RICHARD CUSACK Died June 2, 2003
Actor/writer Richard Cusack has died of pancreatic cancer at age 77. Mr. Cusack was the father of actors John, Joan, Anne, Susie and Bill Cusack. In 2000, the Chicago Film Critic’s Association awarded Mr. Cusack and his family the Commitment to Chicago Award. Mr. Cusack’s film credits include "My Bodyguard" with daughter Joan Cusack, John Sayles’ "Eight Men Out" in which son John played Chicago White Sox player Buck Weaver, "The Fugitive," "High Fidelity" also with son John and "The Jack Bull." Mr. Cusack also wrote the script for "The Jack Bull." Prayers of comfort to Mr. Cusack’s family and friends. Thanks for providing entertainment to so many through your work and your family.
JOHN JYMPSON Died June 3, 2003
British film editor John Jympson has died at age 72. Mr. Jympson was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Editing of "A Fish Called Wanda." Mr. Jympson edited Richard Lester’s classic "A Hard Days Night." My. Jympson’s quick cut editing style on The Beatles’ first movie influenced an entire generation of young film editors. Mr. Jympson edited on of my personal favorites, Cy Endfield’s "Zulu." The true-life story of 100 British soldiers holding off thousands of Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift is a classic action adventure film. Michael Caine became a certifiable movie star in his first starring role. Mr. Jympson’s editing of the final Zulu charge is masterful. Other film credits include Alfred Hitchcock’s "Frenzy," Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s "Suddenly Last Summer," the Clint Eastwood films "Where Eagles Dare" and "Kelly’s Heroes" and the HBO mini series "The Far Pavilions."
BETTY BOLIN Died June 3, 2003
Our Gang actress Betty Bolin died at age 84. Ms. Bolin was a contract player for Hal Roach Studios. She appeared in several of the later "Our Gang" shorts in the early 1930s.
MANUEL ROSENTHAL Died June 5, 2003
Composer Manuel Rosenthal died one day short of his 99th birthday. Mr. Rosenthal was a student of Ravel. Mr. Rosenthal composed only a few movie scores in the 1930s and 40s. Mr. Rosenthal was credited as a music arranger on Baz Luhrmann’s "Moulin Rouge."
JESSICA KAPLAN Died June 6, 2003
24-year-old screenwriter Jessica Kaplan was among 10 people killed in a Los Angeles plane crash. Ms. Kaplan sold her first script while only 16 years old! The script, "The Powers That Be" is set to begin shooting this fall with the title "Havoc."
ROBERT SCHNEIDER Died June 6, 2003
Production manager Robert Schneider died of lymphoma at age 70. Mr. Schneider’s credits include "White Fang" and "An Officer and a Gentleman."
STEPHEN HOPE Died June 8, 2003
Music editor Stephen Hope died of cardiac and renal failure at age 72. Mr. Hope worked on some of the most popular films of the last 30 years. His film credits include "Animal House," "The Right Stuff," "The Seven Per Cent Solution," "Jaws 2,"all three "The Karate Kid" movies, "F/X" and "Lean on Me."
HERSCHEL GILBERT Died June 8, 2003
Oscar nominated screen and TV composer Herschel Gilbert died at age 85 from complications following a stroke. Mr. Gilbert was nominated for three Oscars during the 1950s. His scores for the films "Carmen Jones" and "The Thief" as well as his song for "The Moon is Blue" all garnered nominations. Mr. Gilbert also composed the scores for numerous TV series including "The Rifleman," "Gilligan’s Island" and "Burke’s Law."
TREVOR GODDARD Found June 9, 2003
English actor Trevor Goddard was found dead at the age of 40. Mr. Goddard’s death is under investigation at this time though suicide is suspected. Mr. Goddard had a regular role on the TV series "JAG." Mr. Goddard played Kano in "Mortal Combat." Mr. Goddard appeared uncredited in the remake of "Gone in 60 Seconds" and is set to appear in the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean." Mr. Trevor was an ex-boxer turned actor. He appeared in nearly 20 films and made numerous guest appearances on many TV series including "Baywatch," "Murphy Brown," "The X-Files" and "Silk Stockings."
JANINE BAZIN Died June 9, 2003
Documentary film producer Janine Bazin has died. Ms. Bazin was the widow of renowned film critic and theorist Andre Bazin. Mr. Bazin was a co-founder of the magazine "Cahiers du Cinema." Ms. Bazin produced nearly 30 documentary films for French television about various influential filmmakers.
