January 13: Happy Birthday Orlando Bloom and Gwen Verdon
Orlando Bloom celebrates his 40th today. He began acting in his teens, spending two years with London’s National Youth Theatre and appearing on the BBC series Casualty. He had a small role in a 1997 biopic of Oscar Wilde and then attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Following his graduation, he would up spending some time down in New Zealand, for the shooting of the films which gave him his first big role:
As The Lord of the Rings trilogy would down, Bloom made his first appearance in another big franchise of the 2000s, playing Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. His sudden fame from appearing in supporting parts in two successful franchises led to a few years where Bloom got lead parts in major films like Kingdom of Heaven and Elizabethtown, but, for reasons outlined in his WTHH article, it’s been a long time since he played a character not named Legolas or Will Turner in a major film.
Gwen Verdon (1925-2000) is likely best know to casual movie viewers for appearing in the two Cocoon films from the 1980s. Those who watched a lot of television back then might remember her for her Emmy-nominated guest appearances on Magnum, P.I., and on Homicide: Life on the Street. And serious film fans may remember her well-received performance in Marvin’s Room from 1996. But to really know who Gwen Verdon was, you have to be into musical theater.
Verdon, a gifted dancer who did a solo dance number, at eleven years of age, in the 1936 film The King Steps Out, made her Broadway breakthrough in Cole Porter’s 1953 musical Can-Can, winning her first Tony for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical. She went on to win three more Tonys during the 1950s, all for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, for Damn Yankees, New Girl in Town, and Redhead. She received two additional Tony nominations, both in musicals directed and choreographed by her second husband, Bob Fosse—Sweet Charity and Chicago (as Roxie Hart). When she died in October 2000, marquee lights all along Broadway were dimmed in her memory.
We can’t go back in time to see Verdon onstage, but fortunately, she was asked to reprise one of her great stage roles in a film adaptation:
Nine-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus is 56 today. She first became known, and won her first Emmy, as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, and won a second Emmy for starring on The New Adventures of Old Christine. She currently stars on and is a producer of Veep, which has brought her five consecutive Emmys as Outstanding Lead Actress and let her share in two more for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Shonda Rhimes, who is 47, is the creator and producer of three successful series, Grey’s Anatomy, its spinoff Private Practice, and Scandal. Rhimes shares a birthday with one of the stars of Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey, who is turning 51 today. Dempsey is also known for starring in films like Can’t Buy Me Love, Loverboy, Sweet Home Alabama, and Enchanted, and for his “other ” career as a race car driver.
Our second WTHH subject with a birthday today, Penelope Ann Miller, was a Tony nominee as Emily Webb in a 1989 revival of Our Town and a Golden Globe nominee for Carlito’s Way. Miller, who turns 53, was recently a regular on season 1 of ABC’s anthology series American Crime. Two-time Tony winner Frances Sternhagen turns 87 today; she was honored for Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor and for a revival of The Heiress, and was also a two-time Emmy nominee as Cliff Clavin’s mother on Cheers. Richard Moll, best known for his long run on Night Court as bailiff Bull Shannon, turns 74 today. Nicole Eggert, known for her regular roles on Charles in Charge and Baywatch, turns 45. Suzanne Cryer, who is turning 50, plays Laurie Bream on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Country singer Trace Adkins is turning 55. Every one of his eleven studio albums has reached the Top Ten on the Country charts and he is a four-time Grammy nominee.
Liam Hemsworth, the youngest of the three Hemsworth borthers, turns 27. He played Gale Hawthorne in the Hunger Games films and starred in this year’s Independence Day: Resurgence. English actress Ruth Wilson celebrates her 35th. She has won a Golden Globe for starring on Showtime’s The Affair, and is a two-time Olivier Award winner, as Stella Kowalski in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire and for the title role in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. Michael Peña, who is turning 41, has been acting for 20 years but didn’t start to become known until he appeared in Paul Haggis’s Crash. He went on to prominent roles in World Trade Center, End of Watch, American Hustle, Ant-Man, and others. Beau Mirchoff, who starred as Matty McKibben on MTV’s Awkward, turns 28 today.
Brandon Tartikoff (1949-1997) was president of NBC from 1981-1991, during which time he presided over the network’s great revival of the 1980s, when they went from the also ran among the three networks to the most successful, with shows like The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Miami Vice, Seinfeld and many others. Charles Nelson Reilly (1931-2007) was a two-time Tony nominee for Best Featured Actor in a Musical in the 1960s, winning for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; he was also a longtime panelist on Match Game. Kay Francis (1905-1968) was a popular leading lady in the 1930s, known for films like Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise. Rosemary Murphy (1925-2014) had a long career on stage and screen, winning an Emmy award for playing Sara Delano Roosevelt in the miniseries Eleanor and Franklin; interestingly, her father, diplomat Robert D. Murphy, carried out some important missions for President Franklin Roosevelt. Robert Stack had a lengthy television career, winning an Emmy for playing Eliot Ness on The Untouchables, and later hosting Unsolved Mysteries. He was an Oscar nominee for Written on the Wind, but for many, there’s a different film role he’s remembered for:
Horatio Alger (1832-1899) was an extremely prolific author of young adult fiction of the 19th century; books like Ragged Dick told stories of impoverished teenage boys who became successful through hard work, honesty and other virtues. Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) was known as one of the “Big Three” of Weird Tales, the mid-20th century fantasy and horror magazine (the other two were H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard). He wrote over 100 short stories in the twenties and thirties, mostly fantasy and horror. Jay McInerney, the author of novels such as Bright Lights, Big City and Story of My Life, turns 62 today.
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 13, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Brandon Tartikoff, Gwen Verdon, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kay Francis, Michael Pena, orlando bloom, Patrick Dempsey, penelope ann miller, Robert Stack, Ruth Wilson, Shonda Rhimes. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.