February 24: Happy Birthday Edward James Olmos and Billy Zane


Edward James Olmos is turning 70 today.  He began working in film and television in the seventies, but didn’t start to become known until he was cast in the role of El Pachuco in the play Zoot Suit.  He received a Tony nomination for the Broadway production and appeared in the 1981 film adaptation.  His next film role was as Gaff in Blade Runner, following which he was cast as Lt. Castillo on Miami Vice, a role that brought him an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

In 1988, Olmos appeared in his most famous film role.  He starred in Stand and Deliver as high school math teacher Jaime Escalante, who had become nationally famous for his success in teaching AP calculus at a high school with a predominantly Latino, low-income student body.  Olmos was nominated for Best Actor for his performance.

While Olmos has never repeated the success of Stand and Deliver, he has worked steadily for nearly 30 years since then.  He has worked regularly in film, and had starring television roles on American Family as Jess Gonzalez and as William Adama on the Battlestar Galactica “re-imagining” of the 2000s.  More recently he has had recurring guest roles on Dexter and on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Billy Zane is 51 today.  He made his film debut in a small part in Back to the Future, but his first really notable role was in the 1989 thriller Dead Calm, where he was very effective at terrorizing Nicole Kidman.  For the next several years, Zane appeared mostly in supporting roles of varying importance, in films like Memphis Belle and Tombstone, along with a few lead roles in smaller films.  He also played John Justice Wheeler on Twin Peaks.  In 1996, he seemed to have a shot at stardom, in the role of a costumed superhero.

Unfortunately for Zane, The Phantom was a financial failure.  One of his next film appearances was in a huge blockbuster, but the role of Cal Hockley in Titanic was not the sort to make a star.  Zane’s subsequent career is largely covered in his WTHH article.

Dominic Chianese, who played Corrado “Junior” Soprano on The Sopranos, is turning 86 today.  Barry Bostwick, who celebrates his 72nd, has had a varied career that includes starring in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, playing George Washington in a pair of mid-1980s TV movies, playing Mayor Randall Winston of Spin City, and winning a Tony for the musical The Robber BridegroomHelen Shaver, who is 66 today, is known for starring in Desert Hearts, the first movie involving a lesbian romance to have a relatively happy ending, and in Tremors II: AftershocksBeth Broderick, best known as Zelda Spellman from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, turns 58 today.

Bonnie Somerville, who is turning 43, has had regular roles on a number of TV series, most of them short-lived; her most recent was playing Christa Lorenson on season 1 of Code BlackWilson Bethel, who played Wade Kinsella on Hart of Dixie, is 33 today.  O’Shea Jackson, Jr., who celebrates his 26th, is the son of rapper Ice Cube and made his film debut playing his father in Straight Outta Compton.

Gillian Flynn, who is turning 46, worked for several years as a journalist before writing her first novel, Sharp Objects.  Her subsequent novels Dark Places and Gone Girl were both adapted into major feature films, while Sharp Objects is being filmed as an HBO series.  August Derleth (1909-1971) is remembered for his role in publishing the works of H. P. Lovecraft and as the founder of the supernatural fiction publisher Arkham House, as well as for writing a wide variety of fiction of his own. Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859) collaborated with his brother Jacob on their famous collection of fairy tales and also on their German language dictionary the Deutsches Wörterbuch.

Rupert Holmes, who is 70 today, wrote and recorded the hit song “Escape (The piña colada Song),” which was a #1 hit in 1979-80 and is heard in a variety of films including Shrek and Guardians of the Galaxy.  He is also a two-time Tony winner for the musical DroodMichel Legrand, known for his long career scoring for film and television, turns 85.  He is a three-time Oscar winner, for Best Original Song for “Windmills of Your Mind” from The Thomas Crown Affair, and twice for Best Original Score, for Summer of ’42 and Yentl.

A pair of Baseball Hall of Famers head our list of sports birthdays.  Eddie Murray, who is turning 61 today, spent most of his career with the Baltimore Orioles.  A power-hitting first baseman, he hit over 500 career home runs.  Honus Wagner (1874-1955) was one of the “first five” inductees to the Hall of Fame in 1936.  Generally considered the best shortstop ever to play the game, he won eight National League batting titles while spending most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who is 40 today, was ranked as the world’s best boxer, pound-for-pound, in the last 25 years by ESPN.  During his career he won world championships in four different weight divisions and was undefeated as a professional.

