Five People Born on April 14

Today is April 14, 2010 and the 104th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar.  There are 261 days left in the year 2010, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater in Washington, DC, while watching the play Our American Cousin.  Here are five people born on this day.

Frank Serpico (Born 1936)
This is not Al Pacino, though you may remember he played Frank Serpico in a movie based upon his life.  The real Frank Serpico was a New York City police officer who gained both kudos and notoriety as the man who blew the whistle on corruption in New York’s police department. Serpico, who served on both uniformed and plainclothes patrol in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Harlem, was bothered by what he saw as the department’s endemic corruption and bribe-taking by his fellow officers. With hippie-like looks, he gained the distrust of a series of partners and other policemen by refusing to take bribes and speaking with his department superiors about corruption in the force.  After many years of trying to call attention to the problem, Serpico finally was able to testify to the Knapp Commission in 1972, becoming the first policeman to voluntarily testify against a fellow officer. However, he paid for his perceived disloyalty to the force – other officers refused to come to his aid when he was shot during a drug raid in 1971. He survived, but lost his hearing in his left ear. Hated by his fellow officers, Serpico left the force following the incident and traveled to Europe. He lived in Holland and married before eventually returning to the U.S. and settling in upstate New York. In 1973, his experience was immortalized in the film Serpico, starring Al Pacino.

Anthony Michael Hall (Born 1968)
Happy forty-second Birthday to “the brain”  from The Breakfast Club (1985).  This actor was born Michael Anthony Thomas Charles Hall was born in Boston, Massachusetts. After a successful film career in the 1980s, Anthony Michael Hall has found a second act for his career in television. The son of a singer, he got his start in show business at an early age. Spending much of his childhood in New York City, Hall started out in commercials and landed his first important stage role at the age of eight. He played a younger version of comedian Steve Allen in The Wake.  His first film, Six Pack (1982), failed to make much of an impact at the box office. But his second movie helped him become of the most popular young comedic actors of the decade. Hall starred in Vacation (1983) as Rusty Griswold, and held his own against well-known comedic talents of Chevy Chase, playing his son. The film follows the misadventures of the Griswold family as they drive cross-country to an amusement park called Walley World. The screenplay was written by John Hughes who would go on to create some of Hall’s other memorable film characters.  Hughes picked Hall for his teenage romantic comedy, Sixteen Candles (1984). Hall played a girl-crazy geek known as Farmer Ted, who spent much of the film chasing after Molly Ringwald’s character. Both Hall and Ringwald reunited with Hughes on the popular teen drama, The Breakfast Club (1985). Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Emilio Estevez rounded out the rest of the cast. The five portrayed teens representing different parts of school culture—the geek, the jock, the rich girl, the wacko, and the criminal.  These stereotypes started to break down as they served in-school detention together. Hall continued to  play an overachiever with his next big role in Weird Science (1985).   Hall was considered by the media to be part of the “Brat Pack”—a label given to a group of up-and-coming young actors that included his cast members from The Breakfast Club and several others. Also around this time, he was a cast member of the late night comedy show, Saturday Night Live, but he only lasted for one season. Despite his popularity, his personal and professional life began to take a nosedive as the decade neared its end. Hall made several poorly received films, including Out of Bounds (1986) and Johnny Be Good (1988), and developed a drinking problem.  While he continued to act in films and on television, Hall’s career was relatively quiet for some time. His next big break came in 1999. He earned strong reviews for playing computer software titan Bill Gates in the television movie Pirates of Silicon Valley. Taking on the world of sports, Hall played the legendary pitcher Whitey Ford in the HBO baseball film 61* in 2001. The next year he began working on his first television series, The Dead Zone, based on a Stephen King novel. For six seasons, Hall has portrayed Johnny Smith, a school teacher who awakes from a coma to discover he has special powers. In addition to playing the lead character, he serves as a producer on the show.  In addition to his work on television, he started the Anthony Michael Hall Literacy Club to help at-risk youth. He lives in Los Angeles.

Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000)
This British actor, director and producer was considered one of the greatest performers of his generation on stage and screen, particularly as a Shakespearean actor. He was knighted in 1953 for services to the theatre.  He was educated at Westminster School and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and made his acting debut in 1921 at the Old Vic Theatre, London, later playing Romeo at the Regent Theatre, London, in 1924. He made his first American appearance in New York City in 1928. After affiliations with the Oxford Playhouse, he joined the Old Vic company, for which his performance in 1929 as Hamlet established his reputation as one of England’s most promising actors. A series of impressive Shakespearean performances followed. His greatest early success was probably as Richard II in the play by that name, which he also directed.  An actor of considerable versatility with a superbly controlled speaking voice, Gielgud performed in such diverse plays as Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s School for Scandal, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, Graham Greene’s The Potting Shed, and Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice. He directed the repertory seasons of 1937–38 at the Queen’s Theatre, London, and of 1944–45 at the Haymarket Theatre, London.  Ill at ease with the new English drama of the late 1950s, Gielgud appeared chiefly in classical revivals and in a solo recital of passages from Shakespeare, Ages of Man (1959), touring with this production throughout much of the world. In later years, however, he was acclaimed for his performances in such contemporary plays as David Storey’s Home (1970) and Charles Wood’s Veterans (1972). He also made many television appearances and was featured in numerous films, including Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Arthur (1981), for which he received an Academy Award for best supporting actor. His last major film role was in Prospero’s Books (1991), based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He also directed for the stage.  Gielgud’s writings include his autobiography Early Stages (1938; rev. ed., 1976); Stage Directions (1963), a collection of speeches and essays; Distinguished Company (1972), detailing some of his “youthful enthusiasms” for stars of stage and screen; an amply illustrated memoir, Gielgud: An Actor and His Time, with John Mills and John Powell (1980); and Shakespeare: Hit or Miss? (1991; also published as Acting Shakespeare, 1992), with John Miller, reminiscences and observations on his Shakespeare acting and directing.

