October 19: Happy Birthday John Lithgow and John le Carré


Six-time Emmy winner John Lithgow is celebrating his 72nd birthday.  He graduated from Harvard and then received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  He made his Broadway debut in 1973 in David Storey’s The Changing Room, and won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play.  He has received five additional Tony nominations, winning a second time as J. J. Hunsecker in the 2002 Broadway musical adaptation of Sweet Smell of Success.  His other notable stage roles have include Harlan McClintock in Requiem for a Heavyweight, Walter Burns in The Front Page, Rene Gallimard in M. Butterfly, and Malvolio in Twelfth Night.

Lithgow began his screen career in the early 1970s as well.  He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in consecutive years in the early 1980s, for The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment.  He has also had major roles in films such as Footloose, Cliffhanger, Kinsey, and many more.  He received his first Emmy in the Outstanding Guest Actor for Amazing Stories in 1986, and won in that category a second time for an appearance on Season 4 of Dexter.  His most recent Emmy was for playing Winston Churchill on Netflix’s The Crown.  And the other three were for starring as Dick Solomon on 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Former MI5 and MI6 agent David Cornwell, far better known by his pen name, John le Carré, is turning 86.  He began working for the British Security Service (MI5) while still a college student in the early 1950s, and then switched to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in 1960.  He published his first novel, Call for the Dead (which was also the first outing for his most famous character, George Smiley), in 1961, creating the pen name since it was illegal for him, a Foreign Office employee, to publish under his own name.  After the success of his third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, in 1963, le Carré left MI6 to write full time.

Most of le Carré’s novels through the early 1990s concerned the Cold War; possibly the most famous are the three “Karla” novels, beginning with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  His books are known for their realistic atmosphere and setting; the author drew on his own personal experience to pepper his books with the terminology of real-world espionage, and supplemented that with terms of his own creation, some of which, in a case of life imitating art, have been adopted by the professionals.  There are also known for their less than happy endings—a number of his protagonists end up dead.

For over fifty years, beginning with the 1965 film of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, le Carré’s books have been regularly adapted for film and television.  The most recent was last year’s film of Our Kind of Traitor.

Dutch actress Katja Herbers, who turns 37, is best known for her regular role on WGN’s Manhattan, and also appears in the miniseries Manhunt: UnabomberSamantha Robinson, who starred in last year’s horror-comedy The Love Witch, is celebrating her 26th.  Roger Cross, who turns 48, is known to Canadian television audiences for his regular roles on Continuum, Motive, and Dark Matter.

Simon Ward (1941-2012) was known for his roles in 1970s films such as Young Winston (as Winston Churchill) and Richard Lester’s Musketeers movies (as the Duke of Buckingham), and more recently played Bishop Stephen Gardiner on The Tudors.  Folksinger Dave Guard (1934-1991) is remembered as one of the founding members of the Kingston Trio.  Jack Anderson (1922-2005) was a newspaper columnist who took over Drew Pearson’s “Washington Merry Go Round” column after Pearson’s death.  A pioneering investigative journalist, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on American diplomatic involvement in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Jon Favreau and Jason Reitman headlined the birthday article one year ago.

Jon Favreau is 51 today.  He returned to the role of Happy Hogan in Spider-Man: Homecoming and will also appear in the two upcoming Avengers films, and he will be directing the remake of The Lion KingJason Reitman, who celebrates his 40th, is directing the upcoming film Tully, out next spring, and also an adaptation of Matt Bai’s book All the Truth is Out, to be titled The Front Runner and starring Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart.

Rebecca Ferguson, who celebrates her 34th, stars in the upcoming films The Snowman (adapted from Jo Nesbø’s novel) and The Greatest Showman; she also will return to the role of Ilse Faust in Mission: Impossible 6Gillian Jacobs, who is 35, appeared earlier this year in Lemon and stars in the upcoming Magic CampCiara Renée is turning 27; she continues to play Hawkgirl on Legends of Tomorrow and starred in the off-Broadway revival of the musical Tick, Tick…Boom!  Also 27 is Samantha Munro, who continues to star on the Canadian series BetweenArt Parkinson, who stars in the upcoming British film Zoo, is turning 16.  Trey Parker is celebrating his 48th and is still at the helm of South Park in its 21st season.  Michael Gambon is 77 today; he appeared in several films this year including Victoria & Abdul and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Along with our second headliner, we have a couple of other writers to check back in on.  Philip Pullman is 71; the first book of his new trilogy The Book of Dust, titled La Belle Sauvage, will be released today.  The trilogy is companion series to His Dark MaterialsL. E. Modesitt is turning 74.  The Mongrel Mage, the latest in his Recluce novels, is coming out later this month.

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 October 19, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. John Lithgow is a terrific actor with a lot of range; if you know him only from 3rd Rock, you don’t really know him. 🙂 I haven’t followed The Crown, but I may check it out to see him as Churchill—apparently an impressive performance, as he got an Emmy nomination, despite being completely wrong for the part physically (Lithgow = tall and lean, Churchill = short and stocky).

    One type of celebrity I am focusing a bit more on for headliners this year is authors who are big contributors of genre fiction. We had a couple headliners from this group in the first year of the series—Stephen King, Tolkien—but I’ve started working a few more in. And this month we’ve had three very big names in this area in a little over a week’s time, in Elmore Leonard, Evan Hunter, and today John le Carré.

    It’s also a nice bit of trivia to have two birthdays of actors who have played Winston Churchill today, with Lithgow and Simon Ward.


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