Category Archives: Celebrity Birthdays
Two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey turns 58 today. He and actress Mare Winningham were high school classmates, and starred together in the senior play, The Sound of Music. He then moved to New York and gradually built a successful career on Broadway, which culminated in his winning a Tony for playing Uncle Louie in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers. One of his first major screen appearances was in a 1987 telecast of the Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, with Spacey as Jamie Tyrone.
Spacey began working in film in the late eighties, and had supporting roles in films like Glengarry Glen Ross, as well as a starring role in Swimming with Sharks. His film breakthrough was in 1995, when he had three prominent film roles: in the medical thriller Outbreak as an Army doctor, as the serial killer in Seven, and in an Oscar-winning performance as Roger “Verbal” Kint in The Usual Suspects.
Television writer and producer Darren Star is turning 56 today. He studied at UCLA (where he and actress Daphne Zuniga were roommates for a while) and began his screen career writing the screenplay for the late eighties comedy Doin’ Time on Planet Earth. Just two years later he emerged from obscurity as the creator of a series about a Minnesota family that relocated to Beverly Hills, CA.
Star followed up Beverly Hills, 90210 with another quintessential 1990s series, Melrose Place. Central Park West was a misfire, but Star came back in 1998 with the most critically successful of his creations so far, an adaptation of Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City. Star won an Emmy as a producer on the series, and it brought acting Emmys to stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon, and Golden Globes to Parker and Kim Cattrall. Star then seemed to have a dry spell, but his most recent series, Younger, starring Sutton Foster, has been doing well and was renewed for a fifth season even before the premiere of its fourth.
I found a picture of our headliners together taken when Rose Bryne and Bobby Cannavale, who have been dating for several years, visited Kristin Chenoweth backstage when she was performing in a revival of On the Twentieth Century.
So, today is Kristin Chenoweth’s birthday. The tiny soprano with the really big voice is turning 49. She earned degrees in musical theater and opera performance at Oklahoma City University, and at one point was going to pursue an opera career, but she chose to go into musical theater instead. She made her Broadway debut in the Kander & Ebb musical Steel Pier, and then won a Tony as Sally Brown in a 1999 revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
In 2003 Chenoweth was cast in what is probably her signature role, as Galinda/Glinda in Wicked. She was nominated for the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, losing to costar Idina Menzel. She has subsequently starred in Broadway revivals of The Apple Tree, Promises, Promises, and as mentioned above, On the Twentieth Century (for which she received her third Tony nomination). She has been in several City Center Encores! productions, and has made a number of concert tours.
No singer and no female artist has ever won more Grammys than Alison Krauss, who is turning 46 today; among living artists, only Quincy Jones equals her total Grammy count of 27. She began studying violin at five and was 13 when she won her first fiddling competition. She was featured on an album made by her brother Viktor a year later, and her first official solo album, Too Late to Cry, came out in 1987, when she was sixteen. That was followed by her first album with her longtime band, Union Station, Two Highways. Her first Grammy came in 1991 for her album I’ve Got That Old Feeling.
Krauss normally alternates between albums where she is billed with Union Station and “solo” albums. She has also done a wide variety of other collaborations. She has performed for a long list of film soundtracks; most notably, she, and Dan Tyminski of Union Station, are all over the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? She has had a seemingly improbable, but very productive (and Grammy-winning) collaboration with Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. Her latest studio album, Windy City, came out earlier this year.
Albert Brooks, who is turning 70 today, is a man of many talents and achievements. He has been a successful comedian, who received a Grammy nomination for his 1975 album A Star is Bought. He has written, directed, and starred in several critically successful films, such as Lost in America, Defending Your Life, and Mother. He has also given critically praised acting performances in films like Broadcast News (for which he was Oscar-nominated) and Drive.
What many people will recognize Brooks for, though, is his work as a voice actor. He has appeared (or rather, been heard) in several episodes of The Simpsons, and was the voice of Jacob the Tiger in Dr. Dolittle and The Businessman in The Little Prince. These roles, however, take a back seat to his work in a pair of Pixar features, where he was the voice of Marlin, a clownfish in search of his son.
Well look at this—I found a picture of today’s headliners together (with Janice Dickinson of America’s Next Top Model fame in between them).
Jon Lovitz is celebrating his 60th today. He became a member of the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1985, remaining a regular through 1990 and returning on occasion thereafter. He has starred on the TV comedies Foley Square and Mr. Box Office and was the voice of the lead character, Jay Sherman, on the ABC/Fox animated series The Critic. He has also had a long list of TV guest roles. He made his Broadway debut in the cast of Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party in 2001. And, he has appeared in a variety of feature films, now and then in a lead role, as in High School High, but more commonly in a supporting part, as in A League of Their Own or 3000 Miles to Graceland.
