June 19: Happy Birthday Gena Rowlands and Zoe Saldana


Gena Rowlands is turning 87 today.  She began acting in the early fifties, made her Broadway debut opposite none other than Edward G. Robinson in Paddy Chayefsky’s Middle of the Night, and her film debut in 1958 in The High Cost of Living.  In the 1960s she appeared in films like Lonely Are the Brave and Tony Rome and was a regular on seasons 3 and 4 of Peyton Place.  But the key point in her film career came when she began working with her husband, independent filmmaker John Cassavetes.  Rowland starred in ten of Cassavetes’s films between 1963 and 1984, receiving Oscar nominations for Best Actress for two of them, A Woman Under the Influence and Gloria.

Beginning in the mid-eighties, Rowlands had quite a bit of success on television.  She has won three Primetime Emmys (out of eight nominations), for the TV movies The Betty Ford Story (in the title role), Face of a Stranger, and Hysterical Blindness.  Her notable feature film roles in this period have included Light of Day, Night on Earth, and The Mighty.

Zoe Saldana is turning 39.  She made her feature film debut in a teen drama titled Center Stage in 2000.  A few years later her experiences during the filming of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie almost drove her to quit acting, but she persevered.  2009 was Saldana’s breakthrough year, as she starred in two very successful films, James Cameron’s Avatar and the reboot of the Star Trek films.

Saldana has returned to the role of Lt. Uhura in two subsequent Star Trek films.  She has become one of the most popular choices for action heroine roles, starring in The Losers, Colombiana, and most notably as Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Last year she also had a supporting role in Live By Night and starred as Nina Simone in the biopic Nina.

Kathleen Turner, who celebrates her 63rd, is a WTHH subject.  She made her film debut in Body Heat and was a major star of the 1980s, a Golden Globe winner for Romancing the Stone and Prizzi’s Honor, and an Oscar nominee for Peggy Sue Got Married.  And then—rheumatoid arthritis.  But also, some success on stage, where she is a two-time Tony nominee.

Phylicia Rashad, who is 69 today, was a two-time Emmy nominee as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and won a Tony for Best Actress in a Play for a 2004 revival of A Raisin in the SunVirginia Hey, who is 65, was one of the stars of Farscape; Mad Max series fans might recall her as The Warrior Woman from The Road Warrior.

Mia Sara, who is 50, played Sloane Peterson in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and later was Harley Quinn on the short-lived Birds of Prey series; she is married to Brian Henson of Muppets fame.  Paula Abdul, a two-time Emmy winner for choreography and a Grammy winner for Best Short Form Music video, and a longtime judge on American Idol, turns 55 today.  Samuel West, who turns 51, is best known for his theater work, where he is a three-time Olivier Award nominee, twice as a director, once as an actor for Lucy Prebble’s Enron.

It’s the 45th birthday of Jean Dujardin, who became the first French actor to win the Oscar for Best Actor as George Valentin in The Artist; Dujardin ran the table when it came to major Best Actor honors for that year, also winning the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and SAG Awards in that category.  Robin Tunney, who is also celebrating her 45th, was a star of CBS’s The Mentalist and of films like The Craft and Vertical LimitHugh Dancy, who turns 42, currently stars on Hulu’s The Path and was an Emmy nominee for the miniseries Elizabeth IRyan Hurst, who is celebrating his 41st birthday, has been a regular on Sons of Anarchy and The Outsiders and may be remembered for his role in Remember the Titans.

Argentine actress Mia Maestro, who is 39, starred on FX’s The Strain and is known for films such as Frida and The Motorcycle Diaries; many people might recognize her from her small role in the Twilight films.  Paul Dano, who has been a BAFTA Award nominee for There Will Be Blood and a Golden Globe nominee for Love & Mercy, is 33 today.  Aidan Turner, who is 34, stars on the BBC series Poldark, adapted from Winston Graham’s novels, and played Kili in the Hobbit trilogy.  Atticus Shaffer, who plays Brick Heck on The Middle, is turning 19.

Lester Flatt (1914-1979) was a famous name in bluegrass.  The guitarist was a member of the classic lineup of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys in the 1940s.  In 1948 he and Earl Scruggs left Monroe’s band and formed the Foggy Mountain Boys, who are famous for recording songs like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” used in the score of Bonnie and Clyde, and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies.

Guy Lombardo (1902-1977) was a violinist and bandleader who was active for over 50 years and is famous for the New Years Eve radio and television broadcasts he and his band did from 1929 to 1977.

Lou Gehrig (1903-1941) is a Baseball Hall of Famer.  He is remembered as the star of six World Series winners with the New York Yankees and for his consecutive games streak, but even more for the courage and grace he showed when diagnosed with ALS in 1939.  Gary Cooper played him in the movie Pride of the Yankees.

For the second day in a row it’s the birth date of a famous film critic.  Pauline Kael (1919-2001) got into writing about film when a magazine editor overheard her arguing about a movie in a coffee shop.  She is most remembered for over two decades of reviewing films for The New Yorker.

