October 18: Happy Birthday Wynton Marsalis and George C. Scott


Wynton Marsalis celebrates his 55th birthday today.  A trumpeter who is accomplished at both jazz and classical music, Marsalis performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic at 14 years of age.  After graduating from the Juilliard School in 1981, he immediately began to make a mark as a recording artist.  In 1983, he became the first, and so far only, artist to win Grammys for classical and jazz recordings in the same year, the first for a recording of the trumpet concertos of Haydn, Hummel and Leopold Mozart, the second for his album Think of One:

To date, Marsalis has won a total of nine Grammys—six for jazz recordings, two for classical, and one for Best Spoken Word Album.  In the 1990s, he composed a three-and-a-half hour jazz oratorio, Blood on the Fields, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1997, the first jazz composer to be so honored.

George C. Scott (1927-1999) began to emerge as a film actor with a pair of Oscar-nominated roles, in 1959 for ambitious prosecutor Claude Dancer in Anatomy of a Murder and as Bert Gordon in The Hustler.  In 1964, he played General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove.  But his greatest role came when he was cast as another general:

Scott was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of General George S. Patton, but declined to accept the award, telling the Academy that he found it “demeaning” to be in competition with other actors.  He later turned down an Emmy award for the same reason.  In addition to his film and television work, Scott had a long stage career, starring in the original Broadway cast of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite and playing Willy Loman in a 1975 revival of Death of a Salesman.

Zhou Xun, who turns 42 today, is one of the most acclaimed actresses in Chinese-language film, although unlike Zhang Ziyi or Zhao Wei she has not done much work that would be know to mainstream US audiences.  She has won Best Actress accolades during her career from the Hong Kong Film Awards, the Golden Horse Awards (Taiwan), the Golden Rooster Awards (mainland China) and the Asian Film Awards.

WTHH subject Jean-Claude Van Damme turns 56 today.  He recently appeared in Kickboxer: Vengeance, a reboot of the old series of Kickboxer films.  Dawn Wells is 78 today; she will always be remembered as Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s IslandErin Moran, who celebrates her 56th, played Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days and Joanie Loves ChachiPam Dawber, who turns 65, starred as Mindy McConnell on Mork & Mindy and later as Samantha Russell on My Sister SamJoe Morton, who is 69 today, starred on Syfy’s Eureka and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor for Scandal.  In film he has regularly worked with John Sayles and appeared in Terminator 2 and SpeedChuck Lorre, who celebrates his 64th, is a television writer-producer who has created a number of successful series: Grace Under Fire, Cybill, Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly, and The Big Bang Theory.

Martina Navratilova, who turns 60, was one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time, winning 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 doubles titles (most with Pam Shriver) and 10 mixed doubles titles during her career.  Mike Ditka, who is 77 today, is a Football Hall of Famer who won Super Bowls as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach, the last in 1986 with the Chicago Bears.  Terry McMillian, who celebrates her 65th, is the author of novels such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, as well as the screenplays when both of these were adapted to film.

Zac Efron turns 29 today.  He became well-known as Troy Bolton in the High School Musical films and for 17 Again; more recently he has starred in the Neighbors films and this year’s Dirty GrandpaCarly Schroeder is 26 today; as a teen she was featured in well-received films like Mean Creek and Gracie, and she stars in the upcoming film One of UsFreida Pinto, who celebrates her 32nd, became famous as a star of Slumdog Millionaire; she also starred in the reboot film Rise of the Planet of the Apes and will be in Andy Serkis’s upcoming Jungle BookTyler Posey, who is 25 today, stars as Scott McCall on MTV’s Teen WolfJoy Bryant, who turns 42 today, starred as Jasmine Trussell on Parenthood for its five season run.

Chuck Berry celebrates his 90th birthday today.  He began as a blues musician but became one of the pioneers of rock; just for starters, the common way of opening a rock song with an electric guitar run is known as a “Chuck Berry guitar intro.”  He was also one of the most influential songwriters in the early rock era, quite possibly the most influential.

Berry has faced some legal difficulties during his career, but his place in music history is assured.

A number of other noteworthy names in music were born this day.  Laura Nyro (1947-1997) had a respectable career as a recording artist but was best known for recordings that others made of her songs, such as The 5th Dimension and Barbra Streisand.  Lotte Lenya (1898-1981) was best known for performing the works of her husband, composer Kurt Weill, most notably her signature role of Jenny in The Threepenny Opera.  She also played Rosa Klebb in From Russia With LoveBobby Troup (1918-1999) was the composer of “Route 66,” which was recorded by, among others, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and none other than Chuck Berry.  Troup also starred on TV’s EmergencyJessie May Hemphill (1923-2006) was one of the first successful female blues artists.  Composer Howard Shore is a three-time Oscar winner for his work on the Lord of the Rings films.  Shore, who is 70 today, has also scored almost all of David Cronenberg’s films and worked several times with Martin Scorsese.  Cynthia Weil turns 76; she and her husband Barry Mann co-wrote the Oscar and Grammy-winning son “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail and wrote hits like Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

Peter Boyle (1935-2006) won an Emmy as Outstanding Guest Actor—Drama for an appearance on The X-Files, played the monster in Young Frankenstein, and was a seven-time Emmy nominee for playing Frank Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond.  German actor Klaus Kinski (1926-1991) starred in spaghetti Westerns like For a Few Dollars More and then became a regular in Werner Herzog’s films, such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarroldo.  Playwright Wendy Wasserstein (1950-2006) won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony for Best Play, along with other honors, for The Heidi Chronicles.  Greek actress Melina Mercouri (1920-1994) was an Oscar nominee for Never on Sunday and a three-time Golden Globe nominee, who generally worked with her director-husband, Jules Dassin.

