BARBARA WEEKS Died July 2, 2003
Actress Barbara Weeks died on July 2, 2003 at age 89. No one realized who she was at the time and her passing was not announced for four months! Ms. Weeks was one of the up-and-coming actresses of the 1930s. She was one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars. The WAMPAS Baby Stars were promising actresses who were given tons of publicity from the studios in hopes of grooming them into major stars. Ginger Rodgers had been one of the Wampas Baby Stars. She was a protégé of Florenz Ziegfield and Samuel Golden. After a very promising start in the movies, Ziegfield died and Goldwyn relegated her to less prominent roles. Ms. Weeks retired from film in the late 1930s and disappeared. Variety magazine reported that she had died in 1954! Among Ms. Weeks film credits are "Man to Man," "Illicit," "Two Fisted Justice," "The Greeks had a Word for Them," "White Eagle" and "Rusty Rides Alone."
BARRY WHITE Died July 4, 2003
Grammy winning composer singer Barry White died at age 58. Mr. White suffered a stroke last year and also suffered from high blood pressure and kidney failure. Barry White produced the best make-out music since Frank Sinatra. There’s an old joke by somebody: "I wonder what Frank Sinatra listens too when he makes love?" I guess the same thing could be asked of Barry White. There must be millions of couples who turned the lights low and got real comfortable to Mr. White’s smooth, lusty music.
Mr. White’s music was used on the soundtracks of a number of films and TV shows. His music was used to set the sexy mood in a number of "Ally McBeal" episodes. Mr. White also appeared on an episode of that TV series. Other film credits as a composer include "Dead Presidents," "Beautiful Girls," "Dick" and "The Bachelor."
SKIP WARD Died July 4, 2003
Actor/producer Skip Ward died at age 69 after a long illness. Mr. Ward appeared in a number of films and TV shows during the 1950s and 60s. He later turned to producing, most notably as the associate producer of the TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard." Mr. Ward’s acting credits include John Huston’s "The Night of the Iguana" and Martin Ritt’s classic Western "Hombre"
with Paul Newman and an all-star cast. Other acting credits include "The Nutty Professor" with Jerry Lewis, "Easy Come, Easy Go" with Elvis, "Is Paris Burning?" and "Myra Breckinridge." Mr. Ward also produced "Kung Fu: The Movie" and Playboy's "Erotic Fantasies II." Mr. Ward was set to be the 20th actor to audition for the part of James West in the TV series "The Wild, Wild West." Robert Conrad was the 19th actor to audition. Ward didn’t get the part.
TYLER MCVEY Died July 4, 2001
Veteran character actor Tyler McVey died of leukemia at age 91. I fell in love with bad monster movies when I was very small. Mr. McVey appeared in several of my favorites from way back when. I hate to say that the films I loved when I was six don’t hold up well today. McVey appeared in Roger and Gene Corman’s horrible "Night of the Blood Beast." The movie features a male astronaut impregnated by a survival-minded alien. McVey also appeared in "Attack of the Giant Leeches." I must admit that "Attack of the Giant Leeches" aroused me when I was a child, and still does! Yvette Vickers plays a blond white-trash hottie who leads several men to their doom with her feminine wiles! The scene when the giant leech finally sucks Miss Vickers to death is strangely erotic.
Mr. McVey also appeared in a number of classic films. He was a member of the court-martial board in "The Caine Mutiny." McVey also appeared in Robert Wise’s sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still," Fred Zinneman’s "From Here to Eternity," "Seven Days in May," "The Killers" with Lee Marvin, John Cassavettes and Ronald Regan in his one bad-guy role. He also appeared in "Hello Dolly!," "That Touch of Mink" and "Young Jesse James."
Mr. McVey appeared in nearly 100 TV shows including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Rawhide," "I Love Lucy," "Gunsmoke," "Perry Mason," "Have Gun Will Travel," "Sea Hunt," "Wagon Train," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "The Wild, Wild West," "Ironside," "Mayberry RFD," "All in the Family" and "Highway to Heaven." Mr. McVey also had a long and distinguished career as a dramatic radio actor. He appeared in over 1,000 radio programs! Mr. McVey stayed busy in later years appearing at Old Radio Show conventions and took part in many, many Radio Show reenactments.
