October 15: Happy Birthday Mira Nair and Evan Hunter
Indian-born filmmaker Mira Nair celebrates her 60th birthday today. While studying at Harvard, she became involved in the university’s theater program, and made a documentary film as her master’s thesis. She made three additional documentaries during the 1980s, before making her first narrative feature, Salaam Bombay!, in 1988. It won the Golden Camera at Cannes and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTA Awards. Nair’s next feature, Mississippi Masala, set largely in Mississippi and dealing with an interracial romance, won a number of film festival honors and was nominated for an Independent Spirit award for Best Feature.
Nair’s subsequent features include Monsoon Wedding, which won the Golden Lion at Venice and was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA honors for Best Foreign Language Film. She then made the HBO movie Hysterical Blindness, for which Uma Thurman won a Golden Globe, while Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands won Emmys. Her adaptation of Vanity Fair and her biopic Amelia (starring Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart) were not as well received, but her latest feature, last year’s Queen of Katwe, received a very positive critical response.
Our second headliner today was born Salvatore Gombino, and published the largest body of his work under the name of Ed McBain, but the name he legally adopted when he was in his mid-twenties was Evan Hunter (1926-2005). He began writing while serving in the Navy during World War II, and after the war he studied at Hunter College and then taught high school briefly. That experience became the basis for his first well-known novel, The Blackboard Jungle, published in 1954 and adapted into film a year later.
Hunter’s largest body of fiction was the 87th Precinct series, published using his Ed McBain pen name, and consisting of over fifty police procedural novels set in a fictionalized version of Manhattan. The first, Cop Hater, was published in 1956, and Hunter continued writing them until his death.
Hunter also had some success as a screenwriter. His most notable screenplay, and the work that people who aren’t major readers of crime fiction are likeliest to recognize, was for a horror-thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Media magnate Haim Saban is 73 today. He is the founder of Saban Entertainment, known for the Power Rangers franchise and other adaptations of Japanese tokusatsu programming. Director and producer Warren Miller turns 93. He is known for the long series of feature-length skiing documentaries that he began making annually in 1950. Independent filmmaker Todd Solondz, who turns 58, is known for films such as Welcome to the Dollhouse, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1995, and Happiness, which brought him a Golden Globe nomination for screenwriting.
Götz Otto, who turns 50, is a popular German film and television actor who is probably best known to American audiences for his role as the villainous henchman Mr. Stamper in Tomorrow Never Dies. Indian actor Ali Fazal, who recently starred opposite Judi Dench in Stephen Frears’s Victoria & Abdul, is 31 today. Veteran character actor John Getz, who is 71 today, is known for roles in films like Blood Simple, the Coen Brothers’ debut.
Boxer John L. Sullivan (1858-1918), known as the “Boston Strong Boy,” was the last world’s heavyweight champion of the bare-knuckle boxing era. By the time he lost his title to Gentleman Jim Corbett in 1892, boxing gloves had arrived to stay. Ward Bond played Sullivan in the movie Gentleman Jim, opposite Errol Flynn as Corbett.
We have several birthdays in the world of the written word today, including two prominent public intellectuals and a science fiction author. But foremost is Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), one of the most significant philosophers of the 19th century, known for ideas such as the “Appolonian and Dionysian” dichotomy, the concept of the “Übermensch,” and the idea of “master-slave morality”—just to name a few. John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) wrote a number of bestselling books on economics, and served during the Kennedy Administration as US Ambassador to India. Another Kennedy Administration figure was historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007), who won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House; he previously won a Pulitzer for History for The Age of Jackson. Walter Jon Williams, who celebrates his 64th, is a Nebula Award winner for his novella The Green Leopard Plague, and has received a number of Hugo and Nebula nominations for his other works.
Last year, we had a pair of famous television names as headliners, Linda Lavin and Penny Marshall.
Linda Lavin, who turns 80, continues to work in film and television; she is a regular on the new CBS series 9JKL, and had a supporting role in How to Be a Latin Lover. Penny Marshall, who was last seen as a guest star on The Odd Couple last fall, is turning 74.
Larry Miller celebrates his 64th; he appeared recently in the web series High School Cupid. Director Michael Caton-Jones, whose latest project is the upcoming film Archer, is turning 60. Vanessa Marcil turns 49; her latest projects have been TV movies for Lifetime and Hallmark Channels. Dominic West continues to star on Showtime’s The Affair as he celebrates his 48th; he will also appear in the upcoming Tomb Raider as Lord Richard Croft. Voice actor Vincent Martella, who is 25, is currently working on Disney XD’s Milo Murphy’s Law. Bailee Madison is still starring on Hallmark’s Good Witch and also starred in the family film A Cowgirl’s Story. Keyshia Cole turns 36; her seventh studio album, 11:11 Reset, is scheduled for release later this month.
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.