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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29, 1971

This is the final Tuesday Timeline in the month of October, and for this week's edition, I really had a bit of a hard time choosing a topic for today.  For today being two days before Halloween, I certainly have a had a hard time trying to find a spooky topic to talk about in this space.  But in the end, I came up with a way to make the Tuesday Timeline entry work.

Today is actually kind of a bittersweet day for me, as it's the twenty-second anniversary of the day my grandmother passed away.  It certainly was one of the first examples of someone very close to me dying.  I was only ten years old at the time, so her death really hit me hard.  But, I already did a blog entry about that event a couple of years ago.  If you like, you can click HERE to read all about it.

Before we launch into another Tuesday Timeline entry, we have a little bit of unfinished business to take care of.  As usual, here is a list of other happenings that took place on this date which include the debut of an opera, the crash of a stock market, and a devastating hurricane striking the Atlantic coast.

1390 - The first trial for witchcraft held in Paris, France leads to the deaths of three people

1618 - Sir Walter Raleigh is beheaded on allegations of consipiring against James I of England

1787 - Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni" receives its first performance in Prague

1863 - Eighteen countries meet up in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the foundation of the International Red Cross

1886 - The first ticker-tape parade takes place in New York City as a spontaneous reaction to the dedication of the Statue of Liberty

1901 - Jane Toppan, an American nurse, is arrested for murdering the Davis family with a lethal overdose of morphine

1921 - One of the biggest upsets in college football takes place when Centre College defeats Harvard University's team after Harvard maintained a 25-game winning streak

1925 - American author Dominick Dunne (d. 2009) is born in Hartford, Connecticut

1929 - "Black Tuesday" occurs, leading to one of the largest stock market crashes in the world - kicking off the Great Depression

1941 - Over ten thousand Jews are murdered by German occupiers at the Ninth Fort - the event would later be referred to as "The Great Action"

1942 - American painter Bob Ross (d. 1995), is born in Daytona Beach, Florida

1956 - Israeli forces invade the Sinai Peninsula, pushing Egyptian forces back toward the Suez Canal, kicking off the Suez Crisis

1960 - Muhammad Ali (still going by his birth name of Cassius Clay) wins his first professional fight

1967 - Fifty million people arrive to see the closing day of the World Fair in Montreal - Expo 67

1971 - Duane Allman is killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24

1972 - The three surviving perpetrators of the Munich Massacre are released from prison in exchange for the hostages of hijacked Lufthansa Flight 615

1994 - Francisco Martin Duran fires over two dozen shots at the White House

1998 - At age 77, astronaut John Glenn becomes the oldest person to go into outer space as he joined the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery

2002 - A fire completely destroys a department store in Ho Chi Minh City, killing at least sixty people

2008 - Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines merge

2011 - British television personality Jimmy Savile dies at the age of 84

2012 - Hurricane Sandy makes landfall on the Atlantic coast, causing devastation to Atlantic City, New Jersey and New York City and killing nearly three hundred people both directly and indirectly

Quite a lot of things happening on the second last day of October!  And, I haven't even gotten to celebrity birthdays yet!  The following people are turning one year older today;  Robert Hardy, Galen Weston, Jack Shepherd, Melora Harte, Claude Brochu, Melba Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Kate Jackson, Dan Castellaneta, Jesse Barfield, Finola Hughes, Randy Jackson (Jackson 5), Yasmin Le Bon, Joely Fisher, Tracee Ellis Ross, Gabrielle Union, Jon Abrahams, Brendan Fehr, Ben Foster, Amanda Beard, and Jessica Dube.

Oh, and there's also today's spotlight.

This person was born on October 29, 1971 - the same day of Duane Allman's fatal motorcycle accident.

And, you know something?  Looking back through her resume of works, many of her roles were in spooky and scary pictures.  She did have some comedic roles, and dramatic roles too, but for whatever reason, I seem to have this actress associated with Halloween.  Then again, her birthday does happen to occur right around that time.

And she has a rather unique first name.

