January 1: Happy Birthday Frank Langella and Colin Morgan


For the second day in a row, we have a headliner who has played Richard Nixon on film.  Frank Langella, who is 79 today, has been acting for over fifty years.  If you look only at his film career, it seems a little uneven.  There are some distinguished films—he opened his career with a Golden Globe nomination in his debut in Diary of a Mad Housewife and has been featured in films like Good Night, and Good Luck and Starting Out in the Evening which were critically acclaimed.  But he’s done some pretty downmarket stuff as well—he was a hammy villain in both Masters of the Universe and Cutthroat Island.

But if you know about Langella’s career, you know that his first love is pretty clearly the stage.  He is a seven-time Tony nominee, winning four times over span of over 40 years.  One of his nominated roles was for a late 1970s revival of the play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John Balderston (a play adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel); the play was then adapted into a 1979 feature film starring Langella.  One of his wins, for Best Actor in a Play, was for Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon; Langella played Nixon on stage and then in the feature film adaptation, for which he received a Best Actor nomination:

Colin Morgan, who celebrates his 31st birthday today, is an Irish actor who is not yet well known in the US but is very busy in British stage, film and television.  He made his West End debut in the lead role in an adaptation of DBC Pierre’s novel Vernon God Little, and his subsequent stage roles have included Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  He has appeared in supporting roles in films like Legend and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and will be starring in upcoming films like Waiting for You (a coming of age tale) and The Rising (about the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland; Morgan will play rebel leader Seán Mac Diarmada).

But Morgan is best known for his television work at present.  He had a short stint on Doctor Who in the David Tennant era.  More recently, he starred opposite Gillian Anderson in seasons 2 and 3 of the BBC crime drama The Fall, and also had a prominent role in the sci-fi series Humans (which aired on AMC in the US).  But his best known role was starring as the title character in the BBC fantasy-adventure series Merlin:

Morris Chestnut, who turns 48 today, made his debut in Boyz n the Hood as Ricky Baker.  His film roles through the years have included starring in Malcolm Lee’s The Best Man and The Best Man Holiday, The Brothers, and Breakin’ All the Rules.  He currently stars on Fox’s Rosewood.

Joseph Saddler, better known as Grandmaster Flash, was the DJ of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the first hip-hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  He turns 59 today.  Italian actress Valentina Cortese, who worked in European cinema for over 50 years with a few American films mixed in, is 94 today.  She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night.  Indian writer and director Deepa Mehta, who is 67 today, is best known for her “Elements” trilogy of Fire, Earth and Water, the last of which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Dedee Pfeiffer, who celebrates her 53rd, made her feature film debut in Into the Night, which starred her older sister Michelle; Dedee is known for her starring roles on Cybill and For Your Love.

English actress Stacy Martin, who turns 26, made her debut in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac and works in both English and French cinema.  Dana DeLorenzo, who currently stars on Ash vs Evil Dead (on the Starz network), celebrates her 34th.  Sharon Small’s best known screen role is as DS Barbara Havers on The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, adapted from the novels by Elizabeth George, while on stage she recently played Jenny Diver in The Threepenny Opera, at the Royal National Theatre.  She is 50 today.  Eden Riegel turns 36; she is known for her nearly ten years of playing Bianca Montgomery, the first openly lesbian character on daytime American television, on All My Children.  Riegel won a Daytime Emmy for the role.  Verne Troyer, the 2-foot, 8-inch actor who played Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films, turns 48 today.

Dana Andrews (1909-1992) was a major leading man of the 1940s, starring opposite Gene Tierney in Laura and playing one of three returned veterans who are central to the plot of The Best Years of Our Lives.  A long battle with alcoholism kept him from remaining a star in later decades.  Charles Bickford (1891-1967) had a long career as a supporting player; in the 1940s he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor three times.  Carole Landis (1919-1948) became famous overnight when she starred in the 1940 version of One Million B.C. (in the role played by Raquel Welch in the 1966 remake).  However, her personal life was a mess, and she tragically committed suicide at 29 years of age.  Matt Robinson (1937-2002) was a member of the original creative team of Sesame Street, playing the character of Gordon and voicing the puppet character Roosevelt Franklin during the show’s first seasons.

Our top sports birthday is Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg (1911-1986), a two-time American League MVP who led the Detroit Tigers to World Series titles in 1935 and 1945.  His career totals are not as eye-popping as those of some of his contemporaries because he spent over four seasons in the military in World War 2.  He was one of the few opposing players to give public support to Jackie Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s color line in 1947.

