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Taylor Lautner’s Birthday

taylor_lautner300February 11 is Taylor Lautner’s birthday! The actor is best known for his role as Jacob Black in the Twilight film series.

Lautner was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1992, and began practicing karate heavily at the age of six. Within just one year, he was winning tournaments. After meeting the found of  Xtreme Martial Arts,  Michael Chaturantabut, he attended one of his karate camps and trained with him for the next several years. He received a black belt at the age of eight and won several junior world championships. Chaturantabut, who played the Blue Ranger in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescueconvinced Lautner to try out a career in acting. Lautner was already very active in many extracurricular activities at school, so he often flew back and forth from Michigan to Los Angeles for auditions before his family finally relocated to California.

After a string of minor television roles and voiceover work, Lautner landed his breakthrough role as Shark Boy in Robert Rodriguez’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-DFor three months, he lived in Austin, Texas while filming the movie. Three years later, in 2008, Lautner was pushed by his agent to go to an open casting call in Portland for the first screen adaptation of the widely popular Twilight series. The young actor auditioned for the role of Jacob Black, the Native American friend of the lead character, Bella Swan. With no knowledge of the series or the character, Lautner went into the audition and read lines with Kristen Stewart, who had already been cast in the role of Bella. He landed the role, not knowing that it would quickly propel him into celebrity status.

twilight calendarThe Twilight saga followed a love triangle between three characters – Bella, a human, Edward, a vampire, and Jacob (portrayed by Lautner), a werewolf. Though it was not given favorable reviews by critics, the movie was a commercial success due to its cult following, grossing $392 million worldwide. The adaptation of the second film was immediately picked up, though the director was hesitant to recast Lautner in the second film because of the major physical changes his character went to between the first and second part of the saga. To avoid being recast, Lautner gained almost 30 pounds of muscle to get himself into proper shape. He went on to star in the following four Twilight movies, which grossed a total of $3 billion worldwide. His role as Jacob Black built up a significant fanbase with people of all ages rooting for “Team Jacob.”

Lautner has taken on a few other projects including roles in romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, action flick Abduction, and comedy Grown Ups 2, though none have been as commercially successful as the Twilight series. Voted as one of People’s “100 Most Beautiful People” in 2009, Lautner has also been romantically linked to other young celebrities like Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. In his spare time, he roots for some of his favorite sports teams like the University of Texas Longhorns and University of Michigan Wolverines and has been known to make home movies with his Shark Boy co-star, Taylor Dooley.

Happy birthday, Taylor!

Sources: IMDB, Wikipedia, Biography.com

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James Dean’s Birthday

james dean1On February 8, 1931, James Dean, the “forever young” actor who appeared in films East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, was born.

Dean began his life in Marion, Indiana, born to Winton Dean and Mildred Wilson. Dean’s father, who was originally a farmer, moved to California to become a dentist, and six years later, Dean’s family joined his father in Santa Monica, California. Dean had a very close relationship with his mother, who some said was the only person capable of understanding him. When Dean was only nine years old, his mother started experiencing stomach pains and soon after died of uterine cancer. His father doubted his abilities to take care of his young son alone, and sent Dean to live with his Quaker aunt and uncle on a farm in Fairmont, Indiana.

During his struggling adolescent time, Dean looked to Rev. James DeWeerd, a local Methodist pastor, for advice and friendship. It is thought that DeWeerd had a major influence on some of Dean’s interests later in life like bullfighting, car racing, and theater. After graduating high school, Dean moved back to California where he studied law at Santa Monica College, but quickly switched to the University of California, Los Angeles to pursue a degree in theater. He was picked from a group of 350 other actors to play the part of Malcolm in Macbeth, and after just this one stage performance, he dropped out of college to take on a career in acting full-time.

The newbie actor made his first television appearance in a commercial for Pepsi, and earned a speaking part in Sailor Beware, alongside Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. He was convinced to move to New York City in 1951 to further pursue his career by his then mentor, Roger Brackett. His career began to take off after he was accepted into the Actor’s Studio under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg. A series of performances in episodes of television shows like Kraft Television Theatre and Robert Montgomery Presents began to make Dean a recognizable force in the acting world.

james dean 2In 1953, director Elia Kazan was searching for someone to fill the role of the emotionally complex ’Cal Trask’ in a screenplay adaptation of East of Eden by John Steinbeck. After Steinbeck met Dean, he thought the young actor was perfect for the role and he was immediately cast. Probably his most prominent film portrayal was that of the misunderstood teenager, Jim Stark, in Rebel Without a Cause. This role instilled him in the heart of American youths as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment.