BEVERLY KARP Died June 10, 2003
Producer Beverly Karp died of emphysema at age 72. Ms. Karp produced the interesting experimental film "My Dinner with Andre." Whenever I recommend this film to folks, I get two reactions: "Thanks!" and "Thanks a lot, jerk!" "My Dinner With Andre" is two hours of two guys sitting down to dinner and discussing everything under the sun. Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory wrote and starred in the Louis Malle directed film. Ms. Karp also produced Louis Malle’s "Vanya on 42nd Street."
ROBIN RIORDAN Died June 11, 2003
TV writer/producer/story editor Robin Riordan died of undisclosed causes at age 38. Ms. Riodan’s credits include "The Wonder Years," "Mary Kay and Ashley in Action" (which she also created), "The Bonnie Hunt Show" and "The Journey of Allan Strange."
DAVID BRINKLEY Died June 11, 2003
Veteran NBC newsman and author David Brinkley died at age 82. Mr. Brinkley was one of the elder statesmen of TV journalism. He was the news anchor at NBC from 1956 through 1971. He returned to that post for three more years in 1976. Mr. Brinkley was co-host of "The Huntley-Brinkley Report." When his co-anchor Chet Huntley retired, NBC renamed the program to "The NBC Nightly News" with Mr. Brinkley as the sole news anchor. Mr. Brinkley appeared as himself in several films and documentaries including Oliver Stone’s "Nixon," "Powaqqatsi," "4 Little Girls" and "Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam."
WILLIAM MARCHALL Died June 11, 2003
Actor William Marshall died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease at age 78. Though Mr. Marshall was a classically trained actor who performed Shakespeare, he is best known for his performance in the Blaxploitation film "Blacula." Mr. Marshall played the African prince Manuwalde who was bitten by Count Dracula and turned into a vampire. Mr. Marshall leant an air of dignity and sophistication to the low-budget film. Marshall elevated the movie above the original script. A sequel "Scream, Blacula, Scream" followed with less success. Mr. Marshall also starred "Abby," in the Blaxploitation version of "The Exorcist." Marshall played the Bishop who performs the exorcism. Even Mr. Marshall great talent could not save this poorly made rip-off.
Mr. Marshall appeared in over 30 films during his 40-year career. His film credits include "The Boston Strangler" with Tony Curtis, "Skullduggery" with Burt Reynolds, the very entertaining thriller "Zigzag" with George Kennedy and an all-star cast, John Landis’s "Amazon Women on the Moon," Terry Gilliam’s "The Fisher King" and "Maverick" with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. Mr. Marshall played The King of Cartoons on the Saturday morning TV series "PeeWee’s Playhouse."
Mr. Marshall was known for his portrayal of Shakespeare’s "Othello," which he performed on Broadway and in Europe. He filmed a version for TV with Jenny Agutter in 1981. Mr. Marshall also portrayed Paul Robeson and Frederick Douglas on stage.
GREGORY PECK Died June 12, 2003
Oscar winning actor Gregory Peck has died at age 87. Mr. Peck appeared in nearly 120 films, documentaries and TV shows and specials during his lengthy career. Like many others, I am saddened by Mr. Peck’s passing as his movies touched me on a deeply personal level. I am an attorney today in part because of the effect Mr. Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird" had on me when I was 10-years old. Gregory Peck was voted as the all time screen hero last week by the AFI for his role in that classic film. He also won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the Southern lawyer fighting racism in depression-era Alabama.
Mr. Peck starred in many classic American films. He worked with many of the finest directors alive or dead. My first exposure to Gregory Peck was in the WWII classic "Twelve O’Clock High." Peck played tough-as-nails Army/Air Corp General Frank Savage in Henry King’s psychological war drama. Mr. Peck received his fourth Best Actor nomination for his work in "Twelve O’Clock High." Pretty amazing when you consider "Twelve O’Clock High" was made in 1949 and Mr. Peck made his screen debut just five years earlier.
Mr. Peck’s first Oscar nomination came in 1946 for his second film "The Keys to the Kingdom" which dealt with the story of a Catholic missionary in China. Peck was nominated the next year for his work in the classic family film "The Yearling." Another nomination followed the next year for his role in "Gentleman’s Agreement." In addition to his Oscar as Best Actor in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Mr. Peck was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy in 1968.
Mr. Peck worked with master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock in the superior psychological thriller "Spellbound" with Ingrid Bergman and Leo G. Carroll and the lame divorce drama "The Paradine Case." "Spellbound" was also famous for the surreal nightmare sequence designed by Salvador Dali.
