Thursday, June 12, 2008

February 2001 Film World Obituaries

LESLIE VINCENT Died Feb. 1, 2001

Actor Leslie Vincent died in Hawaii at age 91. Mr. Vincent studied acting at the Royal Academy of London. He appeared in over 30 films before he retired. Among his many film credits were "Forever Amber," "In Harm’s Way," "Destry Rides Again" and "Paris Underground." Mr. Vincent became embroiled in a lawsuit with the US Government over ownership of the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific. The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Vincent. Mr. Vincent retired from film and entered the hotel business in Hawaii.

HAL BLAIR Died Feb. 2, 2001

Composer Hal Blair died at age 85. Among his many hit songs was "Ringo," made famous by actor Lorne Greene. Mr. Blair wrote a number of songs for Western movie actor Eddie Dean. He was also a member of the group Cal Strum and his Rhythm Rangers. He also wrote 13 songs recorded by a truck driver from Tupelo Mississippi named Elvis Presley. Mr. Blair’s songs appeared in a number of films including the Elvis flick "Fun in Acapulco."


Serbian actor Dragan Maksimovic was murdered three days short of his 52nd birthday. Mr. Maksimovic was waiting for a bus in Belgrade when he was beaten to death by a group of skinheads. Mr. Maksimovic was dark skinned and was mistaken for a Roma, hated by the thug skinheads. Mr. Maksimovic was well known in his native land and appeared in a number of films seen internationally. He starred in "Marat/Sade" director Peter Brook’s "Meetings With Remarkable Men," which also starred Terrence Stamp. Mr. Maksimovic portrayed philosopher and mystic G.I. Gurdjieff in the film. He appeared in "The Wounds," a brutal true story of young criminals in Bosnia. Other credits include "Pretty Village, Pretty Flame," "We are Not Angels" and "The Little One." Mr. Maksimovic appeared in over 60 films and TV shows during his career.

J.J. JOHNSON Died Feb. 4, 2001

Jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson committed suicide by gunshot at age 77. Mr. Johnson had been suffering from cancer for some time. Mr. Johnson was considered one of the best Jazz trombonist in the world. He played with Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie and others. Mr. Johnson’s music was used in a number of films and TV shows including "Across 110th Street," "Shaft," "Cleopatra Jones," "Trouble Man," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Starsky and Hutch" and "The Mod Squad."

JEAN DAVY Died Feb. 5, 2001

French actor Jean Davy died at age 89. Mr. Davy had a successful film career dating back to the 1930s. Mr. Davy also dubbed the voices of a number of American actors for French audiences. Mr. Davy did the voices of Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, Orson Welles, Bing Crosby, Errol Flynn, Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston. Mr. Davy also provided the voice of King Triton in the French version of Disney’s "The Little Mermaid" and of Gandolf in Ralph Bakshi’s "Lord of the Rings." Mr. Davy appeared in nearly 70 films, beside his voice work. His credits include "Mayerling" with Charles Boyer, "The Sinners" and "The Naked Woman."

LEN WAYLAND Died Feb. 5, 2001

Character actor Len Wayland died of a stroke at age 80. Mr. Wayland was a familiar face to TV audiences in the 1960s. He appeared on such shows as "The F.B.I.," "Dragnet," "The Invaders," "The Wild, Wild West," "The Invaders" and "Daniel Boone." Mr. Wayland’s film credits include Michael Crichton’s "The Andromeda Strain," "For Pete’s Sake" (not the Barbra Streisand version) and "The Lincoln Conspiracy." Mr. Wayland was also a successful stage actor.

TITUS MOEDE Died Feb. 6, 2001

Titus Moede, also know as Titus Moody died of cancer at age 62. Mr. Moede appeared in mainstream films for several years before becoming an adult filmmaker in the early 1970s. Moede appeared in such films as "Pork Chop Hill," "Captain Newman M.D.," "The World’s Greatest Sinner," "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo" and "The Incredible Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies!" His adult film credits include "Dracula Sucks" and "Love Sandwich." He worked for 30 years in the adult film industry.

