February 20: Happy Birthday Rihanna and Sidney Poitier
Today is Caribbean Day here when it comes to our headliners (although, technically, the Bahamas are not actually in the Caribbean).
Robyn Rihanna Fenty, known universally as Rihanna, turns 29 today. She was born and grew up in Barbados. In her early teens, she made the acquaintance of American record producer Evan Rogers, who helped her make some demo tapes and distribute them to record companies; as a result, she was able to audition for Jay Z at Def Jam Records, who signed her to a contract. Her first album, Music of the Sun, was released in 2005.
That first album and its follow-up were successful, but her breakout came in 2007 with her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, which sold more copies than the first two combined, and included her first Grammy-winning hit:
In a career of just over a decade Rihanna has sold over 200 million records. She has had 14 #1 hits on the Hot 100, the fourth highest total ever (only the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey have had more). She has added seven more Grammys to that first one for “Umbrella.” Up to now, her film career has largely consisted of cameos, but she will appear this year in Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and in 2018 in Ocean’s Eight.
Sir Sidney Poitier turns 90 today. He spent his childhood in the Bahamas and moved to the US in his teens (he was born in Miami and has US citizenship). In 1946, still only 19, he made his Broadway debut, and he began working in film in the fifties. By the middle of the decade he was getting major parts in films like Blackboard Jungle and Edge of the City, and he was nominated for Best Actor for the 1958 film The Defiant Ones. Five years later, he became the first black actor to win Best Actor for Lilies of the Field; however, the best year of his career was almost certainly 1967. He played a schoolteacher in To Sir, With Love, was the answer to the question posed by the title of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and was nominated for a Golden Globe as a Philadelphia detective who finds himself investigating a murder—in a small Mississippi town.
Poitier returned to the rule of Detective Virgil Tibbs in two early seventies sequels to In the Heat of the Night. In the late seventies he slowed his acting career down considerably, making only five feature films (aside from documentaries) after 1977, although he did do some directing in that period. In the nineties he received a pair of Emmy nominations for starring in TV movies about, respectively, Thurgood Marshall and Nelson Mandela.
Anthony Head, best known as Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, turns 63 today. Peter Strauss, who is 70, starred in several high-profile TV miniseries of the 1970s such as Rich Man, Poor Man and The Jericho Mile, and also starred with Molly Ringwald in Spacehunter. Brenda Blethyn, who is 71 today, has worked many times with Mike Leigh (see below), and was an Oscar nominee for Secrets and Lies and Little Voice; she currently stars on the British crime drama Vera. Sandy Duncan, who also turns 71, is known for her career both on stage and television—she has been nominated for two Emmys and three Tonys. Richard Beymer, who played Tony in the film version of West Side Story and Ben Horne on Twin Peaks, turns 78 today.
Four film and television performers are all turning 39 today. Jay Hernandez is known for his roles in films such as Crazy/Beautiful, Friday Night Lights, World Trade Center, and more recently Suicide Squad (as Chato Santana). Lauren Ambrose was a two-time Emmy nominee for playing Claire Fisher on Six Feet Under. Chelsea Peretti is one of the stars of Fox’s highly regarded Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And Julia Jentsch is a prominent star in German film who is known for films such as The Edukators and Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.
Lili Taylor, who turns 50, is a three-time Emmy nominee, for roles on The X-Files, Six Feet Under, and American Crime. Her extensive film resume includes Mystic Pizza, Dogfight, I Shot Andy Warhol, Casa de los Babys, and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. French Stewart, who played Harry Solomon on 3rd Rock from the Sun, turns 53 today. Also turning 53 is Willie Garson, known as a regular on White Collar and for his recurring part on Sex and the City. Cindy Crawford, who is celebrating her 51st, was unable to transfer her enormous success as a model into even a little success as an actress.
Jessie Mueller, who celebrates her 34th, is one of the rising stars of musical theater. She is a three-time Tony nominee, and won Best Actress in a Musical for playing the title role in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Miles Teller, who is 30 today, has played Peter Hayes in the Divergent series and Reed Richards in 2015’s Fantastic Four, but might prefer that people take a look at his acclaimed performances in The Spectacular Now and Whiplash. Jack Falahee, who is turning 28, currently stars on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder and also on PBS’s Mercy Street.
Two very talented directors were both born on this day. Mike Leigh, who celebrates his 74th, is a seven-time Oscar nominee for writing and directing. He is also a prominent playwright and stage director; he began his career with the play The Box Play in 1965. He began his screen directing career in 1971, but first attracted mainstream notice in 1996 with Secrets and Lies, which brought him Oscar nominations for both writing and directing. His subsequent notable films include Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Topsy-Turvy.
Robert Altman (1925-2006) worked for many years in television, with only a handful of unsuccessful features, until 1970, when MASH established his reputation, and brought him his first of five nominations for Best Director (he never won). He did an important body of work in the early seventies, making films like McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, and Nashville (the first high-profile case of a “hyperlink movie”). His career sagged for several years, but he came back strongly in the early nineties with The Player and Short Cuts, and later Gosford Park.
Our one other big music birthday today is a tragic case. Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) was a major force in the grunge rock subculture of the late eighties and early nineties as the co-founder and lead singer of Nirvana. His short life ended in 1994 with what was ruled a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Sports birthdays include Charles Barkley, who turns 54. The “Round Mound of Rebound” was an 11-time NBA All Star and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Phil Esposito, who is 75 today, starred in the NHL for the Chicago Black Hawks, the Boston Bruins, and the new York Rangers. He was a two-time NHL MVP, and led the Bruins to two Stanley Cups. Bobby Unser, who turns 83, is one of the huge Unser clan of race car drivers. He won the Indianapolis 500 three times and also won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb a record 13 times. During part of his career, Unser drove for the racing team run by Roger Penske, who is 80 today. Penske has 16 wins at the Indianapolis 500 as an owner, a record.
Jordan Cronenweth (1935-1996) was ranked as one of the ten most influential cinematographers ever by the International Cinematographers Guild. His first film was Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud, and his best known was Blade Runner. Amanda Blake (1929-1989) was a fixture on American television screens for 20 years as Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. Larry Hovis (1936-2003) is best remembered as Sergeant Carter on Hogan’s Heroes. Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was a noted photographer and conservationist who was known for his landscape photographs of the American West, especially of Yosemite National Park.
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 20, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Anthony Head, Jessie Mueller, Julia Jentsch, Kurt Cobain, Lili Taylor, Mike Leigh, Rihanna, Robert Altman, Sandy Duncan, Sidney Poitier. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.