December 13: Happy Birthday Christopher Plummer and Dick Van Dyke


Our two headliners today have in common that each starred with Julie Andrews in a box office hit.  Plummer played Georg von Trapp in The Sound of Music, the biggest hit of 1965 and the third biggest, adjusted for inflation, of all time.  Van Dyke was Bert, as well as the elder Mr. Dawes, in Mary Poppins, which was “only” the third biggest film at the box office in 1964.

Christopher Plummer turns 88 today.  The Canadian actor began his career on stage, making his Broadway debut in 1954, in a play that closed after its opening night.  His subsequent Broadway ventures have gone better—he has won Tonys for Best Actor in a Musical, in Cyrano, and Best Actor in a Play, for Barrymore.  His Broadway career has also included several Shakespeare roles—Iago in Othello and the title roles of Macbeth and King Lear.

Plummer also began his television career in the early fifties, but didn’t make his feature debut until 1958, and when he was cast in The Sound of Music, it was only his fourth feature role.  However his subsequent film resume is so full that it’s only possible to hit a few highlights.  Plummer has played a number of historical figures, such as Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King, the Duke of Wellington in Waterloo, Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, and in an acclaimed performance, as journalist Mike Wallace in The Insider.

Plummer’s film career also includes starring as Sherlock Holmes in Murder by Decree and the Klingon General Chang in Star Trek VI.  He has appeared in films like 12 Monkeys, A Beautiful Mind, and Syriana.  He became the oldest winner of an acting Oscar when he won Best Supporting Actor for the 2011 film Beginners (along with a Golden Globe), and has also won two Primetime Emmys, so the Oscar made him a Triple Crown of Acting winner.  He plays Ebenezer Scrooge in the current release The Man Who Invented Christmas, and was a last-minute replacement for Kevin Spacey in the upcoming All the Money in the World.

Dick Van Dyke is celebrating his 92nd today.  His classmates in high school included film actor Donald O’Connor and cabaret singer Bobby Short.  After working as a radio DJ and then a night club entertainer, he made his Broadway debut in 1959, and a year later won a Tony as Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie.  But he really became well known when CBS gave him the lead role of Rob Petrie in his own sitcom (The Dick Van Dyke Show) in 1961.  The show was created by Carl Reiner, who also costarred, and also featured a young actress named Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie.  The series won four Emmys as Outstanding Comedy Series, while Van Dyke won three of his own for Outstanding Lead Actor.

Van Dyke made his film debut in Bye Bye Birdie, reprising his stage role, in 1963.  A year later came Mary Poppins; the actor shared in a Grammy for the soundtrack album.  He kept busy in film through the end of the 1960s, starring with yesterday’s headliner Edward G. Robinson in Never a Dull Moment, and playing Caractacus Pott in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  He has worked sparingly in film since then; he played D.A. Fletcher in Dick Tracy, and appeared in the Night at the Museum films.  His return to series television in The New Dick Van Dyke Show was not a success, but he had another hit in the 1990s, starring as Dr. Mark Sloan on Diagnosis: Murder.  He continues to work periodically, and will appear as Mr. Dawes, Jr., in Mary Poppins Returns.

Michael Socha, who turns 30 today, is best know in the US for starring on the spinoff series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland as Will Scarlet/the Knave of Hearts, a role he also appeared in on the original series Once Upon a Time, as a regular in Season 4.  Robert Lindsay, who is 68, starred on the BBC sitcom My Family for its entire eleven season run, and has won two Olivier Awards and a Tony in a notable musical theater career.  Canadian actress Laurence Leboeuf is 32; she is known for regular roles on Canadian series like 15/Love, Trauma, and 19-2.  Skater-turned-actress Lynn-Holly Johnson is 59.  She was a Golden Globe nominee for Ice Castles and a Razzie winner for Where the Boys Are ’84, but this blog’s readers are most likely to know her as Bibi Dahl from For Your Eyes Only.

Henri IV of France (1553-1610) was the first French king of the Bourbon dynasty.  He issued the Edict of Nantes providing for religious toleration, and ended France’s ruinous Wars of Religion (at least for a couple of generations).  Daniel Auteuil played Henri in the 1994 film Queen Margot.

Taylor Swift and Jamie Foxx were the headliners on this date last year.

Taylor Swift celebrates her 28th today.  She released her sixth studio album, Reputation, earlier this year; it reached #1, as did the single “Look What You Made Me Do.”  She also wrote the Grammy-nominated single “Better Man,” recorded by Little Big Town.  She was one of several people honored by Time with Person of the Year status as a “Silence Breaker.”  Jamie Foxx is turning 50.  He made his first feature film appearances since 2014 this year, in Sleepless and Baby Driver.  Next year he will play Little John in Robin Hood, and he is an executive producer of Showtime’s White Famous.

English singer and actress Marti Webb remains active at 74; she starred in a UK tour of the musical La Cage aux FollesSteve Buscemi, who turns 60, played Nikita Khrushchev in The Death of StalinWendie Malick, most recently seen in the Hallmark TV movie Engaging Father Christmas, is 67 today.  Johnny Whitaker, who turns 58, made several appearances on Amazon’s reboot of Sigmund and the Sea MonstersAmy Lee is 36 today.  The co-founder of Evanescence spent a lot of time recording the band’s latest album, Synthesis, which came out last month.  Film composer Harry Gregson-Williams, who is 56, wrote the scores for this year’s The Zookeeper’s Wife and Breath, and also wrote the theme for the sci-fi anthology series Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, which premieres on Amazon in January.

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 13, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. When I said today was Christopher Plummer day for me, I had no idea it was his birthday; that’s just a happy accident, because I had no idea (goes to show I have to play dumb more in life, I get better result:-).
    Dick Van Dyke, what a TV legend; I can’t believe he’s lived until 92, considering how he kept falling down in the opening sequence of his 1960’s show (R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore, by the way; hope her and her hat are rocking Minnesota in a spiritual sense:-). I knew people who watched a lot of “Diagnosis Murder” too, people of all ages. I guess he was in World War II as well (only a short time, so it isn’t like Charles Durning’s exploits in that war; hey, we all can’t be war heroes, right?).
    Taylor Swift, isn’t there a subscriber on here who crushes on her? I see the appeal, she’s just too young for me (I’d crush on Ann Wilson from Heart; great voice, and has done some cool things with her hair and older songs this year).


  2. My introduction to Christopher Plummer was when I was in grade school. Two of the short list of movies I remember seeing in the theater back then are The Sound of Music and The Return of the Pink Panther (with Plummer as Sir Charles Lytton—or “Sir Charles Phantom, the notorious Lytton” in Clouseau-speak). These days, Plummer is probably the best thing about The Sound of Music for me; he provides a bit of a bracing quality that attenuates the over-sugary nature of the rest of the film. He was also a pretty good Sherlock Holmes and great in Star Trek VI.

    The very first movie I have any memory of seeing in a theater as a child was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Later I caught up with Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins—a delightful performance, even though his accent is often panned.

    Day off for the series tomorrow, followed by a two-fer on Friday.


    • Oh yeah, I thought Christoper Plummer was the best thing about “The Sound of Music”; I thought he brought a genuine gentleness to that role (I’m iffy on the film overall; I’d rather watch “Mary Poppins”:-). I think I recall a comment from Christoper Plummer that “The Sound of Music” wasn’t his favorite role (I feel it had a tedium to it myself). I mean, I think it’s well-filmed, well acted, and well done, but just not something I’d have repeat viewings of (I’ve viewed it twice, so I’m all set:-).


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