KING MOODY Died Feb. 7, 2001

Actor King Moody died at age 71. While Mr. Moody appeared in a number of TV shows and films, he was best known as the original Ronald McDonald. Mr. Moody’s film credits include "The Shakiest Gun in the West," "The Strawberry Statement," "Get Smart," "Any Wednesday," "Get to Know Your Rabbit," "The Glass Cage" and "Sweet November."

RAINER SCHAPER Died Feb. 7, 2001

Producer/production designer Rainer Schaper died of a stroke at age 51. Mr. Schaper produced Roman Polanski’s Oscar winning film "The Pianist." He was also the head of Babelsberg Studio at the time of his death. Mr. Schaper also produced "Enemy at the Gates" and "Taking Sides," which starred Harvey Keitel. Mr. Schaper was the art director and/or production designer on a number of German films and TV shows.

DIETER DENGLER Died Feb. 7, 2001

Dieter Dengler was the subject of Werner Hertzog’s excellent documentary "Little Dieter Needs to Fly." Mr. Dengler was raised in WWII Germany. He moved to America and became a citizen. As a pilot during the Vietnam was, Dengler was shot down and captured. Hertzog’s documentary takes Dengler back to the jungles of Vietnam to relive and confront his experiences as a P.O.W. It is an amazing piece of filmmaking that I highly recommend. Mr. Dengler died of ALS at age 63

DALE EVANS Died Feb. 7, 2001

Western Icon Dale Evans died of heart failure at age 88. Dales Evans and husband Roy Rogers became one of the best known couples in the world. The pair made a series of films, TV appearances and records during a career that lasted over 50 years. She was nicknamed The Queen of the Cowgirls. Ms. Evans made nearly 50 films. She and Roy Rogers had two TV series together.

IVO CAPRINO Died Feb. 8, 2001

Norwegian director Ivo Caprino died of cancer just shy of his 81st birthday. Mr. Caprino’ mother made dolls for a doll-theater. He son discovered that the dolls could be animated for film and began his career as a producer director in the late 1940s. His doll films were popular in Norway. He had a children’s TV series ("Televimson") that ran during the 1960s. His film "Flaklypa Grand Prix" became one of the most successful films in the history of Norway. Like "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang," "Flaklypa Grand Prix" dealt with a car that could do much more than your usual family sedan.

LEWIS ARQUETTE Died Feb. 10, 2001

Actor Lewis Arquette died of heart failure at age 65. Mr. Arquette was the son of actor Clifford Arquette, better known to baby boomers as Charlie Weaver. Mr. Arquette is the father of actors Rosanna, Patricia, David, Alexis and Richmond Arquette. His over 100 film and TV credits include "Ruby and Oswald," "The China Syndrome," "The Waltons," "Nobody’s Fool," "Tango & Cash," "Waiting for Guffman," "Princess Mononoke," "Scream 2," "Best in Show," "Seinfeld," "L.A. Law," "ALF," "Quantum Leap," "Married With Children," "Fantasy Island," "The Fall Guy," "Remmington Steele," "Barney Miller" and "The Incredible Hulk."

SAM WIESENTHAL Died Feb. 11, 2001

Producer Sam Weisenthal died at age 92. Mr. Weisenthal produced the films "Cry Danger," "All Mine to Give" and "The Kremlin Letter." He began his career as an assistant to Carl Laemmle Jr. at Universal Studios. He learned his craft under Mr. Laemmle’s tutelage on such classic films as "All Quiet on the Western Front," Dracula" and "Frankenstein."

SY GROMBERG Died Feb. 11, 2001

Oscar nominated writer Sy Gromberg died of a heart attack at age 82. Mr. Gromberg was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar for his story "When Willie Comes Marching Home Again." He was also nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award for "Summer Stock." Mr. Gromberg also produced three of his own scripts: "Kathy O," "The Wild and the Innocent" and "Three Warriors." Mr. Gromberg created the TV series "The Law and Mr. Jones." He was a supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King and the ACLU.

