Saturday, June 19, 2010


MARIE TRINTIGNANT Died August 1, 2003

French actress Marie Trintignant died at age 41 after allegedly being beaten into a deep coma over the weekend by her boyfriend, French rock star Bertrand Cantat. She underwent two separate emergency surgeries but did not recover. Doctors were trying to relieve the pressure on Ms. Trintignant’s brain due to a cerebral hemorrhage she suffered after the severe beating on Sunday. Mr. Cantat is being questioned by the police in Vilnius, Lithuania where the attack happened. Ms. Trintignant was on location filming the movie "Colette," which she co-wrote with her mother, director Nadine Trintignant. Ms. Trintignant was the daughter of French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (Z, A Man and a Woman) and writer/director Nadine Trintignant. Ms. Trintignant was flow back to France from Lithuania where she died early this morning. Ms. Trintignant appeared in nearly 70 feature and TV films and during a career that began in 1967. She was nominated five times for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Cesar Awards in her native France. Ms. Trintignant had just completed the film "Janis and John" in which she played Janis Joplin to Christopher Lambert’s John Lennon. Among Ms. Trintignant’s film credits are the stylishly erotic horror film "Deep in the Woods," "Harrison’s Flowers," Claude Charbrol’s "Betty," "Ponette," "Wings of Fame" and "The Story of Women." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends during this difficult time.

UPDATE: On March 31, 2004, Bertrand Cantat was convicted of killing Ms. Trintignant. He recieved 8 years.

THOMAS J. MCCARTHY Died August 1, 2003

Film editor Thomas McCarthy died of respiratory failure at age 76. Mr. McCarthy was nominated for an Eddie Award by the American Cinema Editors society for his work on the TV series "Gunsmoke." Mr. McCarthy’s credits include "Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze," "Sandcastles," "The Power" and "Joy in the Morning." His additional TV credits include "High Chaparral" and "Combat." Mt. McCarthy was Executive Vice President World Wide Post Production with Columbia Pictures. He was also a past president of the American Cinema Editors and the Editor’s Guild.

LESLEY WOODS Died August 2, 2003

Broadway, film and TV actress Lesley Woods died at age 90. Ms. Woods appeared in several soap operas including "The Edge of Night," "Search for Tomorrow," "General Hospital," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Nurses." Her film credits include "Nurse Betty" and "Testament." Ms. Woods appeared in several excellent Made for TV movies from the 1970s and 80s. She appeared in "Bad Ronald" with Scott Jacoby and Kim Hunter, "Cry Rape," "World War III" with David Soul, "Ruby and Oswald" and the excellent "Murder in Texas" with Katherine Ross and Andy Griffith. Ms. Woods played Amanda Ewing on "Dallas."

HENRY ‘REDD’ STEWART Died August 3, 2003

Country and Western composer Redd Stewart died at age 82. Mr. Stewart’s best known song is probably "The Tennessee Waltz." Mr. Stewart also wrote "You Belong to Me." "You Belong to Me" was featured on the soundtracks of the films "How to Make an American Quilt" and "Forbidden." Mr. Stewart appeared in the film "The Rough, Tough West" as part of the band "Golden West Cowboys." Mr. Stewart’s wife died last week.


Composer C. Curet Alonzo died of respiratory failure at age 77. Mr. Alonzo wrote over 2000 songs and ballads including the songs "Rosa" and "By All Means." His songs were used in the films "The Godfather: Part II," "Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and "Bad Habits."

JOHN HUNTLEY Died August 7, 2003

Movie soundman and British film historian John Huntley died of cancer at age 82. Mr. Huntley wrote eight books on cinema including "British Technicolor Films" and "British Film Music." He was a member of the British Film Institute. Mr. Huntley worked on the films "The Red Shoes," Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet," "Oliver Twist" and "A Matter of Life and Death." Mr. Huntley and his daughter Amanda established the "Huntley Film Archives" which is one of the largest film archives in Europe with over 80,000 titles.

ROBERT DONOVAN Died August 8, 2003

Writer Robert Donovan died of a stroke at age 90. Of his 13 books, "PT-109," the story of President Kennedy’s WWII exploits was the most famous. The book was turned into a 1963 film, which starred Cliff Robertson as the late president.

IRENE WYMAN Died August 8, 2003

Animator Irene Wyman died at age 98. Ms. Wyman worked for MGM and William Hanna during her long career. She worked on the animated credits of Stanley Kramer’s comedy "It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World." Ms. Wyman also contributed to a number of TV documentaries and the book "The Story of Hollywoodland."

