Author Archives: jestak2
Rene Russo is celebrating her 64th birthday today; she is today’s WTHH birthday. She was signed to a contract by the Ford Modeling Agency in her late teens—the story is she was spotted by an agent at a Rolling Stones concert—and spent over a decade as a top model with a number of magazine covers to her credit. In the mid-1980s she moved into acting. After a screen debut in the short-lived ABC series Sable in 1987, she moved into feature film work 1989’s Major League. Her breakout role was as Internal Affairs investigator Lorna Cole in Lethal Weapon 3, following which she costarred with Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire, and played Z-list actress Karen Flores in Get Shorty.
Jack Benny (1894-1974) learned the violin as a boy, and began performing at vaudeville theaters in his late teens. Early in his career he was a serious violinist, but by the beginning of the 1920s he used it mostly as a prop. In the 1930s, he moved into radio; The Jack Benny Program began airing in 1932, featuring a cast headed by Benny as himself, with Eddie Anderson as his valet, Rochester, Benny’s wife, Sadie Marks, as Mary Livingstone, and also including Mel Blanc, Dennis Day, and many more.
At the end of the 1940s, Benny moved to television, with his show airing regularly for fifteen seasons beginning in 1950. Most of the cast carried over, although Mary Livingstone, who began suffering from severe stage fright in the early fifties, seldom appeared on the television show.
Christina Ricci celebrates her 38th birthday today. She first attracted notice acting in an elementary school play at 8 years of age; two years later she made her feature film debut in Mermaids, as the younger sister of Winona Ryder’s character. During much of the 1990s she was a well-known juvenile and teenage actress, starring in the big-screen adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost and in a remake of That Darn Cat, and appearing in an ensemble cast in Now and Then, sometimes considered a distaff counterpart to Stand by Me. She also played Wednesday Addams in the two Addams Family feature films.
Burt Reynolds is celebrating his 82nd birthday today. After an injury during his sophomore year of college ended his hopes of a football career, Reynolds was encouraged to go into acting by an English professor. By the early sixties he was working hard on television, most notably as Quint Asper for three seasons of Gunsmoke. He also starred on a one-season crime drama on ABC, Dan August.
Reynolds began working in film in the sixties as well, but didn’t become a major film performer until about 1972, when he played the macho Lewis Medlock in Deliverance. In the next few years he emerged as major box office draw in films like The Longest Yard and W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings. In 1977 he had a huge success, starring in the biggest hit film of that year not to involve lightsabers.
Our two headliners have been photographed together on a few occasions, including the premiere of Hick, when the above photo was taken (with Roberts on the left, Moretz on the right).
Chloë Moretz is celebrating her 21st birthday today. Her first screen appearance came shortly after her 7th birthday, in a guest appearance on The Guardian. Over the next few years, she made several additional TV guest appearances, and also was the voice of Darby for the Disney Channel’s My Friends Tigger & Pooh. She made her first feature film appearances in 2005, including one in the remake of The Amityville Horror. In the next few years, she had several additional film roles, including a significant one in Lori Petty’s The Poker House (which starred a young Jennifer Lawrence), before landing her breakout role as Mindy McCready/Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass.
Our two headliners today are both connected to the Warner Brothers/Legendary Monsterverse franchise. Hiddleston was one of the stars of Kong: Skull Island, while Zhang will appear in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which will come out next year.
Tom Hiddleston is turning 37 today. He began acting in student productions at Cambridge, and later studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He began working in British film, theater and television in the early 2000s. One of his early television roles was Randolph Churchill in the BBC/HBO production The Gathering Storm, while on stage, he won an Olivier Award in a dual role in a 2007 revival of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, and a year later played Cassio in a production of Othello. In 2011, he made his first appearance in his best known film role.
