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February 27: Happy Birthday Joanne Woodward and Elizabeth Taylor

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Our first headliner today was married to Paul Newman.  Our second played Paul Newman’s wife in one of her most famous roles.

Joanne Woodward is turning 87 today.  She studied drama at Louisiana State University and began working in theater and television.  During much of the 1950s, she alternated between appearing in New York theater and in television anthology series such as The Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One.  She made her feature film debut in 1955, and in 1957 she starred in a psychological thriller about a woman who seems to have three different personalities:

Woodward won the Oscar for Best Actress for The Three Faces of Eve.  Her next film, The Long, Hot Summer (adapted from William Faulkner’s The Hamlet), was the first of ten in which she co-starred with Paul Newman.  The two had first met in 1953 while part of the Broadway cast of William Inge’s Picnic, and married in early 1958.  They remained together until Newman’s death in 2008.

Woodward was nominated for three additional Oscars during her career, for Rachel, Rachel, for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, and for Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (her final film with Newman).  Beginning in the mid-seventies, most of her roles were in television; she was nominated six times for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, winning twice for See How She Runs and Do You Remember Love.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was an adolescent/teen star of the forties, most notably in National Velvet and Little Women (as Amy March).  She began transitioning to adult roles while still in her late teens, giving an acclaimed performance in the 1951 film A Place in the Sun.  In the late fifties she made a number of financially and critically successful films, and was nominated for Best Actress four years in a row, from 1957-60.  As those who followed our recent Best Actress Bracket Game, know, she won for Butterfield 8, but one of her other nominations was the time she starred with Paul Newman:

During the sixties, Taylor’s personal life, and the tabloid attention she received because of it, seemed at times to swallow up her career.  Her involvement in the enormously expensive Cleopatra did not enhance her image, either.  Yet she still had some great performances in her, notably her second Oscar-winning one in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Adam Baldwin, who is not a Baldwin brother, turns 55 today.  He has had major rules in films such as My Bodyguard and Full Metal Jacket, but these days is likely known for his television roles as John Casey on Chuck, Mike Slattery on The Last Ship, and of course on Firefly as “the hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!”  Donal Logue, who is 51 today, starred on Fox’s Grounded for Life for five seasons and currently plays Harvey Bullock on Gotham.  English character actor Timothy Spall is celebrating his 60th.  He has worked several times with Mike Leigh (including playing Richard Temple, the original Mikado, in Topsy-Turvy), played Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films, and Winston Churchill in The King’s SpeechNoah Emmerich, who currently is a regular on The Americans and has film credits that include The Truman Show, Windtalkers, and Jane Got a Gun, turns 52 today.  Icelandic actor-director Baltasar Kormákur is turning 51.  He has directed films like A Little Trip to Heaven, 2 Guns, and Contraband; the latter was a remake of Reykjavík-Rotterdam, which he starred in.

Kate Mara turns 34 today.  She played Sue Storm in the 2015 Fantastic Four film, was an Emmy nominee for House of Cards, and stars as the title character in two upcoming films, Megan Leavey and Mercy.  Pop and easy listening star Josh Groban celebrates his 36th.  All of his seven studio albums have reached the Top 10 in the Billboard 200, with three reaching #1.  Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, who is 46, is a member of the R&B girl group TLC, the best-selling American girl group of all time.  Lindsey Morgan, who stars as Raven Reyes on The 100, turns 27 today.  Li Bingbing, who turns 44, is a major star in Chinese cinema and has appeared in American films such as Resident Evil: Retribution and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

The main sports birthday today is James Worthy.  “Big Game James,” who turns 56, led North Carolina to an NCAA basketball championship in 1982.  He then joined the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming Magic Johnson’s primary wingman as the Lakers won three NBA titles from 1985-88, and making seven NBA All-Star teams.

