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June 21: Happy Birthday Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross

0621BaxterGross

While there are some bigger names with birthdays today, the fact that our two headliners were born on the same date and once starred—as a married couple—on a hit sitcom, makes them a natural choice.

Meredith Baxter is turning 70 today.  She began working in film and television in the early seventies.  She has had a few good film roles, such as a supporting role in All the President’s Men.  However, she has primarily been a television actress.  During the seventies and early eighties she had guest roles on series such as The Partridge Family, Medical Center, and The Love Boat.  She has had three starring roles on the small screen.  Her first was on the early seventies series Bridget Loves Bernie, which I believe has the distinction of being the highest-rated show ever canceled by only one season.  In the late seventies, she had a lead role as Nancy Lawrence Maitland on Family.  And in 1982, she began a 7-season starring run as Elyse Keaton on Family Ties.

In the post-Family Ties years, Baxter has continued to do a lot of television work.  She reunited with Michael J. Fox in a guest role on Spin City, playing the mother of Fox’s character, and later with Michael Gross for the TV movie Naughty or Nice.  She has done an enormous variety of TV movies, and has had guest star slots on series such as 7th Heaven, Cold Case, Glee, and Switched at Birth, as well as a recurring role on Finding Carter.

Michael Gross is also celebrating his 70th.  He earned a Master’s at Yale and began working as an actor in the mid-seventies.  He did some TV movies and some stage work, making his Broadway debut in 1979, but the role of Steven Keaton on Family Ties was his first major one.  Since then he has done a long list of TV movies, and also has a lengthy resume of guest roles—he has been on ER, two series in the Law & Order franchise, How I Met Your Mother, and Anger Management, to name a few.

And then there’s his other famous role—a man as far away from Steven Keaton in temperament and outlook on life as it’s possible to be.  No matter how big, how scary, or how dangerous you may be, you do not want to break into Burt Gummer’s rec room.

Chris Pratt is turning 38.  After a number of years in supporting roles, he has emerged as a major star in the past few years, playing Peter Quill/Star-Lord in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Owen Grady in Jurassic World and its upcoming sequel, and also starring in Passengers and the remake of The Magnificent Seven.

Juliette Lewis seemed to be on the brink of stardom in the nineties, having starred in films like Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers, and From Dusk till Dawn.  The spotlight is no longer on her, but she continues to work regularly and to pursue a career in music as well.  She is 44 today.

Lana Wachowski (formerly Larry) turns 52.  She is half of The Wachowskis, who are best known for giving us the Matrix trilogy.  Carrie Preston, a regular on True Blood and an Emmy winner for Outstanding Guest Actress as Elsbeth Talscioni on The Good Wife, is celebrating her 50th.  Erica Durance, who turns 39, played Lois Lane on Smallville, and more recently starred on the Canadian series Saving HopeMaggie Siff, who celebrates her 42nd, stars on Showtime’s Billions, and before that was a regular on Sons of AnarchyBenjamin Walker, who is 35, has a resume that includes playing two US Presidents in very unusual settings, the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the stage musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.  Also 35 is Jussie Smollett, who stars on Empire as Jamal Lyon and appears in Alien: Covenant.

Bernie Kopell, who is known for playing Siegfried on Get Smart and Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat, is turning 84 today.  Mariette Hartley, who is celebrating her 77th, made an auspicious debut in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, and has a long list of TV guest appearances, including an Emmy-winning one on The Incredible HulkRon Ely, who is 79 today, is best known as the star of NBC’s Tarzan in the late 1960s.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who is second in line for the throne of England, is 35 today.

Michel Platini, one of the greatest footballers of all time, turns 62.  He won the Ballon d’Or, honoring the best football player in the world, three times, and starred for France in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, and for their European Cup champions in 1984.

Country/bluegrass singer Kathy Mattea turns 58 today.  A two-time Grammy winner, she has been recording and performing for about 35 years, and had a long string of Top 10 country hits beginning in 1986 with a cover of a Nanci Griffith song.

