April 13: Happy Birthday Allison Williams and Howard Keel
Allison Williams is 29 today. The daughter of NBC newsman Brian Williams, she was involved in an improv theater group and a YouTube series while at Yale. When Judd Apatow saw a YouTube video she had done, he ended up casting her in the HBO series Girls as Marnie Michaels, one of the main characters. The series has been a big critical success and is currently in its sixth and final season. During the show’s run, Williams has found time for other projects as well. She starred in the title role of NBC’s Peter Pan Live!, an adaptation of the 1954 musical. Earlier this year she appeared in a lead role in the comic horror film Get Out, which is currently one of the biggest hits of the year, with over $160 million in US box office against a production budget of under $5 million.
Howard Keel (1919-2004) was working for the Douglas Aircraft Company when a neighbor encouraged him to take voice lessons. Within a few years he was appearing on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Carousel. In 1950 he signed with MGM and starred in several of their musicals in the early to mid-fifties. He seems to have been their choice when they wanted a lead who was primarily a singer as opposed to a dancer, and played Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun, Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat, Fred Graham in Kiss Me Kate, Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (starring with recent headliner Jane Powell), and Haji in Kismet.
When MGM deemphasized musicals in the late fifties, Keel’s career hit the skids, and a lengthy bout with alcoholism did not help. Eventually, he remarried and kicked the bottle habit, but he was in the process of relocating to Oklahoma and trying to find work in the oil industry, when he was invited to appear on The Love Boat with his one-time leading lady Jane Powell. That led to his being chosen by the producers of Dallas for the role of oilman Clayton Farlow; over the years he progressed from being a recurring character to a regular.
Stanley Donen, who turns 93 today, is best known for directing a number of classic musicals, including Singin’ in the Rain (co-directed with Gene Kelly) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, as well as the comic thriller Charade. Charles Burnett, who the New York Times called America’s “most gifted black director,” turns 73 today. He is known for films such as Killer of Sheep and To Sleep With Anger.
Edward Fox, who turns 80, played the titular assassin in The Day of the Jackal, was a two-time BAFTA Award winner for The Go-Between and A Bridge Too Far, and played M in Never Say Never Again. Paul Sorvino, best known for roles such as Paul Cicero in Goodfellas and Henry Kissinger in Nixon, turns 78 today. Peter Davison, who is turning 66, played the Fifth Doctor on Doctor Who; he had the unenviable task of following Tom Baker in the role. Ron Perlman, who is 67, won a Golden Globe as Vincent on Beauty and the Beast, and more recently starred as the title character in the Hellboy films.
Glenn Howerton, a star, writer, and executive producer of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is 41 today. Bokeem Woodbine, who is turning 44, was an Emmy nominee for season 2 of Fargo and will play Herman Schultz, aka Shocker, in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Ricky Schroder, a child star in The Champ and on the sitcom Silver Spoons, is turning 47.
Eleven-time Grammy-winner Al Green is celebrating his 71st birthday today. He had six consecutive #1 albums on the R&B chart in the 1970s, along with a string of hit singles, including the #1 single “Let’s Stay Together.” Somewhat curiously, although his greatest commercial success came in the seventies, all of his Grammys have been awarded after 1980.
Other music birthdays include Bill Conti, who turns 75. Conti won an Oscar for Best Original Score for The Right Stuff and was nominated for Best Original Song for “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky and the title song for For Your Eyes Only. Max Weinberg, who is 66 today, is the long-time drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and was also the bandleader for Conan O’Brien on Late Night and Tonight.
Dan Gurney, who is turning 86, was a big name in American auto racing for several decades, first as a driver, then as a car manufacturer and owner. His win in the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967 remains the only win in a Formula One race for an American driver in an American-built car. Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov celebrates his 54th today. He held the world title for 15 years and is also known for his series of matches with the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue.
Don Adams (1923-2005) was known best for starring as Maxwell Smart on Get Smart, for which he won three Emmys; he also provided the voices for Tennessee Tuxedo and Inspector Gadget. Jonathan Brandis (1976-2003) starred as Bastian in The NeverEnding Story II and as teen genius Lucas Wolenczak on seaQuest DSV. Sadly, he committed suicide at the age of 27.
Samuel Beckett (1903-1989) was an Irish novelist and playwright who was part of the “Theatre of the Absurd” movement. A Nobel Laureate in Literature, he is known for the play Waiting for Godot and novels like Molloy and Malone Dies. Eudora Welty (1909-2001) was one of the great literary chroniclers of the American South, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her novel The Optimist’s Daughter. American playwright Lanford Wilson (1937-2011) won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Talley’s Folley. He is also known for plays like The Hot l Baltimore and Fifth of July. Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) is our second Irish Nobel Prize winner today; he is best known for his poetry, found in collections like Death of a Naturalist and Field Work. Marguerite Henry (1902-1997) was a children’s literature author who wrote dozens of books, many of them tales of horses, including the Newberry Medal winning King of the Wind as well as Misty of Chincoteague and Justin Morgan Had a Horse.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the 3rd President of the US. At his direction, however, his epitaph identified him as the author of the Declaration of Independence and of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and the father of the University of Virginia. He also wrote one of the first major works of American literature, the Notes on the State of Virginia. Jefferson has been played onscreen by actors including Ken Howard, Jeffrey Jones, Sam Waterston, and Stephen Dillane, and on Broadway by Howard (in 1776) and Daveed Diggs (in Hamilton). Frederick North, Earl of Guilford (1732-1792), usually known as Lord North, was Prime Minister of Great Britain during most of the American War of Independence. Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), a member of the famous Florentine family, was Queen of France as the wife of King Henri II, and then was Queen Mother to three of her sons who became kings in succession. She was played by Virna Lisi in the 1994 film Queen Margot. Butch Cassidy (1866-1908, given name Robert Leroy Parker) was the leader of the infamous Western outlaw gang known as the “Wild Bunch.” He has been played in film many times, most famously by Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
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 April 13, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Al Green, Allison Williams, Don Adams, Howard Keel, Paul Sorvino, Samuel Beckett, Stanley Donen, Thomas Jefferson. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.