February 2 & 3: Happy Birthday Blythe Danner and Tom Smothers


Blythe Danner, who has been working on stage and screen for over fifty years, is celebrating her 75th birthday today.  She began working in regional theater in the mid-60s, and made her Broadway debut in a 1968 revival of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.  She won a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play for the original Broadway production of Leonard Gershe’s Butterflies Are Free, and has received three additional Tony nominations, including for starring as Blanche DuBois in a 1988 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, and as Phyllis Rogers Stone in a 2001 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

Danner began working in television and film in the early 1970s.  Her television resume includes a long list of TV movies, and a couple of short-lived series in the seventies and eighties.  During the 2000s she was nominated for six Emmys, and won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series twice as Izzy Huffstodt on Showtime’s Huff.  One of her earliest film roles was as Martha Jefferson in the film version of the musical 1776.  She has had prominent roles in films such as The Great Santini, Brighton Beach Memoirs, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and the Meet the Parents series.  She recently starred in the well-received I’ll See You in My Dreams, and has several films due out in the next year, including two which recently premiered at Sundance.

Comedian Tom Smothers celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday.  He and his younger brother Dick (who turned 78 last November) began performing as the Smothers Brothers in the early 1960s, making their first nationally televised appearance on The Jack Paar Show in 1961.  In 1965, the two were cast as the stars of a sitcom, The Smothers Brothers Show, which lasted only one season; however, in 1967, CBS brought them back as the hosts of a comedy/variety show.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour aired for three seasons from 1967-1969, and was popular with younger audiences.  With the aid of writers like Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, the Brothers delivered comedy and satire, often politically-oriented, that went about as far as network television would go in the 1960s.  Some of the attraction of the show came from guests like Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, or The Who, but Tom and Dick, bickering their way through musical duets as well as starring in comic sketches, had a lot to do with it.

CBS canceled the series without warning in the spring of 1969 (and ultimately lost a breach of contract lawsuit).  Tom and Dick Smothers have returned to television several times since then, without equaling their prior success.  They toured regularly through 2010, and made periodic solo television and film appearances.  Both brothers had small roles in Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!, Tom as the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, Dick as the federal judge on the case.

Ellie Bamber, who was 21 yesterday, appeared in Nocturnal Animals with Isla Fisher—they played mother and daughter—and will appear in the upcoming The Nutcracker and the Four RealmsRich Sommer, who is 40, was a regular on Mad Men as Harry Crane and costarred in last year’s Girlfriend’s DayOz Perkins, who turned 44, is known for writing and directing the horror films The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the HouseBo Hopkins, who celebrated his 76th, made an early splash as Crazy Lee in The Wild Bunch, and appeared in prominent 1970s films like White Lightning, Posse, and Midnight Express, before fading to a career in obscure features and TV movies.  German actress Barbara Sukowa, who is 68, starred in several of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films and more recently gave an award-winning performance in the title role of Margarethe von Trotta’s biopic of political theorist Hannah Arendt.

Today’s birthdays also include director Keith Gordon, who is 57; he is known for features like A Midnight Clear and Waking the Dead, and more recently has done a lot of TV work.  Kathleen Kinmont, who turns 53, is known for starring on the syndicated 1990s series Renegade and in low-budget action films like Phoenix the Warrior and CIA: Code Name AlexaAnthony Russo, half of the brother duo responsible for the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, is 48.  Pamela Franklin, who celebrates her 68th, is best known for her juvenile roles in 1960s films such as The Lion, Flipper’s New Adventure, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Author Ransom Riggs turns 39.  He is best known for the novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, adapted into a 2016 feature film—he has also written two sequel novels and a collection of short stories in the same universe.

Last year’s February 2 headliners were Shakira and Elaine Stritch.

Shakira celebrated her 41st birthday yesterday.  The Colombian pop star released her eleventh studio album, El Dorado, in May of last year.  She recently won her third Grammy, for Best Latin Pop Album, for the album, and will begin her El Dorado World Tour later this year.  Her current significant other, Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué, celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday.

Sir David Jason, who is 78, stars on the British sitcom Still Open All Hours, a revival of the 1970s-80s series that gave him one of his first well-known roles.  Brent Spiner, who returned to the role of Sidney for season 2 of Cinemax’s Outcast, is 69.  Jennifer Westfeldt, who turned 48, will appear in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the upcoming biopic of writer and forger Lee Israel, and has a recurring role on YoungerLaura Poitras, who is now 54, came out with her latest documentary, Risk, last spring.  Alex Sharp, who made his film debut last year with roles in To the Bone and How to Talk to Girls at Parties, celebrated his 29th birthday.  Gemma Arterton, who turned 32, starred in the highly regarded war comedy Their Finest, and will play Vita Sackville-West in the upcoming biopic Vita and VirginiaZosia Mamet, who wrapped the final season of Girls, is 30.

Nathan Lane and Isla Fisher were the headliners a year ago today.

Nathan Lane, who is turning 62, starred in a new West End revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, as Roy Cohn, and will reprise the role when the production opens on Broadway in March.  He also received a Tony nomination for starring in the 2016 Broadway revival of The Front Page as Walter Burns.  Isla Fisher, who celebrates her 42nd birthday, will appear in the upcoming films Tag and The Beach Bum.

Maura Tierney, who continues to star as Helen Solloway on Showtime’s The Affair, is turning 53 today.  Marius Weyers, who is 73, continues to work periodically in South African film.  Director Frank Coraci turns 52; his latest feature is the upcoming Hot AirWarwick Davis, who turns 48, is the presenter of the English game show Tenable, and had a small part in The Last JediBridget Regan, who is 36 today, remains a regular on The Last Ship as Sasha Cooper.

Finally, let’s remember the birth date of composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) with one of his best-known orchestral works:

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 February 3, 2018, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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