HomeEntertainmentHappy Birthday Dan Lauria: Celebrating ‘The Wonder Years’ Actor’s Best Moments

Happy Birthday Dan Lauria: Celebrating ‘The Wonder Years’ Actor’s Best Moments

by Jacklyn Krol
Photo by: Albert L. Ortega, Getty Images

Dan Lauria is celebrating his 74th birthday today, April 12. Relive some of his best moments on the big and small screens, below.

Prior to fame, Lauria was a typical guy and was actually a high school P.E. teacher for some time. He then entered the United States Marine Corps. Lauria was a platoon commander and ironically served during the same point in his life as his character Jack Arnold did in The Wonder Years.

He branched into acting when he attended Southern Connecticut State University. While at college, he was on a football scholarship for his physical talent but chose to focus on acting.

In 1980, he received his first gig. He portrayed a police officer in Search For Tomorrow. Dan Lauria appeared on the first episode of Season 1. Surprisingly, his next gig was similar as he portrayed a secret serviceman on C.O.D. Five years later in 1985, he portrayed a lieutenant in the armed forces on an episode of Hardcastle and McCormick, similar to his previous real-life job. While getting television gigs, Lauria was also starring in theatrical stage productions.

Lauria’s first film debuted in 1986. He played the role of an unnamed janitor for 9½ Weeks. In the 1980s, Dan Lauria appeared on countless television shows. The best part? In some of the television shows like Growing Pains and Scarecrow and Mrs. King, he portrayed two different characters a few years apart.

Dan Lauria and ‘The Wonder Years’ Phenomenon

On January 31, 1988, the pilot episode of The Wonder Years aired. The show quickly became a huge success. How did he score an audition for the iconic role of Jack Arnold? He met producers Neal Marlesn and Carol Black on the set of Growing Pains. They got along great as they were all Long Island natives and former jocks.

“What actually happened was, I couldn’t get an audition for it,” he revealed to AV. “Joanna Kerns, the mother on Growing Pains—she and I were going out at the time—said, ‘Why don’t you call Neal?’ And I said, ‘Nah, I can’t do that. Too unprofessional.’ Kerns took it into her own hands and called Neal to get him an audition. The rest is history!

Lauria gave his all in the role and was beloved for Jack Arnold’s harsh exterior and care for his family. Some of his standout moments were when he took his son Kevin to work to try to make him understand why he’s so grumpy when coming home from work. During the day, the father revealed to his son that he had dreams of becoming a sea captain.

Another memorable moment was when Jack gifted his Marine bag to Karen for her eighteenth birthday so she could travel the world instead of attending college.