-wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.  Poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was a major figure of both the Beat Generation of the fifties and the counterculture of the sixties.  His most famous poem, partly because it became the subject of an obscenity trial, was “Howl.”

The late Chuck Barris (1929-2017) was know for creating the game shows The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game and for hosting The Gong Show.  His partly fictionalized autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, was adapted into a 2002 feature film starring Sam Rockwell and directed by George Clooney.

Paulette Goddard (1910-1990) is probably remembered most for co-starring with Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times and The Great Dictator and for being the silent film star’s third wife.  She was also an Oscar nominee for So Proudly We Hail!  Ellen Corby (1911-1999) won three Primetime Emmys for starring as Grandma Esther Walton on The Waltons and was an Oscar nominee for I Remember MamaColleen Dewhurst (1924-1991) was a two-time Emmy winner for her guest appearances as the title character’s mother on Murphy Brown, and also a two-time Tony winner for her roles in All the Way Home and A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was an American-born singer and actress who spent most of her career in France; she became the first performer of African descent to headline a film when she starred in 1934’s Zouzou.  Both Baker and soul singer Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999) were known for their support of the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the sixties  Mayfield’s best known work includes the single “People Get Ready,” which he wrote and recorded during his years with the Impressions, and the soundtrack album for the blaxploitation film Super Fly.

Our historical figures include Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), who had a long career that included service as a US Senator and Secretary of War, but most famously or infamously as President of the Confederate States of America.  Raul Castro, who became 18th President of Cuba (many would say he is a dictator) when his brother Fidel stepped down in 2008, is turning 86 today.

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 June 3, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Another relatively quiet day on the celebrity birthday front. Tony Curtis was a pretty obvious choice. John Dykstra obviously wasn’t doing all those special effects for films like Star Wars by himself, but he did get a lot of media buzz at the time. I can remember when the original Battlestar Galactica aired, and one of the big selling points was that “John Dykstra from Star Wars” was in charge of special effects.

    Imogen Poots is quite good in Green Room, which is definitely worth checking out.

    Marion Zimmer Bradley is an important figure in fantasy and sci-fi both for her own significance as a writer and for the support that she provided to younger writers, especially women, during her career. Her reputation has been tarnished in the past few years by the accusations by Bradley’s daughter that Bradley abused her as a child.

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  2. Tony Curtis is one of my favorite actors. I enjoyed watching him in “Some Like It Hot”, “Sweet Smell of Success” and “Operation Petticoat”. The latter film is worth checking out if you’re a Curtis and/or a Cary Grant fan.

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  3. Billy Cunningham seemed like a heck of a coach & player; I’ve caught some re-broadcasted NBA games in which he was an analyst, and I thought he was good there too. Plus he was in the original Miami Heat ownership group.
    Allen Ginsberg, I’m a fan of that whole “Beat Generation” movement & circumstance; better than the alternative for me, which is Alternative.

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