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June 29: Happy Birthday Nicole Scherzinger and Ray Harryhausen

0629ScherzinerHarryhausen

Nicole Scherzinger is celebrating her 39th birthday.  She began performing in regional musical theater in the Kentucky-Ohio area and with the alt-rock band Days of the New.  She then auditioned for the WB’s series Popstars, and became a member of the girl group Eden’s Crush, who had one successful album and single before their record company and album went bankrupt.  In 2003, she was one of several singers and dancers recruited to join the former burlesque troupe The Pussycat Dolls as they converted to a girl group.  Scherzinger emerged as the group’s lead singer over their six years together, during which time they had two Top 10 albums and several charted singles.

The Pussycat Dolls effectively disbanded in 2009 and Scherzinger began to pursue a solo career.  She has released two albums and several singles, with greater success outside the US than in it.  She has done a little bit of film and television acting, appearing in Men in Black 3, as a voice actor in Moana, and on a TV movie remake of Dirty Dancing, as Penny Johnson.  She also made her West End debut in a 2014 revival of Cats, as Grizabella, receiving an Olivier Award nomination.

Today, if you want your movie to feature some exotic creature, not to be found in nature, you fire up the CGI equipment.  But in the pre-CGI era, this was done using the techniques known as stop-motion model animation.  For over thirty years, the acknowledged master of stop-motion animation was Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013).

Harryhausen had begun working in film in the early forties, and got his first big animation assignment as the assistant to Willis O’Brien (who had done the stop-motion animation for King Kong) on Mighty Joe Young in 1949.  Harryhausen would up doing most of the animation work on the titular ape himself, establishing his reputation sufficiently that within a few years he was taking full charge of the technical effects for the 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

Harryhausen supervised the visual effects on fifteen feature films from 1953-1981.  They include his Sinbad trilogy—The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger—as well as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans.  Despite his achievements in the field, he was never nominated for an Oscar (although he received a special Oscar several years after his retirement).

Brian d’Arcy James, who is 49, got some attention recently from film audiences for his supporting role in Spotlight.  Stage followers, however, have been well aware of him for some time.  He made his Broadway debut in 1993 and is a three-time Tony nominee, for Sweet Smell of Success, Shrek The Musical, and Something Rotten!

Gary Busey, who turns 73, starred in the title role of The Buddy Holly Story in 1978.  He later had major roles in some quintessential late eighties and early nineties action films, including Lethal Weapon and Point Break.

Fred Grandy, who played Burl “Gopher Smith on The Love Boat and then became a Republican Congressman from Iowa, is turning 69.  Sharon Lawrence, who is turning 56, was a three time Emmy nominee as Sylvia Costas Sipowicz on NYPD BlueAmanda Donohoe, who is 55, won a Golden Globe for L.A. Law and starred on the British crime drama Murder City.   Melora Hardin, who turns 50, has been acting since she was about nine and was an Emmy nominee for Amazon’s Transparent.  Emily Skinner, whose two decades on Broadway are highlighted by a Tony nomination for the musical Side Show, is turning 47.

Lily Rabe, who is turning 35, was a Tony nominee as Portia in a 2010 revival of The Merchant of Venice (opposite Al Pacino as Shylock), and has appeared in every season of American Horror StoryZuleikha Robinson, who celebrates her 40th, has also appeared with Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice, as Jessica in the 2004 feature film; she is currently a regular on ABC’s Still Star-CrossedAddison Timlin, who is 26, starred in the 2014 remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown and recently joined the cast of Crackle’s StartUp for its upcoming second season.  Lorenzo James Henrie, who played Chris Manawa on the first two seasons of Fear the Walking Dead, is turning 24.

We recently had some coverage of Robert Evans, who turns 87.  He was head of production at Paramount for several years, during which the studio released Barefoot in the Park, Love Story, and both parts of The Godfather.  He then was a successful independent producer for the rest of the seventies, making films like Chinatown, Marathon Man, and Urban Cowboy.

Our sports birthday today is Dan Dierdorf.  The Football Hall of Famer, who turns 68, starred at offensive tackle for the St. Louis Cardinals for over a decade and made six Pro Bowls.  He later spent over a decade with the Monday Night Football announcing crew.

Several of the films Ray Harryhausen worked on, including The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, were scored by Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975).  Herrmann was a five-time Oscar nominee, winning for The Devil and Daniel Webster.  His first film score was none other than Citizen Kane, and he was also known for the scores for several of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, and Psycho.

Songwriter Frank Loesser (1910-1969) is known for his work both on Broadway and for Hollywood.  He wrote the music and lyrics for musicals such as Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, both of which won Tonys for Best Musical, with the latter also winning a Pulitzer.  He was a five-time Oscar nominee for Best Original Song, winning for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter is 54 today.  She made her reputation as a teenager with her performances of the violin concertos of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.  These days, she’s as likely to be heard performing 20th (or even 21st) century compositions, many of them composed for her by composers like Krzysztof Penderecki or her ex-husband André Previn.

