May 2: Happy Birthday Christine Baranski and Stephen Daldry


Our headliners today are a pair of distinguished stage veterans who have also had success on television and in film, respectively.

Christine Baranski is turning 65 today.  She graduated from Juilliard and made her Broadway debut in 1980 in Lezley Havad’s Hide and Seek.  During the next decade she was primarily a stage actress, and won a pair of Tony Awards, both for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.  The first was for Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, while the second was for Neil Simon’s Rumors.  Baranski also made a few TV guest appearances during this time, along with playing some supporting roles in movies.

In the past twenty-odd years, Baranski has become a regular and much-acclaimed television presence, receiving fifteen Emmy nominations.  The first four of them were for appearing on a CBS sitcom which began airing in 1995.

Baranski was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for each of Cybill’s four seasons, winning for season 1.  Her subsequent nominations have included one for a guest role on Frasier, four in the Outstanding Guess Actress category for playing Dr. Beverly Hofstadter (Leonard’s mother) on The Big Bang Theory, and a whopping six for playing Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife.  She currently is continuing in the character of Diane on the spinoff series The Good Fight; her recent film roles have included Tanya Chisam-Leigh in Mamma Mia! and Cinderella’s Stepmother in Into the Woods.

Stephen Daldry, a distinguished stage and film director and producer, turns 56.  He first directed on the West End in 1990, and has won the Olivier Award for Best Director for J. B. Priestly’s An Inspector Calls and for Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal.  He also won the Tony for Best Director of a Play when the former revival was brought to Broadway.  Daldry moved into film in 2000, and received the first of three Oscar nominations for Best Director for his first feature:

Along with Billy Elliot, Daldry has received Oscar nominations for directing The Hours and The Reader, and directed the 2011 Best Picture nominee Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  He has been announced as the director of a film adaptation of the musical Wicked.  He has not abandoned the stage, either—he won a second Tony, for Best Director of a Musical, for Billy Elliot: The Musical.

David Suchet turns 71 today.  His stage career included playing Bolingbroke in Shakespeare’s Richard II and Salieri in a revival of Amadeus, receiving a Tony nomination for the latter role.  He has appeared in feature films like A World Apart, A Perfect Murder, and The Bank Job, and given acclaimed television performances as physicist Edward Teller and media baron Robert Maxwell.  But the role he will be remembered best for is playing Hercule Poirot on the ITV series Agatha Christie’s Poirot, which over 70 episodes brought every novel and story that Christie wrote about the character to the screen.

Wrestler turned actor Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is turning 45.  A highly successful wrestler in the WWE, Johnson had his first major role as the title character in The Scorpion King in 2002.  He has played Luke Hobbs in the last four Fast and the Furious films and the title role in 2014’s Hercules, and will star as Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch.

Actress and comedian Ellie Kemper is celebrating her 37th.  She first became well known in the role of Erin Hannon on The Office.  She has appeared in films such as Bridesmaids, and now stars as Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which she has received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Jenna von Oÿ, who played Six LeMeure on Blossom and Stevie van Lowe on The Parkers, is turning 40 today.  Robert Buckley, who is celebrating his 36th, played Clay Evans on One Tree Hill and currently is a regular on The CW’s iZombieGaius Charles, who turns 34, is a regular on NBC’s new series Taken and has had regular roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Friday Night LightsThomas McDonell, who is 31 today, stars as Finn Carter on The CW’s The 100Kate Baldwin, a prominent musical theater star, turns 42 today.  She was a Tony nominee for playing Sharon McLonergan in a 2009 revival of Finian’s Rainbow.

German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who turns 44, made a series of short films from 1997-2002, then directed the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others.  His first Hollywood feature, The Tourist, was much-anticipated, but turned out to be quite ordinary.  Danish director Lone Scherfig is turning 58 today.  Her best known film is the 2009 Best Picture nominee An Education, which also brought Carey Mulligan a Best Actress nomination.  Beeban Kidron (known as Baroness Kidron these days) is celebrating her 56th.  A prominent documentarian, she has also directed features such as To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.  She is married to Lee Hall, the screenwriter of Billy Elliot.

English football great David Beckham turns 42 today.  He spent a career of nearly 20 years starring for the English national side and for clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, and the LA Galaxy.  The title of the film Bend it Like Beckham alludes to his almost legendary curling, right-footed free kicks.  Baseball Hall-of-Famer Eddie Collins (1887-1951) was one of the games greatest second basemen ever.  He starred for several Philadelphia A’s teams that won World Series titles, and after retirement became a successful general manager for the Boston Red Sox.  He was played by Bill Irwin in the movie Eight Men Out.