In 1946, Mr. Peck starred in David O. Selznick’s Western epic "Duel in the Sun." The film was hammered by critics and given the nickname "Lust in the Dust." I still like the film. Mr. Peck turns in a great performance as the unsympathetic Lewt McCanles. Peck’s McCanles is on of the first anti-heroes in the history of cinema. Paul Newman would make his career playing such characters during the 1960s.
One of my all-time favorite Westerns in Peck’s "The Gunfighter." One of the most underrated films of the 1950s, "The Gunfighter" tells the story of a man with a past who comes home to try and start over. Or course, some folks never forget a man’s past. Richard Jaeckel has a great cameo as the young hothead who forces Peck to pick up his guns.
Mr. Peck’s credits from the 1950s include some great films and some not so great films. Among his credits from the era are "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn, John Huston’s "Moby Dick," Stanley Kramer’s WWIII thriller "On the Beach," "Captain Horatio Hornblower" with a young Christopher Lee and the Korean War classic "Pork Chop Hill."
The 1960s started out great for Mr. Peck. He starred in one of the biggest hits of the decade "The Guns of Navarone" with David Niven and Anthony Quinn. He followed this film with the classic suspense thriller "Cape Fear." I don’t care what you say; the original Gregory Peck/Robert Mitchum version of "Cape Fear" is far superior to Martin Scorsese’s remake. Peck did make a cameo in the remake! Next came the epic Cinerama "How the West Was Won." Peck played a shifty riverboat gambler in the all-star epic. Robert Mulligan’s "To Kill a Mockingbird" came next.
Mr. Peck’s output during the 1960s slowed down after "To Kill a Mockingbird." He appeared in a number of films, but they paled when compared to his earlier work. I wanted to see "MacKenna’s Gold" when I was a kid due to the Playboy pictorial of Julie Newmar shot on location. I was disappointed to find that she remained with her clothes on in the movie. I was a typical kid in the 1960s in that I was fascinated by the space race. Gregory Peck starred as the head of NASA in the space rescue movie "Marooned" which also starred Gene Hackman, Richard Crenna, David Jansen and James Franciscus. I probably like the film more than your average viewer does.
Peck followed "Marooned" with another favorite of mine "I Walk the Line." In "I Walk the Line," Peck played a married sheriff who lets the little head do the thinking for the big one. A moonshiner encourages Peck to hook up with his daughter played by the incredibly sexy Tuesday Weld so that the good sheriff won’t bust his still. Again, I probably like the film more than the average viewer does. I think this has to do with a lifelong fantasy involving Ms. Weld.
Mr. Peck enjoyed a resurgence in the mid 1970s with the horror classic "The Omen." Peck followed this with the WWII biography "MacArthur." Peck turned in a memorably hammy performance as Dr. Josef Mengele in the black comedy "The Boys From Brazil" with co-star Laurence Olivier. Mr. Peck’s last performance of note was in Luis Puenzo’s 1989 film "The Old Gringo." The film is a ‘what if’ fantasy about the last mysterious days of writer Ambrose Bierce who disappeared in Mexico.
Mr. Peck was the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1967 through 1970. He received AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989.
Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
HUME CRONYN Died June 15, 2003
Oscar nominated actor Hume Cronyn has died at age 91 of cancer. Mr. Cronyn was the widower of actress Jessica Tandy. He and Miss Tandy were married for 52 years at the time of her death in 1994. Mr. Cronyn married screenwriter Susan Cooper in 1997. Ms. Cooper had been a collaborator of Mr. Cronyn and Ms. Tandy on several TV movies during the 1980s. Mr. Cronyn’s film career spanned nearly 60 years. In addition to starring in nearly 60 films, Mr. Cronyn also wrote several movies including Alfred Hitchcock’s experimental film "Rope," which starred Jimmy Stewart.
Mr. Cronyn was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the 1943 film "The Seventh Cross." Mr. Cronyn was nominated for several Emmy awards, winning three times for the TV films "To Dance with the White Dog," ""Broadway Bound" and "Age-Old Friends." He also was nominated for a Screen Actor’s Guild award for "Marvin’s Room." Mr. Cronyn shared a Humanitas Award with Ms. Cooper for the TV film "The Dollmaker."
Mr. Cronyn delivered memorable supporting performances in several of my favorite films. Mr. Cronyn made his film debut playing the true-crime obsessed Herbie Hawkins in Hitchcock’s classic (and first shot-on-location film) "Shadow of a Doubt" starring Joseph Cotton. Cronyn’s third film is an overlooked WWII classic called "Cross of Lorraine." The film deals with the French underground movement and features a rare dramatic performance by hoofer Gene Kelly. Cronyn’s next film was his second Hitchcock film: "Lifeboat." Another personal favorite is the Film Noir classic "The Postman Always Rings Twice" with John Garfield and Lana Turner. Cronyn played one of the shifty lawyers.
