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May 10: Happy Birthday Bono and Fred Astaire

0510BonoAstaire

Paul Hewson, known universally by his performing name of Bono, turns 57 today.  He has been one of the most important figures in rock in the last four decades as the lead vocalist and lyricist for U2.  Formed when Bono and bandmates David “the Edge” Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen attended school together in Dublin, U2 has sold some 150-170 million records and won 22 Grammys.

After two early albums sold moderately well, U2 had their first big success with their 1983 album War.  Their biggest success came in the late eighties with two albums that reached #1 in the US.  The first of them, The Joshua Tree, won the band their first Grammys and included their only singles to reach #1 in the US, one of which was also nominated for Record and Song of the Year.

U2 has continued to record and tour with great success, although since about 1990 their records sell better in Europe than in the US.  Bono has also had a number of other projects.  He has been involved in a wide variety of philanthropic efforts all over the world.  Bono and the Edge also wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Fred Astaire (1899-1987) was just five when he and his older sister Adele began a career in vaudeville.  By the 1920s, the Astaires were appearing regularly on Broadway.  Adele’s marriage in 1932 ended their joint act, but Fred quickly moved on to a film career.  He signed a contract with RKO, and soon appeared in a supporting act in the film Flying Down to Rio, which featured one musical number where he danced with a young actress who had recently moved to RKO from Warner Brothers—Ginger Rogers.  A legendary partnership had been formed.

Astaire and Rogers made nine musicals together with RKO from 1933-39; Top Hat and Swing Time are among the best of them.  Although he had a few successes in the early forties—such as teaming with the great Eleanor Powell in Broadway Melody in 1940—by the middle of the decade he felt ready to retire.  However, MGM came calling, and Astaire starred in another run of classic musicals in the late forties and early fifties, such as Easter Parade, Royal Wedding, and The Band Wagon.  In his later years Astaire gave some very well regarded dramatic performances in films like On the Beach and The Towering Inferno (the latter film, in fact, brought him his only Oscar nomination).

Paige O’Hara, who turns 61, made her Broadway debut as Ellie Mae Chipley in a revival of Show Boat, and later sang the part in John McGlinn’s famous 1989 recording of the show.  But our readers are more likely to know her as the voice (speaking and singing) of Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as in a number of other Disney productions.

Scottish director David MacKenzie, who turns 51, made his reputation with British films like Young Adam and Hallam Foe.  His most recent feature was Best Picture nominee Hell or High Water, which not only was very good but displayed a remarkable feel for its West Texas setting.  Jim Abrahams, the “A” in the ZAZ filmmaking team that gave us Airplane!, Top Secret!, and more, turns 73 today.  Odette Annable, who is turning 32, stars on CBS’s Pure Genius, and was a regular on season 8 of HouseLindsey Shaw, who is known for the recurring part of Paige McCullers on Pretty Little Liars, as well as playing Kat Stratford on ABC Family’s short-lived 10 Things I Hate About You, is 28 today.  Playwright and screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks is celebrating her 54th; she is best known for her Pulitzer Prize winning play Topdog/Underdog.

Merlene Ottey, who turns 57, won at least one Olympic medal in track and field at every Summer Olympics from 1980-2000, except in 1988.  A Jamaican sprinter, she also won 14 medals at World Championships from 1983-97.  Dutch footballer Dennis Bergkamp, one of the best strikers ever from a nation that has had some great ones, turns 48.  Helio Castroneves, who celebrates his 42nd, has won 23 Indy Car races during his career, the most of any Brazilian driver, including 3 wins at the Indianapolis 500.  Missy Franklin, the women’s swimming star who won four gold medals at the 2012 Olympics, including both individual backstroke events, turns 22 today.  Chris Berman, who is celebrating his 62nd, has been with ESPN for nearly 40 years, and is known for his somewhat quirky onscreen personality, his catchphrases (“He could…go…all…the…way!”), and his seemingly inexhaustible supply of punny nicknames (here is a sampling).

Today is a big day for film music birthdays.  Max Steiner (1888-1971) was a three-time Oscar winner (out of over 20 nominations) for Best Original Score, for The Informer, Now, Voyager, and Since You Went Away.  He also scored the biggest blockbuster of all time, Gone With the Wind, and one of the best-loved movies ever, Casablanca, as well as King Kong, Jezebel, Sergeant York, The Searchers, and many more.  Dmitri Tiomkin (1894-1979) was also nominated for over 20 Oscars.  He won Best Original Score three times, for High Noon, The High and the Mighty, and The Old Man and the Sea, as well as Best Original Song for “The Ballad of High Noon” (aka “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'”).  Tiomkin also scored films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and Town Without Pity.

