BORN ON THIS DAY JANUARY 29TH
W C FIELDS was born on this day in 1880 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A comedian, actor, juggler and writer, Fields created one of the great American comic personas of the early 20th Century. A hard-drinking egotist with an apparent distain for women, children and even dogs he had in fact married and was said to be fond of his grandchildren. Such was his need for privacy that, so the story goes, he used to hide in the bushes of his home and fire BB pellets at trespassers’ legs!
12 String Guitarist nicknamed “LEADBELLY” was born on this day in 1885 as Huddie William Ledbetter on a Plantation in Louisiana. His parents were fairly well-to-do blacks having risen from sharecroppers to landowners. His uncle taught him to play accordion and later guitar. Despite the doting affection of his parents he led a troubled life and served four prison terms for assault. He was discovered by John Lomax, a Harvard-trained musicologist, who introduced him to American audiences in the 1930s and 1940s. Although he sold few records he is said to have influenced several generations of folk musicians.
Actor, VICTOR MATURE was born on this day in 1913 in Louisville, Kentucky. Known in Hollywood as “the Hunk” for his good looks and muscular body, his first leading role as a fur-clad caveman in film One Million BC made him a star. He appeared in films of many genres – comedy, adventure, drama, suspense, musicals and several epics such as The Robe, The Egyptian and Hannibal. These films put him in contact with some of the most beautiful women of his era including Jean Simmons, Susan Hayward, Hedy Lamarr, Gene Tierney and Rita Hayworth and it is said that his affairs were many despite his five marriages!
Actor, JOHN FORSYTHE was born on this day in 1918 in Penns Grove, New Jersey. He starred in three television series spanning three decades – in the sitcom Bachelor Father, as the unseen millionaire, Charles Townsend, in Charlie’s Angles and as ruthless patriarch Black Carrington on the 1980s soap opera Dynasty. Now retired, he appears each year to read children’s fiction during the annual Christmas programme near his home in California.
Actor, TOM SELLECK, was born on this day in 1945 in Detroit, Michigan. A talented athlete, Selleck is best known as the easy going private investigator in the 1980s television show Magnum, P.I for which he won an Emmy and a Golden Globe. He also appeared as a recurring guest in the TV series Friends and in Las Vagas as well as in movies such as the hugely popular Three Men and a Baby alongside Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg.
Writer, PADDY CHAYEFSKY was born on this day in 1923 in the Bronx, New York. A successful novelist and dramatist, he made the transition to live television in the 1950s as a playwright and screenwriter. He won Academy Awards for his scrips for the films Marty, The Hospital and Network. Despite an alleged affair with Kim Novak, Paddy and his wife, Susan, remained together until his death from cancer in 1981.
Writer, academic, and feminist, GERMAIN GREER, was born on this day in 1939 in Melbourne. Greer’s ideas have created controversy ever since her book The Female Eunuch became an international best-seller in 1970 and turned her into a household name. Never far from controversy, she famously blamed Steve Erwin’s treatment of animals for his own death. She currently serves as Professor Emeritus of English Literature and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick in England and ventures to her home country only occasionally.
Another household name with enormous influence right around the globe is OPRAH WINFREY who was born to a teenage single mother on this day in 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Despite a very tough early life she rose through radio and television to host her multi-award winning talk show, which is the highest-rated program of its kind in history. Sometime criticised for the ‘confessional’ nature of her show there is no doubt that her intimate style revolutionised the talk show genre. Once said to be the first of the world’s black billionaires, she has been ranked the richest African-American of the 20th Century – well able to afford the philanthropic ventures she has chosen!
Inventor, ALLEN B DuMONT, was born on this day in 1901 in Brooklyn, New York City. He was best known for developing the cathode ray tube for use in television receivers and later manufactured and sold the first commercially practical television set to the public in 1938. In1946 Du Mont founded the first television network to be licensed.
President, WILLIAM McKINLEY, was born on this day in 1843 in Niles, Ohio. He was the 25th President of the United States who served in that role between1897 and 1901. His foreign forays saw him launch the Spanish-American War and later annex the former Spanish territories of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam and set up a protectorate of Cuba. He also annexed the then independent Kingdom of Hawaii. Assassinated in 1901 by an anarchist McKinley was succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.