January 23: Happy Birthday Chita Rivera and Jeanne Moreau


For the third time this month, one of our headliners is one of the great ladies of American musical theater.  Chita Rivera is celebrating her 84th today.  She made her Broadway debut in the early 1950s as a dancer in Guys and Dolls and in 1957 she broke through to stardom when she originated the role of Anita in West Side Story.  In over sixty years on Broadway, she has been nominated for ten Tonys (a record matched only by Julie Harris).  Along with Anita, she is famous for the roles of Rosie Alvarez in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma Kelly in Chicago (with Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart), and her two Tony-winning roles, Anna in The Rink and Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Rivera has done very little film or television work (though she did make a cameo in the 2002 film of Chicago), but fortunately has appeared, and more importantly, sung and danced, on a few TV specials.

Our other headliner today is one of the greatest stars of French cinema and theater in the 20th Century.  Jeanne Moreau, who turns 89 today, began her career in her late teens with France’s Comédie-Française, one of the country’s leading theater companies.  In the early 1950s she began working regularly in film, and late in the decade broke out as a star in two films directed by Louis Malle, Elevator to the Gallows and The Lovers.

During her career, Moreau has worked with directors from all over Europe as well as the US—Rainer Werner Fassbender, Wim Wenders, Marcel Ophuls, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luis Bunuel, Eliz Kazan, John Frankenheimer, Tony Richardson, and Orson Welles (who proclaimed her “the greatest actress in the world”)—as well as compatriots of hers like Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Renoir, Francois Truffaut, and Luc Besson.  One of the highlights of her career was starring in Truffaut’s Jules et Jim.

While being a star of Saved by the Bell was not usually a springboard to future success, except of the very fleeting kind, Tiffani Thiessen, who turns 43 today, has proved to be a bit of an exception.  After her Saturday morning gig ended, she landed the role of Valerie Malone on Beverly Hills, 90210, and since then has had fairly steady TV work, such as starring on USA Network’s White Collar. Gail O’Grady, who turns 54, was a three-time Emmy nominee as Donna Abandando on NYPD Blue and later starred on American Dreams.  Australian actor Richard Roxburgh, who is 55, does a lot of film and TV work in his home country, along with appearing in Hollywood productions like Mission: Impossible II and The League of Extraordinary GentlemenMariska Hargitay, who celebrates her 53rd, has been an Emmy and Golden Globe winner as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, one of the longest-running series currently on television (in its 18th season).  Scottish actor Ewen Bremner, who starred as Spud Murphy in Trainspotting and has had significant roles in Black Hawk Down, Match Point, and other movies, turns 45.  Irish actor Jack Reynor, who is 25 today, was acclaimed for his performance in the title role of the 2012 film What Richard Did, and was introduced to global audiences in Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Gil Gerard, who turns 74, played the title role on the NBC series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century from 1979-81.  Richard Dean Anderson, who celebrates his 67th, is known for two starring roles on television, as the title character of MacGyver and as Jack O’Neill on Stargate SG-1David Patrick Kelly, who is turning 66, first became known in Walter Hill’s The Warriors (“Warriors, come out to play”) and 48 Hrs., and also played Jerry Horne in Twin Peaks.

Besides Jeanne Moreau, two other international stars celebrate birthdays today.  Dutch actor Rutger Hauer turns 73.  He has done a lot of work in American cinema, with his most famous role undoubtedly being Roy Batty in Blade Runner.  Spanish actress Ariadna Gil is 48 today.  She won a Goya Award for Best Actress for Belle Epoque and had a substantial role in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which had a fairly wide release in the US.

Sir Derek Walcott, who turns 87 today, is one of the world’s most prominent living writers, a poet and playwright who was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.  The French writer Marie-Henri Beyle, better known under the name Stendahl (1783-1842), is remembered for his novels The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of ParmaÉdouard Manet (1832-1883) was one of France’s most prominent 19th Century artists, a leader in the Impressionist movement.  He should not be confused with his fell0w-painter, friend and contemporary Claude Monet.

Jerry Kramer, who turns 81 today, was a star offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s when they won five NFL Championships and were victorious in the first two Super Bowls.  During the 1967 season, he kept a diary that was published as the book Instant Replay, a chronicle of the Packers’ second trip to the Super Bowl.  Dutch footballer Arjen Robben, who turns 33, is one of the top players in the world over the last decade, a star for the Oranje at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

Randolph Scott (1898-1987), of “you’d do it for Randolph Scott” fame, made over 100 films in a career of about 35 years, of which over 60 were Westerns.  Many of them were modest films, but some were major A-pictures.  In 1939, he played a lawman hunting the James Brothers in Jesse James, and cleaned up Tombstone as Wyatt Earp in Frontier Marshal; a year later he co-starred with Errol Flynn in Virginia City.  But the films that Western-lovers remember him most for are his final film of all, Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, and the seven pictures he made with Budd Boetticher in the late 1950s, the so-called “Ranown” Westerns, beginning with Seven Men From Now:

