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December 24: Happy Birthday Nicholas Meyer and Michael Curtiz

1224MeyerCurtiz

Nicholas Meyer was born on this date in 1945.  He attended the University of Iowa, where he studied theater and film and contributed to the student newspaper.  His first screenplay, Invasion of the Bee Girls, was filmed in 1973.  But it was a year later that Meyer first became well known—as a novelist.  His Sherlock Holmes pastiche, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution—a tale of Dr. Watson securing the aid of Sigmund Freud to cure Holmes of his cocaine addiction—became a bestseller.  Meyer subsequently wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay of the film adaptation, and wrote two sequel novels, The West End Horror and The Canary Trainer.  In 1979, Meyer made his directing debut (as well as writing the screenplay) with the time travel sci-fi film Time After Time.

In 1982, Meyer commenced what is certainly the most significant contribution he has made to popular culture, when he was hired as the director for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  He also wrote the film’s shooting script, although he did not receive a writing credit.  He went on to co-write the screenplay for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and then directed and co-wrote Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Many readers of this blog would probably agree that they are the three best Star Trek films ever made.

Meyer has keep fairly busy in the last 25 years or so.  He’s done a fair amount of screenwriting—screenplays for films like Sommersby, The Human Stain, along with script doctoring (including working on Tomorrow Never Dies).  He’s been involved in a variety of TV movies and miniseries, as either a director, writer or producer, including the Emmy-nominated miniseries The Odyssey.  Recently he has returned to involvement with Star Trek, as a consulting producer on Star Trek: Discovery.

Michael Curtiz (1888-1962) was born in Budapest when it was still part of the Habsburg Empire.  After graduating from college, he began working in Hungarian theater.  In 1912, he directed his first feature films (and also was a fencer on the Hungarian Olympic team).  In the next 14 years he directed dozens of features, first in Hungary and then relocating to Vienna.  In 1926, Jack and Harry Warner were impressed by his biblical epic Moon of Israel, and signed him to a contract to direct for Warner Brothers, where he would remain until 1954.

Curtiz directed 80 or more features in his time at Warner’s, so obviously we can only hit the high points here.  His most productive period begins in 1935, when he directed a movie that was a breakthrough film for two of the studio’s biggest stars, Errol Flynn and Olivia de HavillandCaptain Blood.  In the next decade and change, he directed a Best Picture winner, Casablanca, and directed Oscar-winning performances by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce.  He directed Cagney’s Angels With Dirty Faces and Edward G. Robinson in Kid Galahad and The Sea Wolf.  And he was at the helm of many of Flynn’s most famous films, including Dodge City, The Sea Hawk, and of course The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Curtiz’s career declined beginning in the late 1940s, as did the classic studio system; his considerable talents seemed to be best suited for the structure of the studio.  Even in his final days at Warner’s, he began making films with his own production company, which did not always go well, although he had a few successes, like 1954’s White Christmas.  He continued working until close to his death; on his final film, The Comancheros, he was ill during production periodically, so John Wayne, who was starring in the film, stepped in to cover for him.

Director Gavin O’Connor, who turns 54 today, first became known in 1999 for the well-received indie film Tumbleweeds.  In recent years, he has directed films like the martial arts drama Warrior, the Western Jane Got a Gun, and the thriller The Accountant.  He has been announced as the director of a sequel to Suicide Squad.  Danish actor Thure Lindhardt turns 43.  He is a three-time nominee for the Bodil Award for Best Actor, including for Flame & Citron, where he costarred with Mads MikkelsenAustin Stowell, who is 33 today, is known for his roles in films like Love and Honor, Colossal, and Stratton.  Bollywood star Anil Kapoor, a six-time Filmfare Award winner, is 61.  American audiences know him from his appearances in Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol and on season 8 of 24.

Our historical birthday for today is Kit Carson (1808-1868), one of the legendary “mountain men” of the early American West.  He became well-known when he served as a guide to John C. Fremont’s exploratory expeditions of the 1840s, and was played by Rip Torn on the 1980s miniseries Dream West.

December 23 birthdays not included last year include Sofia Black-D’Elia, who currently stars on Fox’s The Mick as Sabrina Pemberton and played Tirzah Ben-Hur in the remake of Ben-Hur; she turns 26 today.  Noël Wells, who is 31 today, wrote, directed and starred in the indie comedy Mr. Roosevelt, which premiered at South by Southwest earlier this year.  Spencer Daniels, who turns 25, was a regular on the first two seasons of CBS’s Mom.

John Jay (1745-1829) was a prominent leader of the early US, known as the nation’s first Chief Justice and as one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.  Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was the founder and first leader of the Mormon church.

