July 16: Happy Birthday Ginger Rogers and Barbara Stanwyck
We feature a couple of Golden Age greats today. I was able to find a picture of the two of them together—that’s Stanwyck on the left, with Rogers standing next to her second husband, actor Lew Ayres.
“Sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels.”
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995) began her entertainment career as a Fort Worth, TX, teenager when vaudevillian Eddie Foy recruited her as a stand-in for his act one night. By the time she was nineteen she was starring on Broadway in the Gershwins’ Girl Crazy. She was signed by Paramount the same year, but soon moved to Warner Brothers and then RKO. At Warner’s she had supporting roles in classic musicals like 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933, but it was at RKO that she became a star.
Rogers’ second film at RKO was a musical titled Flying Down to Rio. It starred Gene Raymond and Dolores Del Rio, with Rogers as half of the “beta couple” opposite one Fred Astaire. Between 1933 and 1939 Astaire and Rogers were paired for nine musicals with RKO, with Top Hat and Swing Time being the acknowledged classics. During this period Rogers also appeared in a number of non-musical, non-Astaire films which established her acting credentials. One of her best roles was in Stage Door.
Rogers won Best Actress for starring in the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, and remained a major star well into the 1940s. She helped Billy Wilder get his directing career started, arranging for him to direct her in The Major and the Minor, and starred in films like Roxie Hart and Lady in the Dark. By the 1950s she was finding good roles harder to come by, although she did team with Cary Grant in Monkey Business. She also returned to Broadway, as one of several actresses who played Dolly Levi during Hello, Dolly!’s long run. A final high point to her career was directing a 1985 off-Broadway production of the musical Babes in Arms.
Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), like Ginger Rogers, came to Hollywood by way of Broadway. She began working as a dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies at about 16, and had her first starring role on Broadway by the time she was 20. She began working in film shortly thereafter. In 1930, she worked with director Frank Capra for the first of five times. Her roles got better as the thirties progressed; in 1937 she had her first of for Oscar-nominated roles as the title character of the melodrama Stella Dallas. Her 1939 film Union Pacific was the first to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
In 1941, Stanwyck had a terrific year. She made her final film with Capra, Meet John Doe, and was nominated for Best Actress for the second time for Ball of Fire. Good as that film is (and its terrific), today some might find Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve just a little bit better.
Again like Rogers, Stanwyck found success working with Billy Wilder, as her starring role in Double Indemnity brought her her third Best Actress nomination. She then received her fourth a few years later for Sorry, Wrong Number. She went on to a television career that brought her three Emmys. The first was for her work on the anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show, the second as the ranching matriarch Victoria Barkley on The Big Valley, and the third for the 1983 miniseries The Thorn Birds.
Faye Grant, who is turning 60, is best known for playing Juliet Parrish on the mid-eighties sci-fi miniseries V, as well as the sequel miniseries V: The Final Battle, and the continuation series that aired for one season on NBC. Sherri Stoner, who turns 58, worked as a writer and producer on the nineties animated series Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, and voiced Slappy Squirrel on the latter show (“now that’s comedy!”). AnnaLynne McCord, who starred as Naomi Clark on 90210, is turning 30 today. Rosa Salazar, who is 32, will play the title character in Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming film Alita: Battle Angel.
Dave Goelz, who celebrates his 71st, has been a Muppet performer for over 40 years. He is known for the characters of Bunson Honeydew, Beauregard the janitor, and Zoot, and since Jim Henson’s death has performed Waldorf; however, he is best known for The Great Gonzo. Michael Flatley, who is 59 today, will be remembered for starring in the Irish dance show Riverdance, which once was almost impossible not to see if you watched PBS, as well as similar shows like Lord of the Dance.
Rubén Blades, who is celebrating his 69th, is a Panamanian-born singer and actor. He has won eight Grammys, mostly in categories like Best Tropical Latin Album and Best Latin Pop Album. He has appeared in films like Predator 2 and Once Upon a Time in Mexico and plays Daniel Salazar on Fear the Walking Dead.
Stewart Copeland, considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, turns 65. He is best known as the drummer for The Police. Pinchas Zukerman, one of the finest violinists of the last half of the 20th century, is turning 69.
Our big sports birthday today was a pioneer in sports medicine. Dr. Frank Jobe (1925-2014) began working with the LA Dodgers as a team physician in the late 1960s. In 1974, when star pitcher Tommy John injured the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Jobe devised a new surgical procedure to repair the pitcher’s elbow, allowing John to resume his career. The technique Jobe developed is what is now known as “Tommy John surgery,” and has helped a long list of baseball pitchers to extend their careers.
We also have a number of more conventional sports birthdays. Barry Sanders, one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, turns 49. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his ten years in the league and was easily selected to the Hall of Fame. Max McGee (1932-2007) was a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s who scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. Spanish cyclist Miguel Indurain, who is turning 53, won the Tour de France five consecutive times from 1991-1995, a Tour record since Lance Armstrong was stripped of his titles. Kim Rhode, who turns 37, is the first person to win a medal at six consecutive Summer Olympics, in shooting (double trap and skeet, to be precise). Carli Lloyd, who captained the US Women’s National Team to the 2015 World Cup title, turns 35. She is a two-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Retired tennis star Margaret Court, who is turning 75, was the first woman in the “open” era to win the singles Grand Slam, and won 24 Grand Slam singles titles (as well as 40 in women’s or mixed doubles) in her career.
Tony Kushner, who turns 61, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Angels in America, which also brought him a pair of Tonys and an Emmy for writing the HBO miniseries screenplay. He has been nominated for two screenwriting Oscars, for Munich and Lincoln, and won an Olivier Award for the book of the musical Caroline, or Change. Sheri Tepper (1929-2016) was a writer of science fiction, horror and mystery fiction, best known for the nine novels of the True Game series, divided into three trilogies.
Corin Redgrave (1939-2010), part of the extensive Redgrave-Richardson acting family, was a Tony nominee for the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Not About Nightingales. In film, he appeared with his father Michael and sister Vanessa in Oh! What a Lovely War and played William Roper in A Man For All Seasons. Character actor Percy Kilbride (1888-1964) was best known for playing Franklin “Pa” Kettle in Universal’s Ma and Pa Kettle series in the late forties and early fifties.
Our historic birthdays today were both from Norway. Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) was one of the leading figures of the so-called “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration. He led the first expedition to reach the South Pole successfully, in 1911. Diplomat Trygve Lie (1896-1968) was the foreign minister of the Norwegian government-in-exile during World War 2 and later was the first Secretary General of the United Nations.
One year ago today, Phoebe Cates and Will Ferrell headlined this article.
Phoebe Cates, who turns 54, was the first WTHH subject to be a headliner. Will Ferrell, who is 50, is producing and starring in Daddy’s Home 2, out in November, and will star in next year’s Holmes and Watson.
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 July 16, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sanders, Corin Redgrave, Dave Goelz, Frank Jobe, Ginger Rogers, Tony Kushner, will ferrell. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.