Charles Coburn (1877-1961) didn’t start his film career until he was nearly sixty, but left behind some memorable comic performances, notably as Barbara Stanwyck’s father in The Lady Eve and as a matchmaking businessman in The More the Merrier (winning an Oscar).  Dame May Whitty (1865-1948) was the first English stage and film actress to be awarded a damehood.  She was an Oscar nominee for Night Must Fall and played Miss Froy in Hitchcock’s The Lady VanishesMildred Natwick (1905-1994) was an Oscar nominee for Barefoot in the Park, an Emmy winner for Snoop Sisters, and a two-time Tony nominee.  She was also known for John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Quiet ManMoe Howard (1897-1975) is remembered by all fans of the Three Stooges; he was the one with the bowl cut and was a Stooge for over 40 years, longer than anyone else.  Louis Jourdan (1921-2015) starred in films like Letter From an Unknown Woman and Gigi, and played a Bond Villain in Octopussy.

Wallis Simpson (1896-1986) became famous in 1936 when the newly-crowned Edward VIII of England abdicated his throne in order to marry her.  Simpson was a two-time divorcee, which made her unacceptable to the Church of England and the government.  When Aage Bohr (1922-2009) won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1975, he joined his father Niels Bohr as one of four father-son pairs to have both won the Nobel in Physics.  Aung San Suu Kyi, who turns 72, is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.  After decades of opposition to military rule in her home country of Myanmar, she is now that country’s State Counsellor (effectively, the prime minister or head of government).  Sir Salman Rushdie, who is 70 today, is often mentioned as a potential Nobel Prize winner of the future (in Literature).  He is famous for his novels Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses, the latter of which has brought him death threats from within the Muslim world.

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 19, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I remember Zoe Saldana from the new “Star Trek” movies. She was also in “Crossroads” with Britney Spears, and I read in the Razzie series it won a bunch of Razzies. It’s a strange coincidence Saldana is celebrating her birthday on the day her “Star Trek” co-star Anton Yelchin died. (I still miss him.)

    I first discovered Louis Jourdan through “Gigi” when I was in high school. I watched it again a few years later and fell in love with Jourdan all over again. What most people don’t know about him was he was not your typical suave Frenchman. Jourdan was actually frustrated with being typecast as the suave guy and was married to the same woman (Berthe Fredrique “Quique” Jourdan) for 68 years.


  2. Gena Rowlands, I like a lot of the stuff she did with John Cassavetes (“Faces”, “A Woman under the Influence”, the original “Gloria”), but then there’s her work outside the Cassavetes umbrella, such as her role in 1991’s “Night on Earth” and I dig 1998’s “Playing By Heart”.
    Zoe Saldana, I think I first saw her in 2002’s “Drumline”, but I sort of like “Guess Who” (I liked Bernie Mac), and I think 2011’s “Columbiana” is awesome.
    Kathleen Turner, I know that girl at 1980’s summer recreation was lying to me, Kathleen Turner was NOT her aunt. I last saw Turner perform in Season 3 of “Californication” and thought she was a riot. Her page on here is some good reading.
    Phylicia Rashad, I can’t say I’ve ever watched much of “The cosby Show”, but I still knew of her from that and her then-marriage to former NFL player and analyst (who later became more of an NBA reporter and apparently REAL tight with Michael Jordan) Ahmad Rashad.
    Mia Sara, I forgot about her for a long time, but then I happened to catch the 1995 Neo Noir film “Black Night Blue Night”, and I forgot about her no longer. “Ferris Bueller’s day Off” definitely had to be her defining moment in film.
    Paula Abdul, he he, I have song “Rush, Rush” burned onto disc (I remember seeing the video and being surprised that Keanu Reeves was in it; I was naive about those kind of things back then, but I was amazed that film stars would be in music videos that didn’t involve film clips).
    Robin Tunney, I first saw her in “Empire Records” but it was soon after that when I viewed her in “The Craft”. The role of socialite Leonore Lemmon that she played in “Hollywoodland” sticks with me, as does her small part in “The Burning Plain”.
    Lou Gehrig, I understand he was a heck of a baseball player, but what a terrible disease he had (and no, I don’t think he was the luckiest man in the world either, but it’s nice that he kept his spirits up in the face of enormous pain and deterioration).
    Pauline Kael, I’ve always seen her name brought up in film reviews, and I believe this here Leblog has posted a few of her articles/interviews. I had no idea that she passed away in 2001.


  3. In addition to her ten films with her husband, Gena Rowlands has made at least two with their son, director Nick Cassavetes, She’s So Lovely and The Notebook.

    Zoe Saldana has been a very good Uhura through three Star Trek reboot movies, and I liked her in the B-action films Colombiana and The Losers as well.

    Kathleen Turner starred in three of my favorite films from the eighties, Body Heat, Romancing the Stone, and Prizzi’s Honor.

    I know Mildred Natwick largely from her films with John Ford, but she had long career doing a wide variety of film and TV work.


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