Last year on this date, our headliners were Ricky Martin and Ava Gardner.

Ricky Martin turns 46.  He completed his One World Tour earlier this year (after over two years total), and also began a residency show in Las Vegas, All In.  Next year, he will appear in a major role on the second season of American Crime Story, titled The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

Louis Tomlinson, of the British boy band One Direction, turns 26.  In the past year, Tomlinson has released his first singles as a solo artist, and is at work on his first studio album.  Ryan Seacrest, who celebrates his 43rd, has moved into the realm of morning talk television as the co-host of Live With Kelly and RyanDiedrich Bader, who currently stars on ABC’s American Housewife and has several voice acting gigs, is 51 today.  Matt Passmore, who turns 44, starred in this year’s Jigsaw, the latest in the Saw horror franchise.  Amaury Nolasco, who turns 47 today, returned to the role of Fernando Sucre for Prison Break: ResurrectionLee Daniels is 58; his present projects are executive producing the two Fox series he co-created, Empire and Star.  Novelist Mary Higgins Clark is still writing as she turns 90; she had two novels come out this year with another scheduled for 2018.

Last year, Eddie Vedder and Corey Haim were the December 23 headliners.

Eddie Vedder turns 53.  He and the other members of Pearl Jam were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April of this year.

Harry Shearer, who is 74 today, continues to do voice work on The Simpsons, and appears in the just-released Father FiguresCarla Bruni, who released her fifth studio album, French Touch, earlier this year, turns 50 today.  Alison Sudol, who celebrates her 33rd, will return to the role of Queenie Goldstein in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald.  Voice actor Jess Harnell, who is 54, was heard in several features this year, including Transformers: The Last Knight and The Nut Job 2.

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 December 24, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I remember Corey Haim from “The Lost Boys” (I watch it almost every October in time for Halloween) and “Silver Bullet”. I read after Haim’s death he auditioned for “The Goonies” and “Stand By Me”. I wonder how different those movies would’ve been with him in them.

    As Seth Green once said in a tribute to Haim: “He was a good kid who just happened to get caught up.”

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  2. Nicholas Meyer has me with “Time after Time” (not only an awesome film, but also inspired a cool song of the same title).
    The only bummer for me when it comes to Ava Gardner for me is remembering that I once bought her biography for my mother, and she enjoyed it (her kind of woman), but it makes me recognize it’s my first holiday season without her (it isn’t the same without her; I miss her so).
    Corey Haim; yeah, jinsinna13, i used this term as a a teenager “Caught up in the fix”, so I agree with Seth Green (who seems like a super cool person). I miss Corey Haim though; I thought he was a fun actor (Yes, “License to Drive”, when he drove the car backwards to get his mom to the hospital is a highlight for me, and I’m glad he got his Mercedes at the end:-). I like pretty much every performer that worked on “The Lost Boys”, so I won’t so into detail with that anymore, but that young man was a part of my childhood, and i think it stinks that he was so sad, because he made me so happy.
    Holy crow, Mary Higgins Clark is 90? Wow, I’ve caught some of her TV films here and there; unlike, say, V.C. Andrews, I never read any of her books though, but I think she operates under a similar style.
    Enough with the sad action, let’s party like it’s 2018!

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  3. We’ve had some discussion of Nick Meyer, and his contributions to Star Trek, here previously. He clearly played a big part in making Star Trek a mainstream success via his having a hand in what are often considered the three best of the Star Trek films.

    Michael Curtiz directed a lot of films I love. Casablanca, of course, and then you have two of Cagney’s greatest films, and several of Errol Flynn’s. Curtiz wasn’t one of the great writer-directors like Billy Wilder or John Huston, nor was he a director of the Ford/Hawks/Hitchcock sort who could effectively be their own producers. But when he had good writing and a producer like Hal Wallis he could produce memorable results.

    Gavin O’Connor has made two recent films that I’ve liked pretty well, Jane Got a Gun and The Accountant.

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    • We can also credit Meyer to some extent for a peaceful end to the nuclear arms race. Meyer directed the TV movie The Day After which horrified American audiences with its stark portrayal of the consequences of nuclear war. There is a rumor (which may have been debunked) that following the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty Ronald Reagan sent a message to Nicholas Meyer reading “Don’t think your movie didn’t have any part of this, because it did.” I have seen this story reported, but I can neither confirm nor deny its authenticity. But the Joint Chiefs of Staff had a viewing of The Day After and by all accounts, it bummed out the president and he began making gestures towards nuclear disarmament shortly thereafter.

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