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March 17: Happy Birthday Kurt Russell and Rudolph Nureyev

0317RussellNureyev

Kurt Russell celebrates his 66th birthday today.  He began working as a juvenile actor in 1960s television, including starring on a short-lived Western series, The Travels of Jamie McPheeters.  He began to work regularly in features in the seventies, starring in a series of Disney films, most notably the three films featuring Medfield College undergrad Dexter Riley, beginning with The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

In the late seventies Russell began to break with his Disney image, with an Emmy-nominated performance in the TV movie Elvis, and made an even more decisive break as Snake Plissken in Escape from New York.  By the late eighties and early nineties, Russell was a credible leading man in many genres, including romantic comedy (Overboard), crime thriller (Tequila Sunrise, Unlawful Entry), and even Westerns:

Russell is the subject of a WTHH article with vast amounts of detail about his career.  He has had a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of years.  He appeared as Mr. Nobody in Furious 7, and will return in the role, apparently with a name, in this year’s The Fate of the Furious.  He played John Ruth in The Hateful Eight, and will be seen later this year in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, in a role that may have some importance to the plot.

One of the biggest names in 20th century ballet, Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993) was born on a Trans-Siberian train and fell in love with ballet as a boy.  He studied at the Vaganova Academy and joined the Kirov Ballet (known these days as the Mariinsky Ballet) in 1957.  His talents won him a place as a principal almost instantly, but he soon grew frustrated with the lack of artistic and personal freedom, and defected to the West when the Kirov visited Paris in 1961.

Nureyev soon was invited to join the Royal Ballet in London, where he often partnered the legendary Dame Margot Fonteyn.  He later became artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet, and also once paid a visit to The Muppet Show:

Sadly, Nureyev became one of the highest-profile victims of AIDS, dying at the relatively young age of 54.

Gary Sinise, who is 62 today, has won a Golden Globe for playing a US President (Harry S. Truman in HBO’s Truman) and an Emmy for playing a one-time presidential candidate (the title character on TNT’s George Wallace).  He was also an Oscar nominee for playing Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest GumpCasey Siemaszko, who was once well known for movies like Three O’Clock High, Stand By Me, and Young Guns, turns 56.  One-time Brat Pack member Rob Lowe is 53; he was an Emmy nominee while starring on The West Wing and is a seven-time Golden Globe nominee.  Patrick Duffy, who is celebrating his 68th, is best known for the role of Bobby Ewing on Dallas, during 12 of the 13 seasons of the show’s initial run as well as on the revival on TNT.  Mark Boone Junior, who turns 62, starred as Bobby Munson on FX’s Sons of AnarchyChristian Clemenson, who is turning 59 today, was a three-time Emmy nominee as Jerry “Hands” Espenson on Boston Legal, winning Outstanding Guest Actor in 2006.  Leslie-Anne Down, who is 63 today, first became well known as Georgina Worsley on Upstairs, Downstairs, and later became a familiar face on American soap operas like The Bold and the Beautiful.

John Boyega, who plays Finn in The Force Awakens and will return to the role in The Last Jedi, is 25 today.  He first became well known as the teenage protagonist of the low-budget sci-fi film Attack the Block.  Also turning 25 is Eliza Bennett, who has had prominent roles in films like Nanny McPhee and Inkheart and stars on MTV’s Sweet/ViciousNatalie Zea, who has had regular roles on Dirty Sexy Money and Justified and currently stars on TBS’s Detour, is turning 42 today.

William Gibson, who is 69 today, is a highly influential science fiction novelist, one of the pioneers of the “cyberpunk” subgenre.  He is best known for his “Sprawl trilogy,” which begins with his debut novel, Neuromancer.  He also wrote the short story “Johnny Menmonic,” the source for the film of the same title.

It’s only fitting that there be at least one Irish celebrity born on St. Patrick’s Day.  Caroline Corr turns 44 today; the drummer for the family folk rock band The Corrs, she is known to fans as “chick with stick,” and sings and plays piano in addition to percussion instruments.  John Sebastian, who is 73 today, was a founding member of The Lovin’ Spoonful and later had a solo #1 hit, “Welcome Back,” the theme song of the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back , KotterBilly Corgan, the lead singer, guitarist and co-founder of the alt-rock band The Smashing Pumpkins, is celebrating his 50th.  Tamar Braxton, who is 40, was another member of a family band, one of The Braxtons with her four sisters, including past headliner Toni.  Tamar Braxton has had some recent success as a solo artist, with albums like Love and WarNat King Cole (1919-1965) was a highly successful jazz and traditional pop singer and pianist for over 20 years and became one of the first African-Americans to host a television variety show.  Alfred Newman (1900-1970) was one of the most famous names in film music.  He was nominated for over 40 Oscars, winning nine, and was also known for his many relatives who followed him into film composing—his younger brothers Emil and Lionel, his sons David and Thomas, and his nephew Randy.

Our sports birthdays today begin with a legend.  Bobby Jones (1902-1971) was the most famous golfer of the 1920s.  An amateur who competed in golf part-time, he nevertheless won all the major tournaments of the time, before retiring from competitive golf at the age of 28.  He later helped design the famous Augusta National Golf Club and co-founded the Masters, which is held annually at Augusta.  Sammy Baugh (1914-2008) set NFL records as a defensive back and a punter, but most famously as a quarterback, and led the Washington Redskins to two NFL championships during his career, which took him to Football’s Hall of Fame.  Mia Hamm, who turns 45 today, made her debut with the US Women’s National Soccer Team at the age of only 15.  By the time she retired she had scored 158 international goals for the US, and led the US to World Cup victories in 1991 and 1999, and Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004.  Katie Ledecky, who won four gold medals in women’s swimming at the 2016 Olympics—the 200, 400, and 800 meter freestyle events and the 4×200 freestyle relay—turns 20 today.

