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January 9: Happy Birthday Imelda Staunton and J. K. Simmons

 

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Imelda Staunton celebrates her 62nd today.  She graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at 20 and worked for several years in regional theater in England.  One of her first London performances came in a 1982 revival of The Beggar’s Opera, for which she received Olivier Award nominations for Most Promising Newcomer and Best Actress in a Musical.  She won her first of four Olivier Awards, for Best Supporting Actress, in 1985, and has since won Best Actress in a Musical three times—as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and Mama Rose in Gypsy.  Most recently she starred as Sally Plummer in a London revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

Staunton began working in film and television in the mid-1980s.  On television, she has been a two-time BAFTA Televsion Award nominee, as Octavia Pole in the BBC series Cranford, and as Alma Hitchcock in the HBO/BBC film The Girl.  Film audiences are most likely to recognize her for playing Dolores Umbridge in two Harry Potter films, or perhaps as Knotgrass from Maleficent.  Her most acclaimed performance, though, was as the title character in Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake, for which she received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress, and won BAFTA and European Film Awards in that category, along with a long list of film festival honors.

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January 9: Happy Birthday Joan Baez and Jimmy Page

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Two music legends, known for very different kinds of music, headline today’s article.

Folk icon Joan Baez celebrates her 76th today.  She began performing in her late teens.  Folkie Bob Gibson invited her to perform with him at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, and she then signed a recording contract with Vanguard Records.  Her first album, Joan Baez, came out in 1960, and reached a respectable 20th on the Billboard 200.  Baez’s sound and style have evolved a lot through the years; at the beginning, it was very austere—just Baez singing a variety of traditional songs, accompanying herself on the guitar, with Fred Hellerman of the Weavers supplying a second guitar on a few tracks:

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