December 21: Happy Birthday Jane Fonda and Samuel L. Jackson
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).
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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 Raymond. Phil 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 Road. Tom 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.
Posted on December 21, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Chris Evert, Frank Zappa, Jane Fonda, Jane Kaczmarek, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Julie Delpy, Kiefer Sutherland, Phil Donahue, Ray Romano, Samuel L. Jackson. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.