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December 21: Happy Birthday Jane Fonda and Samuel L. Jackson

1221fondajackson

If there is a select group of First Families of Hollywood to match the historical First Families of Virginia, two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda, who celebrates her 79th today, is a part of one of them.  Fonda grew up in a family where acting was not frowned on, of course, but she credits the legendary Lee Strasberg with inspiring her to follow her father’s footsteps and pursue an acting career.

Fonda made her film debut in 1960 in a romantic comedy called Tall Story that was adapted from a play she had starred in on Broadway.  She was awarded a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.  Her first breakthrough came with the 1965 comedy Western, Cat Ballou, which brought her another Golden Globe nomination and showed that she was a bankable star.  Fonda ended the 1960s with an Oscar-nominated role in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, and began the 1970s by winning her first Oscar, for Best Actress, in Klute:

Fonda had a bit of a quiet patch in her career after Klute, choosing to focus on the political activism that has always been a part of her life, but from 1977-86 she received five Oscar nominations, winning a second Best Actress honor for Coming Home.  She is still active today, starring in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie (opposite Lily Tomlin).

Exercise videos?  You can discuss them in the comments if you want.

Our other headliner, as many of you probably know, once starred in a movie with Jane Fonda’s niece.  Samuel L. Jackson, who is 68 today, began acting after he graduated from Morehouse College.  He worked in theater for nearly two decades (and battled substance abuse problems for several years) before coming to the attention of director Spike Lee.  Jackson had small roles in some of Lee’s films such as School Daze and Do the Right Thing, and he also had a small part in Goodfellas.

Jackson began to break out as an actor in Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever, winning some positive critical attention for a larger role.  A supporting part in Jurassic Park increased his mainstream profile, and then he began working with Quentin Tarantino, starring first in Pulp Fiction (which brought Jackson his only Oscar nomination) and then in an Elmore Leonard adaptation:

Jackson has had an incredibly busy film career in the last two decades; he sometimes makes as many as 6-7 films a year.  A few highlights: playing Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequels, and Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, rejoining Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, playing the title role in John Singleton’s Shaft, donning a kilt for The 51st State (also called Formula 51), and voicing Frozone in The Incredibles.

As this article indicates, there was a time when Kiefer Sutherland was seen as a possible star, and a time when he was thought of as having fizzled out.  He had major roles in films like The Lost Boys, Young Guns and A Few Good Men before his star faded, but eventually he found a niche on television.  His nine-season run as Jack Bauer on 24 brought him an Emmy and a Golden Globe, and he now stars as President Tom Kirkman on Designated Survivor.  Sutherland turns 50 today.

Julie Delpy is turning 47.  She began acting in French cinema in her teens, and has received three Cesar nominations.  She has also appeared in a number of American films.  One was a forgettable 1993 version of The Three Musketeers that also starred Kiefer Sutherland; more memorable has been the “Jesse and Celine” trilogy that began with Before Sunrise, which has brought Delpy a pair of Oscar nominations for screenwriting.

Ray Romano, who turns 59, is best known as the Emmy-winning star of Everybody Loves RaymondPhil Donahue, who is 81 today, has an astonishing 20 Emmys in his trophy case, mostly for The Phil Donahue Show, which ran for nearly 30 years and 7000 episodes, the longest-running syndicated talk show in television history.  Director John Avildsen, born the same day as Donahue, won Best Director for Rocky and directed the first three Karate Kid films.  Jane Kaczmarek, who was an Emmy nominee for each of Malcolm in the Middle’s seven seasons, turns 61 today.  She will appear in next year’s feature film adaptation of CHiPs.

English actor Tom Sturridge, who celebrates his 31st, was a Tony nominee for the original Broadway production of Lyle Kessler’s Orphans and was featured in Walter Salles’ film adaptation of On the RoadTom Payne, who turns 34, is know  for his work on the British drama series Waterloo Road and for playing Paul “Jesus” Rovia on The Walking Dead.  Another Walking Dead birthday today is Steven Yeun, who turns 33; he plays Glenn Rhee.  Kaitlyn Dever, who stars on ABC’s Last Man Standing, and played the recurring role of Loretta McCready on Justified, turns 20 today.

