January 10: Happy Birthday Walter Hill and Rod Stewart


Director and writer Walter Hill is turning 75 today.  Hill began working in film in the late 1960s, serving as a second AD on The Thomas Crown Affair and Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run.  He began to find work as a writer in the early seventies, notably on The Getaway and The Mackintosh Man.  His first film as a director was the boxing movie Hard Times, but it was his second directing effort, the 1978 crime film The Driver, that began to put him on the map.

Hill has gone on to a varied and interesting career.  He has done Westerns like The Long Riders and Geronimo, was one of the first developers of the “buddy movie” with 48 Hrs., turned Xenophon’s Anabasis into a story of urban gangs in The Warriors, and directed a “rock and roll fable” called Streets of Fire.  He was also a producer on Alien and an executive producer on the sequels.  His latest film as a director, titled (Re)Assignment, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.

For the third straight day, we have a headliner who has sold over 100 million records worldwide (or been part of a band that did so).  Sir Rod Stewart is 72 today.  Stewart began performing in his late teens, working with a number of groups and making a few solo recordings.  When Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds in 1967, he recruited Stewart as the vocalist for the Jeff Beck Group, and as a result of his increased prominence, Stewart was able to establish himself as a solo artist as the seventies began.

Stewart was one of the most successful pop/rock performers of the 1970s.  He had several hit albums, and a number of charted singles, including three that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The first of those #1 hits was originally released as the B-side of another Stewart single, but soon became far more popular than the A-side of the record:

In the 2000s, Stewart, while continuing to tour and perform his hits, also reinvented himself somewhat by releasing a series of “Great American Songbook” albums featuring traditional pop standards by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, et. al.  He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a solo performer and a member of the band Faces.

William Sanderson, who turns 73 today, is known for his playing J. F. Sebastian in Blade Runner and also appeared in Walter Hill’s Last Man Standing.  His television work includes regular roles on Newhart in the 1980s and more recently on HBO’s Deadwood and True Blood.  Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, who is turning 43, has won six Filmfare Awards during his career.  Fran Walsh, best known as the writing and producing partner of Sir Peter Jackson, turns 58 today.  One of the films Walsh co-wrote was The Frighteners, which starred Trini Alvarado, who celebrates her 50th today.  James Lapine, who celebrates his 68th, is a major figure in musical theater and a frequent collaborator of Stephen Sondheim’s.  He has won three Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical—for Into the Woods, Falsettos, and Passion—and wrote the book for Sunday in the Park with George, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Comedian and actor Jemaine Clement, who turns 43, was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for starring in Flight of the Conchords (which he also co-produced) and currently can be heard as a voice actor in Moana.  Iranian-American actress Sarah Shahi, who is 37 today, is known for her recurring role on The L Word and regular roles on Fairly Legal and Person of InterestEmily Meade, who will be starring in the upcoming HBO series The Deuce, turns 28 today.

Once again we have a lengthy list of additional music birthdays.  Jim Croce (1943-1973) had his first major hit, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” in June 1972, just over a year before his death in a small plane crash.  His subsequent hits included two #1 singles, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Time in a Bottle,” which only rose to #1 after Croce’s death.  Singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin turns 61 today.  She is a three-time Grammy winner, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for her 1997 hit “Sunny Came Home.”  Max Roach (1924-2007) was one of the finest jazz drummers of all time and worked with several legends of jazz, including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker.  Johnnie Ray (1927-1990) was a traditional pop star of the 1990s, known for a number of charted hits including “Cry” and “Just Walkin’ in the Rain.”  Sherrill Milnes, who turns 82 today, appeared on opera stages all over the world for nearly 40 years, as one of a long line of great American baritones that began with Lawrence TibbettNadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who is turning 56, has been one of the leading classical violinists in the world for over thirty years.

Pat Benatar, who turns 64, was the first woman to play on MTV, and one of the fledgling channels favorite artist during their early days.  She won the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for four straight years, from 1980-83, and had nine Top 20 hits in the 1980s.

Sports birthdays include Baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.  “Stretch,” who turns 79 today, spent most of his career with the San Francisco Giants, playing first base, and retired with over 500 career home runs.  Boxing great George Foreman is 68 today.  “Big George” won the world heavyweight title by knocking out Joe Frazier in 1973, but lost it less than two years later, to Muhammad Ali in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle.”  After retiring in the late 1970s, he came out of retirement a decade later and in 1994, at 45, he won a share of the heavyweight title back by defeating Michael Moorer.  He also made a bundle off of the naming rights to the George Foreman Grill.

Born today were a pair of actors who had in common that each played a major supporting part in a movie that ranks among the best-loved classics of all time.  Ray Bolger (1904-1987) began his career in vaudeville, and often returned to the stage, especially in musical theater—he won a Tony for the musical Where’s Charley?  But he will always be remembered as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.  Austrian-born Paul Henreid (1908-1992) began acting in Germany, but in the 1930s he was labeled an “official enemy of the Third Reich” and emigrated, initially to England and then to the US.  Appropriately, this anti-Nazi actor was cast as the anti-Nazi resistance leader Victor Laszlo in Casablanca.

Bernard Lee (1908-1981) is best remembered for playing M in the first eleven James Bond films.  He also appeared in many other films such as The Third Man and Beat the DevilSal Mineo (1939-1976) was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for playing Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, and again for Otto Preminger’s Exodus, but subsequently found good roles hard to come by (possibly due to his sexual orientation).  He was appearing in a play in Los Angeles when he was murdered outside his apartment building in February, 1976.  Francis X. Bushman (1883-1966) was a star of the early years of silent film, appearing in about 175 films from 1911-1920.  He later had occasional roles in sound films such as The Bad and the Beautiful and Sabrina.