Bob Steele (1907-1988) also had a long association with the Western.  In his case it was almost entirely B-Westerns from Poverty Row studios.  He also made a few appearances in A-pictures from big studios, such as his turn as the gunsel Canino in The Big Sleep.  Born the same day as Steele, Dan Duryea (1907-1968) made many appearances in Westerns, such as Along Came Jones or Winchester ’73, and film noir, such as Criss Cross or Too Late For Tears.  He was frequently a villain who talked big but whose toughness was only skin-deep.  Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962) was a major innovator of early television comedy who had a major influence on later comedy shows such as Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live.

John Hancock (1736-1793), a prominent Boston merchant, served as President of the Second Continental Congress, and in that capacity was the first man to put his “John Hancock” on the Declaration of Independence.  Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) was one of the first and most important jazz musicians from Europe, a legend of jazz guitar who is the subject of an upcoming biopic.

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 23, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. This is the first time I haven’t recognized either of our headliners by name. Always interested in having my horizons expanded.

    Tiffani Thiessen, I have heard of. I never watched Saved By the Bell, but I did catch some of her time on Beverly Hills 90210. Not exactly by choice. It aired on a night I worked, so I would put it on for background noise while filling out paperwork. I didn’t watch NYPD Blue either, but I have seen Gail O’Grady on various TV shows over the years.

    Gil Gerard got to hang out with Erin Grey and a robot voiced by Mel Blanc. He was living the dream!

    Today’s theme may be “TV shows lebeau didn’t watch”. I never watched any of Richard Dean Anderson’s shows, but I’ve seen him pop up on talk shows, etc.

    I did watch Twin Peaks (as we all know), but I didn’t see The Warriors until years later. I never put two and two together that David Patrick Kelly was in them both. The voice is very distinctive so I’m now kicking myself.

    Blade Runner is Rutger Hauer’s best showcase, but he’s almost always a great presence on screen. The Hitcher is a good B-movie.


    • Wow, I thought Jayne Kennedy was gorgeous. I mean, it was catch up time for me (I was born in the 1970’s, but didn’t exist in the 1970’s:-). Speaking of catch up, when NFL Films did a retro on her, wow, she isn’t a lost treasure, she was still the stuff.


  2. Chita Rivera is the third—but not the last—of the big names from musical theater for this month. 🙂 It’s interesting that Anita, a supporting part in West Side Story, has developed into the “star” role, at least in terms of the subsequent careers of the actresses. We have had two Anitas who have had big enough careers to become headliners in the birthday articles—Rivera and Rita Moreno. Debbie Allen, the Anita in the 1980 revival, and Karen Olivo, the Anita from the 2009 revival, and the only performer ever to win a Tony for West Side Story, have also gotten their due in the birthday series.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the writer of the series is a musical theater lover. 🙂


  3. I saw a lot of Tiffani Thiessen due to “Saved By the Bell” and 90210; I watched those shows quite a bit back in that. I seen her here and there in other stuff, like I caught some rerun episodes of “Fastlane” when the G4 Network existed:-(
    Gail O’Grady I first saw in a commercial about Disneyland(?), I think, but I’ve seen her around a lot on TV, but the film that sticks out is 1996’s “Celtic Pride” (yeah, yeah, I kind of like it, but I don’t like the Utah Jazz at all I’d go to Utah for the scenery, not the Jazz).
    Mariska hargitay, I first knew her from 1985’s “Ghoulies” (just terrible; not her, the film) and her brief spot on that episode of “Seinfeld” (sorry, she made a faux pas).
    Gil Gerad, I just know him from the buck Rogers show; good articls on this site about that.
    Richard Dean Anderson, my parents watched “MacGyver”, so that’s when I watched it a couple of times. I remember when Dick Butkus guest starred.
    David Patrick Kelly, that guy was good at playing sinister types in the late 1970’s & 1980’s: “The Warriors”, “Dreamscape”, an episode of “Miami Vice” titled ‘The Home Invaders’; it was what he did.
    Rutger Hauer I’m most familiar with. Beyond “Blade Runner” and “The Hitcher”, I’ve seen 1984’s “A Breed Apart” (considering a reel ended up missing from that film, I don’t think it’s too bad). “Nighthawks” (I think he’s great there), “The Osterman Weekend”, “1986’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, 1989’s “Blind Fury”, and 1992’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Him and former NFL kicker Morten Andersen are my favorite Dutchmen.


  4. The great Jeanne Moreau died earlier today at the age of 89. No doubt there will be appreciations and tributes coming in over the next few days; here are a couple of the first:


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