Thursday, June 12, 2008

March 2001 Film World Obituaries

ALBERT HERSCHONG Died Mar. 1, 2001

Emmy-Award winning art director Albert Herschong died of a brain hemorrhage at age 82. Mr. Herschong won his Best Art Direction for the "Requiem for a Heavyweight" episode of "Playhouse 90." Mr. Herschong was also nominated for another Emmy for "Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn." Mr. Herschong was the production designer on Walter Hill’s homage to Sam Peckinpah: "Extreme Prejudice." Other credits include the TV series "Hawaii 5-0," "The Red Skelton Show," "The Bob Newhart Show," "Gunsmoke" and "The Wild,Wild West." Other film credits include "Thaddeus Rose and Eddie," Walter Hill’s "Crossroads" and Michael Douglas’ debut film "Hail, Hero!"

GEORGE ORRISON Died Mar. 1, 2001

Stuntman George Orrison died at age 70. The former rodeo cowboy entered the movie business in 1960. He was a stunt double for just about every actor working in Hollywood during the 1960s. He began working with Clint Eastwood in 1977. He worked on every film Mr. Eastwood made for the next 25 years. Mr. Orrison was also Lee Marvin’s stunt double in the Oscar winning "Cat Ballou."

HENRY WADE Died Mar. 1, 2001

Texas prosecutor Henry Wade died of Parkinson’s Disease at age 86. Mr. Wade would have been the man to try Lee Harvey Oswald if Jack Ruby had not killed the accused assassin. Mr. Wade is also the "Wade" of "Roe v. Wade" fame. Mr. Wade appeared through archived footage in a number of films dealing with the death of President Kennedy including "Executive Action," "JFK," "Rush to Judgment" and "Four Days in November." His most famous case was dramatized in a TV movie. Holly Hunter starred in "Roe v. Wade."

PEGGY CONVERSE Died Mar. 2, 2001

Stage and screen actress Peggy Converse died at age 95. Ms. Converse was the widow of actor Don Porter who played Sally Field’s father on the TV series "Gidget." Ms. Converse began her career while still a teen. She appeared in a number of Broadway plays. Ms. Converse had a lengthy and varied film career. Her credits include some of the best and worst films ever made. She appeared in the truly bad sci-fi film "The Thing That Couldn’t Die." On the other hand Ms. Converse appeared in "The Accidental Tourist" and "Miss Sadie Thompson." Ms. Converse was also a familiar face to soap opera fans for her work in "The Young and the Restless," "General Hospital" and "Days of Our Lives."

LOUIS EDMONDS Died Mar. 3, 2001

Actor Louis Edmonds died of respiratory failure at age 77. Mr. Edmonds was best known for the role of Roger, Joshua, Edward, Daniel, Amadaus and Brutus Collins in the gothic horror soap opera "Dark Shadows." Edmonds played many members of the Collins family during the hit series five year run. He reprised the role of Roger Collins in the feature film spin off "House of Dark Shadows." Mr. Edmonds played Langley Wallingford for 16 years on the soap opera "All My Children." Mr. Edmonds appeared in a number of Broadway plays during the 1950s.

GLENN HUGHES Died Mar. 4, 2001

Glenn Hughes was the Leatherman in the gay disco singing group "The Village People." Mr. Hughes died of lung cancer at age 50. Mr. Hughes was buried in his Leatherman suit. Hughes appeared as a member of "The Village People" in Alan Parker’s "Can’t Stop the Music." He also appeared in an episode of "Married With Children" and "The Love Boat."

MICHAEL SMITH Died Mar. 6, 2001

When I was a kid, I always hated getting up early in the summer. Back in 1966 and 67 I would force myself to get out of bed by 10 AM. That’s when the TV show "Where the Action Is" played in Memphis. I was a big fan of Paul Revere and the Raiders. My one attempt at music lessons (the saxophone) was inspired by their version of "Louie, Louie." What did I know about music? I was a kid and I enjoyed the band’s zany antics and straight-ahead rock and roll. Michael Smith was the cut-up drummer. Mr. Smith died of natural causes at age 58. Smith also appeared with the band in an episode of the old "Batman" TV series.

KIM WALKER Died Mar. 6, 2001

Actress Kim Walker died of a brain tumor at age 32. Ms. Walker is best known for her performance as the uberbitch Heather Chandler in the cult classic "Heathers." Ms. Walker’s tragic illness is ironic considering the fact that one of her most famous lines from "Heathers" was "Did you eat a brain tumor for breakfast?" She also appeared in Cameron Crowe’s wonderful romantic drama "Say Anything." Among Ms. Walker’s other roles was ‘Cherry’ Valance in the TV series "The Outsiders." Diane Lane played the part in the film version.

