J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were once close friends and members of an informal literary discussion group called the Inklings. We remember Tolkien’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were once close friends and members of an informal literary discussion group called the Inklings. We would have liked to have sat in on one of those conversations. We’ll have to settle for reading, over and over, Tolkien’s classic novels, “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” We remember Tolkien’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1937: Glen A. Larson, U.S. television producer who created series including “Battlestar Galactica,” “Knight Rider,” and “Magnum, P.I.,” is born in Long Beach, California.
Larson, also an accomplished singer and composer, was a powerhouse in the television landscape in the 1970s and ’80s, when he churned out hits that became staples in millions of living rooms every night, according to his November 2014 obituary by The Associated Press. He also co-composed the theme songs for some of his hits, including the frequently sampled tune from “Knight Rider” and the orchestral music behind “Battlestar Galactica,” his son said. Read more
1930: Robert Loggia, U.S. character actor who starred in such movies as “Scarface” and “Big” and on TV’s “The Sopranos,” is born in New York, New York.
Loggia’s gruff voice and tough-guy looks found him plenty of work in the movies and on TV as both criminal and crime-fighter. He played a Miami drug lord usurped by Al Pacino in “Scarface” (1983), a sadistic crime boss in David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” (1997), and as violent ex-con Feech La Manna in several episodes of “The Sopranos.” Read more
1930: Barbara Stuart, U.S. actress known for her portrayal of Miss Bunny on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” is born in Paris, Illinois.
1929: Sergio Leone, Italian film director of movies including “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, is born in Rome, Italy.
1926: George Martin, British music producer known as the Fifth Beatle who was behind the board for all of the Fab Four’s original studio recordings, is born in London, England.
Martin, who was born Jan. 3, 1926, in London, was known as the Fifth Beatle, a claim also made by several musicians, but the band regarded Martin as the true fifth member. A reserved man, Martin quietly helped the Beatles mature from an English club act to the musical geniuses they were meant to be. Read more
1923: Bud Adams, U.S. businessman who owned the Tennessee Titans and played a key role in the development of the American Football League, is born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
The son of a prominent oil executive, Adams built his own energy fortune and founded the Houston Oilers, according to his 2013 obituary by The Associated Press. He moved the team to Tennessee in 1997 when he couldn’t get the new stadium he wanted in Houston. The franchise, renamed the Titans, in 2000 reached the Super Bowl that Adams had spent more than three decades pursuing. Adams’ 409 wins were the most of any current NFL owner. He won his 400th career win in the 2011 season finale when his Titans defeated the team that replaced his Oilers in Houston, the Texans. His franchise made 21 playoff appearances in 53 seasons, eighth among NFL teams since 1960. Read more
1916: Betty Furness, U.S. actress and consumer advocate who won a Peabody Award for commentary provided in her segment on the “Today” show, “Buyline: Betty Furness,” is born in New York, New York.
1916: Maxene Andrews, U.S. singer and one of the Andrews Sisters, who sang World War II-era hits including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” is born in Mound, Minnesota.
1910: John Sturges, U.S. movie director whose films include “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Great Escape,” is born in Oak Park, Illinois.
1909: Victor Borge, Danish pianist and comedian known for his humorous performances, is born in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The appeal of his comedy ultimately lay in the conflict between the stuffy formalism of classical music and the whimsical wordplay and physical pratfalls he brought to his performances. One famous gag had the elegant, tuxedo-clad Borge approaching the piano and going about a number of self-serious adjustments – fiddling with the score, checking the height of the bench, minutely inspecting the keyboard – but never actually playing a piece of music before rising triumphantly and taking a bow. “Look at a symphony concert on TV and turn off the sound,” he once said. “If you have the slightest sense of humor, you will laugh yourself silly – the musicians look and act absolutely ridiculous.” Read more
1907: Ray Milland, Welsh actor who won an Academy Award for his role in “The Lost Weekend,” is born in Neath, Wales.
One of his most memorable roles came in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder,” where he played Tony Wendice, a former professional tennis player who wishes to have his wealthy wife killed. It was another role that might have gone to Cary Grant – Grant had wanted the part, but the studio was reluctant to let him play a villain. “I keep playing neurotics because I’m a Welshman and so I’m supposed to be moody,” Milland once said when asked about his frequent casting in noir films. “But I don’t think Welshmen are any more moody than normal. It’s the rest of the world that’s out of step.” Read more
1905: Anna May Wong, U.S. actress who was the first Chinese-American movie star, with roles in movies including “The Thief of Baghdad” and “Shanghai Express” with Marlene Dietrich, is born in Los Angeles, California.
When a perfect role for an actress of Chinese descent did arise – that of O-Lan, a primary character in “The Good Earth” – Wong was denied the part. The movie, based on Pearl S. Buck‘s novel of life in a Chinese village, included a wide range of Chinese characters – and was cast with zero Asian lead actors. It was the norm to cast ethnic roles with laughably nonethnic actors (and that norm persisted for some time – think Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). Even if the movie’s higher-ups had wanted to cast Wong in the lead, they couldn’t. The Hays Code – a series of laws governing what could and couldn’t be shown in mid-century cinema – didn’t allow interracial kisses onscreen. The male lead was played by a white man, so Wong wasn’t even a possibility. She was left to watch a German actress play the role she so wanted. Read more
1894: ZaSu Pitts, U.S. actress in films from 1917’s “The Little Princess” to 1963’s “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” is born in Parsons, Kansas.
1892: J.R.R. Tolkien, English author known best for his “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and its prequel, “The Hobbit,” is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Tolkien himself dismissed claims that he based his story on Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (“The Ring of the Nibelung”): “Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.” Critics argue back and forth about the degree of importance of the Ring cycle to “The Lord of the Rings,” but one thing they generally all agree on is that both Tolkien and Wagner were heavily influenced by Northern European mythology. Wagner appears to have been the first to have combined the mythic elements of a golden ring and an object conferring power over the world into the power-rich ring itself, and Tolkien certainly wrote about a similar ring. But his epic stands on its own as a companion to Wagner’s “Ring,” not in its shadow. Read more
1879: Grace Coolidge, U.S. first lady who was the wife of President Calvin Coolidge, is born in Burlington, Vermont.
1793: Lucretia Mott, U.S. abolitionist and women’s rights activist who helped organize the pivotal Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights, is born in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
106 B.C.: Cicero, Roman philosopher whose oratory and writing style influenced centuries of writing, is born in modern-day Arpino, Italy.