November 7: Happy Birthday Joni Mitchell and Herman Mankiewicz
Joni Mitchell, a nine-time Grammy winner, celebrates her 73rd birthday today. One of the most influential singer-songwriters in modern popular music, Mitchell initially became known as something of a folkie, since Judy Collins had a big hit with Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” in 1968, while other folksingers also recorded several of her songs. But Mitchell was always an experimenter, one of the first popular musicians to incorporate jazz influences and to work closely with jazz musicians such as Jaco Pastorius and Charles Mingus.
For most of her career, Mitchell has been more successful as an artistic force rather than a commercial success; she has often been at odds with the recording industry, labeling it a “cesspool” in one memorable interview. However, her 1974 album Court and Spark was not only an artistic triumph but a commercial one, reaching #2 on the Billboard 200 and containing several fairly successful singles, like this one:
Herman Mankiewicz (1897-1953) worked as a journalist for several years, serving as the Berlin correspondent of the Chicago Tribune and becoming the first drama critic for The New Yorker. In 1926, film producer Walter Wanger recruited him to work in the movie industry, and his career as a screenwriter was launched. In nearly thirty years in Hollywood, he would come to be best known for co-writing the screenplay for one of the classics of American cinema:
Along with Citizen Kane, which brought him an Oscar, Mankiewicz’s best-known credited screenplays include Man of the World, Dinner at Eight and the Oscar-nominated Pride of the Yankees. He also was the uncredited producer on several of the Marx Brothers’ films at Paramount and an uncredited contributor to the screenplay for The Wizard of Oz.
Lindsay Duncan, who celebrates her 66th, is best known for her stage work. She won an Olivier Award and was a Tony nominee for mid-1980s revivals of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and won both an Olivier and a Tony for revivals of Noel Coward’s Private Lives in 2001-2. In film, she played Alice’s mother in Alice in Wonderland and this year’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. Judy Parfitt, who turns 81, has received BAFTA nominations for both television, for British miniseries The Jewel in the Crown, and film, for Girl with a Pearl Earring. Barry Newman starred in the surprise 1971 success Vanishing Point, and in the mid-seventies legal drama Petrocelli on NBC. He is 78 today. Rebecca Eaton, who is 69 today, has been the executive producer of PBS’s Masterpiece (formerly Masterpiece Theatre) since 1985. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, best known for his Oscar-nominated Super Size Me, turns 46 today. Earl Boen, who is 71 today, is a veteran voice actor who is also known as police psychologist Dr. Peter Silberman in the first three Terminator films.
Christopher Knight, who turns 59 today, played middle brother Peter Brady on The Brady Bunch. Christopher Daniel Barnes, who is 44, played Greg Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel. Also turning 44 are twin brothers Jason and Jeremy London. Jason had major parts in films like The Man in the Moon, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Jeremy is known for his TV work in Party of Five and 7th Heaven. Jeremy also had a role in the series I’ll Fly Away as Nathaniel Bedford; when Jeremy was unavailable to film a TV movie sequel to the series, Jason stepped into the role. Yunjin Kim, who appeared on Lost for six seasons and starred on ABC’s Mistresses from 2013-2016, turns 43 today.
Music birthdays today include Lorde (aka Ella Yelich-O’Connor), the pop star from New Zealand who has had Top Ten singles in “Royals” and “Team,” the former of which won two Grammys. She turns 20 today. Johnny Rivers turns 74. The singer-songwriter and producer had several Top 10 hits in the 1960s and ’70s, including the #1 hit “Poor Side of Town,” and produced the 5th Dimension’s Grammy winning hit “Up, Up and Away.” British composer William Alwyn (1905-1985) wrote five symphonies and a lot of other “serious” music, but was an equally prolific composer of film music. He scored thrillers like Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out and The Fallen Idol, and action-adventure films like The Crimson Pirate and The Swiss Family Robinson. Archie Campbell (1914-1987) was a country-comedy performer known as a writer for and star of Hee Haw. Al Hirt (1922-1999) was a jazz trumpeter and bandleader known for his Grammy-winning Top 10 hit “Java” and for his recording of the theme for the TV series The Green Hornet (based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”).
Dean Jagger (1903-1991) was a distinguished character actor of the 1940s and ’50s. He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing Major Harvey Stovall in Twelve O’Clock High in 1949, and was a two-time Emmy nominee for the NBC series Mr. Novak in the 1960s. Jagger also had a supporting role in Vanishing Point.
Looking beyond the world of entertainment and pop culture, today was the birthday of several Nobel Prize winners in several different fields, as well as one individual who is often considered to have been unfairly overlooked for a Nobel. Marie Curie (1867-1934) was a co-winner of the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics, for her work on radioactivity theory, and the sole winner of the 1911 Chemistry Prize, for discovering the elements radium and polonium. She was the first woman to win a Nobel, and one of only four people ever honored with two Nobel Prizes. C. V. Raman (1888-1970) was the winner of the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the phenomenon known to physicists as light scattering. Eric Kandel, who turns 87 today, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for 2000 for his work on how nerve cells in the brain store memories. Albert Camus (1913-1960) won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1957; he is best known for novels such as The Stranger and The Plague. Michael Spence, who is 73 today, shared the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in information economics, particularly his theory of labor market signalling. Lise Meitner (1878-1968) was an Austrian physicist who worked with chemist Otto Hahn on research that discovered the process known as nuclear fission. In 1944 Hahn won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work; a great many physicists and chemists have argued through the years that Meitner should have shared the award with Hahn.
Our sad story today is that of Dana Plato (1964-1999). For years, America knew her as Kimberly Drummond on the hit series Diff’rent Strokes. But after the show ended, she had a variety of career and personal struggles that culminated in her dying of a overdose of prescription medications in 1999.
So as not to end on a down-note for two days in a row, I saved one final music birthday for the end. Dame Joan Sutherland (1926-2010) was one of the great sopranos of the last century. Known as “La Stupenda,” she particularly excelled in the bel canto roles—Bellini, Donizetti and early Verdi.
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 November 7, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Al Hirt, Dana Plato, Dean Jagger, Herman Mankiewicz, Joan Sutherland, Joni Mitchell, Lindsay Duncan, Marie Curie, Morgan Spurlock. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.