PORTIA NELSON Died Mar. 6, 2001

Actress/singer/author Portia Nelson died at age 80. Ms. Nelson had a very successful Broadway career. She was also a popular nightclub entertainer. Her best-known film role was as Sister Berthe in "The Sound of Music." She played opposite Rex Harrison in the dismal children’s film "Dr. Dolittle." She donned a nun’s habit once again in the Hayley Mills comedy "The Trouble With Angels." She also appeared in the eerie gothic horror film "The Other."

EDWARD WINTER Died Mar. 8, 2001

Colonel Flagg may have been a one-dimensional character on the TV series "M*A*S*H" but he sure was memorable. Colonel Flagg always reminded me of G. Gordon Liddy without Mr. Libby’s intelligence and sense of honor. Flagg was a gung-ho, feel-no-pain jarhead. Even though he was supposed to represent what was wrong with the military, I still liked the guy. I guess that is because actor Edward Winter did such a great job bringing him to life. Edward Winter died of Parkinson’s Disease at age 63. Mr. Winter was nominated for a Tony Award for his Broadway debut in "Cabaret." Among his film credits are "The Boston Strangler" and Alan J. Pakula’s excellent thriller "The Parallax View." At ease soldier.

RICHARD STONE Died Mar. 9, 2001

Multi-Emmy-Award-winning composer Richard Stone died of pancreatic cancer at age 47. Mr. Stone won seven Emmy Awards for his music. He was one of Warner Brothers most prolific composers. He is best known for his cartoon scores. He was honored for his work on "Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs" and "Freakazoid." He scored hundreds of cartoons. His feature film scores include "Summer Heat," "Pumpkinhead," "Vietnam, Texas" and "Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat." He began his film career as a music editor for composers Maurice Jarre and Georges Delure among others.

HENRY LEE LUCAS Died Mar. 12, 2001

Prolific serial killer Henry Lee Lucas died of a heart attack in prison. The self-professed killer of over 200 people was 56 years old. Lucas claimed that he and his partner Ottis Toole spent years travelling around the country killing dozens. Many of Lucas’ claims were disproved. While the number of his victims is in doubt, there is no doubt he was a killer. He killed his own mother. While he once claimed hundreds, Lucas later recanted. "America’s Most Wanted" host John Walsh believed that Lucas’ partner Ottis Toole was the killer of his son Adam. Lucas was the subject of a number of documentaries. He was also the inspiration for the chilling "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer."

ROBERT LUDLUM Died Mar. 12, 2001

I was deeply saddened to hear that author Robert Ludlum died of a heart attack at age 73. Like millions of others worldwide, I was a huge fan of his books. While his books weren’t as sophisticated as John Le Carre, they were entertaining page-turners. Some said his work was formulaic. So what! He knew how to work that formula. I’ll miss the wait for a new Ludlum thriller to hit the bookracks. A number of his books have been made into films or mini series. Sam Peckinpah made a horrific mess of Ludlum’s "The Osterman Weekend." It was a sad final film from the master of violence. "The Rhinemann Exchange" with Stephen Collins was the a very good mini series. That was followed by Peckinpah’s debacle. Next came the mediocre "The Holcroft Covenant" with Michael Caine. It seemed that no one would be able to do a really good Ludlum film until the TV mini series "The Bourne Identity." Richard Chamberlain starred as Jason Bourne, the man without a memory or a past. Matt Damon was also to play the role in the 2002 theatrical version. The success of that film led to a sequel that is being shot in 2004. It is sad that Mr. Ludlum died before the release of the Matt Damon film. It was an excellent adaptation of his work. For those interested in something offbeat by Mr. Ludlum may I suggest the book "The Road to Gandolfo." This spoof of his other work is a sexy, funny thriller. It was originally written under a pseudonym.

SIR LANCELOT Died Mar. 12, 2001

Calypso singer Sir Lancelot died just short of his 99th birthday. Sir Lancelot was a popular singer during the 1940s. He made a number of film appearances where he would sing. His most notable appearances were in Val Lewton’s classic horror films "I Walked With a Zombie" and "The Curse of the Cat People." Sir Lancelot also appeared in the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall classic "To Have and Have Not."

