Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Joan (Cusack)!

John & Joan

Joan & Thing in "Addams Family Values"

Happy birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite actresses, Ms. Joan Cusack!
Joan comes from a family of actors. Her dad Richard, her sisters Ann and Susie, and her brothers Bill and John have also been actors (Richard is also a documentary film maker). Her mother, Nancy, was a mathematics teacher and political activist (troublemaker). Joan is the second oldest of the bunch (except for her mom and dad of course), and born in New York City, as well as Ann, the oldest. The rest of the Cusack kids were born in Evanston, Illinois. No one knows why. Anyway, that's where Ann and Joan were raised... in Evanston, home to Northwestern University, a fine school, and the birthplace of Tinkertoys, construction devices I was at one time intimately familiar with. It is also one of the birthplaces of the infamous ice cream sundae (after the unholy ice cream soda was outlawed in 1890. Fascinating story, dear readers. You should look into it. This was the forerunner of the Harrison Act of 1914, which is the forerunner of our current failed drug policies).
Be that as it may, her parents encouraged all of their children to start performing when they were very young, and Joan grew up acting on stage, and training with the Piven Theatre Workshop. She got her break in movies while still a teenager (somewhere along the line she became an alumna of the University of Wisconsin - Madison), and along with her brother John starred in early 80s teen movies, such as "My Bodyguard," and "Sixteen Candles." In 1985 she got a gig on Saturday Night Live, but like our friend Janeane Garofalo nine years later, she was not particularly enthralled with the material offered to her and left after just one season. She began to get better supporting role in films, mostly comedies, and in 1988 received her first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in "Working Girl" (her second would be opposite Kevin Kline in 1997s "In & Out"). Between Academy Award nominations she took some time off to concentrate on her family, making sporadic appearances in films (She is married to Chicago attorney Dick Burke, with whom she has two sons, Dylan John and Miles), but one of them was "Addams Family Values," in which I discovered Joan and secretly fell in love with her (as an actress. I don't believe I have an affinity with the murderous psycho blonde bombshell she played in that movie... although she was cute). Some of my other favorite Joan Cusack films are: "Married to the Mob," "Say Anything," "Hero," "Toys," "Grosse Pointe Blank," "It's a Very Muppet Christmas Movie," "The School of Rock," "Looney Toons: Back in Action," "Raising Helen," and "War, Inc." She's been in many others and they're all fine.
She's helped out her brother John's struggling career by appearing with him in the following movies: "Sixteen Candles," "Grandview, U.S.A." "Class," "High Fidelity," "Grosse Pointe Blank," "Say Anything," "Cradle Will Rock," "Martian Child," and "War, Inc." As a matter of fact all of the Cusack kids have appeared in each others films at one time or another. How cozy.
She has been nominated four times for the American Comedy Award, in the category of "Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture" and has won three times. In 2003, she and John kept their sanity when all about them were losing theirs, and signed the "Not in My Name" resolution opposing the invasion of Iraq. And according to Wikipedia Joan is currently narrating the public TV animated series "Peep and the Big Wide World." She also signed on recently to guest-star on "Law & Order: SVU." I'm guessing not a comedy.
And all of us here at Joyce's Take wish Joan and her family continued good fortune, and a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Joan!

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