N!XAU Death announced July 5, 2003
Kalahari Bushman turned international movie star turned Kalahari bushman N!xau was found dead. His age and date of death are uncertain, but it is believed that he was 59 years old. N!xau was cast as the lead in Jamie Uys’s cult classic "The Gods Must Be Crazy." The truly original film became an international hit in mid 1980s. N!xau played a bushman who find a Coke bottle thrown from an airplane. He believes it to be a gift from the Gods. When the Coke bottle brings trouble to his tribe, he sets off on a journey to give it back to the Gods. The hit film was followed by an official sequel, and several unofficial Hong Kong sequels.
BUDDY EBSEN Died July 6, 2003
Song-and-dance man/character actor Buddy Ebsen died at age 95. The beloved actor has been a favorite of audiences for over 70 years. Mr. Ebsen had success on stage, film and TV. He is best known for his role as Jed Clampett on the hit 1960s TV series "The Beverly Hillbillies." "The Beverly Hillbillies" was the highest rated shows on television for most of its eight-year run. Ebsen’s line "Well Doggies" is one of the most often imitated lines of dialogue from any TV show in history. Back in 1962 and 63, bedtime for my brothers and sisters and me was 7PM, except on Thursday nights when we got to stay up to 7:30 to watch Jed and all his kin.
Mr. Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz." He recorded a number of musical tracks and posed for publicity photos. The part was recast after Mr. Ebsen nearly died from an allergic reaction to the silver paint used in the Tin Ma’s makeup. Jack Haley took over the role. Like James Cagney, the lanky actor’s first love was song and dance. Ebsen turned in a memorable performance in the Shirley Temple film "Captain January." His dance routine with Miss Temple rivals her dance routine with the legendary Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson in "The Littlest Rebel."
Buddy Ebsen made his film debut in "The Broadway Melody of 1935." He had been a dancer on the stage before his move to film. Mr. Ebsen’s first film roles featured his song and dance abilities. During the 1950s, Mr. Ebsen began to get more dramatic roles in action films. He played George Russel in Disney’s "Davy Crockett" films culled from their TV series. The phenomenal popularity of the "Davy Crockett" TV series and movies pushed Ebsen’s career forward.
Ebsen played Doc Golightly in Blake Edwards’ "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." His performance in that film lead to his being cast as Uncle Jed in "The Beverly Hillbillies." Following the cancellation of "Hillbillies," Mr. Ebsen scored another TV success as the private detective "Barnaby Jones." Ebsen made a cameo appearance as Barnaby Jones in the movie version of "The Beverly Hillbillies."
MILTON ALTMAN Died July 6, 2003
Visual effects expert Milton Altman died of Parkinson’s Disease at age 83. Mr. Altman served his country in WWII in the Army Air-Corp. Mr. Altman was nominated for an Emmy Award for his part in the development of the Chroma Key. Mr. Altman was responsible for the device, which allows ‘blue screen’ special effects. Mr. Altman was also one of the prime developers of color television. The well-respected artisan worked for NBC for nearly 40 years.
MARJORIE FOWLER Died July 8, 2003
Oscar nominated film editor Marjorie Fowler died at age 83. Ms. Fowler was the daughter of multi-Oscar nominated screenwriter Nunnally Johnson. Ms. Fowler was nominated for an Oscar for her work on the big-budget bomb "Dr. Dolittle." Ms. Fowler was nominated for six ACE Eddie Awards from the American Cinema Editors. She won for the TV movie "The Marva Collins Story." Ms. Fowler was also awarded a Life Achievement Award from the American Cinema Editors. She worked on nearly 40 films in 40 years. Other film credits include "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid" starring William Powell, "Three Faces of Eve" starring Joanne Woodward, "Elmer Gantry" with Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes," the TV series "The Blue Knight" and "Eight is Enough."
WINSTON GRAHAM Died July 10, 2003
Novelist/screenwriter Winston Graham has died at 93. Mr. Graham wrote the novel "Marnie," which was made into a movie starring Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren by director Alfred Hitchcock. Mr. Graham was best known for his "Poldark" series of novels. The period novels were turned into a 1975 TV series and was followed by a mini-series. His novel "The Walking Stick" was made into a movie starring David Hemmings and Samantha Eggar. Other credits include "Fortune is a Woman," "Night Without Stars" and "Take My Life."
HOSEI KOMATSU Died July 11, 2003
Japanese heavy Hosei Komatsu died at age 76. Mr. Komatsu was known in Japan for portraying the badguy in numerous films. Mr. Komatsu appeared in nearly 50 films during his 40 year career. His credits include "Double Suicide," "Guys Who Never Learn II" and "City of Beasts."
BENNY CARTER Died July 12, 2003
Jazz saxophone legend Benny Carter died in his sleep at age 95. Mr. Carter’s music was played one over 100 movie soundtracks. In addition to playing music for film, Mr. Carter was an arranger and musical director for many movies and TV shows. Mr. Carter’s film credits include "The Guns of Navarone," "Flower Drum Song," the TV series "Night Gallery," "Fame is the Name of the Game," "Ironside" and "The Manhunter."
ELIOT WALD Died July 12, 2003
Writer Eliot Wald died of liver cancer at age 57. Mr. Wald was a writer for "Saturday Night Live" and several films including "See No Evil, Hear No Evil," "Down Periscope" and "Camp Nowhere." Mr. Wald was also the creator of "Sneak Previews" with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Mr. Wald came up with the idea and hired the two critics when he worked for a PBS TV station in Chicago. Mr. Wald left the show before it went national.
RAMOLAO MAKHENE Died July 13, 2003
South African actor Romolao Makhene died of liver cancer. Mr. Makhene appeared in the international hit "Cry, the Beloved Country." Other credits include "The Air Up There," "Cyborg Cop" and "Place of Weeping." Mr. Makhene was a respected stage and TV actor in his home country.
COMPAY SEGUNDO Died July 13, 2003
Cuban guitarist Compay Segundo died of kidney failure at age 95. Mr. Segundo created a seven string guitar he called an ‘armonica.’ Mr. Segundo appeared as himself in Wim Wenders’ Oscar nominated documentary "Buena Vista Social Club." The movie chronicled musician Ry Cooder as he gathered a group of Cuban musicians to record a CD of their music. The movie was nominated for or won awards from over 20 film festivals and nations. It is a great documentary for anyone who loves music.
WILLIAM COPELAND Died July 14, 2003
Writer/producer William Copeland died at age 92. Mr. Copeland was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He was a novelist, scr4eenwriter and producer. He served his country in the Pacific during WWII. I think that gave him the right to espouse whatever beliefs he may have held! Mr. Copeland wrote/produced and wrote the songs for the 1970 film "The Secret of the Sacred Forrest." He was also the lyricist for "The Naked Dawn." He also wrote "Lonnie" and "The Prince of Pirates." Mr. Copeland’s TV credits include the series "Brave Eagle." He also wrote a musical stage version of "The Wind in the Willows."
JAMES MITCHELL LEAR Died July 14, 2003
Actor/writer James Mitchell Lear was best known for his one-man play "Hemingway Reminisces." Mr. Lear died at age 80. He wrote the play at the urging of Hemingway’s granddaughter, the late Margeux Hemingway. Mr. Lear served his country in North Africa and Europe during WWII. Mr. Lear appeared in nearly 40 films including "Reflections in a Golden Eye" with Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Forster, "Splendor in the Grass" with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood and "The Blue Dahlia" with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Mr. Lear had a long stage career both on and off-Broadway. He performed his one-man show in many parts of the world. Bruce Damer, virtual world guru and computer whiz told me he had the pleasure of Mr. Lear’s company during his stay in Prague. Mr. Damer funded Mr. Lear’s performance of "Hemingway Reminisces" in Sarajevo during the Yugoslav war. Thanks to Bruce Damer for use of his personal photo of Mr. Lear. Thanks for being a patron of Mr. Lear’s work. Check out Mr. Damer’s website for a look into his very interesting world.
ELIZABETH WELCH Died July 15, 2003
American born singer Elizabeth Welch has died at age 99. Ms. Welch achieved success on Broadway before moving to England in the 1930s. She remained there and became a star of stage, screen and radio. Ms. Welch’s film credits include the classic British horror film "Dead of Night," "Our Man in Havana," "Revenge of the Pink Panther" and "The Tempest." Ms. Welch introduced the dance the Charleston to Broadway. She appeared in the Broadway productions of "Stormy Weather" and Cole Porter’s "Love for Sale."
