March 26: Happy Birthday Diana Ross and Keira Knightley
Diana Ross is turning 73 today. As a child, she lived in the same Detroit neighborhood as Smokey Robinson for a few years. At the age of 15 she joined an all-female singing group called the Primettes; within a little over a year they had won a talent competition, auditioned successfully for Motown, and changed the group’s name to The Supremes. Initially a quartet, they soon were a trio when one member left to get married.
The Supremes were Motown’s most successful act during the sixties. Initially all three members—Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson—shared lead vocals, but in late 1963 Berry Gordy of Motown designated Ross as the group’s lead singer. It was shortly after that that they had the first of their twelve #1 singles during the decade. Any of those twelve is a good representation of the group’s style; this was one of them:
At the beginning of 1970, Ross left the Supremes to become a solo performer. From 1970-81 she had another six #1 hits. She also starred in three movies in the seventies; the first of them, Lady Sings the Blues, was a biopic of Billie Holliday, for which Ross received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer. Counting her time with The Supremes she has sold in the neighborhood of 100 million records worldwide.
Today is Keira Knightley’s 32nd birthday. She began working in British television as a child, appeared in her first feature film in 1995, and had a small part in The Phantom Menace as one of the Queen Amidala’s handmaidens. Her first big break came in 2002, when she stared as Jules Paxton in Bend it Like Beckham, which was a surprise critical and financial success. A year later she appeared in the ensemble cast of Love Actually, and played Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean.
In the mid-2000s, Knightley had established some very impressive action heroine credentials, based on the Pirates trilogy as well as films like King Arthur and Domino. Since then, however, she has largely eschewed that sort of film (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit being an exception) in favor of two other sorts of movie. She has displayed a taste for small-scale films with an indie feel to them, such as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Begin Again, and Laggies.
She also has worked regularly in period dramas, many of them literary adaptations. She was nominated for Best Actress as Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. Other films she’s made in this vein include Atonement, The Duchess, The Edge of Love, and Anna Karenina. In 2014, she received her second Oscar nomination for playing Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game.
WTHH subject Jennifer Grey was well known in the 1980s for films like Red Dawn, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and especially Dirty Dancing, but then faded from view in a way that had people asking a certain question. Grey celebrates her 57th today. James Caan, who turns 77, is likely to be remembered as Sonny Corleone from The Godfather (which brought him an Oscar nomination), but was a fairly major star in the seventies, in everything from the TV movie Brian’s Song (which he was Emmy-nominated for) to Rollerball to Chapter Two. Alan Arkin, who is 83 today, is a four-time Oscar nominee, with a win as Best Supporting Actor for Little Miss Sunshine. Martin Short, the star of comedies of the eighties and nineties like Three Amigos, Innerspace, the Father of the Bride films, and Jungle 2 Jungle, turns 67. Short is a Tony winner for the 1998 revival of the musical Little Me. Michael Imperioli, a five-time Emmy nominee as Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos (with a win in 2004), turns 51 today.
Leslie Mann, who turns 45, made her mark as a comic actress in The Cable Guy and George of the Jungle, and has worked steadily for the last 20 years, often in films produced and/or directed by her husband, Judd Apatow. T.R. Knight, who is 44 today, was an Emmy nominee for playing Dr. George O’Malley on Grey’s Anatomy and has had a very productive stage career both on and off of Broadway. Amy Smart, who celebrates her 41st, is known for her roles in Varsity Blues, The Butterfly Effect, and the Crank movies. Bianca Kajlich, who played Jennifer Rhodes on Rules of Engagement, turns 40 today. Floriana Lima, who is turning 36, is currently seen as Maggie Sawyer on Supergirl.
Steven Tyler heads a lengthy list of additional music birthdays today. The lead singer of Aerosmith since the band’s formation, he turns 69 today. Teddy Pendergrass (1950-2010) was the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in the seventies and was just getting a solo career going when a 1982 auto accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Country star Kenny Chesney, who is turning 49, has had over 40 Top 10 Country singles in a career of nearly 25 years. Also turning 49 is James Iha, a co-founder and former guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins. Richard Tandy, the longtime keyboardist for the Electric Light Orchestra, is celebrating his 69th.
Alan Silvestri, who is turning 67, is a film and television composer. He has worked on many of Bob Zemeckis’s films, and was an Oscar nominee for Forrest Gump; more recently his scores include Captain America: The First Avengers and The Avengers. Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) was a leading avant-garde composer of the post-World War 2 era, as well as a distinguished conductor. He won 26 Grammys as a conductor or composer. Another prominent conductor was Andre Cluytens (1905-1967), who was Belgian-born and best known for conducting the French repertoire, but also adept at the core German-Austrian classics. Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969), one of the most talented pianists of the 20th century, was famous for his interpretations of Beethoven and Brahms.
John Stockton is turning 55 one day after his alma mater, Gonzaga University, defeated Xavier to reach their first NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. One of the NBA’s greatest point guards ever, Stockton was only the 16th player taken in the 1984 NBA draft; it didn’t take him long to make most of the 15 teams that passed on him to regret doing so. He was a ten-time NBA All-Star, is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and helped Team USA win two Olympic gold medals.
We have lots of literary/journalistic figures born today. Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was one of America’s greatest dramatists, known for his plays The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Robert Frost (1874-1963) was one of America’s most popular poets during his lifetime, as well as one of the most respected; he won four Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry—Eugene O’Neill and Robert Sherwood are the only other individual four-time winners in literary categories. A. E. Houseman (1859-1936) was a prominent poet, known for his cycle A Shropshire Lad, and one of the leading classical scholars of his day. Edward Bellamy (1850-1898) was famous for his novel Looking Backward, a vision of a utopian socialist future for the United States. Erica Jong, who turns 75 today, is best known for her first novel, Fear of Flying, which has sold an estimated 20 million copies worldwide. Richard Dawkins, who is turning 76, is an evolutionary biologist, who has become one of the world’s best known scientists through books such as The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker. Bob Woodward, who is celebrating his 74th, became famous for his reporting on the Watergate scandal (teamed with Carl Bernstein) that engulfed the Nixon Administration in the early seventies. He went on to become an editor at the Washington Post and the author of 18 books on politics and current affairs.
Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) wrote two autobiographies during his life, one titled I Am Not Spock, the other I Am Spock. Yes, Nimoy did a few other things in his life, such as starring on Mission: Impossible for two seasons, hosting In Search of…, and directing Three Men and a Baby. But he will always be remembered for Star Trek. The towering Sterling Hayden (1916-1986)—he was 6-5—is our second Godfather cast member of the day; he played Captain McCluskey. He was also known for fifties films like The Asphalt Jungle, The Killing, and Johnny Guitar, and for Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. Strother Martin (1919-1980) was a regular supporting player, known for a number of famous Westerns like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Wild Bunch. He also delivered one of the most famous lines in movie history:
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 26, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Diana Ross, James Caan, Jennifer Grey, John Stockton, Keira Knightley, Leonard Nimoy, Leslie Mann, Robert Frost, steven tyler, Strother Martin, Tennessee Williams. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.