ROSWELL HOFFMANN Died Mar. 12, 2001

Special effects cinematographer Roswell Hoffman died just short of his 96th birthday. Mr. Hoffman provided special effects and special optical photography for some of my favorite 1950s monster movies. Among his credits are the dinosaur opus "The Land Unknown." He also worked on one of the best sci-fi films of the 50s: "This Island Earth." Mr. Hoffmann contributed to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic "The Birds." Other credits include "It Came From Outer Space," "Abbot and Costello Meet the Invisible Man," the classic "The Incredible Shrinking Man" and the all-star disaster movie "Earthquake." Thanks for making my childhood a more thrilling place.

MORTON DOWNEY JR. Died Mar. 12, 2001

Conservative shock TV host Morton Downey Jr. died of cancer at age 67. Downey was known for his combative manners on his TV talk show. He also appeared in a number of grade z films. He lost a lung to cancer and spent the last years of his life campaigning against smoking.

JOHN A. ALONZO Died Mar. 13, 2001

Master cinematographer John A. Alonzo died of natural causes at age 66. Mr. Alonzo was known for being able to capture beautiful images with a minimum of lighting. He was nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar for Roman Polanski’s "Chinatown." Mr. Alonzo began his career as an actor. He appeared in a number of TV shows during the 1950s and 60s. He also acted in several feature films including "The Magnificent Seven." In the 1960s he began to study photography and motion picture photography. He shot a number of documentaries including "Natural Geographic Presents." His first feature film work behind the camera was as a camera operator on John Frankenheimer’s classic "Seconds." "Seconds" includes some amazing visuals that are as powerful today as when the film was first released. Alonzo was working under the legendary James Wong Howe on "Seconds." Alonzo’s credits during the 1970s includes many of the best films of that decade. He shot Roger Corman’s "Bloody Mama," the cult classic "Vanishing Point," Hal Ashby’s cult classic "Harold and Maude," the Oscar nominated "Sounder," "Lady Sings the Blues," Brian De Palma’s "Get to Know Your Rabbit," the concert film "Wattstax," "Conrack," "The Bad News Bears," "Black Sunday" and "Norma Rae." Mr. Alonzo continued to contribute to hit films during the 1980s. His credits from that decade include "Blue Thunder," "Scarface," "Cross Creek," and "Steel Magnolias." Mr. Alonzo appeared as himself and discussed his craft in the great documentary "Visions of Light." He also directed several films; most notably the 1970s hit "F.M."

NORMAN RODWAY Died Mar. 13, 2001

British Shakespearean actor Norman Rodway died after a series of strokes at age 72. Mr. Rodway was a respected stage actor in England. He began his film and TV work in 1959. Among his better known roles were in Orson Welles "Chimes at Midnight" and Barry Hershy’s surreal "The Empty Mirror." In "The Empty Mirror" Rodway plays Adolph Hitler as he looks back on his life. This is a truly bizarre film. Worth a look if you dare. Mr. Rodway appeared in nearly 50 films and TV shows during his lengthy career.

ANN SOTHERN Died Mar. 15, 2001

Comedian, blonde bombshell Ann Southern died of heart failure at age 92. Ms. Southern was a contract player at MGM who became a star in the "Maise" film series. Ms. Sothern made ten "Maise" films altogether. Ms. Sothern appeared in over 100 films and TV shows. During the 1950s she had her own hit TV show "The Ann Sothern Show." She was also the voice of the title character in the TV series "My Mother the Car." She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her final film "The Whales of August." Among Ms. Sothern’s credits are "A Letter to Three Wives," "Trade Winds," "Words and Music," "The Best Man" and Curtis Harrington’s under-rated "The Killing Kind."

NORMA MACMILLAN Died Mar. 16, 2001

Voice actress Norma MacMillan died of a heart attack at age 79. Ms. MacMillan was the voice of "Casper the Friendly Ghost." She also provided the voices of "Gumby," "Davey from "Davey and Goliath" and Heidi Doody in "The Howdy Doody Show." She was also the voice of Polly Purebread in "The Underdog Show." Her children Alison and Stefan Angrim are both actors. Alison was a regular on "Little House on the Prairie" and Stefan on "Land of the Giants."

MICHIYO ARATAMA Died Mar. 17, 2001

Japanese actress Michiyo Aratama died of heart failure at age 71. Horror movie fans know Ms. Aratama from Masaki Kobayashi’s Oscar nominated "Kwaidan." The film is made of four individual ghost stories. Ms. Aratama appears in the first episode as the deserted wife of a samurai. I highly recommend the Criterion Collection DVD. Ms. Aratama worked with director Kobayashi on five films. The pair also collaborated on the "Human Condition" film series.