GREGORY HINES Died August 9, 2003

Award-winning actor/dancer/director Gregory Hines died of cancer at age 57. Gregory Hines was a star in the sense that Gary Cooper and John Wayne were stars: he was able to just be himself in anything and it was more than enough to carry his scenes. He was a star in the sense that Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were in that he was the best tap dancer of his generation. Gregory Hines had a friendly warm persona that made you want to watch to see what he would do next. It didn’t matter if he was involved in a film involving dancing or not. Go rent Michael Wadleigh’s intelligent horror film "Wolfen." Hines plays one of Albert Finney’s fellow cops investigating a series of murders. Hines captures your attention and wins you over. Gregory Hines helped the audience suspend disbelief. He was a hell of a dancer though! I don’t care what anyone says; I like "The Cotton Club." Hines both entertained you with his dancing and involved you in his character’s dilemmas.

Gregory Hines received a Daytime Emmy Award for his work on Bill Cosby’s animated show "Little Bill." Mr. Hines was nominated for a number of other awards including Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries by the Screen Actor’s Guild for his performance in "Bojangles." Hines also produced the TV biography about dancing great Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

Other film and TV credits include "The Gregory Hines Show," "Will and Grace," "Waiting to Exhale," "Rage in Harlem," "Eve of Destruction," "White Nights," "Running Scared," "History of the World: Part I," "Muppets Take Manhattan" and "Deal of the Century."

JACQUES DERAY Died August 9, 2003

Famed French director Jacques Deray died at age 74. Deray was best known for his tough crime films. My first exposure to Mr. Deray’s work was the great gangster epic "Borsalino." Deray cast top French stars Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo as two small time hoods that link up and begin to move up the crime ladder. "Borsalino" is fun and exciting. Deray uses the star power of the two leads for maximum effect. Deray worked with Mr. Belmondo in "Crime on a Summer Morning." Mr. Delon was Mr. Deray’s frequent star, appearing in nine films with the director. Mr. Deray’s other credits include "The Gang," "The Swimming Pool," "Cop Story" and "Symphony for a Massacre."

TAMAKI SAWA Died August 9, 2003

Japanese actress turned politician Tamaki Sawa died of heart failure at age 66. Ms. Sawa was one of the stars of "Play Girl," a Japanese TV that was a precursor to the American series "Charlie’s Angels." The series played in Japan from 1969 to 74. Ms Sawa turned to politics in 1996. She was a member of the Komeito House of Councilors.

CARL PITTI Died August 9, 2003

Actor/stuntman Carl Pitti died at age 86. Mr. Pitti was inducted in the the Hollywood Stuntman’s Hall of Fame in 1984. Mr. Pitti’s film credits include the original "Of Mice and Men" with Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr., "Billy the Kid" with Robert Taylor, "Tribute to a Bad Man" with James Cagney, "The Hallelujah Trail" with Burt Lancaster" and "High Plains Drifter" with Clint Eastwood. Mr. Pitti also worked on several TV series, most notably "Bonanza" and "Little House on the Prairie."

CONSTANCE CHAPMAN Died August 10, 2003

British Actress Constance Chapman died at age 91. Though Ms. Chapman was best known for her work on the British stage, she did appear in a number of films. Ms. Chapman appeared in two films by director Lindsey Anderson. She appeared in "Oh, Lucky Man!" and "In Celebration." Other credits include "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg," "The Patricia Neal Story," "Doomwatch," "Hedda," "Rumpole of the Bailey" and "All Creatures Great and Small."

HERB BROOKS Died August 11, 2003

Hockey legend Herb Brooks was killed in an automobile accident at age 66. Mr. Brooks was thrown from the minivan he was driving when it rolled over. Herb Brooks led a group of young men to one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Mr. Brooks was the coach in the 1980 Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. Against all odds, the Brooks coached team won the Gold Metal at Lake Placid against the odds-on favorites Russia’s Men’s team. "The Miracle on Ice" united people across the United States like few sporting events before had. The event became the subject of a Made for TV film one year later. Karl Malden portrayed Herb Brooks in "Miracle on Ice." Andrew Robinson and Steve Guttenberg played two of his players. Another film, "Miracle" is currently in post-production. Kurt Russell plays Brooks in the film set for 2004 release. Mr. Brooks appeared as himself in the 2001 documentary "Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

