October 9: Happy Birthday Guillermo del Toro and PJ Harvey


Guillermo del Toro is turning 53 today.  He began making homemade shorts with a Super 8 camera as a child.  He made two shorts in his early twenties and worked as a makeup artist on several Mexican films before making his first feature in 1993, a horror film titled Cronos that received critical praise and was his first time working with actor Ron Perlman.  Like many of his subsequent films it had some kind of fantasy/sci-fi element, as did his first Hollywood film, Mimic.

Del Toro has not been a hitmaker as a director; his biggest commercial success was probably Blade II, which of all his directing efforts was likely the one over which he had the least creative control.  However, almost all of his films since the turn of the century have received positive critical responses.  He has made two films in Spain, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, the latter of which won three Oscars out of six nominations.  His American productions include Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, the upcoming The Shape of Water, and the two Hellboy films.

For the second time in three days we feature a major figure in alt-rock in the headline; Polly Jean “PJ” Harvey is turning 48.  She grew up in Dorset, in southern England, and by her late teens had learned several instruments and played with a number of ensembles.  She formed the PJ Harvey Trio in the early nineties; they released two albums, the first on a independent label, the second with Island Records.  Harvey then released her first full solo album, To Bring You My Love, in 1995; it was a moderate commercial success and included one track that became her biggest hit single in the US (it reached #2 on the Alternative Music chart), and also brought her her first Grammy nomination.

While Harvey has not had continued commercial success in the US, she has had a number of successful albums and charted singles in the UK.  Her 2001 album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea won the Mercury Prize from the UK and Ireland, and was nominated for the Grammy for Best Rock Album (she has seven Grammy nominations in total).  A decade later, she became the only two-time winner of the Mercury Prize for her album Let England Shake.  She has contributed to a long list of film soundtracks, and made her screen debut in Hal Hartley’s The Book of Life.

Spencer Grammer (daughter of Kelsey) turns 34 today.  She starred on ABC Family’s Greek, is one of the main voice actors on the animated series Rick and Morty, and joins the cast of Epix’s Graves for season 2.  Tyler James Williams, who is 25, played the title character of Everybody Hates Chris and was recently a regular on Criminal Minds: Beyond BordersDana Wheeler-Nicholson, who starred in Fletch with Chevy Chase and played Mattie Earp in Tombstone, is turning 57.

The late Tony Booth (1931-2017) was best known for his work in British television, notably for starring as Mike Rawlins on the BBC’s Till Death Us Do Part, the series that inspired All in the Family; Booth’s character was the counterpart to Mike “Meathead” Stivic.

Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Sewell (1898-1990) starred at shortstop for over a decade with the Indians and the Yankees and played for two World Series winners.  He was a good player overall; what was distinctive about him is that he struck out less often than any other player in the live ball era.  Mike Singletary, who turns 59 today, made the NFL Hall of Fame after a career where he starred at middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears for over a decade, made ten Pro Bowls, and led them to a Super Bowl win in 1986.

One of the most famous, or infamous if you prefer, cases of false accusation in history was that of Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935).  The French army officer was accused of treason in 1894, convicted on flimsy evidence, and spent years in prison before his exoneration.  The Dreyfus Affair divided people in France for over a decade.  E. Howard Hunt (1918-2007) was a CIA officer for over 20 years, but his biggest role in history was as one of the heads of the Nixon Administrations “plumbers,” who among other things executed the Watergate break-in that set off the chain of events forcing Nixon from office.  A better historical reputation will surely be enjoyed by Jody Williams, who is 67 today.  She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her role as the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

In the world of arts and letters, birthdays today include the composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921).  He is known for his tone poem Danse Macabre (which Buffy fans would recognize from the episode “Hush”), his concertos for piano, violin and cello, his composition for orchestra and pianos titled Carnival of the Animals, and his Symphony No. 3, the “Organ” Symphony.

Also in the “arts and letters” category is Bruce Catton (1899-1978).  Catton had a long career as a reporter and then as the editor of American Heritage, but is best known for a dozen or so books about the American Civil War.  The third volume of his Army of the Potomac trilogy, A Stillness at Appomattox, won the Pulitzer Prize for History.

On October 9 of last year, our headliners were director Steve McQueen and John Lennon.

Steve McQueen (the director) is 48 today.  His latest project, and his first since his Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave, is a heist movie/thriller titled Widows, which has a screenplay which McQueen co-wrote with novelist Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame.

Scott Bakula, who celebrates his 63rd, continues to star on NCIS: New Orleans and will star with Brie Larson in the upcoming Basmati BluesTony Shalhoub, who is 64, had a major role in The Assignment and is also seen in the recent release Final PortraitBrian Blessed is still working at 81; he appears in the December release Dark Ascension.  Onetime Superman Brandon Routh, who is celebrating his 38th, stars on Legends of Tomorrow as Ray Palmer/The Atom.  Also 38 is Chris O’Dowd, who has appeared in several films this year, including Love After Love and the upcoming Molly’s GameJodelle Ferland is 23; she recently finished the third and final season of Syfy’s Dark Matter.

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 October 9, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: