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February 14 & 15: Happy Birthday Jack Benny & Harvey Korman

0215BennyKorman

Jack Benny (1894-1974) learned the violin as a boy, and began performing at vaudeville theaters in his late teens.  Early in his career he was a serious violinist, but by the beginning of the 1920s he used it mostly as a prop.  In the 1930s, he moved into radio; The Jack Benny Program began airing in 1932, featuring a cast headed by Benny as himself, with Eddie Anderson as his valet, Rochester, Benny’s wife, Sadie Marks, as Mary Livingstone, and also including Mel Blanc, Dennis Day, and many more.

At the end of the 1940s, Benny moved to television, with his show airing regularly for fifteen seasons beginning in 1950.  Most of the cast carried over, although Mary Livingstone, who began suffering from severe stage fright in the early fifties, seldom appeared on the television show.

Benny also worked with some success in film.  He appeared in a number of 1930s MGM musicals, and starred in a number of Paramount comedies later in that decade.  Two of his most famous film appearances came in the early 1940s—he starred in an adaptation of Brandon Thomas’s play Charley’s Aunt, and then as Joseph Tura in Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be, which is also famous as Carole Lombard’s last film (she played Benny’s wife).

Harvey Korman (1927-2008), like Benny, grew up in the Chicago area.  He worked in theater in the 1950s, including a couple of Broadway appearances, and began working on television at the start of the 1960s.  He became known for his frequent appearances on The Danny Kaye Show, where he appeared on over 80 episodes, and for his voice work on The Flintstones as The Great Gazoo.

Korman’s most famous television work was as a regular on The Carol Burnett Show, where he won four Emmys and participated in segments such as the “Carol and Sis” sketches (as Burnett’s husband), and the “Nora Desmond” sketches, Sunset Boulevard parodies with Korman as Burnett’s butler.  These days, Korman is most likely to be remembered, though, for a film role, as Hedy Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

Other celebrities with birthdays yesterday include Madison Iseman, who played Bethany Walker in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; she celebrated her 21st.  Stephanie Leonidas, who turned 34, is known for starring in the fantasy film MirrorMask, and on Syfy’s DefianceAndrew Robinson, who is 76, made a dynamic film debut as the villain in Dirty Harry, and later was known for his recurring role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Birthdays today also include Mexican pop singer Gloria Trevi, who is 50.  She has had eight studio albums reach #1 on the charts in Mexico and a long list of hit singles.  Christopher McDonald, known for roles in films like Thelma & Louise, and as a regular on series like Family Law and Harry’s Law, is 63.  Megan Dodds, who celebrates her 48th, made her film debut in Ever After, but is better known for starring in the one-woman play My Name is Rachel Corrie in acclaimed performances in London and New York.

Allan Arbus (1918-2013) had a long career on film and television; his most-remembered role is likely as the recurring character of Dr. Sidney Freedman on MASH.

Our Valentine’s Day headliners last year were Simon Pegg and John Barrymore.

Simon Pegg turns 48 today.  He will return to the role of Benji Dunn in Mission: Impossible—Fallout and also make a return to the horror comedy genre in Slaughterhouse Rulez, as well as an appearance in Stephen Spielberg’s Ready Player One.

Meg Tilly turned 58; her latest project was appearing in last year’s War MachineAngela Robinson, who wrote and directed last year’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, celebrated her 47th.  Raymond Teller, the Teller of Penn & Teller, will return with his longtime partner for season 5 of Penn & Teller: Fool Us; he is 70.  Brett Dier, who turned 29, made his final appearance on Jane the Virgin, as his character died during season 3.  Freddie Highmore, who is 26, received a Golden Globe nomination for his starring role on the first season of ABC’s The Good DoctorDanai Gurira, who will be seen as of Friday as Okoye in Black Panther, turned 40; she also continues to appear on The Walking Dead.

Matt Groening and Jane Seymour were the headliners a year ago today.

Matt Groening, who is turning 64, remains an executive producer of The Simpsons, and is developing a new animated series for Netflix titled DisenchantmentJane Seymour celebrates her 67th; in the past year she appeared in a supporting role in The Female Brain and was part of a reenactment cast in the documentary Becoming Bond, about the casting of George Lazenby as James Bond.

Alex Borstein celebrates her 47th; she is a regular on Amazon Studios’ The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, season 2 of which will begin shooting in March.  Amber Riley, who turns 32, won an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for starring in the West End production of DreamgirlsJessica De Gouw, who is 30 today, starred in the Australian sci-fi thriller OtherLifeClaire Bloom, who returns to film after an absence of a few years in the upcoming Miss Dali, is 87 today.  Singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester, who is 67, released two albums last year, a collection of standards titled The Fellas, and a compilation album, Through the Eyes of Love.

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 February 15, 2018, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. In writing this article, I left out one February 14 birthday who has some notable recent accomplishments—soprano Renée Fleming celebrated her 59th birthday. She can be heard contributing to two of the five nominees for the Oscar for Best Original Score, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She will make her second career appearance on Broadway this year, as Nettie Fowler in a revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel.

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