Jeffrey Katzenberg celebrates his 66th today.  As chair of Walt Disney Studios from 1984-94, he put Disney back among the biggest players in both live-action and animated film production.  After his falling out with Michael Eisner, he became head of the animated division of Dreamworks SKG (later spun off as Dreamworks Animation), which has become a serious competitor to Disney in the animated feature market.

In music, Carl Wilson (1946-1998) was the youngest of the three Wilson brothers who were the core of the Beach Boys; he was their lead guitarist, and sang lead vocals on hits like “Good Vibrations” and “God Only Knows.”  Frank Zappa (1940-1993) was an experimenter, who liked to cross genre boundaries and even invent new ones.  “Valley Girl,” which he made with his then-teenage daughter Moon Unit, was his biggest hit.  Michael Tilson Thomas turns 72 today.  The music director of the San Francisco Symphony for over 20 years, he has conducted orchestras all over the world and is one of the most successful American-born conductors of the post-Leonard Bernstein era.  Classical pianist Sir Andras Schiff, who is turning 63, won a Grammy for his recording of Bach’s English Suites and was one of the pioneers of making period instrument recordings of solo piano works.

Authors born today include Anthony Powell (1905-2000), the English author best known for his 12-volume comedy of manners novel series, A Dance to the Music of Time.  Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Boll (1917-1985) was known for novels like The Clown and The Lost Honour of Katharine Blum.  And Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), while he is rightly known best for his terms as Prime Minister of Great Britain, was also an author who wrote over a dozen novels in his lifetime.

Sports birthdays include Chris Evert, who turns 62 today.  Evert was the #1 women’s tennis player in the world every year but one from 1974 to 1981, and won 18 Grand Slam singles titles in her career, plus 3 more in doubles.  Karrie Webb, who celebrates her 42nd, has been very nearly as successful in golf as Evert was in tennis, with 41 career wins on the LPGA tour.  Josh Gibson (1911-1947) was one of the great stars of Negro league baseball in the era before baseball’s color line was broken.  A power-hitting catcher, he was considered by contemporaries to be as good as any catcher in the major leagues in his prime in the 1930s.

Then we have the controversial sports birthdays.  Joe Paterno (1926-2012) was the longtime head football coach at Penn State.  He finished his career with 409 victories, the most of any coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.  For most of his career he had a “Mr. Clean” image, which was tarnished in his last years on the job, partly due to the revelations of child sexual abuse by his assistant, Jerry Sandusky.  Also controversial was track star Florence Griffith-Joyner (1959-1998), who won Olympic gold medals in 1988 and set world records for the women’s 100 and 200 meter dashes that no one has come close to breaking—which both before and after her death from an epileptic seizure gave rise to very loud whispers of the word “steroids.”  But no actual proof, just suspicion.

Paul Winchell (1922-2005) was a talented ventriloquist and voice actor.  He hosted The Paul Winchell Show in the early 1950s (along with his dummy, Jerry Mahoney).  He provided the voice for animated characters such as Dick Dastardly, Tigger, and Gargamel (the Smurfs’ nemesis).

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 December 21, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. I love 9 To 5 which to this day I find to be a very funny and charming comedy. Matter of fact it was a huge winner finishing out 1980 as the 2nd biggest box office hit of the year only behind the unstoppable The Empire Strikes Back.

    Outside of 9 To 5 however I’ve never been much a fan of Jane Fonda’s. I liked The China Syndrome for what it was, but not much else in her career made any impression on me.

    Samuel L. Jackson blew me away with his performance in Pulp Fiction. If there were one performance of his that outright deserved an Oscar win, that would be it. Matter of fact Sam Jackson appears in my two absolute favorite films of the 90’s, Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction.

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    • Three words: Barb-a-rella. It will make an impression, I promise. 😉

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    • They Shoot Horses Don’t They, Klute and Coming Home are JF’s greats. I think she was the biggest female box office star for a while. Her two final films before retiring in the 1990s – Old Gringo and Stanley & Iris – are actually very very good but they bombed at the box office. This and other factors discouraged her so she left the business for 15 years. I’m glad she came back and hope she never retires from public life. Fascinating woman.