Two-time Oscar winner Jack Lemmon (1925-2001) was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard. He began working in film and television at the end of the 1940s, and had his first significant film role in 1954’s It Should Happen to You. A year later, he had a breakout performance, winning Best Supporting Actor as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts. His stature as a top star was confirmed at the end of the decade, when he made a pair of films with director Billy Wilder. He played the bass player Jerry, alias Daphne, in Some Like it Hot, and then starred as the office worker who grows a backbone, C. C. Baxter, in The Apartment. He received Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, along with Oscar nominations, for each film.
Ashton Kutcher turns 40 today. He grew up in Iowa, and dropped out of the University of Iowa when he won a modeling contest. After working as a model for a short time, he moved to Los Angeles in 1998, and was cast in the period sitcom That ’70s Show in the role of Michael Kelso. He remained with the series for seven seasons and made several guest appearances during the 8th and final season. In the early 2000s he also began working regularly in film. He starred in a number of films, such as the comedies Dude, Where’s My Car? and Just Married and the sci-fi thriller The Butterfly Effect, which were poorly received critically but were financial successes (thanks in part to being modestly budgeted).
In 2003 Kutcher and Jason Goldberg created the MTV reality comedy series Punk’d, which Kutcher hosted from 2003-2007. He has also been a producer on several other television programs, like the reality series Beauty and the Geek. He continued to work regularly in films like What Happens in Vegas and No Strings Attached, but has done little film work since playing Steve Jobs in the 2013 biopic Jobs. He has returned successfully to series television; he replaced Charlie Sheen as the lead on Two and a Half Men for its final four seasons, and currently stars on Netflix’s The Ranch.
Today is Alice Eve’s 36th birthday. Her parents, Trevor Eve and Sharon Maughan, are well known to English theater and television audiences (Trevor Eve is a two-time Olivier Award winner). She made her film and television debuts in 2004, and in 2006 had a mini-breakthrough, with good roles in the romantic comedy Starter for 10 and the black comedy/crime film Big Nothing. American audiences are most likely to know her for her roles in Men in Black 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness (as Carol Marcus). She has appeared in romantic comedies like She’s Out of My League and The Decoy Bride, and this blog took notice of her starring role in Neil LaBute’s Dirty Weekend. One of her best performances was in the indie film noir Cold Comes the Night.
Many readers probably know that our two headliners appeared together in the HBO miniseries John Adams—she was Abigail Adams, he was Ben Franklin—and that they each won an Emmy and a Golden Globe. What you may not know is that they also appeared together in the 2005 horror film/courtroom drama The Exorcism of Emily Rose; Wilkinson was a priest who attempted the titular exorcism, Linney the attorney who defended him in court.
Tom Wilkinson is turning 70 today. He began acting in the mid-seventies, and worked in relative obscurity for nearly 20 years, largely in British theater and television. He began to build a reputation when he was a BAFTA Television Award nominee for an adaptation of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit in 1994, and then won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for The Full Monty. He began working in Hollywood in films like Shakespeare in Love and The Patriot, and was nominated for Best Actor for the 2001 drama In the Bedroom.
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.
Don Everly, one half of one of the most successful brother duos in music history, is celebrating his 81st today. He and his younger brother Phil (1939-2014) began singing and playing together as boys, on their father Ike’s radio show. When Don graduated from high school in 1955, the brothers moved to Nashville and soon signed a contract with Cadence Records.
Their first single, “Bye Bye Love,” was released in early 1957 and became a #2 hit, and launched a string of Top Ten hits for the Everly Brothers that lasted through about 1962. Many of their hits, such as “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up, Little Susie”—both written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant—were the work of other songwriters, but the brothers also wrote some of their own material, such as this #1 single from 1960.
Justin Timberlake celebrates his 37th birthday today. He is the sixth headliner in this series to have made a debut on the early 1990s revival of The Mickey Mouse Club (along with Christina Aguilera, J.C. Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, and Britney Spears). He then went on to further fame as the youngest member of the boy band NSYNC, serving as one of the band’s two lead singers. In 2002, following NSYNC’s dissolution, Timberlake embarked on a solo career, releasing his first solo album, Justified, and winning Gramys for both the album and its biggest hit single.