Morgan Freeman is turning 80 today. He served in the Air Force after graduating from high school, then began working in theater in California and New York. He made his Broadway debut in 1968, as part of an all-black cast of the musical Hello, Dolly! which starred Pearl Bailey. He later appeared in the title role of the musical Purlie, and in the late seventies became active with Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park productions, appearing as the title character in Coriolanus, Casca in Julius Caesar, and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.
Freeman’s first screen appearances were on, of all things, PBS’s The Electric Company, in the seventies. He began working regularly in film in the eighties; he had a small part in the 1981 thriller Eyewitness, and began to be well known with his first Oscar-nominated performance, in 1987’s Street Smart. He played a major supporting role in Glory in 1989, and the same year he received another Oscar nomination, and won a Golden Globe, for reprising one of his stage roles.
Freeman has won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby and received Best Actor nominations for The Shawshank Redemption and Invictus (in which he played Nelson Mandela), along with Driving Miss Daisy. A sampling of some of his other roles would have to begin with God in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty, and would also include a fictional US President in Deep Impact, James Patterson’s fictional detective Alex Cross in two films, Lucius Fox in the Dark Knight trilogy, and Joe Matheson in RED.
Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) was perhaps the greatest “blonde bombshell” of all time. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, she was “discovered” by a photographer while working in a factory in 1944, and began a career as a pinup model and eventually an actress. She began appearing in films in the late forties and had two small but noticeable roles in the 1950 films The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve.
In 1953 she emerged as a star with Niagara and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The Seven Year Itch contains one of her most iconic scenes (hint—subway grate). Although many stereotyped her as a “dumb blonde,” she received critical praise for her roles in films like Bus Stop, The Prince and the Showgirl, and Some Like It Hot. The Misfits, in which she starred opposite Clark Gable, was the final film for both Gable and Monroe.
Her death of a barbiturate overdose in 1962 has led to many a conspiracy theory, although probably not as many as those surrounding the death of her alleged lover John Kennedy. Monroe was played by Michelle Williams in the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn.
Jonathan Price is 70 today. He is a two-time Tony winner, for Trevor Griffith’s play Comedians, and as the Engineer in Miss Saigon. He starred as Sam Lowry in Brazil, played a Bond villain in Tomorrow Never Dies, and was the High Sparrow on Game of Thrones. Brian Cox, who is turning 71, is an Emmy winner for the docudrama Nuremberg and an Olivier Award winner for a 1988 revival of Titus Andronicus. He played Ward Abbott in two of the Bourne films, Col. William Stryker in X2, and appeared with Morgan Freeman in RED. René Auberjonois, who turns 77, is known for film roles like Dago Red in M*A*S*H, and on television for Clayton Endicott III on Benson and Odo on Deep Space Nine.
Actress and comedian Amy Schumer, who is 36, has received five Emmy nominations for her sketch series The Amy Schumer Show and WGA Award and Golden Globe nominations for Trainwreck. Teri Polo, who turns 48, currently stars on Freeform’s The Fosters, and played Pam Byrnes-Focker in the Meet the Parents films. Sarah Wayne Callies, who celebrates her 40th, played Lori Grimes on the first three seasons of The Walking Dead, played Sara Tancredi on Prison Break, and stars on USA Network’s Colony. Also turning 40 is Danielle Harris, who may be best known as one of the busiest “scream queens” of our time, having made four appearances in the Halloween series, two in the Hatchet trilogy, and a long list of other horror films. Tom Holland, who plays Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is celebrating his 21st; he also starred in the West End production of Billy Elliott: The Musical. Willow Shields, who is turning 17, is best known for playing Primrose Everdeen in the Hunger Games films.
It’s alt-rock icon Alanis Morissette’s 43rd birthday today. She had a huge worldwide success with her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, which sold a reported 30 million or more copies. She won two Grammys for the album, including Album of the Year, and two more for the single “You Oughta Know.” She is also the second person in today’s article to have played God, in Kevin Smith’s Dogma.
Other music birthdays include Ronnie Wood, who turns 70. The guitarist has been a member of the Rolling Stones for over 40 years. Alan Wilder, who is 58, was a founding member of Depeche Mode, and since leaving the electronic band has focused on his one-man musical project Recoil. Pat Boone turns 83. The singer, actor and inspirational speaker was the second most-charted artist of the late fifties after Elvis Presley. Nelson Riddle (19210-1985) was best known as an orchestrator and bandleader. He did several albums with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and was nominated for five Oscars, winning Best Original Score for The Great Gatsby. American mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, who is turning 72, has had a career of nearly fifty years in opera, where her signature role has been Cherubino in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro; she has also done some work in musical theater.
Sports birthdays include Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Coffey, one of the best defencemen in NHL history who turns 56. He was on three Stanley Cup winners with the Edmonton Oilers in the mid eighties and won a fourth Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991. Justine Henin, who is celebrating her 35th, was probably the best women’s tennis player in the world from 2003-07; during that time she won seven Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal and was the year-end #1 player three times.
Andy Griffith (1926-2012) became famous with his film debut as Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd. He received a pair of Tony nominations during his career but was most famous for his long-running TV roles as Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show and Ben Matlock on Matlock.
Frank Morgan (1890-1949) was a contract player at MGM who is most famous for playing the title character, along with several others, in The Wizard of Oz. Robert Newton (1905-1956) was best known for playing pirates, notably Long John Silver in 1950’s Treasure Island and Blackbeard in Blackbeard the Pirate. Edward Woodward (1930-2009) starred as Neil Howie in Wicker Park and as the title character in Breaker Morant, and won a Golden Globe on television for starring as Robert McCall on The Equalizer. The late Powers Boothe (1948-2017) won an Emmy as cult leader Jim Jones in Guyana Tragedy. He played Curly Bill Brocius in Tombstone, Senator Roark in the Sin City films, and Cy Tolliver on Deadwood.
Cleavon Little (1939-1992) won a Tony for starring in the Broadway musical Purlie (where one of his replacements was Morgan Freeman), and an Emmy for a guest role on Dear John, but will always be best known as Sheriff Bart from Blazing Saddles.
A potpourri of birthdays from history, literature and science begins with Brigham Young (1801-1877). Young emerged as the leader of the Mormon church after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, led the Mormons west to settle in Utah, and served as the first Governor of Utah Territory. John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) was one of the most famous Supreme Court Justices in US history, and was best known for his lone dissent from the Court’s ruling upholding racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson. Congressman Charlie Wilson of Texas (1933-2010) was known for his advocacy of US aid to the Afghan rebels after the late seventies Soviet invasion. His efforts were chronicled in the book and movie Charlie Wilson’s War; Tom Hanks played Wilson in the film. John Masefield (1878-1967) was the Poet Laureate of England for nearly 40 years, and was most famous for his poetry about the history of seafaring and the life of seamen. Kip Thorne, who turns 77, is a prominent theoretical physicist, known for his popular book Black Holes and Time Warps and his role as a scientific adviser on the movie Interstellar.
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.