This Day in Movie History: February 18

20 years ago Today in Movie History – February 18 – Ben Stiller made his directorial debut with the now Gen X classic Reality Bites. The romantic comedy/drama starring Winona Ryder helped establish not only Stiller, but also Ethan Hawke and Janeane Garafalo as rising stars. Its soundtrack was also a hit and include the single “Stay” by Lisa Loeb. Stiller could onto direct The Cable Guy, Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

As for birthdays – John Travolta is 60 today. After becoming known to TV viewers from “Welcome Back, Kotter”, he very successfully transitioned into film with late 70s megahits Saturday Night Fever and Grease and Urban Cowboy in 1980. After some lean years in which only his Look Who’s Talking flicks did well, he had one of the most notable comebacks in film history with 1994’s Pulp Fiction. Since then he’s starred in numerous commercial and critical hits including Get Shorty, Broken Arrow, Phenomenon, Michael, Face/Off, Primary Colors, and Swordfish. He’s had some flops too – particularly the disastrous Battlefield Earth.

Matt Dillon is 50 today. He broke out in the early 80s in such pictures as My Bodyguard, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, and The Flamingo Kid. He had a major critical hit in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 indie pic Drugstore Cowboy and a big comedic breakout in the smash There’s Something About Mary. Other notable movies include Singles, To Die For, Beautiful Girls, Wild Things, and Crash.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them:

John Travolta was in Get Shorty with Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman was in Target with Matt Dillon

And that’s today – February 18 – in Movie History!

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This Day in Movie History: February 17

30 years ago Today in Movie History – February 17 – Kevin Bacon danced his way into the hearts of moviegoers in Footloose. The picture was an unexpected smash grossing $80 million domestically. Its soundtrack was equally successful featuring Kenny Loggins’ title hit – as well as “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams and “Almost Paradise” by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson. A remake would debut in 2010.

As for birthdays, Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown is 78 today. While he’s surely known best for his sports achievements, Mr. Brown has had quite a film career. He costarred in 1967’s The Dirty Dozen and some blaxpoitation titles in the 70s like Slaughter and Black Gunn. More recent appearances include The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mars Attacks!, and Any Given Sunday.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is 33 today. He became known as a youngster on the hit sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun”. In recent years, his film career exploded with pictures including Brick, (500) Days of Summer, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Inception, 50/50, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, and Lincoln. He made his directorial last fall with Don Jon and will soon appear in the Sin City sequel.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them:

Jim Brown was in The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger was in The Expendables 2 with Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis was in Looper with Joseph Gordon-Levitt

And that’s today – February 17 – in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: February 16

Seven years ago Today in Movie History – February 16 – Ghost Rider got off to a hot start at the box office. Mark Steven Johnson, director of Daredevil, was behind the camera with Nicolas Cage in the role of Johnny Blaze. The comic book adaptation took in an impressive $52 million over President’s Day weekend and earned a total of $115 million domestically. That was enough to earn it a less successful sequel in 2012.

As for birthdays, rapper/actor Ice-T is 56 today. He broke out in film in 1991 with New Jack City. His other notable films include Trespass, Surviving the Game, and Johnny Mnemonic. His most known acting role has been on TV with “Law&Order: SVU”.

Elizabeth Olsen is 25 today. The younger sister of the Olsen twins, Elizabeth garnered rave reviews for her performance in 2011’s indie flick Martha Marcy May Marlene and has since appeared in Kill Your Darlings and Oldboy. There’s no doubt she’s about to become much more known with upcoming parts in the Godzilla reboot and summer 2015’s Avengers sequel.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two:

Ice-T was in Trespass with William Sadler

William Sadler was in Die Hard 2 with Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis was in Pulp Fiction with Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson was in Oldboy with Elizabeth Olsen

And that’s today – February 16 – in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: February 15

23 years ago Today in Movie History – February 15 – Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs debuted in theaters and would earn its reputation as one of the greatest thrillers of all time. The picture would take in $13.7 million in its debut weekend and eventually earn $130 million domestically. Oscar voters would shower Lambs the following year with Best Picture, Director, Actor (Anthony Hopkins), and Actress (Jodie Foster). Even though he was only onscreen for 16 minutes, Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal Lecter would represent one of the most memorable screen villains in history. Sequels would follow years later with Hannibal, Red Dragon, and Hannibal Rising.

