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July 11: Happy Birthday Stephen Lang and Thomas Mitchell

0711LangMitchell

Today our headliners are a pair of noteworthy character actors.

Stephen Lang, the son of philanthropist Eugene Lang, turns 65 today.  He began working in theater after his graduation from Swarthmore, and made his Broadway debut in a 1975 revival of Hamlet; nearly 20 years later he would play the title role in an early 1990s revival.  He was a Tony nominee for Robert Falls’ The Speed of Darkness and originated the role of Lt. Col. Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men.  He began working in film and television in the mid-1980s, and in 1993 had a pair of good roles as Ike Clanton in Tombstone and Gen. George Pickett in Gettysburg.

Early in the 2000s Lang had a rare starring role as Stonewall Jackson in Gods and Generals.  Later in that decade he played FBI Agent Charles Winstead in Public Enemies, and came to the notice of moviegoers who had never seen him before as Col. Miles Quaritch in Avatar.  More recently he has appeared in the recurring role of Waldo on AMC’s Into the Badlands, while last year he starred in one of the year’s sleeper hits, playing The Blind Man in the horror film Don’t Breathe.

In 1939, Thomas Mitchell had about as productive a year as any actor in film has ever had.  He appeared in prominent roles in five films—as Gerald O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, reporter Diz Moore in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Kid Dabb, the veteran pilot who is going blind, in Only Angels Have Wings, the beggar king Clopin in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the alcoholic Doc Boone in Stagecoach.  All five films are still well thought of today, three were nominated for Best Picture (I assume you all know which one won), and Mitchell won Best Supporting Actor for Stagecoach.

Mitchell had some other good years in his career, of course.  He was Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life and appeared in films like The Hurricane, The Black Swan, Wilson, High Noon, and While the City Sleeps.  He won an Emmy on the early 1950s medical anthology series The Doctor and a Tony for the musical Hazel Flagg, making him the second winner of the unofficial Triple Crown of Acting.

Australian actress Rachael Taylor is 33 today.  She currently plays Trish Walker on Jessica Jones and previously starred on ABC’s short-lived 666 Park AvenueSerinda Swan also turns 33.  She has been a regular on Breakout Kings and Graceland, and will star on the upcoming ABC series Marvel’s Inhumans.

Greg Mottola, who is 53, is known for directing films such as Superbad, Adventureland, and Keeping Up with the JonesesJustin Chambers, who has starred as Dr. Alex Karev on Grey’s Anatomy for its entire run, is turning 47 today.  Michael Rosenbaum, who is 45, will be remembered as Lex Luthor on Smallville, and recently had a small role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Jeff Corwin, who turns 50, is a wildlife biologist who is known for hosting a wide variety of science and nature programming over the last two decades, such as Animal Planet’s The Jeff Corwin Experience and ABC’s Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin.

Director Tom Holland (not to be confused with the Spider-Man actor) is 74.  A horror specialist, he has made films like Fright Night and Child’s PlayBruce McGill, who Animal House fans will remember as Daniel Simpson Day (aka “D-Day”), is 67.  He has made a number of films with Michael Mann and was a regular on Rizzoli & IslesTab Hunter, a 1950s heartthrob known for films like Battle Cry and Damn Yankees, and for his #1 single “Young Love,” turns 86 today.

Music birthdays today include Jeff Hanna, who is 70.  Hanna, a songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, is best known as a co-founder and longtime member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; Hanna has been with the band for over 50 years.  Folk rocker Suzanne Vega is turning 58.  She is best known for her #3 single from 1987, “Luka,” and for the remix of her song “Tom’s Diner” by the English band DNA, which also was a Top Ten single.  Canadian singer Alessia Cara, who is celebrating her 21st, has already had three Top Ten singles in the US and been nominated for eight Juno Awards, in a career that is just two years old.  The late Nicolai Gedda (1925-2017) was a Swedish tenor known for his lovely voice and his facility with languages; he recorded operas in at least eight different languages but was particularly known for French opera roles.

Some might recognize Yul Brynner (1920-1985) for starring as Chris Adams in The Magnificent Seven, while others may know him as Pharaoh Rameses II from The Ten Commandments, or as the Gunslinger in Westworld.  But it’s safe to say that he is best known for the role of the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.  Brynner won a Tony for originating the role on Broadway in 1951, and a second special Tony over 30 years later recognizing his over 4500 appearances in the role.  He also won the Oscar for Best Actor for the 1956 film adaptation.

American author E. B. White (1899-1985) was known for two things: 1) his children’s novels, such as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, and 2) his revision of a writing style guide originally written by William Strunk, titled The Elements of Style, but just as often known as “Strunk & White” from its authors.  Jhumpa Lahiri, who is 50 today, won a Pulitzer Prize for her short story collection Interpreter of Maladies and also has written the novel The Namesake, adapted into a film directed by Mira Nair.  Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) was an English physician who is best known for publishing The Family Shakespeare, an edition of Shakespeare’s plays which censored elements considered unsuitable for women and children—hence the term “bowdlerization.”

