Many happy returns to Sean Young (born 1959-)! The poor thing has had many ups and downs in her career: she was cast as Vicki Vale in Tim Burton’s Batman, only to be replaced by Kim Basinger at the last minute when she broke her arm while horse riding; then, after the film was a staggering success and she realised what she had missed out on, she apparently broke into the Warner Brothers lot – dressed in a home-made Catwoman suit – to campaign for the role in the just announced sequel. She was politely shown the door by people who, at first, laughed behind their hands at her and then, when the story was leaked to the world at large, laughed quite openly. This was compounded by the fact that she was sued for $2 million by the actor James Woods after he claimed that she had become obsessed with him on the set of Harold Becker’s The Boost (1988) and had been stalking him. The case eventually settled in her favour when she counter-sued (the court believed her claim that she had, in fact, spurned him and ordered Woods to pay her a quarter of a million dollars) but the mud thrown had already stuck; the word on the street was that she was trouble, neurotic and her career definitely seemed to grind to a halt subsequently. Still, when she’s old and grey, she can look back at her life with the knowledge that her beauty was captured at its breathtaking peak in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and how many of you bums can say that?
Director of French classics Les Diaboliques and The Wages of Fear, Henri-Georges Clouzot (1907-1977) also celebrates his birthday today but he was never as attractive as Sean Young and so has less to be happy about; also, he’s dead and that’s got to be a downer on anybody’s birthday. While not strictly movie related, a weird kind of JFK vibe lingers in the air as today was not only the birthday of Jim Garrison (1921-1992) known for his investigation into the President’s assassination (and played by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s epic JFK) but also the birthday of JFK’s brother Robert Kennedy (1925-1968) who’s death was the subject of Emilio Estevez’ 2006 flick Bobby. In memory of them both, repeat after me, “back and to the left. Back and to the left…”
Also having a big swanky Hollywood party tonight will be beady-haired beach-runner Bo Derek (born 1956), star of such “classic” movies as 10 (1979) and Tarzan the Ape Man (1981) and Jeff Dowd (born 1949), minor player on the indie movie scene (what’s a producer’s representative?), one of the Seattle Seven (members of the Seattle Liberation Front who, in 1970, were jailed for inciting to commit a riot at a courthouse) but best known – and to be forever remembered – as the key inspiration for the Coen Brother’s Dude, Jeff Lebowski. Last but no way least is Richard Masur (born 1948); he with the broom of a moustache popped up in numerous films and TV shows in the eighties and nineties including the double Corey smash License to Drive (1988) and Stephen King adaptation It (1990), but to those of us here at We Love Movies, he will always be Clark in John Carpenter’s immortal The Thing (1982).
Well done, sir.
It is with sad faces and heavy hearts that we look at the celebrity deaths for the 20th of November throughout history, for we not only lost Mrs. Teavee from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Nora Denning, born 1928) on this day in 2005 but also Jim Nash Siedow (1920-2003) who played the demented, cannibalistic Cook in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The real loss to the world of cinema, however, came on this day in 2006 when we lost one of the true greats, Robert Altman. Director of such 70’s classics as MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Nashville, he suffered a bit of an industry snubbing throughout most of the eighties until he made the scabrous Hollywood satire The Player (1992) and the masterful, multi-strand Short Cuts (1993) back to back and put himself firmly back on the radar, cementing his comeback with box office success – and some Oscars with Gosford Park in 2001 (the greatest British cast ever assembled on film? Discuss). His free-wheeling approach to film, whether it be through improvisation, long zoom-lens shots that wander around the frame, focussing on seemingly inconsequential items, or just his often referred to use of overlapping dialogue, delights some and infuriates others. In my book he was a master at observing human behaviour with a knack of turning to almost any genre and creating something instantly recognisable as an Altman film; even his failures (and to be fair, there were a few – yes, Popeye, I’m looking at you) can be exhilarating as he was incapable of turning out standard Hollywood fluff. I recommend starting with Short Cuts if you’re unsure; based on Raymond Carver’s beautiful short stories, it is long but it’s full of faces you’ll recognise (and a few you won’t), it’s funny, it’s sad, it has more story than twenty films and it feels true. Can you really ask for any more than that? RIP Robert Altman. We miss you.
As for things that happened in cinema on this day? Well, quite recently, Liam Neeson crashed his car on this day in Unknown only to wake up and find that his wife is denying that he is who he says he is. And it was on this day in 1996 that John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) was frozen after arresting the villainous Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) in Demolition Man (1993). They would later be defrosted and baffled by shells.
Have a good’un