His last film was Giant, which he scooped up a supporting role for as an oil-rich Texan alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. On September 30, 1955, Dean, who was a non-professional car racer on the side, took his new Porsche 55 Spyder out to a race with his mechanic, Rolf Wütherich. On the way to the race, he received a speeding ticket, and not much later he was involved in a deadly head-on collision with a 23-year-old Cal Poly student. Dean’s car flipped in the air, and he and Wütherich were killed almost immediately.

After his death, Dean was nominated for two Oscars for his work in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. He became the first actor to receive a nomination posthumously and the only actor to receive two nominations posthumously in history. Because of his death at the age of 24, he remains one of those celebrities who will be viewed as forever young, and his cinematic impact on American teens lives on through today.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, The Biography Channel

 

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Oprah’s Birthday

Oprah_WinfreyJanuary 29 is Oprah Winfrey’s birthday! Winfrey is a media mogul, actress, philanthropist, and producer, who is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show ran for 25 seasons, won multiple awards, and is credited with popularizing confessional media.

In 1954, Winfrey was born in a rural town in Mississippi, and lived an impoverished childhood with her grandmother until her mother moved her to inner-city Milwaukee at the age of 6. Winfrey has stated that she suffered sexual abuse from her male family members and her mother’s male friends when she was younger. She eventually moved to Nashville to live with her supposed father who was a barber turned businessman.

Winfrey’s father, Vernon, put an emphasis on her education, and she became an honor student, eventually receiving a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. Around this time, she began reporting news for a local black radio station, and soon became the youngest and first black female anchor on  Nashville’s WLAC-TV. After moving to Baltimore in 1976 to co-anchor the six o’ clock news, she was hired on as a co-host for Baltimore’s TV chat show, People are Talking.

It was after a move to Chicago to host AM Chicago, a morning show with low ratings, that Winfrey began to take the televised talk show world by storm. She brought the show from last to first in ratings, passing up former leader Phil Donahue‘s talk show. Because of her bold and open personality, she gained hundreds of thousands of viewers, and was cast in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple in 1985. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and the next year was given her own hour-long syndicated talk show named The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show’s syndication allowed it to be on 120 channels, gaining a whopping 10 million loyal viewers. In its first year, the show made $125 million, $30 million of which went to Winfrey. In order to gain ownership of her program from ABC, Winfrey started her own production company called Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards). This move meant Winfrey would make even more from the continued syndication of her show.

During the early years of her show, it was dubbed as tabloid television. Not wanting to be associated with other gossipy and “trashy” television shows, Winfrey shifted the topics of her show and began reporting on a wider range of topics including health, geopolitics, spirituality, and celebrities who were involved in social issues. At first, her ratings suffered, but the respect she earned from her decision to avoid tabloid topics gained her popularity, and her viewership steadily increased.

Winfrey’s opinions and endorsements have proven to have a huge influence on public opinion. Her launch of “Oprah’s Book Club,” has had a significant impact on the publishing industry. After her successful weight loss efforts, Winfrey’s personal chef and trainer both produced best-selling books. Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and Rachael Ray can all credit their talk show successes to Winfrey and Harpo Productions after each made multiple appearances on The Opera Winfrey Show. Winfrey’s only political endorsement came with the campaign President Barack Obama, for whom it is estimated she influenced over a million votes in his favor.

In 1999, Winfrey co-founded the Oxygen Network, which produced programming targeted at female audiences. The next year she launched O, The Oprah Magazine and soon after signed a contract to continue making The Oprah Winfrey Show through 2011. When her 25-year old talk show ended, it was syndicated on 212 stations in the United States and 100 countries across the world. She started her own network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, when her contract with ABC was finished. The network didn’t receive much attention at first, but made headlines when Winfrey interviewed Lance Armstrong, cyclist and seven time Tour de France winner. His titles were rescinded when he was charged with using performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong’s admission of his substance abuse on OWN reportedly earned the network millions of dollars in revenue.

