December 29: Happy Birthday Jon Voight and Mary Tyler Moore


Our headliners today were both big names in the 1970s.

Jon Voight is turning 78 today.  He began acting in the 1960s; one of his early roles was taking over the part of Rolf in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music.  During that show he met his first wife, Lauri Peters, who was the original Liesl on Broadway.

Voight had several TV guest roles in the 1960s and made his film debut late in the decade.  He first drew notice playing Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy in 1969; the film won Best Picture (the only X-rated film ever to do so), and Voight received a Best Actor nomination.  During the 1970s, he starred in films like Catch-22, Deliverance and The Champ.  His most important role, though, was as paraplegic Vietnam vet Luke Martin, starring opposite Jane Fonda:

Voight won Best Actor for Coming Home.  He has subsequently been Oscar-nominated as the lead in Runaway Train, and for playing Howard Cosell (remember him?) in Ali.  He received a Golden Globe nomination for The Rainmaker and appeared in films such as Heat, Enemy of the State and Varsity Blues.  He recently won a Golden Globe as Mickey Donovan on Ray Donovan and can currently be seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Six-time Emmy winner Mary Tyler Moore turns 80 today.  Five of those six Emmys were for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.  Two of them were for her role of Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, where she played the wife of television writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke).  The other three were for the role of Mary Richards, a single television news producer and the lead character of another show named after its star:

Since the end of The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s run, Moore has made some efforts to get back into series television, none of them successful.  She has made a number of TV movies, winning her sixth Emmy for 1993’s Stolen Babies.  Her best known feature film role was her Oscar-nominated performance as Beth Jarrett in Ordinary People.  She made her Broadway debut in a 1980 revival of Brian Clark’s Whose Life is it Anyway?, for which she received a special Tony Award.  She later won a second Tony as a producer for the 1985 revival of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.

Another major TV actor, Ted Danson, turns 69 today.  While he has had starring roles on Becker and CSI, Danson will be best remembered for his Emmy-winning role of Sam Malone on CheersGelsey Kirkland, who turns 64, is known for her distinguished career in ballet (which landed her on the cover of Time in 1978), and for her tell-all memoir Dancing on My GravePatricia Clarkson, who celebrates her 57th, is a two-time Emmy winner for her role on Six Feet Under and was an Oscar nominee for Pieces of April.  German director Oliver Hirschbiegel, who is 59 today, is best known in the US for the Oscar-nominated film Die Untergang, or Downfall, about the final days of Adolf Hitler.

Jude Law, who turns 44 today, is a two-time Oscar nominee, for Best Supporting Actor for The Talented Mr. Ripley, and for Best Actor for Cold Mountain.  He has also had a fine stage career, with two Tony and three Olivier Award nominations.  At one point he seemed on the brink of becoming an A-list leading man; instead, he became a WTHH subject.

Lilly Wachowski (formerly Andy), who turns 49 today, is one half of the sibling creative team The Wachowskis.  They remain best known for the Matrix trilogy; their recent activity has included the Netflix series Sense8, which has been well-received, and the film Jupiter Ascending, which was not.  Jennifer Ehle, who is turning 47, is a two-time Tony winner for roles in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing and The Coast of Utopia.  She has had major supporting roles in films like Contagion and Zero Dark ThirtyMekhi Phifer is 42 today.  He made his film debut starring in Spike Lee’s Clockers and was a regular on ER for several seasons.  Shawn Hatosy, who turns 41, currently stars on Animal Kingdom as Pope Cody; he is also known as a star of Southland and films like The Faculty and Outside Providence.  Also a regular on Southland was Michael Cudlitz, more recently seen as Abraham Ford on The Walking Dead.  He is turning 52.  Danny McBride, the co-creator and star of the HBO series Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, is 40 today.

Diego Luna, who turns 37, currently stars in Rogue One.  A major star in his native Mexico in films like Y Tu Mamá También, he has also had major roles in American films like Open Range, The Terminal and ElysiumKatherine Moennig, who is 39, is known for playing Shane McCutcheon on The L Word and Lena Barnum on Ray DonovanAlison Brie, who is 34 today, starred as Annie Edison on CommunityIain De Caestecker, who plays Leo Fitz on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., turns 29 today.  Jane Levy, who is 27, starred in the horror films Evil Dead (the 2013 reboot) and Don’t Breathe, and on ABC’s SuburgatoryDylan Minnette, Levy’s costar in Don’t Breathe, is 20 today.  Tori Anderson, who stars on the CW’s No Tomorrow, celebrates her 28th.

Dina Merrill, who is 93 today, was known for her roles in 1950s and 60s films like Operation Petticoat, Butterfield 8, and I’ll Take Sweden.  She was also a guest-star on Batman as Calamity JanInga Swenson, who is turning 84, was a two-time Tony nominee for the musicals 110 in the Shade and Baker Street, and was known for a memorable guest role on Bonanza, as Inger, the mother of Ben Cartwright’s second son Hoss.