Sir Ray Davies, who is 73, was the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for The Kinks for over 30 years, and also the group’s main songwriter, responsible for hits like “You Really Got Me” and “Tired of Waiting for You.”  Davies has also done the music and lyrics for a few musicals, winning an Olivier Award for Sunny AfternoonLana Del Rey, who is 32, became well known in 2011 when the video for her single “Video Games” went viral; she received her first two Grammy nominations in 2014.  Lalo Schifrin turns 85.  A jazz pianist and ensemble leader, he is also known for his film and television scoring work; he is a six-time Oscar nominee and won a pair of Grammys for his work for Mission: Impossible.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was an enormously important figure in modern philosophy, as one of the leading existentialist thinkers, and in literature, where he is famous for turning down the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literatre.  Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) was one of the leading literary critics of the 20th century, and also a novelist known for works such as The Company She Keeps and The GroupFrançoise Sagan (1935-2004) wrote her debut novel, Bonjour Tristesse, at the age of 19; it along with several of her other novels, such as Aimez-Vous Brahms?, have been adapted into films.  Ian McEwan, who turns 69, is also the author of a number of novels which have been adapted into films, including Enduring Love and Atonement.

Maureen Stapleton (1925-2006) was a Triple Crown of Acting winner, having won an Oscar for playing Emma Goldman in Reds (she was nominated three additional times), an Emmy for the TV movie Among the Paths to Eden, and a pair of Tonys, for The Rose Tattoo and The Gingerbread Lady.  Some readers will probably remember her from the Cocoon films.  She was a distant cousin of Jean Stapleton of All in the Family fame.

Stage and screen star Judy Holliday (1921-1965) had two big roles in her career, which she played both on Broadway and in film.  She starred as Billie Dawn in Garson Kanin’s play Born Yesterday, and won an Oscar when she returned to the role in the 1950 film.  She then played Ella Peterson in the musical Bells Are Ringing, winning a Tony, and was nominated for a Golden Globe in the film adaptation.  Born the same day as Holliday, Jane Russell (1921-2011) became an overnight sensation—as a sex symbol—when she starred in Howard Hughes’s controversial The Outlaw.  She later was featured in a variety of films: The Paleface, with Bob Hope, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, opposite Marilyn Monroe, and with lifelong friend Robert Mitchum in His Kind of Woman and Macao.

While Tony Scott (1944-2012) never achieved the same prestige as a director as his older brother, Sir Ridley Scott, he left behind filmography that, at least, could be described as full of action and excitement, highlighted by films like Top Gun, True Romance, and Enemy of the State.  The International Cinematographer’s Guild ranked Conrad Hall (1926-2003) among the ten most influential practitioners of their craft; Hall was a three-time Oscar winner, for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, American Beauty, and Road to Perdition.

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 21, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Yeah, Chris Pratt is a big movie star. Yada, yada, yada. The fact that the actors who played the Keaton parents are turning 70 today is definitely bigger than Star-Lord’s 38th. Meredith Baxter has starred in a staggering number of TV movies. She could have her own Liftetime Movie channel. I saw Tremors at a sneak preview and got a big kick out of Michael Gross cast against type.

    Like most, I first became aware of Juliette Lewis in Cape Fear. Most recently, I saw her on Wayward Pines. I haven’t watched the Wachowskis Netflix show. I hear it’s not bad. Post Matrix, they haven’t done much that appealed to me. Bound was good though. Erica Durance was usually the best thing about Smallville when she was on it. I would have watched a show about her Lois Lane.

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    • Truth be told, when I was thinking of there being bigger names than Baxter or Gross today, it was as much or more the Oscar and Tony winning actresses, and one or two of the musicians, as Chris Pratt.

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      • LOL.