RALPH SMART Died Feb. 12, 2001

Writer/producer/director Ralph Smart died at age 92. Mr. Smart created the TV series "Secret Agent" ("Danger Man"), which was a precursor to "The Prisoner." Both starred Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan’s John Drake for "Secret Agent" led to his casting in the cult series "The Prisoner." Mr. Smart also produced "Secret Agent" as well as the TV series "Riptide" and "William Tell." He wrote a number of film scripts in the 1930s and 40s before turning to TV work.


Swedish actress Kristina Sauderbaum died at age 88. Ms. Sauderbaum left Sweden for school in Berlin. She became a popular actress and married director Viet Harlan. It could have been a fairy tale life except the pair made films that forwarded Adolph Hitler’s ideals of the perfect German family. She starred in the notorious anti-Semitic film "Jud Suss." Her husband was accused of crimes against humanity for his films. He was acquitted in 1950. The pair never regained their wartime popularity again. Of course, their mentors Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels were not there to support them!

CHARLES B. FITZSIMONS Died Feb. 14, 2001

Actor/producer Charles Fitzsimons died of complications from Hepatitis-C at age 76. He obtained the disease through a blood transfusion following surgery. Mr. Fitzsimons was the brother of actress Maureen O’Hara. He appeared with his sister in John Ford’s classic "The Quiet Man." He also appeared in "I Was a Male War Bride," "What Price Glory" and the 1953 version of "Titanic." Mr. Fitzsimons was best known as a film and TV producer. He produced Sam Peckinpah’s feature film debut "The Deadly Companions." He was a producer for a number of TV series including "Batman," "Love American Style," "Nanny and the Professor," "Wonder Woman" and "Goodnight Beantown." He also produced the Richard Thomas version of "The Red Badge of Courage." Mr. Fitzsimons was the Executive Director of the Producer’s Guild from 1981 until 1999. Mr. Fitzsimons received the Producer’s Guild Honorary Lifetime Membership Award in 1990.

BURT KENNEDY Died Feb. 15, 2001

Writer/director Burt Kennedy died of cancer at age 78. Mr. Kennedy was best known for his work in the Western genre. He received the Golden Boot Award in 1985 for his body of work. Mr. Kennedy served his country in WWII and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Mr. Kennedy was raised in a vaudeville family and began performing at age four! He had successful careers both as a director and writer. Among his scripts are the outstanding Western "Seven Men From Now," "The Tall T," "Yellowstone Kelly," "The Rounders," "Hannie Caulder" and "The Train Robbers." Behind the camera, Mr. Kennedy helmed such films as "The War Wagon," "Support Your Local Sheriff," "Support Your Local Gunfighter," "Dirty Dingus McGee," "Drum," "The Rhinemann Exchange," "Hannie Caulder" and "The Train Robbers." Mr. Kennedy also wrote and directed a large number of TV shows and movies. I recently interviewed actor L.Q. Jones. Mr. Jones shared how his friend Burt Kennedy helped him get his first movie role.

CLAUDIA MARTIN Died Feb. 16, 2001

Claudia Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, died of breast cancer at age 56. Ms. Martin made a few film and TV appearances. Her credits include "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini," "For Those Who Think Young," "My Three Sons," "The Donna Reed Show" and "Ski Fever."

HOWARD W. KOCH Died Feb. 16, 2001

Award-winning producer/director Howard W. Koch died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 84. Mr. Koch was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy in 1990. He was also given the Frank Capra Achievement Award by the Director’s Guild in 1991. Mr. Koch’s career spanned 65 years. He headed Paramount Studios at one time. He was also the President of the Motion Picture Academy at one time. Mr. Koch was a second unit director on 20 films during the late 1040s and early 50s including "Julius Caesar" and "Angels in the Outfield." He helmed a number of features in the 1950s including the final Andy Hardy Film "Andy Hardy Comes Home." Mr. Koch’s biggest contribution to the film world was a producer. Under his guidance a number of the best movies ever produced made it to the big screen. His credits include "The Manchurian Candidate," "None But the Brave," "The Odd Couple," Elaine May’s hilarious "A New Leaf," "Airplane!," "Dragonslayer" and "Ghost."

