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November 2: Happy Birthday k. d. lang and Burt Lancaster

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Alternative country and pop singer-songwriter k. d. lang turns 55 today.  She began her career as a country singer who drew inspiration from Patsy Cline, winning a pair of Grammys in country categories in 1988 and 1990.  Her fourth album, Ingénue, moved away from country to pop, and she won a third Grammy, for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, for her most successful single from that album:

“Constant Craving” peaked at #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart, making it lang’s biggest hit.  Subsequently she has co-written the soundtrack for the film Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and performed “Surrender,” the end credits song for Tomorrow Never Dies.  In 2004 she won a 4th Grammy for A Wonderful World, an album on which she collaborated with Tony Bennett.

Burt Lancaster (1913-1994) worked for several years as a circus acrobat, in partnership with his longtime friend Nick Cravat, and served in the US Army in World War 2, before beginning his acting career when he was in his early thirties.  His first screen appearance was in the 1946 film noir classic, The Killers.  He had a terrific first scene:

Lancaster was terrific as a film noir protagonist in the late 1940s, especially in 1949’s Criss Cross, but soon began showing his range as an actor.  He was a terrific swashbuckling adventurer in films like The Crimson Pirate, was a sergeant having an affair with his commander’s wife in From Here to Eternity (where he had that famous beach scene with Deborah Kerr), and a recovering alcoholic in Come Back, Little Sheba.  In Westerns he gave us an upright, righteous Wyatt Earp in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a colorful rogue in Vera Cruz, and a moderately plausible Native American in Apache.

Lancaster also had the range to play villainous characters very effectively, as in Sweet Smell of Success, Elmer Gantry (for which he won his only Oscar) and Seven Days in May.  He crossed the Atlantic to work in European films like The Leopard, and transitioned to playing older protagonists in films like Valdez is Coming and Go Tell the Spartans.  His final decade of film work saw him receive his fourth Oscar nomination for Atlantic City, play an aging oil baron in Local Hero, and make an exit from the screen just as memorable as his debut in Field of Dreams.

When Lancaster made The Leopard, he worked with director Luchino Visconti (1906-1976).  Visconti, who was one of Italy’s leading neorealist directors, was also known for films like White Nights, Rocco and His Brothers, The Damned (which brought him his only Oscar nomination) and Death in Venice (adapted from Thomas Mann’s novel).  He was also a stage director, especially known for his stagings of operas; he worked with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini on famous productions of Verdi’s La Traviata (at La Scala) and Don Carlo (at Covent Garden).

David Schwimmer celebrates his 50th birthday today.  Schwimmer will always be known best as the hopelessly romantic paleontologist Ross Geller from Friends.  Like most of his cast-mates not named Jennifer Aniston, Schwimmer did not turn his TV stardom into film success.  Since Friends ended its run, Schwimmer has done quite a bit of stage work as an actor and director, while also directing his first feature films.

Katharine Isabelle, who turns 35 today (although one source lists her birthday as March 10, 1982), is something of a Canadian “scream queen,” having starred in horror films like the Ginger Snaps series and American MaryReshma Shetty, who turns 39, is one of the stars of USA Network’s Royal PainsBrandon Soo Hoo, who stars on From Dusk till Dawn: The Series as Scott Fuller, turns 21 today.  Rapper Nelly (given name Cornell Haynes), who turns 42, is a three-time Grammy winner who is also seen on the BET reality series Nellyville.

Peter Mullan is 57 today; he is known for his acting work in films like My Name is Joe and in the miniseries Top of the Lake, and for directing The Magdalene SistersStefanie Powers, who celebrates her 74th birthday, starred as April Dancer on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and as Jennifer Hart on Hart to HartShah Rukh Khan, who turns 51, is one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, a 14-time Filmfare Award winner.  Twin sisters Lauren and Lorraine Vélez are 54 today.  Lauren is best known for her starring roles on New York Undercover and Dexter, while Lorraine is best known for her musical theater work; she has played Mimi Marquez in Rent on Broadway and the West End.  David Andrews turns 64; he starred opposite Melanie Griffith in Cherry 2000, a bit of a cult classic, and played General Brewster in Terminator 3.  Tennis great Ken Rosewall, who won the Australian Open four times and was one of the world’s top players for over two decades, turns 84.  Rachel Ames, who turns 87, appeared on General Hospital as Audrey March Hardy for over 50 years.

