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July 6: Happy Birthday Geoffrey Rush and Janet Leigh

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Geoffrey Rush is turning 66 today.  A winner of the unofficial Triple Crown of Acting, he began his acting career with the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane, Australia, in the early 1970s.  For over twenty years he appears to have worked primarily in Australian theater; details are a bit hard to come by although.  He appeared in a 1979 production of Waiting for Godot, where one of his costars was a young actor named Mel Gibson.  Rush has continued to work periodically on stage throughout his career, winning a Tony for Best Actor in a Play for a 2009 revival of Eugene Ionesco’s Exit the King.

Rush made a few appearances in Australian film and television beginning in the late seventies, but no one could have expected the outcome when he was cast as the Australian pianist David Helfgott in the biopic Shine (Rush played Helfgott as an adult, while the younger Helfgott was played by Alex Rafalowicz and Noah Taylor).  Rush won the Oscar for Best Actor and swept the other main Best Actor honors.

In 1998 Rush appeared in a pair of period films set in Elizabethan times, as Sir Francis Walsingham in Elizabeth, and as Philip Henslowe in Shakespeare in Love, and was an Oscar nominee for the latter.  He has received two further Oscar nominations, for Quill and The King’s Speech.  He has continued working in Australian films like Lantana and Ned Kelly, and won an Emmy in the title role of the TV movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.  And of course he is known to movie viewers all over the world as Captain Hector Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Janet Leigh (1927-2004) got into film when actress Norma Shearer met her at a ski resort in 1945.  She was soon signed by MGM and made her debut as one of the romantic leads in The Romance of Rosy Ridge.  She went on to star in some major films of the early fifties and sixties.  She appeared in the comedy-fantasy Angels in the Outfield, the Anthony Mann-James Stewart Western The Naked Spur, and a musical adaptation of the play My Sister Eileen.  Beginning in 1958, she starred in three thrillers that have attained classic status: Touch of Evil, Hitchcock’s Psycho, and The Manchurian Candidate.

Leigh was married to Tony Curtis for just over a decade, beginning in 1961; their daughters are actresses Kelly and Jamie Lee Curtis.  After their 1962 divorce, Leigh would slow the pace of her career down, as discussed in this article.  However, she continued to work on film and television up to the beginning of the 2000s.

Bond Girl Eva Green is celebrating her 37th.  Many fans of the Bond films would rank Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale as one of the best heroines in the series.  This article discusses her career further; her most recent major film role was as the title character in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Della Reese, who was a two-time Emmy nominee as the angel Tess on Touched by an Angel, is 86 today.  Durable character actor Ned Beatty turns 80.  He has been an Oscar nominee for Network, a two-time Emmy nominee, and won a Drama Desk Award for a 2004 revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as Big Daddy.

Identical twin sisters Tia and Tamera Mowry turn 39.  They first became known for starring on Sister, Sister in the nineties, and reunited for Tia & Tamera from 2011-13.  Tia starred on The CW’s The Game for six of its nine seasons, while Tamera co-hosts the talk show The RealKevin Hart, who is 38 today, is a successful stand-up comic and has starred in the Ride Along films, Central Intelligence, and the upcoming Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleGregory Smith, who celebrates his 34th, has starred on Everwood and on Rookie Blue and in films like Small Soldiers and Nearing Grace.

French actress Nathalie Baye, who is 69, is a four-time Cesar winner, including three years in a row from 1981-83, and a ten-time nominee, most recently for last year’s It’s Only the End of the World.  American audiences may remember her from Catch Me If You CanJennifer Saunders, who is turning 59, is best known as the creator and star of Absolutely Fabulous, which has brought her two BAFTA Awards; she also appeared in Muppet Treasure Island as Mrs. Bluberidge (“How does she do that?”).  Burt Ward, who played Robin on TV’s Batman in the sixties and has voiced the character in a variety of animated projects since then, turns 72.

Our WTHH birthday celebrant today is Sylvester Stallone.  He will be remembered for two roles—he appeared in four films as John Rambo, and seven as Rocky Balboa—and received two Oscar nominations for Rocky and one for Creed.  Stallone is 71 today.  Born the same day as Stallone, Fred Dryer played over a decade in the NFL, mostly at defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams, and went on to star on NBC’s Hunter for seven seasons.

John Ottman, who turns 53, is both a film editor and composer.  He works regularly with Bryan Singer, having scored and edited The Usual Suspects, three X-Men films, and Superman Returns, among others.  He won a BAFTA Award for editing on The Usual Suspects.

Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith is 64 today; she has spent most of her career inhabiting the boundaries between country and folk and won a Grammy for her album Other Voices, Other Rooms.  She has had some commercial success, but is better known for the hit covers of her songs by performers like Kathy Mattea (“Love at the Five and Dime”) and Suzy Bogguss (“Outbound Plane”).

Rapper 50 Cent (given name Curtis Jackson) turns 42.  He has had five consecutive albus reach at least #5 on the Billboard 200, and has also appeared in films like Escape Plan and (as himself) Spy.  Country singer Jeannie Seely, who is 77, is a longtime Grand Ole Opry member and won a Grammy for her #2 Country single “Don’t Touch Me.”  Bill Haley (1925-1981), as the head of Bill Haley & His Comets, helped kick off the rock and roll era in the early 1950s with hits like “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and, especially, “Rock Around the Clock.”   Classical pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy is 80 today.  He is a seven-time Grammy winner for recordings of works like the Beethoven Piano Concertos (with Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony) and Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas (with violinist Itzhak Perlman).

Two major figures in the art world had birthdays today.  Marc Chagall (1887-1985) worked in a wide variety of media, from paintings to stained glass windows to theater sets.  A few of his best known projects include the paintings I and the Village and Bella with White Collar and the Peace Window at the United Nations Building.  Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was primarily famous for her self-portraits, such as The Two Fridas and The Broken Column.  Salma Hayek played Kahlo in the 2002 biopic Frida.

Native American actress Misty Upham (1982-2014) received a lot of critical acclaim for starring in the 2008 indie film Frozen River, and also appeared in August: Osage County.  She disappeared from her sister’s apartment in October 2014 and was found dead at the bottom of a cliff a few days later.

Character actor William Schallert (1922-2016) had a long career in television and film.  He was a regular on The Patty Duke Show in a dual role as the fathers of Duke’s two characters.  Merv Griffin (1925-2007) had careers in radio and music, but was best known as the longtime host of The Merv Griffin Show and as the creator of the game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of FortuneCathy O’Donnell (1923-1970) had a relatively short career as an actress, but had prominent roles in films like The Best Years of Our Lives, Detective Story, and Ben-Hur.

Our historical birthdays today include a pair of heroes of the American Revolutionary War.  Daniel Morgan (1736-1802) may have been the most effective combat soldier on the American side during the war.  The biggest of his several substantial contributions came in the campaign and Battle of Cowpens in early 1781 all but destroyed Col. Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion.  The events of that campaign were part of the history which was fictionalized in Mel Gibson’s The PatriotJohn Paul Jones (1747-1792) was the best-known of a number of American sea captains who tried to carry the war into British waters.  He was most famous for commanding a converted merchantman, the Bonhomme Richard, in an engagement with the larger and stronger British frigate Serapis.  Although his ship was overmatched, Jones’ sheer determination carried the day.

Nancy Davis Reagan (1921-2016) appeared in a number of features of the forties and fifties, but is far better known as the second wife of Ronald Reagan, and therefore the First Lady of the US from 1981-89.  George W. Bush, who of course was the 43rd President of the US, is turning 71 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 July 6, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I remember noting, back when it was Morgan Freeman’s birthday, how unusual his emergence as a star at the age of fifty was. Geoffrey Rush does run him close in that regard, breaking through at about 45.

    Janet Leigh didn’t remain a star as long as other leading ladies of her generation but while she was she made some really memorable films. I love The Naked Spur and The Manchurian Candidate in particular.

    Since Bond Girls are forever (as Maryam d’Abo’s book reminds us), Eva Green will not be forgotten as long as people watch Bond movies, whatever else she may do for the remainder of her career.

    It’s been a good 20 years since I first discovered Nanci Griffith’s music, I think, and she remains a favorite of mine when it comes to singer-songwriters.

    For the second day in a row we have the birth date of a US Navy hero who coined a famous fighting slogan; following David “Damn the torpedoes” Farragut, we have John Paul “I have not yet begun to fight!” Jones.

    Meanwhile, Daniel Morgan’s career during the Revolutionary War would make a terrific movie. It would not require any revisionist history a la Mel to make it one.

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  2. I was running an art house movie theater when Shine opened. I remember it well. I expected Rush would be one of those actors who won an Oscar and then played a lot of supporting roles until the luster wore off. He’s not exactly a movie star, but he’s closer than I ever expected he would be). He’s often the best thing about the Pirates movies which is damning with faint praise, I know.

