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August 12: Happy Birthday Pat Metheny and Sam Fuller

0812Pat-Metheny

We have had a number of greats of rock guitar as headliners in the past 12 months, so how about a jazz guitar legend.

Pat Metheny, who turns 63 today, grew up in Kansas City, and began to play guitar at 13.  By the time he was in his late teens, he was teaching music at the college level.  He began appearing on other musicians’ jazz albums around 1974 and released his debut album, Bright Size Life in 1976.  A year later Metheny got together with keyboardist Lyle Mays and a few other musicians to form the Pat Metheny Group; Metheny’s subsequent recording and performing career includes records released both under the Group’s name and his own.

Metheny has won 20 Grammys in his career; among winners who are exclusively or primarily jazz musicians, only Chick Corea has won more.  His wins have come in ten different categories, a Grammys record.  When someone has been recording for over 40 years, picking a single song to represent them is usually near to impossible.  However, this track, off of his first Grammy-winning album, is frequently mentioned as among his best:

Now, let’s add a legendary director.

0812Sam-Fuller

Sam Fuller (1912-1997) became a crime reporter for a tabloid newspaper called the New York Evening Graphic when he was just 17.  He began writing screenplays in the mid-1930s, and in World War Two he served with the First Infantry Division of the US Army, aka “The Big Red One.”  He returned to working in film after the war, and in 1949 directed his first feature, I Shot Jesse James.

During the fifties and early sixties, Fuller directed a little over a movie a year.  While few if any of them were hailed as classics on release, but his reputation has grown over time; the embrace of many of his films by leading figures in the French New Wave played a part in this.  At first glance, he was just making genre films—war movies, westerns, crime thrillers—but they had layers of complexity.  The crime films House of Bamboo and The Crimson Kimono, for instance, both had positive, sympathetic depictions of interracial romances.  In the espionage-oriented film noir Pickup on South Street, Fuller’s sympathies are with the socially marginal protagonists, rather than the often ruthless forces of law and order—an atypical viewpoint at the height of the Cold War.

For many years Fuller sought to make a movie based on his World War Two experiences.  He was finally able to do so at the end of the 1970s.  The Big Red One was not a financial success, but was well-received critically at its initial release, while a restored version that was prepared early in the 2000s has enhanced its reputation even further.

Dominique Swain, who celebrates her 37th, had high profile roles in the late 1990s as Jamie Archer in Face/Off and the title character in Adrian Lyne’s adaptation of Lolita.  Since then she has focused on indie films, often very obscure, although she did appear in Monte Hellman’s Road to Nowhere in 2010.  Rebecca Gayheart, who is 46, also had some prominence in the late nineties, thanks to a guest spot on Beverly Hills, 90210, and major roles in films like Urban Legend and Jawbreaker.  But her career fizzled out; a 2001 conviction for vehicular manslaughter probably did not help.

Sam J. Jones, who turns 63, is best known for his supporting role in 10 and for playing the title role in the 1980 feature film version of Flash GordonJim Beaver, who is 67 today, was a regular on Deadwood and a recurring character on Supernatural and Justified.  Yvette Nicole Brown, who starred as Shirley Bennett on Community, is 46 today.  Also celebrating birthday number 46 is comedian and actor Michael Ian Black, who is currently a regular on Comedy Central’s Another PeriodNatalie Mendoza is known for playing Juno Kaplan in The Descent and The Descent Part 2; she also was cast as Arachne in the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, but had to leave the show when she was injured during previews.  Mendoza turns 39.  LaKeith Stanfield (often billed as Keith Stanfield), who is 26, has been making a name for himself with roles in films like Short Term 12 and Selma and a regular role on FX’s Atlanta.

Pete Sampras, one of the top tennis stars of the 1990s, turns 46 today.  Sampras won 14 Grand Slam singles finals, a record at the time he retired, and was the year-end #1 player in the world six consecutive years, from 1993-1998.  Parnelli Jones, who turns 84, was a leading racing driver in the 1960s, the winner of the 1963 Indianapolis 500.  After he retired as a driver, he formed his own racing team; Al Unser drove his cars to victories at the Indianapolis 500 in 1970 and 1971.

John Derek (1926-1998) is probably a recognizable name today because he was Bo Derek’s husband, but he was a busy actor in the 1950s—mostly in second-tier films, although he played Joshua in The Ten Commandments.  Mario Moreno, usually known as Cantinflas (1911-1993), was a Mexican comic actor sometimes called “the Charlie Chaplin of Mexico.”  He also made a few Hollywood films, winning a Golden Globe as Passepartout in Around the World in 80 DaysTedd Pierce (1906-1972) was a prominent figure in animation, notably as a member of the Termite Terrace crew at Warner Brothers.  He worked primarily as a writer, frequently although not always working with director Robert McKimson; he also did a little bit of voice acting for some of the Warner’s cartoons.

King George IV of England (1762-1830) reigned for the last ten years of his life, but for a decade before that he served as Prince Regent for his mentally ill father, George III.  The “Regency” era of English history technically applies to that decade, but in cultural terms is usually said to cover the period from the final years of George III’s actual rule through the death of George IV’s younger brother and heir William IV.  Guy Gibson (1918-1944) served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.  He won the Victoria Cross for leading the famous Dam Busters raid of 1943; when the story of the raid was told in film in 1955, Gibson was played by Richard Todd.

On August 12 of last year, our headliners were Casey Affleck and Cecil B. DeMille.

As he turns 42, Casey Affleck can look back on 12 months during which he starred in Manchester by the Sea, winning the Oscar for Best Actor, as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA Award honors in the same category.  Earlier this year he starred in the supernatural drama A Ghost Story, which had a very positive critical reception.

Mark Knopfler is 68.  He is currently at work on a new studio album, and his latest project was collaborating with Dame Evelyn Glennie on the score for AltamiraGeorge Hamilton, who is 78, will appear in the upcoming comedy SwipedBruce Greenwood, who celebrates his 61st, will appear in two upcoming films about historical events of the early 1970s, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House and The PapersMaggie Lawson, who later this year will return to the role of Jules O’Hara in Psych: The Movie, is turning 37.  Leah Pipes, who is 29, is no longer a regular on The Originals but made at least one guest appearance during the show’s recently completed 4th season.  Cara Delevingne, recently seen in Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is 25.

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 August 12, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I like quite a few of Sam Fuller’s films, especially Pickup on South Street and The Big Red One. Kind of like Walter HIll, he is almost never boring.

    An interesting Sam Fuller story: If you watch enough of his films, you will notice a lot of characters named “Griff.” Mark Hamill’s character in The Big Red One, for instance. They are all named in honor of a soldier from Fuller’s World War 2 unit of that name, who lost both arms and legs to a land mine. Fuller visited Griff in a military hospital at the end of the war and writes in his memoir about the man’s “invincible spirit.”

    Any browncoats among today’s readers probably know that Rebecca Gayheart was initially cast as Inara on Firefly. However, she was let go after only a day of filming; Joss Whedon felt she did not have chemistry with the rest of the cast. And so Morena Baccarin started on the path that led to her being a birthday headliner earlier this year. 🙂

    As I note above, Guy Gibson’s exploits during World War 2 were portrayed in film in the movie The Dam Busters. The battle sequences for that movie, in turn, were one of the sources George Lucas drew inspiration from for the trench attack sequence in Star Wars.

    Like

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