JOSEF BURZMINSKI (Born Max Diamant) Died July 15, 2003
Dentist Josef Burzminski was a Polish Jew who escaped from a cattle car headed for Auschwitz. During his escape, he came upon a farm house. There he met Stefania, the woman he would be married to for nearly 60 years. Dr. Burzminski was one of the witness who testified against Adolph Eichmann during his 1962 trial in Israel. The story of this remarkable life was turned into the Made for TV movie "Hidden in Silence."
KAY ROSE Died July 15, 2003
Dancer and vaudevillian Kay Rose died at age 91. Ms. Rose was a Warner Brothers contract dancer during the 1930s and 40s. She actually began her career at age 7 on the stage. Ms. Rose appeared in "A Star is Born" and "Three Girls in Blue" among other films.
BUDDY DEANE Died July 16, 2003
Popular Baltimore TV personality Buddy Deane died from complications from a stroke at age 78. Mr. Deane had a popular dance-party TV show from 1957-64. "The Buddy Deane Show" inspired Baltimore filmmaker John Waters to write and direct the movie "Hairspray." Mr. Deane had a cameo as the Governor in "Hairspray."
CAROL SHIELDS Died July 16, 2003
Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Carol Shields died at age 68 after a five-year-battle with breast cancer. Ms. Shields won the Pulitzer for her 1993 novel "The Stone Diaries." Ms. Shields’ novel "Swann" was filmed in 1996 and starred Brenda Fricker, Miranda Richardson and Michael Ontkean. "Swann" was nominated for 5 Genie Awards. The Genie is Canada’s equivalent of the Oscar.
GORDON KIBBEE Died July 16, 2003
Organist Gordon Kibbee died at age 89 of natural causes. Mr. Kibbee recorded organ music for numerous Hollywood films as well as for radio and TV. He was a founding member of the American Association of Theater Organ Enthusiasts. Mr. Kibbee served his country during WWII.
LEONARD DOSS Died July 17, 2003
Veteran color consultant Leonard Doss has died at age 88. Mr. Doss worked on nearly 120 films during his 18-year career. His credits include "Cleopatra" (his final film), "Elmer Gantry," "Can-Can," "Bus Stop," "The Fly," "South Pacific," "Peyton Place," "An Affair to Remember," "The King and I," "The Left Hand of God," "The Seven Year Itch," "Daddy Long Legs," "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Demetreus and the Gladiators," "The Robe," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "Halls of Montezuma." Forgive the pun, but he had a colorful career.
DAVID HAMPTON Death reported July 19, 2003
The man who conned his way into New York high society when he claimed to be the son of Sidney Poitier and who's exploits inspired the play "Six Degrees of Separation" has died of AIDS at age 39. Mr. Hampton pulled his con back in 1983. His exploits served as the basis for the play and movie. Mr. Hampton unsuccessfully sued to get a piece of the profits. Mr. Hampton was arrested numerous times for fraud related charges. He died sometime in June 2003.
JOHN C. HARRIS Died July 20, 2003
Independent film producer John C. Harris died at age 85. Mr. Harris is best known for producing John Carr’s "The Starmaker" with Wendell Cory and German sex kitten Barbara Valentin. Mr. Harris also was involved in "Christmas Around the World" and "Blue Hawaii." Mr. Harris served his country as a merchant marine in WWII.
NICOLAS FREELING Died July 20, 2003
Famed British novelist Nicolas Freeling died at age 76. Mr. Freeling was best known for his crime novels. His character Detective Van der Valk was the subject of a series of books, which were later turned into films, and TV series. Actors Frank Finlay and Barry Foster both played the Dutch detective. Mr. Freeling's books were the basis for the films "The Amsterdam Affair," "Van der Valk und das Madchen," "Because of the Cats" and the TV series "Van der Valk." Mr. Freeling won numerous book awards including the Edgar Allan Poe Award.
RENEE GADD Died July 20, 2003
British actress Renee Gadd died at age 97. Ms. Gadd was one of the leading British actresses during the early years of sound film. She is the second cast member of the classic British horror movie "Dead of Night" to died this month. Elisabeth Welch was the other. Ms. Gadd appeared in nearly 30 films including "Tomorrow We Live," "Murder in Soho" and "Man in the Mirror."