Other music birthdays include folk rocker Donovan, who turns 71.  He is remembered for hits from the sixties like “Sunshine Superman” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”  Born the same day as Donovan, Dave Mason was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the rock band Traffic.  Sid Vicious (1957-1979) is remembered for his tenure as the bassist of the Sex Pistols, as well as for his destructive relationship with Nancy Spungen and his own early death.  American composer Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) is known as a pioneer of serial and electronic music.  And last, but assuredly not least, Mother Maybelle Carter (1909-1978) was one of the great names of country music, known for her “Carter Scratch” style of guitar playing, as well as her recordings and performances with the original Carter Family as well and with her daughters Helen, June and Anita.

David O. Selznick (1902-1965) was a producer at RKO and MGM for several years, but is best known as one of the most successful independent producers in Hollywood in the thirties and forties.  Most famously, he produced Gone With the Wind; he is also known for bringing both Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock to Hollywood.  Nancy Walker (1922-1992) had a successful career on Broadway in the fifties and sixties, receiving two Tony nominations.  She then began working regularly on televsion, where her most notable roles were as Mildred on McMillan & Wife and as Ida Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda; the two roles brought her seven Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations.  Charles McGraw (1914-1980) had a gravelly voice and tough-guy demeanor that suited film noir perfectly; he played one of the titular hit men in The Killers, and later moved into lead roles in films like Roadblock and The Narrow Margin.

Our Hall of Infamy inducts John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) today.  A fairly prominent actor in his time (although less so than his elder brother Edwin, a famous Shakespearean of the day), he won his dubious place in history as the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.  He was played by Toby Kebbell in the 2010 film The Conspirator.

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 10, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. While I have never been a big U2 fan, they are clearly one of the most important forces in modern rock.

    Fred Astaire really has two “primes” in his career. The Fred-and-Ginger musicals are some of the most thinly plotted you will ever encounter; they exist to show off the dancing talents of the stars, and succeed brilliantly at doing that. I don’t thing I’ve ever seen any of Astaire’s MGM musicals, although I have 2 or 3 in my Netflix queue.

    Paige O’Hara is surely known to many readers as the voice of a Disney Princess, but if you are at all interested in musical theater, that Show Boat recording she was part of is an absolute must-have.

    We have quite a variety of important and interesting music birthdays today, but for me the special one is Mother Maybelle Carter.

    David O. Selznick is a very interesting figure. He had some very big accomplishments as a filmmaker, but also had some missteps and was capable of quite a bit of self-indulgence (two words: Jennifer Jones).

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    • I’m with you on U2. I like them well enough, but I have never been a big fan.

      Paige O’Hara is the voice of my favorite Disney princess.

      David O. Selznick was a massive figure in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

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  2. Bono, I lost four of U2’s albums in a move (bad move) back in the day, replacing only “The Unforgettable Fire” (I love “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Wire”; just had to have those songs back), but I still have their early work (love the song “Electric Co.”) and “The Joshua Tree” & “Achtung Baby” (love “The Fly”) material that i favor I burned onto disk. I’m not as big of a fan as I used to be, but I still like U2. The conversation about U2 and how meaningful their songs are to causes (I believe the mileage varies) is one that I’ve had a few times. It does seem like Bono has tried to make a difference in the world overall.
    Fred Astaire, he had some sweet move. I saw his last film, 1981’s “Ghost Story”, thought it was alright.
    Jim Abrahams, I sure like those spoofs (“Hot shots! Part Deax” hit the right sport for me more than the first film, maybe because I’m all Top Gun-ned out)), but he also was a part of “Ruthless People”, a film which has been discussed a bit on this site.
    Sid Vicious, I actually have his album “Never Mind The Sex Pistols, Here’s Sid Vicious” ; it’s a bit of an oddity best known for his cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” (which has been discussed here before). I don’t know, I guess the kid was destined to crash & burn, and was perfectly happy with doing it. I mean, he’s still kind of famous (or infamous).
    John Wilks booth, I think the one book on him, “American Brutus” by Michael W. Kauffman, is essential reading, and James L. Swanson’s “Manhunt” is very good as well. Wow, too bad we can’t talk about this guy as an actor; I’ve read & heard that he was very good.

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