March 5: Happy Birthday Elaine Paige and Rex Harrison
Elaine Paige, who is turning 69 today, is known as the First Lady of British Musical Theatre. She made her West End debut as part of the original London cast of the rock musical Hair at the age of 20, and for the next decade worked regularly on the London stage. She had some major roles—playing Sandy for over a year in the London production of Grease and Maisie in a revival of The Boy Friend—but wasn’t really a major star.
In 1978 Paige got her big break when stage director Hal Prince, who was directing a new musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, cast her in the lead role:
Paige won the Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Musical as Eva Peron in Evita. She went on to originate another famous Lloyd Webber role, Grizabella in Cats, and to star in the West End productions of musicals like Chess, Anything Goes, Piaf, and many more, and made her Broadway debut as Norma Desmond in Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. She has received four additional Olivier Award nominations. In addition to participating in several original cast recordings, she has made a number of solo albums, many of which have sold extremely well in the UK.
Sir Rex Harrison (1908-1990) made his stage debut at the age of 16 and continued acting for over sixty years. He made his Broadway debut in 1936, and over a decade later won his first Tony Award, for Best Actor in a Play, in Maxwell Anderson’s Anne of the Thousand Days. In 1956, he made his first appearance in the role he remained famous for for the rest of his life, in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.
After Harrison won his second Tony as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, he played the role in the 1964 film adaptation as well, winning the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor. He began working in film in 1930. Some of his other notable film roles included Night Train to Munich, Major Barbara, Anna and the King of Siam, Cleopatra, and Doctor Dolittle.
Dean Stockwell, who turns 81, was a prominent child actor of the 1940s, in films like Anchors Aweigh and Song of the Thin Man, and later was an Oscar nominee for Married to the Mob and won a Golden Globe as Admiral Calavicci on Quantum Leap. Samantha Eggar, who is 78 today, was an Oscar nominee for The Collector and starred with Rex Harrison in Doctor Dolittle. Murray Head, who starred in the original West End production of the musical Chess with Elaine Paige, turns 71; Anthony Head of Buffy fame is his younger brother. Penn Jillette, the magician who is one-half of the team of Penn & Teller, is 62 today. James B. Sikking, who is 83 today, is one of two Hill Street Blues stars in today’s article. He was an Emmy nominee as Howard Hunter and also played Dr. David Howser on Doogie Howser, M.D. Mexican actress Adriana Barraza, who turns 61, is best known for her two films with Alejandro González Iñárritu, Amores Perros and Babel; she was an Oscar nominee for the latter film.
Eva Mendes, who is turning 43 today, made her breakthrough in Training Day and has had prominent roles in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Hitch, and The Other Guys, to name a few. Also turning 43 is Kevin Connolly, who was a Golden Globe nominee as Eric Murphy on Entourage. Jolene Blalock, who played the Science Officer T’Pol on Star Trek Enterprise, turns 42 today. Riki Lindhome, the co-creator and star of Comedy Central’s Another Period, is turning 38. Lucian Msamati, who is 41, was the first black actor to play Iago for the Royal Shakespeare Company and plays Salladhor Saan on Game of Thrones.
Our sports birthdays include an NFL great and two athletes also known for their acting careers. Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who turns 51, starred for the Dallas Cowboys at wide receiver for over a decade, and was one of the core players who led them to three Super Bowl wins in four seasons in the mid-Nineties. Fred Williamson, known as “the Hammer,” turns 79. He started at cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I and then went into acting. He starred in several blaxploitation films of the seventies and played Frost in From Dusk till Dawn. Michael Warren, who celebrates his 71st, starred on two NCAA basketball champions for UCLA but was too small for the NBA. His biggest acting role was as Bobby Hill on Hill Street Blues.
Music birthdays include Tom Russell, the folk-country singer-songwriter who has had his songs recorded by artists ranging from Johnny Cash to k. d. lang, turns 67. Andy Gibb (1958-1988), the younger brother of the Bee Gees, had hits in the late seventies like “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “Everlasting Love,” but his body could not overcome the ravages of years of cocaine use and he died just after turning 30.
Henry Travers (1874-1965) was an Oscar nominee for Mrs. Miniver and played the bumbling angel Clarence Odbody in It’s a Wonderful Life. Virginia Christine (1920-1996) appeared in a variety of movies, including both versions of The Killers, but was best known for her two decades as helpful Mrs. Olson in Folgers coffee commercials. Jack Cassidy (1927-1976) won a Tony during his career in musical theater and had three acting sons—David, Shaun and Patrick—and an actress granddaughter, Katie. Henry Daniell (1894-1963) was an English stage and screen actor known for his villainous roles in films like the Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Sea Hawk; he also had an uncredited cameo in My Fair Lady (and, sadly, died the night after his one scene was filmed).
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was undoubtedly the second greatest composer born in the year 1685, and the second greatest of the Baroque era. Since the greatest, in both cases, was one Johann Sebastian Bach, that is no faint praise. Handel was born in Germany but spent the bulk of his adult life in London. His most well-known compositions include his Coronation Anthem, Zadok the Priest (played at the crowning of every English monarch from George II to the present), the Royal Fireworks Music, the Water Music, and his brilliant oratorios, especially Messiah.
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 March 5, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Andy Gibb, Dean Stockwell, Elaine Paige, Eva Mendes, George Frideric Handel, Henry Travers, Jack Cassidy, Jolene Blalock, Rex Harrison. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.