On This Day … 28 December [2022]

People (Births)

  • 1908 – Lew Ayres, American actor (d. 1996).
  • 1932 – Nichelle Nichols, American actress (d. 2022).
  • 1954 – Denzel Washington, American actor, director, and producer.
  • 1979 – Noomi Rapace, Swedish actress.

Lew Ayres

Lewis Frederick Ayres III (28 December 1908 to 30 December 1996) was an American actor whose film and television career spanned 65 years. He is best known for starring as German soldier Paul Bäumer in the film All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and for playing Dr. Kildare in nine films. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Johnny Belinda (1948).

World War II Conscientious Objector and Medic

In March 1942, Ayres was identified as a 4E conscientious objector and sent to a CO camp. As expected, the announcement that a Hollywood actor objected to the war was a major source of public outcry and debate.

Within a month it was determined that he had initially requested to be A-O-1, so that he could serve as a non-combat medic. However, the military’s policy that servicemen cannot request, or be guaranteed, where they will serve, forced him to request a 4E status. The US military confirmed that they would place him as a medic and in April 1942, his status was changed. He enlisted in the US Army on 18 May 1942.

He served as a first aid instructor in the United States Army before requesting a drop in rank in order to serve as a medic and chaplain’s assistant in the Pacific. He was one of 16 medics who arrived under fire during the invasion of Leyte to set up evacuation hospitals, and there he provided care to soldiers and civilians in the Philippines and New Guinea. He donated all the money he had earned as a serviceman to the American Red Cross.

Serving for three and a half years in the Medical Corps, he was awarded three battle stars. After the war, he resumed his career and made scores of movies, but never reached the peak of his early Hollywood stardom, except when he was nominated for an Oscar.

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols (born Grace Dell Nichols; 28 December 1932 to 30 July 2022) was an American actress, singer, and dancer best known for her portrayal of Nyota Uhura in Star Trek and its film sequels. Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura was groundbreaking for African American actresses on American television. From 1977 until 2015, Nichols volunteered her time to promote NASA’s programmes and recruit diverse astronauts, including some of the first female and ethnic minority astronauts.

Nichols was born in Robbins, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She trained in dance, and began her career as a dancer, singer, and model in Chicago. She went into stage acting, and had a television and film career.

Denzel Washington

Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. (born 28 December 1954) is an American actor and filmmaker. He has been described as an actor who reconfigured “the concept of classic movie stardom”. Throughout his career spanning over four decades, Washington has received numerous accolades, including a Tony Award, two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and two Silver Bears. In 2016, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2020, The New York Times named him the greatest actor of the 21st century. In 2022, Washington received the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed upon him by President Joe Biden.

Washington started his acting career in theatre, acting in performances off-Broadway, including William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus in 1979. He first came to prominence in the medical drama St. Elsewhere (1982-1988). Washington’s early film roles included Norman Jewison’s A Soldier’s Story (1984) and Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom (1987). For his role as Private Silas Trip in the Civil War drama Glory (1989), he won his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Throughout the 1990s, he established himself as a leading man in such varied films as Spike Lee’s biographical film epic Malcolm X (1992), Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Alan J. Pakula’s legal thriller The Pelican Brief (1993), Jonathan Demme’s drama Philadelphia (1993), and Norman Jewison’s legal drama The Hurricane (1999). Washington won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in the crime thriller Training Day (2001). Washington has continued acting in diverse roles, such as football coach Herman Boone in Remember the Titans (2000), poet and educator Melvin B. Tolson in The Great Debaters (2007), drug kingpin Frank Lucas in American Gangster (2007) and an airline pilot with an addiction in Flight (2012).

He won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role in the Broadway revival of the August Wilson play Fences in 2010. Washington later directed, produced, and starred in the film adaptation in 2016, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Washington. He also produced the film adaptation of Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020). His stage credits include appearances in Broadway revivals of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun in 2014, and Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh in 2018. Washington is one of only five male actors to be nominated for an Academy Award in five different decades, alongside Sir Laurence Olivier, Paul Newman, Sir Michael Caine, and Jack Nicholson.

Noomi Rapace

Noomi Rapace (née Norén; born 28 December 1979) is a Swedish actress. She achieved international fame with her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film adaptations of the Millennium series (2009): The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. She has gone on to become an acknowledged actress in American movies.

For her performance in the Millennium series, Rapace won amongst others two Nymphe d’Ors, a Swedish Guldbagge Award and a Satellite Award as Best Actress and was nominated for a BAFTA Award, an International Emmy Award and a European Film Award. She has also starred as Anna in Daisy Diamond (2007), Leena in Beyond (2010), Anna in The Monitor (2011), Madame Simza Heron in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus (2012), Beatrice in Dead Man Down (2013), Nadia in The Drop (2014), Raisa Demidova in Child 44 (2015), and the seven lead roles in What Happened to Monday (2017), Leila in Bright (2017), Bianca Lind in Stockholm (2018), Sam Carlson in Close (2019), Lizzie in Angel of Mine (2019), Harriet Bauman in Jack Ryan (TV series, 2019), Maja in The Secrets We Keep (2020), Maria in Lamb (2021), Lisa in The Trip (2021), Bosilka in You Wont Be Alone (2022), and Caroline Edh in Black Crab (2022).

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