April 23: Happy Birthday Judy Davis and Shirley Temple


Australian actress Judy Davis, a two-time Oscar nominee and three-time Emmy winner, turns 62 today.  She made her reputation with only her second feature, starring as Sybylla Melvyn in My Brilliant Career, and winning two BAFTA Awards, for Best Leading Actress and Best Newcomer.  She attracted worldwide notice in 1984 when she was nominated for Best Actress for starring in David Lean’s A Passage to India.  A second Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress, came eight years later for Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives.

While Davis has worked regularly with major filmmakers—in addition to Lean and Allen, with the Coen Brothers, Clint Eastwood, and Bob Rafelson—she has also returned regularly to the cinema of her home country.  She has been honored as Best Actress or Supporting Actress eight times by the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (or its predecessor, the Australian Film Institute), most recently for costarring with Kate Winslet in The Dressmaker.  She has been nominated for eleven Emmys, and as noted above, won three times, for the TV movies Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story and Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (as Garland), and for the miniseries The Starter Wife.  She currently appears on FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan, as Hedda Hopper.

Shirley Temple (1928-2014) was quite possibly the greatest child star in film history, and the biggest box office draw in the US from 1935-38.  She began her acting career before her 4th birthday and was under contract to Fox by 1933.  In late 1934 she starred in Bright Eyes, sang her signature song “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” and became a star.  Over the next few years, she starred in films like Curly Top, Poor Little Rich Girl, Wee Willie Winkie, Heidi, and A Little Princess.  She also became one of the first major cases of movie merchandising (if not the first), as Shirley Temple dolls, dresses, and more became hot items.

By the end of the thirties, Temple’s stardom seemed to have run its course.  Fox let her go, and although she tried to make a transition to teen and young adult roles, few of her films from the forties —The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and Fort Apache were rare exceptions—are considered very good.  After her acting career ended, she became a Republican activist and was appointed a US Ambassador to Ghana and later to Czechoslovakia.

Dev Patel, who turns 27, became famous as a teen when he starred in Slumdog Millionaire, and more recently was an Oscar nominee for last year’s LionJaime King, who is celebrating her 38th, starred on The CW’s Hart of Dixie, and is known for films such as Sin City and My Bloody Valentine 3DRachel Skarsten, who is turning 32, starred as Dinah Lance on The WB’s Birds of Prey and now appears as Elizabeth I of England on ReignGemma Whelan, who plays Yara Greyjoy on Game of Thrones and narrates the BBC America series Almost Royal, is 36 today.  Russian-American actress Anastasia Baranova, who turns 28, starred on the Saturday morning show Scout’s Safari, and currently plays Addison Carver on Syfy’s Z Nation.

Kal Penn, who is turning 40, is known for playing Kumar Patel in the Harold & Kumar films and Dr. Lawrence Kutner for two seasons of House; he currently is a regular on ABC’s Designated Survivor.  Also turning 40 is five-time Emmy winner John Oliver, who is known for his work on The Daily Show (where his writing won him three of those Emmys) and as the host of Last Week Tonight With John OliverBarry Watson, who starred on 7th Heaven as oldest son Matt Camden, is celebrating his 43rd today.

Lee Majors, who is 78 today, starred on successful series in the sixties (The Big Valley as Heath Barkley), the seventies (as Col. Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man), and the eighties (Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy).  Blair Brown, who turns 71, won a Tony for the original Broadway production of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and was a five-time Emmy nominee in the title role of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.  She currently plays Judy King on Orange is the New BlackJoyce DeWitt, who starred as Janet Wood on Three’s Company, is turning 68 today.

Valerie Bertinelli, who is 57 today, was a two-time Golden Globe winner as Barbara Cooper Royer on One Day at a Time, and recently headlined TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland.  Scottish actor John Hannah turns 55.  He was a BAFTA Award nominee for Four Weddings and a Funeral and played Jonathan Carnahan in the Mummy films; on television he played DI John Rebus in the first series of the ITV adaptation of Ian Rankin’s novels and currently is Holden Radcliffe on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Actor and comedian George Lopez, who is turning 56, starred on ABC’s George Lopez, which ran for six seasons, and currently stars on TV Land’s LopezMelina Kanakaredes, known for her starring roles on Providence and CSI: NY, turns 50 today.

