May 20: Happy Birthday Cher and James Stewart


Cherilyn Sarkisian, universally known as Cher, turns 71 today.  A successful singer and actress for over 50 years, she began her career when she dropped out of high school at 16.  She met singer and songwriter Sonny Bono shortly thereafter; she had her first hits both as half of Sonny & Cher (“I Got You Babe”) and as a solo performer (“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”) before she turned 20.

Cher’s singing career has ebbed and flowed, as you’d expect given its longevity.  She had a trio of #1 hits in the early seventies, and after a dry spell, came back with several Top Ten singles in the late eighties.  After another slow period, she came back in 1998 with a huge hit that brought her her only Grammy.

Cher has also had a successful film and television career.  She was a Golden Globe winner for The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in the early seventies, and an Emmy winner for Cher: The Farewell Tour some three decades later.  She had some major successes in film in the eighties, winning a Golden Globe for Nora Ephron’s Silkwood and an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actress for Moonstruck.  More recently, she starred with Christina Aguilera in the backstage musical Burlesque.

James Stewart (1908-1997), one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, began acting after graduating from Princeton—he shared an apartment in New York with Henry Fonda for a time.  He signed a contract with MGM in 1935, and began to be noticed with Next Time We Love, a romantic comedy which was his first of four films with Margaret Sullavan.  In the late thirties, he made some of his most famous films, including You Can’t Take It With You, Destry Rides Again, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Shop Around the Corner, and The Philadelphia Story (which brought him his only Oscar).

After his distinguished Air Force service in World War Two, Stewart returned to the screen in It’s a Wonderful Life in 1946.  The next decade and a half saw him make several more of his most famous films, including several Westerns with Anthony Mann, a number of films with Alfred Hitchcock, including Rear Window and Vertigo, and one of the greatest courtroom dramas in film history, for which he received the fifth and final Best Actor nomination of his career.

Stewart remained a major star into the sixties, although he gradually began making fewer films.  In the seventies, he headlined a pair of television series, winning a Golden Globe for CBS’s Hawkins, before gradually transitioning to retirement.

Mindy Cohn, who is 51 today, is best known for starring as Natalie Green on The Facts of LifeBronson Pinchot, who is turning 58, starred as Barki Bartokomous on Perfect Strangers and is also known for roles in films like Beverly Hills CopTony Goldwyn, who is 57 today, stars as President Fitzgerald Grant III on Scandal, and is known for films like Kiss the Girls and Bounce.  Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder on Little House on the Prairie and the recurring role of Hank Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, turns 61 today.

Timothy Olyphant, who celebrates his 49th, has starred as Seth Bullock on Deadwood and as Raylan Givens on Justified, and currently costars with Drew Barrymore on Santa Clarita Diet.  He has had prominent roles in films like Go, Gone in 60 Seconds, and Live Free or Die Hard.

Matt Czuchry, who played Cary Agos on CBS’s The Good Wife, is turning 40.  Jack Gleeson, who is turning 25, played the extremely unlikable Joffrey Baratheon on Game of ThronesNaturi Naughton, who turns 33, played rapper Lil’ Kim in Notorious and is a regular on Starz’s Power; she was also a member of the girl group 3LW.

Anthony Zerbe, a durable supporting player who has worked in film and television for over 50 years, turns 81.  He won an Emmy on the mid-seventies crime drama Harry O, and has appeared as a villain in Licence to Kill and Star Trek: InsurrectionDave Thomas, who is 68 today, won an Emmy as a writer on SCTV and played Doug McKenzie on that show and in Strange Brew.  He should not be confused with the founder of Wendy’s.

Three actresses, from different generations, who have been successful in musical theater share today as a birthday.  Constance Towers, who is 84 today, is known for films like John Ford’s The Horse Soldiers and Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss and for her stints on daytime soap operas like General Hospital.  However, many know her for starring as Julie Laverne in Show Boat, Anna Leonowens in The King and I and several other musical roles.  Judy Kuhn is turning 59.  She is a four-time Tony nominee in roles like Cosette in Les Miz and Amalia Balash in She Loves Me (opposite Boyd Gaines), and also was the singing voice of Pocahontas in the 1995 film.  Sierra Boggess, who celebrates her 35th, is the current Christine Daaé of choice in the musical theater world, having sung the role in performances of The Phantom of the Opera all over the world as well as starring in the West End production of the sequel, Love Never Dies, and receiving an Olivier Award nomination.  She has also starred on Broadway as Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Rosalie Mullins in School of Rock.

