May 23: Happy Birthday Joan Collins and Douglas Fairbanks


Dame Joan Collins is turning 84 today.  She began acting in film in her late teens, appearing in a number of English films before Howard Hawks brought her to Hollywood to star in Land of the Pharaohs.  She kept busy for the next seven years or so, appearing in films such as Seven Thieves and the last of the Hope/Crosby “Road” pictures, The Road to Hong Kong.  After taking a few years off in the early sixties, she began working regularly on television, making a memorable guest appearance on Star Trek as Edith Keeler in the episode “City on the Edge of Forever.”

In the late seventies, Collins film roles included starring as Fontaine Khaled in two adaptations of novels written by her younger sister, novelist Jackie Collins.  While the films were critically panned, they were commercially successful and brought her to the attention of Richard and Esther Shapiro, who were creating a prime-time soap opera that gave Collins her most famous role.  She was a six-time Golden Globe nominee, winning once, in the role of Alexis Carrington on Dynasty.

If yesterday’s headliner Laurence Olivier was the definitive Shakespearean of his time, Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) was clearly the definitive swashbuckler.  As a charismatic leading man in action-adventure films (with, of course, a dash of romance thrown in), Fairbanks has never been surpassed.  Equaled, from time to time (see Flynn, Errol, or Lancaster, Burt), but never outdone.  He was also one half of Hollywood’s first celebrity couple after his marriage to Mary Pickford.

Fairbanks began his film career in 1915, and soon was starring in a sequence of romantic comedies that, within three years, made him one of the most popular and highest paid stars in Hollywood.  But he had ambitions to do more, and by 1920 he had the clout to do so.  That year’s The Mark of Zorro began the run of adventure film classics that his reputation rests on.  After winning his final duel as Zorro, he went on to star in The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, Don Q, Son of Zorro, The Black Pirate, The Gaucho, and finally The Iron Mask in 1929.

Actor and comedian Drew Carey is turning 59.  He is most famous for creating, producing and starring on The Drew Carey Show for nine seasons; these days he’s best known as a television host, most notably of The Price is Right.  Also 59 today is comedian and actress Lea DeLaria, who plays Big Boo on Orange is the New BlackKelly Monaco, who is 41 today, is best known for her work on soap operas; she is a two-time Daytime Emmy nominee and has been a regular on General Hospital for 14 years.  Melissa McBride, who plays Carol Peletier on The Walking Dead, is 52 today.  H. Jon Benjamin, who celebrates his 51st, is best known as a voice actor; currently he voices Sterling Archer on FX’s Archer and Bob Belcher on Fox’s Bob’s BurgersD. J. Cotrona, who plays Seth Gecko on From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, is turning 37.

Barbara Barrie, who is 86, has been an Oscar nominee (for the movie Breaking Away),  an Emmy nominee (for the TV series of the same title), and a Tony nominee (for the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company).

German director Tom Tykwer, who is 52, made a very big splash with his third feature, Run Lola Run, and followed it up with films like The Princess and the Warrior and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.  His much-awaited Hollywood debut, The International, was disappointing.  Swedish director Daniel Alfredson is turning 58; he directed the final two films of the Swedish production of the Millennium trilogy which starred Noomi Rapace.

Mary Black, who turns 62, has been one of the most prominent voices (literally) in Irish folk music for nearly 35 years.  Another prominent name in folk music is Jewel Kilcher, often known simply as Jewel, who turns 43.  She is a four-time Grammy winner and has sold some 30 million records.  Mac Wiseman, an upright bass player who is one of the elder statesmen of the bluegrass world, turns 92 today.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who celebrates his 63rd, is another of the “Fabulous Four” boxers who for much of the eighties kept boxing fans attention on the weight divisions below the heavyweight level.  He was the undisputed middleweight champion of the world from 1980-87.  Baseball Hall of Famer Zack Wheat (1888-1972) spent all but one of his 19 seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, starring in left field and at the plate.  Aaron Donald, a rising star in the NFL, turns 26.  The defensive lineman has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons.  Chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, who turns 66, held the world championship from 1975-85 and again from 1993-99.