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  2. Looks like your break is over. Big day today!

    I first became aware of Jane Fonda through her exercise videos. That would be the first thing to come to mind when I think of Fonda were it not for Barbarella.

    Samuel L. Jackson is one of my favorite actors. Pulp Fiction is obviously a career highlight, but he elevates everything he does. His Nick Fury cameos in the early Marvel movies would bring the house down. Now, if Jackson makes an appearance in a Marvel movie his role is usually beefed up a bit. But he used to just show up post credits and people would lose their minds. No one delivers Tarantino dialogue like Jackson.

    Kiefer Sutherland’s movie career may not have lived up to his potential. But while most of his contemporaries faded into obscurity, Sutherland has been extremely successful on TV. The first thing I ever saw Julie Delpy in was Disney’s Three Musketeers. “Forgettable” is an apt description. I also saw her in An American Werewolf in Paris, a sequel most people don’t even know exists.

    I’m not a big fan of Everybody Loves Raymond, but my dad and grandma love it still. I didn’t watch Phil Donahue, but he was a constant presence on TV growing up. John Avildsen directed two of my favorite sports-related movies; Rocky and Karate Kid.

    I tend to be critical of The Walking Dead in my recaps, but happy birthday to our two birthday boys from that show. Tom Payne is a relatively recent addition and one of many non-Americans faking a Southern accent. Spoilers: Steven Yeun has left the show after a seven-year run.

    Regular readers have listened to my thoughts on Jeffrey Katzenberg many times already. Such a fascinating figure in Disney history and animation in general. Whatever his faults, you have to give him a lot of credit for saving Disney animation which was in danger of being shut down in the 80’s.

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  3. I’m a Jane Fonda fan. “9 to 5” is my favorite movie of hers. The chemistry between Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton was what made the movie memorable in my opinion. She was also lucky enough to co-star opposite Anthony Perkins in her first movie role. (I’m a Perkins fan, too.) I read somewhere Fonda tried to seduce Perkins in his trailer while filming her first movie, but Perkins resisted. The reason Perkins resisted (which wasn’t revealed until after is death from AIDS in 1992) was he was dating Tab Hunter at the time.

    If you haven’t already, watch “Stand By Me”. Kiefer Sutherland has a memorable performance as bully Ace Merill. I also recommend watching “The Lost Boys” where he plays a vampire. (Now that I think about it, one of his deceased co-stars will be covered the birthday article on Friday).

    I know Paul Winchell as the voice of Tigger. I will never forget “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers”.

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  4. Like others there was a time when I thought Kiefer Sutherland was going to be a big movie star. He was excellent in Stand By Me and the two Young Guns films which were box office hits. I’m not sure exactly what went wrong, but the potential to become bigger was there.

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    • On the other hand, I would think that most of Sutherland’s Young Guns costars would be happy to trade career paths with him (except maybe Charlie Sheen, whose problems have been more in the off-the-set side of his life).

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      • Are we counting Christian Slater?

        Overall, I think Sutherland has more sustained success than Slater, but as of right this moment Mr. Robot is a hot show.

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        • I was mostly thinking of the core group from the first Young Guns film; I only saw Young Guns II one time, and maybe not even all the way through, so I don’t always remember Christian Slater being in it.

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        • I haven’t see either Young Guns movie all the way through. Slater took Sheen’s place as resident bad boy in the sequel. But his involvement was small enough that there was some doubt in my mind as to whether or not he counted. 😉

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    • Is no one else the least bit surprised he’s ONLY 50 today? Trying to do the math with filming dates, I think he was only 18 when Stand by Me was shot in 1985. He has always looked and seemed older than his age.

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      • Kiefer Sutherland was in “At Close Range” (I think the director of that film, James Foley, had had an interesting career) at that time as well, albeit in a very small part.

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  5. Keifer dad movie career was not that impressive either. He appeared in some hits but never really became the star people thought he would be. As for samuel funny thing is people view him as a box office draw but he is never the reason people watch those hit films he appears in them. The closet he came to leading a box office hit was shaft and that underperfomred domestically.

