May 19: Happy Birthday Pete Townshend and Nora Ephron
Pete Townshend celebrates his 72nd today. The legendary guitarist and songwriter began performing while still in secondary school in London, along with a friend by the name of John Entwistle. In the early sixties the two joined a band then known as The Detours led by a guitarist named Roger Daltrey. After a couple of further lineup changes, they had become a quartet, with Daltrey as lead vocalist, Entwistle on bass, a drummer named Keith Moon, and Townshend assuming the lead guitar role. They also had a new name—The Who.
In addition to playing lead guitar (he developed a distinctive “windmill” style for The Who’s stage shows), Townshend developed into a songwriter of considerable talents. By 1965 The Who had their first major successes in the UK, with their album My Generation and its title song. Two years later came their biggest hit in the US.
In addition to his career with The Who, Townshend has had a periodic solo career, with his Top Ten 1980 album Empty Glass being a highlight. His rock opera Tommy, released by The Who as an album in 1969, has been praised by the likes of Leonard Bernstein for its inventiveness. While he is known as a guitarist, and has made several lists of the greatest rock guitarists ever, Townshend actually plays around a dozen instruments. He and Daltrey, the sole surviving members of The Who’s original quartet, continue to tour regularly.
Nora Ephron (1941-2012) is probably most likely to be remembered as a screenwriter and director. Although people probably associate her with romantic comedies, her first film screenplay was for the biographical drama Silkwood; she was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. She received two additional Oscar nominations for writing, for When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle, and won a BAFTA Award for the former film. Some of her other films as a writer and/or director include Heartburn, My Blue Heaven, Julie & Julia, and the third of her “Meg Ryan trilogy” of rom-coms, You’ve Got Mail.
Ephron also worked as a journalist, writing for the New York Post for several years, and authored several books, including the essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck. Her first play, Imaginary Friends, premiered on Broadway in 2002. She also co-wrote the Drama Desk Award-winning Love, Loss, and What I Wore with her sister Delia, while her final play, Lucky Guy, received six Tony nominations.
Peter Mayhew, the towering actor who has played Chewbacca in five Star Wars films (and on The Muppet Show), turns 73 today. He is the second-tallest individual in today’s article next to André Roussimoff, better known as André the Giant (1946-1993). The enormous, 7-4 André was one of the most famous professional wrestlers of his time, and is also remembered for his most famous screen role, as Fezzik in The Princess Bride. Pat Roach (1937-2004), who was “only” 6-5, was also a one-time professional wrestler, but will be remembered for a variety of “big henchman” roles he played, notably in the first three Indiana Jones films.
Bérénice Marlohe, who is celebrating her 38th, is likely best known to many of our readers as Sévérine in Skyfall; she has appeared in a variety of French films, starred with the late Anton Yelchin in 5 to 7, and has a supporting role in Terrence Malick’s Song to Song. Stuntwoman Sophia Crawford, who turns 51, is best known for her work doubling Sarah Michelle Gellar on the first four seasons of Buffy. Jason Gray-Stanford, who played Lt. Randy Disher on Monk, is 47 today. Drew Fuller, who is turning 37, has had regular roles on Charmed, as Chris Halliwell, and on Army Wives, as Trevor LeBlanc. Eleanor Tomlinson, who celebrates her 25th, played Princess Isabelle in Jack the Giant Slayer and Lady Isabel Neville on The White Queen; she currently stars on the BBC series Poldark (where her character is not named Isabel).
Claudia Karvan, one of Australia’s most popular actresses, turns 45 today. She has starred in several Australian films, but is best known for her work in Australian television series such as The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way, and Spirited. Nancy Kwan, who is 78 today, began her career with starring roles in The World of Suzie Wong, for which she won a Golden Globe, and the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song. While she did not sustain her stardom, she was one of Hollywood’s first prominent Asian actresses.
Two NBA greats, one just recently retired, one from the league’s early days, top our sports birthdays today. Kevin Garnett, who turns 41, was the first played drafted directly from high school to the NBA in 20 years when the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him in 1995. He went on to make 15 All-Star Games and star for the Boston Celtics when they won the 2008 NBA championship. Dolph Schayes (1928-2015) played his entire career with the Syracuse Nationals and the Philadelphia 76ers (the same franchise, but renamed when they moved to Philly). He made 12 All-Star teams, led the Nationals to the 1955 NBA title, and is in the NBA Hall of Fame. Diego Forlan, one of the best footballers ever from Uruguay, turns 38. The high point of his career was in 2010, when he led Uruguay to a 4th place finish at the World Cup and was honored with the Golden Ball as the tournament’s outstanding player.
Rising R&B/soul singer Sam Smith turns 25 today. His debut album In the Lonely Hour reached #1 in the UK and #2 in the US. He won four Grammys in 2015, including Record and Song of the Year, and then received the Oscar for Best Original Song for writing and performing “Writing’s on the Wall,” the theme song for Spectre. Grace Jones, who turns 69, has released several albums that combined elements of pop, punk, reggae and more, and has had several #1 hits on the US Dance chart. She made her own contribution to the James Bond films as May Day in A View to a Kill and also was featured in Conan the Destroyer.
Novelist Jodi Picoult turns 51 today. She is the author of award-winning novels such as My Sister’s Keeper (made into a 2009 feature film) and Nineteen Minutes (a #1 bestseller), and also wrote several issues of DC’s Wonder Woman, which were published as the graphic novel Wonder Woman: Love and Murder. The sadly short-lived playwright Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) was best known for her play A Raisin in the Sun, which received several Tony nominations including Best Play. Both the original Broadway production and the film adaptation starred Sidney Poitier.
Herman Brix, better known by the screen name of Bruce Bennett (1906-2007) won an Olympic medal in the shot put in 1928 and made a few films under his given name in the thirties, including playing the title character in The New Adventures of Tarzan. After changing his name, he appeared in supporting roles in films like Sahara, Mildred Pierce, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Historical birthdays today include a pair of “founding fathers” of nations. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) was the leader of the Turkish War of Independence in the aftermath of World War One, which brought the Ottoman Empire to an end and established the modern Republic of Turkey, serving as its president until his death. His surname of Atatürk, given by the Turkish Parliament, literally means “Father of the Turks.” Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) was the leader of the Việt Minh independence movement in Vietnam and the president of the Democratic (i.e., communist) Republic of Vietnam from 1945-69. His goal was always a unified Vietnam under his party’s control, but he did not live to see that happen. Malcolm X (1925-1965, born Malcolm Little) was a highly influential and controversial African-American leader in the mid-20th Century. A leader for many years in the Nation of Islam, he broke with the movement in the last year of his life. He was played by Denzel Washington in a biopic directed by Spike Lee.
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 19, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Andre the Giant, Claudia Karvan, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jodi Picoult, Nora Ephron, Pete Townshend, Peter Mayhew, Sam Smith. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.