May 30: Happy Birthday Idina Menzel and Howard Hawks
Idina Menzel is celebrating her 46th birthday today. After she graduated from NYU with a degree in Drama, she auditioned for a new musical by a relatively unknown writer, composer and lyricist named Jonathan Larson. The musical was an adaptation of Puccini’s opera La Boheme, it was titled Rent, and Menzel was cast in the character of Maureen Johnson. It proved extremely popular in an off-Broadway run, and was soon moved to Broadway, where it was a big hit. Menzel received a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
Menzel moved on, a few years later, to land another plum musical role, as Elphaba in the original Broadway production of Stephen Schartz’s Wicked (she also originated the role on the West End). She received the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical and also became associated, for many people, with a certain song.
Since her triumph in Wicked, Menzel has recorded several albums and made a number of concert tours. She has made several film and television appearances. She returned to the role of Maureen Johnson for the film adaptation of Rent, played Nancy Tremaine in Enchanted, and appeared on Glee in the recurring role of Shelby Corcoran (the biological mother of Rachel Berry). Her biggest film role has been voicing Elsa in Frozen, which also gave her a second signature song in “Let It Go.” She has not abandoned the theater, either, returning to Broadway to star in the musical If/Then, and receiving another Tony nomination for the role of Elizabeth.
Howard Hawks (1896-1977) got his first job in the film industry, as an assistant on a Douglas Fairbanks film, through his friend (and fellow future director) Victor Fleming. After several years in the industry he directed his first feature in 1926. In the early thirties he began to make a reputation with films like The Dawn Patrol (the first of several aviation oriented movies he made), the gangster classic Scarface, and the pioneering screwball comedy Twentieth Century.
In 1938 Hawks began the most productive period of his career with a film that was a relative failure at the time, but has come to be regarded as a comedy classic.
Hawks followed Bringing Up Baby with a decade in which he made more comedies (His Girl Friday, Ball of Fire), romantic adventures (Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not), war movies (Sergeant York, Air Force), a classic film noir (The Big Sleep) and a great Western (Red River). His post-1950 output is uneven but includes one of Marilyn Monroe’s best films (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and another classic Western (Rio Bravo). A bit underrated during his prime (he was nominated for only one Oscar in his career), his reputation has risen over the years thanks to many admirers among critics and later directors.
Joachim Rønning, who is 45 today, is known for his directing partnership with fellow-Norwegian Espen Sandberg. Their features together include Bandidas, Max Manus: Man of War, the 2012 version of Kon-Tiki, and the just-released Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Colm Meaney, who celebrates his 64th, is known to American audiences for playing Miles O’Brien on two Star Trek series. He has also done a great deal of work in British and Irish film and television. Tonya Pinkins, another notable stage actress, turns 55. She is a three-time Tony nominee, winning for Jelly’s Last Jam, and also an Olivier Award nominee for starring in Caroline, or Change. Ted McGinley, known for playing Jefferson D’Arcy on Married… with Children and Charley Shanowski on Hope & Faith, turns 59 today. Stephen Tobolowsky, who is 66 today, currently stars on Netflix’s One Day at a Time and has a very long resume of character roles on film, television, and stage (where he has been a Tony nominee).
English filmmaker Duncan Jones, who is 46, is known for films like Moon and Source Code. Rachael Stirling is known for her work on British television and also on stage, where she is a two-time Olivier Award nominee; she is turning 40. Jenny Mollen, who is turning 38, is known for her film and TV work, including the recurring role of Nina Ash on Angel, and also for her bestselling collections of humorous essays, I Like You Just the Way I Am and Live Fast Die Hot. Jared Gilmore, who recently completed a six-season run on Once Upon a Time as Henry Mills, is celebrating his 17th.
The towering Clint Walker, who is celebrating his 90th, starred as the title character of ABC’s Cheyenne from 1955-62 and also in a number of films of the fifties and sixties, including playing one of The Dirty Dozen. Agnès Varda, who is turning 89, is a Belgian director who worked primarily in French film, where she is known for films like Cléo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond. Michael J. Pollard, who is 78, has had a long career in character roles, highlighted by playing C. W. Moss in Bonnie and Clyde, for which he won a BAFTA Award and recieved an Oscar nomination.
Wynonna Judd, who is 53, was one half of the country duo The Judds with her mother Naomi; they won five Grammys from 1985-1992. Wynonna has gone on to have several #1 country singles as a solo performer. Also celebrating a 53rd today is Tom Morello, the co-founder and lead guitarist of Rage Against the Machine. He currently does a solo act as The Nightwatchman and is part of the supergroup Prophets of Rage. Benny Goodman (1909-1986), known as the “king of swing,” was one of the most important jazz musicians of the big band era. His 1938 Carnegie Hall concert has been called jazz’s “coming out party.”
Although injuries shortened Gale Sayers’s NFL career to only seven seasons, when he was healthy he was one of the game’s most electrifying running backs ever. Sayers is turning 74 today. Manny Ramirez, who is 45 today, is one of only 25 players in baseball history to hit over 500 home runs. A 12-time All-Star, he helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
Mel Blanc (1908-1989), the “man of a thousand voices,” is best known for his work with Warner Brothers, where he voiced every major character in the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons except Elmer Fudd and Granny from the Sylvester/Tweety cartoons. His other prominent vocal parts included Barney Rubble on The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely on The Jetsons.
Franklin Schaffner (1920-1989) was a prominent director of the sixties and seventies, best known for Planet of the Apes and, especially, Patton. Meredith MacRae (1944-2000) was well known to sixties TV audiences for her roles as Sally Morrison on My Three Sons and then Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction. Lincoln Perry (1902-1985) became very well known during the 1930s for performing on stage and in film under the name of Stepin Fetchit, playing characters who conformed to the racial stereotypes of the time.
Our historical birthday today is James Chaney (1943-1964), one of the martyrs of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Chaney and fellow Congress of Racial Equality activists Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were organizing the Freedom Summer campaign in part of Mississippi, when they were murdered by the Klan. The movie Mississippi Burning is a fictionalized account of the investigation of their murders, while there has been a great deal of literature and music inspired by their lives.
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 30, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Agnes Varda, Benny Goodman, Clint Walker, Colm Meaney, Howard Hawks, Idina Menzel, Joachim Ronning, Mel Blanc, Wynonna Judd. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.