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  6. the only actor i can think of who career did better then his father was josh brolin. James brolin does not have many hits under his belt josh has had a lot more

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  7. Kiefer’s dad Donald Sutherland had an affair with Fonda for almost 2 years while she was married to Roger Vadim.

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  8. As lebeau suggested, this was quite a big article to write. Fortunately, the next 2-3 articles were easier on me. 🙂

    The headliners today were pretty self-selecting, once I reviewed Jane Fonda’s career and remembered how big a star she was back in the 1970s and ’80s.

    I also first saw Julie Delpy, a favorite of mine, in that very mediocre Three Musketeers from 1993. Since then I’ve gotten familiar with the “Before” films, and she was also in another famous film trilogy, Kieslowki’s “Three Colours” trilogy. To be specific, she starred in White and had cameos in the other two.

    I’m not into golf, but my sister is so I knew to be sure and include Karrie Webb here. I follow tennis sufficiently that I was conscious at the time of how great a player Chris Evert was.

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    • I’ve been working on a few things and I saw the media files being updated, so I knew you were working ahead. Glad to hear there are some lighter days coming. It’s always nice to catch a breather.

      I have not seen the “Before” movies (I know, I know) or the “Three Colours” trilogy. So I’m really not up on Delpy. I plan to correct that, but I keep putting it off.

      I almost mentioned that even someone with as limited a grasp of sports as me was aware of Chris Evert.

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  9. Holy crap, Phil Donahue has 20 Emmy’s to his name? I can’t help but imagine what his trophy case in his home must look like. Just row upon row upon row of Emmy’s on display. From what I remember Phil Donahue was the biggest name in daytime television for many years before Oprah became a phenomenon. I can’t help but wish I could see Phil Donahue’s trophy case……

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  10. Jane Fonda: Yeah, I think “Klute” is awesome, along with “Coming Home”, “The China Syndrome” and “9 to 5” ((for the 1980’s, I’ll take “The morning After” and maybe that workout video of hers, just for kicks…or exercise).
    Samuel L. Jackson, well, beyond his Capital One Quicksilver commercials (good card, 3 *’s out of 4), I didn’t really notice him in “Goodfellas” or “Jungle Fever” at first, but it was really “Pulp Fiction” and “Die Hard With a Vengeance” where I really began paying attention to him. There are no small roles for him, for sure.
    Kiefer Sutherland, I was surprised that he didn’t remain a big time star (I thought he was for a time), but I’ve adjusted to him being a good working performer. After his career cooled down, I still liked him in “Dark City” although I can’t say I ever latched onto “24” (it seems like a good show though).
    Julie Delpy I known best from the Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy of films; I’ve enjoyed all of those.
    John Avildsen, many of his films had a similar theme, but it’s a theme I liked (that includes “8 Seconds”).
    Ray Romano, I honestly haven’t seen much of him over the years, but I liked him on “Dinner For Five”.
    Jane Kaczmarek, it seemed she really broke out with “Malcolm in the Middle”, but I was aware of her before that, in such films as 1985’s “The Heavenly Kid” (love it) the remake of “D.O.A.” (didn’t really love it, but liked it more than some others did), and “Vice Versa”.

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  11. jeff had a better career then his dad beau however i would say michael was equally as successful as kirk. Both kirk and michael where big in their prime. They both starred in box office hits oscar noms both where draws at one point I would say both kirk and michael where eqaully successful no one had better career then either

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    • Michael has won an Oscar. Two if you count his Best Picture Oscar for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Kirk was nominated three times. Advantage: Michael

      Box office wise, it’s hard to make an apples to apples comparison because they were active in very different times. But I think Michael was much more of a box office draw than his old man.

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  12. Box office was different back in kirk days. Some of the films considered hits in kirk days are considered modest hits now. Iam sure kirk had clout in his day . He was not as big as say john wayne or brando but big. I would say douglas glory days where mid 80s to late 90s. i would say his box office clout stalled after traffic.

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