Actor Gabriele Ferzetti (1925-2015) worked in Italian cinema for nearly seventy years, making his first films in his teens and his last in 2010.  He also worked periodically in English-language films, including two well-known appearances, as the railroad tycoon Morton in Once Upon a Time in the West, and as Marc-Ange Draco in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

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 March 17, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I have memories of Kurt Russell that go back to his Disney days; I am as sure as I can be about anything from when I was that young that our family saw The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes in the theater, and I am pretty sure I saw one or two of his other Disney films on Wonderful World of Disney or at least on TV. And as someone who is just a bit of a student of film portrayals of Wyatt Earp, I would say that Russell was a good one—not in Henry Fonda’s class, but on a level with the other contenders for second-best like Burt Lancaster and James Garner.

    While i have never had the same passion for ballet as I do for opera, I did love Nureyev’s visit to The Muppet Show. Poor Sam the Eagle really got his feathers in a twist that night.

    Bobby Jones was one of the five great sports legends of the 1920s, along with Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Red Grange, and Bill Tilden. They were some of the first modern-style celebrities, receiving lots of media attention and being depicted as larger-than-life. Of them all, Jones seems to have been the most genuinely admirable, respected both in his time and since for his sportsmanship.

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  2. I have memories of watching some of Russell’s Disney movies on TV, but never the movie theater. Backdraft is probably the first of his movies I saw in theaters.

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  3. Russell was always a bit iffy as a WTHH subject. Even when I wrote the article, I had to elaborate that in his case, the question had a slightly different spin. But he seems to have started making more high profile movies purely to spite me.

    Since I don’t watch CSI, Gary Sinise will always be Lt. Dan to me. But the second thing I think of is his near comatose line readings in the preshow of the Epcot attraction Mission: Space. Sinese very clearly does not want to be there and his lack of interest will continue on until Disney decides to spend money to upgrade the attraction. So, a very long time.

    Casey Siemaszko appeared in the Sinese-directed adaptation of Of Mice and Men. But to me, he’ll always be the Young Gun no one had ever heard of. Rob Lowe was one of the few survivors of the Brat Pack which is surprising given some of the scandals he endured. I guess being incredibly good looking and charismatic counts for something.

    I only saw a couple of episodes of Dallas. One was the infamous episode in which Patrick Duffy’s character came back to life via a shower that revealed that the entire previous season was just a dream. I guess that’s one way to do it. I knew Duffy as The Man From Atlantis… aka Aquaman Lite.

    John Boyega? Why does that name ring a bell? Was he in something I saw? Nothing comes to mind…

    I’m pretty sure I read some William Gibson short stories at some point. I remember having a creative writing teacher who was very into cyberpunk.

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    • I think that the Kurt Russell article is tricky because if he was never a true-blue A-list star (while Snake Plissken is arguably, Kurt Russell’s most iconic or signature “adult/post-Disney role”, “Escape from New York”, much less his other work w/ John Carpenter like “Big Trouble in Little China”, really wasn’t that big of a hit at the time), he was always a fixture.

      He’s also never really had anything about his career/personal life that made good “train-wreck” material. If anything, he’s one of the rare exceptions of a child actor who actually managed have a reasonably successful life much less career as an adult.

      Maybe Kurt Russell in some respects, is thought of as a much bigger name than he actually is or was because of his long term relationship with Goldie Hawn as well as his relatively lengthy career on its own.

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      • I think that’s really the best angle in regards to writing a “What The Hell Happened?” article about Kurt Russell, is that he never became as big as it looked like he would or was sold as (I do believe the industry did try to sell him to the public; I’m sold). I still believe that his career is worth a write-up and read, as it’s interesting, and proves that someone doesn’t need controversial moments to have a career worthy of analysis.

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  4. Kurt Russell, his page on here is still pretty active and full of good info/comments. If he likes green beer, I hope he enjoys his today.
    Gary Sinise, yeah, that Lt. Dan role has really stuck. I also think of his character in “Reindeer Games” (I actually like that film a little).
    Rob Lowe, I think I like him best in 1988’s “Masquerade” and 1990’s “Bad Influence”, a film I had on my mind earlier (and without regards to Lowe’s birthday).
    Casey Siemaszko, I used to love “Three o’ Clock High” back in the day, and I can still recall the film’s poster in my mind rather easily. He has a sister that acts too (I think she sort of looks like Hope Davis).
    Patrick Duffy, yep, that famous shower scene of Bobby Ewing in the shower is what I remember of “Dallas” from when I was a kid, and I watched the show “Step by Step” for a time in the 1990’s.
    Lseley Anne-Down, I really know her best from the 1986 film “Nomads”, which I think is pretty good.
    Natalie Zea, I recall her guest turn on “Californication”, which then led me to look up her filmography on IMDB. Subsequently, she was a cast member in the TV series “The Following” which starred Kevin Bacon, but after awhile I kind of gave up on that show.
    Billy Corgan, I listened to The Smashing Pumpkins quite a bit 20 years ago, but not much since. my favorite song from them is “Here Is No Why”.
    Nat King Cole, boy, did he have some talent. I dig “St. Louis Blues” (I think the hockey team of the same name is okay:-).
    Sammy Baugh, he probably remains one of the greatest players in NFL history, since he could pass (70% completion percentage one year!), punt, and in one game threw four touchdowns and intercepted four passes. Yeesh, that’s three careers in one, and from NFL Films footage I’ve seen, he was a good interview too.

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