Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to Liza Minnelli

Today is Liza Minnelli's 68th birthday, and thankfully she was briefly back in the public conscious thanks to her appearance at the Academy Awards earlier this month.

At the Oscars earlier this year

The child of actress Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli (An American in Paris), Liza was, quite literally, born to be a star. Though her film roles have been limited - she last appeared on the big screen in 2006's The Oh in Ohio - she won the Best Actress Oscar in 1972 for playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret, a performance that has been praised as the best of her career and one of the finest to ever win an Oscar. 1972 was really her banner year: in addition to Cabaret, she appeared in the TV special Liza with a Z, a concert film directed by Bob Fosse (who also directed Cabaret) with music arranged by John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago). This helped launch her into the stratosphere, announcing her as a total-package entertainer. However, she was selective with her roles, and even though her performance in Martin Scorsese's 1977 film New York, New York has been retroactively salvaged, she never quite received the same accolades for her film work.

Instead, she turned to theatre, where her career began, and television. She began her Broadway career at 19, starring in the 1965 Kander & Ebb musical Flora the Red Menace. Her theatre career has consisted of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and touring productions, including a number of one-woman specials and one-night-only engagements. In addition to her televised specials, perhaps her best-known television work was her role as the vertigo-afflicted Lucille Austero on Arrested Development.

Her personal life is well-documented, included four marriages that ended in divorce. In 2000, after a bout with viral encephalitis, doctors predicted that she would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, and possibly could never talk again. Undeterred, she took daily song and dance lessons - which she continues to this day - and a year later performed with Michael Jackson at a concert in Madison Square Garden.

As Sally Bowles in Cabaret

There is some contention over whether she has achieved an EGOT or not. In addition to her Oscar, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in 1965 for Flora the Red Menace (she won again in this category in 1978 for The Act, and won a Special Tony Award in 1974 for Liza in the Winter Garden). She also won an Emmy Award in 1973 for Liza with a Z. However, her Grammy Living Legend Award is the source of contention: since it's an honorary award instead of a competitive one, some argue that it doesn't count toward EGOT. Interestingly enough, she only has two Grammy nominations. She also won a Golden Globe for Cabaret.

No matter what, there's no denying that Minnelli is a rare talent. Here's hoping she continues to wow us with her work for years to come.

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