RALPH THOMAS Died Mar. 17, 2001

British director Ralph Thomas died at age 85. Mr. Thomas was known to British moviegoers as the director of the "Doctor" film series in the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Thomas directed 40 films during his career. His film credits include "Above Us the Waves," "Deadlier Than Male" with Elke Sommer, "A Tale of Two Cites" with Dirk Bogarde and the remake of "The 39 Steps." He also directed "The Iron Petticoat" with Bob Hope and Katherine Hepburn. He is the father of Oscar-winning producer Jeremy Thomas. Jeremy Thomas won the Best Picture Oscar for Bernardo Bertolucci’s "The Last Emperor."

JOHN PHILLIPS Died Mar. 18, 2001

John Phillips was the founder of the 1960s folk/pop/rock group "The Mamas and the Papas." The band was one of the most influential groups to emerge from the renaissance of the 1960s. Phillips, wife Michelle, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty formed the band in the mid 60s. During their 2 ½ year career, they wrote and recorded some of the most memorable songs of the decade. Mr. Phillips died of heart failure at age 65. John Phillips was the father of actress Mackenzie Phillips and singers Chyna and Bijou Phillips. Mr. Phillips produced D.A. Pennebaker’s rockumentary "Monterey Pop." The Mamas and the Papas also appeared in the movie. Mr. Phillips compositions have appeared on the soundtracks of numerous movies including Nicholas Roeg’s "The Man Who Fell to Earth."

NORMAN MITCHELL Died Mar. 19, 2001

With over 2,000 TV credits, over 100 film credits and many stage appearances, Norman Mitchell was one of Britain’s most prolific character actors. Norman Mitchell died at age 89. Mr. Mitchell credits include Otto Preminger’s "Bunny Lake is Missing," "The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery," the Oscar-winning "Oliver!," "A Challenge for Robin Hood," "On the Buses," "Lady Caroline Lamb," "And Now the Screaming Starts!," "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell," "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "The Big Sleep," "The Wicked Lady" and a number of the British "Carry On" comedy films.

MENTOR HUEBNOR Died Mar. 19, 2001

Artist Mentor Huebnor died at age 83. Mr. Huebnor’s film credits include work as a storyboard artist, art director, production designer and conceptual artist. The LA native was also an accomplished portrait painter. His film credits include "Forbidden Planet," "Ben-Hur," "North by Northwest," "Fiddler on the Roof," the remake of "King Kong," "Blade Runner," David Lynch’s version of "Dune" and "Bram Stoker’s Dracula."

R. CHETWYND-HAYES Died Mar. 20, 2001

Acclaimed horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes died of bronchial pneumonia at age 81. Mr. Chetwynd-Hayes wrote over 200 short stories and dozens of novels. His short stories were used in the movie "Tales From Beyond the Grave." His book "The Monster Club" was turned into an interesting movie by workhorse director Roy Ward Baker. Mr. Chetwynd-Hayes served his country during WWII. He took part in the disastrous battle of Dunkirk and the D-Day invasion. He was an extra in a number of films made before WWII including "Goodbye Mr. Chips" and "A Yank at Oxford."

ANTHONY STEEL Died Mar. 20, 2001

British leading man Anthony Steele died at age 80. Mr. Steel was one of England’s most promising leading men in the 1950s. He was the highest paid actor in England at one time. Steel left England for Hollywood and love. Steel married Italian bombshell Anita Ekberg. The Hollywood career didn’t pan out and the marriage to Ekberg ended badly. Mr. Steel was unable to capture the promise of his early career. Steel was in fact blackballed by the Rank Organization, which had groomed him for success. He died alone and a pauper. Mr. Steel’s film credits include "The Sea Shall Not Have Them," "The Master of Ballentrae," "Storm Over the Nile," "The Black Tent," "Anzio," "The Story of O," "The Mirror Crack’d" and "The Monster Club."

WILLIAM HANNA Died Mar. 21, 2001

Oscar-nominated cartoon producer William Hanna died of natural causes at age 90. Mr. Hanna was hired as an animator at MGM in 1937. He teamed up with fellow MGM animator Joseph Barbera in 1938. The two directed the short "Puss Gets the Boot" in 1939. It was the first "Tom and Jerry" cartoon. They would direct over 200 "Tom and Jerry" cartoons during the nest two decades. The pair started Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1957. They were responsible for such cartoons as "Yogi Bear," "Huckleberry Hound" and their biggest hit "The Flintstones." Mr. Hanna produced and directed hundreds of cartoons during his lengthy career. He was nominated for two Best Short Subject Oscars for "One Droopy Knight" and "Good Will to Men." He also produced the excellent feature film "Charlotte’s Web."

