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April 29: Happy Birthday Willie Nelson and Michelle Pfeiffer

0429NelsonPfeiffer

Willie Nelson is turning 84 today.  He dropped out of college in the mid-fifties to pursue a career in country music, and had his first success when he wrote the song “Family Bible,” which became a Top 10 Country hit for Claude Gray in 1960.  He was moderately successful as a recording artist in the sixties but more known as a songwriter for other performers, writing hits like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”  By the end of the sixties he had become dissatisfied with the traditional “Nashville sound” of country and in the early seventies he became one of the faces of the “outlaw country” movement, along with Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, among others.

After a couple of switches of recording label, Nelson ended up with Columbia in the mid seventies, and entered a period of enormous critical and commercial success.  From 1975-78, he released five solo albums, beginning with the legendary Red Headed Stranger, four of which reached #1 on the US Country chart, the fifth “only” making #2.  In addition he contributed to two collaborative albums that also reached #1, Wanted! The Outlaws (with Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser) and Waylon & Willie (with, well, just guess).

Nelson won the first of his ten Grammys in 1976.  His albums and singles continued to regularly top the country charts into the mid-eighties, and he also had a lot of success in the eighties and nineties with the country supergroup The Highwaymen, along with Jennings, Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash.  He has had some legal troubles, including a well-publicized dispute with the IRS, and a few health issues as he has gotten older, but his career is still going.  His 68th studio album, God’s Problem Child, has just been released.

Michelle Pfeiffer, who is turning 59 today, has received copious coverage here at le Blog, including a WTHH article, an A-List Smackdown piece, and a Movieline article.  She first became known as Elvira in Scarface in 1983, and then had major roles in films like Into the Night and Ladyhawke.  In 1988, she had a big year, with three starring roles, the first of them (by release date) bringing her her first Golden Globe nomination, for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy.

Pfeiffer had a great run from 1988-93.  She received six Golden Globe nominations, one each year, winning for The Fabulous Baker Boys.  She was nominated for three Oscars, for Dangerous Liasons, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and Love Field, and won a BAFTA Award for the first of those.  And she starred in the biggest hit of her career, as Catwoman in Batman Returns.  Since then, as that WTHH piece notes, her career has been uneven, but she has been one of the most successful actresses of her generation.

Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, who is celebrating his 60th, is the only actor ever to have won three Oscars for Best Actor (they are for My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood, and Lincoln), and one of only six performers to have won three or more acting Oscars.  He is known for being extremely selective about his choice of roles and has appeared in only five movies in the last two decades.

Uma Thurman, who turns 47 today, is our second WTHH subject with a birthday today.  She is a Golden Globe winner for the HBO movie Hysterical Blindness, and is known for her film work with Quentin Tarantino, having been an Oscar nominee for Pulp Fiction and a Golden Globe nominee for both Kill Bill films.

Jerry Seinfeld, the co-creator (with Larry David), frequent writer and star of Seinfeld, turns 63 today.  Seinfeld was named TV’s “greatest series of all time” in a 2002 TV Guide ranking; in 2013 they had dropped it to “only” #2 (behind The Sopranos).  Australian director Phillip Noyce celebrates his 67th.  He has divided his career between his home country, where he has made films like Newsfront, Dead Calm, and Rabbit-Proof Fence, and working in Hollywood, where his credits include Patriot Games, The Bone Collector, The Quiet American, and Salt.  Actress and comedian Nora Dunn, who is 65, is best known for her five years on Saturday Night Live, where her regular characters included Ashley Ashley, Babette, and Liz Sweeney.  Kate Mulgrew, who turns 62 today, starred as Captain Kate Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager and now plays Galina Reznikov on Orange Is the New Black.

Eve Plumb, who undoubtedly will always be Jan Brady to anyone of a certain generation, turns 59 today.  Steven Blum, who is turning 57, is one of the busiest voice actors of our time; many fans of Western animation and anime, along with video gamers, would probably know him as soon as they heard him.  Darby Stanchfield, who plays Abby Whelan on Scandal, is celebrating her 46th.  Paul Adelstein, who is 48, has had a recurring role on Scandal and regular roles on Private Practice and Prison BreakMegan Boone, who stars as Liz Keen on NBC’s The Blacklist, is turning 34.

Baseball Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio is 83 today.  One of the best fielding shortstops ever to play the game, he was a nine-time All-Star and helped the Baltimore Orioles win the 1966 World Series.  Andre Agassi, one of the best tennis players ever, turns 47.  He won eight Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal in 1996.  Dale Earnhardt (1951-2001) won 76 Winston Cup races and 7 Winston Cup championships during his career in NASCAR; the latter ties him with Richard Petty and Jimmie Johnson for most ever.  His death in a collision on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked the auto racing world.

Conductor Zubin Mehta, who is 81 today, was only 26 when he was named music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a post he held for 16 years.  He then took the same position with the New York Philharmonic for 13 years.  Still active today, he has conducted all over the world, once collaborating with director Zhang Yimou on a production of Puccini’s Turandot which was staged in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950) was an Italian-born English novelist, who wrote romantic adventure novels.  The best known of them—The Sea Hawk, Scaramouche, and Captain Blood—were each adapted into at least two feature films (although the 1940 version of The Sea Hawk with Errol Flynn is in name only).  American science fiction writer Jack Williamson (1908-2006), an extremely prolific writer, was best known for his Legion of Space series (a space opera) and his series in partnership with Frederik Pohl, the Undersea and Starchild trilogies.  Robert J. Sawyer, who turns 57, is another- sci-fi author.  He has won a Nebula Award for the novel The Terminal Experiment, and a Hugo for the novel Hominids, and his novel Flashforward inspired the 2009 ABC series FlashForward.

