December 12: Happy Birthday Jennifer Connelly and Frank Sinatra


Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly is celebrating her 46th today.  Connelly worked as a child model, and made her film debut in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, at the age of 13.  As a teenager she starred in Dario Argento’s Phenomena and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.  She attended Yale and Stanford for a couple of years, then dropped out to resume her acting career.

Connelly transitioned quickly to adult roles in the 1990s, although real success was a while in coming.  She did several noirish films like The Hot Spot, Mulholland Falls, and Dark City, and some are fond of her Disney action-adventure film The Rocketeer.  Near the end of the decade she did a pair of critically acclaimed indie films, Inventing the Abbotts and Requiem for a Dream.  But her real breakthrough came when she played the wife of a Nobel Prize winner:

Connelly swept most of the Best Supporting Actress awards, including the Oscar, as Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind.  Some of her more notable films since then have included Hulk (as Betty Ross), House of Sand and Fog, Blood Diamond, and Darren Aronofsky’s first big-budget film, Noah.

Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) was one of the most successful musicians of all time.  He began singing in the 1930s, and became well-known as the lead singer of Tommy Dorsey’s band beginning in 1939.  He left Dorsey in 1942 and began a solo career, quickly becoming one of the leading traditional pop stars of the 1940s and ’50s.  Even after the rock era began, he remained a very popular performer; his records have sold an estimated 150 million copies, and he won multiple Grammys, including Record of the Year for one of his signature songs:

Sinatra’s music career was paralleled by a successful one as an actor.  In the Forties, he did several musicals with Gene Kelly, such as Anchors Aweigh and On the Town.  After a dry spell, he revived his acting image in a big way with an Oscar-winning performance in From Here to Eternity.  He received a second Oscar nomination for The Man with the Golden Arm, and won a Golden Globe for Pal Joey.  In the ’60s he starred in The Manchurian Candidate and The Detective.

Actress Mayim Bialik, who celebrates her 41st today, was well known to early nineties TV audiences for playing the bright but quirky teenage lead character on Blossom.  After taking several years off to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience at UCLA, Bialik returned to the small screen as Amy Farah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, which has brought her four Emmy nominations.

Bill Nighy, who turns 67 today, has had a long career in British television, radio, stage and film, and has become a major character actor, and occasional lead, in the last decade-plus.  A few of his best-known roles have been in Love, Actually, two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films (as Davy Jones), Valkyrie, Wild Target, and the British TV movies The Girl in the Cafe and Gideon’s DaughterKenneth Cranham, who is 72 today, appeared in Valkyrie with Bill Nighy and has a very long resume of work in British television.  Agent turned producer Paula Wagner, who turns 70, is known for her long partnership in Cruise-Wagner Productions with one Tom Cruise.  Bob Barker, the longtime host of the game show The Price is Right, and before that of Truth or Consequences, turns 93 today.

Sarah Douglas, who turns 64, is remembered by fans of early 1980s action films as Ursa from Superman II and Queen Taramis in Conan the DestroyerMädchen Amick, who is celebrating her 46th, played Shelly Johnson on Twin Peaks and starred on Lifetime’s Witches of East EndSheree Wilson, who is 58 today, played April Ewing on the later seasons of Dallas, and then starred on Walker, Texas Ranger as Alex Cahill.  Wallis Currie-Wood, who plays Stevie McCord on CBS’s Madam Secretary, celebrates her 25th.

Sinatra was not the only major recording star born this date; Connie Francis celebrates her 78th birthday today.  Francis was a major recording star from about 1958-63, and by major I mean she had 19 Top 20 hits in that six year period.  Her records were less successful in the wake of the British Invasion, but she remained a popular concert act until past her 70th birthday.

Our list of sports birthdays today is headed by Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Petit, who turns 84.  Petit spent his entire eleven-season career with the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks and made the NBA All-Star team each of those seasons.  Henry Armstrong (1912-1988) was one of the greatest boxers of the 20th century, and was a world champion in the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight classes at different times.  Gymnast Cathy Rigby, who turns 64 today, was the first American to win a World Championships medal and participated in two Olympics.  After retiring from the sport she became a stage actress, known for starring as the title character in the stage musical version of Peter Pan, a role first made famous by Mary MartinTracy Austin, who is 54 today, was the top-ranked women’s tennis player in the world for most of 1980 and the youngest winner of the women’s singles at the US Open ever.  However, a series of injuries effectively ended her career before her 20th birthday.

Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973) was a prominent stage actor in the 1910s and ’20s who moved into film when sound came in.  His star-making role as the title character in the gangster classic Little Caesar brought him plenty of “tough guy” roles through the years, most notably as Johnny Rocco in Key Largo.  But he was also successful when cast against type, such as in Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street, and most notably as insurance investigator Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity:

Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963) is considered not only one of the finest directors from Japan, but one of the greatest ever worldwide.  His 1953 film Tokyo Story was ranked the #1 film of all time in the 2012 Sight and Sound Director’s Top Ten Poll and 3rd in their Critics Poll from the same year.  Karen Morley (1909-2003) was a star in the early 1930s in films like the original Scarface and Our Daily Bread, but her career ended in the 1940s when she became yet another victim of the Hollywood blacklist.  Buck Jones (1891-1942) became an established movie cowboy in the late 1920s, and unlike some silent western stars he transitioned effectively to sound, making dozens of Westerns in the 1930s.  He was one of nearly 500 people who died in the tragic Cocoanut Grove Fire of 1942.

