January 21: Happy Birthday Geena Davis and Paul Scofield


Geena Davis, a WTHH subject, celebrates her 61st birthday today.  Her screen debut was in a supporting role in Tootsie in 1982.  She then was cast in a regular on Buffalo Bill, but (in a recurring trend with Davis and prime time television) the show ran only two seasons.  Her film career, however, began to take off with prominent roles in Fletch, The Fly, Beetlejuice, and most notably The Accidental Tourist, for which she won Best Supporting Actress.  In 1991, she starred opposite Susan Sarandon in a genre-blending road film:

Davis was nominated for Best Actress for Thelma & Louise (as was Sarandon).  She then starred in the successful and well-received A League of Their Own.  But in the mid-1990s, her career seemed to take a wrong turn, when she and her then-husband, director Renny Harlin, decided to try to make Davis into an action star in the pirate film Cutthroat Island and then the action-espionage thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight.  Neither film was a financial success, and the former was a notoriously troubled production.

Since then, the only major film roles Davis has had came in the mixed animated/live-action Stuart Little films.  She has attempted a couple of returns to prime time television, but neither The Geena Davis Show nor Commander in Chief made it to a second season, although Davis won a Golden Globe for the latter show’s single season.

Paul Scofield (1922-2008) was one of the greatest stage actors, and Shakespeareans, of the 20th century.  A 2004 poll of members of the Royal Shakespeare Company rated his performance of King Lear as the greatest Shakespearean performance ever.  His other notable Shakespeare roles included Timon of Athens, Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing, and Othello.  He also was famous for playing the title roles in Chekov’s Uncle Vanya and in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and for the stage and screen role that brought him his most widespread recognition as an actor:

Scofield starred as Thomas More on Broadway in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, winning a Tony, but when the 1966 film was made, director Fred Zinneman had to fight to get Scofield in the cast; producers wanted Olivier or Burton.  Zinneman’s faith was rewarded; Scofield won Best Actor and both director and film won Oscars as well.  In 1969 Scofield won an Emmy for the TV movie Male of the Species, making him a Triple Crown of Acting winner.  In later years Scofield appeared in a couple of major Shakespeare films, as Charles VI of France in Branagh’s Henry V and as the Ghost in Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (opposite Mel Gibson as Hamlet).  He was nominated for a second Oscar for 1994’s Quiz Show.

Jill Eikenberry, who turns 70 today, starred as Ann Kelsey on L.A. Law for its entire run, winning a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama and receiving five Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations.  She has also had a significant theater career.  Robby Benson starred in 1970s films such as Ode to Billy Joe, One on One and Ice Castles, and later was the voice of Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  He celebrates his 61st.  Svetlana Khodchenkova, who is turning 34, is a rising star in Russian film and television and is known to American audiences for appearances in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The WolverineBooboo Stewart, who turns 23 today, played Seth Clearwater in the Twilight films, Warpath in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Jay in the Disney Channel TV movie DescendantsCraig Roberts, the star of the Amazon series Red Oaks, turns 26.

Mike Medavoy, who is turning 76, has had a long career in the film business.  He was a co-founder of Orion Pictures in the late seventies, served as CEO of TriStar, and now is the head of Phoenix Pictures.  Michael G. Wilson, who celebrates his 75th, is one of the co-owners of Eon Productions, along with his stepsister Barbara Broccoli.  James Bond fans will recognize Wilson’s name; he co-wrote several Bond films and has been a producer on every Bond film since the mid-eighties.

Jack Nicklaus, the “Golden Bear,” turns 77 today.  The winner of 18 men’s “major” golf championships—a record only Tiger Woods has even come close to equaling—he is often considered the greatest golfer ever.  Basketball Hall 0f Famer Hakeem Olajuwon is turning 54.  He starred in college for the Houston Cougars and stayed in town to play almost all of his NBA career with the Houston Rockets, making 12 All-Star teams and leading the Rockets to 2 NBA titles.  Detlef Schrempf, who was born the same day as Olajuwon, was one of the first European-born players to succeed in the NBA, making three All-Star teams in his career.  Since retiring, he has appeared as himself on several episodes of Parks and RecreationAshton Eaton, who is 29 today, won his second Olympic gold medal in the decathlon in 2016, making him only the third dual gold medalist in the event ever (along with Bob Mathias and Daley Thompson).  Paul Allen was the co-founder of Microsoft, but he gets shoehorned into the sports section as the owner of the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL and the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA.  Allen turns 64.

