January 12: Happy Birthday Kirstie Alley and Luise Rainer
Kirstie Alley turns 66 today. She worked for several years as an interior designer before being cast in her first acting role, as Lt. Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As the eighties went on she had several successful film roles, starring in Summer School, Shoot to Kill, and especially Look Who’s Talking. In 1987, she joined the cast of the hit sitcom Cheers as Rebecca Howe, and was nominated five straight years for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy, winning in 1991.
Alley had mixed success in the 1990s. The Look Who’s Talking sequels did not match the box office of the first, and many of her other films were box office failures. However, she had good roles in Deconstructing Harry and Drop Dead Gorgeous. On television, she won a second Emmy for starring in the TV movie David’s Mother, and received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for starring in Veronica’s Closet. Her career since 2000 has largely been the stuff that WTHH articles are made of, although she has recently become part of the cast of Fox’s Scream Queens.
Luise Rainer (1910-2014) might seem to have virtually nothing in common with Alley, but in fact, had this blog existed in some form (not online, obviously) in the 1940s, Rainer would have been a terrific subject for a WTHH article. Rainer, born in Germany, had made a name for herself in German and Austrian theater and film when she was invited to Hollywood by MGM in 1935. After her debut in the romantic comedy Escapade, she was cast opposite William Powell in the biopic The Great Ziegfeld, as Anna Held, the title character’s first wife.
Rainer won the Oscar for Best Actress, and the next year became the first person to win two acting Oscars, winning Best Actress for playing a Chinese farmer’s wife in The Good Earth. And then, she simply stopped getting good roles, and soon, roles of any kind. Why? Some suggest it was poor advice from her then-husband, playwright Clifford Odets; she may also have missed the guidance that MGM executive Irving Thalberg, who died in 1936, had given to her career. At any rate, she almost entirely vanished from the screen, but not from the world, as she lived until just a couple of weeks shy of her 105th birthday.
Simon Russell Beale, who is 56 today, is one of Britain’s most distinguished stage actors, and has won Olivier Awards for starring in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide and Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. He also won a BAFTA Television Award for playing Falstaff in the 2012 BBC productions of Henry IV, parts 1 and 2. Oliver Platt, who turns 57, is a three-time Emmy nominee, as Outstanding Guest Actor for The West Wing and Nip/Tuck and Outstanding Supporting Actor for Huff. Olivier Martinez, who celebrates his 51st, won a Cesar Award for Most Promising Actor for Un, deux, trois, soleil, and starred opposite Juliette Binoche in The Horseman on the Roof. He has appeared in Hollywood films such as Unfaithful (a remake of the French classic La Femme infidèle) and S.W.A.T. John Lasseter, who turns 60, is a big name in animation these days as the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Disney Animated Studios. He has directed several of the most successful animated films of the last 20 years-plus, including Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Cars, and others, and been executive producer on many, many more.
Our latest Bond Girl birthday celebration is Shirley Eaton, who turns 80. Eaton played Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and also appeared in some of the Carry On films. Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who is celebrating her 32nd, stars on USA Network’s Shooter as Nadine Memphis and had a recurring role on Arrow as Amanda Waller. Rachael Harris, who stars as Dr. Linda Martin on Fox’s Lucifer, turns 49. Naya Rivera is turning 30; she played Santana Lopez on Glee.
Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, who turns 57, was known as the “Human Highlight Film” during his career, since he was one of the best dunkers in the NBA. The nine-time NBA All-Star spent most of his career with the Atlanta Hawks. Boxing great Joe Frazier (1944-2011) celebrated his birthday just two days after his rival George Foreman. Frazier won an Olympic gold medal in 1964, and was world heavyweight champion from 1970-73 (when he lost the title to Foreman). Aside from his bouts with Foreman, he was known for two classic fights with Muhammad Ali, the “Fight of the Century” and the “Thrilla in Manilla.”
Music birthdays include Tex Ritter (1905-1974), who had a little-bit-of-everything but had the most success as a country singer, with several hits in the 1940s. Today he is probably most remembered for being John Ritter’s father and for singing the theme song to High Noon. Glenn Yarbrough (1930-2016) was a familiar face in the folk music world, as part of the trio The Limeliters and then as a solo act. His mid-sixties hit “Baby the Rain Must Fall” reached #12 on the Hot 100. Ray Price (1926-2013) was another country star, a two-time Grammy winner who had a long string of hits on the country charts; one of his Grammys was for “For the Good Times,” which was his biggest crossover hit as well. Rob Zombie, who turns 52, has dabbled in film, but is best known as a heavy metal artist, first with the band White Zombie, then as a solo artist. Zayn Malik, who is turning 24, was one of the original members of the British boy band One Direction; since he left the band, his initial solo album Mine of Mine, and the single “Pillowtalk,” have both reached #1 in the US and the UK. Victoria “Pixie” Lott, who celebrates her 26th, has had considerable success as a pop singer in the UK. Melanie Chisholm, aka Mel C or Sporty Spice of the Spice Girls, turns 43 today.
Ira Hayes (1923-1955) was famous not for writing or singing songs but by being the subject of one. The Pima Native American who was among the US Marines famous for raising the US flag on Iwo Jima in 1945, and after his death was the subject of Peter LaFarge’s “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” Adam Beach played Hayes in Flags of Our Fathers.
Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was the first prominent author of fairy tales, author of The Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, and many more. Jack London (1876-1916) was most famous for his Klondike Gold Rush fiction such as The Call of the Wild and White Fang; he also wrote The Sea Wolf and was a pioneering writer of science fiction. Walter Mosley, who celebrates his 65th, is the author of a variety of fiction, but most notably the fourteen historical mysteries featuring African-American private eye Easy Rawlins, beginning with Devil in a Blue Dress. Haruki Murakami, who is turning 68, has written acclaimed books like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. Jeff Bezos, who turns 53, is known not for writing books but, as readers probably know, for selling them (and a whole lot of other stuff) as the founder and CEO of Amazon.com.
Two of the most famous, or if you prefer, infamous, names in talk radio share today as a birthday: Howard Stern is turning 63 today, while Rush Limbaugh is 66.
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 12, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Glenn Yarbrough, Jack London, John Lasseter, Kirstie Alley, Luise Rainer, Naya Rivera, Olivier Martinez, Simon Russell-Beale, Walter Mosley. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.