But no matter what, many people will think of him as a pathological liar…
It’s Judy Greer’s 42nd birthday today. Greer studied theater at DePaul University and began working in film and television soon after her graduation. In 1999 she had her first two noticeable roles, a memorable cameo in Three Kings (a sex scene with George Clooney) and a major supporting role in the high school black comedy Jawbreaker. In 2003 she began appearing in one of her best known roles, as Kitty Sanchez on Arrested Development.
Today our headliners are a pair of directors, who, while not known for big commercial successes, have both made a number of well-regarded films.
Abel Ferrara is turning 66 today. He studied film at SUNY-Purchase and made several short films while he was there. He began to get some attention beginning at the end of the 1970s with a pair of low-budget features, The Driller Killer and Ms. 45. During the 1980s he worked with Michael Mann, directing the pilot for Crime Story and a pair of episodes of Miami Vice. His adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Cat Chaser did not go well—the film was taken away from him and rather severely edited. However, at the beginning of the 1990s he came back with one of his best known films, and worked for the first time with Christopher Walken.
Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra is celebrating her 35th today. She was the winner of the Miss World pageant of 2000, following which she began her film career. She worked very hard, making over 30 features in her first decade. She has been nominated for eleven Filmfare Awards (the Bollywood equivalents of the Oscars), winning five times including Best Actress for the 2008 film Fashion.
Chopra lived in the US for a few years as a teenager and in the past few years has begun to work outside of Bollywood. She was one of the narrators for the 2013 documentary Girl Rising. For the past two months she has been on multiplex screens in the film version of Baywatch, and she has a couple of other projects in the pipes, including an adaptation of Daniel Pearle’s play A Kid Like Jake. But her biggest success so far has been on television, as the first South Asian to be topcast in an American TV series, as Alex Parrish on ABC’s Quantico.
Donald Sutherland is celebrating his 82nd birthday today. After earning his college degree, the Canadian-born Sutherland moved to England. During the sixties he began working in British film and television. He appeared in a few horror films starring Christopher Lee and on several British television programs, of which The Saint and The Avengers are likely the best known to American viewers. His film career progressed when he had a good supporting role in The Dirty Dozen, and he emerged as a star in 1970 when he appeared in two more war films: as the hippie tanker Oddball in Kelly’s Heroes, and as a Korean war Army doctor nicknamed “Hawkeye.”
We feature a couple of Golden Age greats today. I was able to find a picture of the two of them together—that’s Stanwyck on the left, with Rogers standing next to her second husband, actor Lew Ayres.
“Sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels.”
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995) began her entertainment career as a Fort Worth, TX, teenager when vaudevillian Eddie Foy recruited her as a stand-in for his act one night. By the time she was nineteen she was starring on Broadway in the Gershwins’ Girl Crazy. She was signed by Paramount the same year, but soon moved to Warner Brothers and then RKO. At Warner’s she had supporting roles in classic musicals like 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933, but it was at RKO that she became a star.
Rogers’ second film at RKO was a musical titled Flying Down to Rio. It starred Gene Raymond and Dolores Del Rio, with Rogers as half of the “beta couple” opposite one Fred Astaire. Between 1933 and 1939 Astaire and Rogers were paired for nine musicals with RKO, with Top Hat and Swing Time being the acknowledged classics. During this period Rogers also appeared in a number of non-musical, non-Astaire films which established her acting credentials. One of her best roles was in Stage Door.
Linda Ronstadt becomes the first repeat headliner in this series today as she turns 71. An eleven-time Grammy winner and one of the must successful solo female vocalists ever, she began her career when she dropped out of Arizona State University and joined an old Arizona acquaintance in Los Angeles, becoming the lead singer of a folk-rock trio, the Stone Poneys. They had a Top 20 single with “Different Drum” before breaking up, at which point Ronstadt embarked on a solo career.
Ronstadt’s second studio album, Silk Purse, came out in 1970 and included the hit “Long, Long Time,” which brought her her first Grammy nomination. However, it was with her fifth album, Heart Like a Wheel from 1974, that her career really took off. She had six straight albums reach #4 or higher on the Billboard 200 and eight Top Ten singles in a stretch of about 6 years, and was widely recognized as the leading female rock star of her time and the first “arena class” female rocker.
“No movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad.”
Harry Dean Stanton is turning 91 today. He began working in film and television in the fifties, in guest roles on TV and small roles in film, often uncredited or billed as Dean Stanton. He began to get better parts in the seventies, such as Homer Van Meter in Dillinger and the bent cop Billy Rolfe in Farewell My Lovely. One of his most famous roles was as the engineering technician Brett in Alien, which raised his profile considerably.
Stanton has been in cult classics like Escape From New York, Christine, and Repo Man. He has also done plenty of more mainstream films, such as Private Benjamin, Pretty in Pink, Wild at Heart and The Green Mile; many people will remember his cameo in The Avengers from a few years ago. He appeared in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and returned to at least one episode of the Showtime continuation. And at least once in his career, he got a really plum starring role, courtesy of director Wim Wenders.