September 15: Happy Birthday Oliver Stone and Agatha Christie


Today is Oliver Stone’s 71st birthday.  He attended Yale for two short periods, then enlisted in the US Army and served in Vietnam.  He eventually graduated from NYU and worked at various jobs while trying to get a start in the film industry.  He directed his first film, Seizure, in 1974, but didn’t really start to become known until winning his first Oscar, for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 1979 film Midnight Express.

Stone then wrote a number of screenplays in the early 1980s, ranging from Scarface to Conan the Barbarian, before having a breakthrough year in 1986.  Salvador, the first of his two films that year, was a critical success, but a box office failure.  It was eclipsed by the partly autobiographical Platoon, which won Best Picture and brought Stone a Best Director Oscar.

For about a decade after that, Stone remained a very important filmmaker, winning a second Best Director honor for Born on the Fourth of July and directing two Best Picture nominees (for that film as well as JFK).  His other notable films from this period include Wall Street, The Doors, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon.  While he has continued making films in the same vein since then, such as Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps or last year’s Snowden, he has done so with much less success than before.

The list of specific authors who have sold more books than Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) contains exactly one name: William Shakespeare.  Born Agatha Miller, she was a voracious reader as a child.  In her early twenties, she married a young officer in the British Royal Flying Corps, Archibald Christie.  During World War One, while her husband served on the Western Front, Agatha served as a volunteer nurse, and also began writing a mystery novel, featuring a Belgian detective who had taken refuge in England due to the war—Hercule Poirot.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920.  Like virtually all of the Poirot canon, it was adapted for television as part of the British series Agatha Christie’s Poirot, starring David Suchet.

While this first novel was well received, Christie really hit the big time with the third Poirot novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in 1926.  Her other most famous fictional sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, was introduced in a short story in 1927 and then was featured in the 1930 novel Murder at the Vicarage.  Although Christie wrote only a dozen Miss Marple novels, compared to over 30 about Poirot, she had very mixed feelings about the Belgian detective, feeling she had created an “insufferable” character; she felt more warmly about Miss Marple.  Over the course of her writing career, she developed, and in some cases invented, many of the standard conventions of mystery fiction, in particular the “cozy” mystery.

Christie’s fiction has been a fruitful source for film, television and stage adaptations.  The Poirot novel Murder on the Orient Express is getting its second big-screen, all-star cast film adaptation, as Kenneth Branagh’s version comes out later this year; a 1974 feature starred Albert Finney as Poirot.  There have been feature films based on a number of her works, and in addition to the Poirot TV series with Suchet, there have been two extended British TV treatments of the Miss Marple stories, the first starring Joan Hickson, the second with first Geraldine McEwen and later Julia McKenzie.

Independent filmmaker Rebecca Miller is the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller.  She has written and directed films like Angela (her debut), The Ballad of Jack and Rose (starring her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis), and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (adapted from her own novel), and wrote the screenplay of Proof, adapted from David Auburn’s Pulitzer winning play.

Danny Nucci, who is 49 today, plays Mike Foster on The FostersJosh Charles, who was a two-time Emmy nominee as Will Gardner on The Good Wife and starred in this year’s The Drowning, is 46 today.  Caterina Murino, who starred in the recent thriller Voice from the Stone and may be remembered for her role in Casino Royale, is 40.  Kate Mansi, who turns 30, recently won a Daytime Emmy for her role on Days of Our Lives.  Also 30 is Christian Cooke, who has had some kind of regular TV role almost every year since about 2008—most of them, however, in relatively short-lived series.  And another 30th birthday celebrant is Romanian-German actress Ingrid Bisu, who had a major role in the high-acclaimed, Oscar nominated (for Best Foreign Language Film) German film Toni Erdmann.

Character actor Henry Silva, known for roles in films ranging from The Manchurian Candidate (original version) to Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, turns 89 today.  Henry Darrow, who is 84, is a Puerto Rican actor (given name Enrique Delgado) who is best known for starring in the Western series The High Chapparal.