IRJA LLOYD Died August 12, 2003

Irja Lloyd, radical, social crusader and free thinker died of natural causes at the age of 83. Ms. Lloyd, along with Lucille Alpert, was the subject of director/producer Laura Gabbert’s feature length documentary film "Sunset Hall." Sunset Hall is a retirement home for radicals in Los Angeles. "Sunset Hall" won the Audience Award at this year’s IFP/Los Angeles Film Festival and a Special Jury Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

PAUL DOUGLAS JOHNSON Died August 12, 2003

Oscar winning special effects master Paul Johnson died of colon cancer at age 54. Mr. Johnson and his partner Al Miller at Lynx Robotics received three Science and Technology Academy Awards for defining and controlling motion in film, developing the C-50 camera motor system and for development of a data capture system. Mr. Johnson’s credits include "Titanic," "Fight Club," "Panic Room," "Face Off," "Broken Arrow," "Star Trek: Insurrection," "The X-Files," "Space Balls" and "Lifeforce."

ED TOWNSEND Died August 13, 2003

R&B composer Ed Townsend died of heart failure at age 74. Mr. Townsend wrote over 200 songs including the hits "For Your Love," Marvin Gaye’s "Let’s Get It On" and "Finally Got Myself Together (I'm A Changed Man)" which was recorded by The Impressions. "For Your Love" was originally recorded by Mr. Townsend himself. A number of bands and singers have had success with this great song. I remember trying to impress a couple of girls in my third grade class by singing the song after hearing The Yardbirds version. It still rocks. Mr. Townsend’s music was used on the soundtracks of the Blaxploitation film "Black Fist" and the cheesy thriller "The Ultimate Chase." Mr. Townsend appeared as himself in "Marvin Gaye: The E! True Hollywood Story."

AARON SLOAN Died Aug. 15, 2003

Producer, distributor and journalist Aaron Sloan died at age 77. Mr. Sloan was editor of the "Independent Film Journal." His company, Magick Seal Films distributed the Mexican films of Luis Bunuel in America. He also distributed and produced several of the films of Andy Warhol. Mr. Sloan co-produced and appeared in the Andy Warhol documentary "Andy Makes a Movie."Mr. Sloan served his country in WW II.

IDI AMIN Died August 16, 2003

Ugandan despot, murder and cannibal Idi Amin died at age 78. Idi Amin Dada, dictator for life of Uganda only ruled for eight years. During that time, he was responsible for the slaughter of over 100,000 people. Amin was also alledged to have experimented with cannibalism, Amin gained a world stage from which to flaunt when an Air France airliner with a large number of Israeli passengers was hijacked by the PLO and flown to Entebee Airport in Uganda. The terrorists held the passengers hostage in hopes of gaining release of a number of imprisoned PLO members. Idi Amin acted as the ‘impartial mediator’ for the terrorists. Israeli commandos flew into Uganda and freed all of the hostages except for an elderly woman who had been taken to a hospital. The Israeli commandos only suffered one casualty! This incident became the subject of two US Made for TV movies and an Israeli theatrical feature. Amin was portrayed by Julius Harris in ABC’s inferior "Victory at Entebbe." NBC did a better job with "Raid on Entebbe" which featured Yaphet Kotto as Amin and Peter Finch in his final role as Yitzahk Rabin. Both US TV films featured all-star casts. By far the best film version of this historical event is the Israeli film "Operation Thunderbolt." Menahem Golan directed this amazing film which tells the many tales of bravery and sacrifice in a straightforward and realistic manner. The movie was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1978. This movie is proof that you don’t need an all-star cast to make a classic movie. Mark Heath portrayed Amin in "Operation Thunderbolt." Amin was the subject of and appeared as himself in the documentary "Idi Amin Dada" directed by Barbet Schroder. The documentary was made before the Entebbe incident. Amin was also portrayed by Themba Gasa in Michael Mann’s "Ali," Prince Hughes in "The Naked Gun," Joseph Olita in both "Mississippi Masala" and "The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin" and Makalo Mofokeng in "Dr. Lucille." After Amin was deposed, he fled first to Libya and then to Saudi Arabia where he lived in splendor without having to pay for his crimes. Hopefully his passing will bring some comfort to his thousands of victims who survived. Hopefully he made peace with his maker.

ANTONIO VELASCO Died August 16, 2003

42-year-old actor Antonio Velasco was shot by a fellow actor while filming the Mexican action film "Juana the Scorpion." Actor Flavio Peniche was handed a prop gun loaded with live ammunition rather than blanks before the scene began. He fired the gun, striking Mr. Velasco in the chest. Mr. Peniche has been arrested on suspicion of homicde. The film’s director and prop master have disappeared. Mr. Velasco was the co-star of this film. Previously, Mr. Velasco wrote and starred in the 2000 comedy "Carmelo y Yo."