Like Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Bennett (1910-1990) played Amy March in a film adaptation of Little Women.  She also was known as a femme fatale in Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window and Scarlet StreetWilliam Demarest (1892-1983) was a durable character actor remembered for his roles in some of Preston Sturges’ great comedies, such as The Lady Eve and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (playing Betty Hutton‘s father), and for playing Uncle Charlie on the final seven seasons of My Three Sons (replacing William Frawley who had played a similar role for the first five seasons).  David Sarnoff (1891-1971) was a prominent figure on the business side of the entertainment world as a top-level executive of RCA for several decades.  Kevin Curran (1957-2016) won three Emmys for his writing for Late Night with David Letterman in the eighties, and three more as an executive producer on The SimpsonsDexter Gordon (1923-1990) was a Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist, and was nominated for Best Actor for the 1986 film Round Midnight.

Franchot Tone (1905-1968) was, like Elizabeth Taylor, often more famous for her personal life than his films.  He was nominated for Best Actor for Mutiny on the Bounty, but was known for his marriage to Joan Crawford and for getting into a big fistfight with actor Tom Neal over actress Barbara Payton (Neal, an ex-boxer, put Tone in the hospital).

We have several prominent birthdays from the world of classical music and opera today.  Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976) was a prominent German soprano known for singing the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and for some of the more “lyric” Wagner roles.  She also played a role in persuading an Austrian family named von Trapp that their family ensemble had a future giving public performances.  Soprano Mirella Freni, who turns 82, was a childhood friend of Luciano Pavarotti, and as adults the two often recorded and performed together, as their voices were both suited for much of the same repertoire (especially Puccini).  Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was a contralto known for her concert and recital performances; she once gave a famous open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Although she generally turned down invitations from opera houses as she had no training in acting, she became the first African-American soloist at the Met in 1955, as Ulrica in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.

Literary birthdays today range from authors of poetry to screenplays.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), one of the “Fireside Poets” from New England, is remembered for poems like “The Song of Hiawatha” and “Paul Revere’s Ride.”  John Steinbeck (1902-1968) won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for a career that also included the novel East of Eden, the short novel Of Mice and Men, and much more.  James T. Farrell (1904-1979) is best known for the Studs Lonigan trilogy, a chronicle of life in early 20th Century Chicago that was named to Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century.  Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) is remembered for the four novels that make up the Alexandria Quartet and for his travel writings such as Bitter LemonsIrwin Shaw (1913-1984) was the author of novels such as Rich Man, Poor Man (made into a 1976 ABC miniseries) and of screenplays such as The Talk of the Town and Desire Under the Elms.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) was appointed to the US Supreme Court in 1937 by President Franklin Roosevelt and remained on the Court until days before his death in 1971.  During his long tenure on the Court, he wrote important opinions on First Amendment law, civil rights issues, and many other subjects.

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.

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Posted on February 27, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The throwback own the day here.
    The first project I saw Joanne Woodward in was the 1984 TV Movie “Passions”. I recorded it at the time because Heather Langenkamp was it it, but I think it’s actually a pretty good husband’s secret family/love triangle kind of deal.
    Elizabeth Taylor I first knew of in the tabloids, and being close friends with Michael Jackson. Beyond that, I thought there was a certain level of glamour she carried, and as a younger adult she was full-figured, which I think is pretty cool. As for her films, I don’t think anybody can go wrong with “National Velvet”, “A place in the Sun” and “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolfe?”.
    Adam Baldwin, yeah, I like “My Bodyguard; I had a bodyguard just like that in 5th grade. Definitely though, I’ve seen Adam Baldwin pop up in a lot of television guest spots.
    Donal Logue, I thought he was great in the 2000 film “The Tao of Steve”; man, his character is full of it, but like how it goes, many women buy his lines, except the one woman he really wants. Great stuff.
    Kate Mara, I was aware of her before her sister Rooney, due to “Urban Legends: Bloody Mary” (yes, it’s awful, and I don’t think “good awful” either) and her TV guest spots such as “Cold Case”, but nowadays I’d rather not have to choose a favorite between the Mara sisters, I’ll rate them both Even Steven.
    Seems to me that Joan Bennett’s career was derailed by that incident when her husband shot her agent in a fit of jealousy. Well, it only takes one incident like that for one’s life to go sideways in general.
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I like his work, though his name brings out the immaturity in me.
    Same with John Steinbeck, as I think “Of Mice and Men” is a masterpiece (the rare time in which I read the book, but have never seen any film adaptations).

    Like

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