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Classic Actor Birthday: John Lithgow

Lithgow_2You don’t see John Lithgow in movies much anymore, which is an awful shame given how good he was in so many of the films he did appear in from the 1970s through the 90s. He was best in unconventional roles, and Hollywood doesn’t seem to come up with many of those. So its hard to blame him for moving on to television, where he created one of the most indelible characters in sitcom history as the alien High Commander Dick Solomon on “3rd Rock from the Sun.” And his sense of fun serves him well in his other career, as a children’s entertainer. (Take a look at this clip of Lithgow performing a song from one of his children’s recordings to see what I mean):

For his 62nd birthday, though, I’d like to pay tribute by remembering some of Lithgow’s classic performances, including:

The World According to Garp (1982)—Lithgow received his first Oscar nomination for the beautiful job he did with a part that must have seemed like a nightmare to the casting director, that of transsexual football player Roberta Muldoon.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)—Recreating the role first played by William Shatner on the classic Rod Serling TV show, Lithgow is the nervous flyer who can’t persuade any of his fellow passengers that their plane is under attack by a gremlin.

Footloose (1984)—Sure, you remember all the dancing, but where would this archetypal 80s movie have been without Lithgow’s dance-hating Reverend Moore?

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)—Armed with the most outrageous Italian accent since Chico Marx, Lithgow’s unrestrained performance as Dr. Emilio Lizardo makes you want to watch this cult movie over and over again until it finally starts to make sense.

Raising Cain (1992)—Lithgow played a variety of showy villains in Ricochet and Cliffhanger, but his best bad guys were for Brian DePalma, in Blow Out and Obsession. Here De Palma built the whole show around Lithgow as a psychiatrist with multiple personalities. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, especially if you’re well versed in Hitchcock.

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