Today’s music birthdays include Marianne Faithfull, who turns 70.  The English rock and folk singer was known for hits like “As Tears Go By” and “Come and Stay With Me.”  Yvonne Elliman, who is 65 today, first became known for her role in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar; her recording of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” was a successful single.  She later had a #1 hit with “If I Can’t Have You,” part of the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever.  Flutist and composer Ray Thomas, who is turning 75, was a member ofthe art rock band the Moody Blues for nearly 40 years.  Singer-songwriter Rick Danko (1943-1999) was best known for being the bass player and one of the lead singers for The Band.  Pablo Casals (1876-1973) was probably the world’s most eminent cellist in the first half of the 20th century

Sports birthdays include football Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke (1936-1998), who anchored the Green Bay Packers’ defense at linebacker as they won five NFL titles in the 1960s and the first two Super Bowls.  Laffit Pincay, Jr., who turns 70, had more wins than any other jockey in horse-racing history when he retired (he is still #2 in all-time wins).  Sean Payton, who is 53 today, has been head coach of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints for the past decade, taking the Saints to their first appearance and victory in the Super Bowl.  The glow of that victory was tarnished when Payton was linked to a “bounty” scandal involving several Saints players and coaches.

The late Jon Polito (1950-2016) will be remembered for his many appearances in the Coen Brothers’ films, including Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink, and for his portrayal of Det. Steve Crosetti on the first two seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street.  Director George Marshall (1891-1975) worked in Hollywood for over fifty years; his filmography includes Destry Rides Again with Marlene DietrichEd Flanders (1934-1995) was a four-time Emmy nominee for St. Elsewhere, winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama in 1983, and also won a Tony for a 1974 revival of Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the MisbegottenJo Van Fleet (1915-1996) won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for the film adaptation of East of Eden (the film where James Dean had his first major role), and a Tony for appearing in the original Broadway production of Horton Foote’s A Trip to BountifulRajesh Khanna (1942-2012) was known as the “original superstar” of Indian film.  He was a three-time winner of the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.

Two women who had a significant impact on 18th century history were born December 29.  Elizabeth of Russia (1709-1762) became Empress in a coup in 1741 and ruled until her death over 20 years later.  Under her rule Russia became a major player in European great power politics; she was especially known for her hostility to Frederick the Great of Prussia.  Jeanne Poisson (1721-1764), known as Madame de Pompadour, was the longtime mistress of Louis XV of France.  She had a great deal of informal influence at Louis’s court and was a patron of the arts and of men of letters like the philosophers Voltaire and Diderot.

Other significant historical figures born today include William E. Gladstone (1809-1898), four-time Prime Minister of Great Britain and one of the most important British political leaders of the 19th Century.  A number of actors, including Ralph Richardson, have played him on film.  Billy Mitchell (1879-1936) was an American general during World War One, known for his efforts to create an independent Air Force and the many fights he picked with the Army hierarchy on this issue.  Gary Cooper played him in a 1955 film.

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 29, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I thought Jon Voight was outstanding in ”
    Coming Home” and “Runaway Train” (love it!), but I’ve actually never seen “Midnight Cowboy” (the only Joe Buck I know of is the sportscaster), but I really should.
    Mary Tyler Moore is a legend, and just like Rocky, has her own statue. You know you’ve created an iconic character when a statue is created for you, and it.
    Ted Danson, he was in that 1986 film with Mary Tyler Moore, “Just Between Friends”. He’s definitely best known for his Sam Malone character in “Cheers” (maybe he should have a statue?), but I liked his turns in “Body Heat” and that segment on “Creepshow” too.
    Patricia Clarkson, I’ve always thought she’s good. My favorite film that she starred in is 2003’s “The Station Agent”, which I think is delightful.
    Jude Law, I really disliked his Dickie character (Dickie, Dickie!) in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, so I think that’s a credit to his ability, since I had sympathy for him in “Gattaca”. He’s one of those performers who’s been involved in many genres, and I like that.
    Shawn Hatosy, hey, he was in Season 5 of “Dexter”, as the odd and creepy Boyd Fowler, but I knew him from before, especially from “The Cooler” (love it) and “Alpha Dog”.
    Mekhi Phifer I first remember from “Clockers”, and I thought he did a good job in that remake of “Brain’s Song”.
    Alison Brie I know from “Community”.
    Marianne Faithfull I only know from the trippy 1968 film “The Girl on a Motorcycle”; I didn’t really care for the film all that much really, but I thought she looked good in it.
    I enjoyed Ray Nitschke’s performance in the original “The Longest Yard”, and I learned his nickname when he played for the Packers was “The Judge”, since he spent the early part of his career on the bench. I find that funny.
    Lots of names I’m familiar with today, and I could probably go on longer, but I won’t.


    • I also enjoy Ted Danson’s performance in Body Heat; he injects a little bit of essential humor into the proceedings.

      And I agree with you about The Station Agent, it is a very good movie with an excellent cast—Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Williams along with Clarkson.


      • Yeah, that’s why I thought Danson was great in “Body Heat”, that film needed some good nature, like when he was asked if he wanted to smoke: “I’ll just breathe in the air”.
        Yeah, great cast in general for “The Station Agent” (that’s when I first learned of Peter Dinklage), and they helped create that little miracle.


