After an unconventional early upbringing, River Phoenix became a child actor, appearing in a number of movies and television shows before becoming a star at 15 with his role as Chris Chambers in “Stand by Me.” Over the next several years, he starred in movies such as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “My Own Private Idaho,” and “Running on Empty,” for which he earned an Academy Award nomination. His promising film career less than 10 years old, Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993 at 23. We remember Phoenix’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1970: River Phoenix, U.S. actor and singer known for starring roles in movies including “Stand By Me” and “Running on Empty,” is born in Madras, Oregon.
In interviews, Phoenix said he didn’t choose roles he thought would advance his career, but roles he wanted to play. Characters he played included the young Indiana Jones in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” a Marine in “Dogfight,” a gay street hustler in “My Own Private Idaho,” and a country musician in “The Thing Called Love,” the last film he completed before his death. Read more
1951: Jimi Jamison, U.S. singer-songwriter who was a member of Survivor, is born in Durant, Mississippi.
Jamison joined the group in 1984, after it had already become known for “Eye of the Tiger,” the theme song to the Sylvester Stallone film “Rocky III.” With Jamison replacing vocalist Dave Bickler, the band had several more hits and remained a popular touring act in recent years. Jamison also co-wrote and sang “I’m Always Here,” the theme to “Baywatch.” Read more
1946: Keith Moon, English drummer for The Who named by Rolling Stone the second greatest drummer in history, is born in London, England.
1945: Bob Peck, English actor who played gamekeeper Robert Muldoon in “Jurassic Park,” is born in Leeds, England.
1925: Robert Mulligan, U.S. film director whose movies include “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Man in the Moon,” and “Same Time, Next Year,” is born in the Bronx, New York.
1922: Jean Darling, U.S. child actress who appeared in the “Our Gang” movie serials, is born in Santa Monica, California.
1922: George Kell, U.S. Major League Baseball player and broadcaster who had a 15-year playing career and was a longtime play-by-play announcer for the Detroit Tigers, is born in Swifton, Arkansas.
Kell played from 1943-1957 with the Philadelphia Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles. He batted more than .300 each year from 1946-53. He played for the Tigers during his batting duel with Ted Williams. After he retired, Kell broadcast Tigers games from 1959 to 1996. Longtime Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell and Kell became close friends while working together on TV and on the radio. Read more
1917: Tex Williams, U.S. singer-songwriter known best for his No. 1 novelty hit, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” is born in Ramsey, Illinois.
1912: Gene Kelly, U.S. actor, dancer, and singer whose popular movies include “An American in Paris” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
We can thank romance for bringing young Kelly back into the dance world. At 15, Kelly realized that dancing might help him win the hearts of the girls he admired, so he took it up again. He took his newfound talent seriously, creating dance routines with his brother and performing in talent shows for prize money. Within a few years, he was teaching others to dance and moved to New York to find his fortune as a choreographer. Read more
1868: Edgar Lee Masters, U.S. author whose notable works include “Spoon River Anthology,” is born in Garnett, Kansas.