        I write my responses as I am reading the article. So I got through the Keatons and Chris Pratt was the next name in bold. 😉 All due respect to our headliners, there are definitely bigger names in today’s birthdays, but the circumstances of costars not only sharing a birthdate but actually turning the big 7-0 simultaneously earns Baxter and Gross special attention. I won’t be surprised if the June 21st birthday article has different headliners next year.

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        • I wouldn’t be surprised to see different headliners next year either. 😉 And Chris Pratt may or may not be one of them.

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  2. As I said a few days back on Michael J. Fox’s birthday, I was a Family Ties regular back in the last half of the eighties, so today’s headliners were natural choices for me. Gross has the extra attraction of also having played my favorite cinematic crazy survivalist.

    Chris Pratt is appearing in some big movies, but at this point I’d say that he is starting to look like he’s a bit of a Jeremy Renner type—very good within an ensemble cast but not necessarily a front-rank leading man.

    Kathy Mattea has one of the best voices in the whole country/bluegrass/traditional music scene.

    Sir Ray Davies—that got me thinking. We talk about all the English “theatrical knights,” but there is also a nice little contingent of “rock and roll knights” developing. Aside from the newly knighted Sir Ray, we have recent birthday headliners Sir Elton and Sir Paul, as well as a couple of headliners from earlier in the series, Sir Mick and Sir Rod. Not to mention Sir Van Morrison, Sir Tom Jones, and Sir Cliff Richard. Percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie is a borderline case, David Bowie turned down a knighthood, and Bono and Bob Geldof are honorary knights.

    Judy Holliday was a bit of a surprise Oscar winner in 1950. In retrospect, Bette Davis (for All About Eve) or Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard) may well have given the best performance that year. But Holliday was very good in Born Yesterday—it’s not a slam dunk choice.

    Jane Russell was never a great actress, but she had a pleasant screen personality, a knack for comedy, and often had good chemistry with costars. Although she and Mitchum were only platonic friends in real life, they worked extremely well together onscreen.

    Tony Scott wasn’t a great director, and a lot of his movies have an over-the-top quality to them, but at least he was never boring.

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  3. Meredith Baxter & Michael Gross, that is some Family ties action right there. For Baxter (I have an aunt who looks and talks just like her), some of the TV movies I’ve seen from her that I thought were really good are 1992’s “A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story” (along with the Betty Broderick final chapter sequel, also in 1992) and 1991’s “A Mother’s Justice”. For Gross, I have to go with 1988’s “In the Line of Duty: the F.B.I. Murders”; he REALLY played against type there (I also met someone in 1996 who has a picture of Michael Gross in his wallet).
    Juliette Lewis, I first saw her in “Natural Born Killers” but then I caught up to “Kalifornia” (which I LOVE) and “Cape fear”. I don’t know much about her musical career, but she’s a DJ for the radio station Radio Broker in the video game “Grand Theft Auto IV”, and I think she’s good there.
    Lana Wachowski, true confession: I’ve never seen any of The Matrix films (I do know about the Autobot Matrix though). Like Lebeau, I also like “Bound”.
    Lana Del Ray, I remember reading about her in an issue of Rolling Stone a few years ago. Since then, I’ve lost sight of her.
    Tony Scott, I’ve soured on “Top Gun”, but I still like “The Hunger”, “The Last Boy Scout”, “True Romance”, “Enemy of the State”, the 2004 remake of “Man on fire” (better than the original, I think), and “Deja Vu” (which I sometimes confuse with another film starring Denzel Washington, “Out of Time”, a film which makes me stand in the place where I live, wonder why i haven’t before).

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  4. Jane Russell, she seemed like an interesting lady & performer, although i haven’t seen many of her films (“Gentleman Prefer Blondes” comes to mind; I’d probably prefer Jane Russell. Sorry, Marilyn:-). I understand she was once married to Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield (they were high school sweethearts and everything), and in the 1940’s and 1950’s they were a real Hollywood power couple.

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