April 26: Happy Birthday Jet Li and Carol Burnett
Jet Li, one of the leading action stars of Asian cinema for the last 35 years, turns 54 today. After a career in martial arts, winning several wushu championships, he went into acting at the age of 19, starring in Shaolin Temple, the first of a number of films that any aficionado of the martial arts cinema of Hong Kong would doubtless be familiar with. Some of the others have included the Once Upon a Time in China series, about a Chinese folk hero named Wong Fei-hung, and Fist of Legend, a remake of a Bruce Lee classic. He has also starred in Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-nominated Hero, and made his first appearance with Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom.
In the late nineties, Li began appearing in English-language films as well. He played the main villain in Lethal Weapon 4, then switched to lead roles in Romeo Must Die and Luc Besson’s Kiss of the Dragon. More recently he has played another villain in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and appeared as Yin Yang in the Expendables films.
The great comic actress Carol Burnett is turning 84 today. After graduating from UCLA she moved to New York to pursue a career on Broadway. After a few years of paying her dues, she made her Broadway debut in the musical Once Upon a Mattress and received a Tony nomination. She then began to focus on television, winning an Emmy on The Garry Moore Show (a variety series), and a second a year later for Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, a CBS special in which she costarred with Julie Andrews.
Burnett has been nominated for 22 Emmys and won six times; her most recent wins were for guest roles on Law and Order: SVU and Mad About You (as Jamie’s mother). She has periodically returned to Broadway, receiving a second Tony nomination in 1995 for the play Moon Over Buffalo, and has appeared in a variety of film roles, costarring with Alan Alda in The Four Seasons and playing Miss Hannigan in Annie.
But the biggest project of her career remains The Carol Burnett Show. For over a decade, Burnett and her costars in this variety/sketch comedy series—Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner and later Tim Conway—were fixtures in prime time. Fans of the show would doubtless remember sketches like the “Carol and Sis” segments:
Channing Tatum, who is 37, has starred in a pair of G.I. Joe films, 21 Jump Street and its sequel, and White House Down, but also in more prestigious films like Public Enemies, The Hateful Eight, and Hail, Caesar! Also celebrating a 37th today is Jordana Brewster, who is best known for playing Mia Torretto in the Fast and the Furious franchise and has also appeared in films like the high school horror/sci-fi film The Faculty and the lezzie rom-com D.E.B.S., and on television on the Dallas revival and, currently, on Lethal Weapon.
Giancarlo Esposito, who is turning 59, was an Emmy nominee as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad and has recently returned to the role on Better Call Saul. He has appeared in several of Spike Lee’s films, for example as Buggin’ Out in Do the Right Thing. Joan Chen is turning 56. She has won a number of acting accolades for her work in Asian films like Red Rose White Rose, and is known in this country for her prominent role in The Last Emperor and for playing Josie Packard on Twin Peaks. Kevin James, who starred on The King of Queens as Doug Heffernan, turns 52 today; he has also starred in films like Hitch, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
Tom Welling, who is 40, starred as Clark Kent on Smallville, and has been seen recently in the films Draft Day and The Choice. Pablo Schreiber, who is turning 39, has been a Tony nominee, for a revival of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing!, and an Emmy nominee as George “Pornstache” Mendez on Orange is the New Black. English actress Jemima Kirke, who just finished a six-year run on Girls, celebrates her 32nd today.
Bond Girl Claudine Auger is turning 76 today. She is famous for playing Domino Derval in Thunderball, and worked for over 30 years in French and Italian film. Stana Katic, who starred as Kate Beckett on Castle’s eight-season run, turns 39 today; her film roles include a cameo in Quantum of Solace. Another Bond film veteran is Ivana Miličević, who is 43 today. She had a supporting role in Casino Royale and starred on Cinemax’s Banshee.
Tionne “t-Boz” Watkins is turning 47. She is the longtime lead vocalist of the R&B girl group TLZ, four-time Grammy winners who are said to be the best-selling American girl group of all time. Ma Rainey (1886-1939, born Gertrude Pridgett) was sometimes called the “Mother of the Blues,” as she was the most prominent female singer among the first generation of blues artists to make any records.
Novelist Bernard Malamud (1914-1986) was the author of The Natural and The Fixer, both of which were adapted into feature films (in the former case, with a Hollywood ending added in place of the ending of the novel). A. E. van Vogt (1912-2000) was a prominent science fiction novelist known for his complex, twisty plotting; among his better-known books are The Voyage of the Space Beagle and The World of Null-A, the latter the first of a trilogy.
Douglas Sirk (1897-1987) had a long career as a film and stage director, in Europe and the US, but will be remembered for a sequence of visually striking melodramas he made in the US in the fifties, such as All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and Imitation of Life. French filmmaker Jean Vigo (1905-1934) made only a handful of short films and one feature before his death from TB, but that one feature, L’Atalante, is an enormously influential classic. American character actor Stafford Repp (1918-1974) was best known for playing Chief O’Hara on Batman in the 1960s.
John James Audobon (1785-1851) is remembered for his accomplishments as both an ornithologist and a painter; he combined both talents to write and illustrate the classic book The Birds of America.
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 26, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Carol Burnett, channing tatum, Claudine Auger, Douglas Sirk, Jean Vigo, Jet li, Joan Chen, Jordana Brewster, Stana Katic. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.