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May 3: Happy Birthday Amy Ryan and Bing Crosby

0503RyanCrosby

Oscar and Tony nominee Amy Ryan is celebrating her 48th today.  Upon her graduation from New York’s High School of Performing Arts, she was almost immediately cast in the national touring company of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues.  Over the couple of decades she built an impressive theater resume.  She made her Broadway debut in 1993, and has received two Tony Nominations for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play, for a 2000 revival of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, and as Stella Kowalski in a 2005 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Ryan began working on television in 1990.  Her most significant small screen roles have been playing Chloe Banks on season 1 of The Naked Truth, Beadie Russell on The Wire (a regular for season 2) and Holly Flax on The Office (a regular during season 7).  In film, she has had major roles in movies such as The Missing Person, Birdman, and Central Intelligence.  Her biggest screen role, however, remains her much-acclaimed, Oscar-nominated performance as Helene McCready in Gone Baby Gone.

Bing Crosby (1903-1977) was one of America’s most well-loved entertainers of the 20th Century.  He grew up in Spokane, WA, and attended Gonzaga College (now University) but did not graduate.  After singing for a few years with local groups, Crosby moved to California and then New York and gradually built his career.  By the late twenties he was recording hits with bandleader Paul Whiteman, and in 1931 he began performing and recording as a solo singer.  For the rest of the thirties and forties, Crosby would normally have several hits a year; while hard numbers on his record sales are difficult to come by, he is usually considered the biggest selling recording artist prior to the rock era, at a minimum.

Crosby also had a substantial film career.  He began making musicals with Paramount in the early 1930s, and starred in the 1936 film version of Anything Goes with Ethel Merman.  The 1942 film Holiday Inn featured his signature song “White Christmas.”  Possibly his most famous film projects were the Road to… series he made with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, and his two appearances as the musically-inclined Father Chuck O’Malley, Going My Way (for which he won Best Actor) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (which brought him a second Best Actor nomination).

Two-time Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale turns 47 today.  His wins were for Outstanding Guest Actor on Will & Grace and Outstanding Supporting Actor for Boardwalk Empire.  He was also nominated for two additional Emmys for Nurse Jackie and has appeared in films such as The Station Agent, Blue Jasmine, and Ant-Man.  Additionally, he is a respected stage actor with two Tony nominations to his credit.

Christina Hendricks, a six-time Emmy nominee as Joan Holloway on Mad Men, is turning 42.  She has appeared in films such as Drive and Dark PlacesDulé Hill is also 42 today; he was an Emmy nominee as Charlie Young on The West Wing and more recently starred on USA Network’s PsychRebecca Hall, who celebrates her 35th, was a Golden Globe nominee for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (as Vicky), and has had prominent roles in Starter for 10, The Town, Iron Man 3, and Tumbledown.  Canadian actress Pom Klementieff, who plays Mantis in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, turns 31.  Also turning 31 is Dominique McElligott, who has been a regular on ABC’s The Astronaut Wives Club and played Hannah Conway on season 4 of House of CardsJessica Sula, who is 23 today, was a regular on series 5 and 6 of the British teen drama Skins and starred on ABC Family’s short-lived Recovery Road.

Some other big names from music had birthdays today.  Frankie Valli, who turns 81 today, was one of the biggest pop-rock stars of the sixties and seventies.  Between his records with The Four Seasons and his solo releases, he had nearly forty Top 40 singles, including #1 hits like “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night).”  James Brown (1933-2006), the “Godfather of Soul,” was also extremely influential in funk and R&B music.  He had a long list of hits that included “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud.”  Rolling Stone ranked Brown 7th on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.  For several decades, Pete Seeger (1919-2014) was the elder statesman of the folk music community.  He wrote or co-wrote folk anthems like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” “If I Had a Hammer,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”  He also helped popularize the old spiritual “We Shall Overcome,” helping turn it into a civil rights anthem.

Sugar Ray Robinson (1921-1989) is our sports legend birthday for today.  Often considered the greatest boxer, pound-for-pound, in the history of the sport, Robinson held world titles in the welterweight and middleweight divisions during his career and had a remarkable streak of 91 bouts without a loss from 1943-51.  Johnny Barnes played Robinson in the movie Raging BullDoug Henning (1947-2000) was a stage magician and illusionist who was a Tony nominee for his long-running Broadway show The Magic Show, and received two Emmy nominations for his World of Magic TV specials.

Betty Comden (1917-2006) was a lyricist and sometime screenwriter known for her extremely durable partnership with Adolph Green.  A very incomplete sampling of Comden & Green’s output would include: lyrics and book for the musical On the Town (music by Leonard Bernstein), new lyrics and the screenplay for the film adaptation of that musical, lyrics for Bernstein again in Wonderful Town, lyrics and book for the musical Bells Are Ringing (music by Jule Styne), and the book for the musical Applause.

