December 9: Happy Birthday Judi Dench and Kirk Douglas


Dame Judi Dench is turning 82 today.  She is one of the most distinguished screen actresses of our time, with, for starters, seven Oscar nominations to her name—she won Best Supporting Actress for playing Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love.  She has also had a long and successful career in British television; she has won a total of ten BAFTA Awards in her career, six for film and four for television.

Besides her Oscar-winning part, a few of her most well-regarded film performances include playing Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (opposite Billy Connolly), novelist Iris Murdoch in Iris, and the title character in Mrs. Henderson Presents; she received Best Actress nominations for all three.  Next year she will appear as the Princess Dragomiroff in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express and return to the role of Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul.  But the role that really kicked off her international film career, the one that mainstream audiences know her best for, was in a supporting role in a series of action movies:

But as exceptional as Dench’s film career has been, her stage career is at least a match for it.  She has been nominated for a stunning fifteen Olivier Awards (British equivalents of a Tony), winning seven times.  Several have been for Shakespeare, including her first for playing Lady Macbeth opposite Ian McKellen for the Royal Shakespeare Company.  She has played several other major Shakespeare roles, such as Cleopatra, Gertrude in Hamlet, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, and Portia in The Merchant of Venice.  She is also known for roles such as Juno in Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock and Desiree Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

Kirk Douglas celebrates a milestone today, his 100th birthday.  He got his start in film in a pair of noir classics, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Out of the Past.  He emerged quickly as a major leading man, receiving three nominations for Best Actor in the first decade of his career.  In the late 1950s, he worked with director Stanley Kubrick on a pair of well-regarded films.  The first, Paths of Glory, was an intense World War One drama, while the second was an epic set in the late Roman Republic:

Douglas remained a prominent leading man through the 1960s, in films such as Seven Days in May and Cast a Giant Shadow.  As he grew older, his stature as a star gradually decreased, but he still made some interesting and well-received films, such as the Australian Western The Man from Snowy River, where he played a dual role, and the crime comedy Tough Guys, in which he co-starred with Burt Lancaster for the seventh time in their careers.  He continued working in film until he was well into his eighties.

John Malkovich, who is 63 today, would be a headliner on most days based on an acting career highlighted by two Oscar nominations, an Emmy for a TV adaptation of Death of a Salesman, and a very diverse filmography in terms of genres and roles he’s taken.  Felicity Huffman, who turns 54, is an Emmy winner, for Desperate Housewives, and an Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner, for TransamericaBeau Bridges, whose younger brother Jeff was a headliner on December 4, turns 75 today.  He is a 14-time Emmy nominee with three wins, most recently for the miniseries The Second Civil WarMichael Dorn, who is 64 today, has appeared in 5 feature films and over 270 episodes of two different television series, playing a Klingon named Worf.

Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, turns 36 today.  Jesse Metcalfe, who is 38 today, played the title character in John Tucker Must Die, and had regular roles on Passions, Desperate Housewives, and the TNT reboot of DallasJoshua Sasse, who turns 29, currently stars on the CW’s No Tomorrow, and previously was the title character on ABC’s short-lived series Galavant.

Donny Osmond, who celebrates his 59th, was a big pop star from a family of pop stars in the 1970s, especially in combination with younger sister Marie.  Jakob Dylan, who turns 47, was the key figure in the alt-rock band The Wallflowers; yes, he has a famous father.  Neil Innes, who celebrates his 72nd today, is known for his comedy and parody rock performances and for his work with Monty Python (he was, for instance, Robin’s minstrel in Holy Grail).  Joshua Bell, who is 49 today, is one of the world’s leading classical violinists; he recently guest-starred on Mozart in the Jungle as himself.  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006) was one of the leading sopranos of the post-World War 2 decades, famous for her Mozart and Strauss roles.

In the sports world, you could have had the beginnings of a great NFL defense in the late 1960s or early ’70s with Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, who turns 74 today, and defensive lineman Deacon Jones (1938-2013), best known as part of the “Fearsome Foursome” with the L.A. Rams.  Another sports birthday today is Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney.  “She who is not impressed” turns 21 today.

Dick Van Patten (1928-2015) had a long acting career, largely on television, where he starred as a father of many on Eight is EnoughJohn Cassavetes (1929-1989) had a respectable career as an actor, which gave him the earnings he used to finance his films as an independent director, such as The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and GloriaRedd Foxx (1922-1991) starred as Fred Sanford on the 1970s hit Sanford and Son and was also one of the leading stand-up comics of his time.  The highlight of Margaret Hamilton’s (1902-1985) career as a character actress was playing one of the greatest movie villains, the Wicked Witch of the West, in The Wizard of Oz (she also played Almira Gulch in the same film).  Broderick Crawford (1911-1986) was a journeyman actor for most of his career, known for starring on the early TV series Highway Patrol—and for one great role, Willie Stark in the film adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, which brought him the Oscar for Best Actor.  Hermione Gingold (1897-1987) was a comic actress with a distinctive deep voice who was known for eccentric characters like Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (the mayor’s wife) in The Music Man.