In music, Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay (1965-2002) was the DJ for the pioneering hip hop group Run-D.M.C., who were leaders of the “new wave” hip hop movement of the 1980s.  Emma Bunton, who is turning 41, is Baby Spice with the Spice Girls and has also released three solo albums.  Mac Davis, who celebrates his 75th, first became known for writing songs for Elvis Presley, such as “A Little Less Conversation,” which was a modest hit in 1968 and later was used in the movie Ocean’s Eleven.  Davis went on to a successful solo career with hits like “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me.”  Folk and blues artist Richie Havens (1941-2013) made a successful appearance at Woodstock, following which he became successful enough as a solo artist to have a top 20 hit with George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.”  Robert Weston Smith, known as Wolfman Jack (1938-1995) was one of the most prominent radio DJs of the sixties and seventies, and a pioneer in syndication of rock and roll radio programs.  Placido Domingo, who is 76 today, has been one of the leading tenors in the world during the last fifty years.  He is a winner of nine Grammys, participated in the best selling classical album ever as one of the Three Tenors, and currently is the general director of the Los Angeles Opera.

Karl Wallenda (1905-1978) was the founder of the Flying Wallendas, the daredevil circus act famous for their high-wire stunts performed without a net.

“Who loves ya, baby?”  Telly Savalas (1922-1994) had a fairly significant film career, especially in the 1960s, when he was an Oscar nominee in Birdman of Alcatraz, played Ernst Stavro Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and had significant roles in World War 2 films like The Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes.  But his real fame came in the 1970s when he starred on CBS for five seasons as the incorruptible maverick detective, Lt. Theo Kojak.

Steve Reeves (1926-2000) was a champion bodybuilder who starred in a number of Italian sword-and-sandal films of the late fifties and early sixties, such as Hercules and Hercules UnchainedBenny Hill (1924-1992) was an English actor-comedian who was the star of The Benny Hill Show, which ran on British television for over 35 years and became an international success in the 1970s.  Rudolph Maté (1898-1964) was one of the leading cinematographers in Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s, receiving Oscar nominations in five consecutive years, from 1940-44.  He later became a director of films like D.O.A. and The 300 Spartans.

Just two days after the birth date of Robert E. Lee is that of his most famous subordinate.  Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) earned his catchy nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run and was a key Confederate general in the first two years of the American Civil War, before his death at the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Stephen Lang played Jackson in Gods and Generals.  On one or two occasions during the war, Jackson’s men faced off with Union forces led by John C. Fremont (1813-1890), who was also famous for leading several exploration expeditions to the American West and for his involvement in bringing California into the US.

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 21, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Huh, the Geena Davis photo here makes me think of Anna Paquin (not a problem), but Geena Davis herself had quite a run for awhile. Three films with Geena Davis in them that I’d go for right away are “The Fly”, “Beetlejuice”, and “The Long Kiss Goodnight”. Great article on her here as well.
    Jill Eikenberry, I know her mostly from “L.A. Law” and various TV movies.
    Robby Benson, he had a sweet-natured, goody goody vibe about him in a lot of roles, but I still liked him in such films as 1977’s “One on One” and 1984’s “Harry and Son”.
    Hakeem Olajuwon is the main reason I became a fan of the Houston Rockets, and it was awesome when the Rockets won back to back titles in 1994 & 1995. The man developed moves on moves (“The Dream Shake”, those up and under spin deals, and so on and so forth), and was truly a transcendent talent.
    Paul Allen, he probably would be the somewhat forgotten co-founder of Microsoft if it wasn’t for him owning a couple of sports teams. Next time the Seahawks play in a Super bowl, don’t throw the ball when positioned at the one yard line unless it’s a better play or you have to (stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in sports)!
    Wolfman Jack, often imitated, never duplicated. I also like my werewolves from London; A-hoooooo!
    Telly Savalas, he always looked to me like a guy who knew how to get things done. I think it’s neat that not only was he in “Birdman of Alcatraz” but also in the TV miniseries “Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story” with Ronny Cox and that Warrior from Xanadu, Michael Beck. The man really spent his time on Alcatraz.
    Stonewall Jackson, I just learned from Trivia Today that he was shot in the arm by friendly fire, had the arm amputated, then died of complications from that 8 days later. Tough deal.


  2. I was a Geena Davis fan way back when. Heck, I even paid to see Cutthroat Island. If that doesn’t get you into the Geena Davis fanclub, I don’t know what will.

    LA Law was a staple for a long time, so I knew Jill Eikenberry from that. I remember a lot of older girls were really taken with the idea that their childhood crush, Robby Benson, was The Beast. Lots of X-Men related birthdays this month, but I suppose there have been a lot of actors in a lot of X-Men movies. So maybe that is to be expected.

    I have yet to catch up with the second season of Red Oaks, but I enjoyed the first. Mike Medavoy had a great run at Orion even if it didn’t end up being financially solvent. I appreciate Michael G. Wilson as a Bond producer. Sure there have been missteps, but he has kept the franchise going.

    Telly Savalas was just mega famous when I was a kid. I had never seen an episode of Kojak, but I knew Savalas’ catchphrase. Best Blofeld? I also watched some of those cheesy Steve Reeves movies and loved them. I caught episodes of Benny Hill on PBS, but didn’t realize what a dirty old man he was until many years later.


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