November 14: Happy Birthday Veronica Lake and Dick Powell
Our headliners today were both familiar faces in the classic era of film noir.
Veronica Lake (1922-1973) became famous in the early 1940s for her “peek-a-boo” hairstyle (a very subdued version of which is in her photo above), but changed it during World War 2 after she learned that women working in factories were getting their hair caught in machinery when emulating her style. She had moved to Beverly Hills with her family in 1938 and began working in film in her late teens. Initially billed in films as Connie Keane, she began appearing under her famous screen name in the 1940 film I Wanted Wings.
One of Lake’s most famous roles was starring opposite Joel McCrea in Sullivan’s Travels; Lake was six months pregnant during filming; however, costume designer Edith Head came up with some ingenious ways to conceal the fact. Her other famous roles are the films she made with Alan Ladd. The first two of these, This Gun For Hire and The Glass Key, came out in 1942. Later in the decade the two reunited for The Blue Dahlia and Saigon. The latter was probably the last successful film Lake ever made; she had some serious personal problems, beginning but not ending with alcoholism, and found it very hard to get work after the late 1940s.
Dick Powell (1904-1963) began his entertainment career as the lead singer for a number of jazz ensembles during the late 1920s. When Warner Brothers bought his band’s recording label, they signed him to a film contract. By 1933 he was breaking through as a major star in Warner’s musicals; in that year he appeared in prominent roles in 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade, in all of which his character and Ruby Keeler’s were involved in a romance. He continued making mostly musicals through the end of the decade, often paired with Keeler or Joan Blondell (who he was married to for about 8 years).
By the early 1940s Powell wanted to break free from his song-and-dance-man image. He had the chance in 1944 when he was cast as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet. He went on to star in several additional noir thrillers in the late 1940s, including Cornered, Johnny O’Clock, and Pitfall. In the late 1940s he took his talents to radio in the role as Richard Diamond, Private Detective. In the mid-fifties, he began directing, with the best-remembered of his features likely being the World War 2 destroyer-vs.-submarine film The Enemy Below. After his divorce from Blondell, he married actress June Allyson; the two were together until Powell’s death from lung cancer in 1963.
Sandahl Bergman, who is 66 today, is probably best known for a pair of 1980s film roles, as Valeria in Conan the Barbarian and the villainous Queen Gedren in Red Sonja. Russell Tovey, who is turning 36, is a regular on Quantico and has appeared as Ray Terrill/The Ray in the Arrowverse. Also 36 is Vanessa Bayer, an Emmy nominee for her final season on Saturday Night Live who also appeared in the recent feature Office Christmas Party. Laura Ramsey, known for films like She’s the Man and Kill the Irishman and for starring on VH1’s short-lived Hindsight, celebrates her 35th. Stella Maeve, who is turning 28, stars on Syfy’s The Magicians as Julia Wicker.
Our Hall of Infamy adds Joseph R. McCarthy (1908-1957) today. McCarthy was elected to the US Senate in 1946 and is remembered for his reckless and unsubstantiated charges that all manner of Americans were Communist agents, a practice that acquired the name of McCarthyism. McCarthy “played himself,” via the use of archival footage, in the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck.
Our international headliners last year on this date were Zhang Yimou and Olga Kurylenko.
Zhang Yimou is turning 66. His latest film, The Great Wall, premiered last December in Beijing and was released in the US in February of this year. Olga Kurylenko celebrates her 38th today. She played the pianist Maria Yudina in The Death of Stalin, and starred with Antonio Banderas in the action comedy Gun Shy. She will also star in next year’s Johnny English 3.
Paul Attanasio is 58. His latest project is co-creating the CBS drama Bull with Dr. Phil McGraw, based on McGraw’s years as a jury consultant. Bull is now in its second season. Also turning 58 is Paul McGann, who will be joining the cast of the long-running British medical drama Holby City. D. B. Sweeney, who is 56, is the narrator of the History Channel reality series Mountain Men and was featured in the recent film The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. Patrick Warburton, who plays Lemony Snicket on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, is turning 53. Josh Duhamel, who is 45 today, returned to the role of William Lennox for Transformers: The Last Knight and starred in The Show.
Finally, let’s have a little music of Aaron Copland (1900-1990) on the date of his birth.
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.