Anne Sullivan (1866-1936)
Born in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, Sullivan was a gifted teacher who is best known for her work with Helen Keller, a deaf, blind and mute child she taught to communicate. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland during the Great Famine of the 1840s. The couple had five children, but two died in their infancy.  Sullivan and her two surviving siblings grew up in impoverished conditions, and struggled with health problems. At the age of five, Anne contracted an eye disease called trachoma, which severely damaged her sight. Sullivan learned about schools for the blind and became determined to get an education as a means to escape poverty. She attended the Perkins School for the Blind in 1880, and underwent surgery to help improve her limited vision. In March 1887, Sullivan traveled to Tuscumbia, Alabama, to work for the Keller family. Sullivan had studied the instruction methods used with Laura Bridgman, a deaf and blind student she had known at Perkins, before going to Alabama.  At only 21 years of age, Sullivan showed great maturity and ingenuity in teaching Keller. She wanted to help Keller make associations between words and physical objects, and worked hard with her rather stubborn and spoiled pupil. After isolating Keller from her family in order to better educate her, Sullivan began working to teach Keller how to communicate with the outside world. During one lesson, she finger-spelled the word “water” on one of Keller’s hands as she ran water over her student’s other hand. Keller finally made her first major breakthrough, connecting the concept of sign language with the objects around her.   Thanks to Sullivan’s instruction, Keller learned nearly 600 words, most of her multiplication tables, and how to read Braille within a matter of months. News of Sullivan’s success with Keller spread, and the Perkins school wrote a report about their progress as a team. Keller became a celebrity because of the report, meeting the likes of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Mark Twain.  Working with Keller on an autobiography, Sullivan met John A. Macy, a Harvard University instructor. Macy helped edit the manuscript, and he fell in love with Sullivan. After refusing several marriage proposals from him, she finally accepted. The two were wed in 1905. Sullivan, however, did not let her marriage affect her life with Keller. She and her husband lived with Keller in a Massachusetts farmhouse. The two women remained inseparable, with Sullivan traveling with Keller on numerous lecture tours. On stage, she helped relay Keller’s words to the audience, as Keller had never learned to speak clearly enough to be widely understood.  In 1919, Sullivan played herself in the first film version of her life in order to gain more income. Deliverance proved to be a box office failure, and she and Keller ended up touring on the vaudeville theater circuit to earn money. They shared their story of triumph with fascinated audiences for years.  By the late 1920s, Sullivan had lost most of her vision. She experienced chronic pain in her right eye, which was then removed to improve her health. For several summers, Sullivan visited Scotland, hoping to restore some of her strength and vitality. Sullivan died on October 20, 1936, at her home in Forest Hills, New York. Her ashes were placed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.—a distinct honor, as it is also the final resting place of President Woodrow Wilson and other distinguished individuals. Sullivan’s story lives on through film and theatrical productions. Her work with Keller was immortalized in the play The Miracle Worker, which was later turned into the 1962 film starring Patty Duke as Keller and Anne Bancroft as Sullivan. The latest Broadway revival of the show debuted in 2010, and features Abigail Breslin as Keller and Alison Pill as Sullivan.

Adrien Brody (Born 1973)
This New York City actor is the son of Hungarian-born photojournalist Sylvia Plachy, Brody accompanied his mother on assignments for the Village Voice and credits her with making him feel comfortable in front of the camera. He attended New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts at the age of 12 and the High School for the Performing Arts.  Early in his career, Brody appeared in lesser-seen films that earned him critical praise but failed to put him in the public spotlight, such as Steven Soderbergh’s 1993 drama King of the Hill, 1994’s Angels in the Outfield and 1997’s The Last Time I Committed Suicide. Despite a strong performance in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line in 1988, many of Brody’s scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.  Brody showed promise once again in 1999 as punk rocker Ritchie in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam, but didn’t receive true stardom until three years later when Roman Polanski cast him in The Pianist (2002). Starring as a celebrated Jewish pianist in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, Brody drew on the heritage (and rare dialect) of his Polish grandmother for the part, earning a Best Actor Oscar for his performance. At age 29, Adrien Brody was the youngest Academy Award winner to date for Best Actor. Recent projects include co-starring in M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller The Woods.