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 October 18, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I must confess Zac Efron is a babe. 🙂 My mom taped (yes, people still taped in 2006) “High School Musical” for me, and I watched it often until my mom threw out the tape. Another Efron favorite of mine is “The Lucky One”. It’s not exactly the best romantic drama out there, but Efron holds his own against a terrible leading lady.


  2. George C. Scott, on the other hand, is not a favorite of mine. I always thought he was a complete jerk. The quote he used to describe the Oscars was “a two hour meat parade”. Marlon Brando also refused his second Best Actor Oscar for “The Godfather” two years later because of the treatment of Native Americans in film. To date, Scott and Brando are the only two actors who have refused Oscars.

    I hate to be nitpicky, but there is a slight error. According to IMDB, Scott DID accept his Emmy Award, but I’m not exactly sure what the reason was behind it.


    • Lots of actors hate the admittedly artificial competition created by awards shows like the Oscars or Emmys and although I enjoy and value the Oscars specifically, I can’t fault them for it. I am much more concerned with whether a performer does his or her job well than if they play nice with the Academy, and George C Scott has a long history as a pretty amazing actor. As with anybody, his work improves when the script is good and boy has he had some great scripts, but he also carries substantial weight even when he’s appearing in dreck. I would recommend his turn in the mystery film The Changeling.


  3. Every time a Jazz musician shows up, I remember my friend from high school. I can thank him for my passing familiarity with Wynton Marsalis. George C. Scott, I knew from Patton, but I remember seeing him in all kinds of things. He had a reputation as a wild man. Like, actually crazy. Ava Gardner said he stalked her. That he lost all control when she was around.

    Despite his status as a WTHH subject, I have never watched very many Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Let’s see, I saw Time Cop and Street Fighter (both work obligations) and my brother made me watch The Quest which literally put me to sleep. I think that’s it outside of cameos and I did watch the pilot for his show on Amazon.

    You know those ads at the bottom of a lot of websites that suggest articles you might be interested in? Well, for whatever reason, I am constantly seeing ads telling me I won’t believe what Dawn Wells looks like today. She looks pretty much exactly like what you would think she would look like:

    We’ve got quite a few TV actresses today. I watched a lot of Happy Days and even Joanie Loves Chachi. And Mork and Mindy was my favorite show at a certain age. A lot of that was due to Robin Williams’ silly antics, but also Pam Dawber was a perfect foil.

    Every day has a great character actor. I always feel like I am saying “when so-and-so shows up, I’m always happy to see them.” Today, that guy is Joe Morton. Is it just me or did his character get a really bad deal in Terminator 2?

    Chuck Lorre makes popular television shows that I don’t want to watch.

    Somewhere, I hope Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle are doing this:


    • I did not know George C. Scott stalked Ava Gardner. I thought he was a complete jerk, but I didn’t think he was full out psycho.

      I also read somewhere he was difficult as well. According to Susannah York, he was unbearable to work with during filming the 1984 version of “A Christmas Carol”. Needless to say, York never worked with him again after that experience.


      • I forgot to mention Peter Boyle in my earlier comments. I enjoyed watching him on “Everybody Loves Raymond” as the cranky father. Boyle had great chemistry with the recently deceased Doris Roberts, and I still miss them both.

        It’s crazy how the show is only 20 years old, and a third of the cast is already gone! (Sorry if I exclaimed at that thought, but it really is crazy).

        RIP Peter Boyle. Have a great birthday in heaven.


      • I only recently learned of it from a Movieline article than ran here earlier this year. Here’s a link.


  4. Patton is a movie that, even if you generally don’t like war movies, you should see once for George C. Scott’s performance. He was also terrific in Dr. Strangelove.

    As I noted, Joe Morton has done several films with John Sayles; for one, he is yet another member of the terrific cast Sayles got together for Lone Star.

    I almost made Chuck Berry a headliner for today but I decided to go with someone just a little more contemporary. He is at least borderline legendary.

    Lotte Lenya was a great Bond villainess and also a great stage performer.


    • It’s probably wrong, but every time I think of Chuck Berry I think of the Johnny B Goode scene in Back to the Future.

      Rosa Klebb is certainly an iconic Bond villain. One of the top henchmen of all time regardless of gender.


  5. Today’s birthday update has had five likes and three retweets on Twitter. I know those don’t sound like big numbers, but likes and retweets aren’t exceptionally common outside of the birthday updates. Keep up the great work!


  6. For some reason, the one film that George C. Scott performed in outside of Strangelove & “Patton” that sticks with me is 1979’s “Hardcore”. I thought it was pretty heartbreaking story for the most part, but at least Season Hubley was in season in that film.
    Yesterday it was George Wendt and “Da Bears”, and today it’s Mike Ditka, Da Bears former coach. My favorite Mike Ditka line: “I’ll take the luck, I’m tired of the skill”.
    Yeah, both Bobby Troup & Julie London did some singing, both were in “Emergency!”, and both were married to each other. I think that’s neat.
    My favorite Chuck Berry song is “My Ding-A-Ling”: my mother used to play that song when we had shopping trips with her mother back when I was a kid. I used to think, ” Is he is saying what I think he’s saying? This is for real”?
    Peter Boyle, he was in “Hardcore” like George C. Scott, but “Young Frankenstein” (of course), “Taxi Driver”, and 1980’s “Where the Buffalo Roam” immediately spring to my mind as well.


  7. Another big name has passed from the scene; Chuck Berry has passed at the age of 90.


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