Winfrey has been ranked as the richest African-American of the 20th century, the only black billionaire in North America, Life magazine’s most influential woman of her generation, and the greatest black philanthropist in the history of the United States. As a children’s rights activist, Winfrey played a pivotal role in President Bill Clinton signing a bill creating a nationwide database of convicted child abusers. She also founded the Family for Better Lives foundation and was the first person to receive the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was given to Winfrey by President Obama in 2013 for the contributions she has made to her country.

Happy birthday, Oprah!

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB

 

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Ellen Degeneres’ Birthday

39th Annual People's Choice Awards - PortraitsJanuary 26 is Ellen Degeneres’ birthday! Degeneres is an American comedian, actress, and talk show host best known for starring in her self-titled sitcom, Ellen, and hosting her own talk show since 2003 called the Ellen Degeneres Show.

Degeneres was born in Metairie, Louisiana in 1958, and moved to Atlanta, Texas with her mother when she was a teenager after her parents divorced. She worked a variety of odd jobs when she was younger ranging from waitress to house painter to legal secretary. She had dreams of becoming a veterinarian because of her love for animals, but believed she wasn’t “book smart” enough to pursue the career. Her older brother, Vance, who was pursuing a career as an actor and comedian as a correspondent on The Daily Show first sparked her interest in comedy. At a public speaking event, Degeneres was nervous and began inadvertently making jokes to the crowd. They loved her awkward comedic style, and she was soon offered stand-up comedy gigs.

Her comedy career began when she was in her early 20s and began performing at a local coffee shop. Before long, she was touring nationally and won Showtime‘s Funniest Person in America in 1982. Her big break came in 1986 when a booking agent from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson caught her act at the Improv in Hollywood. She was invited to perform on the show, and after her performance was invited to sit on the famous “couch” and chat with Carson. She was the first female comedian to be offered this opportunity on the show. From then on, she became a regular guest on late night talk shows and her popularity with the American public grew.

The young comedienne’s observational humor was a hit with audiences, and she began starring in her own sitcom, Ellen, in 1994. In 1997, the show and Ellen’s life took a major turn when she made her homosexuality public in an episode of the popular show titled, “The Puppy Episode.” This was the first time the lead character of a sitcom openly acknowledged their homosexuality on air. Degeneres and the network both received criticism, which they had expected, and several affiliate networks and sponsors refused to air the episode and withdrew their advertisements. Gay activists and supporters praised their efforts in raising awareness to gay issues, and many episodes following the coming out episode focused on gay themes, bringing them to the attention of national audiences. Despite making history, receiving an Emmy award, and gaining supportive audiences, the show was cancelled in 1998.

Degeneres’ popularity has only grown stronger over the years, and she starred in several movies before returning to television in 2003 as the host of her own talk show, The Ellen Degeneres Show. Though many other daytime talk shows popped up during this time, Degeneres was the only one to leave a lasting impression on her audience and has received countless awards for her show, including 11 Daytime Emmy Awards. The same year she began hosting her talk show, she lent her voice to Dory, the ditzy lovable companion of Nemo in the hit animated feature, Finding Nemo. In 2009, she celebrated the 1000th episode of the talk show, and that same year, became a judge on the ninth season of American Idol. Her infectious comedic style has also led her to host a plethora of award shows including the Primetime Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards.

In 2004, Degeneres began dating fellow actress Portia de Rossi, and in 2008 they were married in one of California’s most high-profile same-sex unions after its legalization. Degeneres is also known for her ethical vegan diet, and has started a vegan outreach website called “Going Vegan with Ellen,” as well as opened an all-vegan restaurant in Los Angeles.

Happy birthday Ellen!

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB 

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Dolly Parton’s Birthday

Photo of Dolly PARTONJanuary 19 is country music legend Dolly Parton’s birthday!

Parton was born in 1946 in Sevierville, Tennessee, and was one of 12 children born to tabacco farmer Robert Lee Parton and his wife, Avie Lee. Her childhood was spent on a rundown farm in the Great Smokey Mountains, and when she recounts stories of her family life, she describes their financial situation as “dirt poor.” Music played an important role in her life, even as a child, where her first exposure came from her mother singing to her, and the hymns they sang together in church. She was gifted her first guitar from a relative, and immediately began playing and writing her own music.

