Category Archives: Celebrity Birthdays
Diane Lane celebrates her 52nd today. She was 14 when she made her debut as one of a pair of precocious teens falling in first love in A Little Romance, and not long after made the cover of Time Magazine for a story on “Hollywood’s Whiz Kids.” One of the films supporting players, one Laurence Olivier, dubbed her “the new Grace Kelly.” That was hype that anyone would have had a hard time really living up to, and Lane never quite did it, but she’s had a fine career. This article/interview discusses the first couple of decades of Lane’s career, including the burnout that forced her to take 2-3 years off after filming The Cotton Club.
Lane has appeared in a wide variety of films over the years. She played rocker Ellen Aim in Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire, Paulette Godard in Chaplin, Judge Hershey in Judge Dredd, race horse owner Penny Chenery in Secretariat, and Martha Kent in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman. She was an Oscar nominee, and received a bunch of other acting accolades, for starring in 2002’s Unfaithful:
Geena Davis, a WTHH subject, celebrates her 61st birthday today. Her screen debut was in a supporting role in Tootsie in 1982. She then was cast in a regular on Buffalo Bill, but (in a recurring trend with Davis and prime time television) the show ran only two seasons. Her film career, however, began to take off with prominent roles in Fletch, The Fly, Beetlejuice, and most notably The Accidental Tourist, for which she won Best Supporting Actress. In 1991, she starred opposite Susan Sarandon in a genre-blending road film:
David Lynch, often considered to be America’s leading surrealist filmmaker, is turning 71 today. After many years of making short films, Lynch first came to people’s notice with the horror film Eraserhead, which became a popular midnight movie during the late 1970s. He followed up with the highly acclaimed The Elephant Man, and went on to explore various genres through the years—epic science fiction (Dune), contemporary noir (Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive), road movies (Wild at Heart), and more. Three of his films—The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive—have brought him Best Director nominations.
Lynch has at various times sampled being a singer-songwriter and a painter and photographer. However, his other big venture has been the Twin Peaks project, which has so far consisted of the 1990-91 TV series, a 1992 prequel feature film, and the upcoming revival miniseries on Showtime. The original series has often been ranked among the greatest TV programs of all time.
Country superstar Dolly Parton turns 71 today. Born in eastern Tennessee, she began performing on Knoxville radio and television stations at about the age of ten, and she moved to Nashville the day after she graduated from high school. In 1967, country star Porter Wagoner invited her to become a regular on his show, and then persuaded his label, RCA, to sign her.
Parton began recording duet albums and singles with Wagoner along with several solo efforts, and gradually built a fan base. Her 1970 single “Joshua” became the first of 25 #1 country hits in her career, a record for a female performer. It also received one of the earliest of her 47 Grammy nominations (she has won seven). Like any musical artist active over a long period, she has had ebbs and flows to her success; her heyday was from about 1974-85.
Mark Rylance, who is celebrating his 57th today, is the newest of England’s long line of “theatrical knights.” He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982. During his stage career, he has worked extensively on both the West End and Broadway. He has won two Olivier Awards, as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and in the lead role in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem. To go with them, he has three Tonys, one for Jerusalem, one for a revival of Marc Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing, and one for playing Olivia in an all-male performance of Twelfth Night. He served for 10 years as the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe.
Rylance’s first major film role was as Ferdinand in Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books, a very loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He has won two BAFTA Television Awards for Best Actor, for the 2005 TV movie The Government Inspector, and for the 2015 miniseries Wolf Hall, adapted from historical novels by Hilary Mantel, in which he plays the lead role of Thomas Cromwell. The latter role brought him nominations for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe. Last year, Rylance won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Bridge of Spies.
James Earl Jones celebrates his 86th today. He entered acting after his early 1950s Army service, working as a janitor to pay the bills until he got steady work. He made his Broadway debut in 1958 in Dore Schary’s Sunrise at Campobello. His feature film debut followed in 1964 in a small role in Dr. Strangelove.
In 1968 Jones starred on Broadway as the lead in Howard Sackler’s play The Great White Hope, based loosely on the life of boxer Jack Johnson, the first African American to win the world heavyweight title (renamed Jack Jefferson in the play). Two years later, Jones reprised the role in a film adaptation. He won a Tony for the stage role and won a Golden Globe and receive an Oscar nomination for the film:
Today we have a pair of big names from the Broadway musical taking, if you’ll pardon the pun, center stage.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is turning 37, began writing his first musical, In the Heights, while a student at Wesleyan University; an early version was a student theater production. After he graduated he expanded it, and the revised version ran in tryouts before opening on Broadway in 2008, winning four Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The 2015 West End production won three Olivier Awards. Miranda then went on to co-write the score of Bring It On: The Musical, and to contribute Spanish dialogue and lyrics to the 2009 revival of West Side Story.
Around the time that In the Heights opened, Miranda began reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, and was inspired to compose, first, a rap, and then a whole musical about Hamilton’s career. Hamilton: An American Musical opened on Broadway in 2015, and last year it was nominated for a record 16 Tonys, winning 11, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, while the original cast album won a Grammy.
Andrea Martin celebrates her 70th today. The actress and comedian began her screen career as something of a scream queen, in Cannibal Girls (an early Ivan Reitman film) and Black Christmas. More recently her filmography has included roles in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel. Her television resume includes a very long list of guest roles, along with starring in the Hulu series Difficult People. But the high point of her screen career remains her work on Second City Television from 1976-1984, for which she won two Emmys for writing and received one nomination for acting in roles like Edith Prickley:
Faye Dunaway is celebrating her 76th birthday today. She made her Broadway debut as Margaret More in A Man For All Seasons shortly after graduating from Boston University. A few years later came her film debut in The Happening in 1967; that same year she received her first Oscar nomination as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde. A year later, she co-starred with Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair:
Orlando Bloom celebrates his 40th today. He began acting in his teens, spending two years with London’s National Youth Theatre and appearing on the BBC series Casualty. He had a small role in a 1997 biopic of Oscar Wilde and then attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Following his graduation, he would up spending some time down in New Zealand, for the shooting of the films which gave him his first big role:
Kirstie Alley turns 66 today. She worked for several years as an interior designer before being cast in her first acting role, as Lt. Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As the eighties went on she had several successful film roles, starring in Summer School, Shoot to Kill, and especially Look Who’s Talking. In 1987, she joined the cast of the hit sitcom Cheers as Rebecca Howe, and was nominated five straight years for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy, winning in 1991.
Today is definitely one of the three or four lightest days for celebrity birthdays since this series began last July.
Known as the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” Mary J. Blige turns 46 today. As a teenager, she made a tape in a recording booth at a local mall, which her mother’s boyfriend sent to an executive at Uptown Records, and she was signed to a contract. Initially she was used as a backup singer, but she prepared an album under the tutelage of Sean “Puffy” Combs. That album, What’s the 411?, was released in 1992 and made Blige an immediate success.
Blige has remained a successful recording artist for nearly 25 years now, while also branching out to take an occasional acting role, as in the 2012 film Rock of Ages. Over her career, she has displayed a striking ability to reinvent herself. She has won nine Grammys, which have come in four different music categories—Rap, R&B, Pop, and Gospel. She has had four #1 albums and five singles reach #1 on the R&B chart.
Director and writer Walter Hill is turning 75 today. Hill began working in film in the late 1960s, serving as a second AD on The Thomas Crown Affair and Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run. He began to find work as a writer in the early seventies, notably on The Getaway and The Mackintosh Man. His first film as a director was the boxing movie Hard Times, but it was his second directing effort, the 1978 crime film The Driver, that began to put him on the map.