Fred Zinneman (1907-1997) emerged as a major director in the late forties and remained one for three decades.  He won Oscars for Best Director for From Here to Eternity and A Man for All Seasons; his other notable films include High Noon, The Nun’s Story, and JuliaTom Ewell (1909-1994) is best known for his stage and screen performances as Richard Sherman in The Seven Year Itch, for which he won a Tony and a Golden Globe.  Celeste Holm (1917-2012) was a three-time Oscar nominee, winning Best Supporting Actress for Gentleman’s Agreement, while on stage she originated the role of Ado Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!  Director Irvin Kershner (1923-2010) made a fairly long list of films, but will be remembered chiefly for one, The Empire Strikes Back, with James Bond fans also perhaps recalling Never Say Never Again.

Rod McKuen (1933-2015) had an enormously prolific career as a poet, musician, and most of all a songwriter.  He was a two-time Oscar nominee in musical categories, and wrote the lyrics to “Seasons in the Sun,” which was a #1 hit for Terry Jacks in the US and over a dozen other countries.

Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807) was one of the relatively unknown but important members of the “founding fathers” generation in the US.  After playing a significant role in the Constitutional Convention, he served in the US Senate and as the third Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.  William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) was one of the biggest names ever in American journalism, the founder of Hearst Communications.  His life was a model for Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, and he is a central character in the movie The Cat’s Meow, where he is played by Edward Herrmann.

Our Hall of Infamy grows with Bernie Madoff, who celebrates his 78th birthday at the Butner Federal Corrections Center, having been convicted of what is probably the largest single financial fraud in US history.  A potential inductee here would be Hirohito (1901-1989), the 124th Emperor of Japan, known as the Showa Emperor.  Historians still are debating the degree of his personal responsibility for wartime decision-making in Japan.

We’ll close today on a more uplifting note, with another music legend.  Edward “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974) was a gifted composer, arranger, pianist, and the leader of what was probably the finest large ensemble in the history of jazz.  He had a big part in elevating jazz to the status of an art form as opposed to “mere” popular music.

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 29, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Happy birthday Willie Nelson!
    I’ve only come to appreciate his music in the last few years after seeing a recording of The Highwaymen live in New York. I was absolutely blown away by that. It’s sad that Johnny Cash and Waylon are gone, hopefully Willie’s guitar Trigger will hold out for a few years yet!

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  2. In addition to sharing the same birthday, Michelle Pfeiffer also shared the screen with Uma Thurman in “Dangerous Liaisons” and with Daniel Day-Lewis in “The Age of Innocence”.

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  3. Lots of big names today, maybe as many as seven or eight who could have made worthy headliners. Willie Nelson was just becoming a superstar when I first started really paying attention to popular music in the mid-seventies. I have definite memories of “Good Hearted Woman” being all over the airwaves for a while.

    I have several Michelle Pfeiffer films that I like to go back and watch again every so often—Into the Night, Ladyhawke, Married to the Mob, Tequila Sunrise, Stardust. She is yet another member of the big cast of Branagh’s upcoming Murder on the Orient Express—unless Branagh has played around a whole lot with the plot, her role is one of the pivotal ones.

    Daniel Day-Lewis is a very likely headliner in one year’s time, when I will attempt to do his outstanding career justice.

    I have a lot of respect for Phillip Noyce as a director—anyone who can turn out Dead Calm, Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American, and Salt is okay by me.

    Duke Ellington will probably join Daniel Day-Lewis in next year’s headline. What a legend he was.

    Zubin Mehta was the conductor of the LA Philharmonic while I was growing up, and I can sort of remember attending a few concerts he conducted at the Hollywood Bowl. Young and charismatic, he was a good fit for Tinseltown, but over the years I have also come to appreciate that he was, and is, a very fine musician as well.

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  4. Willie Nelson, there was what I consider a really thorough & outstanding article written about him in Rolling Stone a few years ago; he’s lead a full life, so there’s a lot to cover. My grandfather was a big fan of his, even had a guitar similar to his (my granddad “Pobo” could play a little). This is the time of my comment that I mention “Miami Vice ” (which is my Kevin Costner), and say that Nelson played Texas Ranger (not that goodie goodie Chuck Norris stuff either) Jake Pierson in the episode ‘El Viejo’. Yeah, El Viejo is Spanish for “old man”, and that was 1986, so if people thought Willie nelson was an old man then, but now he’s probably reached the level of mystic.
    Michelle Pfeiffer, there’s good coverage on this site about her; there was a time when she was the best actress going, but even great performers can’t save bad material.
    That why I like Daniel Day-Lewis’ style, he chooses films that are of high quality. Maybe that bothers some people, but I can’t bash a performer for having good taste. Besides, those projects he’s been involved with (“My Left Foot”, the great “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, “There Will be Blood”) are pretty awesome.
    Uma Thurman, she has good Leblog coverage too, I remember when Kramer had her phone number in “Seinfeld”.
    Jerry Seinfeld, you know I can revisit that show today, and it feels like I’ve never left it. It’s like an old friend.
    Nora Dunn, I’ve always wanted to see more of her than I have.
    Kate Mulgrew, I’ve always liked her voice inflection.
    William Randolph Hearst, I spoke ill of his “Yellow Journalism” a few weeks ago, but at least he’s not the next guy, who is…
    Bernie Madoff, the only good thing that happened with his situation was cause the NY Mets (“The Ny Mets are my favorite squadron” -Apu. Hi, Hank Azaria from the other birth-day!) to use a payroll budget=, which I think in the long run made them a better baseball team.

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  5. I heard Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring; I wonder if he will stay retired. If he does come back, I wonder if he’ll wear a different jersey number.

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