By age 10, Parton began performing on television and radio shows in eastern Tennessee, and made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry a mere three years later. She met musician Johnny Cash while performing at the Grand Ole Opry, and he encouraged her to follow her dreams of becoming a musician. In 1964, the day after she graduated from high school, Parton moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music.

She was first hired as a songwriter, but soon moved on to recording her own songs. Her first big break came in 1967 when Porter Wagoner invited her to partner with him on his show. In the following years, the duo recorded several number one hits and Parton was signed to RCA, where she began recording solo material. Her first solo number one hit was “Joshua” in 1971, and was soon followed by “Jolene” in 1973, and “I Will Always Love You,” which was written about her split from Wagoner, in 1974. After seven years of recording hits with Wagoner, Parton’s fame began to overshadow his, and she decided to break out on her own.

In 1975 and 1976, Parton won the Country Music Award for best female vocalist. She crossed over into pop music with 1977′s “Here You Come Again,” which topped country and pop charts and won the artist her first Grammy Award. She skyrocketed into mainstream fame in the 1980s when she also began her acting career. She starred in 9 to 5, which proved to be successful on many levels for Parton. For her role, she received a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy, and an Academy Award nomination for her original song for the movie “9 to 5.” Two years later, she received another Golden Globe nomination for her role in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and introduced a whole new generation to her hit song “I Will Always Love You.”

Aside from her music and acting career, Dolly has pursued many other ventures including the opening of her own theme park in 1986 called “Dollywood,” which is located in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. She has also put forth many efforts in helping with children’s literacy including her Imagination Library, Dixie Stampede, and Pirates Voyage.

Dolly Parton performing during her Better Day World Tour.

Dolly Parton performing during her Better Day World Tour.

In her career spanning over 40 years, Parton has paved the way for other female country musicians and has become the most honored female country performer of all time. Her long list of awards and achievements includes 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards, 25 number 1 Billboard Country hits, 41 top 10 country albums, and 110 charted songs. She has sold over 100 million records worldwide, earned 8 Grammy awards, 2 Academy Award nominations, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 5 Academy of Country Music Awards, 3 American Music Awards, and she is only one of five women to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and has composed over 3,000 songs in her lifetime.

Never giving up on her life’s work, Dolly performed across the world in 2011 on her Better Day World Tour, which grossed over $34 million. Dolly once said in an interview, “My music is what took me everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I will go. It’s my greatest love. I can’t abandon it. I’ll always keep making records.”

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB

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Jason Segel’s Birthday

segel-bdayJanuary 18 is Jason Segel’s birthday! You may know this 6’4″ comedic actor from his role as Marshall Eriksen in the hit TV series How I Met Your Mother, or his work in big screen comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man; and The Muppets.

Segel was born in 1980 in Los Angeles. He grew up in a wealthy neighborhood due to his father’s profession as a lawyer. He attended a Christian elementary school when he was younger, despite the fact that he was raised Jewish. Already standing out for his religious background at school, he also reached his full height of 6’4″ at the age of 12, and described himself as, ”this weird, gangly kid who was like ET trying to figure out how his limbs worked.” To add to his quirkiness, Segel was a fan of puppetry and began making movies on his own as a young teen.

When attending Harvard-Westlake School, Segel took advantage of his tall stature and joined the basketball team. It wasn’t until his senior year, however, that he discovered his passion for acting. Segel then decided to pass up going to college in favor of pursuing a career in acting. He was cast at age 18 in Judd Apatow’s new high school dramatic comedy Freaks and Geeks. It was here that he first met and worked with future acting buddies James Franco and Seth Rogan. Though the show was cancelled after only one season, it would go on to grow a huge cult following.

HIMYM2014_FULLCALENDAR.inddHe took another shot at television acting with Apatow’s next project, college sitcom Undeclared. This show too failed, not attracting enough viewers to last long. In 2005, Segel finally caught a stroke of luck after being cast as Marshall Erikson in How I Met Your Mother, a sitcom that follows a group of five friends as protagonist Ted, played by Josh Radnor, tells the long-winded story of how he met his wife to his children. The show is currently in its ninth and final season.

While working on How I Met Your Mother, Segel has undertaken several other projects throughout the years, including roles in comedies like Knocked Up, I Love You, Man; and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which Segel wrote and starred in in 2008. Reviving his love for puppets, and famous puppet master Jim Henson, he starred in and co-wrote the screenplay for The Muppets. Also a musician and composer, Segel wrote musical selections for The Muppets as well.

