Jack Nicholson as Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, released in November, 1975.
 
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Jack Nicholson
Forecourt Ceremony held on Monday, June 17, 1974
 
Born: John Joseph Nicholson, April 22, 1937, in Neptune City, New Jersey
Age at the time of the ceremony: 37
 
Jack Nicholson is the most recognizable star of his generation — or any other for that matter. Nicholson has given many unforgettable performances over the years, and has never revealed his process. He seems to be a true natural; we just never see him sweat.

Nicholson's upbringing was unusual. He was born to June Nilson in April 1937, but, unsure of who the father was, gave him over to her parents, John and Ethel, to raise, with June acting as his sister. Ethel raised the boy as a Roman Catholic, and ran a beauty shop in Spring Lake New Jersey, on the town's "Irish Riviera."

Attending Manasquan High School and being called "Nick," young Jack seems to have been a discipline problem. Graduating in 1954, Jack lit out for Hollywood (!), first finding office work at Hanna-Barbera (!), and leaning to act with the Players Ring Theatre. Small parts on television followed, leading to his making his film debut with producer Roger Corman in The Cry Baby Killer (released in August 1958), where he received second billing.

In 1957, Nicholson joined the Air National Guard. After training at Lackland in San Antonio Texas, Nicholson spent the next four years as a reservist in Van Nuys, where he was able to continue working with Roger Corman, most notably in The Little Shop of Horrors (released in August 1960). He was discharged in 1962.

Corman was making a series of films based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Nicholson played Peter Lorre's son in The Raven (released in January 1963). Nicholson was cast in the ensemble of the Mister Roberts sequel, Ensign Pulver (released in July 1964), but found breaking into Hollywood studios was not forthcoming.

Returning to Corman's studio, Nicholson was given the second lead in Hells Angels on Wheels (released in June 1967). Encouraged by Corman, Nicholson wrote a script for The Trip (released in August 1967), which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (and also grossed 100 times its production cost). This led to his playing a hippie in Psych-Out (released in March 1968).

Nicholson's breakthrough came with Easy Rider (released in May 1969 at the Cannes Film Festival), with Fonda and Hopper. Nicholson's performance as an addled smalltime lawyer was a standout. The film was enourmously popular, making Nicholson a counter-culture star overnight.

Before that could happen however, he would have to appear in director Vincete Minnelli's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (released in June 1970), as Barbra Streisand's step-brother. Their duet together was cut from the film. His first real starring role came with Five Easy Pieces (premiered in September 1970 at the New York Film Festival), with Karen Black. Produced on a shoestring, the film was successful enough to allow Nicholson to direct a movie about one of his passions: basketball. Drive, He Said (premiered in May 1971 at the Cannes Film Festival), starring William Tepper, flopped.

Nicholson's persona onscreen continued to shape itself in Carnal Knowledge (released in June 1971), and The Last Detail (which played the Chinese in February 1973); Nicholson, perhaps more than any actor before or since, introduced filmgoers to oceans of profane language in his films.

He got together with Last Detail writer Robert Towne and Paramount boss Robert Evans and director Roman Polanski to create Chinatown (which played the Chinese in June 1974), The atmospheric detective film has become a classic. Nicholson surprised everyone by taking a supporting role in the rock opera Tommy (released in March 1975), with Ann-Margaret.

Another project with director Mike Nichols and Warren Beatty did not fare well; The Fortune (released in May 1975), became Nicholson's first disaster at the box-office. It remains an acquired tatse. Audiences did not have any difficulties with his career-high role as Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (released in November 1975); the popular film won the Best Picture Oscar, with Nicholson winning the Best Actor Oscar as well.

His next film, the western The Missouri Breaks (released in May 1976), with Marlon Brando was a huge flop at the box-office. Undaunted, Nicholson decided to star in and direct the western-comedy Goin' South (released in October 1978), introducing audiences to Mary Steenburgen in the process.

Nicholson, along with many of the "new Hollywood" figures, shared a sense of making mainstream films alongside more personal projects. Straddling this divide for director Stanley Kubrick resulted in The Shining (which played the Chinese in June 1980), then, he played playwright Eugene O'Neil for director Warren Beatty in Reds (which played the Chinese in December 1981).

We have noticed that almost all of Nicholson's film from here on, are released either in June (popcorn movie) or December (Christmas movie). Check it out:

Terms of Endearment (which played the Chinese in December 1983), with Shirley MacLaine, and for which he would win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, followed by Prizzi's Honor (released in June 1985), and The Witches of Eastwick (released in June 1987). He would re-unite with Terms of Endearment's director, James L. Brooks, to play a television network executive in Broadcast News (released in December 1987).

Nicholson's biggest summer blockbuster film came with his playing The Joker for director Tim Burton in Batman (which played the Chinese in June 1989). Another significant role was in A Few Good Men (released in December 1992), with Tom Cruise. The December Nicholson undertook the title role in Hoffa (released in December 1992), while the Summer Nicholson starred in the supernatural romance Wolf (released in June 1994), with Michelle Pfeiffer, and the December Jack played a bizarre president of the United States for Tim Burton in Mars Attacks! (released in December 1996).

Nicholson won another Best Actor Oscar for As Good as it Gets (released in December 1997), with Helen Hunt, which became a huge hit. Nicholson turned tables on his Cuckoo's Nest performance by playing a psychotherapist to Adam Sandler in Anger Management (released in April 2003).

After the rom-com Something's Gotta Give (released in December 2003), with Diane Keaton, Nicholson finally worked for director Martin Scorsese in The Departed (which played the Chinese in October 2006), with Leonardo DiCaprio, then did the light comedy The Bucket List (released in January 2008), with Morgan Freeman. He reunited with director James L. Brooks for How Do You Know (released in December 2010), with Reese Witherspoon.
 
 
Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Jack Nicholson Forecourt block. Executed by John Tartaglia, Monday, June 17, 1974. 49 x 50 inches overall.
Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Jack Nicholson Forecourt ceremony, Monday, June 17, 1974. Nicholson flashes his trademark smile as cement artist John Tartaglia looks on.
 
 
 
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