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Author Archives: jestak2

February 27: Happy Birthday Joanne Woodward and Elizabeth Taylor


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Our first headliner today was married to Paul Newman.  Our second played Paul Newman’s wife in one of her most famous roles.

Joanne Woodward is turning 87 today.  She studied drama at Louisiana State University and began working in theater and television.  During much of the 1950s, she alternated between appearing in New York theater and in television anthology series such as The Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One.  She made her feature film debut in 1955, and in 1957 she starred in a psychological thriller about a woman who seems to have three different personalities:

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February 26: Happy Birthday Michael Bolton and Johnny Cash


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Two-time Grammy winner Michael Bolton is turning 64 today.  Early in his career, both as a solo artist and with the band Blackjack, Bolton was a hard rock/heavy metal man, but in the early 1980s he reinvented himself as a pop-rock singer/songwriter and began to have a string of hits.  Some of his singles were covers of old standards, like “When A Man Loves a Woman” and “Georgia on My Mind.”  However, others, including his first #1 hit, were songs he wrote or co-wrote.

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February 25: Happy Birthday Rashida Jones and George Harrison


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Rashida Jones is turning 41 today.  The daughter of music legend Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton made her screen debut in the miniseries The Last Don in 1997, and within a couple of years was cast in her first regular TV role, as school secretary Louisa Fenn on Boston Public.  She thought about leaving acting in the mid-2000s, but changed her mind when offered a role on season 3 of The Office.  She then was cast as Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation, and remained as a regular through the middle of its sixth season.

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February 24: Happy Birthday Edward James Olmos and Billy Zane


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Edward James Olmos is turning 70 today.  He began working in film and television in the seventies, but didn’t start to become known until he was cast in the role of El Pachuco in the play Zoot Suit.  He received a Tony nomination for the Broadway production and appeared in the 1981 film adaptation.  His next film role was as Gaff in Blade Runner, following which he was cast as Lt. Castillo on Miami Vice, a role that brought him an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

In 1988, Olmos appeared in his most famous film role.  He starred in Stand and Deliver as high school math teacher Jaime Escalante, who had become nationally famous for his success in teaching AP calculus at a high school with a predominantly Latino, low-income student body.  Olmos was nominated for Best Actor for his performance.

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February 23: Happy Birthday Robert Lopez and Kelly Macdonald


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Songwriter Robert Lopez is turning 42 today.  He began writing songs as a child and wrote two musicals during his studies at Yale.  After graduation, he teamed with another songwriter, Jeff Marx, on a musical called Avenue Q.  An innovative musical which featured Sesame Street style puppets interacting with human characters, Avenue Q ran for over 2500 performances on Broadway and won three Tonys including Best Musical and Best Musical Score.

In 2003, Lopez was approached by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, of South Park fame, who had seen Avenue Q and had the beginnings of an idea for a musical.  It took the threesome seven years of development, but in 2011, the musical The Book of Mormon premiered on Broadway.  It went on to win nine Tonys, including two that Lopez personally shared in, Best Book and Best Original Score.  The original cast album also won a Grammy.

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February 22: Happy Birthday Drew Barrymore and Lea Salonga


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Drew Barrymore turns 42 today.  The granddaughter of John Barrymore, she became famous in her own right at a very young age for playing Gertie in E.T. and then starring in Irreconcilable Differences.  But her childhood was far from idyllic—google “Drew Barrymore” along with “rehab” and you’ll probably learn more than you wanted to.

In the early nineties she began working regularly in film, although often in films that weren’t very well-received by either critics or audiences.  1996 was a bit of a turning point, as she appeared in Woody Allen’s ensemble film Everyone Says I Love You and was memorably terrified in the opening scene of Scream.  Two years later she starred in a pair of financially successful films that showed she had a talent for romance, The Wedding Singer, her first film with Adam Sandler, and a somewhat revisionist take on a classic fairy tale:

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February 21: Happy Birthday Kelsey Grammer and Sam Peckinpah


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Five-time Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer is turning 62 today.  After studying at Juilliard, he began working in theater and made his Broadway debut in 1981 in a revival of Macbeth—initially in a supporting part but eventually moving up to the title role.  He began working in television and soon landed the role of Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers, joining the show’s cast in its third season and becoming a regular a couple of seasons later.  He received two nominations for Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor during his time on the show.

