February 19: Happy Birthday Benicio del Toro and Lee Marvin


Today’s article is headlined by a pair of Oscar winners.

Benicio del Toro is celebrating his 50th today.  He made a few TV guest appearances starting in 1987 and had a small part in Big Top Pee-wee, but his first major film role came in a James Bond film, as the villainous henchman Dario in Licence to Kill.  For the next few years, he seemed stuck in supporting parts, although occasionally he got a chance to stand out,  notably in The Usual Suspects as Fred Fenster.  Starring in Excess Baggage, the Alicia Silverstone vehicle that was a notorious bomb, might have derailed his career, but he bounced back.

In 2000, del Toro had an excellent year.  He had another small but distinctive part as Franky Four-Fingers in Snatch, was one of the leads in The Way of the Gun, and most notably, was one of the standouts in an ensemble crime film directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Traffic was honored with four Oscars, one of them going to del Toro for Best Supporting Actor as Javier Rodriguez.  He has gone on to receive a second Oscar nomination for 21 Grams in 2003, a Goya Award for playing the title role in Che (again directed by Soderbergh), and a lot of accolades for his performance in Sicario.  He plays Taneleer Tivan, the Collector, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will reprise his role from Sicario in this year’s Soldado, and has been announced as part of the cast of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Lee Marvin (1924-1987) was an easily recognizable figure for most of his career for his deep voice and his prematurely white hair.  He became known in the fifties for a string of villainous roles, in films like The Big Heat, Bad Day at Black Rock, and Seven Men from Now, and for playing an amoral, politically ambitious colonel in Attack.  He starred on NBC’s The M Squad in the late fifties, and in 1962 played his most famous villain as Liberty Valance, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  Three years later, he had a career-changing dual role, as the drunken gunfighter Kid Sheleen and the steel-nosed killer Tim Strawn in Cat Ballou.

Marvin won Best Actor for Cat Ballou, and for the next several years he was a major leading man.  He headlined Westerns like The Professionals and Monte Walsh, crime films like Point Blank and Prime Cut, and was the commander of The Dirty Dozen.  In the mid-seventies, it seemed that most of the public attention he received came from a lawsuit filed by his former live-in girlfriend Michelle Triola.  In 1980 he starred in one last great film, Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One.

Jeff Daniels, who turns 62, won an Emmy for starring on HBO’s The Newsroom.  His film career features Golden Globe nominations for The Purple Rose of Cairo, Something Wild, and The Squid and the Whale.  He has played Joshua Chamberlain in Gettysburg, Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber, and John Sculley in Steve Jobs.  Later this year he will appear as World War 2 spymaster Wild Bill Donovan in The Catcher Was a Spy.

Ray Winstone, who turns 60, is known for roles in films such as Nil by Mouth, Sexy Beast, The Proposition, The Departed, and, in the title role, BeowulfBellamy Young, who celebrates her 47th, plays First Lady Mellie Grant on Scandal and will appear in Disney’s upcoming adaptation of A Wrinkle in TimeJustine Bateman, who played Mallory Keaton on Family Ties, turns 51 today.  Luke Pasqualino, who is 27 today, played d’Artagnan on the BBC’s The Musketeers and more recently was in the cast of Our GirlPaulina Gaitán, who celebrates her 25th, starred in the 2009 film Sin Nombre and is a regular on Netflix’s NarcosDavid Mazouz, who plays a teenage Bruce Wayne on Gotham, is turning 16 today.  Millie Bobby Brown, who has gotten a lot of favorable notice as Eleven on Netflix’s Stranger Things, turns 13.

Victoria Justice, who turns 24, first became known on Nickelodeon.  She was a regular on Zoey 101, and then starred on her own series, Victorious.  More recently she was the star of MTV’s Eye Candy, while she had three charted singles from the first season soundtrack for Victorious.

Smokey Robinson, who is 77 today, first became known as the founder and frontman of Motown’s “soul supergroup” The Miracles for nearly 20 years, during which time they had over forty singles reach the Hot 100.  He had another string of hits as a solo artist and was a longtime executive of Motown as well.  English R&B/soul singer Seal turns 54.  He has won four Grammys and had a #1 hit with “Kiss from a Rose.”

