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April 5: Happy Birthday Agnetha Fältskog and Bette Davis

0405FaltskogDavis

We have several birthdays today of big names from Hollywood’s Golden Age, but I’m going to lead off with one of the lead singers from one of the most popular vocal groups of all time.

Agnetha Fältskog is celebrating her 67th birthday today.  She emerged as a solo pop star in her native Sweden in her late teens, and sang the role of Mary Magdalene in the Swedish production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar.  In 1972, she joined three other singers, Björn Ulvaeus (her husband from 1971-80), Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (the latter two were also married for several years), in a quartet that eventually chose the name ABBA.  In 1974 they had their breakthrough when they won the Eurovision with a song titled “Waterloo,” which became their first big international hit.

From 1974-82 ABBA were one of the most successful bands in the world.  Their total record sales are a bit hard to pin down but they are probably at least in the 200 million range.  They were enormously popular through much of Europe and in Australia.  While they did not reach the same level of popularity in the US, they had a number of hit singles, including one that reached #1 on the Hot 100.

ABBA has never officially disbanded, but they last recorded together in 1982.  They did perform on stage together, for the first time in over 30 years, at a private party in Stockholm.  Fältskog has probably had the quietest post-ABBA career of the foursome; she released her most recent solo album, A, in 2013.

Bette Davis (1908-1989) was the first ever ten-time Oscar nominee, all for Best Actress.  She began her film career with Universal, soon moved to Warner Brothers, but emerged as a star when she was loaned to RKO to make Of Human Bondage in 1934.  While her acclaimed performance did not bring her an Oscar nomination (a controversy at the time), she won Best Actress the following year for Dangerous in what some saw as a make-up award.

Davis’s second Oscar, for 1938’s Jezebel, was the beginning of the most successful phase of her career—she was one of Warner’s biggest stars, and was nominated for Best Actress six times in seven years from 1938-44.  In the late 1940s, when her star seemed to be fading, she left Warner Brothers and started working freelance.  She starred in one of her most famous pictures, All About Eve, in 1950, and received another Best Actress nomination as Margo Channing.  Her career had ups and downs after that, but she had a pair of famous performances left, in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Whales of August.

Picking a single film as her best would be impossible.  Picking her most quotable role, not so hard:

Michael Moriarty, who turns 76 today, was an Emmy and Golden Globe winner for the 1978 miniseries Holocaust.  The Emmy was his second; he had previously won for a TV movie adaptation of The Glass Menagerie.  He had prominent film roles in Bang the Drum Slowly, Who’ll Stop the Rain, Pale Rider, and others, and starred on Law & Order for its first four seasons.

Hayley Atwell, who turns 35, is known to all Marvel Cinematic Universe fans as Peggy Carter, from Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Carter, and other appearances.  Lily James, who is 28 today, played Rose Aldridge on Downton Abbey, starred in the title role of the live-action Disney film Cinderella, and played a zombie-slaying Lizzy Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesX-Files fans will remember Mitch Pileggi, who turns 65, as Walter Skinner on the Fox series; he more recently was a regular on the TNT revival of Dallas.

Independent filmmaker Roger Corman turns 91 today.  His enormous filmography includes over 50 films as a director and nearly 400 as a credited or uncredited producer.  He is best known, perhaps, for directing the “Edgar Allen Poe” series of horror films such as House of Usher and The Raven, and for giving a very long list of important filmmakers support in starting their careers—the list includes names like Cameron, Coppola, Sayles and Scorsese.  British independent director Peter Greenaway, known for films such as Drowning by Numbers and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, is celebrating his 75th.

Music birthdays today include rapper Pharrell Williams, who turns 44.  He is a ten-time Grammy winner, and a two-time Oscar nominee, the most recent as a producer on 2016 Best Picture nominee Hidden FiguresChristopher Reid, best known as “Kid” from the rap duo Kid ‘n’ Play, turns 53 today.  Mike McCready, who is turning 51, is a founding member and the lead guitarist of Pearl Jam, who are on the verge of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Jack Clement (1931-2013) was best known as a songwriter and record producer; he had a particularly close relationship with Johnny Cash, for who he wrote several hits and produced the single “Ring of Fire.”  Ronald White (1939-1995) was a founding member of The Miracles and a songwriter who wrote songs for other Motown performers like The Temptations and Marvin Gaye.  Dave Swarbrick (1941-2016) was a prominent British folkie, best known as the fiddle player of the highly influential folk rock band Fairport Convention.  Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) was one of the best-known figures in 20th century classical music, primarily due to his long tenure as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) was an English poet and novelist who was a part of the so-called “decadent” movement.  He is known for his poetry collections such as Poems and Ballads and Songs before SunriseArthur Hailey (1920-2004) was one of the best selling novelists of the seventies.  He was known for his “industrial” thrillers, each of which was set in a different sector of the economy—Airport was set in a metropolitan airport during a snowstorm, The Moneychangers in a major bank, etc.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), one of the leaders in the African-American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was known for founding the Tuskegee Institute and, more controversially, for articulating the so-called “Atlanta compromise” under which Southern Blacks would not openly challenge the Jim Crow regime.  Colin Powell, who was the first African-American to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and also as Secretary of State, turns 80 today.

Albert R. Broccoli (1909-1996) was a film producer known primarily for his long involvement in the James Bond films.  In 1961 he and Harry Saltzman formed EON Productions, the production company responsible for all 24 canonical Bond films.  Saltzman eventually left the partnership; EON is now run by Broccoli’s daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson.  Frank Gorshin (1933-2005) was an American comedian and actor best remembered for his appearances as The Riddler on the 1960s Batman series.

Okay, now to get back to those other famous names from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Spencer Tracy (1900-1967) was a nine-time nominee for Best Actor, with two wins.  He emerged as a star with MGM in the mid-30s, and won his two Oscars back-to-back in 1937 and 1938, for Captains Courageous and Boys Town.  He was also famous for his long-term partnership, both professional and personal, with Katharine Hepburn, which spanned nine films and 26 years.

Gregory Peck (1916-2003) was “only” a five-time Best Actor nominee.  He emerged as a star in the 1940s and received four of those Oscar nominations in that decade, for films that included The Yearling and Twelve O’Clock High.  A few of his other famous films included Roman Holiday, The Guns of Navarone, and, in the role that he won an Oscar for, as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Walter Huston (1883-1950) had a lengthy career both on Broadway and in film.  He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and was nominated for three other Oscars.  He was the father of director John Huston, the grandfather of Anjelica and Danny Huston and the great-grandfather of Jack Huston.  Melvyn Douglas (1901-1981) was often seen as a romantic leading man in the thirties, most famously opposite Greta Garbo in Ninotchka.  Later he moved into character roles, winning Best Supporting Actor for Hud and Being There.

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 April 5, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. As I noted, some big names today from the classic Hollywood studio era. I could have gone with any of Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, or Gregory Peck as a headliner, and Walter Huston and Melvyn Douglas are not lightweights either.

    I could even have gone with two of Davis, Tracy or Peck, but Agnetha Faltskog has her own claim—ABBA were really big back in their day (not to mention the revived interest in them tied to the Mamma Mia! musical). While, as I said, their total record sales are a bit fuzzy, they may well be the best-selling act ever who are from a non-English speaking country or region (Celine Dion, from Francophone Canada, would be the only competition).

    Then we have Messrs. Broccoli and Corman, both significant filmmakers in their different ways.

    And for the fourth consecutive day, we have a Marvel Cinematic Universe birthday. Will the streak continue tomorrow? Possibly. 🙂

    Like

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