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March 18: Happy Birthday Queen Latifah and Sutton Foster

0318LatifahFoster

Queen Latifah, the stage/screen name of Dana Owens, turns 47 today.  She first became known as a rapper; her debut album came out in 1989 and was followed by two more in the next four years.  Her third album, Black Reign, included her Grammy-winning single “U.N.I.T.Y.”  By the time that album was released she had made her film debut in Jungle Fever and had a starring role on Fox’s Living Single.  In the late nineties she had prominent roles in films like Set It Off and The Bone Collector.

In 2002, Latifah had her most acclaimed film role, receiving Oscar and Golden Globe nominations as “Mama” Morton in Chicago.  More recently, she was a Golden Globe winner and an Emmy nominee for the HBO film Life Support, and she currently is a regular on Fox’s Star.  As a musician, she has evolved from a rapper into more of a jazz and R&B vocalist on albums like The Dana Owens Album and Trav’lin’ Light.

Two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster is celebrating her 42nd today.  In the musical theater world, Foster is known as a “triple threat,” since she can sing, dance and act at a very high level.  She dropped out of high school in 1992 to tour with a production of The Will Rogers Follies, and made her Broadway debut in the role of Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease in 1996.  She sang Eponine in Les Miz both on Broadway and on the national tour, and made her big breakthrough in 2002 in the stage adaptation of the film musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, in the title role of Millie Dumont.

Foster won a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical as Millie, along with a long list of other honors, including an Astaire Award (which, as you might guess, is for accomplishments in dance).  She has been nominated for Best Actress in a Musical six times so far in her career, and won her second Tony for starring in the 2011 revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, in the part that seems to have become her signature role, Reno Sweeney:

Foster has also developed a bit of a screen career, mostly on television.  In she was cast in the lead role of the critically praised but short-lived ABC Family series Bunheads.  She currently stars as the lead character, Liza Miller, on TV Land’s Younger, which was recently renewed for its fourth season.

Comedian and actor Dane Cook turns 45 today.  He has had five successful comedy albums, has toured extensively, and has starred or co-starred in films like Good Luck Chuck and Dan in Real LifeBrad Dourif, who is turning 67, was a Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and played Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings.  French filmmaker Luc Besson, known for films such as Nikita, Léon, The Fifth Element, Lucy, and many more, is 58 today.  Vanessa Williams, who is 54 today, was the first African American winner of the Miss America pageant, but was pressured into resigning the title when Penthouse published nude photos of her without her consent.  She later starred in films such as Eraser and Soul Food.

Lily Collins, who is turning 28, made her film debut as Collins Tuohy in The Blind Side, has appeared in films like Mirror Mirror and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and was a Golden Globe nominee for Rules Don’t ApplyAdam Pally, who currently stars on Fox’s Making History, is celebrating his 35th.  Also turning 35 is Sophia Myles, who has been in films like Underworld, Tristan & Isolde, and Hallam FoeJulia Goldani Telles, who starred with Sutton Foster on Bunheads, is turning 22.  Ciara Bravo, who is 20 today, has been a regular on Big Time Rush and Red Band Society.

Our sports birthday today is Bonnie Blair, who is celebrating her 53rd.  Blair won five gold medals in women’s speed skating over three Olympics (1988, 1992 and 1994).  Since women’s speed skating was added to the Winter Olympics, American women have won nine gold medals in total, meaning Blair has more than half the total.

American novelist John Updike (1932-2009) is best known for his series of novels featuring protagonist Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom.  Two novels in the series, Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.  Before his death in the final days of World War One, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) wrote some of the most eloquent anti-war poetry of the past century, much of which, including poems such as “Anthem for Doomed Youth” and “The Next War,” served as the texts for Benjamin Britten’s War RequiemGeorge Plimpton (1927-2003) was famous for his sports journalism, and for his various works of “participatory journalism,” in which Plimpton would participate in a variety of activities and then write about them—his book Paper Lion, for instance, describes his experiences trying out for the Detroit Lions of the NFL and going through their preseason training camp.