    • Marianne Faithfull in known primarily as a singer/songwriter than an actress, and also, unfortunately, almost as famous as Mick Jagger’s former girlfriend. She became famous for her recording of a song the Rolling Stones wrote, “As Tears Go By”, and later wrote song that the Rolling Stones covered, “Sister Morphine”- the Stones’ song “Wild Horses” was written about her suicide attempt following her miscarriage of her and Jagger’s baby. She fell off the radar for awhile and had a breakthrough with the album “Broken English”- ‘Why’d Ya Do It’ is, in my opinion, the best song on that album, an incredibly raw and harsh song about infidelity. She wrote an extremely juicy autobiography about her career and heroin addiction which is a great read. She also thought ‘Girl On a Motorcyle’ was a bad movie. She has been in other films as well as stage performances, and you may have seen her in a cameo as Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in Sophia Coppolla’s ‘Marie Antoinette’, in a cameo as God on ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, and in the Metallica video ‘The Memory Remains’. She was nominated for a Best Actress award for the film Irina Palme from the European Film Academy in 2007 and was awarded Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2011. She is a far more fascinating lady than the two sentences dedicated to her in this article would have you believe.


      • I’ve heard that Marianne Faithfull had some important moments and lead an interesting life, but I’ve just never known too much about her.


  2. Coming Home is such a great movie! Holds up well. Jon Voight seems like a genuinely nice guy IRL despite all the negative press attention. Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance seem to be what most people know him for but I found those difficult to take in. He’s a riot on Ray Donovan. Jon and Marcheline, by the way, were a very appealing couple back in the day.


  3. Almost forty names in today’s article—that may be the most ever.


  4. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw Jon Voight in anything, it was The Champ. I had no idea who he was, but I knew the kid from Silver Springs was in it. I caught up with Voight later through Coming Home and Midnight Cowboy. I saw the latter in college and it made quite a strong impression. Readers of the Golden Raspberry articles will recall that Voight became a Razzie favorite for his hammy supporting role in Anaconda and was a frequent nominee from that point forward.

    I didn’t watch The Dick Van Dyke Show or The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but growing up you couldn’t help but be aware of their significance. I watched Ordinary People relatively recently. I think it has been within the last year. She was in the indie comedy, Flirting with Disaster, which I think is underrated. Check it out.

    Ted Danson is just a terrific TV actor. He’s done movies too, but he really clicks on the small screen when you’re watching him in your living room. Obviously, I watched Danson for years on Cheers, but I didn’t really appreciate how he anchored that show until I saw his later work. He was on the second season of Fargo and he just radiated this innate decency. I haven’t seen The Good Place, but I hear good things.

    I’m not happy with the Jude Law WTHH article. It’s one of the ones I originally wrote under a different theme and converted after the fact. It needs work, but it’s pretty far down my list of priorities largely because Law has been pretty active in supporting roles of late. Apparently he didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to have disappeared.

    I haven’t really liked much that the Wachowskis have done since the original Matrix, but I find them to be fascinating figures and I’m glad they continue doing their thing. I will say that Jupiter Ascending is almost worth watching just for its sheer lunacy. It’s like watching someone else’s weird dream.

    Michael Cudlitz left The Walking Dead this season. There really wasn’t any story left to tell for his character. I also saw him in a low budget thriller, Dark Tourist. It was worth a look. I haven’t watched most of the shows Danny McBride is known for, but I have seen him pop up in Seth Rogen movies and Tropic Thunder.

    Rogue One was my introduction to Diego Luna. I thought he was good in it. I guess he’s starring in a remake of Flatliners. Really? We’re remaking Flatliners now?

    I know I’m not alone in loving Alison Brie. Not only was she on Community, she also put Pete Campbell in his place on Mad Men. Additionally, she provided the voice of Unikitty in The Lego Movie which will result in her showing up in a future Lego Dimensions write-up.

    I watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. mostly out of habit. The cast does what they can with the material they are given. Iain De Caestecker is very relatable as Agent Fitz.

    I have seen Jane Levy in promos for Monster Trucks on The Disney Channel. I guess she’s trying to break away from her recent Scream Queen roles like Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe. I only watched part of the Evil Dead remake and bits of episodes of Suburgatory. Apparently Levy will be part of the massive ensemble for this year’s Twin Peaks reunion. Fair warning: I will be all about Twin Peaks this year.

    I had hoped to get caught up on comments, but I just spent over a half hour on this article! Now I’m being told I need to run to the store for milk. More comments to come.


    • I viewed “Suburgatory” a few times; it was my kind of show, but I forgot all about it until you mentioned it.


      • I forgot about it too until I saw it listed on Levy’s credits this morning. I liked what I saw of it. Seemed like a good show, but I am slow to pick up sitcoms.


        • So am I; I think I lost my handle on this TV thing overall since the early 1990’s. “Suburgatory” for me was like if “My So Called Life” and “Heathers” had a baby.


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