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July 10: Happy Birthday Chiwetel Ejiofor and Fiona Shaw

0710EjioforShaw

Our headliners today have both won Olivier Awards for their performances in English theater.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who turns 40 today, is an English actor whose parents are from Nigeria.  He began his stage career while still in school and joined the National Youth Theatre while in his teens.  His first professional stage role was the title character in Shakespeare’s Othello in 1995.  His Shakespeare roles have included Malcolm in Macbeth and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.  He was an Olivier Award nominee for Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, and then won the award for Best Actor in a play for returning to the role of Othello in a 2007 revival.

Ejiofor made his film debut in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, as James Covey, the interpreter for the captive Africans.  He has had lead roles in films like Dirty Pretty Things and Kinky Boots.  He was part of the ensemble cast of Love Actually, played the Operative in Serenity, and last year joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Karl Mordo in Doctor Strange.  The high point of his film career has been starring as Solomon Northrup in 12 Years a Slave, and receiving his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, as well as a number of other accolades.

Fiona Shaw is celebrating her 59th birthday.  She graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began working in English theater in the early 1980s.  She is known for several Shakespeare roles, including Rosalind in As You Like It and Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew, and for starring in classical dramas like Sophocles’ Electra and Euripides’ Medea.  She has received five Olivier Award nominations, winning in 1990 for a portfolio including Electra and As You Like It and in 1994 for starring in Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal.  She was a Tony nominee for a Broadway revival of Medea.

Shaw’s screen career includes credits in a variety of films, including Mountains of the Moon, Undercover Blues, Persuasion, and The Black Dahlia.  However, she is most likely to be recognized either for playing Petunia Dursley in several of the Harry Potter films, or for her regular role as Marnie Stonebrook on season four of True Blood.

English stage and screen actor John Simm is celebrating his 47th.  He is a two-time BAFTA Television Award nominee for the BBC series Life on Mars and Exile and recently was a regular on ABC’s The Catch; he has also played The Master on Doctor Who.  He has received an Olivier Award nomination for starring in Simon Bent’s Elling.

Heather Hemmens, who stars on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s If Loving You Is Wrong, is turning 29 today.  Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, is 31.  He has starred in indie films like Ingrid Goes West and Folk Hero & Funny GuyThomas Ian Nicholas, who is 37, will be remembered by fans of the American Pie films for playing Kevin Myers.  Actress and comedian Annie Mumulo, who is turning 44, is best known for co-writing the Oscar nominated screenplay for Bridesmaids with Kristen Wiig.

Sue Lyon, who turns 71, is best known for her debut film.  She played the title character in the 1962 film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and won a Golden Globe Award.  She went on to a modest film and TV career that fizzled out by the end of the seventies.

Our sports birthdays begin with a couple of tennis greats.  Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) was the first and only black winner of Wimbledon or the US Open.  His win at Wimbledon in 1975, where he defeated Jimmy Connors in the final, is one of the great upsets in tennis history.  Virginia Wade, who is 72 today, won seven Grand Slam titles in her career, three in singles and four in doubles (in partnership with Margaret Court).  Since she won Wimbledon in 1977, no English woman has won a Grand Slam title.  Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, who is 63, made eight All-Star teams and won the National League MVP award for 1987.  Urban Meyer is 53 today.  One of the most successful active coaches in college football, he has won national championships at two different schools, Florida and Ohio State.

Second generation folk legend Arlo Guthrie turns 70.  He is known for writing the talking blues number “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” and had a Top 20 hit with his cover of “City of New Orleans” in 1972.  Bela Fleck, possibly the most respected banjo player in the world right now, turns 59.  Best known in bluegrass circles, he has also made jazz and classical crossover recordings, winning a Grammy for his album Perpetual MotionMavis Staples, who is 78, is best known for her recordings with her family’s soul and R&B band, the Staple Singers, who had #1 hits in the seventies with “”I’ll Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again.”  Neil Tennant, one-half of the synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys, is turning 63 today.   Songwriter Jerry Herman, who is 86, is another of our Broadway musical birthdays.  He has won Tonys for the music and lyrics for Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles, and is also known for several other musicals including Mame.