Adam Levine, who turns 38, has shared in three Grammys as the lead vocalist of the pop rock band Maroon 5.  Charley Pride, who celebrates his 83rd, is one of the few African-American artists to become successful in country music; he has had over 50 singles reach the Top 10 in the Country charts.  Wilson Pickett, (1941-2006) was a successful R&B singer of the sixties and seventies, known for hits like “Mustang Sally” and “Land of 1,000 Dances.”  Composer John Kander, who celebrates his 90th, worked with lyricist Fred Ebb to create successful musicals like Cabaret, Chicago, Woman of the Year, The Rink, and Kiss of the Spiderwoman.  Since Ebb’s death, Kander has worked with lyricist Greg Pierce.  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was one of the “Mighty Handful” of Russian nationalist composers of the late 19th Century.  He is known for his mastery of orchestration, as seen in operas like The Golden Cockerel, in his symphonic suite Scheherezade, and in shorter compositions like the Russian Easter Festival Overture.

Peter Graves (1926-2010) was known for starring as Jim Phelps on Mission: Impossible, as Captain Clarence Oveur in Airplane! and Airplane 2, and more recently in the recurring role of John Camden, “the Colonel,” on 7th HeavenRobert Donat (1905-1958) starred in one of Hitchcock’s greatest films, The 39 Steps, and won the Oscar for Best Actor for 1939 for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, beating out Clark Gable in Gone With the WindEdward Everett Horton (1886-1970) was a character actor known for his comic roles in the thirties and forties, in films like The Front Page, Holiday, and Arsenic and Old Lace.  French director René Clément (1913-1996) directed two films which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, The Walls of Malapaga and Forbidden Games, and also made Purple Noon, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. RipleyKathleen Collins (1942-1988) directed the 1982 film Losing Ground, the first feature-length drama directed by an African-American woman.

Our historical birthdays today include Grover Cleveland (1837-1908), who was the 22nd and 24th President of the US.  How?  He won the 1884 election, but lost in 1888, only to regain the office in 1892.  Also born today are two other historical political figures who have somewhat mixed reputations.  John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) was a major political figure in the early 19th century US, including serving multiple Senate terms, in multiple cabinet posts, and as Vice-President.  His staunch defense of slavery in the US South is, to say the least, troubling to many people today.  Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) was Prime Minister of Great Britain for three years from 1937-40.  His reputation has never really recovered from the infamy of his signing the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany in 1938.

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 18, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Our two headliners today have been photographed together on at least one occasion, at the 2015 New York Pops Birthday Gala. Unfortunately, the pictures I found weren’t really usable; however, I did find a video which included excerpts from both of their performances (and several others) from that event:

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  2. Queen Latifah, I watched “Living Single” back in its original broadcast, and I really liked “Set It Off”.
    Dane Cook, I enjoyed his one comedy special (not sure which one it was anymore), a friend of mine brought it over for viewing, and I liked the jokes and energy, but I haven’t thought about the guy in awhile.
    Brad Dourif, I thought he always been good playing deranged or off-kilter characters; I recall his turns in “one Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and 1978’s “The Eyes of Laura Mars” the best.
    Speaking of eyes, I love the ones of Vanessa Williams, and I think overall she is pretty lovely, and I’ve enjoyed some of her songs and acting performances over the years (which I mentioned in a Movieline article posted on this site).
    George Plimpton, I know of him as a TV commercial personality (how about that Colecovision? If I was old enough at the time, I would’ve wanted one of those consoles) but I’ve never read “Paper Lion” no any of his written work.
    Wilson Pickett, I like “In the Midnight Hour” and “Mustang Sally”.
    Peter Graves, I’ve seen some episodes of “Mission: Impossible” and I thought he was pretty funny in the Airplane! stuff, and the right kind of performer to play that type of material, due to his outwardly serious demeanor. He did some narration work too, and with that great voice, was a natural fit for that as well.
    Grover Cleveland, I know of some schools named after him, and I think his political career (especially as President), was pretty interesting.

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  3. I can remember when Bonnie Blair was a regular at the Winter Olympics. She lived most of her childhood and went to high school in Champaign, IL, and every time she went to the Olympics, she would be accompanied by a group of 40 to 60 family and friends from the Urbana-Champaign area who dubbed themselves “the Blair Bunch.” They would serenade her with “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” before and after her races.

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