When Cheers ended its run, Grammer was asked to continue playing his character on a spinoff series.  Frasier ended up being one of the most successful spinoffs in television history, and Grammer won four Primetime Emmys (out of ten nominations) for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy.

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February 20: Happy Birthday Rihanna and Sidney Poitier


 

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Today is Caribbean Day here when it comes to our headliners (although, technically, the Bahamas are not actually in the Caribbean).

Robyn Rihanna Fenty, known universally as Rihanna, turns 29 today.  She was born and grew up in Barbados.  In her early teens, she made the acquaintance of American record producer Evan Rogers, who helped her make some demo tapes and distribute them to record companies; as a result, she was able to audition for Jay Z at Def Jam Records, who signed her to a contract.  Her first album, Music of the Sun, was released in 2005.

That first album and its follow-up were successful, but her breakout came in 2007 with her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, which sold more copies than the first two combined, and included her first Grammy-winning hit:

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February 19: Happy Birthday Benicio del Toro and Lee Marvin


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Today’s article is headlined by a pair of Oscar winners.

Benicio del Toro is celebrating his 50th today.  He made a few TV guest appearances starting in 1987 and had a small part in Big Top Pee-wee, but his first major film role came in a James Bond film, as the villainous henchman Dario in Licence to Kill.  For the next few years, he seemed stuck in supporting parts, although occasionally he got a chance to stand out,  notably in The Usual Suspects as Fred Fenster.  Starring in Excess Baggage, the Alicia Silverstone vehicle that was a notorious bomb, might have derailed his career, but he bounced back.

In 2000, del Toro had an excellent year.  He had another small but distinctive part as Franky Four-Fingers in Snatch, was one of the leads in The Way of the Gun, and most notably, was one of the standouts in an ensemble crime film directed by Steven Soderbergh.

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February 18: Happy Birthday Molly Ringwald and John Hughes


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There were a lot of birthdays to choose from today, including three WTHH birthdays, but the pairing above was just too good to pass up.

Molly Ringwald is turning 49 today.  She began her screen career in a guest spot on Diff’rent Strokes which led to her playing the same character on the first season of the spinoff series Facts of Life.  She then appeared in Tempest, Paul Mazursky’s update of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, and in the sci-fi film Spacehunter.  And then a first-time director named John Hughes cast her as a teenage girl who learns that her family has forgotten about her 16th birthday:

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February 17: Happy Birthday Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jim Brown


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Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns 36 today.  He began acting as a child and started to become well known for a pair of roles he played as a teenager, Tommy Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun and Cameron James in 10 Things I Hate About You.  He scaled back his acting career for a few years while studying at Columbia University, but eventually dropped out and returned to film and television.  One of his first films after doing so was a film noir pastiche set in a high school:

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February 16: Happy Birthday Elizabeth Olsen and Mahershala Ali


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Elizabeth Olsen is celebrating her 28th today.  As a young girl, she made some appearances in The Adventures of Mary Kate and Ashley, a series of videos starring her older sisters (aka the Olsen Twins), as well as in their TV movie How the West Was Fun.  She resumed her acting career in 2011 as the star of the indie film Martha Marcy May Marlene, winning a lot of film critic association awards.  In the next two years she appeared in several films, including Liberal Arts and the US remake of Oldboy.

In 2014 she began to be involved in a pair of big-budget franchises.  She played Elle Brody in Godzilla, the first in the Monsterverse series that continues this year with Kong: Skull Island, and also had an end credits cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which turned out to be her first appearance as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; she has continued in the role in Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.  She and MCU compatriot Jeremy Renner co-star in the thriller Wind River, which premiered at Sundance last month.

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February 15: Happy Birthday Matt Groening and Jane Seymour


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Matt Groening turns 63 today.  After graduating from college, he moved to Los Angeles and while working a variety of jobs, he began creating a comic he titled Life in Hell.  One of his jobs was at a local alternative newspaper, the Los Angeles Reader, and in 1980, the paper became the first to carry Groening’s strip.  As Groening became somewhat better known, he was invited, in 1985, to create a series of animated skits for The Tracey Ullman Show.  Eventually the skits became a series of their own, which made its debut on Fox in 1989.

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