HELEN VITA Died Feb. 16, 2001

German actress Helen Vita died of cancer at age 72. Ms. Vita received the Golden Camera Award in Germany for her life’s work. Ms. Vita appeared in nearly 80 films and TV shows in a career that dated back to the end of WWII. Ms. Vita worked three times with famed if flawed director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. She appeared in his monumental TV mini series "Berlin Alexanderplatz." She also appeared in Fassbinder’s "Satan’s Brew" and "Lili Marleen." She played Fraulin Kost in Bob Fosse’s "Cabaret." She was the widow of composer Walter Baumgartner.

DALE EARNHARDT Died Feb. 18, 2001

NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt was killed when his car hit the wall on the final lap of the 43rd Dayton 500. Mr. Earnhardt was 49 years old. Earnhardt won 76 races and 7 NASCAR Championships during his lengthy career. Mr. Earnhardt appeared in the films "Stoker Ace," "BASEketball," "The Fifty" and on episodes of "Arliss" and "King of the Hill."

STANLEY KRAMER Died Feb. 19, 2001

I think it was Samuel Goldwyn who said "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." Producer/director Stanley Kramer ignored that advice. Mr. Kramer made films that dealt with serious subjects. He sent messages with celluloid. Mr. Kramer's work was rewarded by critics and the public alike, more for the social issues he tackled rather than for his artistry as a director. He was nominated for Best Director Oscars three times and Best Picture Oscars six times. Though he never won an Oscar, 16 other people did for work on Mr. Kramer’s films. Most directors would feel lucky if they could make one film as good as any of Mr. Kramer’s classics. Kramer produced a number of important films including Marlon Brando’s debut film "The Men," "Death of a Salesman," "High Noon," "The Wild One" and "The Caine Mutiny." He also produced a number of the films he directed. Mr. Kramer helmed "The Defiant Ones" with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, the WWIII thriller "On the Beach," "Inherit the Wind," "Judgement at Nuremberg," "It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World," "Ship of Fools," "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner," "R.P.M.," "Bless the Beasts and the Children" and "Oklahoma Crude." Mr. Kramer had great style. He was able to put his message across without beating you on the head with it. He had his finger on the pulse of humanity. That allowed him to connect with both audiences and critics alike.

ROSEMARY DECAMP Died Feb. 20, 2001

Actress Rosemary DeCamp died of pneumonia at age 90. Among Ms. DeCamp’s many screen roles were Jimmy Cagney’s mother in "Yankee Doodle Dandy," the TV series "That Girl," the original live action version of "The Jungle Book," "Rhapsody in Blue," "The Story of Seabiscuit," "Nora Prentiss," the TV series "The Life of Riley," "Strategic Air Command," William Castle’s "13 Ghosts" and the lame slasher-film spoof "Saturday the 14th."

BOB WEISKOPF Died Feb. 20, 2001

Emmy-Award winning writer Bob Weiskopf died at age 86. Mr. Weiskopf often worked with writing partner Robert Schiller. Mr. Weiskopf was nominated for five Emmy Awards, winning in 1978 for his work on "The Flip Wilson Show" and Norman Lear’s "All in the Family." He was given the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award by the Writer’s Guild, a special award for "writers who advance the literature of television." Mr. Weiskopf’s credits include the TV series "I Love Lucy," "Our Miss Brooks," "Make Room for Daddy" and "Maude."


Actor Christopher Mitchell died of cancer at age 53. Mr. Mitchell was the son of actor Norman Mitchell. His father passed away less than a month after Christopher. Mr. Mitchell was best known for his role in the BBC sitcom "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum." His film credits include "A Promise of Bed" and "The Sex Thief."

