Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy birthday, Kirk Douglas!


I used to needle my mom whenever she’d watch a movie with Michael Douglas (she’s a big fan) that Douglas “isn’t half the actor his old man is.”  But I don’t think I’m really saying that in jest—I have a great deal of respect for Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch ninety-four years ago on this date in Amsterdam, NY.  Douglas is just one of the many thesps who never received an Oscar (despite being three-times nominated) but instead had to make do with an honorary statuette—demonstrating to my satisfaction that the Academy Awards are an overrated fraud continuing to be perpetuated by the movie industry.

Kirk’s played a lot of roles both good guy and bad—but I think I’ll always liked him better when he played the villain.  His characters often had this certain sort of panache about them…you knew they were no-good rat bastards, but they had so much style and poise that they got away with it.  (He’s second only to Richard Widmark in this kind of portrayal.)  Out of the Past, Champion, Ace in the Hole, Detective Story, The Bad and the Beautiful and The List of Adrian Messenger all number among my favorite Douglas films—though I don’t mind seeing him being heroic in movies like Paths of Glory, Last Train from Gun Hill, Lonely are the Brave and Seven Days in May either.

Despite health-related setbacks like suffering a stroke in 1996, Douglas continues to hang in there—and it’s reassuring that a man of his talent is still walking among us mere mortals.  So happy birthday to “the ragman’s sun” and I wish all the other people who have birthdays on this day good luck and fortune as well.

John Milton (1608-1674) – Author of Paradise Lost (He also wrote Paradise Regained…but that was after the divorce*)

Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908) – Author of the Uncle Remus stories and favorite son of Eatonton, GA

Berton Churchill (1876-1940) – Stage and screen character actor whose specialty was pompous, officious windbags in films like I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Doctor Bull, Kid Millions and Stagecoach

Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956) – The frozen vegetable king

Tim Moore (1887-1958) – Comic actor and vaudevillian best known for his portrayal of George “Kingfish” Stevens in the TV version of Amos ‘n’ Andy

Hermione Gingold (1897-1987) – Stage, screen, radio and television character actress whose vehicles include The Pickwick Papers, Gigi, The Naked Edge, The Music Man, Promise Her Anything and Garbo Talks

Emmett Kelly (1898-1979) – Legendary sad hobo clown (“Weary Willie”) who appeared in a handful of films including The Fat Man and The Greatest Show on Earth

Howard Freeman (1899-1967) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include Hitler’s Madman, Monsieur Beaucaire, Letter from an Unknown Woman, The Snake Pit, Scaramouche and The Turning Point

Jean de Brunhoff (1899-1937) – Co-creator, along with wife Cecile, of the popular children’s book character Babar the elephant

Carol Dempster (1901-1991) – Silent film actress whose vehicles include Intolerance, Way Down East, Sherlock Holmes and Sally of the Sawdust

Margaret Hamilton (1902-1985) – TDOY character actress fave best known as the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz…and storekeeper “Cora” in a series of Maxwell House coffee TV commercials

Robert Livingston (1904-1988) – B-western cowboy star best known for playing “Stony Brooke” in the Three Mesquiteers series; also starred in the serials The Vigilantes are Coming and The Lone Ranger Rides Again

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) – Academy Award-winning motion picture screenwriter-director and “Hollywood Ten” member whose cinematic contributions include Kitty Foyle, Tender Comrade, Gun Crazy, Roman Holiday, The Brave One and Johnny Got His Gun

Ken Niles (1906-1988) – Veteran OTR announcer and second banana best known as Abbott & Costello’s straight man on their radio show and the individual who handled the announcing chores on The Life of Riley

Freddy Martin (1906-1983) – Bandleader and tenor saxophonist

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1909-2000) – Scion of silent screen great Doug, Sr. whose vehicles include The Dawn Patrol, Little Caesar, The Prisoner of Zenda, Gunga Din, Sinbad the Sailor and TV’s Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Presents

Broderick Crawford (1911-1986) – Academy Award-winning stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Larceny, Inc., All the King’s Men, Born Yesterday, Scandal Sheet, The Fastest Gun Alive and TV’s Highway Patrol, King of Diamonds and The Interns

Bartlett Robinson (1912-1986) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include I Want to Live!, Warlock, The Fortune Cookie, Sleeper and TV’s Mona McCluskey

Redd Foxx (1922-1991) – Actor and standup comedian who cemented his television immortality as irascible junkman Fred T. Sanford on the sitcom Sanford and Son

Dick Van Patten (1928-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor best known for playing affable patriarch Tom Bradford on the TV comedy-drama Eight is Enough

John Cassavetes (1929-1988) – Stage, screen and television actor-writer-director-producer whose directorial oeuvre includes Shadows, Faces, Husbands, Minnie and Moskowitz, A Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Buck Henry (1930-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor-writer-director whose screenplays include The Graduate and What’s Up, Doc?...but who is revered more here at TDOY for co-creating Get Smart with Mel Brooks

William Reynolds (1931-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor best known for his roles on the TV series Pete Kelly’s Blues, The Islanders, The Gallant Men and The F.B.I. (and yes, Scott, he was also in 1958’s The Thing That Couldn’t Die)

Morton Downey, Jr. (1932-2001) – Son of the famous Irish tenor best known for his obnoxious TV talk show