MARGARET RAIA Died August 17, 2003

Margie Raia was one of the 124 ‘little people’ cast as Munchkins in the classic 1939 version of "The Wizard of Oz." Ms. Raia died of a brain seizure at age 75. Ms. Raia had no lines in the film. Her brother Matthew played the City Father who welcomed Dorothy to Oz.

KEVIN OAKLEY Died August 18, 2003

Animator/special effects artist Kevin Oakley drowned trying to save his son from strong currents in Hawaii. The 41 year-old animator was on vacation with his family when his son was swept away by the current in a stream that led to the ocean. Mr. Oakley got to his son but they were pulled to the ocean. Dean Miller, a vacationing EMT from California was able to rescue Mr. Oakley’s son, but not the father. Mr. Oakley’s film credits include "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," "Eight Crazy Nights," "Osmosis Jones," "The Iron Giant," "Space Jam," "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" and as CGI animator on Brian DePalma’s "Mission to Mars." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

ANDREW RAY Died August 20, 2003

British stage and screen actor Andrew Ray died 64. Mr. Ray was a child actor who made a successful transition into an adult actor. He is best known for his portrayal of King George VI in the British TV mini-series "Edward and Mrs. Simpson." Among Mr. Ray’s credits are "Rough Cut" with Burt Reynolds and Lesley-Anne Down, "The System," "The Young and the Guilty" and "The Mudlark."

BRIANNE MURPHY Died August 20, 2003

Academy-Award winning cinematographer and Jacqueline-of-all-trades Brianne Murphy died of a brain tumor and lung cancer at age 70. Ms. Murphy was nominated for an Emmy for Cinematography on the TV series "Breaking Away" and "Highway to Heaven." She was the recepient of the Crystal Award in 1984 from the Women in Film Crystal Awards. Ms. Murphy was the cinematographer on nearly 30 films and TV series. Her credits include "Little House on the Prairie," "Highway to Heaven," Cheech and Chong’s "Nice Dreams" and "Fatso" with Dom Deluise. Ms. Murphy also directed, produced, edited, acted and was a script girl on a number of different films from the 1950 on. Ms. Murphy was the first woman to become a member of the American Cinematographer’s Society. She was also awarded, along with Donald Schisler, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Plaque in 1982 for the Design and Manufacture of the Mitchell Camera Car.

GEORGE HENSHAW Died August 20, 2003

Set decorator George "Buck" Henshaw died at age 85. Mr. Henshaw’s credits include the TV series "The Twilight Zone," "Playhouse 90," "Hawaii 5-0," "Magnum P.I." and "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show." Mr. Henshaw was nominated for two Emmy awards for his work.

MARION HARGROVE Died August 22, 2003

Writer Marion Hargrove died of complications from pneumonia at age 83. The WWII vet turned his basic trained experiences into the classic comedy novel "See Here, Private Hargrove." The book was turned into a movie in which Robert Walker portrayed the author. The film spawned a sequel. Mr. Hargrove became a Hollywood screenwriter working in both film and TV. His credits include the screen adaptation of "The Music Man." Mr. Hargrove won the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical for "The Music Man." Mr. Hargrove’s TV credits include "Maverick," "I Spy," "My World and Welcome to It," "The Waltons," "Nichols" (great show), "Eight is Enough" and "Fantasy Island."

GEORGE SWINK Died August 22, 2003

Producer/post production supervisor George Swink died heart failure at age 81. Mr. Swink worked with producer Irwin Allan on many of his TV shows and films. Credits include three of my childhood favorites: "The Time Tunnel," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" and "Lost in Space." Mr. Swink also worked on "The Towering Inferno," "City Beneath the Sea," "The Swarm," "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" and the horrendous "When Time Ran Out." Mr. Swink served his country in the Navy during WWII and was wounded twice.

HY ANZELL Died August 23, 2003

Character actor Hy Anzell died of natural causes at age 79. Mr. Anzell may be best known for his performance as Mushnik in the original Broadway cast of "Little Shop of Horrors." In addition to his stage work, Mr. Anzell appeared in several memorable films. He played Woody Allen’s uncle ‘Joey Nichols’ during the childhood scenes in "Annie Hall." He also worked with Woody Allen in "Bananas," "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Radio Days" and "Deconstructing Harry." Other film credits include the original "Taking of Pelham One Two Three," "Ironweed," "Pacific Heights" and the brutal Charles Bronson crime drama "The Stone Killer."

