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February 28: Happy Birthday Bernadette Peters and John Turturro

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Bernadette Peters, who is 69 today, joins the list of musical theater stars to become a headliner.  She obtained her Actor’s Equity card at nine and made her Broadway debut in her late teens.  Her Tony nomination in 1971 for playing Hildy Esterhazy in a revival of On the Town was the first of seven.  She has won twice, for playing Emma in the original Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance, and as Annie Oakley in the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun.

Although she is first and foremost a lady of the stage, Peters has had a good film and television career as well.  She has been nominated for two Golden Globes for her film work, winning Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Pennies from Heaven.  She also received a Golden Globe nomination for her short-lived 1970s TV series All’s Fair, and has had a pair of Emmy nominations, one of them for her 1977 guest appearance on The Muppet Show.  In addition to taking part in four Grammy-winning Broadway cast albums, Peters has had three solo albums nominated for Best Traditional Pop Album.

John Turturro turns 60 today.  The hard-working character actor, and occasional lead, had an uncredited part in Raging Bull in 1980, but he first really was noticed in the indie crime drama Five Corners in 1987.  That performance impressed Spike Lee enough that he cast Turturro as Pino in Do the Right Thing, his first of nine films with Lee.  In 1990, he made his first film with the Coen Brothers, as Bernie Bernbaum in Miller’s Crossing, and then starred as the title character of Barton Fink:

Turturro worked with the Coens again on The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Are Thou?  He has worked on several of Adam Sandler’s pictures and was a Golden Globe nominee for Robert Redford’s Quiz Show.  While he is primarily known for his film work, he won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor as Ambrose Monk on Monk.  Over the years he has made a number of films as a writer-director; recent ones include the documentary Passione and the comedy Fading Gigolo, while he is currently working on Going Places, a sort-of-spinoff from The Big Lebowski in which Tutrurro reprises his character of Jesus Quintana.

Brent Barrett, another musical theater star, turns 60.  He has appeared on Broadway in West Side Story, Chicago, and Annie Get Your Gun, and was an Olivier Award nominee for a 2001 London revival of Kiss Me Kate.  Also celebrating her 60th is Cindy Wilson, a longtime member of the B-52s.  Comedian and voice actor Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of Iago the parrot in Aladdin and of the Aflac duck for many years, turns 62 today.  Guy Maddin, one of Canada’s leading filmmakers, know for films like The Saddest Music in the World and My Winnipeg, is celebrating his 61st.  Rae Dawn Chong, who is 56, is known for her roles in Quest for Fire, Commando, and The Color Purple.

Ali Larter, known for her dual role on Heroes and her involvement in the Final Destination and Resident Evil franchises, turns 41 today.  Robert Sean Leonard, who is turning 48, played Dr. James Wilson on House for eight seasons and is a three-time Tony nominee, winning for Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of LoveNoureen DeWulf, who played Lacey Patel on Anger Management, turns 33 today.  Irish actress Sarah Bolger, who celebrates her 26th, starred in In America as a child, played Mary Tudor on The Tudors, and plays the recurring role of Princess Aurora on Once Upon a Time.  Chinese actress and singer Yang Ying, better known as Angelababy, is 28 today.  She is a rising star of Chinese cinema and might be known to American audiences from Hitman: Agent 47 and Independence Day: Resurgence.

Daniel Handler, who turns 47, is best known under his pen name of Lemony Snicket, as the author of the A Series of Unfortunate Events series.  Irish writer Colum McCann, who is 52 today, is known for novels like Let the Great World Spin (a National Book Award winner) and TransAtlantic.

Gavin MacLeod, who is 86 today, is a five-time Golden Globe nominee for his roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat (as Captain Stubing).  Mercedes Ruehl, who is celebrating her 69th, was an Oscar winner for The Fisher King and a Tony winner for Lost in Yonkers.   Also turning 69 is director Mike Figgis, who was nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Leaving Las VegasKelly Bishop, who is 73, played Sheila Bryant in the original cast of A Chorus Line and won a Tony, and more recently played Emily Gilmore on Gilmore Girls.  Auto racing great Mario Andretti, who turns 77, is the only driver to have won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, and the Formula One world championship.

Charles Durning (1923-2012) was an Oscar nominee for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and To Be or Not to Be and a six-time Emmy nominee in his television career.  Vincente Minnelli (1903-1986) was best known for directing film musicals like An American in Paris and The Band Wagon, and for his marriage to Judy Garland; Liza Minnelli is their daughter.  Zero Mostel (1915-1977) won three Tony Awards in the 1960s, for starring in Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinocerous and in the classic musicals A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Fiddler on the RoofBen Hecht (1894-1964) was the co-author of the oft-filmed play The Front Page, a two-time Oscar winner for screenwriting, and one of the great script doctors in Hollywood history.  Sir Stanley Baker (1928-1976) is best remembered for starring as Lt. John Chard in Zulu, which he also produced.  Dean Smith (1931-2015) was one of the great coaching legends of American college sports; he coached men’s basketball at North Carolina for 36 seasons, winning nearly 900 games and two national titles.  Bubba Smith (1945-2011), no relation to Dean, was a football star at Michigan State and in the NFL, where he helped the Baltimore Colts win Super Bowl V.  He went on to an acting career, playing the role of Moses Hightower in the Police Academy films.

Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980) came to a tragic end in circumstances mentioned in this article.  Another tragically short life was Brian Jones (1942-1969).  The founder of the Rolling Stones was asked to leave the band in 1969 because of his drug problems and drowned in his swimming pool.

Finally, as it won’t be February 29th again for another three years, I’ve chosen to include some of the biggest names born on that date in this article.

Dennis Farina (1944-2013) worked for 18 years for the Chicago Police Department before a consulting job on Michael Mann’s Thief led to a lengthy acting career.  Often cast as a cop or a crook, he had sizable roles in films like Midnight Run, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Snatch, and regular TV roles on Crime Story and Law & OrderWilliam Wellman (1896-1975) directed Wings, the first film to win Best Picture, and won Best Director for the 1954 version of A Star is Born.  He was also known for directing The Public Enemy, Beau Geste, and The Ox-Bow Incident.

Joss Ackland, who turns 89, began his screen and stage acting career nearly 70 years ago and has played so many roles it’s almost impossible to know which ones to pick for a very brief blurb. 🙂  Michèle Morgan (1920-2016) was one of the leading stars of French cinema for many years.  She worked in Hollywood during World War II, starring in films like Higher and Higher and Passage to Marseille.  Hockey Hall of Famer Henri Richard, who turns 81, won eleven Stanley Cups as a player, an NHL record.  Jazz musician Jimmy Dorsey (1904-1957) was best known as a big band leader; he and his orchestra had several #1 hits in the thirties and forties.  Patricia McKillip, who celebrates her 69th, is the author of a number of well-regarded fantasy novels, such as the Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, and Ombria in ShadowTim Powers, who is 65, is a fantasy and sci-fi author who works frequently in the “steampunk” and “secret history” subgenres.  He is known for novels such as The Anubis Gate, the Fault Lines trilogy, and On Stranger Tides, some elements of which became part of the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film.

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) was one of the giants of Italian opera, the composer of The Barber of Seville, The Italian Girl in Algiers, and other classics.  Many of his operas, even the lesser ones, have memorable overtures, including one that has become one of the world’s best known orchestral compositions.

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 28, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. This was a big article to write. Even before I got to the February 29 birthdays, there were a lot of names. I ended up leaving some people out, such as a pair of notorious serial killers who were both born on February 29. The fortunate side of including Feb. 29 was the opportunity to end the article on a (literal) high note with Rossini. 🙂

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    • I haven’t gotten to read today’s article yet, but the thought of Leap Year babies hadn’t crossed my mind. Guess I’ll have to set aside a little extra time today!

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  2. As a little bonus content for today, here is Bernadette Peters in her Emmy-nominated appearance on The Muppet Show:

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  3. My first exposure to Bernadette Peters was almost certainly on The Muppets. But I know her best from The Jerk. I first took notice of John Turturro in Do the Right Thing. The Coen brothers have put him to good use. Michael Bay, not so much.

    I know a lot of people find Gilbert Gottfried annoying. I think he’s funny. Watched Ali Larter on Heroes. That show went downhill fast. They had no idea what to do with her character after the first season. I watched a lot of The Love Boat with Gavin MacLeod as Captain Stubing back in the day. Never in first run, but any time I was home from school.

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  4. I know Bernadette Peters from Clint Eastwood’s “Pink Cadillac”, which sounds all kind of wrong actually.
    John Turturro first really came to my attention in “Quiz Show”, but I later backtracked to “Do The Right Thing” and then back a few more years to the episode ‘Rites of Passage’ on “Miami vice”. I think he does great work overall.
    Gilbert Gottfried was never my bag, but if a production needs a character who is annoying, he’s pretty much a slam dunk then.
    Rae Dawn Chong, well, I just think the name is awesome, and I liked her in “Commando” and “Soul Man” (I have a feeling that film will never be remade).
    Ali Larter, I caught a couple of episodes of that FOX show “Pitch”, and remember her from “Varsity Blues” and “Final Destination”.
    Robert Sean Leonard, I watched a few day marathon of “House” back at the end of 2009, but I recall his early work on 1988’s “My Best friend is a Vampire” (goofy turn by David Warner there), “Dead Poets Society”, and 1993’s “Swing Kids”, as well as 2001’s “Tape”.
    Noreen DeWulf, she’s married to NHL goalie Ryan Miller, that and “Anger manage,ment” is what I know of her.
    Gavin MacLeod, yeah, I know him from the two shows mentioned in the article; I thought he offered an engaging presence on those two programs.
    Mercedes Ruehl, she played an undercover cop who busted Ajax in “The Warriors” and I thought she brought a lot of life to her character in “The Fisher King”, and it was a well-deserved Oscar.
    Charles Durning, I had no idea up until a few years ago that he was a World War II hero, but so many roles he had: “Sisters”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Tough guys”, and “Sharky’s Machine” are some of my favorites that he performed in.
    Bubba smith, he got a lot of notice for his role in the Police Academy series, but I later learned he was a pretty great NFL defensive end.
    Dorothy Stratten, she met a real brutal end; a real shame.
    Dennis Farina, “Thief” really sent his life on a different path, and I thought he was effective playing either a law enforcement guy, a mobbed up fellow, or hosting the reformatted “Unsolved Mysteries”.
    Joss Ackland, he’s the diplomatic immunity guy from “Lethal Weapon 2”, and he also played the kindly Hans in The Might Ducks series of films.

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