Would you believe that she was named after a small town in the middle of Minnesota?  I suppose it made sense, given that she was born in nearby Olmstead County.  When she was born, she was given the name Winona Laura Horowitz.  But, eventually she would change her name to Winona Ryder - the subject of today's blog entry.  I still have a hard time believing that Winona Ryder is 42 today!

TRIVIA:  Ever wonder where Winona's stage name came from?  Well, it happened to be a spur of the moment decision inspired by the artist that her father Michael was listening to when he took a call from Winona's agent asking her what name she wanted to have displayed in the credits of her first film (the film being 1986's "Lucas").  The artist in question?  Mitch Ryder.

The family stayed in Minnesota until Winona turned seven.  That year, Winona's family relocated to Mendocino County, California, moving into a commune known as Rainbow, living with seven other families on a three hundred acre plot of land.  Because the commune had no electricity, Winona was forced to entertain herself by reading a lot of books - her favourite book being J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher In The Rye".  And soon after, Winona developed a love of film after her mother Cynthia would have movies screened inside of their barn of all places!  Still, Winona was bitten by the acting bug, and she was determined to try and find a way to make it happen.

Her first audition tape was made in 1985, and it consisted of Ryder reciting a monologue from the Salinger penned novel "Franny and Zooey", with the purpose of getting cast in the film "Desert Bloom".  Unfortunately she did not win that role, but writer/director David Seltzer was very impressed by her audition.  So impressed was he that he decided to offer Ryder a part in the 1986 film "Lucas", and as they say, the rest was history.

Now, it's safe to say that over the past twenty-seven years of Ryder being in the film industry, her career has had a number of highs (her 2000 induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and winning a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination), and a series of lows (having critically panned films, and that infamous December 2001 arrest for shoplifting which derailed her career for a few years).  But I have to say that when it comes to her most memorable roles, they all happen to be linked to films that one might have in some of their Halloween film collections.  And, in this blog entry celebrating Winona's birthday, I thought that I would talk about some of her most memorable film performances.

(Or, at the very least, they are films that I think Ryder performed well in, or that I enjoyed.)

Let's begin with one of my all-time favourite films!

BEETLEJUICE (1988) - This would be one of many collaborations that Winona Ryder would do with director Tim Burton.  I think that the only other person who worked with Burton on more collaborations was Johnny Depp.  Yeah, we'll talk more about Depp later.

For now, let's talk about Ryder, who did a fantastic job as the dark and depressed gothic teenager Lydia Deetz, a girl who would rather be dead than live the yuppie lifestyle of her father and stepmother.  After befriending a pair of recently deceased ghosts Adam and Barbara Maitland, Lydia discovers that maybe there's more to life after all.  But when a nasty and self-centered ghost named Beetlejuice gets involved in the storyline, Lydia almost ends up getting betrothed to the insect eating ghost with the most!  There's certainly a lot of twists and turns to this Burton masterpiece, but Ryder does a convincing job.  And, one thing that she was great at was playing characters younger than she really was.  I remember being absolutely shocked that Ryder was actually sixteen and a half when she filmed Beetlejuice!  I only thought she was thirteen at most!

HEATHERS (1989) - This was one of the perfect films to watch if you were fed up with the social hierarchy of high school and wanted to watch one woman stand up against the cliques and live her own life the way she wanted to.  Ryder played the only non-Heather in a group full of Heathers.  As Veronica Sawyer, she hangs around three girls who all happen to share a name.  But at the school that they all attend, it appears that the name Heather is synonymous with social climbing, snobbery, and just plain mean girl behaviour.  When Veronica meets a rebellious boy named JD, it becomes lust at first sight, and soon after, Veronica confesses her secret hatred for the Heathers, and JD decides to help out.  Unfortunately, JD goes too far, killing one of the Heathers, two high school boys, and making the other two Heathers paranoid of each other.  And, Veronica is caught in the very middle of it all!  Here's an interesting fact about Heathers though.  Ryder's agent actually advised Winona not to take the part in Heathers as he felt it would tank her career.  Funny how the exact opposite happened.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990) - Remember how I told you that I would be bringing up Johnny Depp a little bit later in this blog entry?  Well, the time to do so is now.  In this Tim Burton directed classic, Depp played the title role - a man who happens to have scissor blades for a hand.  Perfect for trimming garden hedges and hair, but not so much for interacting with the townspeople, who see him as nothing more than a freak of nature.  Fortunately, Winona Ryder's character of Kim falls in love with Edward (which wasn't too difficult as Depp and Ryder were in a relationship at the time this movie was filmed), and can see the humanity inside of him.  Of course, the movie had a bit of a letdown ending which had Anthony Michael Hall causing all kinds of trouble...but all in all, it was a phenomenal movie.  I liked it a lot.

BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992) - Do I even really need to go into why this movie is a perfect representation of how Winona Ryder seemed to be associated with spooky and gothic movies?  I mean, this is freakin' Dracula we're talking about here.  I will say this though.  I never thought that I would have seen such romantic chemistry between Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman, and yet as Mina and Dracula, they worked out splendidly.  This film is also widely considered to be one of Winona's best films.  I would have to agree.  I don't think I could see anybody else in that role.

ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997) - Three weeks ago, I did a blog entry on Sigourney Weaver, the queen of the Alien franchise.  Who knew that three weeks later, I would be including her in the Winona Ryder entry?  Unfortunately, many call the Alien Resurrection film to be a bit of a letdown in the series.  Certainly, no other Alien sequels were made after this film.  But the one thing that I will state about this particular film is that Winona Ryder faced one of her biggest fears while shooting scenes for it.  You see, if you've ever watched Alien: Resurrection, you know that there are scenes in which Winona's character has to swim underwater.  What many people didn't realize was that Winona had a fear of water - likely stemmed from a near-drowning she experienced as a young girl.

(Trust me, I know all about aquaphobia.  It's the main reason why I didn't learn how to swim until I was 21.)

So, the fact that Winona faced her fears and did the scenes is amazing to me.  The fact that it took several takes to make sure that Winona's part looked believable was a problem, but watching the film, you'd never really know it.

GIRL, INTERRUPTED (1999) - This film was supposed to have been a comeback film for Winona Ryder.  Instead, it ended up being the breakthrough performance of another up and coming starlet, Angelina Jolie.  But, aside from that, this role that Winona took on was based on a true story.  She plays the role of Susanna Kaysen, an eighteen year old who checks herself into a mental asylum, and ends up bonding with a sociopath who encourages her to stop taking her medication and refusing to go through therapy.  Through it all, she befriends other patients in the hospital, and she begins to realize that just because she has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it doesn't mean that she doesn't have a chance to make a good life for herself.  Really, everybody's performances in this film are fantastic.  I'm even thinking about making it a subject for a future Monday Matinee.

BLACK SWAN (2010) - Okay, so any of you who have ever seen the film Black Swan know just how disturbing a movie it really is.  Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman certainly brought everything to the table in this film.  But did you know that Winona Ryder was in this movie as well?  After an entire decade of trying to reinvent herself following the 2001 shoplifting arrest, Winona appeared in this film as Beth, a ballerina who was forced out of a production to make way for either Kunis or Portman's characters to take over.  And to say that Beth doesn't take it very well would be like saying that the sky at night is pitch black.  She gets hit by a car, leaving people to suspect it to be a suicide attempt, and there's one disturbing scene where Ryder's character stabs herself in the face!

But, then again...the whole movie is really disturbing!

FRANKENWEENIE (2012) - One of her most recent films to date, this black and white animated film marked yet another collaboration with Tim Burton.  In this film, she played the role of Elsa Van Helsing, the next door neighbour of Victor Frankenstein - a little boy who brings his deceased dog sparky back to life, with some...rather interesting consequences.  Take a look at the trailer below, to see what I mean.

And, you know what?  That's just a taste of some of the roles that helped Winona Ryder become a star and stay a stay despite having a few career setbacks and some personal issues along the way.

Happy birthday, Winona!

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