CHARLES STUBBS Died August 23, 2003

Child actor Charles Stubbs died at age 77. Mr. Stubbs appeared in several films during the 1930s and 40s. He appeared in one of my favorite Jimmy Cagney films, "Angels With Dirty Faces" which also starred the Dead End Kids. He did voice work in the Disney classic "Dumbo." Mr. Stubbs also appeared in the Lon Chaney Jr. version of "One Million Years B.C." which was produced by "Our Gang" producer Hal Roach! Other film appearances include "Boys Town" with Bing Crosby and John Wayne’s breakthrough film "Stagecoach." Mr. Stubbs served his country in WWII and went on to a successful life as a businessman and civic leader in the Los Angeles area.

PETER SCOPPA Died Aug. 24, 2003

Assistant director Peter Scoppa died from complications following a heart attack at age 79. Mr. Scoppa received two DGA Awards as assistant director on "Love Story" and Martin Scorsese’s "Taxi Driver." Mr. Scoppa worked on some of the best films of the 1970s including "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," "The Hospital," "The Brotherhood," "Three Days of the Condor," "The Front," "Winter Kills," "The Stepford Wives" and the original version of "The Out of Towners."

AMINA RIZK Died August 24, 2003

Egyptian actress Amina Rizk died at age 90. Ms. Rizk was one of the pioneers in Egyptian cinema and theater. She began acting on the stage in the 1920s and made her film debut in 1932. Ms. Rizk appeared in a number of films including the title role in "Cleopatra," "Heart of a Woman," "Who is the Criminal?" and "The Water Carrier is Dead." Ms. Rizk performed until the last months of her life. The photo on the right is from the play "Unhappily Ever After" which tells the tale of Scheherazade. Ms. Rizk starred in the play last December! Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak appointed Ms. Rizk to Egypt’s Upper House of Parliament in 1997.

JINX FALKENBERG Died August 27, 2003

Actress Jinx Falkenberg died at age 84. Ms. Falkenberg was married to radio personality Tex McCrary who died last month. Ms. Falkenberg parlayed a modeling career into a film and TV career. She and her husband hosted several TV shows during the 1950s. She appeared in over 20 films. Ms. Falkenberg has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Author/actress Margaret Hill Ritter died at age 81. Ms. Ritter wrote six novels during her life. Ms. Ritter was primarily a stage actress. Her film credits include "Bachelor Man," "Valerie Flake" and "The Walter Ego." Ms. Ritter appeared in nearly 200 plays.

MICHAEL CONSTANTIN Died August 29, 2003

French tough-guy Michael Constantin died at age 79 in a French hospital. Mr. Constantin was known primarily in Europe, however he did appear in several films well-known in America. Mr. Constantin appeared with Charles Bronson in "Cold Sweat" and "The Family." Mr. Constantin appeared in over 50 films during his lengthy career. Mr. Constantin appeared in "The Outside Man," which co-starred Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret. The film was directed by French tough-guy director Jacques Deray who died earlier this month.

CHARLES BRONSON Died August 30, 2003

Charles Bronson brought so much wonderful enjoyment into my life. The 81-year-old international film superstar died from pneumonia, organ failure and Alzheimer’s Disease. Charles Bronson was more than just a tough guy, more than a macho film hero. Charles Bronson was a dedicated actor who always delivered a good performance, even when the material he appeared in was beneath him. Mr. Bronson appeared in nearly 100 films during his 50-year career. He also made a number of guest appearances on TV series. Charles Bronson was an Icon during the 1960s and 70s. Several classic films were made all the better by his presence. Mr. Bronson was married three times. His second wife actress Jill Ireland died of breast cancer. The couple was married 22 years and appeared in 16 films together.

I didn’t have a good father figure growing up. A lot of what I learned about what it is to be a man came from the movies. I guess I’m saddened by Mr. Bronson’s passing because he was an actor whose work had a profound influence on me as a young child. I learned about overcoming fear and internal courage from his performance as Danny the Tunnel King in "The Great Escape." The claustrophobic POW overcame his fears to help free his fellow soldiers. I learned about compassion from his performance as Bernardo in "The Magnificent Seven." Unlike the other hired guns, Bernardo came to love the villagers who hired him. His death became a sacrifice rather than the act of a mercenary. I learned about having the courage to do the right thing even if it cost you your freedom from his performance as Wladislaw in "The Dirty Dozen." I learned about what it is to be ‘cool’ from numerous performances. These are just thoughts that are flooding from my subconscious. I guess, rather than be sad at his passing, I should feel thankful for his work. I didn’t know the man other than the image he portrayed on film.

