January 17: Happy Birthday James Earl Jones and Jim Carrey
James Earl Jones celebrates his 86th today. He entered acting after his early 1950s Army service, working as a janitor to pay the bills until he got steady work. He made his Broadway debut in 1958 in Dore Schary’s Sunrise at Campobello. His feature film debut followed in 1964 in a small role in Dr. Strangelove.
In 1968 Jones starred on Broadway as the lead in Howard Sackler’s play The Great White Hope, based loosely on the life of boxer Jack Johnson, the first African American to win the world heavyweight title (renamed Jack Jefferson in the play). Two years later, Jones reprised the role in a film adaptation. He won a Tony for the stage role and won a Golden Globe and receive an Oscar nomination for the film:
Jones won a second Tony for starring in the original Broadway production of August Wilson’s Fences (and has been nominated two additional times). He has been nominated for nine Emmys (eight Primetime, one Daytime), winning three, two of them in 1990—one for the TV movie Heat Wave, the other as the lead in the short-lived series Gabriel’s Fire. He has, of course, done a great deal of film work, including co-starring in Field of Dreams and playing Admiral James Greer in three adaptations of Tom Clancy’s novels. His best-known film performances have, most likely, been a pair of voice roles, as Mufasa in The Lion King and Darth Vader in the Star Wars trilogy.
Jim Carrey turns 55 today. He began working as a stand-up comic in the 1980s, and in 1990 became one of the original cast members of the sketch comedy series In Living Color. He had made some feature film appearances in the 1980s as well, but his breakthrough came in 1994. He starred in three separate films that year, all of them very successful financially. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was the first one released, Dumb and Dumber did the best at the box office (at least in the US), but it was the third one which brought Carrey his first major acting award nomination, for a Golden Globe:
For the next decade, Carrey was highly successful. He had several box office hits, such as Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty, and also several critical successes. He won Golden Globes for playing Truman Burbank in The Truman Show and Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, and was nominated for one for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As for what happened next, is that not the reason we have WTHH articles?
In one of life’s interesting coincidences, Andy Kaufman (1949-1984) was born the same day as the man who played him onscreen. Whether he was performing in clubs, playing Latka Gavras on Taxi, pretending to be lounge singer Tony Clifton, or challenging women to wrestle, Kaufman was definitely one of a kind.
Zooey Deschanel celebrates her 37th birthday today. She has received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for starring on Fox’s New Girl. Her major film roles include The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and 500 Days of Summer, and she has released several albums with M. Ward; they record as She & Him. Two-time Cesar Award winner Sylvie Testud turns 46; she is known for films like Fear and Trembling, La vie en rose, and Sagan. Freddy Rodriguez, who is 42 today, currently stars on CBS’s Bull, and has been a regular on Six Feet Under and The Night Shift. Leigh Whannell, who turns 40, is best known for his screenwriting on the Saw and Insidious horror franchises. Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of animated series like Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack and the director of the Hotel Transylvania features, celebrates his 47th. Naveen Andrews, who is 48 today, was an Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for Lost and is currently a regular on Sense8.
Brian Helgeland, who turns 56, is best known as a screenwriter. He was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for L. A. Confidential and again for Mystic River, winning for the former film. He has recently written and directed 42 and Legend. Denis O’Hare, who is 55 today, won a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out, and is a two-time Emmy nominee for American Horror Story. Joshua Malina, who plays David Rosen on Scandal, turns 51. D. J. Caruso, the director of films like Taking Lives and Disturbia, turns 52. His latest is the upcoming XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. Kevin Reynolds, who is 65 today, was an Emmy nominee for directing the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, and has directed features that include Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Risen. Steve Harvey is turning 60. He is a three-time Daytime Emmy winner as the host of both his own talk show and the game show Family Feud.
First Lady Michelle Obama is turning 53 today. We wish her the best as she and her family move out of the White House and on to the next stage in their lives.
Betty White is a six-time Emmy winner (five Primetime, one Daytime), plus a special Lifetime Achievement award. Highlights of her career have included playing Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and starring as Rose Nylund, one of The Golden Girls.
Sports birthdays for today include a true legend. The late Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) was one of the all-time greats of boxing. Moreover, the three-time heavyweight champion was a public figure in a way that few athletes in any sport have ever equaled. Dwayne Wade, who turns 35 today, has been one of the top stars in the NBA in the past two decades, leading the Miami Heat to three NBA titles. Kip Keino, who is 77, was a two-time Olympic gold medalist and part of the first generation of great Kenyan middle and long distance runners who have dominated the Olympics and world championships in those events for nearly 50 years.
Steve Earle, who is turning 62, is our main music birthday today. Musically, Earle lives somewhere near the boundary of country and rock, but also has a lot of folk in his music; his three Grammys are all in the Contemporary Folk category. As most readers probably know, a lot of his music has a significant political component. But not all of it:
Also in music, Robert Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, turns 46 today. Although he first made his name as a rapper, most of his five Grammy nominations are in rock or pop categories. Peggy Gilbert (1905-2007) had a very long career in jazz; she was one of, if not the first female jazz band leader starting in the early 1930s.
Several important figures in the early film industry were born today. Carl Laemmle (1867-1939) was the founder of Universal Studios. They were one of the “major minor” studios of the thirties and forties, known for the Universal Monster films, musicals with Deanna Durbin, their “Easterns” with Jon Hall and Maria Montez, and the Abbott and Costello films. Mack Sennett (1880-1960), known as the “king of comedy” during the silent era, is remembered for the Keystone Cops films and for giving a start to great silent comics like Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. Noah Beery (1882-1946) was a major silent film star in the 1920s. He transitioned to character roles in the sound era; one of his films was She Done Him Wrong, co-starring in support of one of tomorrow’s headliners. He was the brother of Oscar-winner Wallace Beery and the father of Noah Beery, Jr., who played Joseph “Rocky” Rockford on The Rockford Files.
Ventriloquist and puppeteer Shari Lewis (1933-1998) was known for her own show, The Shari Lewis Show, and for her appearances on children’s oriented shows ranging from Captain Kangaroo to The Muppet Show, nearly always with her puppet/dummy Lamb Chop. Singer and actress Eartha Kitt (1927-2008) received two Tony nominations during her Broadway career and won two Daytime Emmys for her work on The Emperor’s New School; she also played Catwoman during the third seasons of the sixties Batman series. Nevil Shute (1899-1960) had a productive career as an aeronautical engineer, but is better known for his other career as a novelist; he wrote books such as A Town Like Alice and On the Beach. Dancer and actress Moira Shearer (1926-2006) is remembered for her starring roles in The Red Shoes, made by the “Archers” team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and in Powell’s Peeping Tom.
The multi-talented Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was one of two Americans who achieved worldwide fame during the era of the American Revolution. Howard Da Silva and Tom Wilkinson are among the actors who have played Franklin on stage or screen. One of American’s most infamous criminals was Al Capone (1899-1947), the boss of the Chicago Outfit during the height of the Prohibition era; he has been played on screen by the likes of Rod Steiger, Jason Robards and Robert De Niro.
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 17, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Andy Kaufman, Ben Franklin, Betty White, Brian Helgeland, James Earl Jones, Jim Carrey, Moira Shearer, Muhammad Ali, Steve Earle, Zooey Deschanel. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.