Judi Dench (1934-     ) – Academy Award-winning English stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include A Handful of Dust, Henry V, Mrs. Brown and Shakespeare in Love; also appears as “M” in the James Bond films (beginning with GoldenEye) and in the Britcoms A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By

David Houston (1938-1993) – Country music great who was also a descendant of Robert E. Lee and Sam Houston


Beau Bridges (1941-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose TV gigs include Ensign O’Toole, United States, Harts of the West, Maximum Bob, The Agency and Stargate SG-1; son of Lloyd and brother of Jeff

Joe McGinniss (1942-     ) – Author, Sarah Palin tormentor and Facebook friend

Kenny Vance (1943-     ) – Singer and music producer who co-founded the group Jay and the Americans; also known for his work on such movies as American Hot Wax and Eddie and the Cruisers

Neil Innes (1944-     ) – English songwriter-performer best known for his work with Monty Python and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band


George Baker (1944-     ) – Dutch singer-songwriter who fronted the group The George Baker Selection


Michael Nouri (1945-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose TV gigs include The Gangster Chronicles, Bay City Blues, Love & War, The O.C. and Damages…though I still think of him as the titular vampire in “The Curse of Dracula” segment of Cliffhangers

Joan Armatrading (1950-     ) – Singer-songwriter and guitarist

Michael Dorn (1952-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor best known for his role as Lieutenant Worf** on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and other incarnations thereof; also provided the voice of cartoon character I.M. Weasel

John Malkovich (1953-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include The Killing Fields, Places in the Heart, Dangerous Liaisons, Of Mice and Men, Con Air and…well, Being John Malkovich

Sylvia (Jane Kirby) (1956-     ) – Country music vocalist


Donny Osmond (1957-     ) – Pop music vocalist/teen idol, actor and talk-show host


Joe Lando (1961-     ) – Beefcake stage, screen and television actor best known as Bryan Sully on TV’s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

David Anthony Higgins (1961-     ) – Actor and standup comedian best known as coffee barista Joe Farrell on Ellen*** and Craig Feldspar on Malcolm in the Middle

Felicity Huffman (1962-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Magnolia, Transamerica and TV’s Sports Night and Desperate Housewives; wife of character actor William H. Macy

Brad Savage (1965-     ) – Former moppet actor whose vehicles include The Apple Dumpling Gang, Return to Witch Mountain, Red Dawn and TV’s The Tony Randall Show

Toby Huss (1966-     ) – Film and television comic actor best known for his various roles on such shows as The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Carnivale and King of the Hill

Allison Smith (1969-     ) – Former moppet actress best known as daughter Jennie Lowell on the TV sitcom Kate & Allie

*Another one of my father’s rib-ticklers
**Today is also the birthday of Worf…although that’s not scheduled to happen until 2340
***My sister Kat, in response to a friend’s query as to what I was like, responded: “If you’re familiar with this guy, that’s my brother in a nutshell”


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5 comments:

quizshowbob said...

In the past 4 year I have been to 3 Donny Osmond concerts. When I lived in Las Vegas he would perform ocassionally at 'The Orleans', which was right down the street from where I lived.
The women who attended those concerts were absolutely scary. Talk about fanatics. 50 year old women were screaming and rushing the stage. He pulled one lady up on stage, so that he could serenade her with 'Puppy Love'. She fainted.

Scott C. said...

Nice of you to let Michael Nouri make a clean getaway without bringing up his role as the male ingenue in Flashdance. I, clearly, am not so nice.

But on a more charitable note, I always remember Nouri as the baffled cop in the great little 1987 horror/thriller The Hidden. I'd known him prior to that mostly from a soap my mother watched, Search For Tomorrow (the short answer to which is, "wait until morning, mom. It'll find you"), so I wasn't too thrilled when you showed up onscreen and was obviously going to be our hero. But he did a surprisingly subtle job, and he eventually won me over.

Just not enough to forgive him for Flashdance.

Jean Howard said...

I liked Kirk Douglas in A Letter to Three wives and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. I need to see more of his movies!

Stacia said...

demonstrating to my satisfaction that the Academy Awards are an overrated fraud continuing to be perpetuated by the movie industry

An actor I know online (as opposed to real life) pretty much proved that to me a few years ago. The Oscars once again screwed up their obituary montage and several of us were discussing it, and this actor and Academy member was getting a little defensive. Finally he said to me directly (instead of directing it to everyone in the discussion) that the Oscars were THEIR ceremony and it was THEIR business and us lowly peons were just being allowed to watch out of the kindness of Academy members' hearts. Golly.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Finally he said to me directly (instead of directing it to everyone in the discussion) that the Oscars were THEIR ceremony and it was THEIR business and us lowly peons were just being allowed to watch out of the kindness of Academy members' hearts. Golly.

This reminds me of that remark that Warren Beatty once made about the Oscars: "Thanks you for watching us congratulate ourselves tonight." It may be the most memorably cogent comment he ever made.

I liked Kirk Douglas in A Letter to Three wives and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

I shouldn't have left those two films off the list...but sometimes when I'm in a hurry...

Nice of you to let Michael Nouri make a clean getaway without bringing up his role as the male ingenue in Flashdance.

Well, it is his birthday after all.

I, like you, thought Nouri was great in The Hidden. But for some odd reason, no matter what the guy is in I think "Dracula!"