December 20: Happy Birthday Jonah Hill and Jenny Agutter


Jonah Hill turns 33 today.  He was acquainted with Dustin Hoffman’s son and daughter as he grew up, and the elder Hoffman persuaded Hill to audition for what became his first film role, in I Heart Huckabees.  Hill then became part of the crew of performers who regularly worked with Judd Apatow, on films like Knocked Up and Superbad.  But before he could be typecast as a purely comic actor, he had a success in his first major dramatic role, in a film about the business of baseball:

Hill received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his role in Moneyball as Peter Brand (a character based partly on former Oakland A’s executive Paul DePodesta, who did not want his name used in the film).  Two years later, he added a second Oscar nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street.  In the past year Hill has had a supporting role in Hail, Caesar! and starred in War Dogs, for which he has received another Golden Globe nomination.

Jenny Agutter is celebrating her 64th birthday today.  She began acting as a teen, in the thriller I Start Counting, and in both a BBC series and a feature film adapted from E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children.  She was still a teen in Nic Roeg’s Walkabout, but the content of the film (two words: skinny dipping) marked a transition to adult roles for her.

Agutter was busy during the 1970s, winning an Emmy for a British TV movie adaptation of Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose, and later a BAFTA Award for Equus.  She also starred in films like The Eagle Has Landed and The Riddle of the Sands, but le Blog readers are probably most likely to recall her starring role in Logan’s Run:

After about 1981, Agutter seems to have made a decision to scale back her film career.  She did some theater work and spent some time raising a son.  In recent years she has appeared in two Marvel Cinematic Universe films as a member of the World Security Council and stars on the BBC’s Call the Midwife.

Dick Wolf, who celebrates his 70th, is an Emmy-winning television producer best known as the creator of the Law & Order franchise.  John Hillerman, who is turning 84, won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Jonathan Higgins on Magnum, P.I.  His film roles included Howard Johnson in Blazing SaddlesJoel Gretsch, who is 53 today, starred in the sci-fi series The 4400 on USA Network and V on ABC.  Korean director Kim Ki-duk turns 56 today.  The best known of his many art-house films is Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring.

Joe Cornish, who turns 48, has had a long career in British television, but first attracted widespread notice with his moderately budgeted sci-fi thriller Attack the Block in 2011.  More recently he co-wrote the story and screenplay for Ant-Man.  Australian actor Bob Morley, who is 32 today, stars in The CW’s series The 100 after several years in Australian soap operas Home and Away and NeighborsTodd Phillips, who is turning 46, directed this year’s War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill, and also has done the Hangover trilogy as well as Old School and Starsky and Hutch.

Our music birthdays include JoJo Levesque, often billed simply as “JoJo,” who turns 26.  She had a pair of Top Ten albums and three hit singles during the mid-2000s, and also starred in films like Aquamarine and RVBilly Bragg, who is turning 59, is well-known in England for his folk-punk albums and singles and his political activism.  Peter Criss, who is 71 today, may be remembered by some readers as the drummer in the hard rock band Kiss during their heyday in the 1970s.  Dame Mitsuko Uchida, a classical pianist known for her interpretations of Bach, Mozart and Schubert, turns 68 today.  Chris Robinson is 50.  He and his brother Rich co-founded the rock band The Black Crowes, for which Chris is the lead singer.