Mitch Albom, who turns 59, first became known as a sports journalist, but is more likely to be recognized for bestselling books like his memoir Tuesdays with Morrie or his novel The Five People You Meet in HeavenScott O’Dell (1898-1989) was best known for his 26 children’s novels, notably the Newberry Medal winner Island of the Blue Dolphins and others such as The King’s Fifth and Sing Down the Moon.

Betty Garrett (1919-2011) starred in a number of MGM musicals in the late forties such as Take Me Out to the Ballgame and On the Town.  She later became a familiar face on television, winning a Golden Globe as Irene Lorenzo on All in the Family and playing landlady Edna Babish on Laverne & Shirley.

Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002), the aunt of a recent headliner, was a traditional pop star of the early fifties known for hits like “Come On-a My House” and “Hey There.”  John Payne (1912-1989) starred in Miracle on 34th Street as Fred Galley, the attorney who defends Kris Kringle, and later in film noirs like Kansas City Confidential and Slightly ScarletScatman Crothers (1910-1986) had a long film and television career; his best known role may have been Louie the Garbageman on Chico and the Man in the mid-seventies.

Alfred P. Sloan (1875-1966) was made President of General Motors in 1923, and held that office for over 20 years, presiding over GM’s rise to become the world’s dominant automaker.  John Bardeen (1908-1991) is the only man ever awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics twice.  His first honor was as the co-inventor of the transistor, his second for developing a theory of superconductivity.

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 23, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I have not thought about Joan Collins in a long, long time. When I was a kid, Dallas and Dynasty were popular shows that I was not allowed to watch. But there was no escaping Collins’ celebrity at the time.

    I have never been a big Drew Carey fan. I preferred Who’s Line to his sitcom. When I think about Carrey, what actually comes to mind is that in an early expansion pack for the original version of the computer game The Sims, if you threw a really awesome party Drew Carrey would show up. I always thought, “Who would actually want that?”

    Melissa McBride is one of the better actors on The Walking Dead. She usually manages to salvage something from the material she is given by the writers which is a massive achievement more often than not.

    I liked Jewel an awful lot in the 90’s. I still have Who Will Save Your Soul stuck in my head.


  2. I never was a Dynasty fan, but I remember Joan Collins from her guest appearance on Star Trek and also as the Siren on Batman at about the same time.

    I first checked out some of those old Douglas Fairbanks swashbucklers a little over a decade ago, and have had a great deal of pleasure from them ever since.

    I can recall the buzz that started when the news came that Tom Tykwer was making his first Hollywood film—and the letdown when that film turned out to be so ordinary.

    In addition to her musical talents, Jewel has a nice screen role to her credit in Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil.


  3. Joan Collins, I knew of her work from “Dynasty” more than I viewed it, but I did see 1972’s “Tales from the Crypt”. I’m actually more familiar with her late sister’s steamy novels.
    Douglas Fairbanks, another performer who’s legend I’m more aware of than any of his work. I really only know about the United Artists deal, and I used to enjoy a lot of films from that production company (here’s an older UA film I like: 1926’s “The Bat”), so I’m glad he was a part of that.
    Like Lebeau, Drew Carey never has really done it for me either, but if I’d have to choose anything he’s done, it would be the improv material.
    Jewel, I like a few of her songs, but especially “Foolish Games”. I think her and Naomi Watts like a lot alike.
    Marvelous Marvin Hagler, I know he was a boxer because i have “Great Sports Moments of the 80’s” (of course I do), and the fight between Sugar Ray Leonard is featured on there (Ray Leonard won that fight).
    Mitch Albom, I used to watch ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” a lot back in the day, plus I’ve caught some of articles for the Detroit Free Press that went national (I especially liked his article on how uncomfortable airport flights have become). I’ve seen the “Tuesdays with Morrie” film, but I’ve never read the book.
    Rosemary Clooney, I know her best from “White Christmas”, and being the sister of newscaster Nick Clooney, whose son is George Clooney.


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