MARC CAMOLETTI Died July 20, 2003
French writer Marc Camoletti died at age 79. Mr. Camoletti wrote the play "Boeing Boeing," which was turned into a Jerry Lewis movie. You know how those French love Mr. Lewis! The movie co-starred Tony Curtis.
CAROL GRACE MATTHAU Died July 20, 2003
Actress Carol Matthau is better known for her acerbic wit and memorable autobiography than for her acting. As Carol Grace, she appeared in "Gangster Story" and "Micky and Nicky." "Gangster Story" was directed by and starred her husband, Walter Matthau. She married Matthau in 1959 and stayed with him until his death. She had another famous husband, author William Saroyan. She married him twice. She said she had to marry him again because she couldn’t believe how bad the first marriage had been. The second time around wasn’t much better. He biography, "Among the Porcupines: A Memoir" is a funny and tragic tale. A must read for anyone interested in the truth behind the façade of Hollywood. Ms. Matthau was the mother of actress Lucy Saroyan. Her daughter predeceased her by three months.
WALTER M. JEFFERIES Died July 21, 2003
The man you designed the original Starship Enterprise for the TV series "Star Trek" has died at age 82. Mr. Jefferies was a test pilot with combat experience. He was hired to design the Enterprise in part due to his aeronautical background. In addition to the starship, Mr. Jefferies had a hand in the design of the Phaser and ‘planet’ sets. Other credits include "Little House on the Prairie," "Love American Style," "Weekend of Terror" and "Killing Stone."
SERGE SILBERMAN Died July 22, 2003
Award winning French producer Serge Silberman died in Paris at age 86. Mr. Silberman produced films for such directorial masters as Akira Kurosawa and Luis Bunuel. Mr. Silberman produced my favorite Bunuel film, "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie." This dark comedy is a must see from a master in the twilight of his career. Silberman also produced Bunuel’s "That Obscure Object of Desire," "Diary of a Chambermaid," "The Milky Way," and Bunuel’s final surrealist film "Phantom of Liberty." Silberman produced a documentary about his long time collaborator: "The Paradoxes of Bunuel."
Mr. Silberman produced another classic by a legendary director in the last years of his life. Akira Kurosawa’s "Ran" is an exciting epic film of feudal Japan. Mr. Silberman won the British Academy’s award for Best Foreign film for "Ran." As he did about Bunuel, Mr. Silberman also produced the documentary "A.K." about Kurosawa, the greatest of all directors.
Mr. Silberman was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the French Cesar Awards. Another personal favorite of mine is the moody Charles Bronson thriller "Rider on the Rain." Silberman produced that for director Rene Clement. He also produced Clement’s caper "And Hope to Died."
YVONNE SANSON Died July 22, 2003
Greek actress Yvonne Sanson died at age 77 of an aneurysm. Ms. Sanson appeared in Bernardo Bertoluci’s powerful film about Fascist Italy, "The Conformist." She also appeared in "Mr. Kinky" with Ann-Margret and "The Biggest Bundle of Them All" with Raquel Welch." Ms. Sanson appeared in nearly 50 films during her 36-year career.
ROBERT BLUMOFE Died July 22, 2003
Oscar nominated producer Robert Blumofe died at age 94. Mr. Blumofe shared a Best Picture Oscar nomination for producing the Woody Guthrie bio-pic "Bound for Glory." David Carradine starred in the Hal Ashby directed film. Mr. Blumofe was also the executive producer of the Lucille Ball/Henry Fonda comedy "Yours, Mine and Ours." He also produced the Robert Forster film "Pieces of Dreams." He began his entertainment career as a lawyer for Paramount. Mr. Blumofe was a longtime studio executive working for United Artists, and the company that became Universal Television. Mr. Blumofe moved into independent film production and was also active with the American Film Institute.
SHEILA BROMLEY Died July 23, 2003
Actress Sheila Bromley died at either age 92 or 96. The LA Times reports she was born in 1907 while IMDB states 1911. Ms. Bromley appeared in nearly 80 films and over 30 TV shows during her 43-year career. She acted under the names Sheila Bromley Sheila Mannors and Sheila Manners. During the 1930s she appeared in many B-Westerns and serials, as well as the occasional A-List film. She appeared in "Daddy Long Legs" with Janet Gaynor, "The Prescott Kid," "Horse Feathers" with the Marx Brothers, Ernst Lubitsch’s "The Merry Widow," the Oscar winning "The House on 92nd Street," "Judgment at Nuremberg," "Hotel" and "Nightmare Circus." Ms. Bromley appeared in a number of TV shows including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Adam-12," "Rawhide," "Perry Mason" and "My Favorite Martian."
