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Equally at home playing leads and character roles, actor Alec Baldwin is known for his work in just about every genre, from action thrillers to comedies to dramas. Born April 3, 1958 on Massapequa, Long Island, he was the second of six children (brothers William, Daniel, and Stephen would also become actors). Baldwin was a political science major at George Washington University before he decided to become an actor; following his change in vocation, he studied drama at NYU and the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute.

Early in his career, Baldwin was a busy man, simultaneously playing a role on the TV daytime drama The Doctors and performing in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream on stage in the evenings. A few years after making his 1980 Broadway debut, the actor moved to Los Angeles, where he landed a role in the television series Knots Landing. He made his film debut in 1986 with a starring role in Forever Lulu, which led to work in a number of major films. From 1988 to 1989 alone, Baldwin appeared in no less than seven films, including Tim Burton's black comedy Beetlejuice, Mike Nichols' Working Girl, Jonathan Demme's Married to the Mob, and Oliver Stone's Talk Radio.

In 1989, Baldwin achieved big-budget success playing ace CIA agent Jack Ryan in the undersea thriller The Hunt for Red October. The film's popularity won him acclaim, so Baldwin surprised many by foregoing the opportunity to reprise his role in the sequel Patriot Games (he was replaced by Harrison Ford) in favor of returning to Broadway to star as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Although his decision paid off--he received a Tony nomination for his performance--it also marked the point at which Baldwin's star wattage began to flicker. His 1991 film, The Marrying Man proved to be an all-out flop (although it did provide him an introduction to co-star Kim Basinger, whom he would marry in 1993), and the critical success of his next two films, Prelude to a Kiss and Glengarry Glen Ross was overshadowed by a subsequent string of flops, including Malice (1993), The Getaway (1994), and The Juror (1996).

The actor rebounded a bit with his role in Al Pacino's acclaimed documentary Looking for Richard but then had the unfortunate luck of starring in the 1998 Bruce Willis disaster Mercury Rising. However, the following year proved more fortuitous for Baldwin, as he starred in the coming-of-age comedy Outside Providence, as well as in the crime drama Thick as Thieves and the ethical drama The Confession, appearing alongside Amy Irving and Ben Kingsley. In addition, the actor made an uncredited appearance in Notting Hill, sending up his macho Hollywood persona as Julia Roberts' piggish actor boyfriend. -- Rebecca Flint, All Movie Guide

The commander of America's first raid on the Japanese homeland in World War II was already a noted aviator when he was called on to plan that dangerous mission of the return attack on Tokyo.

Find out more about James H. Doolittle and his mission in our history section here.

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