ROBERT ENRICO Died Feb. 23, 2001

I saw "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bride" on "The Twilight Zone" when I was five years old. The haunting images confused and intrigued me. I had no grasp of what death was. My older brother tried to explain the strange film to me. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I wanted to see it again. I think it was one of the first films to really put the hook in me. In eighth grade I read the Ambrose Bierce short story and immediately recognized it as the basis for the movie that haunted my childhood. I saw it again recently. The film still packs a wallop. Director Robert Enrico won an Oscar for Best Short Film for "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." The movie also won the Palm d’Or at Cannes. Mr. Enrico died of cancer at age 69. He was known as an action and thriller director in France.

PIERO UMILIANI Died Feb. 23, 2001

I bet you didn’t know that one of the Muppet’s most famous songs came from a Swedish porno movie! Piero Umiliani wrote the song "Mah Na Mah Na" for the 1968 film "Sweden Heaven and Hell." Mr. Umiliani composed over 120 film scores during his prolific career. His credits include "Boccaccio ’70," Mario Bava’s "Five Dolls for an August Moon" and a whole slew of exploitation, sexploitation and horror films. I’ll never look at the Muppets the same way again. " Mah Na Mah Na…Do Do Da Do Do…Mah Na Mah Na…Do Do Do Do!"

CHUCK KEENHE Died Feb. 24, 2001

Costume designer Chuck Keenhe died at age 86. Mr. Keenhe started out as a costumer. He founded the costume department at Disney Studios. He had over 100 film credits during his long and distinguished career. He was responsible for most of the costumes for Disney’s films during the 1960s and 70s.

EMRICH NICHOLSON Died Feb. 25, 2001

Art director Emrich Nicholson died of a heart attack at age 87. Mr. Nicholson’s film credits include several "Ma and Pa Kettle" movies, "Francis Goes to the Races," "Son of Ali Baba," "The Man From the Alamo," "Taza, Son of Cochise," "Magnificent Obsession," "Sign of the Pagan" and "Battle Hymn." Mr. Nicholson served his country during WWII.

GEORGE MALPAS Died Feb. 26, 2001

British actor George Malpas died at age 74. His film credits include "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," "Mountains of the Moon," "Young Sherlock Holmes," Lassiter." Mr. Malpas appeared on a number of British TV shows. Those credits include "Rumpole of the Bailey," "Lovejoy," "All Creatures Great and Small" and "Coronation Street."

STAN MARGULIES Died Feb. 27, 2001

It is hard to describe just what a phenomena the TV mini-series "Roots" was unless you were alive in 1976 to experience it. I was working as a bar back at a popular nightclub at the time. Things shut down and the big screen TV was tuned to "Roots" for one week solid. The customers who usually were there to pick up members of the opposite sex and get drunk didn’t care. Producer Stan Margulies won an Emmy for the landmark show. He won another Emmy for the sequel mini series "Roots: The Next Generation." He won a third Emmy for the TV film "Separate But Equal." He was nominated for three other Emmy Awards during his career. Stan Margulies died of cancer at age 80. Mr. Margulies also scored big with viewers with the Richard Chamberlain/Rachel Ward mini series "The Thorn Birds." He was a production aide on Stanley Kubrick’s epic "Spartacus." Mr. Margulies produced one of my favorite comedies from the 60s: "If This is Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium." It is a forgotten gem. Catch it if you get the chance. His biggest film success came with the twisted children’s classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

RALF D. BODE Died Feb. 27, 2001

Oscar nominated cinematographer Ralf D. Bode died of lung cancer just short of his 60th birthday. Mr. Bode was nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar for the Loretta Lynn biopic "Coal Miner’s Daughter." Mr. Bode began as a gaffer and second unit photographer on such films as "Joe" and "Rocky." Mr. Bode’s cinematographer credits include Saturday Night Fever," the overlooked "Raggedy Man," Brian DePalma’s "Dressed to Kill," "The Accused," "Gorky Park," "Cousins," "Uncle Buck," Bad Girls" and "Don Juan Demarco."