As for birthdays, today would have marked Chris Farley’s big 5-0. The performer had a fantastic run on “Saturday Night Live” before translating his stardom into film with Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, and Beverly Hills Ninja. Farley died of a drug overdose in 1997.

Jane Seymour is 63 today. Known more for her extensive TV credits, she was a Bond girl alongside Roger Moore in 1973’s Live and Let Die. More recently she was Christopher Walken’s excitable wife in the 2005 hit comedy Wedding Crashers.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them:

Chris Farley was in Wayne’s World 2 with Christopher Walken

Christopher Walken was in Wedding Crashers with Jane Seymour

And that’s today – February 15 – in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: February 14

22 years ago on This Valentine’s Day in Movie History – February 14 – Wayne’s World debuted in theaters and provided Mike Myers with his first comedy smash. Based on the wildly popular SNL sketches featuring Wayne and Garth (Dana Carvey), Wayne’s World would earn $18 million in its first weekend on its way to a $121 million domestic haul. A less successful sequel would come the following year and Myers, of course, would get another huge franchise years later with the Austin Powers flicks and then the Shrek pictures.

As for birthdays, Simon Pegg is 44 today. A favorite of director JJ Abrams, Pegg has appearared in the last two Mission: Impossible features and in the current Star Trek franchise. And there’s also his acclaimed comedic collaborations with director Edgar Wright – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and last year’s The World’s End.

Freddie Highmore is 22 today. You may know him best for his appearances as a child actor working with Johnny Depp in both Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He’s currently playing Norman Bates in A&E’s “Bates Motel” series.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them:

Simon Pegg was in Mission: Impossible III with Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman was in A Late Quartet with Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman was in Finding Neverland with Freddie Highmore

And that’s today – February 14 – in Movie History. And Happy Valentine’s Day!

This Day in Movie History: February 13

Just in time for Valentine’s Day 10 years ago on This Day in Movie History – February 13 – Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore once again teamed up for the rom com 50 First Dates. The pair had previously had a hit together six years prior with The Wedding Singer and Dates would continue that streak. The film opened with $39.8 million and went to gross $120 million domestically. The third teaming of Sandler and Barrymore will come out this May with Blended.

As for birthdays, Stockard Channing turns 70 today. She’ll go down in film history as Rizzo in 1978’s Grease, in which she played that high school student at age 34. TV watchers may know her best as First Lady Abbey Bartlet on “The West Wing”. Other notable film roles over the years include Six Degrees of Separation, Up Close&Personal, The First Wives Club, and Practical Magic.

Mena Suvari in 35 today. She became known to moviegoers in the American Pie franchise and as the teenage object of Kevin Spacey’s affection in the Oscar winning American Beauty. Other projects include The Musketeer and Beauty Shop.

As for Six Degrees of Separation (hey- Stockard Channing was in that!) between them:

Stockard Channing was in Anything Else with Jason Biggs

Jason Biggs was in American Pie with Mena Suvari

And that’s today – February 13 – in Movie History!

This Day in Movie History: February 12

21 years ago Today in Movie History – February 12 – the now classic comedy Groundhog Day debuted in theaters. One of the greatest uses of the brilliant talent that is Bill Murray, the film debuted at #1 with $14.6 million on its way to a $70 million domestic gross. The term “Groundhog Day” has entered the cultural vernacular as a term meaning something repeating itself. I consider it to be one of best comedies of all time.

As for birthdays, Josh Brolin is 46 today. The actor became known to filmgoers in 1985’s The Goonies. Things were quiet were for awhile following that but in the 21st century he had a massive career resurgence. His notable pictures include Grindhouse, No Country for Old Men, American Gangster, W., Milk, True Grit, Men in Black 3, Oldboy, and Labor Day.

Christina Ricci is 34 today. She became known as Wednesday Addams in the two Addams Family features. She would go onto headline kids pics such as Casper and That Darn Cat. She would soon transition into more serious fare including The Ice Storm, Buffalo ’66, The Opposite of Sex, Sleepy Hollow, Monster, and Black Snake Moan.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between them:

Josh Brolin was in Oldboy with Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson was in Black Snake Moan with Christina Ricci

And that’s today – February 12 – in Movie History!