Today I turn 23, and as my boss irreverently remarked, I will continue "hurtling towards death." In honor of my exit from the womb, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite birthday-related moments on film.
Heaven Can Wait (1943) - Quite possibly the best birthday movie there is - it's even based on a play called "Birthday," and all the main plot points occur on different birthdays the protagonist has throughout the years. There's too much greatness to summarize here - just go watch it, it's Lubitsch in top form.
The Seven Year Itch (1955) - Marilyn Monroe's character tells Tom Ewell that her birthday was a few days ago but she didn't tell a soul. Being new in town, her plan was just to sit at home alone and drink a bottle of champagne, but she couldn't get the bottle open. So she brings it down to share, and the rest is history...
Gypsy (1962) - The birthday girl here is Louise Hovick (Natalie Wood), a young girl who provides backup for her younger sister on the vaudeville circuit under the aggressive lead of her domineering mother. In a scene both sweet and somewhat disturbing, Louise's mother Rose (Rosalind Russell) throws her a crazy party with Chinese food and she receives a baby lamb as a gift. The disturbing part? When everyone has settled down and Louise is alone with her new pet, she sings a song where she wonders how old she is. (Rose doesn't let her girls know their ages so they can be forever young in their act).
Live Flesh (1997) - Here's a literal birth day. You usually find birth scenes at the end of movies, with lots of reunions and tears of happiness, but here's one as a whiz-bang opener. In setting up the impulsive and tempestuous character of Victor, the film shows how he simply could not wait to get to the hospital to be born and was therefore born on a bus. It immediately imbues the character with sense of urgency. And while giving birth on a bus must have sucked, mother and son both got free bus passes for life!
Knocked Up (2007) - The scene just uses a child's birthday party as a setting, but Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd have a big fight and then, in a moment confirming my true undying love for Rudd, he immediately switches gears and brings out the cake while singing "Happy Birthday."
Revolutionary Road (2008) - It's the 1950s, and Frank Wheeler goes out for an after-work drink with a secretary from his office, and while they're out he reveals to her (and the audience) that it's his 30th birthday and he's miserable. They play hooky and go bang at a hotel, and Frank returns home to find his wife and children with a cake and banner singing happy birthday. Watching all this play out was just like a punch in the stomach.
And if unbirthdays count...
Alice in Wonderland (1951) - I loved this film when I was younger (I imagine I still would, I just haven't seen it in a while), and the unbirthday scene always delighted me for a couple of reasons. First, it was just wonderful anarchy, and second, I was enamored with the idea that you could bring the joy and celebration typically associated with birthdays to any day you wanted.