Prince Harry of Wales, fifth in line for the succession to the throne of England, turns 33 today.

Dan Marino, who turns 56, is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and a football Hall-of-Famer.  He was the sixth quarterback selected in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft, but over his exceptional career with the Miami Dolphins, he exceeded the accomplishments of four of the five selected prior to him (John Elway being the exception).

Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann turns 88.  He is one of the main contributors to what is called the “Standard Model” of modern particle physics and coined the term “quark” for one of the fundamental building blocks of matter.

French director Jacques Becker (1906-1960) started his film career as an assistant to the great Jean Renoir (also born September 15; he’s in last year’s article), and went on to direct films like the romantic drama Casque d’Or, the crime drama Touchez pas au grisbi, and the prison escape film The Hole.  Comedian and actor Nipsey Russell (1918-2005) would be well known to fans of TV game shows of the sixties and seventies, when he was a frequent panelist; he also appeared in films like The Wiz and WildcatsRobert McCloskey (1914-2003) was an author and illustrator of a variety of children’s books, such as the Caldecott Medal winners Make Way for Ducklings and Time of Wonder.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) was the 27th President of the US, and later served as Chief Justice of the US from 1921-1930; he is the only man in US history to have held both offices.  His father  Alphonso Taft served as Attorney General of the US, a job also held by John N. Mitchell (1913-1988), who held the position during the first years of the Nixon Administration, before resigning to head Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign, and, along with many other close Nixon associates, to be irretrievably enmeshed in the Watergate scandal.

Last year on this date, Tom Hardy and Tommy Lee Jones were our headliners.

Tom Hardy celebrates his 40th.  He is currently the co-creator (with his father, writer Edward “Chips” Hardy) and star of the BBC series Taboo, was part of the cast of Dunkirk, and will appear as the title character in VenomTommy Lee Jones, who is 71, will play major roles in the upcoming films Just Getting Started (just recently retitled; previously known as Villa Capri) and Shock and Awe.

Ron Shelton, who is 72, is the director of Just Getting Started, his first feature in well over a decade and his second time directing Tommy Lee Jones (after Cobb).  Carmen Maura, who is also 72, is busy with a variety of Spanish-language film and television projects.  Dave Annable, who turns 38, appears in the recent horror film Armed Response and in a recurring part on Fox’s The MickChelsea Kane, who is 29, has come to the end of her time as Riley Perrin on Baby Daddy, which aired for the last time in March.  Matt Shively, who turns 27, also lost his TV gig when The Real O’Neals was canceled after one season; he had a small role in Power RangersTom Austen, who like Kane is 29, did not suffer a series cancellation; he will return as Jasper Frost on season 4 of The Royals.  Pete Carroll, who turns 66 as he continues as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, is currently the oldest coach working in the NFL.

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 September 15, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Oliver Stone is not one of my favorite filmmakers, but there’s no denying that he had a really good run from about 1986-1995 or so.

    I enjoy a lot of Agatha Christie’s fiction, mainly the Poirot and Marple books. They aren’t all of the same quality, but there are a dozen or so of them, such as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, and Death on the Nile among the Poirot books, and The Body in the Library, A Murder is Announced, and The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side among the Marple novels, that are of the highest quality.

    Tom Hardy, meanwhile, becomes the latest performer to appear in prominent roles in adaptations from both DC and Marvel comics.


  2. I wish Tom Hardy would stop doing superhero & military / macho stuff. He’s far better than that.

    NB that I cannot decide whether I want him for Bond (at which he’d be superb) or not (it’d limit his opportunities to do interesting stuff in parallel). Obviously he’d make a stunning villain, but if Chris Nolan’s likely to be the new director post-Craig, is that going to happen rather than actually being 007?

    Also: just saw ‘Bronson’ for the first time. Now that is a performance. If you’ve not seen it, get stuck in ASAP.


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