Historian Stephen Ambrose (1936-2002) was known for his biographies of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon and for several volumes of popular American history.  He was a historical consultant on Saving Private Ryan, and his book Band of Brothers was the basis for the HBO miniseries of that title.  Roy E. Disney (1930-2009) was the son of Walt Disney’s older brother (also named Roy), and was himself a longtime executive of the Disney Corporation.  Some readers may be familiar with his role in forcing Disney’s then-CEO, Michael Eisner, out in 2005.  Confederate soldier turned outlaw Frank James (1843-1915) was part of the infamous James-Younger gang, and as such has been a character in many films about the gang, including Walter Hill’s The Long Riders, where he was played by Stacy Keach.  Other actors to play James in film included Henry Fonda, Jeffrey Hunter, Bill Paxton, Gabriel Macht and Sam Shepard.

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 January 10, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. When I think of Walter Hill, I think 48 Hours and to a lesser extent, The Warriors. I didn’t realize he worked on Take the Money and Run. I once worked with a woman who had to be Rod Stewart’s biggest fan.

    I knew William Sanderson from Newhart growing up. Larry, Daryl and Daryl cracked me up. Later on I started noticing that Larry was in movies like Blade Runner. Wonder what happened to Daryl and Daryl.

    I remember going to a screening of The Frighteners and thinking it was great. The rest of the world was less impressed than I was. My enthusiasm has waned, but I do think it was under-rated. It was sold as Michael J Fox meets Ghostbusters, but that obviously wasn’t what it was.

    January is a heavy month for musical birthdays! Gotta love Pat Benatar.

    I’m not a big sports guy, but you don’t have to be to know who George Foreman is. Paul Henreid makes yet another Casablanca birthday. Bernard Lee, I assume, probably has the record for the second-most appearances in the James Bond series behind Desmond Llewelyn.

    I was getting ready to wrap this up and then I saw Roy E. Disney. I suppose Roy E. Disney is probably best known for the Save Disney campaign that resulted in Michael Eisner’s ouster. But let’s not forget he was also instrumental in getting Eisner hired in the first place. That saved the company from being bought out in the 80’s. What’s more, Roy E. Disney was a champion of animation. When he took over, Eisner planned to shutter the animation department, but he let Roy tinker with it. Roy eventually made a convert out of Eisner’s lieutenant, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and that lead to the Disney Renaissance of the late 80’s/early 90’s. Without Roy E. Disney, we probably wouldn’t have greats like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin or The Lion King. So, thanks Roy!


  2. I have almost always enjoyed Walter Hill’s films through the years—Another 48 Hrs., a very inferior sequel to/rehash of 48 Hrs., is the only one of his films that I’ve seen and been disappointed in. The original 48 Hrs, on the other hand, is terrific, as is The Long Riders. In general his films have a lot of energy and even his lesser outings usually have some things that make them distinctive and keep your interest.


  3. Walter Hill, I was thinking about him earlier in the day, but had for clue it was his birthday. He’s not a director who does DVD commentary, which I guess that process can be annoying for some (he did provide insight for “The Warriors” retrospective though, that’s probably as far as he likes to go), but I like a ton of the films he directed, even if they weren’t critical hits (I think “Streets of Fire” is exactly what it’s supposed to be, and I think 1989’s “Johnny Handsome” is better than people remember, if they remember it at all). Most people do agree on “48 Hrs.” though, I never met anyone who viewed that film and didn’t like it.
    Rod Stewart, I first became aware of him when MTV played “Downtown Train” on heavy rotation in 1990, but I like songs like “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (classic music video if you ask me) “Tonight I’m Yours” (pool party!) and ” Young Turks”.
    William Sanderson, I liked his voice work on “Batman: The Animated Series”. Overall, I think he’s an interesting performer.
    Pat Benatar, because of her I learned that love is a battlefield, hell is for children, we will be invincible, and that we are running with the shadows of the night.
    Jim Croce, I got teased with “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” as a kid, but that’s a fine song. So is “Time in a Bottle”.
    George Foreman, I like his grill, and I have no desire for him to hit me in my grill.


  4. My answer would be no, because unlike film roles or archetypes, if a performer in music seems similar to another to listeners/viewers, that tends to help them; the other thing is that they were around at the same time as solo artists, so I’d think that would be a wash. Besides, I think Pat Benatar made a conscious decision not to pursue her career any further than she did. Also, even though Joan Jett and Pat Benatar seemingly ended up in similar places musically, they sure didn’t begin that way, with John Jett being part of The Runaways, and those women were pretty hard rock if you ask me.


  5. Your favorite artist who “fell off”

    Post by Madison Carter on 53 minutes ago
    I’ve never fully understood what happened with Pat Benatar. Between 1979 and around 1984-85, she was hitting it out of the park with great album after great album, huge single after huge single, with something like 12-15 songs hitting the Top 40 in the span of 6 years. And then nothing. I mean, she did some albums here and there afterward, but never got even close to that level again. Never really figured out what went wrong there.


    • I think the reason Pat Benatar cooled off a little is because she knew how to say “no” and didn’t always say “yes”: she had a career on her own terms. To paraphrase Allan from, she didn’t sing that way because it was the only way she could, but because she wanted to.


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