Segel is currently living in Los Angeles, and continuing to work on future feature film projects. Happy birthday to this beloved funny man!

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, TV Guide

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Elvis Presley’s Birthday

elvis1On January 8, 1935, the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis is known as one of the most significant American pop culture icons of the 20th century. Popularizing the musical styling known as rockabilly, which is an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues, he ranks as one of the most successful and well-known musicians of all time with hits like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” and many more.

Elvis was born to parents Gladys and Vernon in a shotgun house built by his father in Mississippi. Elvis was actually supposed to have an identical twin brother, but his brother, Jesse, was born a stillborn 35 minutes before Elvis. As an only child, Elvis had a very close relationship with his parents, and his mother raised him to have a very strong faith in God. It was in church that he gained his first musical influence, and he drew inspiration from the gospel music he heard there for the rest of his life.

After receiving a guitar as a gift at the age of 10, Elvis began playing music regularly on his own. In 1948, Elvis moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee. He got his first taste of live performance at his high school where he played in a talent show and won. His classmates then began to take notice of him because of his previously unknown musical abilities and his new appearance. He grew out his sideburns, styled his hair with rose oil and Vaseline, and began wearing flashy clothing he found on Beale Street, the blues hub of Memphis which Elvis frequented. He never received any formal musical training, instead studying and playing music by ear. He frequented record stores with jukeboxes and listening booths to supplement his love for music and gain inspiration.

In 1953, Elvis began visiting Sun Studios and recording songs. Before long, record label owner, Sam Phillips, recognized Elvis’s talents and decided to help the young musician develop his sound. Just a few days after recording his first single, “That’s All Right,” a popular local radio DJ played Elvis’s new single, and listeners bombarded the phone lines, curious who this new singer was. Elvis’s popularity soon began to swell, with fans attracted to his dashing good looks, unique musical style, and signature gyrating hips.

The following years saw huge turning points in the singer’s career. His then manager and Phillips, Sun Studios owner, struck up a $40,000 deal for RCA to acquire Elvis’s Sun contract. In 1956, he recorded his first No. 1 single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and his first album, Elvis Presley, which skyrocketed to No. 1 as well. He became a favored guest on many televised variety shows, even though his provocative dance moves caused controversy. That same year, he signed a movie contract with Paramount Pictures and starred in his first box office hit, Love Me Tender.

After receiving a draft notice from the United States Army in 1957, Elvis did not ignore his duties. He began training in Fort Hood, Texas, and was granted leave at one point to return to Memphis for the funeral of his mother.  Though he was devastated by her death, he returned to service in Germany where his sadness was quelled when he met Priscilla Beaulieu. They eventually married after a seven and a half year courtship. Elvis was afraid that serving in the army would ruin his career, but his producers were prepared for his absence with several unreleased recordings. The musician had ten Top 40 hits during his time in the army.

When he returned from his army hiatus, he filmed the movie GI Blues and also recorded the soundtrack for it, once again sending him to the top of the charts. During the following years, he starred in several more films and recorded music along with them. The movies were hit and miss with audiences, but the soundtracks still became widely popular.

elvis2His popularity began to fade in the late 1960s, but he proved himself to still be the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” with his “’68 Comeback” TV special where he reminded audiences of his incredible singing abilities and guitar prowess. During the late ’60s, he also married his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla, and soon they had their first and only child, Lisa Marie. Their marriage did not last long, however, and they were divorced by 1973, with Priscilla gaining custody of Lisa Marie.

Elvis’s health slowly began to decline as he suffered from weight problems and prescription drug abuse. Although his personal life was not doing well, Elvis still drew large crowds of fans at his Las Vegas performances and on his last tour. His last performance was in Indianapolis, Indiana in June 1977.

On August 16, 1977, Elvis was found dead in his home, Graceland, at the age of 42. He suffered from heart failure. He was eventually buried with his family on the Graceland property.

The legacy left by Elvis is huge. He’s credited with bringing rock ‘n’ roll music to the forefront of popular music in the United States. After his death, President Jimmy Carter issued a statement saying Elvis, “permanently changed the face of American popular culture.” During his life, he won 3 Grammy Awards and was nominated several more times. He had 18 No. 1 hits, and several of his albums were certified gold or platinum. He was one of the first artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was later also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Since his death, many documentaries have been made about him, and there are countless Elvis impersonators around the world who constantly try to channel “The King.”

