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July 7: Happy Birthday Shelley Duvall and George Cukor

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As Shelley Duvall turns 68, there will probably be plenty of stories focused on her current mental health issues.  Hopefully, some will focus on her career as an actress and television producer, as we’re going to do here.

Duvall met director Robert Altman on a film set in 1970, and found herself offered a part in Brewster McCloud, her first of seven with Altman.  During the 1970s, she had a supporting role in Annie Hall, and starred in a PBS adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Bernice Bobs Her Hair.  But mostly she worked with Altman.  She was part of the huge ensemble cast of Nashville, and had supporting parts in McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Buffalo Bill and the Indians.  And she starred in 3 Women and Thieves Like Us.

In 1980 Duvall starred in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, a grueling film for her with a shoot that lasted around a year, and then made her last film with Altman, appearing as Olive Oyl in Popeye.  She continued to work in film for another 20 years or so, with a few major roles in films like Roxanne.  She also found a new niche in television, as the creator, executive producer, and presenter of a sequence of children’s anthology series, the first and most successful of which was Faerie Tale Theatre.

George Cukor (1899-1983) spent most of the 1920s working in theater as a producer and later director.  He then moved to Hollywood, working at Paramount, RKO, and MGM in succession in the 1930s.  He directed films such as Little Women, Dinner at Eight and Holiday, but the film that would have been his biggest in that decade, Gone With the Wind, was taken away from him after only a few weeks of shooting (multiple explanations have been suggested).

Cukor directed five performers to Best Actor or Actress Oscars—James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, Ronald Colman in A Double Life, Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady.  That film also won Best Picture and brought Cukor his only Best Director Oscar.  He was known as a “woman’s director” for his ability to work with, and get excellent performances, from actresses such as Katharine and Audrey Hepburn, Norma Shearer, and Joan Crawford, as well as Bergman and Holliday.

Billy Campbell (sometimes billed as Bill) is celebrating his 58th.  He starred as the title character of The Rocketeer (which may have been intended to launch a franchise), but is better known for TV work.  He was one of the stars of ABC’s Once and Again and has been a regular on The 4400 and The Killing.

German actress Nina Hoss turns 42.  She is known in Europe for her films with director Christian Petzold, such as Yella and Barbara, and for the vampire film We Are the Night.  American viewers may know her from A Most Wanted Man or her stint on Homeland.  French-Argentine actress Bérénice Bejo, who turns 41, was an Oscar nominee and Cesar winner for The Artist; she has worked primarily in French film but might be known for her role in A Knight’s Tale.

Jorja Fox, best known for her long run as Sara Sidle on CSI, is turning 49 today.  Cree Summer, who is 48, was a regular on A Different World and has done an enormous amount of voice work; her first role was Penny on Inspector Gadget.  Also 48 is Robin Weigert, who was an Emmy nominee as Calamity Jane on Deadwood and recently has had recurring roles on Jessica Jones and Big Little LiesKirsten Vangsness, who is 45 today, has been starring as Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds since 2005.  Eve Hewson is 26.  She had a supporting role in Bridge of Spies and will play Maid Marian in the upcoming Robin Hood, opposite Taron Egerton in the title role.

Jonathan Dayton, who is 60 today, works as a directing team with his wife, Valerie Faris.  After over 20 years of making music videos, they made their feature debut with Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, and are the directors of the upcoming Battle of the Sexes.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) was often know, particularly in his later years, as the “dean of science fiction writers,” and is one of the most influential writers ever in the genre.  Four of his novels won Hugo Awards—Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon Is a Harsh MistressDavid Eddings (1931-2009) was one of the most successful authors of heroic fantasy of recent times.  He was known for his series such as The Belgariad and its sequel series The Mallorean, and The Elenium and its sequel, The Tamuli.

Ringo Starr, who was the Beatles’ drummer and occasional lead vocalist, turns 77 today.  After the Fab Four’s breakup, he had success as a solo artist in the seventies, with hits like “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Oh My My.”  As many readers know, he has been married to Bond Girl Barbara Bach for over 35 years.  David Hodo, who was the “construction worker” in the Village People for over 30 years, is celebrating his 70th.  Anton Karas (1906-1985) was a composer who also played the peculiar string instrument called the zither.  His contribution to film was to compose and perform the score of The Third ManGustav Mahler (1860-1911) was one of the greatest composers of the last generation of the Romantic era; he was known for his ten symphonies (one unfinished at his death) and for song cycles like Das Lied von der Erde and Das Knaben Wunderhorn.  He was also one of the finest conductors of his time.

Our sports birthdays begin with Lisa Leslie, who celebrates her 45th.  One of the greatest women’s basketball stars ever, Leslie was a three-time MVP of the WNBA, and won two WNBA titles with the Los Angeles Sparks, and four Olympic gold medals.  She was also the first player to dunk in a WNBA game.  Figure skater Michelle Kwan, who is 37 today, was a five-time World Champion and won medals at the Winter Olympics in 1998 and 2002.  Leroy “Satchel” Paige (1906-1982) was one of the legends of baseball’s Negro Leagues for two decades.  Although he was over 40 when Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line, Paige was still good enough to pitch effectively for the 1948 World Series winning Cleveland Browns; he is in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Vittorio De Sica (1901-1974) was one of Italy’s greatest directors.  His 1947 film Bicycle Thieves is one of the greatest and most influential films of all time, and he made other classics like The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.  He was also a Best Supporting Actor nominee for the 1957 adaptation of Hemingway’s A Farewell to ArmsSam Katzman (1901-1973) was a filmmaker of a very different sort than the Cukors and De Sicas of the world.  Primarily a producer, he made low-budget matinee fare: serials and B-features, among them the 1948 serial Superman, the first live-action portrayal of the Man of Steel, and a series of Jungle Jim features.  Jon Pertwee (1919-1996) is remembered by British television audiences for playing the title character of Worzel Gummidge, and even more so as the Third Doctor on Doctor Who.