In sports, Bob Hayes (1942-2002) is the only man ever to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring.  He won the 100 meter dash at the 1964 Olympics and then returned to anchor the US men to a win in the 4×100 meter relay, running an anchor leg so fast it has become legendary.  He then went on to star for the Dallas Cowboys for a decade, starting in their victory in Super Bowl VI.  Nate Newton, who turns 55 today, also played most of his career for the Cowboys, starting for them at offensive guard in three Super Bowl victories.  Baseball Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett (1900-1972) was a star catcher for the Chicago Cubs for most of the 1920s and ’30s, leading the Cubs to four National League pennants.  Branch Rickey (1881-1965) is also in the Baseball Hall of Fame, as an executive. A great innovator, Rickey was responsible for developing the modern minor league system in baseball and played a central role in breaking down baseball’s color line by signing Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Irene Dunne (1898-1990) was one of the top leading ladies in film in the 1930s and ’40s.  She was a five-time nominee for Best Actress, and had quite a bit of range as an actress; she was successful in screwball comedies (such as The Awful Truth), weepy romances (Love Affair), musicals (the 1936 version of Show Boat) and more.  Stage and screen veteran Charlie Grapewin (1869-1956) was a leading character actor of the early sound era, best known for playing Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz and Grandpa Joad in The Grapes of WrathAudrey Totter (1917-2013) was an MGM contract player and later a busy television actress; two of her best-known parts involved co-starring with her near-contemporary Jayne Meadows—they were both in the 1947 film noir Lady of the Lake and later both played nurses on CBS’s Medical Center. Dennis Morgan (1908-1994) was a leading man at Warner Brothers in the 1940s, often starring in comedies or musicals, frequently with Jack Carson as his sidekick.

John Spencer (1946-2005) started his career in a recurring role on The Patty Duke Show, and as an adult went on to regular parts on LA Law and The West Wing, winning an Emmy for the latter show.  Also seen on The West Wing was Kathryn Joosten (1939-2012), who also won two Emmys for her role on Desperate Housewives.  Director George Roy Hill (1921-2002) is best known for his two films with the Paul Newman/Robert Redford team, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, for which he won Best Director.

Donald Adams (1928-1996) was an English bass and stage actor who was best known for his performances in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.  He was the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company’s principal bass-baritone for nearly 20 years, performing roles like the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance and the title role in The Mikado.  He should not be confused with the American actor who played Maxwell Smart.

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 20, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I was as surprised as anybody when Jonah Hill zagged into dramatic roles. Good for him! I am a big fan of The Wolf of Wall Street – a movie which I know is divisive around here. I can’t speak for all readers, but I certainly know Jenny Agutter from Logan’s Run. But I think I actually first became acquainted with her through American Werewolf in London. I was happy to see her show up in a small role in Captain America: Winter Soldier (still my favorite Marvel movie.)

    I did not put two and two together that the guy from Blazing Saddles was also in Magnum. I know Daffy’s a big Billy Bragg fan. He’s been busy lately and hasn’t been around much, but hopefully he’ll get to drop in for Bragg’s birthday. I was never a big Kiss fan, but they were pretty inescapable when I was growing up in the 70’s. Did anyone else watch Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park?

    This probably won’t surprise anyone, but I prefer Irene Dunne’s screwball comedies to her weepy melodramas.


    • I was not blown away by The Wolf of Wall Street overall, but I did think Jonah Hill was very good as Donnie Azoff.

      John Hillerman also turns up as a high school teacher in The Last Picture Show; the first time I watched it, when his scene came up I knew I had seen him somewhere but it took me a while to place him.

      It’s sort of fitting that Audrey Totter’s birthday is so close to Christmas, since Lady in the Lake, one of her best-known films, is set during the Christmas season. It’s not as good as other Raymond Chandler adaptations from that era but it’s fairly interesting.


      • I may need to give Daffy some credit for lowering my expectations. He hated Wolf of Wall Street and said so during out Oscar podcast. I didn’t see it until a year later on cable, but I thought it was hysterical. I have watched it a few times since and I still think it’s a hoot. It’s not in the same league as Goodfellas or Tax Driver, but it entertained the hell out of me.


  2. Jonah hill, yeah, nice transition to dramatic roles; he had the comedic persona down cold, but his role in “Moneyball” was the way to go.
    I think Jenny Agutter is a bit of a surprise as a headline, but a nice one. I know her from roles from films like “Loagn’s run”, “An American Werewolf in London” and “Child’s Play 2”, along with an episode of “Magnun P.I.”.
    Dick Wolf created an indefensible formula with “Law and Order” (that “ripped from the headlines” stuff he started on “Miami Vice”, so he already had a handle on that aspect): the cast changes, let’s just keep rolling with the stories, because it’s the stories that matter.


  3. I forgot that Dick Wolf wrote the screenplay for 1987’s “No Man’s Land”; that film has been on the Charge! channel recently, and if I happen to catch it, I’ll keep it on. It’s one of those films that always reels me in.


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