    The first time I remember seeing Janet Leigh in anything was Psycho. I had probably seen her in other things when I was a kid without knowing who she was. And then I saw The Manchurian Candidate in high school. She sure did pass some good genes on to Jamie Lee Curtis!

    Eva Green has been in some lousy movies. But she’s almost always the best thing about them. It’s a shame Sin City 2 wasn’t as great as Green’s performance because she rocked in that movie. The last thing I saw her in was Penny Dreadful.

    When I think of Ned Beatty, two things come to mind. The first his the bumbling sidekick he played in Superman. The second is Deliverance. Kevin Hart sure is successful. Usually his involvement in a movie is a pretty good indicator that it’s not going to be of interest to me. See Jumanji as an example.

    Burt Ward was on my TV practically every day when I was a kid. Holy Happy Birthday, Batman! We talk so much about Sylvester Stallone around here, I don’t know what else to say. I have very mixed feelings because I don’t like the vast majority of his movies. But I still have a fondness for the guy I can’t quite explain. I hear he’s a great storyteller.

    Nancy Reagan and W. Bush! Some GOP heavyweights share a birthday today. Pretty big day overall.

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    • Geoffrey Rush is a great guy to have in the cast of a prestige picture, clearly, but as the Pirates series shows you can bring him into a popcorn film and he won’t phone his performance in there, either.

      Deliverance was Ned Beatty’s film debut—his character got tortured in that one. He was part of the fantastic ensemble cast in Nashville, and very good as Otis in the first two Superman films.

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      • Beatty said he regretted his involvement in Deliverance because of the stereotypes the movie reinforced. Later in his career, he did some work with some Appalachian groups to atone.

        Otis is definitely not my favorite thing about the Donner Superman, but if you’re going to give Luthor a bumbling sidekick, it may as well be Beatty. No one bumbled better.

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  3. Like Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh always commanded honesty. She was 23 when she married Tony and it was her third marriage!

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  4. Geoffrey Rush, he’s in 2003’s “Ned Kelly”, which i like quite a bit, and I believe he was the right choice to play Peter Sellers as well. Films like “Shine” and “The King’s Speech”, I think they deserved their accolades, same with “Shakespeare in Love”.
    Janet Leigh, I’m always still surprised about what happens to her character in “Psycho”, and I thought she was pretty great in “Touch of Evil”. I thought she was a lovely lady, as are her two daughters.
    Eva Green, “The Dreamers” was on HBO, so I watched that, unaware at the time that was her first performance; that film held nothing back when it came to nudity (Andie MacDowell said in that one movieline article that her family was the nude family; well, that was the nude film). I thought “Casino Royale” was fantastic, and I kind of like “Dark Shadows” actually (maybe i’m helped by not viewing too much of the original series).
    Della Reese, aw hewck, I’m going to go with “Harlem nights” here, as I thought she was fun in that.
    Ned Beatty, well, we got the “Deliverance” stuff, the Superman stuff…I’m going to go with his characters from “Network”, “The Big Easy”, and “Switching Channels”.
    Kevin Hart, I hear whispers that since he’s went full on mainstream he’s lost his edge a little; things have definitely changed for him since he’s blown up, but I’m currently on the fence about the whole deal. I know how I feel about the comedy specials/acts before 2012, as I thought he was very funny there. I’m not saying he isn’t funny now, I’m saying I’m not sure.
    Burt Ward, I like his Robin from Batman ’66.
    Sylvester Stallone, I’ve always liked him: maybe it’s because Rambo toy guns and such were bought for me at K-Mart, or when I was growing up he was an unavoidable presence, but he holds up for me. Actually, in a way I think he’s underrated as a performer. Good article on him here.
    Fred Dryer, I didn’t see him play Pro Football, but I did see plenty of “Hunter” back in the day. 1987’s “Death Before Dishonor” (that’s how I like it) was supposed to be his big break in film, but that didn’t really happen (I think its okay; I had it recorded once, but I recorded over it for a Sunday Night Football game in 1992).
    Nancy Reagan , she really pushed that “Say No To Drugs” deal, which I think is okay. I remember a “The Choice For Me is Drug Free” sticker was passed out to us in 4th grade, but I was being a smartass and inked out the R in “free”.
    George W, Bush, yeah, I kind of liked the 2008 film “W.”. I guess “CBS This Morning” did a segment sometime back on America’s worst President, and they went with James Buchanan (I heard that Franklin Pierce wasn’t exactly aces either). Ah well, leaders: at least they’re not followers.

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