July 27: Happy Birthday Norman Lear and Taylor Schilling
Today our headliners are the creator of some of the most influential television programs of the past, and the star of one of the most heralded programs airing today.
Norman Lear is celebrating his 95th birthday today. He dropped out of college to join the Air Force in World War 2. He worked in PR and as a door-to-door salesman before getting into writing for television. He wrote for several series during the 1950s before creating his first series in 1959; given the times it was perhaps inevitable that it was a Western, The Deputy. After that show was canceled, Lear spent about a decade as a writer and producer on a variety of projects, before he came up with the idea of a comedy about a working-class American family. ABC didn’t like it, but CBS did, and the series was an instant critical success, although its ratings did not take off until its second season.
All in the Family was the #1 show on television for five consecutive seasons, from 1971-76, and won over 20 Emmys. All four of the main cast members—Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, and Sally Struthers—won at least one acting Emmy. The series also spawned two successful spinoffs, Maude and The Jeffersons, plus the “second generation” spinoff Good Times. Other successful Lear series that made their debuts in the seventies included Sanford and Son, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and One Day at a Time. Starting in the 1980s, Lear began to focus much more of his time and effort on political activism.
Taylor Schilling is turning 33 today. She studied theater at Fordham and NYU, and made her screen debut in the indie film Dark Matter. She starred on NBC’s Mercy for its single season, played Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged: Part I, and starred in The Lucky One, a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. More recently she has headlined the indie films The Overnight and Take Me. Most notably, she has been an Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for starring as Piper Chapman on Orange is the New Black.
Rade Šerbedžija, who is 71 today, was one of the leading actors in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and ’80s. During the civil strife in the former Yugoslavia in the nineties he moved to Western Europe and then the US, where he has been most noticeable as a villain in films like The Saint and Taken 2, and on season 6 of 24.
Roxanne Hart, who turns 65, was a regular on Chicago Hope’s first two seasons and starred in the cult classic Highlander, and was a Tony nominee for Peter Nichols’s Passion. Maria Grazia Cucinotta, an Italian actress best known in the US for her appearance in The World is Not Enough, is 49 today. Also turning 49 is Cliff Curtis, who played Travis Manawa on Fear the Walking Dead.
Bobbie Gentry, who is 73 today, was one of the first female country singers to write and produce her own records. She had a huge hit in 1967 with “Ode to Billy Joe,” but perceptions of her as a “one hit wonder” may not be accurate. Folk singer and musicologist Guy Carawan (1927-2015) was never a big mainstream figure, but he had a big cultural impact on the day when he introduced the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to his arrangement of the old spiritual “We Shall Overcome.” Nick Reynolds (1933-2008) was also a folk musician, best known as one of the founding members of the Kingston Trio. Reynolds was with the original Trio from their origin in 1957 to their disbanding a decade later, and then rejoined the reconstituted Trio in 1988 for another decade.
Max Scherzer, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball over the past five seasons, turns 33. He won the Cy Young Award in 2013 with Detroit and again last year with Washington and has made five consecutive All-Star Games. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Leo Durocher (1905-1991) was a good enough player to start for two World Series winners, the Yankees in 1928 and the Cardinals in 1934, but was a great manager, leading the New York Giants to a World Series crown in 1954 and retiring with over 2000 wins. He was married to actress Laraine Day for over a decade. Figure skater Peggy Fleming is 69 today. She won three straight world championships and a gold medal at the 1968 Winter Olympics, and since then has had a long career in sports broadcasting.
Screenwriter Jerry Juhl (1938-2005) was recruited by Jim Henson in the mid-fifties as a performer on Sam and Friends. He went on to be a writer for almost every major Muppets undertaking from the sixties to the late nineties. He was an Emmy winner for his writing for The Muppet Show and wrote or co-wrote every Muppets feature film but one through Muppets from Space.
Italian actor Adolfo Celi (1922-1986) will be remembered by James Bond fans as Emilio Largo from Thunderball; he also had a long career in Italian film and appeared in other English-language films like Von Ryan’s Express and The Agony and the Ecstasy. Character actor Maury Chaykin (1949-2010) was known for his roles in films such as My Cousin Vinny, Devil in a Blue Dress, and Cutthroat Island, and also starred in the title role of A&E’s A Nero Wolfe Mystery. Keenan Wynn (1916-1986) was a durable character actor with a very long filmography. Fans of Disney live-action films might recall him as the villainous tycoon Alonzo Hawk in several films. He also played roles like Col. Bat Guano in Dr. Strangelove and Hezekiah Sturdy in The Great Race.
Sir Geoffrey de Havilland (1882-1965) was a pioneer of aviation in Great Britain. He was a leading aircraft designer by his early thirties, and is famous for designing the de Havilland Mosquito, a multi-purpose combat aircraft used in World War Two, and the de Havilland Comet, the world’s first commercial jetliner. He was a first cousin of actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. While de Havilland designed aircraft, Gary Gygax (1938-2008) designed games. He had a long career in the game industry, but was best-known for being the co-inventor, along with Dave Arneson, of Dungeons & Dragons.
The headliners one year ago were Maya Rudolph and Triple H.
Maya Rudolph is keeping very busy as she turns 45. An incomplete list of her recent activities would include these: she is a voice actor in The Emoji Movie, which is out this weekend, had a small in CHiPs, and has made guest appearances on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Triple H continues to be active in the WWE on his 48th. Alex Rodriguez, who turns 42, retired from major league baseball last August. Cassandra Clare is 44. The latest book in her Shadowhunter Chronicles universe, Lord of Shadows, came out earlier this year, while last fall saw the publication of The Bronze Key, part of the Magisterium series she writes with Holly Black.
Donnie Yen, who turns 54, was seen earlier this year in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau will continue to be seen on Game of Thrones until the series ends or until Jaime Lannister joins the show’s ever-mounting casualty list. The Danish actor is 47 today. Julian McMahon is celebrating his 49th; he made multiple appearances on the first season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Bill Engvall, who is 60, made two appearances in the final season of Last Man Standing. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who recently joined the regular cast of Vikings as Bishop Heahmund, is turning 40.
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 27, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Bobbie Gentry, Donnie Yen, Gary Gygax, Jerry Juhl, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maya Rudolph, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Norman Lear, Taylor Schilling. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.