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March 29: Happy Birthday Eric Idle and Brendan Gleeson

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Eric Idle is turning 74 today.  While a student at Cambridge in the late sixties, he was invited to join Cambridge’s famed Footlights Club; the club’s former members include Douglas Adams, Peter Cook, Stephen Fry, Germain Greer, Tom Hollander, Hugh Laurie, Trevor Nunn, Emma Thompson, along with a couple of gentlemen named Graham Chapman and John Cleese.  In 1967 Idle began appearing in a British children’s series called Do Not Adjust Your Set, which also featured Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

And then, in 1969, Idle along with Chapman, Cleese, Jones, Palin and Terry Gilliam formed Monty Python.  As part of the Pythons, Idle was known for sketches like “Nudge Nudge,” for writing the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Life of Brian, and for playing many characters, including one of King Arthur’s most famous knights:

Idle has been very active since his Python days.  He has written books, created radio and television shows, done a number of voice acting gigs and appeared in several feature films.  In 1987 he played Ko-Ko in an English National Opera production of The Mikado.  His most notable accomplishment has probably been the musical Spamalot, for which he wrote the lyrics and book and collaborated on the music.  It won three Tonys, including Best Musical; Idle himself was nominated for both Best Book and Best Original Score.

Brendan Gleeson, who is 62 today, worked for several years as a teacher at an Irish secondary school, eventually giving his position up to act full time.  He worked in Irish theater for several years and made his film debut in Jim Sheridan’s The Field in 1990.  Worldwide audiences likely were first aware of him when he played Hamish Campbell in Braveheart.  In 1998 he had his first major lead role, as Martin Cahill (a somewhat legendary Irish criminal) in The General.

Gleeson has continued to have occasional leading roles through the years, in feature films such as In Bruges, The Guard, and Calvary, and in an Emmy-winning performance as Winston Churchill on HBO’s Into the Storm.  But he is more likely to be found in character roles.  Harry Potter fans will know that he played Mad-Eye Moody in three films in the series.  He had a major role in last year’s Live by Night.

Terence Hill (the screen name of Italian actor Mario Girotti) turns 78 today; he starred in a number of spaghetti Westerns and also appeared in Luchino Visconti’s The LeopardMarina Sirtis, who played Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and in four feature films, is 62 today.  Christopher Lambert, who is turning 60, starred in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and played Connor MacLeod in four Highlander films.  Scott Wilson, who is 75, first became known for playing one of the killers in In Cold Blood, and more recently was Hershel Green on The Walking DeadBud Cort, who is celebrating his 69th, is remembered for starring in two prominent early seventies films, as the title character in Brewster McCloud and as Harold in Harold and Maude.

Annabella Sciorra, who is celebrating her 57th, was an Emmy nominee as Gloria Trillo on The Sopranos and has been in films such as Jungle Fever, The Funeral, and What Dreams May ComeLucy Lawless, who is 49, became famous as the star of Xena: Warrior Princess and more recently had a recurring role on Battlestar Galactica and a regular role as Lucretia on Spartacus.  Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, who also turns 57, is known for his series of crime novels about Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad; one of his non-Hole novels was adapted into the 2011 Norwegian film Headhunters.

Megan Hilty, who is 36 today, is known to some TV viewers for her roles on Smash and Sean Saves the World.  She is also a rising stage star, who played Galinda in Wicked for roughly a year, starred in the original Broadway production of the musical adaptation of 9 to 5, and was a Tony nominee for the 2015 revival of Michael Frayn’s Noises OffEd Skrein, who is turning 34, played Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones and last year played Francis, aka Ajax, in DeadpoolHayley McFarland, known for her roles on Lie to Me and Sons of Anarchy, is turning 26 today.  Also celebrating her 26th is Samantha Jo, a Canadian martial artist and stuntwoman who is starting to get acting roles; she appears later this year in Wonder Woman as an Amazon.

Another Walking Dead birthday today is Scott Gimple, who has written and produced several episodes and became the series’ showrunner starting with the fourth season; Gimple is celebrating his 46th.  English filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, known for films like Jude (adapted from Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure), A Mighty Heart, and The Killer Inside Me, turns 56.  Michel Hazanavicius, who is 50, won Best Director for The Artist, which won the Best Picture Oscar for 2011, and was also nominated for writing and editing honors.  Drake Doremus, who is 34 today, is known for directing films like Douchebag, Like Crazy, and most recently Newness, which recently screened at Sundance.

