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October 28: Happy Birthday Julia Roberts and Jane Alexander

1028robertsalexander

Julia Roberts is 49 today.  She had a rapid rise to stardom.  Although her first feature film appearance was the poorly-received Satisfaction, she then attracted favorable notices for her role in Mystic Pizza.  A year later, in 1989, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Steel Magnolias and won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Supporting Actress for the same film.  And then came Pretty Woman:

The role of Vivian Ward brought Roberts an Oscar nomination and a second Golden Globe, both for Best Actress, and to this day it is the biggest hit of her career.  She had a very successful decade in the 1990s, capped by winning her only Oscar and third Golden Globe for Erin Brockovich.  In the past 15 years she has still had some high points, such as well-received appearances in Charlie Wilson’s War, Duplicity and August: Osage County.  Recent news reports indicate that she may star in an adaptation of Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once.

Jane Alexander turns 77 today.  Her stage and screen career is highlighted by seven Tony nominations (with one win), eight Emmy nominations (with two wins) and four Oscar nominations.  Her Broadway debut in the 1968 play The Great White Hope (by Howard Sackler) brought her a Tony, and she was Oscar-nominated for the 1970 film adaptation.  1976 was a very good year for Alexander, as she received her first Emmy nomination for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in Eleanor and Franklin, while receiving an Oscar nomination for All the President’s Men:

Alexander won her two Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, the first for Playing for Time, the second for Warm Springs, in which she played Sara Delano Roosevelt, the mother-in-law of Eleanor Roosevelt.  In 1993, she and Madeline Kahn co-starred on Broadway in The Sisters Rosensweig, with both being nominated for the Tony for Best Actress in a Play (Kahn won).  That same year President Clinton appointed her to chair the National Endowment for the Arts, a position she held until 1997.

Dame Joan Plowright turns 87 today; as the widow of Laurence Olivier she is also know as Baroness Olivier.  She won a Tony for Shelagh Delaney’s play A Taste of Honey in 1961.  In 1992, she had two roles that brought her Golden Globes.  She won Best Supporting Actress-Film for Enchanted April, and Best Supporting Actress- Television for HBO’s Stalin.

Telma Hopkins, who turns 68, was a member of the 1970s pop group Tony Orlando and Dawn, who had hits like “Knock Three Times” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.”  She was later a regular on Family Matters for several years.  Dennis Franz, who turns 72, starred on NYPD Blue as Detective Andy Sipowicz.  Annie Potts turns 64 today.  She was receptionist Janine Melnitz in the Ghostbusters films, starred on Designing Women for seven seasons, and was an Emmy nominee for Love & WarSusan Harris, who is 76 today, is a television writer and producer best known for series like Soap, Benson and Golden Girls, the last of which brought her an Emmy for Best Comedy Series.

Daphne Zuniga, who is 54 today, starred in 1980s comedies The Sure Thing and Spaceballs and later was a regular on Melrose PlaceLauren Holly, who celebrates her 53rd, starred on Picket Fences as Maxine Stewart, played Jenny Shepard on NCIS for 3 seasons, and recently starred on the Canadian crime drama MotiveAndy Richter, who turns 50 today, is an actor and comedian best known as Conan O’Brien’s regular “sidekick” on his various talk shows.  Film and television Jami Gertz, who is 51, was an Emmy nominee as Outstanding Guest Actress on Ally McBeal.  Director Kevin Macdonald, who turns 49, won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for One Day in September, and directed the drama The Last King of Scotland, which brought Forest Whitaker an Oscar for Best Actor.

Matt Smith , who turns 34 today, played the Eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who and will play Prince Philip in Netflix’s upcoming The CrownGwendoline Christie turns 38 today.  The 6-3 actress is known for her roles as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones and Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force AwakensTroian Bellisario, who plays Spencer Hastings, one of a group of Pretty Little Liars, turns 31; her father is producer Donald Bellisario.  Nolan Gould, who plays youngest son Luke Dunphy on Modern Family, is 18 today.  Finn Wittrock, who celebrates his 32nd, was an Emmy nominee for his role on American Horror Story: Freak Show and made his Broadway debut as Happy Loman in a 2012 revival of Death of a SalesmanLexi Ainsworth, who is 24 today, is a Daytime Emmy nominee as Kristina Davis on General HospitalDevon Murray, who played Seamus Finnigan in the Harry Potter films, turns 28.

In music, Frank Ocean, who turns 29, is already a two-time Grammy winner whose first two albums reached #2 and #1 on the Billboard 200.  Country singer Brad Paisley, who is 44 today, is a three-time Grammy winner who had 27 consecutive singles reach the Top 10 on the US Country Airplay chart.  Some people may remember Justin Guarini, who turns 38, as the runner-up on the first season of American Idol, following which he eventually moved into a respectable career in musical theater.  Charlie Daniels turns 80 today.  In his career of over 50 years he has navigated the boundaries of bluegrass, country and rock; he is best-known for the #3 hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”  Another successful straddler of genres is Ben Harper, a three-time Grammy winner who blends gospel, soul and blues.  Harper is 47 today.  Vocalist Dame Cleo Laine, who is 89 today, is the only female performer to ever receive Grammy nominations in the classical, jazz and popular categories, winning Best Female Jazz Vocal Performance in 1985.