Our potpourri today includes another one-time mayor of New York City, Ed Koch (1924-2013).  A flamboyant and popular mayor, Koch was known for walking the streets and stopping people to ask “How’m I doin’?”  Another New Yorker, although not a mayor, was John Jay (1745-1829), a key figure in the adoption of the US Constitution; he was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers and later served as the first Chief Justice of the United States.  Robert Noyce (1927-1990) was one of the inventors of the integrated circuit and a co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and later of Intel; he was known unofficially as the “mayor of Silicon Valley.”  English novelist Patrick O’Brian (1914-2000) achieved fame with his Aubrey-Maturin series of novels about the Royal Navy during the era of the Napoleonic Wars, which are known for combining impeccable historical research with compelling storytelling.

We’ll finish today with yet another major name in music, Dionne Warwick, who turns 76.  Warwick has had more singles in the Billboard Hot 100 than anyone female vocalist other than Aretha Franklin.  She had her greatest success in the mid/late sixties, recording a string of hits written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

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 12, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I have long considered Jennifer Connelly for WTHH. A contributor actually started an article, but it remains unfinished. I was aware of her in Labyrinth, but she really caught my eye in 1991 when she starred in The Rocketeer and Career Opportunities. I thought The Rocketeer was underrated fun and while I never watched Career Opportunities, I was immediately smitten with Connelly after seeing her ride that horse in the trailer.

    Post Oscar, she seems to be focused on prestige pictures most of which haven’t caught on.

    Frank Sinatra is too big for me to adequately address in a comment. He’s a legend. Having said that, I never really connected with his music or movies. I did enjoy The Manchurian Candidate, though.

    I knew of Mayim Bialik from Blossom, but never watched it. I was vaguely aware she was on The Big Bang Theory, but I don’t watch that show either. She appears to have done things right by getting her education.

    This is the non-science guy Bill Nighy. For those keeping score, I did eventually get around to watching Love Actually. As a kid, I watched an awful lot of Bob Barker on The Price is Right. Through pure luck, I stumbled across a Starlog interview with Sarah Douglas which I posted earlier today for her birthday.

    I was a Twin Peaks fan, so I knew Mädchen Amick from the show. I remember seeing her in the Stephen King movie, Sleepwalkers, which was awful. She fell off my radar for a while, but she seems to be going strong on TV these days.


  2. I haven’t really seen much of Jennifer Connelly’s output over the last decade, but before that were films that I enjoyed quite a bit: “Dark City”, “Pollock”, and “The House of Sand and Fog” (I mean, I think “Requiem for a dream” is excellent, but I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, since it’s pretty rough going, same with “A Beautiful Mind” in spots). I remember her early work like “Labyrinth” and 1990’s “The Hot Spot” too, back in the days when it didn’t seem that she got many good parts to play.
    Frank Sinatra’s creative output is beyond extensive (didn’t he perform in a short film in the 1940’s about discrimination?) , and my father would’ve been better served to comment on him since he was such a huge fan (dressing in black and walking around with a red rose the day he passed), but I understand the popularity of a lot of his songs and from what I’ve seen of his acting I think he was very good in that area as well. A pure entertainer.
    I watched “Blossom” as a kid (I thought Blossom’s friend Six was pretty hot), so I’m aware of Mayim Bialik, and have seen enough of “The Big Bang Theory” to know that she re-entered the realm of television rather successfully.
    Madchen Amick I know from “Twin peaks”, Sleepwalkers” (I agree with Lebeau, it’s not a good film) and 1992’s Dream Lover”, as starring James Spader, which I do like.
    I really haven’t watched “The Price is Right” since Bob barker retired (nothing against Dre Carey, I was just growing away from it), but I’m always likely to remember the time in which I viewed that game show regularly.


    • House of Sand and Fog isn’t exactly what I would call an enjoyable movie either. 🙂 Actually, I’m not sure I have seen Connelly in anything else than rather depressing roles.


      • I completely agree with you, as Jennifer Connely wasn’t been involved with many warm and fuzzy projects at all (Bringing Up The Dead” is a pretty solemn experience as well), it’s just that I find “Requiem for a Dream” particularly harsh and unsettling.


  3. Frank Sinatra. If a music historian were to assemble a list of the 10 most influential and significant pop singers of the last 100 years, there is no doubt in my mind that Frank Sinatra would hold a very high spot on that coveted list.

    What I find interesting is that while Rock N’ Roll changed the pop music landscape overnight and the crooner era was over, Sinatra still was able to thrive and rack up a number of hit singles throughout the rest of the 50’s and even into the 60’s. Matter of fact, Sinatra’s last Top 40 hit was New York, New York in 1980, 41 years after his first hit single. That, my friends, is career longevity.


    • I really respect Frank Sinatra from never deviating from his persona and methods; it made him genuine, and confident enough in who he was, which is a big reason why he remained timeless and popular.


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