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 SaganFreddy Rodriguez, who is 42 today, currently stars on CBS’s Bull, and has been a regular on Six Feet Under and The Night ShiftLeigh 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 LegendDenis 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 StoryJoshua 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 CageKevin 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 RisenSteve 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 , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. James Earl Jones will always be the voice of Darth Vader to me. To some, he may be Mustafa. His bad guy turn in Conan also sticks out. Lots of supporting roles. Whenever I see Jones in something, he’s always a welcome presence.

    Jim Carrey’s rise to fame was nothing short of breathtaking. For a period in the 90’s, he was infallible. His decline has been one of degrees. I wouldn’t say Carrey is A-list anymore, but he’s still a movie star. That is quite a coincidence that he shares a birthday with Andy Kaufman!

    I don’t watch New Girl, but I was a Zooey Deschanel fan long before she had her own TV show. She has some detractors among those who dislike adorability, but I’ll never understand those people.

    Genndy Tartakovsky is an immense talent in the world of animation. I did not know he directed Hotel Transylvania. That explains why I liked that movie despite the Happy Madison factor. As a Lost fan, I watched Naveen Andrews on that show. Man, they really didn’t know what to do with his character towards the end of the series! They made him some kind of zombie or something. Whatever it was supposed to be, it didn’t work.

    Brian Helgeland’s LA Confidential script is truly impressive. That story could have been a convoluted mess. Denis O’Hare is often the best thing about the projects he appears in. American Horror Story has a tendency to waste its talented cast, but O’Hare makes the most of what he is given. He was the most memorable villain on True Blood.

    Kevin Reynolds is a key player in WTHH to Kevin Costner. They are like peanut butter and jelly if PB and J were constantly fighting and patching things up. Steve Harvey has found his niche on daytime TV.

    I personally find Michelle Obama to be inspiring. I’m sure she isn’t leaving the national spotlight entirely, but she and her family have earned a little rest and relaxation. I join you in wishing them all the best.

    Wow. We’re more than half way down and we’re just now getting to Betty White and Muhammad Ali. Busy day! Even at the bottom, we’ve got the likes of Shari Lewis and Eartha Kitt. And the historical birthdays include Al Capone and Benjamin Franklin. Today is jam packed!


  2. In another of life’s interesting coincidences, Jim Carrey also shares a birthday with Zooey Deschanel, his romantic co-lead in his last real box office hit, 2009’s Yes Man. But I agree Carrey’s shared birthday with Andy Kaufman is 100 times stranger. Maybe that’s why Jim Carrey won the role over Nicholas Cage??


  3. It’s not often that you’re going to get a good Shari Lewis anecdote. But here is a great one.

    In the bestseller book “Live From New York: The Complete Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live”, original SNL cast writer Alan Zweibel shares:

    “When I was doing Garry Shandling’s first series, we wanted to have Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop on. I said, “Of course we’ll fly you out,” and she said, “Well, what about Lamb Chop?” To which I responded, “What ABOUT Lamb Chop!?” She says that Lamb Chop gets a seat. I swear to God, I almost threw out my back giving her the benefit of the doubt that she wasn’t insane. I laughed, and she said “Lamb Chop doesn’t sit in the back.” I said, “If I’m not mistaken, are we talking about the same Lamb Chop? Because, you know, IT’S A SOCK! IT’S A SOCK WITH A BUTTON, OK???”

    “And it ended up we didn’t use her because it was too insane.”

    I’ve read the book and while it offers tons of great SNL related anecdotes, this might actually be the best story in the whole damn book to be honest.


  4. Darth Vader is, arguably, among the greatest cinematic villains of all time.

    While I give some credit to bodybuilder David Prowse and stunt double Bob Anderson for filling out the physical form of Vader, like most people I would say it was James Earl Jones that formed the lasting impact of Vader’s presence on-screen in the original trilogy. James Earl Jones became a pop cultural touchstone for a film that initially he didn’t even receive a screen credit for. Jones was uncredited for his work in both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back; it wasn’t until 6 years later, in Return of the Jedi, that Jones finally received an official screen credit for his voice work as Vader.

    Not bad for 4 hours of voice work in Star Wars (!) and 8 hours work in Empire. Literally a day’s work on each. Once Jones got to Jedi he showed up for a second day, just to make sure they got everything right.


  5. The interesting coincidence I noted in today’s birthdays, other than Carrey and Kaufman, is that James Earl Jones, who made his name in part by playing a heavyweight boxing champion, had the same birthday as the most famous heavyweight boxer of his time, Muhammad Ali.


  6. Among today’s birthdays there is no one who owned a year more than Jim Carrey. When 1994 started he was still just known as the white guy from the sketch comedy FOX series In Living Color. When Ace Ventura: Pet Detective released in spring of ’94 with Jim Carrey in the lead, nothing was expected of it, yet it became a surprise hit finishing as the 16th biggest hit of the year. A solid showing for sure for an unproven lead.

    Summer of ’94 The Mask releases and is another crowd pleasing hit, finishing as the 9th biggest box office hit of the year. At this point Jim Carrey has already crossed over into movie star. I think if you ask any actor at this point they will tell you this is already a great year for them.

    But then, late 1994 Dumb and Dumber is released, and becomes an even bigger mainstream success, finishing as the 6th biggest hit of the year ahead of big successes like Pulp Fiction, Interview With A Vampire, Speed and Clear and Present Danger. In the space of less than a year, Carrey rocketed into the A-list with three box office successes, all original films and all with him as the lead. There are very few actors that have ever have had a fruitful a year as Jim Carrey did in 1994.


  7. This is CNN, no wait, it’s James Earl Jones! What an iconic voice, and for his physical appearances in films I’ll name “Coming to America”, “Field of Dreams”, and 1992’s “Sneakers” as standouts for me, but I could go on forever, as his career has.
    Speaking of physical, there’s Jim Carrey, the rubber man. He definitely has a showbiz flair, but I also like him in films like “Man on the Moon” (I had no idea that Andy Kaufman and him share a birthday; quite fitting).
    For another “Grand theft Auto: Vice City” reference, a cab company in that game, Kaufman Cabs, is an obvious nod to Kaufman and “Taxi”, which I think is a great show.
    Zooey Deschanel, I’m a fan of “500 Days of Summer”; I lost track of her since “New Girl” though.
    Steve Harvey, I remember his earlier comedy than his more recent stuff, though I catch “Family Feud” now and again.
    Betty White, she just keeps going; she probably knows showbiz like we know the alphabet.
    Dwayne Wade, great player, although he’s probably approaching the sunset of his career. Future Hall of Famer.
    Al Capone, that dude was on the cover of TIME once. Arguably the most famous gangster of all time.
    Benjamin Franklin, one of the great innovators and inventors in history, and he was great in the video game “Assassin’s Creed III”.



    Please Celebrate Betty White’s 95th Birthday By Watching This Man Improve “The Golden Girls” Theme Song

    Why ruin Betty’s birthday thread with that piece of trash?


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