July 25: Happy Birthday Darren Star and Walter Brennan


Television writer and producer Darren Star is turning 56 today.  He studied at UCLA (where he and actress Daphne Zuniga were roommates for a while) and began his screen career writing the screenplay for the late eighties comedy Doin’ Time on Planet Earth.  Just two years later he emerged from obscurity as the creator of a series about a Minnesota family that relocated to Beverly Hills, CA.

Star followed up Beverly Hills, 90210 with another quintessential 1990s series, Melrose PlaceCentral Park West was a misfire, but Star came back in 1998 with the most critically successful of his creations so far, an adaptation of Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City.  Star won an Emmy as a producer on the series, and it brought acting Emmys to stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon, and Golden Globes to Parker and Kim Cattrall.  Star then seemed to have a dry spell, but his most recent series, Younger, starring Sutton Foster, has been doing well and was renewed for a fifth season even before the premiere of its fourth.

Walter Brennan (1894-1974) became the first of only six actors who have won three or more acting Oscars when he won Best Supporting Actor three times from 1936-1940.  In part, he won because of strong support from members of the Union of Film Extras (who were allowed to vote on Oscars through 1941); Brennan spent many years as an extra or bit player before getting substantial parts.  But the extras, of course, weren’t giving Brennan the nominations to begin with.

Brennan spent almost all his career as a character player.  He had a rare lead role in Jean Renoir’s Swamp Water (the French director’s first Hollywood film), and was a memorable villain as Old Man Clanton in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine.  He later starred on TV’s The Real McCoys and The Guns of Will Sonnett.  Some of his best work was done with Howard Hawks.  Hawks directed much of Brennan’s first Oscar-winning appearance in Come and Get It (before being fired late in production by producer Samuel Goldwyn) and also directed Sergeant York, which brought Brennan a fourth Oscar nomination.  Brennan and Hawks reunited for To Have and Have Not, Red River, and Rio Bravo.

Barbara Harris turns 82 today.  She was a three-time Tony nominee in the sixties, winning Best Actress in a Musical for The Apple Tree.  Her film career brought her nominations for an Oscar and three Golden Globes, including one as the aspiring country singer Albuquerque in Nashville.

Miriam Shor, who turns 46, is a regular on Younger as Diana Trout and also is known for her stage and screen performances as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry InchD. B. Woodside celebrates his 48th.  He is a regular on Fox’s Lucifer as Amenadiel and Buffy fans will remember him as Robin Wood from season 7.

Rita Marley, who is turning 71, is the widow of reggae legend Bob Marley, and had a notable reggae career in her own right.  Alto sax player Johnny Hodges (1908-1970) was one of the leading sax players of his generation, known for his long tenure as a soloist with Duke Ellington’s band.

Walter Payton (1954-1999) was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.  The Hall of Famer made nine Pro Bowls, led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory, and at his retirement held a long list of NFL records including most career rushing yards.  Payton developed a rare liver disease in the 1990s and died at the age of only 45.

Jack Gilford (1908-1990) is considered something of a pioneer of monologue-based stand-up comedy.  He was a two-time Tony nominee for his musical theater work and a Best Supporting Actor nominee for the 1973 film Save the TigerWoody Strode (1914-1994) was a Golden Globe nominee as the gladiator Draba in Spartacus.  He also starred in John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge and had a major role in Richard Brooks’s The Professionals.

Cheryl Crane, who is 74 today, became a tiny piece of Hollywood history when she was a teenager.  The daughter of actress Lana Turner, in 1958 she stabbed mobster Johnny Stompanato, Turner’s lover at the time, to death; it was ruled a justifiable homicide as she was protecting her mother.  Crane became a writer and a real estate agent.  Emmett Till (1941-1955) was one of the earliest martyrs of the civil rights movement when the Chicago-born teen was lynched while visiting relatives in Mississippi, for the “crime” of flirting with a white woman.

On July 25 last year, Matt LeBlanc and Ileana Douglas were the headliners.

Matt LeBlanc celebrates his 50th.  He is the star of CBS’s Man with a Plan, which will return this fall for a second season.  He will also be seen in the fifth season of Showtime’s Episodes, which returns in August after a hiatus since 2015.  LeBlanc, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, has received four Emmy nominations for the series.

Ileana Douglas, who is 52, had a supporting role in Kevin Pollak’s The Late Bloomer, which was out last fall.  James Lafferty, who turns 32, has been doing some directing lately, with three episodes of The Royals to his credit.  Lafferty’s One Tree Hill costar Shantel VanSanten, who shares his birthday, is a regular on USA Network’s Shooter as Julie Swagger.  Michael Welch, who is 30, was seen in the thriller M.F.A., which premiered at South by Southwest this spring.  Geoffrey Zakarian, who currently hosts Cooks vs. Cons, is 58 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.


Posted on July 25, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. A very light day for celebrity birthdays. For a little while I was thinking in terms of a “Walter and Walter” headline with Brennan and Payton until I found that it is Darren Star’s birthday. Nineties television would not have been the same without him.

    Walter Brennan was in several of my favorite films; besides those mentioned in the article he was in Pride of the Yankees, Bad Day at Black Rock, and Support Your Local Sheriff!

    Barbara Harris I know mostly from her appearance in Nashville, but she had a good Broadway career and was also starred with Jodie Foster in the original version of Freaky Friday.

    Cheryl Crane—imagine if something like her case happened today. Would we ever hear the end of it?


  2. I have never watched Darren Star’s output, but Mindy is a big Sex and the City fan. I’ve never been a big Western fan either, but I know Walter Brennan from To Have and Have Not.

    Just as you said I would, I know D. B. Woodside from Buffy.

    On the way into work this morning, I heard that it was Matt LeBlanc’s birthday on the radio and I wondered “Will he be a headliner today? Did I use him last year?” Turns out the answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’. I haven’t watched Episodes, but I saw a commercial the other day while watching Twin Peaks. It looked really funny. I’m going to have to check it out before I let my subscription expire. See, Showtime. Your gamble on Twin Peaks is paying off.

    Ileana Douglas is one of those supporting players I am always happy to see. It’s a small part, but I really enjoyed her in To Die For. Great ending.


  3. Darren Star, after “Beverly Hills, 90210”, “Melrose Place”, and “Sex in the City”, I bet his legacy was pretty secure. I’ve heard that “Younger” show was renewed; guess it’s really popular.
    Barbra Harris, other than “Nashville”, I’ve also seen her in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Family Plot”, the original “Freaky Friday” (don’t mind the remake though), and “Peggy Sue Got Married”.
    Walter Payton, I remember that after he passed away in 1999 the Bears won the very next game they played: it was against the Green Bay Packers & victory was secured when defensive tackle Bryan Robinson blocked a Packer field goal. Payton was clearly gone too soon; so cruel that a physically fit guy like him wasted away like that.
    Matt Leblanc, did I mention last year the music video “Popular” by the band Nada Surf that Leblanc was in? I didn’t really watch “friends” at the time, so that was my first exposure to him.
    Ileana Douglas, like performers such as Ronny Cox, Judy Greer, and Dan Hedaya, I’m always glad to see Douglas in something I’m viewing, like her role in “Ghost World” (Ghost World is awesome, excellent, but NOT party time).


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