Walt Frazier turns 72.  An NBA Hall of Famer nicknamed “Clyde,” Frazier was a seven-time All-Star and led the New York Knicks to NBA titles in 1970 and 1973, the only two titles in the team’s history.  Earl Campbell, who is turning 62, won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s outstanding player in 1977 and then starred at running back for several years in the NFL, eventually making football’s Hall of Fame.  Cy Young (1867-1955) is a Baseball Hall of Famer who holds the major league records for wins by a pitcher and several other career records; baseball’s annual award honoring the best pitcher in a season is named for him.  Cuban boxer Teófilo Stevenson (1952-2012) was one of only three boxers in history to win three Olympic gold medals, winning the heavyweight division in 1972, 1976 and 1980.  Jennifer Capriati, who turns 41, was a tennis prodigy in the early nineties, reaching the semifinals of the French Open at just fourteen and winning gold at the 1992 Olympics.  Her game suffered in the mid-90s as she dealt with several personal problems, but at the end of the decade she made a comeback, winning three Grand Slam finals in 2000-01 and reaching the #1 ranking in the world.

Evanghelos Papathanassiou, known professionally as Vangelis, heads our music list today on his 74th birthday.  He is best known for the scores for Chariots of Fire (which won him an Oscar), Blade Runner, and the PBS series Cosmos.  Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, who turns 77, first became known in the US for the recording of “The Girl from Ipanema” she made with jazz great Stan Getz.  Over her career she recorded songs in seven different languages.  Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) was another well-known composer for film; he received Oscar nominations for the scores for Far From the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Murder on the Orient Express.  He also once composed saxophone concerto for Stan Getz.  Sir William Walton (1902-1983) was one of the leading English orchestral composers of the past century, known for his Viola Concerto and a pair of symphonies

Howard Lindsay (1889-1968) was a playwright and stage actor known for his 27-year partnership with Russel Crouse.  Lindsay and Crouse wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning drama State of the Union, the long-running comedy Life With Father, and the books for musicals such as Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, and The Sound of MusicWarner Baxter (1889-1951) was the second winner of the Oscar for Best Actor, as the Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona, and also starred in 42nd Street and the 1938 adaptation of Kidnapped (with yesterday’s headliner Freddie Bartholomew).  Philip Ahn (1905-1978) was a Korean-American actor with a long career in film and television who became the first Asian-American to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Pearl Bailey (1918-1990) won a Tony for starring in an all-black production of Hello, Dolly! in 1968 and had a film career that included voicing Big Mama Owl in The Fox and the HoundArthur O’Connell (1908-1981) was a Best Supporting Actor nominee for Picnic and Anatomy of a Murder.

Sam Walton (1918-1992; no relation to William) was one of the most influential businessmen in 20th Century America; as the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club he revolutionized the retail sector.  Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005) was famous for one of the most unsuccessful presidential campaigns in history in 1968; although he lost the New Hampshire Democratic primary to Lyndon Johnson, his unexpectedly strong showing helped drive Johnson to withdraw from the race for the Democratic nomination.

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 29, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Pearl Bailey also sang “When You’re The Best Of Friends” in the Disney movie “The Fox and the Hound”. It was in the background when Tod (baby fox) and Copper (baby hound) were playing.

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  2. I know this isn’t for everybody, but I liked Eric Idle’s voice work in 1986’s “Transformers: The Movie” as Wreck-Gar(I liked a lot of voice work on that animated feature really). Oh, the Monty Python stuff is pretty great too.
    Christopher Lambert, The Highlander and Diane Lane’s ex husband (kudos on both). I actually liked 1987’s “The Sicilian” too, though most others don’t.
    Bud Cort, I liked his voice work in animation (like Toyman from the Superman Animated Series) along with the films mentioned. I like him, he’s kinda different.
    Annabella Sciorra, a name I just love to say, and I couldn’t forget her from either “Jungle Fever” or “Romeo Is Bleeding”.
    Lucy lawless, woooo, how about her in that Spartacus show? He he though, when she did voice work on “The Simpsons” and said to Bart and Lisa while she was flying, “I told you I’m not Xena, I’m Lucy Lawless”. That has to be the best.
    Jennifer Capriati, I had a thing for her when I was 13 and she was 14. I watched tennis because of her. She had some issues, but she made a comeback. I still have a thing for her (hey, she’s Italian:-)
    Vangelis, “Chariots of fire” rules!

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  3. I mentioned Eric Idle’s venture into Gilbert & Sullivan in the article; here he is singing Ko-Ko’s “little list” song:

    Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse are sometimes said to have been the longest lasting writing partnership in Broadway history. Crouse is the father of actress Lindsay Crouse, who is named not just for Lindsay, but for the partnership—her full name is Lindsay Ann Crouse. 🙂

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