August 1: Happy Birthday Sam Mendes and Dom DeLuise


Stage and film director Sam Mendes is turning 52 today.  He was involved in the Marlowe Society while studying at Cambridge, and made his West End directing debut at the age of 24, with a revival of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (the cast included Judi Dench).  He is known for his revivals of plays in the standard repertoire, such as the 1995 production of The Glass Menagerie which brought him his first of three Olivier Awards for directing.  He also has a reputation for innovative stagings of classic musicals, such as the 1994 revival of Oliver!, for which Lionel Bart (see below) contributed new music and lyrics.

In 1999, Mendes had a major success with his film directing debut, as American Beauty won several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Mendes, and Best Actor for Kevin Spacey.

Mendes went on to direct four critically successful films during the 2000s.  They included Road to Perdition, which was nominated for six Oscars, and Revolutionary Road, known for reuniting Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on screen.  In 2010 Mendes was announced as the director of the 23rd James Bond film.  Skyfall was a huge success when it came out in 2012, and received five Oscar nominations; probably as a result, Mendes became the first director since John Glen to helm two consecutive Bond films with 2015’s Spectre.  Both films have received extensive coverage at this blog; you could start here and here.

Dom DeLuise (1933-2009) was a well-known name for many years, although never a major star.  His projects ranged from authoring several books on cooking, to appearing regularly at the Met in productions of Johann Strauss II’s operetta Die Fledermaus, as the non-singing character of Frosche the jailer.  He did quite a bit of voice acting, in films like All Dogs Go to Heaven and An American Tail.  His live-action film roles included playing Bernie, a talent agent who “discovers” a singing frog in The Muppet Movie, and several films with his good friend Burt Reynolds, including two appearances as Victor Prinzi/Captain Chaos in the Cannonball Run movies.

DeLuise appeared regularly in Mel Brooks’s movies.  He was one of the stars of Silent Movie, but was seen more often in cameo roles.  He played Don Giovanni in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and voiced Pizza the Hutt in Spaceballs, and appeared as director Buddy Bizarre in Blazing Saddles.

Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega turns 44.  He has made several ventures into English-language cinema, including the 2008 films Vantage Point and Transsiberian, and as the villain in The Last Stand.  In Spain he is known for his films with directors such as Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Amenábar, especially the latter’s Open Your Eyes, remade in the US as Vanilla Sky.  Mexican actor Demián Bichir is ten years Noriega’s senior.  After a lengthy career in Mexican film, he began working with American filmmakers in the last decade.  He was a Best Actor nominee for A Better Life, played Bob in The Hateful Eight, and was seen as Sergeant Lope in Alien: Covenant earlier this year.

Jack O’Connell, who is turning 27, built a reputation playing troubled, often violent youths in English film and television, in films like This is England and on the teen drama Skins.  He received a BAFTA Rising Star Award for starring in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, appeared last year in Money Monster, and will play a major role in HHhH.

John Carroll Lynch, who turns 54, played Norm Gunderson in Fargo, was the recurring character of Steve Carey on The Drew Carey Show, and was in the season 4 and 5 casts of American Horror StoryKris Holden-Ried, who celebrates his 44th, is best known for his starring role on the Canadian supernatural series Lost Girl.  English actress Honeysuckle Weeks, known for her long tenure as Samantha Stewart on Foyle’s War, is 38 today.  Terry Kiser, who played Bernie Lomax in the Weekend at Bernie’s films, is 78 today.

Our music birthdays include two men with the surname Elliott.  Joe Elliott, who is 58 today, has been the lead singer of the rock band Def Leppard since their founding in 1977 and also sings for the David Bowie tribute band the Cybernauts.  Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, one of the first of “Woody’s children,” the folk musicians influenced by Woody Guthrie, is 86.  He is the subject of the documentary The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack, directed by his daughter Aiyana.  Canadian musician Tim Bachman, who is 66, was one of the Bachmans of the rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

English songwriter Lionel Bart (1930-1999) is best known for writing the music, lyrics, and book for the hit musical Oliver!.  After its success in London, Oliver! was the first modern British musical to succeed on Broadway, and was then adapted into a 1968 film.  Bart won a Tony for Best Original Score for the Broadway production, while the film won Best Picture and several other Oscars.