Anyone who has seen Braveheart will recognize the name of Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), aka Robert I, King of Scots.  The events of the First Scottish War of Independence, which resulted in Robert becoming King and overcoming an English attempt to make Scotland subordinate to their southern neighbor, are presented with occasional accuracy in the 1995 film (along with quite a bit of fiction).

On July 11 a year ago our headliners were Lil’ Kim and Richie Sambora.

Lil’ Kim, who is 42 or 43 (sources differ on her year of birth), continues to hint about issuing  a fifth studio album (her last one came out in 2005).  Mindy Sterling, who turns 64, has been starring with Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion on the web series Con ManSela Ward is 61 today; she played the President of the US last summer in Independence Day: Resurgence, and is one of the stars of the Epix network series Graves.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was the 6th President of the US, and had one of the most notable post-White House careers of any President.  He was elected to Congress in 1830, served for the rest of his life, and became a leading anti-slavery voice, nicknamed “Old Man Eloquent.”  He was involved in the Amistad case, and was played in the movie about the case—which also featured yesterday’s headliner Chiwetel Ejiofor—by Anthony Hopkins.

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 11, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I can remember taking notice of Stephen Lang when I first saw Tombstone back during its initial release, and more recently thought he was excellent in Public Enemies. In addition to his acting career on stage, he is a playwright, having written a one-man show titled “Beyond Glory” which was the subject of a 2015 documentary film of the same title.

    I’ve enjoyed many of Thomas Mitchell’s performances through the years, but my favorites are Stagecoach and Only Angels Have Wings.

    When Yul Brynner won his Tony for The King and I, it was, peculiarly, for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, even though we would normally see the King of Siam as a lead role (as the Oscars did a few years later). In any case, it was one of the most famous performances in musical theater history, one of the iconic leading man turns of the 1950s, along with Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady and Robert Preston in The Music Man.

    I know the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band largely through their three Will the Circle Be Unbroken albums, where they are joined by all-star guest casts in celebrations of traditional country and bluegrass music. Any fan of traditional music will want them.

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    • You should have posted “Shall We dance” instead. “Shall We Dance” is my favorite song from “The King and I”.

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      • i like it as well, but it’s more of number for Anna, whereas “A Puzzlement” is the King’s signature song.

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        • We could have a whole post about this, lol. Read my comments about Yul below. Yul has all the fun. 😉

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  2. First of all, I can’t believe it’s been a year since the Celebrity Birthdays started. Thank you Jestak and whoever else made this possible.

    Now for my comments of the day. Tab Hunter I primarily know as Anthony Perkins’ ex-boyfriend. I read “Charlotte’s Web” and watched both versions of the movie as a kid. So you can see why “Charlotte’s Web” is a big part of my childhood.

    Yul Brynner is one of my favorite classic actors.I love watching him be menacing and enchanting at the same time. He is one of my favorite members of “The Magnificent Seven” (along with Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn). Yul is also wonderful in “The King and I”, and my favorite song from the movie is “Shall we Dance”. In addition to being married four times, Yul had an affair with Hurd Hatfield (from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”) while they were studying with Michael Chekov. (Many of their classmates and journalist Leo Lerman have since confirmed the affair.) That goes to show Yul has all the fun. 😉

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  3. I think I gave Stephen Lang some love last year for films like “The Band of the Hand” and (especially) “Manhunter”, but I don’t think I mentioned “Last Exit to Brooklyn”.
    Tom Holland, well, I’m all about the original “Fright Night”, but I never knew he was the writer for “Cloak and Dagger” (now there’s that nostalgia button!).
    Bruce McGill, I loved his character of Hank Weldon from the “Miami Vice” episode ‘Out Where the Buses Don’t Run’ (David Strathairn played his ex-partner!), and when it comes to films I think of him in “Wildcats”, “No Mercy”, “My Cousin Vinny”, and “The Last Boy Scout”.
    Suzanne Vega, yeah, I love that song “Luka”; sad as heck, but I dig it.

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  4. When I was a teenager, my family watched Tombstone, Gettysburg, and Manhunter all within a few weeks of each other. For each movie, I was like, “That guy that plays Ike Clanton/George Pickett/Freddy Lounds does a great job.” I was so shocked to realize they were all the same person–I even initially argued with my dad that there was no way it was the same guy. Stephen Lang has been a favorite of mine ever since.

    If I had to pick a favorite Lang role, though, it’s Clanton. I quote that character on a regular basis far more than is normal or emotionally healthy.

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