Hip hop star Busta Rhymes, who turns 45, is a twelve-time Grammy nominee who has had six Top Ten albums.  He has appeared in films like Finding Forrester and NarcJoe Cocker (1944-2014) is known for his Grammy-winning hit “Up Where We Belong,” a duet with Jennifer Warnes that was the theme song for An Officer and a Gentleman.

Sports birthdays are headed by Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita, who turns 77.  Mikita, one of the best centres ever, lead the NHL in scoring four times from 1964-68 and was a two-time NHL MVP.  Baseball Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser (1921-1998), one of the game’s best pitchers in the 1940s, won the American League MVP award twice and led the Detroit Tigers to victory in the 1945 World Series.  Ken Boyer (1931-1982) was a star third baseman of the fifties and sixties, making eleven All-Star games, winning the National League MVP award in 1964 and leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title that year as well.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), one of the giants of French literature, is known for his enormous sequence of interconnected novels and stories, collectively titled La Comédie HumaineDouglas Preston, who is celebrating his 61st, is best known for the Agent Pendergast series, which he co-writes with Lincoln Child, and for his solo novels featuring ex-CIA agent Wyman Ford.

Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi (1885-1933), later King Faisal I of Iraq, was a leader of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War One, and after the war became the King of Iraq from 1921-33.  He was played by Alec Guinness in Lawrence of Arabia.

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 20, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. James Stewart is very good in “The Philadelphia Story”. Stewart is also good in “Harvey”, and he’s the reason “Rope” is watchable. I’m among the many people who is forced to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas. It’s a good movie, but my friend and I are are sick of it because we’ve had to watch it so many times.

    I saw a video of Constance Towers performing at Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Telethon when she was in the Broadway revival of “The King and I”. She was there with Yul Brynner, and they performed “Shall We Dance”, which is my favorite song from “The King and I’. Towers is also married to actor and former ambassador to Mexico John Gavin.


  2. When I was first paying significant attention to popular music in the late seventies, Cher’s big hits from earlier in the decade, like “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” and “Dark Lady,” still got a lot of air time.

    What has always impressed me about James Stewart is the way he reinvented himself as an actor when he was in his forties. After his hits in the late thirties established him as one of the great likable, good guy leading men of the day, he created a new screen persona in some of his Hitchcock films and in his Anthony Mann westerns, a man who was darker, sometimes tormented, and often not completely sympathetic.

    Sierra Boggess, who originated the role of Ariel in the Broadway version of The Little Mermaid, attended Millikin University, a modest-sized private college, where they have a degree program in musical theater. Another alum of Millikin is Jodi Benson, who was the singing and speaking voice of Ariel in the movie.


  3. Last month Cher dropped out of the starring role in a new movie. I was disappointed because she only acts like once every 10 years (apart from the 1980s). My favorite movie of hers is Mask, what a brilliant performance. Her music career is unrivaled by anyone but Madonna. Did you know Believe is her biggest hit, ever? Cher is the oldest female singer to have a #1 single on the Hot 100. For a while I thought Madge might break the record, but she hasn’t and probably no one ever will.

    I’ve always liked Jimmy Stewart, especially the Hitchcock films. Rear Window is his best movie. Watched it so many times.. Haven’t seen his older black and white ones except the two classics everyone knows, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.


  4. Cher, my favorite song of hers is “Just Like Jesse James” (“Just a small town dude with a big city attitude”; love that line). I find her acting career fascinating, because you couldn’t miss her in the 1980’s, but afterward, that was about it.
    James Stewart, I suppose I like “Vertigo” the best, but in general, I think he earned his legendary status. i think there’s a lot to like when it comes to James Stewart


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