JOHN SCHLESINGER Died July 25, 2003
Multi-award winning director/producer/writer/actor John Schlesinger died at age 77 after being taken off life support. Mr. Schlesinger suffered a massive stroke in December of 2000. Mr. Schlesinger was one of several directors responsible for the ‘British Invasion.’ Schlesinger’s work along with that of Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz and others invigorated the British film industry in the early 1960s. This renaissance came on the heels of the French ‘New Wave.’
John Schlesinger won the Oscar for Best Direction for his landmark film "Midnight Cowboy." The film also won the Best Picture Oscar, the only X-Rated film to do so. "Midnight Cowboy" was considered daring for its time as it openly explored homosexuality. This was at the same time as the Stonewall riot in which patrons at a gay bar in New York fought back against harassment by the NYPD. Schlesinger, who was gay took what was essentially an old-fashioned ‘buddy movie’ and set it in the seamy world of New York street hustlers. Both Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight delivered some of their best work in the film.
Mr. Schlesinger was nominated two other times for the Best Director Oscar for "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and "Darling." Mr. Schlesinger was nominated for seven BAFTA (the British equivalent of the Oscar and Emmy combined) for his work in film and TV. He won five times for Best Short Film: "Terminus", Best British Film "Darling" twice for Best Direction: "Midnight Cowboy" and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and twice for his work in British TV. In addition to those prestigious awards, Mr. Schlesinger’s work has been honored by a number of major film festivals and critic’s societies.
John Schlesinger’s contributions to the ‘British Invasion’ were the films "A Kind of Loving" with Alan Bates, "Billy Liar" with Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie and "Darling" with Julie Christie. All stars received BAFTA nominations for the performances under Schlesinger’s direction. Julie Christie also was nominated for and won an Oscar for her performance as the promiscuous model in "Darling." Ms. Christie teamed up with Schlesinger a third time for the visually stunning, but slow period piece "Far From the Madding Crowd." Mr. Schlesinger’s next two films dealt with homosexuality in a frank manner. First was "Midnight Cowboy," followed by "Sunday, Bloody Sunday."
"Sunday, Bloody Sunday" starred Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson and Murry Head (Judas from the album "Jesus Christ Superstar"). "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" told the tale of a gay man (Finch) and a straight woman (Jackson) who share the sexual favors of a bisexual man (Head). Though the two main characters are aware of each other, they don’t push the man in the middle for fear of losing his affection. The film was nominated for numerous awards. As groundbreaking as the film was concerning its subject matter, it seems dated when viewed today.
Schlesinger looked at the rotten under-belly of fame and Hollywood in his spectacular adaptation of Nathaniel West’s "Day of the Locust." Donald Sutherland and Karen Black delivered powerhouse performances in this bleak look at life on the fringe in 1930s Hollywood. Schlesinger followed "Locust" with his most successful box-office hit.
"Marathon Man" still delivers a punch today. Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider and William Devane are all in top form in Schlesinger’s taut thriller. Olivier is outstanding as a Nazi dentist who wants to know "Is it safe?" You will never look at a trip to the dentist the same way again. If at all possible, skip this one on network TV. It deserves to be seen in widescreen and uncut.
After a few duds link "Yanks" and "Honky Tonk Freeway," Schlesinger returned to top form in the true-life thriller "The Falcon and the Snowman." Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton prove once again that Schlesinger is a director who delivered tight, exciting drama and suspense, but also was able to elicit wonderful performances from his cast. Penn and Hutton play spoiled American spies Daulton Lee and Christopher Boyce. Schlesinger deals with many of his familiar themes in "Falcon." He examines human failures without judging them. Schlesinger followed "Falcon" with one of my favorite horror films: "The Believers." Schlesinger produced both "Falcon" and "The Believers."
The opening scene of "The Believers" has Janet Laine-Green electrocuted in front of Harley Cross who plays her son, in a freak breakfast cereal accident. Martin Sheen plays the dad, a New York cop. He too watches as his wife dies a horrifying death. This shocking scene is followed by a creepy tale of Voodoo in the big city. Again, Schlesinger delivered taut action and pulled great performances from his players. For me, this was Schlesinger’s last good film. I know that many folks like the tenant from hell movie "Pacific Heights," but I found the premise preposterous, even though Michael Keaton was incredibly good as every landlord’s worst nightmare.