Edgerrin James, who is 39, was one of the best running backs in the NFL for nearly a decade and made five Pro Bowls, before injuries forced him to retire at 31.  Jack Kramer (1921-2009) was a leading tennis star of the forties and fifties, and after his retirement from play became a major administrator in the sport, one of the architects of the modern “open era” of tennis.

English director J. Lee Thompson (1914-2002) built his reputation in the fifties, with films like Tiger Bay and North West Frontier, and then made the international success The Guns of Navarone (receiving a Best Director nomination) and the original version of Cape Fear.

James Bond fans will remember the multi-talented Geoffrey Holder (1930-2014) as Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die.  He was also a dancer with the Met for several years and a choreographer known for his work with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.  He won Tonys for direction and costume design for the musical The Wiz, and to cap things off was a talented painter.

Arthur Hill (1922-2006) had a significant Broadway career in the fifties and sixties, highlighted by a Tony for starring in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  He appeared in films such as The Andromeda Strain and The Killer Elite, and starred as the title character of TV’s Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law.

William B. Travis (1809-1836) has several places in Texas named after him, because of his role as the commander of the garrison that defended the Alamo in the Texas Revolution.  Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) was the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer; in 1847 she was the first to discover a comet that now bears her name.

On this date last year, we had Coolio and Jason Momoa as headliners.

Coolio is turning 54 today.  You may know of his rap career, but perhaps you don’t know that like one of today’s headliners, he is also interested in cooking and hosted the web series Cookin’ with CoolioJason Momoa turns 38 as his first non-cameo appearance as Aquaman, in Justice League, is only a few months off, and will be followed by the character’s 2018 solo film.

Max Carver turns 29.  Although he and brother Charlie are twins, they were born on separate days—Charlie born a few minutes before midnight on July 31, Max just enough later that it was now August 1.  Max will join Charlie in Casey Wilder Mott’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing Snout the tinker.  Tempestt Bledsoe has not been active since she had a guest role on Instant Mom in 2014; however, on her 44th birthday, we might note that Jason Momoa is married to her TV sister Lisa Bonet.  Chuck D is turning 57; last year he joined the rap-rock supergroup Prophets of Rage.

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 August 1, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Happy Birthday Dom DeLuise

    An actor named Dom DeLuise
    Both at home and in lands overseas
    Was well known for his mirth,
    And his prominent girth,
    ‘Til succumbing to kidney disease

    After college Dom landed a role
    In a play that was meant to be droll
    But it failed to delight
    Lasting only one night
    Falling woefully short of its goal

    But the critics adored DeLuise
    For the timing and high expertise
    That belied his young age
    When he stood on the stage
    And performed with the greatest of ease

    DeLuise later lived L.A.
    In the seventies, earning his pay
    Playing roles on TV
    In exchange for a fee
    And in movies, like Sheila MacRae

    In ‘The End’ and in ‘Cannonball Run’
    Dom was seen with Burt Reynolds, his chum
    They were great as a team
    Dom stole many a scene
    As a funny, fat son of a gun

    Dom was cast by Mel Brooks in a farce
    To cash in on his comedy smarts
    ‘Blazing Saddles’ is one
    That is counted among
    His best films as the sum of its parts

    In ‘The Godson’ he played the Oddfather
    In a movie that spoofed The Godfather
    It’s a film that was not
    Quite the cream of the crop
    Rodney Dangerfield played the Rodfather

    On The Dean Martin Roast he appeared
    Where he totally charmed and endeared
    In prime time every week
    Where his comic technique
    Served him well on the path that he steered

    So let’s wish Happy Birthday to Dom
    Who emerged from the womb of his Mom
    In the Empire State
    Long ago on this date
    When he still could fit in to a thong


  2. I am a bit dubious in general about the recent practice of bringing in auteur-type directors to do James Bond films, but Sam Mendes worked out pretty well.

    Dom DeLuise seems to have been hard to cast effectively in film, but he was one of the greats when it comes to memorable cameos.

    Jack O’Connell seems to be someone worth keeping an eye on; he’s been doing some interesting work and looks like he might have a chance to break through as a major star.

    Like many of the cast of Live and Let Die, Geoffrey Holder was a very talented performer who was trapped by a script that, to say the least, comes across as very, very dated today. Like Dom DeLuise, he was a man of a great many talents.


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