Cronyn played Warren Beatty’s crusty boss in Alan J. Pakula’s assassination thriller "The Parallax View." Cronyn followed that film with the first Pat Conroy film, "Conrack" starring Jon Voight. Mr. Cronyn turned in a very funny cameo as Glenn Close’s father in "The World According to Garp." The scene in which Close and Jenny Fields explains to Cronyn and wife Jessica Tandy how she conceived her son is a riot.
Among Mr. Cronyn’s other film credits are the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton version of "Cleopatra," Ron Howard’s "Cocoon," "The Pelican Brief," "* batteries not included" and the Claude Rains version of "Phantom of the Opera."
PHILIP STONE Died June 15, 2003
British character actor Philip Stone died at age 79. Mr. Stone appeared in a number of famous films. He is probably best known for his collaborations with Stanley Kubrick. Stone played the milquetoast father of Malcolm McDowell’s Alex in "A Clockwork Orange." Stone played a more forceful (at least off screen) character in Kubrick’s "The Shining." Stone played Delbert Grady, the former caretaker with peculiar ideas on ‘correcting’ his children. Mr. Stone also appeared in Kubrick’s period film "Barry Lyndon."
Stone appeared as a SPECTRE agent in the James Bond film "Thunderball." He could be seen operating the cable car in the Richard Burton/Clint Eastwood thriller "Where Eagles Dare." In 1973, Mr. Stone worked with Malcolm McDowell again in Lindsey Anderson’s "O Lucky Man!" Other memorable roles include Stuart Rosenberg’s "Voyage of the Damned" about a group of Jews trying to escape Germany before WWII, "Hitler: The Last Ten Days" with Alec Guinness, "Flash Gordon" and "Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom."
PAUL FRASER Died June 16, 2003
44-year-old TV producer Paul Fraser was killed in Seattle after being struck by a car. Mr. Fraser was the producer of the international versions of "The Weakest Link" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
MEL FERBER Died June 16, 2003
Longtime TV producer/director Mel Ferber died at age 80. Mr. Ferber was the creator and executive producer of "Good Morning America." Mr. Ferber directed a number of TV shows including "Happy Days," "The Odd Couple," "Alias Smith and Jones," "Archie Bunker’s Place," "My Favorite Martian," "Alice" and "Quincy."
ARTHUR MURPHY Died June 16, 2003
Arthur Murphy, the father of box-office analysis died at age 70 of lung cancer. Mr. Murphy was a Navy veteran who went to work for Variety Magazine. Mr. Murphy was the first person to truly analyze box-office returns for the film industry. Mr. Murphy became much sought after by studio heads for his in depth work. All of the box-office prognosticators at Einsiders owe their habit to Mr. Murphy. The final count is in on Mr. Murphy, he grossed one rich life.
CARLOS RIVAS Died June 16, 2003
Hispanic American actor Carlos Rivas died of prostate cancer at age 78. Although Mr. Rivas had featured roles in several major motion pictures featuring some of the best directors of all time, Mr. Rivas will always be special to me for a couple of monster movies featuring the stop-motion animation and writing of Willis O’Brien. Carlos Rivas worked both in America and Mexico. He appeared in nearly films and almost as many TV series during his nearly 50-year career.
Carlos Rivas played the boyfriend of Rita Moreno’s character in "The King and I." He was also featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s "Topaz," John Huston’s brilliant Western "The Unforgiven" with Burt Lancaster, "True Grit" and "The Undefeated" with John Wayne and Allison Anders’ "Mi Vida Loca" and "Gas, Food, Lodging."
Who cares about big-budget, A-List movies, I love monster movies! One of my first movie memories comes from my pre-school years. At the end of "The Beast of Hollow Mountain," a cowboy swings on a vine over a pit of quicksand to lure a T-Rex to its death. The story of cowboys vs. dinosaurs was written by "King Kong" animator Willis O’Brien. This was a close as O’Brien ever got to filming his story "The Valley of Gwangi." Ray Harryhausen would later fulfill O’Brien’s dream. Carlos Rivas co-starred with Guy Madison in this film. Mr. Rivas starred in another O’Brien film: "The Black Scorpion." Mr. O’Brien actually did the animation for "The Black Scorpion."