John Schlesinger is not the first name that comes to mind when you use the word ‘auteur,’ but an overview of his career reveals a director with a steady vision, a tight directing style and a proven record of both critical and popular successes. Maybe John Schlesinger wasn’t an auteur, but he was a superb director who will be missed. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
PHIL HALPIN Died July 25, 2003
Former LA Deputy District Attorney Phil Halpin died at age 65 of cancer. For 37 years, Mr. Halpin was one of LA’s top prosecutors. The more complex and tough the case, the more you wanted Mr. Halpin going after the badguys. Mr. Halpin prosecuted several high profile cases including that of Richard Ramirez AKA ‘The Night Stalker’ and that of cop-killer Jimmie Lee Smith. The second case became the subject of Joseph Wambaugh’s non-fiction book "The Onion Field." Wambaugh later produced the movie version in which the names were not changed to protect the innocent. Actor David Huffman portrayed Deputy DA Halpin in the powerful film. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends, and a special salute from a lowly public defender in Memphis.
ERIC KEITH BRAUNN Died July 25, 2003
Composer Eric Keith Braunn died of cardiac arrest at age 52. Mr. Braunn was the lead guitarist of the band "Iron Butterfly." He played on their most famous album "Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida." "Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida." was the very first album to ever go ‘Platinum.’ In fact the award was created to recognize that particular album’s sales. Iron Butterfly appeared in concert on numerous TV shows including "The Steve Allen Show, " The David Frost Show," "American Bandstand," "Playboy After Dark" and "The Red Skelton Comedy Hour." Their music has been used on the soundtracks of a number of films including the climactic scene of Michael Mann’s "Manhunter," "The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street."
BOB HOPE Died July 27, 2003
British born, American treasure Bob Hope died at age 100. Mr. Hope may be best remembered for his tireless dedication to entertaining troops during times of conflict. Whether the war was popular with the public or not, Mr. Hope could be counted on to set politics aside and help the men and women on the battlefield forget their troubles for a while. Mr. Hope was honored five times by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was given four Honorary Oscars and one Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. In 1998, Mr. Hope was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth thus becoming Sir. Bob Hope.
My first memory of Mr. Hope was my father showing me a photograph of him and Mr. Hope in England during the Korean War. My dad was stationed in Manchester and Hope made a call on the troops. As a small child, whenever a Bob Hope movie was on TV I’d turn to my dad and say "You met him." If my friends happened to be over, I’d enjoy bragging that my dad had met the guy on TV. If I ever figure how to turn the photo into a jpeg, I’ll post it here.
Bob Hope performed in all mediums. He was on stage during the days of vaudeville, radio, nightclubs, TV, film and especially overseas wherever the bullets were flying. In order to keep this obituary within my bandwidth I’ll just stick to his films.
Without a doubt, Mr. Hopes most famous films were the seven "Road" pictures he made with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Hope and Crosby usually played con-men getting in and out of trouble in exotic locales while fighting over the woman. The plots were goofy, but the wisecracks never stopped. You could always count on the heroes fooling some ignorant badguy with their "paddy-cake" routine.
Though Mr. Hope was a predominantly comic actor he did a nice dramatic turn in the biography of vaudeville star Eddie Foy in "The Seven Little Foys." Of course, the reason you went to see Bob Hope was to laugh, so fortunately he concentrated on the laughs. Some of Mr. Hopes better vehicles were "The Paleface," "Son of Paleface," "Sorrowful Jones" and "Monsieur Beaucaire."
His quick wit was one of the reasons he hosted the "Academy Awards" twenty times! Mr. Hope was a fixture on TV during the 60s, 70s and 80s as he hosted a number of "Bob Hope Specials." I guess I’ll have to use the line that every obit writer in the country is going to use. I can’t help it as the line is so appropriate: "Thanks for the memories!"