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

  1. Shelley Duvall I know from some of her films with Altman, many of which are definitely worth a look. Although she and Robert Duvall are not related, his birthday article comes up as one of the automatic links—interesting.

    George Cukor did quite a few memorable films—Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib, Born Yesterday, etc.

    I will always think of Billy Campbell as “Bill” because that is how he was billed in The Rocketeer, which I have always liked—I go for that kind of retro/pulp atmosphere, plus you have a radiant young Jennifer Connelly (really, what more do you need?).

    I went through a Robert Heinlein period back in the day, and over the years have read about 10-12 of his thirty-odd novels, and a number of the short stories and novellas in his Future History sequence. I don’t read as much sci-fi today but still find him enjoyable at times.

    David Eddings was not one of the greatest or most innovative fantasy novelists, but his books are consistently entertaining.

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    • The Rocketeer was Jennifer Connelly in her prime. That was all I needed. The movies other charms were pure gravy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The other big thing The Rocketeer has going for it is the memorable score by James Horner.

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      • I’m starting to think that Jennifer Connelly’s prime is ongoing, in however way one wants to look at it; to me she’s lost nothing but a babyface & some bad scripts.

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    • Directors fired during filming

      http://www.looper.com/73841/directors-fired-filming/

      George Cukor (Gone With the Wind)

      George Cukor only made it through a few weeks of Gone With the Wind filming before he was fired, despite the fact that he’d already done years of work on the movie. Apparently, it was during the extended pre-production period (he was hired in 1936, while filming began in 1939) that conflicts flared between Cukor and producer David Selznick, with the cost of retaining Cukor growing throughout.

      Just three weeks into filming, those conflicts hit a head, and Cukor and Selznick released a statement saying he was leaving the project. Some reports suggest it boiled down to disagreements between Cukor and Selznick, while others have blamed it on Cukor’s inability to get along with star Clark Gable. Still others say that it was Cukor’s slow, costly directing process that led to the split.

      Some of Cukor’s work remained in the final product, which would actually go on to have two more directors: Victor Fleming took over the project for most of its filming, and Sam Wood replaced Fleming for two weeks when he had to take a break due to exhaustion. The directing credit for the film, along with an Academy Award for Best Director, ultimately went to Fleming.

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  2. Poor Shelley Duvall. My wife watches Dr Phil, so I saw some of his episode featuring her. It was so exploitative it turned my stomach. Here’s hoping Duvall recovers from whatever problems she has. She’s done a lot of good work both as an actress and a producer. Her TV shows have a tendency to show up in WTHH articles which is always appreciated. Who doesn’t love Steve Guttenberg as a cowboy? I know I do.

    George Cukor has an impressive filmography even without Gone With the Wind. I’m a big fan of The Philadelphia Story. I haven’t seen Gaslight in ages, but I remember enjoying it quite a bit.

    I remember Billy Campbell in The Rocketeer. Not a great movie, but one I enjoyed for its simple pleasures. Ringo Starr probably isn’t anyone’s favorite Beatle. But hey, he’s a Beatle all the same. And he’s married to one of my favorite Bond girls to boot.

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  3. Shelley Duvall, I mostly know her from “The Shining”, and “Popeye”, but her “edutainment” video game “Shelley Duvall’s It’s A Bird’s Life” was a pack-n game for the Panasonic 3DO console back in 1994, which I think is a fun fact. I am sorry to hear about her mental struggle, as those are a terrible type of struggle. She seems like a sweet lady though, so I imagine most people are wishing her the best.
    Billy Campbell, yeah, I liked “The Rocketeer” (I’m a Houston Rockets fan too) and I’ve seen 2002’s “Enough”, when his character terrorizes Jennifer Lopez’s character (kind of like “Sleeping With the Enemy” for the 2000’s). Also, he was in that ABC series with Sela Ward, “Once and Again” (which I think was the “Parenthood” of the early 2000’s).
    Cree Summer, I like “A Different World” & I enjoyed her voice work as the character of Max in “Batman Beyond”.
    Ringo Starr, I just added “It Don’t Come Easy” to my playlist #12 on YouTube a week or so ago.
    Lisa Leslie, yeah, she was kind of the face of the WNBA for many years, especially after the Houston Comets (I mentioned Rockets, better mention the former sister team) fell off after 2000 and the league became more wide open when it came to team competition.
    Michelle Kwan, I’m a little bit familiar with her, as I’ve occasionally watched figure skating, mostly when its couples (with the artistry and the music, it does something for my senses).
    Leroy “Satchel” Paige, made his Major League Baseball debut at the age of 42. Heck, I bet he would’ve won a ton of MLB games if he at least could’ve entered “The Show” 12 years earlier; his legend remains intact though.

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