September 29: Happy Birthday Zachary Levi and Madeline Kahn
Zachary Levi turns 36 today. He began acting in regional musical theater productions when he was very young. His first major role was as Kipp Steadman on Less Than Perfect, which ran on ABC from 2002-2006. Following that, he was cast in what would prove to be his best-known role to date, as a customer service worker at an electronics retailer who one day finds that he has the only copy of a massive CIA/NSA database embedded in his brain:
Levi’s gig as the title character on Chuck lasted five seasons; the show never had huge ratings but was a critical success. During and after its run, he also appeared as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World and was heard as Eugene Fitzherbert/Flynn Rider in Tangled; his duet with Mandy Moore in the latter film, “I See The Light,” won a Grammy. He made his Broadway debut in 2013 in the musical First Date, and was nominated for a Tony for starring opposite Laura Benanti in the 2016 revival of the musical She Loves Me.
In one of those little amazing coincidences that I’m constantly finding with these articles, the wonderful comic actress Madeline Kahn (1942-1999) also had the musical She Loves Me on her resume; she played the female lead in a series of 1977 concert performances at Town Hall, starring opposite Barry Bostwick. Kahn began her career on the stage, making her Broadway debut in the revue Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1968, and receiving the first of her four Tony nominations for David Rabe’s 1973 play In the Boom Boom Room. One year earlier, she made her feature film debut in a screwball comedy homage directed by Peter Bogdanovich:
After What’s Up Doc, Kahn woirked with Bogdanovich again on Paper Moon, winning a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She received a second Oscar nomination for Blazing Saddles, her first of several films with Mel Brooks. She continued to have a successful film, TV and stage career—winning a Daytime Emmy in 1987 and a Tony for the play The Sisters Rosensweig in 1993—until her death from cancer in 1999.
Robert Benton, who is 84 today, is an Oscar-winning director and writer. He won Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Kramer vs. Kramer, and added Best Original Screenplay for Places in the Heart; he also co-wrote the script for What’s Up Doc. Danish writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn became known in Denmark for the Pusher trilogy, branched into English-language film with 2008’s Bronson, and had his first Hollywood success with the contemporary noir Drive in 2011. He celebrates his 46th birthday. Molly Haskell turns 77 today; she is a film critic and scholar best known for her book From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies.
Sebastian Coe (these days it’s Baron Coe), who turns 60 today, was one of the dominant middle-distance runners in the world in the 1980s, winning Olympic gold medals in the men’s 1500 meters in 1980 and 1984. After his retirement from sports he served in the British Parliament and currently is president of the International Association of Athletics Federations. Kevin Durant turns 28 today. The NBA star was the league’s MVP in 2014 and after spending nine seasons with the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder (the franchise moved from Seattle in 2012), he signed a free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors.
Erika Eleniak, who celebrates her 47th, had a memorable scene in E.T., starred in TV’s Baywatch, and played Elly May Clampett in the film adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies. Cindy Morgan, who is 62, played programmer Lora and her digital counterpart Yori in Tron. At one point, Emily Lloyd, who turns 46 today, was considered a potential rising star. But her career was derailed by her struggles with severe mental illness over much of the past 25 years. British actor Ian McShane, who celebrates his 74th birthday, is best known for starring in the British crime comedy series Lovejoy and as Al Swearengen in HBO’s Deadwood. Roger Bart, who turns 54, is a versatile actor best known for his stage work. He won a Tony for playing Snoopy in the 1999 revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and was nominated for a second in the musical adaptation of The Producers. Anaïs Demoustier turns 29. The rising star in French film is a two-time Cesar Award nominee.
Singer-songwriter and pianist Jerry Lee Lewis, sometimes called “rock & roll’s first great wild man,” turns 81 today. He had his greatest success in the late 1950s, with hits like “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Breathless.” He reinvented himself as a country singer in the late 1960s and has continued recording and touring into the 21st century.
Greer Garson (1904-1996) was one of the most popular actresses of the 1940s, and a seven-time nominee for the Oscar for Best Actress (winning for Mrs. Miniver), but today her star seems to have faded some. Her film debut, and first Best Actress nomination, was in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, while she was also noted for playing Marie Curie in Madam Curie and Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello (both of which also brought her Oscar nominations). Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007) was not a director who emphasized traditional narrative, and you don’t watch him for a normal movie-going experience. One of his most famous films, the ironically titled L’Avventura/The Adventure, has been described as a “film where nothing happens.” Other films he is known for include La Notte, L’Eclisse, Red Desert, Blowup and The Passenger.
Trevor Howard (1913-1988) starred in British dramas like Brief Encounter and The Heart of the Matter before settling into a lengthy career as a character actor, including an appearance in Superman as one of the Elders of Krypton. American director and producer Stanley Kramer (1913-2001) was known for his films with a “message,” including Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Defiant Ones, High Noon and Judgment at Nuremburg. He was a nine-time Oscar nominee. Brenda Marshall (1915-1992) had a short career as a leading lady that included appearing as one of Errol Flynn’s most beautiful leading ladies in the 1940 swashbuckler The Sea Hawk. Because of her looks, her smoky voice and her modeling background, Lizabeth Scott (1922-2015) often was considered a Lauren Bacall imitator, but she was an effective film noir leading lady in films like The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Dead Reckoning, Too Late for Tears, and The Racket. Ken Weatherwax (1955-2014) played Pugsley Addams on television’s The Addams Family.
Gene Autry (1909-1998) was one of the first great singing cowboys of film and television, famous for his signature song “Back in the Saddle Again” and his recording of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He was the owner of baseball’s California Angels from 1961-1996. Anita Ekberg (1931-2015) was one of the great sex symbols of the 1950s and ’60s. She appeared in both Hollywood and European films, most famously in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Stuart Kaminsky (1934-2009) was a mystery novelist; one of his several series was about a PI named Toby Peters who lived in 1940s Los Angeles, and regularly found himself investigating mysteries that affected various film stars and other celebrities.
Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) was one of the greatest writers of all time, the author of the classic novel Don Quixote. The novel has been adapted to other media countless times, while Cervantes himself is a character in the musical Man of La Mancha. Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) was perhaps the greatest naval combat commander of all time, famous for his victory over the French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. He has been portrayed on film by Laurence Olivier and Peter Finch, among others.
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 September 29, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Gene Autry, Greer Garson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lizabeth Scott, Madeline Kahn, Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Benton, Stanley Kramer, Trevor Howard, Zachary Levi. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.