The controversial documentarian Michael Moore turns 63 today.  His Bowling for Columbine won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and he is also known for Roger and Me, Farenheit 9/11, and Sicko.

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Warren Spahn (1921-2003) won 363 games during his career, more than any other left-handed pitcher in baseball history and more than any pitcher who played his entire career in the post-1920 “live ball” era.  John Cena, who turns 40, has been one of the biggest names in professional wrestling in the 21st century, and has made attempts to branch out into careers as a rapper and an actor.

People often get to know Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) through his lovely “symphonic fairy tale” Peter and the Wolf.  If they stick with one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, they may get to know operas like The Love for Three Oranges, ballets like Romeo and Juliet, his symphonies and concertos, his score for Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (later arranged into a cantata), or his orchestral suite Lieutenant Kijé.

Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919) was one of the great “one-hit wonders” of the opera world, remembered primarily for his classic opera Pagliacci.  The “Big O,” Roy Orbison (1936-1988) was a five-time Grammy winner who had #1 hits in the early sixties with “Running Scared” and “Oh Pretty Woman.”  Steve Clark (1960-1991) was best known for his years as a songwriter and guitarist with the hard rock band Def Leppard,

Sandra Dee (1942-2005) was a star of teen oriented movies of the late fifties and early sixties, such as Gidget and A Summer Place, but like many an ingenue, she found the transition to more mature roles difficult.  French actress Simone Simon (1910-2005) starred in films like Jean Renoir’s La Bête Humaine in her home country and had a good run in the early 1940s with RKO, in films such as The Devil and Daniel Webster and Cat People.  British filmmaker Ronald Neame (1911-2010) was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for David Lean’s Brief Encounter and Great Expectations, and later directed films like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Poseidon Adventure.  American director Frank Borzage (1894-1962) won the first Oscar for Best Director, for the film 7th Heaven, and later directed films like Three Comrades, The Mortal Storm, and Strange CargoHervé Villechaize (1943-1993) was best known for playing Tattoo on Fantasy Island (known for his catch phrase “ze plane, ze plane”), and also played the henchman Nick Nack in the Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun.

Historical birthdays include two significant figures in US history from the 1850s.  James Buchanan (1791-1868) was the 15th President of the US.  Historians today do not hold him in high regard due to his failure to deal effectively with the slavery issue and the secession crisis of 1860-61.  Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861) was famous for his service in the US Senate in this period and for his famous debates with Abraham Lincoln over how to deal with that slavery issue.  One of the most important figures in modern science was Max Planck (1858-1947), a pioneer in the development of quantum mechanics who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1918.

Last, but very assuredly not least, today is the most commonly accepted birthday for William Shakespeare (1564-1616).  One runs out of superlatives when describing Shakespeare—greatest writer ever in English, greatest English poet, greatest dramatist in the history of literature, etc.  If you’ve never read any Shakespeare, do so.  Or better yet, since Shakespeare’s works were meant to be performed, catch a stage production or check out the many films made by some of the eminent Shakespeareans who have appeared, or will appear, in this series. 🙂

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 23, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Judy Davis, I liked “A Passage to India” and REALLY LIKE “The Ref”.
    I don’t know much about Shirley Temple, other than that she’s a legend, “The Simpsons” once had a character on an episode based on her as a child, and a drink is named after her.
    Lee majors, I watched “The Six million Dollar Man” a few times as a kid, remember, but not vividly “The Fall Guy” (Markie post was in that show before “Night Court”), and he voiced biker “Big” Mitch Baker in “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” (can his character sit on a stool and drink? I’d say yes).
    Blair Brown, she was once called a thinking man’s sex symbol; I liked her turns in “Altered States” and “Continental Divide”, while I also kind of remember her TV series “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd”.
    Valerie Bertinelli, the performance I remember the best from her is the 1993 TV movie “Murder of Innocence”. The subject matter is strong and the climax is heartbreaking, which left an impression on me.
    I’ve kind of lost interest in Michael Moore over the years, but I’m still fond of his documentaries “Roger and Me” and “The Big One”, while i’m still okay with “Fahrenheit 9/11”.
    Roy Orbison, I like “You Got It” and his eyewear; overall I think he was pretty distinctive.
    William Shakespeare, his influence through writing and plays continues to this day, and it looks like that’s how it will always be, which I think is great.


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