On this day, 75 years ago, celebrated American actor, director, producer, and writer Jack Nicholson was born in New York City. Let us take a look back at the life and work of the renowned Hollywood star in this installment of Today in History.
On April 22, 1937, John Joseph “Jack” Nicholson was born to showgirl June Frances Nicholson in New York City. He grew up in Neptune City, New Jersey, raised by his grandparents, who he came to believe to be his parents, and his mother to be his sister. Nicholson only found out that June was his mother in 1974, after a TIME magazine journalist who was working on a feature on the actor told him about it. However, both his mother and grandmother had already passed away at the time. Nicholson ended up not knowing the identity of his biological father, and only said that only his mother and grandmother knew about it and never told anyone.
Nicholson’s early Hollywood stint involved working as a gofer at the MGM cartoon studio for animation icons William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. He was later offered a post as an animation artist, but Nicholson declined and said he wanted to become an actor.
In 1958, he starred in his debut film, a low-budged teen drama entitled The Cry Baby Killer. For the next ten years, he worked frequently with Roger Corman (the producer of his first film), then Monte Hellman, who casted him on low-budget western flicks. While these early forays into acting appeared to go nowhere, the actor eventually found success behind the camera as a writer/director, and landed many notable film roles.
Among his most memorable films include Easy Rider (his first acting break which earned him his first Oscar nomination), Five Easy Pieces (which also earned him a Best Actor nomination in 1970), The Last Detail (which finally landed him a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival), Chinatown (with acclaimed director Roman Polanski), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (which landed him his first Best Actor Oscar), The Shining (a cult film with director Stanley Kubrick), Terms of Endearment, Batman (with director Tim Burton), A Few Good Men, and The Departed (with director Martin Scorsese).
Let’s greet the esteemed actor a happy birthday and look back at two of his famous performances—as Joker in Batman and Jack Torrance in The Shining!