February 20: Happy Birthday Jessie Mueller and Robert Altman


Jessie Mueller, our latest headliner from the world of musical theater, is celebrating her 35th.  She grew up in the Chicago area, and after studying at Syracuse University, returned to her hometown and worked in Chicago-area theater for several years.  During that time she won two Joseph Jefferson Awards (sort of the Chicago-area equivalents of Tonys), one as Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel, the second as Amalia Balash in She Loves Me.

In late 2011, Mueller made her Broadway debut in a revival of the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and received a Tony nomination in the role of Melinda Wells.  In the next three years, she appeared in a Public Theater production of Into the Woods as Cinderella, and returned to the role of Carrie Pipperidge in a Lincoln Center concert performance of Carousel, while continuing to work on Broadway.  In 2014 she starred as Carole King in the original Broadway production of Beautiful: A Carole King Musical, and won her first Tony Award, as Best Actress in a Musical, and also shared in a Grammy won by the original cast album.

In 2016, Mueller originated the role of Jenna Hunterson in Sara Bareilles’s musical adaptation of Waitress, and received her third Tony nomination.  Last year she made her feature film debut in The Post, as a then-young journalist named Judith Martin (at the time of the film’s setting, not yet known as “Miss Manners”).  This year she will return to Carousel, this time in the lead role of Julie Jordan in a Broadway revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic.

Director Robert Altman (1925-2006) was born and raised in Kansas City, and after serving in World War 2, he sold a story to RKO which became the film noir Bodyguard.  He then spent over two decades effectively “paying his dues,” making short “industrial” films, a few documentaries, and directing a long list of televsion episodes.  In 1969, he received the opportunity to direct a film adapted from a novel by Richard Hooker.  MASH, released the following year, was a huge critical success and the #3 film at the box office for 1970, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and brought Altman the first of his five Best Director nominations.

The next several years established Altman as one of the leading directors of his generation.  He directed films such as the revisionist Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and The Long Goodbye, a Raymond Chandler adaptation with the setting updated to the 1970s, before coming out with what many of his admirers feel is his masterpiece in 1975.  Nashville, with its multiple, intersecting storylines, and around two dozen significant characters, is considered one of the definitive hyperlink movies, and brought Altman nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.

After the relative failure of 1980’s Popeye, Altman spent most of the 1980s out of the limelight.  He came back strong in the early 1990s, receiving back-to-back Best Director nominations for The Player and Short Cuts.  His 2001 film Gosford Park received another round of critical acclaim, following which he directed The Company (starring and co-produced by Neve Campbell), and then his final film, an adaptation of A Prairie Home Companion, released only a few months prior to his death.

Trevor Noah, who is 34 today, has been the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show since September of 2015, and also co-created the same network’s The Opposition with Jordan KlepperDaniella Pineda, who celebrates her 31st, is a regular on TBS’s The Detour and will have a supporting role in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  Andrea Savage, the creator and star of the truTV sitcom I’m Sorry, is turning 45.  Venezuelan-born actress Majandra Delfino, who is 37, is best known for playing Maria DeLuca on Roswell and for starring on the short-lived CBS comedy Friends with Better Lives.

Novelist Alan Furst celebrates his 77th birthday.  He began writing in the mid-1970s, but is best known for the fourteen historical espionage novels he has published since 1988.  All of them set in Europe immediately prior to or during the Second World War, they are collectively known as the Night Soldiers series (after the title of the first book).

Brion James (1945-1999) was a hardworking character actor of the eighties and nineties, particularly in action films.  His best known film role may have been as the replicant Leon in Blade Runner.

On this date last year, Rihanna and Sidney Poitier were the headliners.

Rihanna is celebrating her 30th birthday today.  She is working on a ninth studio album and has also been busy with her acting career; she had a prominent supporting role last year in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and this year will be one of Ocean’s 8Sir Sidney Poitier, who turns 91, has been retired from acting for over a decade.

Anthony Head, who is 64, was regular on the sole season of ABC’s Still Star-Crossed, which was canceled last June.  Brenda Blethyn, who turns 72 today, continues to star on the British crime drama Vera.  Also 72 is Sandy Duncan, who remains active in theater; she recently starred in a regional theater revival of A. R. Gurney’s Love LettersRichard Beymer, who returned to the role of Ben Horne for the Twin Peaks revival, is 80 today.

Jay Hernandez, who is 40 today, recently appeared in Bright and A Bad Mom’s Christmas.  Also 40 is Lauren Ambrose, who will star as Eliza Doolittle in an upcoming Broadway revival of My Fair LadyChelsea Peretti, who continues to star as Gina Linetti on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, is also 40, as is German actress Julia Jentsch, who was nominated for several Best Actress awards in her home country for starring in 24 Weeks.

Lily Taylor, who is celebrating her 51st, appeared in last year’s To the Bone and Leatherface, and starred in a Broadway revival of Marvin’s RoomMiles Teller, who turns 31, starred in two films that were critically well-regarded but did poorly at the box office, Only the Brave and Thank You For Your ServiceJack Falahee, who is turning 29, returned to his regular role on How to Get Away with Murder.  Director Mike Leigh, who is 75, is working on Peterloo, a historical drama about the Peterloo Massacre.

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 February 20, 2018, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Those Broadway musical stars just keep coming. I am looking forward to getting ahold of the cast recording of Carousel with Jessie Mueller later this year.

    Robert Altman has made a number of films that I really enjoy. Nashville is terrific, MASH and Short Cuts are very good, and I like his kind of offbeat take on The Long Goodbye. The Player is one I plan to get back to someday. McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a very good, unorthodox Western, and The Company is a very realistic look backstage at a dance company.

    I have read at least 2 or 3 of Alan Furst’s Night Soldiers series—great period thrillers with a terrific feel for the setting.


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