Charles Bronson appeared in his early films under his real name Charles Buchinsky. He appeared in a couple of Spencer Tracy films early in his career: "The People Against O’Hara" and "Pat and Mike." Bronson always received good review even during the early days. I remember seeing a re-release of the 1953 film "House of Wax" in 3D on the big screen back in the early 70s. Mr. Bronson played Vincent Price’s assistant Igor. The scene where Bronson hides behind a shelf of wax heads still makes audiences jump. Bronson later co-starred with Vincent Price in the sci-fi fantasy "Master of the World." This time around Bronson was the hero, fighting the megalomaniac Price. Mr. Bronson starred in his first TV series in the late 50s. "Man with a Camera" ran from 1958-60.

Though Charles Bronson was a strong actor, he didn’t achieve superstar status until the late 1960s. Sergio Leone’s "Once Upon a Time in the West" is my all-time favorite film. Bronson co-starred with Henry Fonda, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale. The epic masterpiece is a Western of mythical proportions. Bronson plays Harmonica, a steely-eyed man of mystery who stalks Henry Fonda’s cold-blooded character Frank throughout the film. Sam Raimi paid homage to this subplot in his film "The Quick and the Dead."

Another film worth finding is Rene Clement’s "Rider on the Rain." The stylistic film concerns an Army officer tracking a sexual serial killer through France. Bronson plays the officer. This was also the second film Bronson made with wife Jill Ireland. When I was in the Air Force, I saw the over-looked romantic comedy "From Noon Till Three" with Bronson and Ireland. This funny sweet film tells the tale of a fleeing bank-robber that hides out from a posse with a schoolmarm. They fall in love and become intimate. It would ruin the movie to tell you more, so I won’t except to say if you get the chance to see this one, do so.

In addition to his work in Westerns, Charles Bronson made an impact in crime films, playing both the goodguy and the badguy. "The Valachi Papers" was based on the non-fiction book by Peter Maas. Bronson played Joe Valachi, a Mafioso who testified before Congress in 1962. Valachi provided law enforcement with the first inside look at the Mafia. Another personal favorite is "The Mechanic." Bronson plays a methodical hitman who trains a protégé played by Jan Michael Vincent. In Michael Winner’s "The Stone Killer," Bronson is a tough cop out to battle modern day Mafioso in Los Angeles. Bronson teamed up with Michael Winner again in one of the most controversial films of the 1970s.

If you didn’t witness the furor caused by Michael Winner’s "Death Wish," you wouldn’t believe the amount of debate the film stirred up. The movie was the subject of numerous newspaper editorials, TV commentaries and major magazine articles. Charles Bronson plays Paul Kersey, a mild-mannered businessman whose wife and daughter are brutally rapes. The wife played by Hope Lange dies and the daughter is reduced to a coma. Through a gradual process, Kersey becomes a vigilante. This film outraged the liberal majority at the time. Few films have stirred up such debate over law and order. Even Clint Eastwood’s "Dirty Harry" didn’t cause as much controversy. The controversy was good for the box-office. Bronson went on to make a number of highly inferior sequels.

One of my favorite Westerns is the Western/Mystery "Breakheart Pass." "Breakheart Pass" is also memorable in my life as I had the bad luck of being arrested and taken to juvenile hall the night I saw it. As I pulled out of the parking lot, some redneck in a pickup cut me off. Being a typical Southern teenager, I tried returning the favor. I ended up blowing out a tire on the curb. While I was changing the tire, one of my less than intelligent buddies decided to urinate in the middle of the street as a cop was driving by. Oh well! At least I got to see the movie first.

The hits continued to come. Bronson starred in "Chato’s Land," Red Sun," "Mr. Majestyk," "Breakheart Pass," "Breakout" and Walter Hill’s "Hard Times." Things slowed down in the 80s. Bronson still drew crowds to the theaters, but not to the degree he did in the 1970s. He made a series of TV movies about a "Family of Cops." They run frequently on cable TV and are worth seeing. Mr. Bronson finally found a role worthy of his talents in 1991. Sean Penn cast him as the father of the film’s two main characters in "The Indian Runner." Though it wasn’t his last film, it could be considered his very worthy swan song. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends, and thanks for enriching my life through your work. Thanks also for his service to our country as a tail-gunner during WWII!

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