Mr. Rivas was a founding member of "Nosotros," an organization aimed at improving the image of Hispanic people in the entertainment industry.
REN YAMAMOTO Died June 17, 2003
Japanese actor Ren Yamamoto died at age 73 of a cerebral apoplexy. Mr. Yamamoto appeared in nearly 50 films between 1952 and 71. He appeared in a number of Toho Studio’s monster movies including the original 1954 "Gojira." That’s "Godzilla" to American viewers. He appeared in the first (and underrated) sequel "Gigantis, The Fire Monster." Both of these films created a sensation in Japan before the Americanized version with Raymond Burr as reporter ‘Steve Martin’ was re-edited for American consumption. In Japan, the original "Gojira" is revered in the same manner we look upon "King Kong." It is also a substantially different film. If you ever get the chance to see this sci-fi classic in its original form, you will be greatly surprised by what you discover. Mr. Yamamoto appeared in a number of other monster movies including "Mothra," "King Kong vs. Godzilla" (the second movie I ever saw in a theater!), "Godzilla vs. Mothra," "Rodan, The Flying Monster," "Frankenstein Conquers the World" and "War of the Gargantuas."
ANNE BELLE Died June 18, 2003
Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker Anne Belle died of a heart attack at age 68. Ms. Belle made films about New York ballet dancers. Her movie "Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse" was nominated for Best Documentary: Features at the 1996 Oscars. Her film "Dancing for Mr. B: Six Balenchine Ballerinas" was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1990.
LARRY DOBY Died June 18, 2003
Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby died after a lengthy illness at either 78 or 79 years of age. Like the Clarol Lady, not even his friends know for sure! Larry Doby made history as the man who broke the color barrier in the American League. Doby joined the Cleveland Indians a couple of months after Jackie Robinson signed with the Dodgers. Doby played in the big leagues for 13 years. In the 70s, Mr. Doby became the second Black manager in baseball when he joined the White Sox organization. Mr. Doby appeared, along with the rest of the 1948 Cleveland Indians in the 1949 drama "The Kid From Cleveland." Doby also joined a group of retired players for a scene in the lame Michael Douglas/Jill Clayburgh romance comedy "It’s My Turn." Mr. Doby also appeared on an episode of "Sex and the City."
LAURA SADLER Died June 19, 2003
22-year-old British actress Laura Sadler died from injuries sustained in a 40-foot fall from a balcony. Actor George Calil was arrested by police in connection with Ms. Sadler’s death. He has been released on bail. Ms. Sadler received the Jean Carment Award at the 1997 Anger’s European First Film Festival for her performance in the movie "Intimate Relations." Ms. Sadler was a star on the hit British soap opera "Holby City." She appeared in an episode of the popular TV series "Inspector Morse." Among her other credits were the TV movies "Coming Home" and "The Fallen Curtain." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
FIELDER COOK Died June 20, 2003
Award winning director Fielder Cook died of a stroke at age 80. Mr. Cook won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for another five! Mr. Fielder also won a DGA award for Best Direction in Television for the TV movie "Teacher, Teacher." Mr. Fielder began his career in the late 40s directing live television. Among Mr. Fielder’s TV and film credits are "The Homecoming" which was the pilot film for the popular TV series "The Waltons." Other credits include the hilarious poker movie "Big Hand for the Little Lady" starring Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward, "Prudence and the Pill," "Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys" about one of the great miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history, "A Member of the Wedding" and "Seize the Day" for which Mr. Cook was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
MICHAEL MORRIS Died June 20, 2003
TV and film writer Michael Morris died of Alzheimer’s disease at age 84. Mr. Morris wrote for several popular TV series, most notably during the 1960d. His credits include "Perry Mason," "Bewitched," "F-Troop" and "McHale’s Navy." Mr. Morris was also a producer on the TV series "Chico and the Man." Mr. Morris wrote the Kirk Douglas vehicle "For Love or Money" and "Wild and Wonderful" which starred Tony Curtis.
RAY SERRA Died June 20, 2003
According to the New York Friar’s Club, longtime member and movie tough-guy Ray Serra has died. Mr. Serra was 71. Raymond Serra was a familiar face in crime films for over 30 years. Whether on the big screen or TV, Ray Serra could be spotted in numerous wiseguy roles. Mr. Serra’s credits include "The Gambler" with James Caan, the great TV cop epic "Contract on Cherry Street" with Frank Sinatra, "Arthur" with Dudley Moore, "Wolfen" with Albert Finney, William Lustig’s brutal "Vigilante" with Robert Forster, "Prizzi’s Honor" with Jack Nicholson, "Sugar Hill" with Wesley Snipes and "Wannabes."