If you’re around the Memphis area this time of year, you can celebrate Elvis’s birthday by attending the multi-day birthday celebration held at his home, Graceland.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, Elvis.com

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Henri Matisse’s Birthday

matisseFrench artist Henri Matisse was born on December 31, 1869. He is best known for his use of expressive color and exaggerated form to convey emotion, and was a member of a group of early 20th century modern artist known as “les Fauves.” His influential career spanned over six decades.

His deep love for creating art began when Matisse was 21 and began painting as he was recovering from illness. Realizing that this is what he was meant to do, Matisse moved to Paris in 1891 to begin his formal artistic schooling. While attending famous schools like Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts, he was taught the “academic method” of painting and drawing, which involved observing live models and copying techniques of older famous artists. Being exposed to this classic form of training and also observing Post-Impressionist artists Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh helped him to develop his unique style.

He began showing his work in the 1890s and gained recognition from a small audience. At the beginning of the 20th century, Matisse’s work took a more progressive turn as he was inspired by the Pointillist work of artists like Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, who painted using small dots of color rather than heavy brushstrokes. He began to show his work at more progressive independent salons rather than the more traditional official salons he had exhibited in previously.

From 1904-1905, Matisse began to have several artistic breakthroughs when visits to southern France and the Mediterranean inspired him to paint bright vivid imagery with distorted color and form. It was during this time that he produced some of his most important works including Open Window and Woman With a Hat. At one of his Parisian exhibitions in 1905, a contemporary art critic reviewed the show, speaking of the distorted work of some artists calling them “fauves” or “wild beasts.”

Fauvism became the term used for Matisse’s style of painting, which he continued to express through bold color choices and undulating brushstrokes. Now that Matisse had developed his signature style, his popularity began to soar, and he remained well-known for his work even after the luster of Fauvism had faded. He began to travel the world searching for inspiration, and famous collectors like Gertrude Stein purchased his works.

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Matisse continued to paint with his signature use of saturated colors and strong outlines, but he also dappled with geometric forms often used in Cubism, which was pioneered by his lifelong friend and artistic rival, Pablo Picasso. Though he adopted some other abstract tendencies, his subject nature was still mostly traditional.

He moved to Nice in the French Riviera in 1921, mostly painting nudes in the comfort of his own studio and thoroughly exploring the world of printmaking. During the 1920s, he also was the subject of a scholarly book, which anchored his importance in the world of modern art, even as the movement was still going on and evolving. Matisse was also hired to paint several major commissioned pieces and draw illustrations for limited edition poetry books.

By the 1940s, his health had declined and he was mostly bedridden, drawing from bed using a long pole with pencil or charcoal attached to the end to reach the canvas. His later works were just as vibrant and experimental as his earlier pieces, and for one of his last major projects from 1948-1951, he designed stained-glass windows, murals, furnishings, and even sacred vestments for church priests at the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence on the French Riviera.

Matisse died on November 3, 1954 in Nice. His decades of work and pivotal role in the modern movement make him one of the most highly respected artists of the 20th century.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, Huffington Post

 

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Humphrey Bogart’s Birthday

bogeyOn December 25, 1899, legendary American actor Humphrey Bogart was born in New York City. He is best known for his roles in such classic films as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The African Queen.

Bogart was born to a wealthy Dutch family. His father was a heart surgeon and his mother was a talented painter and art director for a popular fashion magazine of the time. Bogart’s parents were rarely affectionate with his sisters or him, which may have contributed to his stern personality. He developed an interest in chess and sailing as a child, two loves he would have for the rest of his life. Bogart attended several prestigious schools, but was mostly disinterested in his school work or following rules. His rebellious nature led him to being expelled from the last boarding school he attended.

In the midst of World War I, after he was ejected from school, Bogart enlisted in the Navy. The famous scar on Bogart’s lip, and subsequent lisp it caused, is something he is rumored to have gotten while he served in the Navy. Though several stories abound among friends of Bogart’s, the most widely-known story involves Bogart escorting a prisoner off a boat. When the prisoner distracted Bogart by asking for a cigarette, he struck Bogart in the mouth with one of his cuffed hands.

