Born Today in History ›
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Published: 9 months ago
James Dean became a legend of the silver screen on the strength of just three movies: "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause," and "Giant." Before "East of Eden" catapulted him to stardom, he had a few uncredited movie roles, a stage credit here and there, a handful of guest spots on television shows. Then came his amazing string of feature films, only one of which would be released during his lifetime. Just months after the release of "East of Eden," Dean died in a car crash, robbing the 24-year-old's fans of future performances and cementing his role in Hollywood lore as a tragic hero. After his death, all three of Dean's roles earned him posthumous award nominations, and "East of Eden" won him a Golden Globe. We remember Dean's life as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
Coleman began his acting career in commercials and was soon spotted by television producer Norman Lear. He was 10 when he joined the cast of "Diff'rent Strokes," a sitcom about a wealthy white family that adopts two African-American boys, as Arnold Jackson. The screen-stealing Coleman's cherubic face soon seemed to be "everywhere, from TV to T-shirts to lunchboxes," according to his obituary in USA Today. Read more
1958: Sherri Martel, U.S. professional wrestler and manager also known as Sensational Sherri, is born in Birmingham, Alabama.
1948: Dan Seals, U.S. singer and guitarist known as England Dan, who performed as one-half of England Dan & John Ford Coley and had hits including 1976's "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight," is born in McCamey, Texas.
His well-crafted songs tended to be insightful and graphic with lofty themes. In 1989, his music video for the song "Rage On" addressed a topic rare in country music: an interracial relationship. It showed angry youths smashing the windows of the car of a young man dating a girl of a different race. One boy hurled a beer bottle at the girl's father. The song itself was about small-town values. "When we record songs, we take chances," Seals said at the time. "We feel we are on the cutting edge of what we can do." Read more
1937: Harry Wu, Chinese human rights campaigner who spent nearly two decades in labor camps in China, is born in Shanghai, China.
Dean has been name-checked in dozens of pop and rock songs, including a few that are all about him: "James Dean" by the Eagles, "Come Back Jimmy Dean" by Bette Midler. and "Jim Dean of Indiana" by Phil Ochs, to name a few. And his name comes up in even more. In Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," Dean is sandwiched between Einstein and "Brooklyn's got a winning team." In "Rather Die Young," Beyonce tells her dangerous crush, "You're my James Dean." Lady Gaga's "Speechless" refers to an ex's "James Dean glossy eyes." John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" has young Jack scratching his head and doing "his best James Dean" to impress Diane with his cool. And that's just a scratch on the surface of songs referencing Dean. Read more
1928: Jack Larson, U.S. actor known best for playing reporter Jimmy Olsen on the "Superman" TV series, is born in Los Angeles, California.
1926: Neal Cassady, U.S. author and poet who was a member of the Beat Generation circle and served as the model for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," is born in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1925: Jack Lemmon, U.S. actor known for roles in films including "Some Like It Hot" and "Days of Wine and Roses," is born in Newton, Massachusetts.
Adapted from a 1958 "Playhouse 90" TV episode written by J.P. Miller, Blake Edwards' "Days of Wine and Roses" was one of the first films to give serious treatment to alcoholism rather than play drunks for cheap laughs. Lemmon and Lee Remick give gut-wrenching performances as a downward spiraling couple who succumb to their addictions at the expense of everything else in their lives. Both Lemmon and Remick were nominated for Academy Awards for their work, and, ironically, both would later seek treatment for alcoholism, as would director Edwards. Read more
1922: Audrey Meadows, U.S. actress who played Alice Kramden on "The Honeymooners," is born in New York, New York.
1921: Lana Turner, U.S. actress known for femme fatale roles in movies including "The Postman Always Rings Twice," is born in Wallace, Idaho.
It all started with the legendary story of Turner's discovery. No years of struggle for her, no failed audition after failed audition … she was a 16-year-old high school student when she was spotted by an industry insider while enjoying a Coke at a café. In a whirlwind tale of classic Hollywood, Turner was immediately signed to Zeppo Marx's talent agency, and within months she was starring in her first movie, "They Won't Forget." Read more
Fans of comic books and superheroes all over the world know Kane as the man behind Batman. But every superhero origin story must have its share of secret identities and plot twists, and this is no different. A book by Marc Tyler Nobleman, with illustrations by fan-favorite "Batman" artist Ty Templeton, examines the contributions of writer Finger to the character who would become one of the most beloved in American history. Read more
1899: Lonnie Johnson, U.S. musician who pioneered the use of guitar and violin in jazz, is born in New Orleans, Louisiana.
1894: King Vidor, U.S. filmmaker nominated five times for an Academy Award for best director, is born in Galveston, Texas.
1882: Thomas Selfridge, U.S. lieutenant who was the first person to die in a crash of a powered airplane, leading to the U.S. Army requiring helmets for their first pilots, is born in San Francisco, California.
1850: Kate Chopin, U.S. author known best for her novel "The Awakening," is born in St. Louis, Missouri.
1834: Dmitri Mendeleev, Russian chemist who formulated the periodic law and is noted for his work with the periodic table, is born in Verkhnie Aremzyani, Russia.
1828: Jules Verne, French author known best for novels including "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth," is born in Nantes, France.
In his novel "From the Earth to the Moon," travelers were shot into space using a giant cannon. Readers through the years have noted several similarities between Verne’s story and the Apollo space program of the 1960s. As in Verne’s story, NASA used three man crews, launched spacecraft from Florida, used ocean landings and built the rockets out of aluminum rather than steel. Read more
1820: William Tecumseh Sherman, U.S. general who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, is born in Lancaster, Ohio.
1700: Daniel Bernoulli, Swiss mathematician and physicist known for Bernoulli's principle, the mathematical underpinning of how an airplane wing works, is born in Groningen, Dutch Republic.