Joaquin Phoenix turns 42 today.  Known early in his career as someone’s brother, he began to attract attention in his own right in To Die For in 1995.  He is a three time Oscar nominee—for playing a dissolute Roman emperor in Gladiator, as an alcoholic war veteran in The Master, and, in a role that won him a Golden Globe, as a country music legend in Walk the Line:

I try to keep these articles a Kardashian-free zone, but Caitlyn Jenner, who is 67 today, did something genuinely notable, as Bruce Jenner, by winning the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics and setting a world record for the event in the process.  Other sports birthdays include Manuel Francisco dos Santos, better known as Garrincha (1933-1983), the “Little Bird” who starred for Brazil’s World Cup winners in 1958 and 1962 and is often labeled the greatest dribbler in football history.  Basketball great Lenny Wilkens was a nine-time NBA all-star as a player, and went on to even more success as a coach.  He coached an NBA champion at Seattle and a gold medal winning US Olympic team in 1996 and his 1332 coaching wins are the second-most in NBA history.  Wilkens turns 79 today.

No woman in the history of film has won more Oscars than Edith Head (1897-1981), who won the Oscar for Best Costume Design eight times from 1949 (for The Heiress) to 1973 (for The Sting).  Elsa Lanchester (1902-1986) first became known for playing the Bride of Frankenstein.  She was a two-time Oscar nominee, who often co-starred with her husband, Charles Laughton.

British novelist and travel writer Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966, full name Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh).  His most famous novel, Brideshead Revisited, was adapted into a television miniseries that was one of Jeremy Irons’ first important roles.  Anne Perry, who turns 78 today, is known for her historical mysteries, the Thomas Pitt and William Monk series, both of which are set in the Victorian era.  When the movie Heavenly Creatures was released, it became known that Perry was the grown-up Juliet Hulme (played by Kate Winslet in the movie).

Finally, we have two people from beyond the entertainment world who have had big effects on people’s lives.  Bill Gates, who turns 61, is important both as the co-founder of Microsoft and for his philanthropic activities.  Dr. Jonas Salk (1914-1995), inventor of one of the first effective polio vaccines, contributed to saving countless lives around the world.

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.

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Posted on October 28, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Whew—this was one long article to write. I ended up with thirty-five people included, with a real variety in terms of who they are and what they’ve done.

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  2. I was just getting ready to dig in when you commented. The effort shows and is always appreciated!

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  3. What’s left to say about Julia Roberts? Very few actresses will ever reach the same level of mega-watt movie stardom. Even now when her career has slowed, she’s still a bigger star than a lot of younger actresses can ever hope to be. And she’s rounded out that massive movie star career with some prestige pictures and awards.

    I’m probably not the only one who saw Jane Alexander’s name and asked “who’s that?” I have seen All the President’s Men, but that’s about it. While not anywhere near as high profile as her co-headliner, it sounds like Alexander has had an amazingly varied career. This is something I run into all the time with WTHH. Even after a lot of these careers cool off somewhat, most of my subjects have still reached a level of achievement most of their peers would kill for. While I wasn’t familiar with Alexander, she’s obviously very accomplished.

    The first time I took notice of Joan Plowright was in 1990 when she appeared in both Avalon and I Love You to Death. Someone at work just made a Tony Orlando and Dawn reference yesterday. They were mainstays of the variety shows of the 70s. Like a lot of people, I knew Annie Potts from Ghostbusters, but I also watched Designing Women for a while. Today’s “most likely to get her own WTHH entry” is Daphne Zuniga.

    I didn’t watch Picket Fences, but I certainly took notice of Holly when she starred opposite her future husband in Dumb and Dumber. For a short time, she was pretty unavoidable. Probably WTHH potential there as well. Jeez and Jami Gertz too! You weren’t kidding. Today is packed!

    Glad to hear Justin Guarini landed on his feet. I wondered, but not enough to actually Google him. I thought for a time Joaquin Phoenix was on track for WTHH. But he has rebounded enough that it probably won’t happen for a while.

    Edith Head simply is classic Hollywood. Or she was anyway.

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  4. I’m sure most everyone has a favorite Julia Roberts film, and mine is “Conspiracy Theory”.
    The last project I saw Jane Alexander in was the short-lived erotic HBO show “Tell me You Love Me”. For an older lady, I thought she held her own with the physical parts as much as the younger performer did, and gave the proceedings a touch of class in general.
    Although the last name of Plowright makes me think of the cornfields of Nebraska, I’ve seen Joan Plowright in a ton of things, but I remember her best from 1996’s “Surviving Picasso”.
    I really became aware of Joaquin Phoenix after “To Die For”; I wasn’t aware of him when he used the Leaf name. Offbeat actor from an offbeat background; I like him.
    Yep, Daphne Zuniga has those two films mentioned which I’m very fond of, but she has a bit part in “Vision Quest”, and 1986’s “Modern Girls” is a guilty pleasure (one of the guiltiest) of mine.
    Like Daphne Zugina, Jami Gertz was another 1980’s looker who has a few projects that stuck with me: 1986’s “Quicksilver” (the babe & bicycle angle, I guess), “The Lost Boys”, and “Less Than Zero” (though I like that film less, but not less than zero, in the ensuing years).
    Caitlyn Jenner was an gold metal winning Olympian, and that is certainly worth noting and remembering.
    Annie Potts was great in the Ghostbusters stuff, and I thought she was pretty sexy in 1978’s “Corvette Summer”.

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