SULLY BOYAR Died Mar. 23, 2001

Character actor Sully Boyar died while waiting at a bus stop in Queens, New York. He was 77 years old. Mr. Boyar was a respected stage and film actor. He was a member of The Actor’s Studio. His best known film role was as the bank president in Sidney Lumet’s "Dog Day Afternoon." He appeared in one of my favorite B-movies "Night of the Juggler." Mr. Boyar provided strong support in a number of great films of the 1970s. Those include "Panic in Needle Park," Bob Rafelson’s "The King of Marvin Gardens" and Karel Reisz’s "The Gambler" and "Up the Sandbox." He was also memorable as Dugan in "Fort Apache: The Bronx." Other credits include "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers," "Car Wash," "Oliver’s Story," "The Jazz Singer," "The Entity," "The Manhattan Project" and "Betsy’s Wedding." One of Mr. Boyar’s last performances was as Carmela’s psychiatrist in a season three episode of "The Sopranos."

TAMBI LARSEN Died Mar. 24, 2001

Oscar winning art director Johannes ‘Tambi’ Larsen died after a long illness at age 85. Mr. Larsen won an Oscar for his art direction on "The Rose Tattoo." He received four other Oscar nominations for the films "Hud," "Heaven’s Gate," "The Molly Maguires" and "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold." Other credits include "Artists and Models," "Too Late Blues," "Nevada Smith," the under-rated Mafia movie "The Brotherhood," John Huston’s hilarious "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean," "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Breakheart Pass."

LARRY LANSBURGH Died Mar. 25, 2001

Oscar and Emmy-winning filmmaker Larry Lansburgh died at age 89. Mr. Lansburgh won two Oscars and was nominated for a third. He won the Best Documentary Oscar for "The Horse With the Flying Tail." He also won a Best Short Subject Live Action Oscar for "The Wetback Hound." His short subject "Cow Dog" was also nominated for an Oscar. Mr. Lansburgh won an Emmy for his documentary about young adults in Oakland, California. Mr. Lansburgh was an assistant production supervisor on Disney’s "The Three Caballeros." He began his career as a stunt man for Cecile B. DeMille. One of his last projects was a documentary about the Achuar people of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador.

PIOTR SOBOCINSKI Died Mar. 26, 2001

Oscar-nominated cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski was found dead in Vancouver at age 43. Mr. Sobocinski apparently suffered a heart attack. He was in Vancouver filming the movie "Trapped," which stars Charlize Theron. Mr. Sobocinski was nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar for "Trois Colours: Rouge." He was the son of Polish cinematographer Witold Sobocinski. After a successful career in his native land Mr. Sobocinski came to America to work. His American films include Ron Howard’s remake of "Ransom," "Angel Eyes," "Marvin’s Room" and "Hearts in Atlantis."

ANTHONY DEXTER Died Mar. 27, 2001

Actor Anthony Dexter died at age 81. Mr. Dexter was a stage actor and drama teacher when he was cast in the biopic "Valentino." Mr. Dexter had an uncanny resemblance to the famed silent screen heart throb. Dexter was typecast and made a few unmemorable swashbucklers and sci-fi films in the 1950s. His credits include "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Fire Maidens of the Moon," "The Phantom Planet" and "The Black Pirates."

JAMES WARREN Died Mar. 28, 2001

Actor/painter James Warren died in Hawaii at age 88. Mr. Warren’s first career was as an illustrator for such magazines as "The Saturday Evening Post" and "Cosmopolitan." Mr. Warren was being groomed to be a Western star, but his career never really took off. He made films at MGM and RKO, most notably in RKO’s Zane Grey Westerns. He had a small part in one of my favorite films: "Fourteen Hours." "Fourteen Hours" starred Richard Basehart as a man standing on the ledge of a New York hotel deciding whether or not to kill himself. Mr. Warren retired from film and moved to Hawaii where he dedicated himself to his first love, painting. Actor Vincent Price was so impressed with Mr. Warren’s artwork that he sponsored a one man show. Mr. Warren appeared in over 20 films including "Tennessee Johnson," "Badman’s Territory," "Gun Crazy," "Maise Goes to Reno" with Ann Sothern, "Cry Havoc" and "See Here, Private Hargrove."