You may have noticed a lot of people in the article today with famous family connections of some sort.  Well, we have one more.  Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., (1909-2000) never reached the heights of stardom that might have been expected of him, but in at least one film he did swashbuckle with the style and panache that were the trademarks of his famous father:

John Milton (1608-1674), the author of Paradise Lost and much more, ranks among the very greatest of English poets.  Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) spent many years blacklisted due to his political activities; one person who helped him break the blacklisting was Kirk Douglas, who insisted on giving Trumbo credit for the screenplay for SpartacusEloise Jarvis McGraw (1915-2000), a prolific author of children’s and young adult fiction, was a three-time winner of the Newberry Medal for the best American children’s novel of the year.

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.




Posted on December 9, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I was just thinking about Judi Dench. We were discussing Kim Basinger’s Oscar win for L.A. Confidential and her limited screen time, so of course Dench’s win for Shakespeare in Love came to mind. As a Bond fan, I think I got to know her as M first. As a Disney fan, she is the current narrator of Spaceship Earth in Epcot. Unfortunately, her narration has been dumbed down, but she delivers it well.

    When it was Burt Lancaster’s birthday, I mentioned that my introduction to him was Tough Guys. That was also true for Kirk Douglas. I knew these old guys had history, but I wasn’t familiar with it personally. Also, with Douglas I was aware that the guy from Romancing the Stone was his son.

    I think Dangerous Liaisons was when I first became aware of John Malkovich. I had seen him in other things like Death of a Salesman and The Glass Menagerie. Mary Reilly was kind of a low point. Being John Malkovich, a high point that is hard to top for its uniqueness.

    Felicity Huffman, I knew from Desperate Housewives. Also, she is married to William H. Macy. Beau Bridges has been in a bunch of stuff. I think Fabulous Baker Boys has to be a high point. Michael Dorn, obviously, is Worf. He’s also done a lot of voice work. Jesse Metcalfe, I also know from Desperate Housewives which I watched much longer than I should have.

    Donnie and Marie were a fixture when I was growing up. Their show was appointment viewing. Really enjoy Osmond’s song in Mulan. I am not a sports guy, but growing up in the 80’s, Dick Butkus was unavoidable. Along with Donnie and Marie, we watched a lot of Eight is Enough, so that’s where I know Dick Van Patten from. But also, Spaceballs. also watched Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son. And of course, the Wizard of Oz makes Margaret Hamilton immortal.

    I don’t know if you noticed, but yesterday’s birthday article is currently the second-most popular article on the site. Petty impressive considering it has to compete with multi-page WTHH articles. Not sure if this is an isolated incident or the start of a trend.


  2. Just to follow up on a comment I posted yesterday, there were an incredible number of birthdays today of people who are part of well-known show business families: Kirk Douglas, Beau Bridges, Jakob Dylan, Donny Osmond, Dick Van Patten, John Cassavetes, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One other thing I wanted to note: Kirk Douglas is the second big star from the Golden Age of Hollywood to celebrate his 100th birthday this year. Olivia de Havilland turned 100 back on July 1—just over a week before the birthday series began. Needless to say she is on my list for next summer when that rolls around again.


  4. I remember when Joel McHale hosted “The soup” on E! and always talked about how he had the hots for Judi Dench. “CBS Sunday Morning” had a segment on her and her career. I liked her best in 2001’s “The Shipping News”.
    Like Lebeau, I was introduced to Kirk Douglas through “Tough Guys”, just as I was burt Lancaster. The more I think about it, Kirk Douglas looks like a guy who could kick some tail, the man looks like he was always in great shape. I think for his earlier work I like 1962’s “Lonely are the Brave” best, and for his later work I’m still going to stick with “Tough Guys”, because both him and Lancaster still looked tough enough.
    I remember Felicity Huffman best from the 1990’s TV series “Sports Nitge”. I really liked that show, it had a good cast (Josh Charles, Peter Krause, Robert Guillaume appearances by Huffman’s husband William H. Macy).
    John Malkovich, there’s lots for films I like that he performed in (I even like the “Red” films), but I’ll go with these three: 1987’s “Making Mr. Right” (when in doubt, I always go with 1987), 1993’s “In the Line of Fire”, and of course, 1999’s “Being John Malkovich”.
    Beau Bridges: well, I say this, I liked 1989’s “The Wizard” (I really wanted to play “Super Mario Brothers 3”. I’ll always remember the gaming kid saying “California!” a bunch of times during the film), and I still think it’s okay. In non-video game films in which he played a sizable role, I like “Norma Rae” and “The Fabulous Baker boys” the best.
    Donny osmond, I remember when He & his sister had that morning show in the 1990’s; I viewed it when I had time off from school.
    Jakob Dylan, I had that album from The Wallflowers in the 1990’s, “Bringing Down The Horse (vodka will do that); I liked the song ‘6th Avenue Heartache’ a lot.


  5. Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Jesse Metcalfe Anymore


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