MARIANNA ELLIOT Died June 21, 2003
Costume designer Marianna Elliot died at age 72 of cancer. Ms. Elliot’s film credits include "Whose Life is it Anyway?," the excellent TV film about Senator Jeremiah Denton’s captivity as a POW in Vietnam: "When Hell Was in Session," "Blue Thunder" and "Burden of Proof" among others. Ms. Elliot is survived by her husband of 44 years, actor Allan Oppenheimer.
GEORGE AXELROD Died June 21, 2003
Oscar nominated writer George Axelrod died of heart failure at age 81. George Axelrod wrote smart. He wrote funny. Mr. Axelrod was responsible for several of the best scripts ever filmed. I challenge you to find a funnier script that "Lord Love a Duck." Mr. Axelrod’s twist on life was very unique. Watch his films and consciously look for his subversive humor. Even his classic adaptation of Richard Condon’s political thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" is filled with hilarious wordplay. Axelrod also co-produced the political thriller.
George Axelrod received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay "Breakfast at Tiffanys." Axelrod’s credits include "Phffft!" which starred Judy Holiday, Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak. Axelrod wrote the play "The Seven Year Itch" which was turned into a hit film by Billy Wilder starring Marilyn Monroe. Axelrod’s adaptation of William Inge’s "Bus Stop" became another hit for Miss Monroe. Frank Tashin adapted Axelrod’s play "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" for the screen. Axelrod disowned the movie. The movie starred Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield.
Mr. Randall also appeared, with a very hot Tuesday Weld in Axelrod’s "Lord Love a Duck." If you have not taken the time to find and watch "Lord Love a Duck," by all means do so. Mr. Axelrod’s genius will become very apparent to you after watching the movie. "Lord Love a Duck" also marked Mr. Axelrod’s directorial debut. Who better to interpret his words than the writer himself! Another very funny film written by Axelrod is "How to Murder Your Wife," which starred Jack Lemmon and Verna Lisi. It doesn’t rise to the level of his earlier work, but it is a nice diversion.
In addition to his Oscar nomination, Mr. Axelrod was nominated for three WGA Awards, winning for "Breakfast at Tiffanys." He was nominated for a Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival for "Lord Love a Duck." Mr. Axelrod is the father of producer Jonathan Axelrod and B-Movie actress turned casting director Nina Axelrod (Motel Hell, Roller Boogie).
LEON URIS Died June 21, 2003
Leon Uris wrote his own epitaph before he died: American Soldier, Jewish Writer. Mr. Uris died at age 78. Mr. Uris saw all of the horrors of war as a combat soldier in the Pacific Theater of Operation in WWII. He wrote a number of best selling novels, which brought all the elements of war to vivid life on the page. A number of Mr. Uris’s books were translated into movies.
I remember watching the TV mini series "QBVII" when it first aired in 1974. I was aware of the holocaust before that. I had always been a hungry reader with a bent toward history. It wasn’t until the end of the first episode, when Ben Gazzara’s character sees the real film footage of the horrors of Auschwitz, that I too saw this for the first time. I could completely understand the horror on Mr. Gazzara’s character’s face as he viewed the footage. After this amazing mini-series, I went out and got Mr. Uris’s book from the library. Mr. Uris wrote a book about Holocaust survivors called "Mila 18." In that book, he named a doctor as a person who had committed atrocities at Auschwitz. The doctor sued for libel. Mr. Uris used this real-life experience as the basis for "QBVII." Ben Gazzara played the author. Anthony Hopkins the Doctor suing for libel and an all-star cast. Jack Hawkins being a standout as the presiding judge.
Mr. Uris wrote one screenplay, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." In addition to the TV version of his book "QBVII," many of his other books made it to the big screen. Alfred Hitchcock filmed "Topaz" with mixed results. Otto Preminger filmed Mr. Uris’s account of the birth of the modern state of Israel, "Exodus." Paul Newman led an all-star cast, again, with mixed results. Director Raoul Walsh had better luck with Uris’s tale of WWII Marines, "Battle Cry." This movie has the historical footnote of being one of the two films playing at the theater where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. "The Dirty Dozen" director Robert Aldrich directed Uris’s tale of Jewish soldiers from Palestine fighting with the British in Greece during WWII, "The Angry Hills" with Robert Mitchum.
