Robin Williams stars in Mrs. Doubtfire

On this day in 1993, Mrs. Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams as a divorced father who disguises himself as an elderly British nanny in order to spend time with his children, opens in theaters. Directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone) and based on a 1987 novel by Anne Fine titled Alias Madame Doubtfire, the film co-starred Sally Field, Harvey Fierstein and Pierce Brosnan. With Williams following in the footsteps of such actors-in-drag as Dustin Hoffman (1982’s Tootsie) and Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis (1959’s Some Like It Hot), Mrs. Doubtfire was a big commercial and critical success.

At the time of Mrs. Doubtfire’s debut, Robin Williams had already gained fame in Hollywood as an actor capable of playing both comedic and straight roles. Williams, who was born on July 21, 1952 (some sources list his birth year as 1951), in Chicago, studied acting at New York City’s Julliard School (where he was friends with future Superman Christopher Reeve) and later developed a stand-up comedy act. He became a star in the 1970s with the TV sitcom Mork and Mindy, which originally aired from 1978 to 1982 and featured Williams as Mork from Ork, a zany space alien who wore rainbow-colored suspenders and greeted people with the phrase “Nanu, Nanu.”

Williams’ early big-screen credits include Popeye (1980), in which he played the title role, The World According to Garp (1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), which earned him his first Best Actor Oscar nomination, and Dead Poets Society (1987), for which he collected a second Oscar nomination. In 1990, Williams co-starred with Robert De Niro in Awakenings, which was followed by performances in such films as The Fisher King (1991), for which he garnered his third Oscar nomination, Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), with Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts, and Disney’s Aladdin (1992), in which he voiced the Genie.

Williams took home an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role as a psychologist in Good Will Hunting (1997); the film received a total of nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and put screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (who also starred in the film) on Hollywood’s A-list. Williams went on to appear in clunkers such as Patch Adams (1998), as well as the thrillers One Hour Photo (2002) and The Night Listener (2006). In 2006, he voiced several characters in the popular animated feature about dancing penguins, Happy Feet.

In addition to his film work, since the 1980s Williams has been a co-host, along with friends and fellow comedians Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, of the Comic Relief TV benefit specials, which raise money for charities that aid the homeless.


Jack Ruby kills Lee Harvey Oswald

At 12:20 p.m., in the basement of the Dallas police station, Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, is shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. On November 22, President Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in an open-car motorcade more

Irish author and nationalist executed

Robert Erskine Childers, a popular Irish author and member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is shot to death by an Irish Free State firing squad after being convicted of carrying a revolver. He had been one of the leaders, along with Eamon de Valera, of the Republican forces more

Hijacker parachutes into thunderstorm

A hijacker calling himself D.B. Cooper parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 into a raging thunderstorm over Washington State. He had $200,000 in ransom money in his possession. Cooper commandeered the aircraft shortly after takeoff, showing a flight attendant something more

Origin of Species is published

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a groundbreaking scientific work by British naturalist Charles Darwin, is published in England. Darwin’s theory argued that organisms gradually evolve through a process he called “natural selection.” In natural selection, more

U.S. casualty rates hit new high

U.S. casualty statistics reflect the intensified fighting in the Ia Drang Valley and other parts of the Central Highlands. In their first significant contacts, U.S. forces and North Vietnamese regulars fought a series of major battles in the Highlands that led to high casualties more

U.S. Army announces Calley will be tried

U.S. Army officials announce 1st Lt. William Calley will be court-martialed for the premeditated murder of 109 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. In Washington, Army Secretary Stanley Resor and Army Chief of Staff William C. Westmoreland announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. William more

LBJ to continue Kennedy policy in Vietnam

Two days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson confirms the U.S. intention to continue military and economic support to South Vietnam. He instructed Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, in Washington for consultations following South Vietnamese more

Wilt Chamberlain sets NBA rebounds record

On November 24, 1960, Philadelphia Warrior Wilt Chamberlain snags 55 rebounds in a game against the Boston Celtics and sets an NBA record for the most rebounds in a single game. The seven-foot-one-inch Chamberlain–often called “Wilt the Stilt,” a nickname he detested, or “The Big more

Zachary Taylor is born

On this day in 1784, future President Zachary Taylor is born in Barboursville, Virginia. The American Revolution had been over barely a year when Taylor, a distant relative of founding father and America’s fourth president, James Madison, was born. He grew up on his more

Ferry sinks in Yellow Sea, killing hundreds

A ferry sinks in the Yellow Sea off the coast of China, killing hundreds of people on this day in 1999. The ship had caught fire while in the midst of a storm and nearly everyone on board perished, including the captain. The Dashun, a 9,000-ton vessel, was transporting passengers more

The FBI Crime Lab opens its doors for business

The crime lab that is now referred to as the FBI Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory officially opens in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1932.The lab, which was chosen because it had the necessary sink, operated out of a single room and had only one full-time employee, Agent more

Battle of Lookout Mountain

On this day in 1863, Union troops capture Lookout Mountain southwest of Chattanooga, Tennessee,as they begin to break the Confederate siege of the city. In the “battle above the clouds,” the Yankees scaled the slopes of the mountain on the periphery of the Chattanooga lines. For more