Our major literary birthday today is E. M. Forster (1879-1970).  He is famous for his novels depicting social tensions in early 20th century English society, several of them adapted to film: A Passage to India by David Lean and several others by the Merchant-Ivory team.  Also born today was J. D. Salinger (1919-2010), the author of perhaps the great classic of teenage angst literature, Catcher in the RyeJoe Orton (1933-1967) was a short-lived English playwright known for black comedies such as LootLarry L. King (1929-2012) was another playwright, remembered for his Tony-nominated musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (later made into a feature film).

J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was a young attorney at the US Department of Justice in 1924, when he was made director of the Department’s Bureau of Investigation (later renamed as the FBI)—and he stayed and stayed, remaining Director until his death in 1972.  Many, many things about him are controversial; one that is not is that he was one of the most effective bureaucratic empire-builders of all time.  You may have once read a famous poem about Paul Revere (1735-1818), the Boston silversmith who was one of the anti-British militants known as the Sons of Liberty.  Yes, he really did make something of a “midnight ride.”

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 January 1, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Happy New Year, everyone. In the words of a former Beatle, let’s hope it’s a good one.

    Frank Langella is an actor I always enjoy even in a bad movie. As you point out, he’s made his fair share. He may have hammed it up in Cutthroat Island, but that was exactly what the movie called for. Someone had to make up for the charisma vacuum of Matthew Modine as the leading man.

    I’m not familiar with Colin Morgan. I checked to see when he made his Dr. Who appearances because I am in the David Tennant era, but I haven’t caught up that far yet. He has done several shows I have heard good things about but have yet to check out. One of the things I enjoy about these write-ups is that they help me but names to unfamiliar faces.

    Morris Chestnut has had a steady career. I forgot he was on the V reboot (I forgot there was a V reboot) and the first season of American Horror Story.

    Verne Troyer has shown up in a few reality TV shows which means I have seen more of his personal life than I probably should have. My wife really likes Celebrity Wife Swap. For a while there, Troyer had a real substance abuse problem. He appears to have recovered from that, but his size and fame present him with some unusual challenges. People apparently want to pick him up and he’s powerless to stop them. As a result, he is afraid to go outside. It’s a shame. I hope he’s doing well.

    “Oh, I get it. Real cute! Whatever we think of— if we think of J. Edgar Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover will appear and destroy us, okay?”

    I always wondered why that didn’t result in J. Edgar Hoover showing up and destroying New York. The only answer I can come up with is that a marshmallow man is funnier and more marketable. But Dr. Venkman did technically think of Hoover before Ray thought of Mr. Stay Puft.

    I’m going to leave you with that deep thought to ponder during the new year. 😉


  2. Before I researched this article, I had a vague sense that Frank Langella had done some stage work, but no idea how big a Broadway career he had had. This is the sort of stage career that gets a person knighted over in England.

    We have a couple of namesakes in today’s article. Baseball’s Hank Greenberg is no relation to Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former CEO of insurer AIG, which had a central role in the 2008 financial meltdown. And playwright Larry L. King is no relation to the longtime CNN talk show host.


  3. Frank Langella, gell’n with Langella, a man with quite a few looks: Dracula, Skeletor from the 1987 He-man film, playing a guy that looks nothing like how he really looks again in 1999’s “The Ninth Gate” (which I like more than some some others, but I especially enjoyed him as the bad guy in “Dave”.
    Grandmaster Flash too? Wow, I just love the song “The Message”: that’s my kind of rap right there, and some good video games did the right thing by licensing that song to their soundtrack. P. Diddy (fine businessman, but not an artist) sampled that he couldn’t be pushed to the edge, but Grandmaster Flash is the real deal.
    Morris Chestnut, it was a real bummer about his “Boyz in the Hood” character, and I like him in that “Rosewood” show on FOX, though I haven’t viewed it in awhile.
    Dedee Pfeiffer, sure sure, I’ve seen her in “Cybill” and the odd film here and there.
    J.D. Salinger, I’m all about “The Catcher in the Rye”, too bad some fame searching psychos kind of game the book a bad name.
    Joe Orton, I know, a little of his story (biographically and from the excellent 1987 film “Prick Up Your Eyes”), and I heard his play “Loot” was awesome (later turned into a film, which I heard was acceptable).
    Paul Revere, boy, that ride of his had a lot more moving parts & people involved that I was aware of when I was in the K-6 type of schooling.


  4. I simply love Colin Morgan and wish he would seek out American roles. The US would love him❤️


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