November 2: Happy Birthday Stefanie Powers and Luchino Visconti
Stefanie Powers celebrates her 75th birthday today. She was born in Hollywood, and as a girl studied ballet in the same class as Natalie Wood and future Bond Girl Jill St. John; all three of their lives would intersect with that of actor Robert Wagner in the future. She began working in film in the early 1960s. One of her first roles was costarring with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in McClintock! (she played their daughter). She then starred as April Dancer on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., a spinoff of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which ran for only one season.
In the 1970s, Powers had leading roles in films like The Boatniks and Herbie Rides Again, and did a lot of guest work on television. She was cast in her best-known role in 1979, as Jennifer Hart, a freelance journalist who marries tycoon Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner) and joins him in working as an amateur detective team. Hart to Hart ran for five seasons on ABC, and Powers and Wagner reunited to play Jennifer and Jonathan in a string of TV movies in the mid-1990s. Powers worked periodically, mostly in TV movies, until a few years ago.
Italian director Luchino Visconti (1906-1976) actually began his film career in France, as an assistant to Jean Renoir. He made his first feature as a director in wartime Italy; it was an adaptation of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, under the title of Ossessione (or Obsession). The Fascist government disliked the film and tried to destroy all copies of it, but Visconti was able to preserve a duplicate negative.
Visconti was also known for films like White Nights, Rocco and His Brothers, and The Damned, for which he received his only Oscar nomination, for screenwriting. He was also a noted stage director, especially famous for his stagings of classic Italian operas, particularly Verdi’s. He collaborated with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini on productions of La Traviata and Don Carlo, and with Leonard Bernstein on Falstaff.
One of Visconti’s most famous films brought him into partnership with another November 2 birthday celebrant, last year’s headliner Burt Lancaster. When Visconti began to work on his 1963 film The Leopard, 20th Century Fox was one of the backers, and they wanted a major Hollywood star in the cast so the film could be sure of covering its costs. When Lancaster was cast without Visconti’s being informed, the director was initially upset; however, once he and Lancaster met, they were able to work together very successfully.
Sean Kanan, who is 51 today, is known for his work on soap operas like General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful, and also played “bad boy” Mike Barnes in Karate Kid III. Director Jon M. Chu, who turns 38, has been responsible for several films in the Step Up series, as well as G. I. Joe: Retaliation and Now You See Me 2. Samantha Womack, well known to English TV viewers for her long run as Ronnie Mitchell on EastEnders, is celebrating her 45th. Marisol Nichols, who turns 44, is currently a regular on Riverdale as Hermione Lodge. Josh Wiggins, who is 19 today, is known for “troubled teen” roles in films such as Hellion, Max, and Mean Dreams.
Jack Starrett (1936-1989) is remembered for his roles in films like Blazing Saddles (as Gabby Johnson) and First Blood (as Deputy Galt).
A year ago on this date, k. d. lang and Burt Lancaster were our headliners.
k. d. lang is 56 today. Her latest projects are the album case/lang/veirs, a collaboration with her fellow singer-songwriters Neko Case and Laura Veirs, and a subsequent tour by the threesome in support of their album.
David Schwimmer, who is 51, appeared as Robert Kardashian on season 1 of American Crime Story, and then starred on AMC’s Feed the Beast. Katharine Isabelle, who appears in a recurring role on The Arrangement, is 36 today. Reshma Shetty, who celebrates her 40th, was a regular on CBS’s Pure Genius during its one and only season. Brandon Soo Hoo, who is 22, continues to play Scott Fuller on From Dusk till Dawn: The Series and has voiced Beast Boy in a couple of recent Teen Titans animated features. Peter Mullan turns 58; he will voice Akela the Lone Wolf in Andy Serkis’s Jungle Book feature, out next year. Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan is 52; he appeared in three features this year and was reported by Forbes to be the 8th highest paid actor in the world.
Finally, although Burt Lancaster (1913-1994) was covered in detail in last year’s article, let’s have a little encore for him, looking back at one of his most famous roles.
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.