Bret McKenzie, who is 41, is one half of the music/comedy duo Flight of the Conchords.  He won an Oscar for the song “Man or Muppet” for The Muppets, and appeared in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies as the elf Lindir (also sometimes known as “Figwit”).

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) was a French writer and aviation pioneer who wrote several memoirs about his experiences as a pilot, but is most likely to be remembered for his short novel The Little Prince.

Nelson Eddy (1901-1967) was a classically trained baritone, but he is best known for his work in film musicals, especially the eight he made at MGM in the 1930s and ’40s with Jeanette MacDonaldIan Bannen (1928-1999) was an Oscar nominee for the 1965 version of The Flight of the Phoenix, a two-time BAFTA Award nominee, and played Jim Prideaux in the BBC adaptation of Tinker Tailor Solider SpySlim Pickens (1919-1983) made a lot of films, many of them Westerns, but is known fior a pair of comic performances, as Major “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove and Taggart in Blazing Saddles.  Like Bernard Herrman, Ruth Warrick (1916-2005) made her film debut in Citizen Kane.  She was later known for her very long run on All My Children as Phoebe Tyler.

French statesman Robert Schuman (1886-1963, not to be confused with the composer Robert Schumann) served as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of France in the post-World War 2 period, and was one of the architects of the arrangements that eventually led to the European Economic Community (aka the Common Market).  Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998, also known as Kwame Ture) was a leading civil rights activist of the 1960s who was a Freedom Rider and later a field organizer in Mississippi for SNCC.  Later in the decade he was one of the leaders of the Black Power movement.

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.

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Posted on June 29, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I was vaguely aware of Nicole Scherzinger, but I’m not entirely sure what I would have seen her on. I’m sure it was something related to the Pussycat Dolls. When I was a kid, I was a big fan of Ray Harryhausen. Nothing was better than seeing one of his movies on TV. And while Clash of the Titans wasn’t great, Harryhausen’s creations were.

    Gary Busey reminds us all of the importance of motorcycle safety. Happy birthday, Gopher. I watched Fred Grandy on The Love Boat whenever I was home from school sick. Lily Rabe is usually better than the material she is given on American Horror Story. Remember when she was a possessed nun? Or a crazy Stevie-Nicks-obsessed swamp lady?

    Robert Evans is still staying in the picture. If you have any interest at all in Hollywood in the 70’s, Evans is just a fascinating character. Bernard Herrmann’s Hitchcock scores are classics.

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  2. Today and tomorrow are light when it comes to big names. (Saturday, on the other hand…)

    Nicole Scherzinger I am mostly aware of because of her ventures into musical theater. She’s not exactly my sort of pop singer.

    I enjoy several of Ray Harryhausen’s movies (technically, he would just do the special effects, but when the critters are the real reason for the movie, it’s fair to call them “his”). The Sinbad trilogy are always a pleasure to watch.

    Bernard Herrmann did some of the greatest scores for Hitchcock’s films, and his style was also a great fit for some of Harryhausen’s movies.

    We have a Broadway great for the second day in a row with Frank Loesser. Guys and Dolls is one of my favorite musicals and has some terrific songs. Like this:

    I’m always happy to acknowledge any of the terrific cast from the BBC’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, such as Ian Bannen. Bannen also shows up in a significant supporting part in the 1983 film Gorky Park, adapted from Martin Cruz Smith’s novel.

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  3. Ray Harryhausen, I loved his stop motion animation work on “Jason and the Argonauts” (the third Nightmare on Elm Street film seemed to have a scene with a skeleton inspired by that work). I like 1957’s “20 million Miles to Earth” as well.
    Gary Busey, I happened to catch that 1988 film he starred in “Bulletproof” (in it, he still has his Mr. Joshua bleached hair from “Lethal Weapon”), and he says the phrase “butt-horn” a lot in the film; I think I’m going to start using that phrase. Anyway, I thought he was amazing in “The Buddy Holly Story” and remembered that I liked his character from 1993’s “Rookie of the Year” too. Oh, but he’s voices wild drunk Phil Cassidy in the two Vice City games, I especially liked some of his lines from the Vice City stories (“Sorry Vic…she was a good soldier…a good sister, I mean”). Yeah, Phil Cassidy is pretty much any butt-horn’s worst nightmare.
    Sharon Lawrence, I guess I remember her best from the TV series “Fired Up!”, but I’ve seen her here and there on TV when channel surfing.
    Amanda Donohoe, wow, I viewed the 1988 film “The Lair of the White Worm” (it’s a Ken Russell film, so it’s out there), and for a time she voiced The Queen in the Royal Flush Gang from “Batman Beyond”.
    Robert Evans, yeah, he definitely has stories; even past the scope of Hollywood, he’s kind of been there and done that, probably twice if he liked it enough.
    Dan Dierdorf, I got into Pro Football when he was in the “Monday Night Football”, so I listened to a lot of his analysis. When he later worked on CBS broadcasts, I thought he did a better job working within a less crowded broadcast booth.

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