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December 5: Happy Birthday Little Richard and Walt Disney

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Richard Penniman, universally known as Little Richard, turns 84 today. Initially a gospel and R&B performer, he became one of the first, and one of the most durable, of the big stars of rock and roll.  From about 1955-58 he turned out hit after hit, some of which have been awarded “Hall of Fame” designation by the Grammys, and one of which is in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

While Little Richard has never matched his period of recording success in the late 1950s, he has remained a successful performer even past the age of 80, although his popularity has ebbed and flowed as it does for most musicians.  When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its inaugural class in 1986, he was among those selected, along with the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jim Brown, Ray Charles and a few others.

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Walt Disney (1901-1966) was interested in drawing from a young age.  After a few years working as a commercial artist, he moved to Los Angeles and began to produce cartoons.  In the late 1920s, Disney and Ub Iwerks created a character they named Mickey Mouse, who was rather successful, and in the early 1930s Disney won his first Oscars, for the animated shorts Flowers and Trees and The Three Little Pigs.  And then, a few years later, came “Disney’s Folly.”

Walt Disney and the corporation he created can probably be said to have pioneered two very successful and important forms of entertainment.  The full-length animated feature—not such a folly, was it, now?—was one, while the other was the creation of the unique Disney theme parks.  If you poke around on this site, you may be able to find just a tiny bit of coverage of both of these subjects.

Paula Patton turns 41 today.  She made her feature film debut in Hitch in 2005 and has starred in Déjà Vu, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, and earlier this year in the video game adaptation WarcraftNick Stahl, who turns 37, starred as John Conner in Terminator 3, had featured roles in films like The Thin Red Line and Sin City, and appeared with yesterday’s headliner Marisa Tomei in In the BedroomAmy Acker, who turns 40, is known for her work with Joss Whedon, on Angel and Dollhouse and as Beatrice in Whedon’s film of Much Ado About Nothing.  She also played Root on Person of InterestJessica Paré, who celebrates her 36th, played Megan Draper on Mad Men and has had major roles in films like Lost and Delirious and Wicker ParkFrankie Muniz, who is 31 today, was an Emmy nominee as the title character of Malcolm in the Middle and starred in the two Agent Cody Banks films; he subsequently has pursued vocations as a race car driver and musician.

Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé is celebrating his 72nd today.  He first became known in the films of his compatriot, director Paul Verhoeven, such as Soldier of Orange and The Fourth Man.  He then made a number of high-profile English-language films.  He was a Bond villain, playing Gen. Georgi Koskov in The Living Daylights, and a few years later was the villainous Dr. Charles Nichols in The Fugitive.

Director and writer Lynne Ramsay turns 47.  Her feature films Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk About Kevin have gotten some impressive film festival and indie film award notices.  Kali Rocha, who stars on Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie as the mother of the identical twin title characters, turns 45 today.  The multi-talented Margaret Cho, who has been an actress, stand-up comic, author, fashion designer and more in her career, turns 48 today.

Jim Messina, who is 69 today, was a member of the folk-rock group Buffalo Springfield for a short period, and then went on to a successful partnership with Kenny Loggins; Loggins and Messina had several hits in the 1970s.  Keri Hilson turns 34.  The R&B and hip-hop artist is a two-time Grammy nominee and made her acting debut in the ensemble rom-com Think Like a Man.  Singer-songwriter J. J. Cale (1938-2013) had some success as a performer, but was best known for the covers of his songs by artists like Eric Clapton (who had a Top 20 hit with Cale’s “After Midnight”), Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others. Tenor Jose Carreras, who celebrates his 70th today, made his operatic debut at eleven, as a boy soprano at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, and went on to a career that took him to opera houses all around the world.  He became known to a much wider audience in 1990 when he joined Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti for the first of the “Three Tenors” concerts.

Four major figures in studio era Hollywood share today as a birthday.  Fritz Lang (1890-1976) built his reputation as a director in Weimar Germany, with films such as Metropolis, M, and the first two of his Dr. Mabuse films, the second of which was banned by the Nazis when they came to power.  Lang, of partly Jewish heritage, moved to America and made over 20 films in Hollywood, including Fury, Scarlet Street, Rancho Notorious, and The Big HeatOtto Preminger (1905-1986) began directing for stage and screen in Austria, and was recruited to come to Hollywood by Daryl F. Zanuck of Fox.  Despite a stormy relationship with Fox, he was able to establish his reputation with the film noir classic Laura.  He later became known for films that challenged some of the taboos of the aging Production Code, such as The Man With the Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder.  Preminger also did some acting (he appeared as Mr. Freeze on the Batman series); one of his acting roles was in The Pied Piper in 1942, which was produced and written by Nunnally Johnson (1897-1977).  Johnson was an occasional director, more often a producer, but was best known as a writer.  He wrote the screenplays for films such as The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road, The Woman in the Window (directed by Fritz Lang), The Dark Mirror, and How to Marry a Millionaire.  Writer and director Abraham Polonsky (1910-1999) worked as a novelist and lawyer before starting to write screenplays.  He wrote the screenplay for the 1947 film Body and Soul, and a year later directed the film noir classic Force of Evil; however, he was blacklisted in the 1950s and was not credited for a screenplay again until 1968.