After being discharged from the Navy, Bogart ventured into the world of acting. For his first role, he spoke one line as a Japanese waiter in the play Drifting. Upon seeing his son perform, Bogart’s father nudged his neighbor saying, “The boy’s good, isn’t he?” This first taste of the stage fueled him to pursue acting as his career. Unsuccessful at first, Bogart spent more than a decade portraying minor characters before his breakthrough performance as a villainous escaped killer in the play The Petrified Forest. Two years later he revived his character in the movie version of the play, and Hollywood grasped onto him as  a typecast criminal.

After portraying similar characters in a string of crime and gangster movies, Bogart finally broke free from his usual bad guy role to play the sharp and honorable private detective Sam Spade in one of the first film noir movies, The Maltese Falcon. Bogart showed his range in acting just in time to be cast as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, a 1942 war romance. The film has been highly regarded ever since, winning three Academy Awards and often ranked at the top of many all-time best films lists. Bogart is also credited with saying some of the movie’s most memorable quotes like, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” which are listed on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 quotations in American cinema.

His popularity swelled tremendously after his performance in Casablanca, and “Bogey,” as his friend’s started to call him, went on to act in over 75 feature films in his career. He received his first and only Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in 1951′s The African Queen, which he starred in alongside actress Katherine Hepburn.

Bogey was married several times, all of which ended in divorce except his last one to model and actress Lauren Bacall. His marriage to Mayo Methot was his most volatile, and the papers pegged them as the “Battling Bogarts” due to their public disputes. Lauren Bacall starred in her first movie ever, To Have or Have Not, alongside Bogart, and the two were instantly drawn to one another. Just a few months after his divorce from Methot, Bogey and Bacall were married, and remained together until his death. They were some of the founding members of the infamous “Rat Pack,” starred in three more movies together, and had two children together.

Due to a lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking, Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1956 while still in the prime of his career. Even after surgery and treatment, Bogart died in his sleep at his home on January 14, 1957 at the age of 57. After his death, Bogart’s rankings in Hollywood history rose even more, with several articles published about him, praising his notorious anti-Hollywood persona and his films gaining a cult following. Bogart remains a film icon named “the number one movie legend of all time” by Entertainment Weekly in 1997 and the American Film Institute’s greatest male movie star of all time in 1999.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB

 

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Alyssa Milano’s Birthday

alyssamilanoDecember 19 is Alyssa Milano’s birthday! Alyssa Milano is an American actress best known for her various television roles, most notably Who’s the Boss?, Melrose Place, and Charmed.

Milano was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 19, 1972 to a fashion designer mother and a film music editor father. She unexpectedly took on acting at the age of 7 when her babysitter took her to an audition for the musical Annie, and she landed a part of an orphan. She spent the next 18 months of her life traveling with the show and knew this is the career she wanted for the rest of her life.

A few years later, at the age of 12, Milano was offered a role in the hit sitcom Who’s the Boss?, playing star Tony Danza‘s young daughter. She spent the entirety of her adolescence on the show, turning her into a 1980s teen icon. To keep herself from being typecast as a wholesome teenager, she began to take more daring and risqué roles.

Breaking back into the scene again as an adult, Milano’s next big leading role was in the cult TV hit, Charmed, a show about modern-day witches. Though there were clashes between Milano and her co-star, Shannen Doherty, who left the show after the third season, Charmed lasted for eight seasons and attracted an entirely new fan base for Milano.

An avid baseball fan since childhood, she published a book about her love of baseball called Safe at Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic in 2010 and regularly writes a blog on Major League Baseball’s website about the Los Angeles Dodgers. After noticing that most sports teams did not offer apparel that was specifically tailored for women, Milano pitched a female-targeted teamwear line to the MLB. Soon she had her own line called “Touch” which has now expanded to other sports than just baseball.

After a life-changing trip she took to South Africa in the early 2000s, Milano became an ambassador for both UNICEF and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, and she often encourages her fans to donate to these charitable causes and others. She also appeared in an advertisement for PETA and helped film a viral Funny or Die sketch to bring attention to the Syrian civil war.

Though she has had much success in the entertainment industry, Milano values her philanthropic work as her greatest accomplishment saying, “I think I’m most proud to be an ambassador for UNICEF. That’s probably the work I’m most proud of. It’s very humbling and wonderful.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography.com

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