Aug 21: Happy Birthday Kim Cattrall and Kenny Rogers
Kim Cattrall, who celebrates her 60th birthday today, started acting in her teens. During the 1970s she was a regular guest star on a variety of TV series. In the 1980s, she began to get regular feature film work, but a lot of it was in films that would probably make “worst of” lists of various sorts—Porky’s, Police Academy, Mannequin (Big Trouble in Little China has, however, become a bit of a cult classic). Star Trek VI at the opening of the 1990s was a bit of a step forward, but as that decade moved forward, it seemed that even if Cattrall got a role in a prestige picture, all she could get out of it was a Razzie nomination.
That changed dramatically in 1998 when HBO came calling about a new show based on a book by writer and producer Candace Bushnell, and Cattrall got the role that she has been identified with ever since:
The part of Samantha Jones in Sex and the City brought Cattrall a Golden Globe, along with several additional Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG award nominations. Since SATC ended its run, her film and television career may seem a bit quiet, but that’s in part because she has always had a stage career alongside her screen one. In the past decade Cattrall has appeared in plays ranging from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (as Cleopatra), to Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, to Noel Coward’s Private Lives. She has appeared both on Broadway and the West End.
One of the best-selling musical artists of all time, Kenny Rogers celebrates his 78th birthday today. His career began with a short stint with the 1960s folk ensemble The new Christy Minstrels, following which he and a couple of other Christys alums founded The First Edition, a pop-rock group. They had a number of hits, including the biting “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” before disbanding in 1976, at which time Rogers went solo.
As a solo performer it didn’t take long for Rogers to reach the top. In the late 1970s he had a string of #1 country hits, including “Lucille,” “She Believes in Me,” “You Decorated My Life,” “Coward of the County,” and the hit which, while not his biggest seller of all, was the one that may have defined him for many of his fans:
Rogers’ success continued into the 1980s. “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” was the beginning of a frequent partnership with Kim Carnes, while “Lady” was his first single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. When he retired last year he had had, by my count, 18 songs that reached #1 on the US Country charts (including a couple of collaborations).
Peter Weir’s directing career began in his native Australia. His first film to attract critical notice was the mysterious, even inscrutable period mystery Picnic at Hanging Rock, released in 1975. He has made about a dozen films since then, almost all of the critical successes (he has four nominations for the Oscar for Best Director), although only 3 would really qualify as commercial hits. One thing he has regularly been successful at is evoking a time or place that is outside the audience’s experience—1960s Indonesia under Sukarno (The Year of Living Dangerously), the Pennsylvania Amish community (Witness, just discussed in the Kelly McGillis WTHH piece), or the “wooden ships and iron men” era of naval warfare (Master and Commander), just to mention three. He turns 72 today.
Besides Kenny Rogers, music world birthdays today include rising country star Kacey Musgraves, who turns 28. Her first two albums both reached #1 on the US country charts. French pop star and voice actress Alizée celebrates her 32nd birthday. Singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon, who had her biggest hit with “What the World Needs Now is Love” in 1965, turns 75 today. And to cover all genres, English opera and lieder singer Dame Janet Baker celebrates her 83rd birthday.
Hayden Panettiere, who starred in Heroes and now is featured in Nashville, turns 27 today. Joining her periodically in the cast of Nashville as of earlier this year is actress-musician Alicia Witt, who turns 41 today. Some may remember her as younger daughter Zoey on Cybill. Carrie-Anne Moss, best known for the Matrix trilogy and Memento, celebrates her 49th birthday. And Italian actress and director Laura Morante, a six-time David di Donatello award nominee (they’re the Italian Oscars), five times for Best Actress with one win and once for directing, turns 60 today.
Melvin Van Peebles, who turns 84 today, was one of the first noteworthy African-American directors, famed for his action thriller Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Clarence Williams III, who celebrates his 77th birthday, had a long stage and screen career highlighted by being one of the stars of The Mod Squad, the cop show for hip young people in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Patty McCormack, who turns 71, was a child actress of the 1950s, who starred in the title role of Maxwell Anderson’s play The Bad Seed on Broadway, and in the film adaptation, for which she won a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She was the youngest ever Best Supporting Actress nominee at the time and is still the fifth youngest ever in that category. She is still working in television and film.
Isidor “Friz” Freleng (1906-1995) was one of the lead directors at Termite Terrace, Warner Brothers’ animation unit, and directed more Warner Brothers cartoons than anyone else at the studio. He did many of the most famous Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. Short and a bit bad-tempered, Freleng is sometimes said to have been the inspiration for Yosemite Sam.
Wilt Chamberlain (1936-1999) was an NBA Hall of Famer, one of the game’s all-time greats, and by his account was also an all-time great among womanizers.
And some more musical talents: Basil Poledouris (1945-2006) was a noted composer for film, especially for action films like Conan the Barbarian, RoboCop, The Hunt for Red October, and Starship Troopers. Joe Strummer (1952-2002) was the co-founder, lyricist and lead vocalist of The Clash, providing the lyrics to songs like “London Calling ” and “Rock the Casbah.” And William James “Count” Basie (1904-1984) was a pianist, organist and bandleader who was one of the legends of jazz.
Our final birthday for today is Bill Lee (1916-1980). Lee, a singer, did a lot of commercials, but he was also active in the film industry as a playback singer—he provided the singing voice for actors or voice actors. He worked on several Disney animated films; that’s him singing “Cruella De Vil” in One Hundred and One Dalmatians. In live-action films, his biggest role was providing Christopher Plummer’s singing voice in The Sound of Music:
And now for today’s trivia question. In the same movie as Bill Lee had his biggest playback singing part, one of the best-known playback singers of all got the chance, for the first time in her career, to appear onscreen, credited under her own name. Who was that?
If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names. Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today. Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.
Posted on August 21, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Alicia Witt, Bill Lee, Count Basie, Friz Freleng, Hayden Panettiere, Kenny Rogers, Kim Cattrall, peter weir. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.