Mary Astor (1906-1987) began her film career as a teen during the silent era.  She won Best Supporting Actress for the 1941 film The Great Lie, but is more likely to be known for her “other” film from 1941 these days—she played Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese FalconAline MacMahon (1899-1991) worked in film for over fifty years, and was an Oscar nominee for the 1944 film Dragon SeedBeulah Bondi (1889-1981) was a two-time Oscar nominee and played the mother of James Stewart’s character four times, including in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful LifeWalter Slezak (1902-1983) is remembered for playing the German sub captain in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, and appeared as guest villain Clock King on Batman in the sixties.  George Gaynes (1917-2016) is remembered for playing Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy films, for starring on Punky Brewster, and for his recurring role on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.

Playwright William Inge (1913-1973) was at his peak in the 1950s.  His 1953 play Picnic won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and it along with Come Back, Little Sheba and Bus Stop were adapted into successful films.  Inge also won an Oscar for the screenplay for Splendor in the Grass.

Golda Meir (1898-1978) served as Israel’s fourth Prime Minister from 1969-1974.  She is the first and only woman to have held that office in Israel, and at the time of her election only the fourth woman to hold an equivalent office anywhere in the world.  In the 1982 TV movie A Woman Called Golda, she was played by Judy Davis as a young woman and Ingrid Bergman as an older one.  Danish-American journalist Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was one of the leaders of the broad movement for social reform in the US in the late 19th century.  As a reporter for the New York Tribune and New York Sun, and the author of the book How the Other Half Lives, Riis covered some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and made the rest of the nation aware of the misery that their residents experienced.

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

  1. As with Ellie Kemper, I know Amy Ryan primarily from The Office though I have seen her in other things like Gone Baby Gone. As a kid, I was a big fan of the Hope and Crosby “Road” pictures.

    I was introduced to Bobby Cannavale on Boardwalk Empire but have seen him in a few movies like Blue Jasmine and Spy. Christina Hendricks will always be Joan from Mad Men although her appearance in Drive is also very memorable.

    When I think of James Brown, I always think of this homeless guy who hung out near the UK campus when I was a student. He did a pretty mean impression of the Godfather of Soul. He had some impressive dance moves for a guy his age. But if he showed it to you, he expected to be reimbursed. And if you didn’t hand over the cash, his friendly demeanor would quickly turn menacing. I hear he would pull a knife on people. I don’t think the real James Brown ever pulled that move.

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  2. Today’s choices were interesting. First we have several big, big names from music, one of them an absolute legend. Then we have a number of people who are not big film or TV stars but have very solid acting resumes. I went with one of each.

    My opinion of Gone Baby Gone is that overall, it is a good movie but not great. Amy Ryan’s performance, however, is not to be missed. She absolutely nails the character of Helene.

    I was in my early teens when Bing Crosby died, and I can remember people I knew being absolutely devastated, as much as a different population was a few years later by John Lennon’s death. These days I live in Spokane, where we have a lot of reminders that this was Crosby’s hometown, such as the Bing Crosby theater in downtown.

    I’ve been a fan of Rebecca Hall for quite some time now, ever since I first saw her in Starter for 10. I could definitely see her winning an Oscar some day.

    I am old enough to remember Pete Seeger making guest appearances on the early seasons of Sesame Street, although I wasn’t old enough at the time to be conscious of how controversial he was.

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  3. I’m aware of Amy Ryan due to “Gone Baby Gone”; I thought she was really good there.
    Bing Crosby, I dig “White Christmas” and that Christmas duet he had with David Bowie.
    Bobby Cannavale, I’m fond of “The Station Agent”, I think 200’s “3A.M.” is pretty good, and I’ve seen a few episodes of “Nurse Jackie”. I think he has a good presence to him.
    Christina Hendricks, I know of her, but really haven’t seen her in any project (never viewed “Mad Men”).
    Dule hill, I’ve seen “psych” a few times, and think he’s pretty entertaining there.
    Rebecca Hall, I’ve liked her ever since I viewed “The Town”; I am definitely going to view “Christine” in the future.
    Frankie Valli, I don’t know much about his music, but he was in the “Miami vice” episode ‘Buddies’.
    James Brown, I knew the song “I Got You (I Feel Good” before I knew of the man, but my favorites of are “Get Up (I Feel Like being a) Sex machine” and “Living in America”.
    Sugar Ray Robinson, I know he was a legendary boxer, as his name is frequently brought up as such.

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