BURT RHODES Died June 21, 2003
British composer Burt Rhodes died at age 80. Mr. Rhodes credits include "Dr. No," "The Benny Hill Show," "The Good Life" and "The Nixon Line."
MAYNARD JACKSON Died June 23, 2003
Former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson died of a heart attack at age 65. Mr. Jackson was the first Black mayor of a major southern city, having been elected mayor of Atlanta 30 years ago. Mr. Jackson appeared in the mini-series "King" which starred Paul Winfield as Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Jackson also had a small part in the Richard Pryor film "Greased Lightning."
AKIRA NAGOYA Died June 24, 2003
Japanese character actor Akira Nagoya died of pneumonia at age 72. Mr. Nagoya may be best known to international audiences as the voice of Usi-Kai in Hayao Miyazaki’s anime classic "Princess Monoke." Mr. Nagoya’s career spanned 40 years.
ALEX GORDON Died June 24, 2003
B-movie legend Alex Gordon died at age 80. Alex Gordon produced a number of films for American International Pictures including Roger Corman’s "The Day the World Ended," "The She-Creature" and "Voodoo Girl." Mr. Gordon collaborated with legendary bad-movie director Ed Wood on two occasions. Mr. Gordon wrote the scripts for "Jail Bait" and the Bela Lugosi vehicle "Bride of the Monster." Other credits include the Westerns "The Bounty Killer" with Dan Duryea and "Requiem for a Gunfighter" with Rod Cameron. Mr. Gordon also produced such low-budget cult films as "Dragstrip Girl," "The Atomic Submarine" and "Girls in Prison." Mr. Gordon was Gene Autry’s publicist in his later years.
LESTER MADDOX Died June 25, 2003
While Maynard Jackson represented on end of the political spectrum in Georgia, former Governor Lester Maddox surely represented the other end. Maddox was a strict segregationist. Maddox closed his restaurant rather than serve Black customers. Maddox appeared in the made for TV movie "The Kansas City Massacre" which starred Dale Robertson as G-Man Melvin Purvis and Bo Hopkins as ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd.
DAVID NEWMAN Died June 26, 2003
Yet another prominent screenwriter has died this month. Oscar nominated writer David Newman died at age 66 after suffering a stroke. Mr. Newman was nominated, with his frequent writing partner Robert Benton for a Best Screenplay Oscar for "Bonnie and Clyde." "Bonnie and Clyde" was Mr. Newman’s first script. The groundbreaking film established Newman as a major Hollywood talent. In addition to Mr. Benton, David Newman also collaborated on scripts with his wife Leslie. Mr. Newman never wrote another script that lived up to the potential he showed with "Bonnie and Clyde." The closest he came was "Bad Company," an off-beat Western co-written with Benton. Robert Benton also directed the film. Other credits include the "Superman" film series which starred Christopher Reeve. Mr. Newman also scripted the hilarious Peter Bogdanovich homage to the slapstick comedies of the 1930s, "What’s Up Doc?"
GEORGE BAXT Died June 28, 2003
Screenwriter/author George Baxt died at age 80 following heart surgery. Mr. Baxt wrote several of my favorite horror films. His most famous film work was the cult classic "Circus of Horrors," which starred Anton Diffring and Donald Pleasence. Mr. Baxt followed that up with the creepy occult film "City of the Dead." Director John Moxley took the script and made the film his own with his stylish and moody vision. Christopher Lee starred. Mr. Baxt co-adapted the Fritz Leiber novel "Conjure Wife" into a taut little film: "Burn, Witch Burn." Mr. Baxt provided elements of the story for Hammer’s erotic "The Vampire Circus." Mr. Baxt gained some notoriety in the mid 1960s with the publication of his novel "A Queer Kind of Death." The detective hero was the first openly Black gay hero in literature.
RODNEY AMATEAU Died June 29, 2003
Emmy nominated director Rodney Amateau of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 79. Writer/producer/director Armateau was nominated for an Emmy for his work on "The Bob Cummings Show." Other credits include directing "The Garbage Pail Kids Movie," "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, I Love You," "The Statue" starring David Niven, "Where Does It Hurt?" with Peter Sellers. Mr. Armateau directed a number of TV shows including "Mr. Ed," "Gilligan’s Island," "The George Burns Show" and "My Mother the Car." Mr. Armateau was the supervising producer of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and its spin-off "Enos."
KATHERINE HEPBURN Died June 29, 2003
The last of the great movie stars from the 1930s has died. Katherine Hepburn was nominated for twelve Oscars and won four times. Pretty amazing when you consider that Miss Hepburn only made 43 films. The New England bred actress died at age 96. Katherine Hepburn was an unlikely movie star. She didn’t possess the physical beauty of many of her contemporaries. What Miss Hepburn had was enormous talent backed up by intelligence and tenacity.