We have a giant to lead off our literary birthdays today.  Marcel Proust (1871-1922) is one of the great names of both French and 20th Century literature.  His reputation rests on his huge, seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time (sometimes known as Remembrance of Things Past).  Canadian writer Alice Munro is turning 86 today.  She is best known, as her Nobel Prize citation puts it, as a “master of the contemporary short story.”  One of her stories, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” was adapted by Sarah Polley into the film Away From HerJulian May was born the same day as Munro.  She is a well-known author of fantasy and science fiction, including the Saga of Pliocene Exile and Galactic Milieu series.

Jerry Nelson (1934–2012) was a core member of the Muppets team for over thirty years.  His roles on Sesame Street included Count von Count and Mr. Snuffleupagus, while on The Muppet Show (and related movies and series), he performed Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Lew Zealand, along with taking over Statler after Richard Hunt’s death.

John Gilbert (1899-1936) was a major silent film star of the 1920s, especially in romantic drama.  He starred in films such as The Big Parade, Flesh and the Devil, and A Woman of Affairs.  His career deteriorated rapidly in the sound era, not so much because of his voice as his poor relations with Louis B. Mayer and his slide into alcoholism.

Fred Gwynne (1926-1993) is remembered for his television roles, as Francis Muldoon on Car 54, Where Are You? and as Herman Munster on The Munsters.

Ron Glass (1945-2016) starred on Barney Miller as Det. Ron Harris for the show’s entire run and more recently played Shepherd Derrial Book of Firefly and Serenity.

If there’s one thing that people know about American painter James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), it’s that he had a mother.  Whistler is best known for the portrait he titled Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1, but which is universally called “Whistler’s Mother.”

Historical birthdays today include John Calvin (1509-1564), the French theologian and minister who ranks second only to Martin Luther as a leading figure of the Protestant Reformation.  Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was an engineer, physicist and inventor who is best known for his role in developing the alternating current system of electric power transmission.

On this day a year ago the headliners were Sofia Vergara and Jessica Simpson.

Sophia Vergara turns 45.  Her main gig is still staring as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family, while she will have a voice role in The Emoji Movie, which comes out later this month.  Forbes regularly identifies Vergara as the highest paid actress on television.  Jessica Simpson, who is 37, continues to drop periodic hints about a return to pop music.  Phyllis Smith, who turns 66, is currently a regular on Netflix’s The OAAdrian Grenier, most recently seen in the TV movie Love at First Glance, is 41 today.

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 July 10, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. So, how about a little musical bonus to today’s article.

    First, Arlo Guthrie doing his signature song:

    Next, America’s “first couple” of the banjo, Béla Fleck and his wife, Abigail Washburn.

    Béla and Abby won the Grammy for Best Folk Album in 2016.

    Like

  2. Fiona Shaw, unfortunately I remember her in that Super Mario Bros. film and 1998’s “The Avengers”, but fortunately she was in “My Left Foot”.
    Thomas Ian Nichols, spike that, I’m going to remember him from the 1993 film “Rookie of the Year” (I think that’s the only film Daniel Stern ever directed). I still like that one. I thought the first “American Pie” was fun, though I don’t really care about the rest.
    Arthur Ashe, a pretty historic sports figure; it’s terrible that his blood transfusion was botched back in the day.
    Andre Dawson, “The Hawk”, he won that 1987 MVP when the Cubs were a last place team; hey, one can only do so much.
    Arlo Guthrie, I like “Alice’s restaurant”, so that’s how I know about him & the song.
    Fred Gwynne, the tall man, i remember him best from his later appearances: “My Cousin Vinny”, “Fatal Attraction”, “Disorganized Crime” (kind of a weak film though, but I like the cast), “Pet Sematary” (I like The Ramones song of the same title more than the film itself), and “The Cotton Club”.
    Ron Class, yeah, I though he was pretty great in “Barney Miller”, a real standout there; I also remember him from 1995’s “Houseguest” as the uptight dentist who Sinbad’s character impersonates.
    Nikola Tesla, I saw a real good PBS documentary on him a few years ago; obviously he was a vital contributor. The sound of it to me is that he was a genius.
    Jessica Simpson, I think she’s okay.
    Adrian Grenier, I watched a few episodes of “Entourage” and remember when he did that documentary on finding his biological father or something like that. I’m going to admit to watching 1999’s “Drive Me Crazy”.

    Like

  3. Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Adrian Grenier Anymore

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