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 Interest. Emily 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 Tibbett. Nadja 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 Devil. Sal 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 Bernard Lee, James Lapine, Jim Croce, Pat Benatar, Paul Henreid, Ray Bolger, Rod Stewart, Sherrill Milnes, Walter Hill. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.