Two actors best known for their appearances in The Godfather were botn on this date.  Abe Vigoda (1921-2016), who played Sal Tessio, was also known for playing Det. Phil Fish on Barney Miller and its spinoff series Fish, and for other films like Joe Versus the VolcanoAl Lettieri (1928-1975), who was Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, also had prominent roles in other seventies crime films like The Getaway and Mr. Majestyk before his death of a heart attack at the age of 47.

Richard Thorpe (1896-1991) was a contract director at MGM for over 20 years, who made films such as The Thin Man Goes Home, Ivanhoe, a pair of Tarzan movies, and several Esther Williams films.  He is also remembered for “the one that got away” from him; he was the initial director assigned to The Wizard of Oz but was fired after only about ten days of filming.  Marjorie Main (1890-1975) was also under contract with MGM for a while but is best remembered for starring in Universal’s Ma and Pa Kettle series of the late forties and fifties.  John Vernon (1932-2005) will always be remembered for playing Dean Wormer, of “double secret probation” fame, in Animal House.  He he also had notable roles in films like Point Blank, Charley Varrick, and The Outlaw Josey WalesJoan Diener (1930-2006) had a noted career in musical theater, who was most famous for originating the roles of Lalume in Kismet and Aldonza in Man of La Mancha.  French actress Emmanuelle Riva (1927-2017) had her first credited film role in the classic Hiroshima mon amour in 1959, had a long career in French theater and film, and suddenly came to the attention of American viewers in her mid-eighties when she was nominated for an Oscar for AmourSteven Hill (1922-2016) was best known for his television work—he starred as Dan Briggs on the first season of Mission: Impossible and played Adam Schiff during the first decade of Law & Order.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was one of the most important entrepreneurs in late 20th century America.  He was the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple, and also the primary financial backer and CEO of Pixar.  Michael Fassbender played him in the 2015 biopic.  Chester Nimitz (1885-1966), one of the most important officers in the history of the US Navy, was Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet during most of World War II.  Henry Fonda played Nimitz in the 1976 film Midway.

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 24, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. A bit of a thin list today—which is just as well as I didn’t have all that much time to write yesterday. I was in grad school when Stand and Deliver came out. As movies of this sort go it’s apparently fairly accurate.

    Billy Zane may not have made it as a star, but I’ve always found The Phantom to be quite enjoyable—entertaining and not too pretentious.

    The Godfather had some incredibly perfect casting, didn’t it?

    John Vernon will always be remembered as Dean Wormer, but he was also in some other really good films, in significant roles. Aside from those I mentioned in the article he was the Mayor in Dirty Harry.


  2. Ah, Edward James Olmos: I think 1981’s “Zoot Suit” is a gem (and an actual Zoot Suit is awesome), what he brought to “Blade Runner” was good, “Stand and Deliver” is really solid, and I also like 1992’s “American Me”. As for his Lt. Castillo in “Miami Vice”, well, he was a Zen Samurai with a stare that turned people into stone, so he was pretty badass there too.
    Billy Zane, this site has him covered.
    Barry Bostwick, how about his turn in 1982’s “Megaforce”? Barry Bostwick as an action hero? Oh yeah, that happened, and I thought it was glorious.
    Helen Shaver, I’ve always liked her; another gold star for Canada and the performers that country has produced. I always got a Margot Kidder vibe from her. I remember her best in “The Believers”, “The color of money”, and “The Osterman Weekend”, in that order.
    Betty Broderick, I thought she was pretty fetching.
    Eddie Murray, fantastic baseball, had a lot of hits in the 1980’s, like Eddie Murphy.
    Honus Wagner, if one owns one of his baseball cards, you could be rich.
    John Vernon, well there’s “Animal House” and some campy B-movie stuff that I like such as 1983’s “Chained Heat”, but I’ll remember him best voiced Rupert Thorne from “Batman: The Animated Series”. I didn’t know for a long time that Kate Vernon, probably best known for her role in “Pretty in Pink”, was his daughter.
    Steven Hill, yeah, there’s the Law & Order franchise, but I remember him best for his roles in “White Palace” and “Billy Bathgate”.
    Steve Jobs, he was definitely a guy who greatly influenced our culture; with a name like Jobs, of course he did good work.


  3. I forgot to mention Abe Vigoda, who’s Tessio character I killed in “The Godfather” game (dude had some escapability, he wasn’t easy to chase down), and I liked him in “Barney Miller”. Wasn’t there a thing back in the day in which he was always reported as deceased, and it became something of a joke?


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