May 6: Happy Birthday George Clooney and Orson Welles
Two-time Oscar winner George Clooney celebrates his 56th today. One of his first significant screen roles was, rather ironically, on a short-lived 1984 CBS sitcom titled E/R. After playing a variety of film and television roles in the next 10 years, Clooney had his first big breakthrough when he was cast as Dr. Doug Ross on ER in 1994.
During his years on ER, Clooney’s film career took off. He had his first major big screen role as Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn, and also starred in The Peacemaker. The critical failure of Batman & Robin was only a minor speed bump for Clooney; he bounced back the next year in his first film with director Steven Soderbergh, a well-received Elmore Leonard adaptation.
Clooney has won a pair of Oscars, for Best Supporting Actor in Syriana and as a producer on Best Picture winner Argo. He has been nominated for Best Actor three times, and for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay on Good Night, and Good Luck. He has continued to work regularly with Soderbergh, starring in Ocean’s Eleven and two sequels, and also made several films with the Coen Brothers, beginning with O Brother, Where Art Thou? He seems to direct a film about every three years; his Suburbicon, with a script cowritten by the Coens, comes out this fall.
Orson Welles (1915-1985) is remembered as one of the great artistic innovators in film, but he got his start in theater. He was just 20 when John Houseman invited him to join the WPA’s Federal Theatre Project; the two then went on to form a repertory company, the Mercury Theatre Group. During this period Welles directed innovative productions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Julius Caesar. Welles became famous nationally for the Mercury Theatre’s radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds in 1938, and was then given a filmmaking contract with RKO. His first and most famous film was released in 1941.
Identifying all the ways that Citizen Kane was innovative would be way beyond the scope of this article. Welles, never at home in the studio system, directed only twelve more films in his career, among them The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady from Shanghai, Touch of Evil, and Chimes at Midnight. He was much in demand as a narrator for all kinds of film and did occasional acting roles, in films such as The Long, Hot Summer, A Man for All Seasons, and even The Muppet Movie.
Roma Downey, who turns 57, is best known for starring as Monica on Touched by an Angel, for which she was a two-time Emmy nominee. She has also had a notable stage career on Broadway and with Dublin’s Abbey Players. Anne Parillaud, who shares a birthday with Downey, was a Cesar and Donatello Award winner for Luc Besson’s Nikita, and later played Anne of Austria in The Man in the Iron Mask. Stephen Gaghan, who is 52 today, won an Oscar for Screenwriting for Traffic, and wrote and directed Syriana, receving a second Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Lynn Whitfield, who won an Emmy for starring in the HBO movie The Josephine Baker Story, turns 64; she currently stars on Greenleaf on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Geneva Carr, who stars on CBS’s Bull, is celebrating her 46th.
Gabourey Sidibe, who is celebrating her 34th, was nominated for Best Actress for Precious, and has been a regular on Showtime’s The Big C and on Fox’s Empire. Also turning 34 is Adrianne Palicki, who has played Tyra Collette on Friday Night Lights and Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and had roles in films such as Legion and John Wick. Stacey Oristano, who also appeared on Friday Night Lights as the sister of Palicki’s character, is 37 today. Naomi Scott, who is turning 24, currently stars as Kimberly Hart in Power Rangers.
Kerry Ellis, who turns 38, is a major musical theater star on London’s West End. She is known for her performances as Fantine in Les Miz, Grizzabella in Cats, Nancy in Oliver!, and most of all Elphaba in Wicked (which she also played on Broadway). She has also had a successful career as a recording artist and concert singer, often collaborating with Brian May of Queen.
Heartland rocker Bob Seger is turning 72 today. He first started performing in his teens and has been active for over 50 years, with his greatest success coming in the years 1975-1987, when he had several singles that reached the Top 20.
Say Hey, it’s Willie Mays’s 86th birthday today. One of baseball’s all-time greats, he won two National League MVP awards and made a record 24 All-Star teams. One of the greatest hitters ever, he is also remembered as one of the greatest glove men ever to play center field; his most famous single exploit was a fantastic defensive play in the 1954 World Series, known simply as The Catch.
Stewart Granger (1913-1993) was an English leading man known for starring in action-adventure films such as King Solomon’s Mines, Scaramouche, and the 1952 remake of The Prisoner of Zenda. Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926) was a famous silent film star, possibly the first great sex symbol of the movie industry, known for starring in romantic dramas like The Sheik, the silent version of Blood and Sand, and The Eagle. His death at only 31 caused nationwide mourning. Max Ophüls (1902-1957) was a German-born director who did his most famous work in the US and France; he is remembered for films such as Letter from an Unknown Woman and The Earrings of Madame de… Ross Hunter (1926-1996) was best known as a producer; his filmography includes several of Douglas Sirk’s films, such as All That Heaven Allows and Imitation of Life, as well as the comedy Pillow Talk and the 1970 Best Picture nominee Airport.
Theodore H. White (1915-1986) was one of the great names of 20th century journalism. His most famous book was his account of the 1960 US Presidential election, The Making of the President, 1960. He later wrote similar chronicles of the elections of 1964, 1968, and 1972. Gaston Leroux (1868-1927) was a French writer famous for the novel The Phantom of the Opera and the locked-room mystery The Mystery of the Yellow Room.
Of the three men often said to be the most influential thinkers of the 19th century, we had the birthday of one, Karl Marx, yesterday. A second was Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the founder of psychoanalysis and the author of The Interpretation of Dreams and The Ego and the Id. Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) was one of the most significant figures during the French Revolution, a key member of the Committee on Public Safety and a major architect of the Reign of Terror which put thousands to death; he was subsequently arrested and executed himself. Born the same day as Robespierre, Andre Masséna (1758-1817) was one of the most important military leaders in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, usually considered one of Napoleon’s most able marshals.
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 6, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Adrianne Palicki, Bob Seger, george clooney, Max Ophuls, Orson Welles, Roma Downey, Rudolph Valentino, Sigmund Freud, Theodore H White, Willie Mays. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.