June 17: Happy Birthday Barry Manilow and Ken Loach
Barry Manilow is turning 74 today. Before he emerged as one of the leading pop/adult contemporary stars of the seventies, he spent a number of years in what he called the “jingle jungle,” composing tunes and slogans for commercials—remember “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there?” Manilow does—he wrote it. In the early seventies he worked with Bette Midler on her first two studio albums.
Manilow released his first studio album in 1973, but it was his second album, Barry Manilow II, which sealed the deal for him as a performer. The album reached the Top Ten and included his first #1 single, “Mandy.” He had two more #1 hits in the seventies, “I Write the Songs” and “Looks Like We Made It,” but it was a single that reached “only” #8 that brought him his only Grammy.
Manilow was beginning to fade as a mainstream star by the beginning of the 1980s; his last Top Ten single came in 1980. He retained an audience, however, as his singles still did well on the Adult Contemporary charts into the current decade, and he continues to tour actively.
English independent filmmaker Ken Loach is turning 81 today. He has been making feature films for fifty years; a few years ago he announced his retirement, but that decision did not stick for very long. Most of his films deal with ordinary, usually working class or poor characters, dealing with the problems of living in modern society—e.g., My Name is Joe is about alcoholics, recovering or otherwise, while Bread and Roses is about janitors who are trying to unionize. The British Film Institute voted Loach’s 1969 film Kes seventh in their ranking of the top 100 British films of the 20th century. Two of his features have won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and I, Daniel Blake.
Bobby Farrelly, the younger of the Farrelly Brothers, is celebrating his 59th today. He and older brother Peter have collaborated on fifteen feature films as directors and/or producers since 1994. Among them are Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary (their biggest hit), Shallow Hal, and Fever Pitch.
Our WTHH birthday today is Jason Patric, who turns 51. In recent years Patric has been a regular on Fox’s Wayward Pines and has starred in The Prince and The Abandoned. Will Forte, who is 47 today, spent nearly a decade as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, and is a three-time Emmy nominee for The Last Man on Earth, which he created, stars on and is an executive producer of. Also 47 is Michael Showalter, who wrote and starred in Wet Hot American Summer, and directed, wrote and starred in the romantic comedy The Baxter. Espen Sandberg, who is turning 46, is known for his directing collaboration with Joachim Rønning on films like Bandidas, Kon-Tiki, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Louis Leterrier, who is 44, started directing several films produced by Luc Besson, and has gone on to help projects like The Incredible Hulk and Now You See Me. English martial artist and actor Scott Adkins, who is 41, starred in two installments in the Undisputed series and played Lucian in Doctor Strange.
Arthur Darvill, who is 35, played Rory Williams, a companion to the Eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who, and now is Rip Hunter on Legends of Tomorrow. John Gallagher, Jr., who celebrates his 33rd, is a rising musical theater star who won a Tony for the musical Spring Awakening, and was a regular on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. Marie Avgeropoulos, who plays Octavia Blake on The 100, is turning 31. Rebecca Breeds, who turns 30, worked on the Australian series Blue Water High and Home and Away, and is starting to establish herself in the US with recurring roles on Pretty Little Liars and The Originals.
Greg Kinnear, who is celebrating his 54th, was an Oscar nominee for As Good as it Gets and had a good run in character roles, with a few lead parts, in films like Mystery Men, We Were Soldiers, The Matador, Little Miss Sunshine, and Invincible. Joe Piscopo, who is 66 today, was a Saturday Night Live cast member from 1980-1984 and had major roles in films like Johnny Dangerously and Wise Guys. Jon Gries, known for roles like Lazlo Holyfield in Real Genius and Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, turns 60 today. Also turning 60 is English stage and film director Phyllida Lloyd. She is an Olivier Award nominee for directing Terry Johnson’s Hysteria and Schiller’s Mary Stuart, and a Tony nominee for the latter when the production came to Broadway. Thomas Haden Church, who is 57, was an Emmy winner for the AMC miniseries Broken Trail and received an Oscar nomination, and a long list of other accolades, for Sideways. Mark Linn-Baker, who is 63 today, is known for starring in My Favorite Year as Benjy Stone and as one of the leads on Perfect Strangers.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. His most important works were probably his highly innovative, sometimes controversial ballets, The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. Also notable are his Symphony of Psalms and his opera The Rake’s Progress. Mexican pop singer and actress Paulina Rubio is turning 46. She has had several albums that have reached #1 on the Latin and/or Latin Pop charts in the US.
We have several sports birthdays today, most of them athletes with distinctive nicknames. Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch (1923-2004) was a star running back for the Los Angeles Rams for nearly a decade, leading them to the 1951 NFL championship; his nickname came from the unusual way he twisted his legs while running. Randy “the Big Unit” Johnson, who turns 54, was one of the most intimidating pitchers ever to pick up a baseball. At a towering 6-10, with a fastball approaching 100 miles per hour, it is little wonder that he won 303 games, made 10 All-Star Games, won 5 Cy Young Awards, and led Arizona to the 2001 World Series title. German swimmer Michael “the Albatross” Gross (not to be confused with the actor of that name), who is 53 today, takes his nickname from his extremely long arms. Gross won three gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in the freestyle and butterfly events. Tennis star Venus Williams is 37 today. She lacks a nickname (but when your given name is Venus Ebony Star Williams, you have no need of a cool nickname), but is one of the leading tennis players of her time. As a singles player, she is somewhat overshadowed by her younger sister Serena, but Venus has won seven Grand Slam singles titles. She also has fourteen Grand Slam women’s doubles titles (teamed with her sister) and two in mixed doubles (with Justin Gimelstob).
James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was one of the first African-Americans admitted to the bar in the South since the end of the Reconstruction era, and an early leader of the NAACP. He was also an important literary figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, known for his poetry and his The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. M. C. Escher (1898-1972) was a Dutch graphic artist known for his woodcuts and lithographs which took inspiration from a wide variety of mathematical concepts.
Ralph Bellamy (1904-1991) spent over sixty years on stage and screen. In the thirties and early forties, he was often the guy who didn’t get the girl in romantic comedies like The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday. Later in his career he was known for playing Franklin Roosevelt in the play and film Sunrise at Campobello, and later in the 1980s miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.
Beryl Reid (1919-1996) was a Tony and Olivier Award winning stage actress, and a two-time BAFTA Award nominee for playing Connie Sachs in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People, winning for the latter series. James Shigeta (1929-2014) worked in film and television for over 50 years; in his debut, Sam Fuller’s The Crimson Kimono, he was one of the very first Asian-American actors to play a romantic lead in a Hollywood film. Editor Ralph Winters (1909-2004) began working in Hollywood in the 1940s. He won Oscars in editing for King Solomon’s Mines and Ben-Hur and was nominated four additional times. Russell Simpson (1880-1959) had a long career as a character player, highlighted by his work for John Ford, notably as Pa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.
Edward I of England (1239-1307) was known for the extensive legal reforms during his reign, for the memorial crosses he built in honor of his wife Eleanor, and for bringing Wales under effective English control. His efforts to do the same with Scotland are portrayed, with occasional accuracy, in the movie Braveheart, where Edward is played by Patrick McGoohan. Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984) was Armenia’s contribution to the world of chess; “Iron Tigran” was the World Champion from 1963-1969 and one of the most difficult players to defeat the game has ever seen.
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 June 17, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Barry Manilow, Bobby Farrelly, greg kinnear, Igor Stravinsky, Jason Patric, John Gallagher Jr, Ken Loach, Ralph Bellamy, Venus Williams, Will Forte. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.