Our sports birthdays are a pair of Brazilian footballers.  Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de
Souza Vieira de Oliveira , usually known simply as Sócrates (1954-2011) was a star of Brazil’s side at two World Cups.  During his professional football career, he also found time to earn an MD degree, and he practiced medicine after his retirement.  Marta Vieira da Silva, referred to as Marta, turns 31.  She has been a star of the Brazilian women’s side since she was sixteen, and although she has never been able to lead them to a World Cup she is sometimes considered the best women’s footballer ever.

Carson McCullers (1917-1967) was a leading author of Southern Gothic fiction.  She was known for novels such as The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding, and the novella The Ballad of the Sad CaféAmy Tan, who turns 65, is the author of a number of novels about the experiences of the Chinese American community, most notably The Joy Luck ClubHomer Hickam is a retired NASA engineer turned author; he turns 74 today.  He has written several novels and a series of memoirs beginning with Rocket Boy, which was adapted into the film October SkyHelen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones’s Diary and several sequels, is celebrating her 59th today.

John Frankenheimer (1930-2002) made his name as a director in the sixties with films such as The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, and The Train.  He worked in film regularly until close to his death, and in the nineties, he won Emmys in four consecutive years for Directing of a Miniseries or Movie.  Sir Cedric Hardwicke (1893-1964) was noted for his stage career, particularly in the plays of George Bernard Shaw.  Although never a huge film star he did a variety of films including the first screen adaptation of King Solomon’s Mines and Alfred Hitchcock’s RopeMerle Oberon (1911-1979) was a Best Actress nominee for The Dark Angel and played Catherine Earnshaw in the 1939 adaptation of Wuthering HeightsLouis Calhern (1895-1956) was nominated for Best Actor for playing Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in The Magnificent Yankee, and appeared in films ranging from Duck Soup (as Ambassador Trentino) to Julius Caesar (in the title role).  English stage actor George Rose (1920-1988) spent a lot of time on Broadway, largely in musical theater, receiving five Tony nominations and winning twice, as Alfred P. Doolittle in the 1976 revival of My Fair Lady and for the original Broadway production of Drood.  Another of this Tony nominated performances was in Joseph Papp’s revival of The Pirates of Penzance.

Two significant figures in the history of science were born today.  Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Renaissance era mathematician and astronomer known for being the first scientist to propose a mathematical model of a solar system with the Sun at the center.  Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) was an early winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry who was the first to use the principles of chemistry to calculate the degree to which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can enhance the greenhouse effect, and therefore to identify the potential for man-made global warming.

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 February 19, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. All of the authors in today’s article have had one or more of their books adapted to film. Carson McCullers has been adapted for screen several times, most recently the 1991 feature film of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Amy Tan was a producer and co-wrote the screenplay of Wayne Wang’s adaptation of The Joy Luck Club. As noted above, Homer Hickam’s memoir became the film October Sky. And of course, Helen Fielding has been a co-writer on all three of the Bridget Jones films, and an executive producer of two of them.


  2. I’m glad Benicio del Toro survived “Excess Baggage”, but I didn’t view that until a few years ago (it does stink), but he was in “The Usual Suspects”, so that’s what I knew him from anyway. Earlier in his career (the man’s been around for awhile), he guest starred in the episode ‘Everybody’s in Show biz’ on “Miami Vice” (impressionist theater and poetry, it’s good stuff).
    Lee Marvin, I’m gonna paint his wagon, but first, let’s send in “The Delta Force”.
    Jeff Daniels, I think he’s had a nice, workmanlike career. Not a guy that just jumps off the screen for you, but he’s gotten it done, as his filmography attests to.
    Like I’ve said before, I always thought Justine Bateman was pretty hot, but “Satisfaction” didn’t give me much (I won’t say it didn’t give me any though).
    Smokey Robinson, I really like “Cruisin’; what a pleasant song for me to listen to, I think it really has a cruisin’ feel to it.
    Seal, I never forget “Kiss from a Rose” due to “Batman Forever”.
    Amy Tan, I didn’t read “The joy luck Club”, but I’ve seen the film. I thought it was good.
    John Frankenheimer, other than the films listing in the article, I’m a big fan of 1986’s “52 Pick-Up”, sport (ah, that neo-noir).


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