Joan Didion, who turns 82 today, is the author of several novels, such as Play It as It Lays and Democracy, and a number of screenplays, such as True Confessions and Up Close & Personal (both written with her late husband, John Gregory Dunne).  But she is best known for her nonfiction books and articles, leading examples of the so-called “new journalism,” which Tom Wolfe described as “journalism that would…read like a novel.”  James Lee Burke, who is turning 80, is best known for his series of 20 atmospheric crime novels about former New Orleans cop Dave Robicheaux.  He has been hailed as a “gorgeous prose stylist” by none other than Stephen King.  English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was a member of the so-called “Pre-Raphaelite” movement of poets and painters.  At this time of year, it’s appropriate to identify her as the author of the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

Some important figures in US history were born today.  Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) was the eighth President of the US, before which he served President Andrew Jackson as Secretary of State and Vice-President and built the organization and infrastructure of the Democratic Party.  Strom Thurmond (1902-2003) was a longtime US Senator from South Carolina.  He holds a pair of congressional records.  He was the only man ever to serve in either house of Congress up to his 100th birthday, and, much less to his credit, he holds the record for the longest filibuster by a lone senator in the history of the Senate, in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957.  George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) was a flamboyant, often reckless cavalry commander in the US Army, both during the Civil War and in the American Indian Wars of the 1860s and ’70s.  That recklessness cost him his life when he and several companies of the 7th Cavalry were ambushed by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors on the Little Bighorn River in Montana.  Custer and his “Last Stand” have been portrayed many times in film; actors who have played him include Ronald Reagan, Robert Shaw, Gary Cole, and most notably Errol Flynn.

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 December 5, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I am somewhat surprised to discover that Little Richard is still alive. Honestly, I have known Little Richard more as a personality than a performer, though obviously I have seen him perform as well. A while back, my dad went through some Little Richard phase where he kept playing Tutti Fruity over and over again. That was a bit disturbing.

    Books can and have been written about Walt Disney. I’ve read quite a few and I’m still discovering new takes on this complex man. It doesn’t help matters that Disney was a storyteller in life as well as by profession. It’s sometimes impossible to tell fact from fiction where Walt Disney is concerned. For example, since you referenced it, there’s some doubt about the term “Disney’s Folly.” Walt liked to tell the story that everyone scoffed at the idea of a feature-length animated movie. But the truth is, he was working round the clock because he was worried his competitors would beat him to the punch. It wasn’t so much that people thought animation couldn’t support a feature so much as that people thought Snow White might bankrupt Disney studios. And that was a very real possibility.

    Every great once in a while, we touch on a Disney-related topics (as can be seen from the “related items” section below the article) so I’ll move on to our other subjects.

    I have seen Hitch, Déjà Vu, and Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, but the name Paula Patton didn’t ring a bell. Nick Stahl is another victim of the John Connor curse apparently. As a Whedonite, I’m always happy to see him cast Amy Acker in something. Jessica Paré, I obviously know from Mad Men. But she also made an impression in the somewhat less respected Hot Tub Time Machine. If I did WTHH articles on TV kid stars, Frankie Muniz would have one already.

    It seems today’s entry is heavy on historical figures. Not a lot of starpower among the contemporary birthdays.

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    • In picking the headliners, I have tried to always choose at least one living person. But if Little Richard had not still been alive, I would have had a very hard time doing so for today’s article.

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      • Yeah, I can see how that would have been a challenge. Happy birthday Amy Acker would be fun for Whedon’s fans like me, but probably not a real headline grabber. Hopefully someone born on this day will become immensely famous between today and this time next year. 😉

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    • What RUINED…Disney Channel?

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  2. Right away when I saw Little Richard’s name I immediately thought well, here is today’s major birthday. Whatever you think of his music, there is no denying that Little Richard is one of the originators of Rock N’ Roll.

    Maybe it took a guy like Elvis Presley to move Rock N Roll into the mainstream, to make it ok for older white parents to accept that their teenagers were listening to and buying this new form of black-based R&B music.

    But at the same time here was someone who actually was black who was also performing this R&B based rock music, and in the racially diverse mid-50’s it was incredibly difficult for black musicians to break into mainstream Top 40 radio, even before rock n’ roll became a thing. Yet with Little Richard here was someone who was actually getting multiple mainstream radio hits like Long Tall Sally, Tutti Frutti and Good Golly Miss Molly.

    Even if Little Richard’s Top 40 success was short-lived and concentrated to the 1950’s, he will always be a legend of early Rock N’ Roll history for his important contributions.

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  3. I’m pretty familiar with Little Richard and his music; I noticed that one of those app games (“Farm Heroes”? Farm heroes are hard to find) used Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti” in a commercial. Actually, I’ve said the phrase “Tutty Frutti” quite a few times in my life.
    Walt Disney is definitely an icon, and I’d have to say that this site does Disney a lot of justice. Hopefully Walt Disney himself would be pleased.
    I’m familiar with Paula Patton from “Hitch”, “Deja Vu”, and “Swing Vote”. I think she’s attractive.
    Nick Stahl, the films I think of most when I think of him are “The Man Without a Face”, 1998’s “Disturbing Behavior” and 200’s “Bully” (for those who did or didn’t like Larry Clark’s 1995 film “Kids”, it has the same feel, although a true story). Yeah, I know he was in the third Terminator film, but that picture doesn’t automatically come to mind when thinking of him (I could say the same for Claire Danes).
    Jessica Pare, yeah, I’m familiar with her from 201’s “Lost and Delirious” and “Hot Tub Time Machine”.
    Jeroen Krabbe, I associate him with playing bad guys (like in “No Mercy”), except the time he played a good East German Spy (there’s such a thing?) in the episode of “Miami Vice” titled “Heroes of the Revolution”.

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  4. Old School Lane Casual Chats Episode 78: The Disney Renaissance Era

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