February 26: Happy Birthday Betty Hutton and Tex Avery
Singer and actress Betty Hutton (1921-2007) began singing as a child—in the family speakeasy, or so the legend goes. Her formal performing career began in the late 1930s, when bandleader Vincent Lopez recruited her to sing with his orchestra. She made several recordings with Lopez in 1939, and went on to have a number of hit records in the 1940s. In 1940 she made her first appearances on Broadway, in the revue Two For The Show, and then in a major supporting role in Cole Porter’s Panama Hattie.
Hutton had appeared in a few Warner’s shorts in the late thirties, and then signed with Paramount. Her feature debut was in the musical The Fleet’s In in 1942, and most of the films she starred in for the next decade were musicals—Incendiary Blonde, Red, Hot and Blue, and most notably the film version of Annie Get Your Gun. The Greatest Show on Earth, the Best Picture winner for 1952, was a rare dramatic role for Hutton. Her most famous film role, however, is probably as Trudy Kockenlocker in Preston Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.
Hutton’s film career largely ended after a contract dispute with Paramount in the early 1950s. She starred on a one-season sitcom on CBS in 1959, but otherwise had only a few guest television roles. She continued to work on Broadway through about 1980, with her final appearance being as Miss Hannigan in Annie.
Frederick “Tex” Avery (1908-1980) was born and grew up in, you guessed it, Texas. After a short period studying at the Chicago Art Institute, he moved to Los Angeles, and by 1930 he was working as an animator for Walter Lantz. The first big step in his career came in 1935, when he moved to “Termite Terrace” to work for Leon Schlesinger Productions, making animated cartoons for Warner Brothers.
Promoted rapidly to director, Avery and a team of animators including Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett started revolutionizing the world of animated shorts—their calling cards included zany characters and cartoons that appealed at least as much to adults as to children. In 1937, in Porky’s Duck Hunt, Avery brought in a supporting player, a wacky and wild waterfowl given the name of Daffy. Three years later, he took a rabbit character created by Ben Hardaway, gave him a smart-alecky but cool-under-fire personality, and a catch phase of “What’s up, doc?”
In late 1941, Avery had a falling-out with Schlesinger, and moved to MGM. At his new studio, he made a wide variety of one-off cartoons like Red-Hot Riding Hood and Bad Luck Blackie, and made series featuring characters like Screwy Squirrel and George and Junior. His most famous and durable creation in his MGM years was a tiny, generally lethargic basset hound, known, like Bugs Bunny, for his catch phrase: “You know what? That makes me mad!”
Mark Dacascos, who turns 54, is a former martial arts champion who has been working in low-budget martial arts and other action films for about 25 years, since 1993’s Only the Strong. He also plays The Chairman on various versions of the Iron Chef series.
Today is the baptismal date of the short-lived Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), and in the absence of a definite birth date the best day to celebrate the birth of the author of plays like Tamburlaine the Great, The Jew of Malta, and Edward the Second.
Michael Bolton and Johnny Cash were our February 26 headliners last year.
Michael Bolton turns 65 today. He released his 23rd studio album, Songs of Cinema, early last year. He also appeared as himself on three episodes of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat.
Bill Duke turns 75; he directed the recently released legal drama Created Equal. Teresa Palmer, who celebrates her 32nd, starred in a pair of thrillers, Berlin Syndrome and 2:22, and will play Australian jockey Michelle Payne in the upcoming Ride Like a Girl. James Wan, who directed the upcoming Aquaman, is 41 today. Drew Goddard, who turns 43, is writing and directing the upcoming Bad Times at the El Royale, and is an executive producer on The Good Place; there are also rumors tying his name to an X-Force film. R&B singer Erykah Badu has been busy with her Badu vs. Every Thang tour in the past year; she turns 47.
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.