English pop star Engelbert Humperdinck (given name Arnold Dorsey) turns 81 today.  He had a string of hits in the late sixties and seventies including “There Goes My Everything,” “The Last Waltz,” “A Man Without Love,” and “After the Lovin.'”  He took his performing name from a 19th century German opera composer.  Pop singer Lesley Gore (1946-2015) had a number of hits in the sixties, most famously the #1 hit “It’s My Party,” and later composed several songs for the soundtrack of the 1980 film Fame.

Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) is often acclaimed as one of the finest directors of the 20th Century.  His most famous works include the Apu Trilogy, made in the 1950s—Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and Apur Sansar.  Actor and folksinger Theodore Bikel (1924-2015) was known for his Tony-nominated performance as Captain von Trapp in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music and as a cofounder of the Newport Folk Festival.  Roscoe Lee Browne (1922-2007) had a long and varied acting career on screen and stage, with one highlight being an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Performer for an appearance on The Cosby ShowHedda Hopper (1885-1966) left a largely unsuccessful career as an actress to start a much more successful one as a celebrity gossip columnist in the 1930s, which over the years expanded from print to include radio and television shows.  She and Louella Parsons had a long rivalry over which was the “Queen of Hollywood.”

Lyricist Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) combined with composer Richard Rodgers to write several classic Broadway musicals, with the most famous including A Connecticut Yankee, On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, The Boys From Syracuse, and Pal Joey.  The duo were responsible for famous songs such as “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and “This Can’t Be Love.”

Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796), usually known as Catherine the Great, was one of the Russian Empire’s most effective and successful rulers.  During her reign Russia consolidated its position as one of Europe’s great powers.  Manfred von Richthofen (1892-1918) was famous as World War One’s “Red Baron,” the most successful ace pilot of the war.  Rumors of his having had repeated aerial duels with a Sopwith Camel piloted by a beagle have never been substantiated.  Richthofen was played by Matthias Schweighöfer in The Red Baron, a fictionalized 2008 biopic.

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 May 2, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I was a regular viewer of Cybill when it first began airing in 1995 and stayed with it until sometime in the third season. Christine Baranski was one of the main pleasures of watching the show, along with Alicia Witt.

    Stephen Daldry has an impressive stage and screen resume. I don’t know if that film version of Wicked is ever going to make it to the big screen, though.

    David Suchet gave probably the definitive screen interpretation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. I am a huge fan of the earlier installments in the series, less so of some of the later ones where the producers started playing around arbitrarily with Christie’s storylines.

    I haven’t seen much of Ellie Kemper’s work but she seems to be a delightful comic actress.

    Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has a new film coming out this fall, his first since The Tourist in 2010.

    Eddie Collins was a great baseball player. He is also remembered as one of the “clean Sox,” that is, one of the members of the Chicago White Sox 1919 team who had no part in the fixing of the World Series.

    Since it’s the “Red Baron’s” birthday, here’s a little musical commemoration of some events that may never have happened.


    • My experience with Cybil echoes yours. I forget when I dropped out but the third season sounds about right. I was mostly watching for Baranski and Witt.

      Ellie Kemper was fine on The Office, but that was a crowded cast. I enjoyed her on the first season of Kimmy Schmidt (haven’t seen subsequent seasons yet) and in a couple of other things.


  2. I think Christine Baranski is a riot, and is quite popular in the Western New York area due to being born in Buffalo (Cheektowaga; we have lots of Indian names around here, Indians & last names of former Presidents). From time to time she’s done plays out at Shea’s (I rhyme all the time), and has been photographed quite a few times in the local Artvoice.
    Dwayne Johnson, I’m not a big wrestling guy, but I knew people who liked the entertainment when he still participated in it, go I viewed some of his matches, and am aware of The People’s Elbow & The People’s Eyebrow. I’m actually more interested in his past college career at the U of Miami and his film career (I especially like “The Rundown”).
    Jenna Von Oy, I thought she was kinda hot on “Blossom” (way hotter than Ted Wass). Oy!
    Catherine the Great, I don’t know, I guess she was pretty good. Her moniker sure washes down better than Ivan the Terrible.
    Manfred von Richthofen (another von today? Oy again!), I just read a little on him the other day. The guy was such an ace pilot, that even on his last flight, riddled with bullet holes & dying, he still managed to land his plane.


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