TRUE BOARDMAN Died July 28, 2003
Actor writer True Boardman died at age 93. Mr. Boardman was the son of silent film stars. He first appeared in films in 1911. Mr. Boardman had his biggest success as a screenwriter. His writing credits include the Abbott and Costello films "Keep Em Flying," Ride Em Cowboy," "Hit the Ice" and "Pardon My Sarong." Other credits include "Arabian Nights" with Sabu and "The Painted Hills" with Lassie. Mr. Boardman also wrote for several TV series including "The Virginian," "Bonanza," "Perry Mason" and "Gunsmoke." The Writer’s Guild of America awarded Mr. Boardman the Valentine Davies Award in 1993. The Valentine Davies Award honors those who have contributed to the entertainment industry and the community-at-large and who have brought dignity and honor to writers everywhere.
LUTHER HENDERSON Died July 29, 2003
Broadway and film conductor and music arranger Luther Henderson died of cancer at age 84. In addition to his 50 Broadway musical credits, Mr. Henderson orchestrated and arranger the music for the TV specials and films "Ain’t Misbehavin’," "Play On!" and "Quartet." Mr. Henderson composed the scores for the feature films "Recess" and "The Slams." He appeared as himself in several documentaries.
PHILIP PARSLOW Died July 29, 2003
Producer Philip Parslow died of a heart attack at age 65. Mr. Parslow produced a number of feature films and TV series. He produced one of Steve McQueen last and least seen films, Henrik Isben’s "An Enemy of the People." In 1981 I was heading from Las Vegas to Disneyland when my care broke down in Bakersfield. We had to spend a couple of nights in the worst motel you can imagine. "An Enemy of the People" was showing on the motel’s movie channel. The movie is more of a filmed play than a movie adaptation. I’m probably one of the few folks who saw the film. I went to another movie produced by Mr. Parslow because I’m a big fan of Tom Laughlin. Parslow produced Mr. Laughlin’s terrible Western "The Master Gunfighter." Stick with "Billy Jack." Mr. Parslow did produce some good films. He was the associate producer on the classic law school film "The Paper Chase." Other credits include the TV series "Falcon Crest" and "Dynasty."
SAM PHILLIPS Died July 30, 2003
I worked my way through Memphis State University waiting tables at Jim’s Place East in Memphis. About once a month an unassuming guy with a beard came in to eat. Sometimes he came alone, other times he was with his sons and others. He was easy to wait on, always had something funny to say about whatever was happening at the time. He was a good tipper. He also took an interest in the person who was waiting on him. The staff at Jim’s Place East were predominantly college students. I had worked there over a year before I found out the guy who had to be the most considerate customer I had waited on in 20 years of restaurant work was the legendary Sam Phillips. The man who discovered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. The man many claim was the person who invented Rock and Roll.
Sam Phillips died of undisclosed causes at age 80. Mr. Phillips said way back when that he wanted to find a White man who could sing like a Black man. He found him in the person of Elvis Presley. In his small recording studio on Union Avenue in Memphis, Mr. Phillips first recorded the King of Rock and Roll.
Mr. Phillips appeared in the documentaries "Elvis 85," "Hollywood Rocks the Movies: The Early Years" and "Sounds of Memphis." Mr. Phillips was portrayed by several actors in dramatic films about the life and career of Elvis. Charles Cyphers portrayed Sam Phillips in John Carpenter’s "Elvis" with Kurt Russell in the title role. "Elvis" was the highest rated TV movie of all time when originally broadcast. Sam’s son Knox (who is also a pleasant guy to wait on) played his father in the pseudo-documentary "This is Elvis." Jordon Williams played Mr. Phillips in the 1990 mini-series "Elvis." My personal favorite was Trey Wilson’s take on Sam in the campy Jerry Lee Lewis bio-pic "Great Balls of Fire."
FREDERICK COFFIN Died July 31, 2003
Highly recognizable character actor Frederick Coffin died of lung cancer at age 60. If you have been to the movies or watched TV during the last 25 years, chances are you have seen Mr. Coffin’s work. Mr. Coffin appeared in this years creepy horror thriller "Identity." Other film credits include "Hard to Kill," "V.I. Warshawski," "Wayne’s World," "Shoot to Kill," "The Bedroom Window" and "Jo Jo Dancer: Your Life is Calling." Mr. Coffin’s TV credits include the classic mini series "Lonesome Dove," "Andersonville," "The Edge of Night," "Family Law," "Providence," "The X-Files," "Walker: Texas Ranger," "L.A. Law" and "McGyver."