Miss Hepburn won her first Oscar as Best Actress for her third film, "Morning Glory." After a promising start in the movies, Hepburn was labeled as troublemaker. Seems she wanted to do things her own way. After a string of box-office flops, Miss Hepburn returned to the stage. Writer David Ogden Stewart wrote a play for Miss Hepburn called "The Philadelphia Story." The play was a hit and Miss Hepburn bought the rights. She negotiated a sale to Louie B. Mayer which guaranteed that she play the lead role. The 1941 film garnered Miss Hepburn her third Oscar nomination and put her back on the top of the Hollywood heap. Her next film would change her life.
George Steven’s "Woman of the Year" paired Miss Hepburn with actor Spencer Tracy. Their on-screen chemistry was a hit at the box-office. The couple went on to make a total of nine movies together. They also became lifelong lovers. Mr. Tracy was married and a Catholic. He refused to get a divorce. Hepburn and Tracy’s decades long affair did not hurt either career. Unlike the foreign born Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn did not pay a career price for her adultery. Miss Hepburn was an avowed atheist. I guess she knows one way or the other at this point in time.
My first memory of Miss Hepburn was from watching "Suddenly Last Summer" when I was six or seven. For some strange reason, my parents let me watch the twisted tale by Tennessee Williams. Miss Hepburn didn’t make much of an impression on my young mind, but Elizabeth Taylor’s ample bosom and the films horrific ending sure did.
One of my all-time favorite films is "The Lion in Winter." Miss Hepburn won her third Oscar for her powerful performance as Eleanor of Aquitaine. The film is a brutal and darkly funny tale of one of history’s most dysfunctional families. I can’t think of another film, which contains such caustic and cutting dialogue. Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry and Timothy Dalton co-starred. You will be hard pressed to find a better performance by any actress in any role than Miss Hepburn’s. I am still amazed that Miss Hepburn tied with Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) for the Best Actress Oscar that year. There is no comparison between the two performances.
Miss Hepburn won her other two Oscars for her work in the films "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" and "On Golden Pond." In addition to her memorable on-screen pairings with Spencer Tracy, Miss Hepburn is probably best remembered for her role as the spinster with a bit of life still in her in John Huston’s "The African Queen."
I saw an interview with Miss Hepburn once. I believe it was one of the Dick Cavett interviews, but I can’t be sure. She said that her father told her, upon her initial success as an actress, to not change her frugal lifestyle. Her father explained that her success might be fleeting. If she didn’t take to living the high life, she wouldn’t miss it when it was gone. Miss Hepburn stated that she always tried to heed that particular advice. She didn’t go Hollywood. Yet she conquered Hollywood anyway. And she did it on her own terms.
BUDDY HACKETT Died June 29 or 30, 2003
I can’t think of another actor’s voice better suited to say the word "snarfblatt" than that of Buddy Hackett’s. That was the name Hackett’s character Scuttle gave a smoking pipe in Disney’s "The Little Mermaid." Rubber-faced comedian Buddy Hackett died at age 79. He had suffered from diabetes for a number of years. Buddy Hackett was one of those rare people who could make you laugh just by standing up. He was a master of both physical and verbal comedy. He also had the gift of being able to make you laugh with clean material more than most younger comics could with more risqué material. Buddy Hackett was also known as a true gentleman and a decent man.
Among Mr. Hackett’s film credits are "God’s Little Acre," "The Music Man," the overblown "It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm," Disney’s "The Love Bug," "Little Mermaid" and "Little Mermaid II." Buddy Hackett was a perennial favorite on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." Buddy Hackett had that special ease, like other frequent guests Burt Reynolds and Robert Blake, which made him a natural choice as a guest star.
Richard Donner’s "Scrooged" with Bill Murray has become a regular Christmas tradition at my house. Buddy Hackett played himself in "Scrooged." Mr. Hackett had a lengthy TV career which include roles on "The Jackie Gleason Show" and "You Bet Your Life." Hackett played comedian Lou Costello to Harvey Korman’s Bud Abbott in the made for TV biopic "Bud and Lou." What should have been a great film is only mediocre.
I lived in Las Vegas for a number of years. I regret not having taken the time to see Buddy Hackett perform live when I lived there. Life is short. Take advantage of your opportunities when you can. Thanks for a lifetime of laughter. Prayers of comfort for his wife, children and friends.