Patrice Chéreau (1944-2013) was, like Luchino Visconti, a stage director known for opera as well as a film director and actor.  He was noted for his staging of the 100th anniversary productions of Wagner’s Ring cycle at Bayreuth in 1976.  His film work included directing the historical drama Queen Margot, which won five Cesar awards; US audiences would recognize him as the Marquis de Montcalm in Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Ray Walston (1914-2001) was “Uncle Martin,” the Martian of My Favorite Martian; he was also known for film musicals like South Pacific, Paint Your Wagon and especially Damn YankeesAlice Brady (1892-1939) won an Oscar for her role in In Old Chicago and also appeared in other 1930s classics like My Man GodfreyAnn Rutherford (1917-2012) played Carreen O’Hara in Gone With the Wind and appeared opposite Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy films as Andy’s girlfriend Polly Benedict.  Walter Woolf King (1899-1984) was a popular musical theater and operetta star who also had a major role in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera as, appropriately, an opera star.

Several important historical figures were born this day.  James K. Polk (1795-1849) was the 11th President of the US, who led the nation during the Mexican War and acquired much of the territory of the southwestern US, including California.  Warren G. Harding (1865-1923), the 29th President, was popular while in office, but tarnished after his death as the degree of corruption in his administration was revealed.  Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was an American folk hero, one of the men who explored and led the settlement of Kentucky; he has been portrayed onscreen by George O’Brien and Fess Parker.  Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was the last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution, eventually sent to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror.  She has been played in film by many actresses, including Norma Shearer, Jane Seymour, Kirsten Dunst and Diane Kruger.

Joseph Radetzky von Radetz (1766-1858) was a Czech nobleman who was a field marshal in the Austrian army.  His victory over Sardinian forces at the Battle of Custoza led to his indirect influence on popular culture.  In celebration of the victory, the composer Johann Strauss I wrote his best-remembered piece, the Radetzky March:

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.

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Posted on November 2, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I guess somebody must be a Burt Lancaster fan. 🙂

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  2. Oh yeah, k.d. Lang’s “Constant Craving”: I heard that song a lot in 1992, as it constantly played over the loudspeakers at the AMC theater that year.
    There are so many Burt Lancaster films to consider, but these are what pop into my mind: “Sorry, Wrong Number”, “From Here to Eternity”, “The Birdman of Alcatraz”, “Atlantic City”, and one of his final films, 1988’s “Rocket Gibraltar”. I see that the Laff channel has 1986’s “Tough guys” on this month; I remember renting that film back in the day, and I thought it was pretty fun.

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  3. As gluserty pointed out above, k.d. Lang’s “Constant Craving” was pretty inescapable at a certain point in time. I liked the song, but it started to wear out its welcome when it was in rotation at a movie theater I worked at. The company sent us 1-hour music samplers to play in the lobby. They were supposed to be updated monthly, but they were not. As a result, I listened to Constant Craving every hour for about a year.

    I probably became aware of Burt Lancaster for the first time when he starred in the comedy Tough guys with Kirk Douglas in 1986. The gimmick for that movie was that these were two old Hollywood legends, but since I didn’t know their history a lot of that was lost on me.

    David Schwimmer was my least favorite “friend”. Not his fault. Ross as written wasn’t a very sympathetic character. For a while, Schimmer seemed like the castmember with the best chance at a movie career. But that fizzled faster than you can say “The Pallbearer”. I watched the first season of “Feed the Beast” on AMC, but I wouldn’t recommend it too strongly.

    The only movie I know I have seen Katharine Isabelle in is the first Ginger Snaps. I liked that movie well enough to give the sequel a try, but it didn’t hold my attention.

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    • I also was introduced to Burt Lancaster through watching “Tough guys”. At the time, my parents & I (I had some input on the matter, so I’m including myself) had subscriptions to HBO/Cinemax, so I would rent films that aired on Showtime/The Movie Channel, and one of those was “Tough guys”. I also knew nothing of either actor’s epic film history, so at the time I just enjoyed the film as two old dudes who could still get things done.

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      • Same here about Tough Guys, I was aware that Landcaster and Douglas were screen legends, but only peripherally at the time. I enjoyed it for what it was.

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