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October 1: Happy Birthday George Peppard and Walter Matthau

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George Peppard (1928-1994) was studying engineering at Purdue when he became involved in a campus theater group.  He then transferred to and graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, performed at the Pittsburgh Playhouse while completing his degree, and studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York.  He made his Broadway debut in 1956, and his feature film debut a year later in The Strange One.  He then landed major roles in Pork Chop Hill and Home from the Hill, before appearing in his most famous film role in 1961.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s launched Peppard into a brief period as a major star.  He was part of the ensemble cast of How the West was Won, starred in an adaptation of Harold Robbins’ The Carpetbaggers (a big hit), and played a variety of tough military types in films like Operation Crossbow and Tobruk.

By the late sixties Peppard’s star was fading; the actor’s alcoholism may have been a factor.  He starred as the title character of NBC’s Banacek for two seasons in the early seventies, but for several years after than, his only memorable roles were in a couple of films with cult classic credibility, Damnation Alley and Battle Beyond the Stars (as Space Cowboy).  He rebounded in the 1980s, starring as Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, who loved it when a plan came together on The A-Team.

Walter Matthau (1920-2000) became interested in acting while serving in the Air Force in World War II.  He made his Broadway debut in 1948, and for many years was best known as a stage actor.  He was a two-time Tony winner, for A Shot in the Dark and, in his most famous stage role, in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple as Oscar Madison.  He began working in film in the fifties, but didn’t become well known for his film work until he won Best Supporting Actor for the 1965 film The Fortune Cookie, also his first time starring alongside Jack Lemmon.  The two re-teamed for the 1968 feature version of The Odd Couple.

During the 1970s, Matthau, while not a conventional leading man, was a pretty major star, appearing in a wide variety of films.  He appeared in crime thrillers like Charley Varrick and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and was a grumpy Little League coach in The Bad News Bears.  He appeared in two more Neil Simon adaptations, Plaza Suite and California Suite, and worked with Lemmon again on Kotch and a remake of The Front Page.  Between 1966 and 1981 he was nominated eight times for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy; one of those was for the 1980 espionage film Hopscotch.

Matthau had a bit of a dry spell in the 1980s, but in the nineties he came back.  He and Lemmon teamed several times during the decade, notably for Grumpy Old Men and its sequel.  Matthau also played Albert Einstein in I.Q. and starred in a series of TV movies about small-town lawyer Harmon J. Cobb.

Esai Morales, who is currently a regular on Netflix’s Ozark, is turning 55 today.  Katie Aselton, who celebrates her 39th, is currently seen on FX as a regular on LegionJosh Brener, who is turning 33, plays Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti on Silicon ValleyStella Stevens, who is 79, worked in film and television for around fifty years.  She is known for starring in films like the original version of The Nutty Professor and The Ballad of Cable Hogue.

French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud is 74 today.  He is a five-time Cesar Award winner as a producer and director.  He has frequently worked in English-language cinema; many readers might know films of his like Quest for Fire, The Name of the Rose, or Enemy at the Gates.

Grete Waitz (1953-2011) was probably the first really famous women’s marathoner.  She won the New York City Marathon nine times in the years 1978-1988, broke the world record four times, and was a silver medalist at the 1984 Olympics.  Ernest Haycox (1899-1950) was one of the leading authors of Western fiction in his day.  He wrote over 20 novels and dozens of short stories.  Many of them were adapted to film; in 1939 he could have seen two hit Westerns adapted from his fiction—Stagecoach (from his short story “Stage to Lordsburg”), and Union Pacific (from his novel Trouble Shooter).  Bonnie Parker (1910-1934) and her partner in crime Clyde Barrow were small-time criminals, for the most part, but because of the press attention that they received in the early 1930s, they have become at least somewhat legendary.  Parker has been played in film, most famously by Faye Dunaway, on television by actresses such as Holliday Grainger, and on stage, by Laura Osnes in the musical Bonnie & Clyde.

On October 1 of last year, Oscar-winners Julie Andrews and Brie Larson were our headliners.

Dame Julie Andrews is turning 82.  She is the creator and star of the educational children’s series Julie’s Greenroom, which was released by Netflix earlier this year; she was also a voice actor for Despicable Me 3Brie Larson celebrates her 28th today.  Although her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Captain Marvel will not take place until 2019, she is keeping busy.  So far this year, she has starred in Kong: Skull Island, The Glass Castle, and Unicorn Store, which screened recently at Toronto and is also her feature film directing debut.  She is also starring in the upcoming Basmati Blues, and in an Amazon Studios biopic of Victoria Woodhull.

Sarah Drew, who is 37, continues to star as April Kepner on Grey’s AnatomyZach Galifianakis turns 48.  He appeared in this year’s Tulip Fever and will be seen in A Wrinkle in Time next March, while also continuing to host Between Two Ferns with Zach GalifianakisJurnee Smollett-Bell, who recently finished the second and final season of Underground, turns 31.  Rupert Friend is 36; he will not be returning to season 7 of Homeland, his character having been killed off.  He appears in The Death of Stalin, another film recently screened at Toronto.  Marielle Heller’s latest project is the upcoming film Can You Ever Forgive Me?  The director turns 38 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.

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