KEITH WESTER Died Nov. 1, 2002
Oscar nominated sound engineer Keith Wester died of cancer at age 62. Mr. Wester received six Oscar nominations during his career. Mr. Wester was nominated for Emmy awards also, winning in 1986 for the AIDS drama, "An Early Frost." Mr. Wester worked on four Jerry Bruckheimer films. Mr. Wester had 40 film and TV credits including "The Princess Diaries," "The Perfect Storm," "The Runaway Bride," "Armageddon," the hilarious "Mouse Hunt," "Air Force One," "The Rock," "Waterworld" and "Thelma and Louise."
LONNIE DONEGAN Died Nov. 3, 2002
Anyone familiar with the origins of The Beatles knows who Lonnie Donegan was. Mr. Donegan created a style of music called ‘skiffle’ which swept the British Isles during the 1950s. Skiffle is a mixture of folk, western, jug band, jazz and blues music. Lonnie Donegan inspired John Lennon, Pete Townsend and George Harrison among others to take up the guitar. In some respects, Lonnie Donegan was the father of the ‘British Invasion’ which landed The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five and others on the shores of America in 1964. Mr. Donegan appeared in the documentary film "The Complete Beatles," "6.5 Special" and "Lightfingers." Mr. Donegan also appeared on the 1969 British TV series "The Saturday Crowd." Mr. Donegan was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in the year 2000. Mr. Donegan had suffered several heart attacks recently. He was 71 years old.
LEIH LO Died Nov. 3, 2002
Chinese action star Leih Lo died of a heart attack at age 63. Mr. Lo appeared in 100 films! Mr. Lo also directed 7 other films including "Hong Kong Godfather." Mr. Lo’s credits include John Woo’s "Yi Dan Qun Ying." Mr. Lo appeared with Jackie Chan in 5 films including "Qiji" and "Police Story 3."
JONATHAN HARRIS Died Nov. 3, 2002
One of my first exposures to science fiction came in the form of Irwin Allen’s TV series "Lost in Space." The famous catch phrase from that show was "Never fear! Smith is here!" The Smith was Dr. Zachery Smith. Jonathan Harris portrayed the saboteur Zachery Smith for the series's 3-year run. Mr. Harris found himself typecast after "Lost in Space." His roles afterward were mainly limited to science fiction and fantasy roles. Mr. Harris also did voice work for many animated feature films and TV shows. Mr. Harris’s film and TV credits include "Toy Story 2," "A Bug’s Life," "Darkwing Duck," "Battlestar Galactica," "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command," "Night Gallery" and "Twilight Zone." Mr. Harris died at age 87 of a blood clot on his heart.
ANTONIO MARGHERITI Died Nov. 4, 2002
Prolific Italian director Antonio Margheriti died of a heart attack at age 72. Mr. Margheriti is well known to legions of horror movie fans worldwide. Mr. Margheriti often directed films under a plethora of English pseudonyms. Mr. Margheriti is admired in different circles for various films. His 1980 cannibal film "Apocalypse Domani" is revered by movie cultists worldwide. The film starred John Saxon and involved a group of Vietnam vets who were infected with a virus that turned them into cannibals. "La Danza Macabre" is a very cool gothic horror film about a writer, on a bet, spending one night in a haunted castle. The 1963 film "La Vergine di Norimberga" (Horror Castle) starring Christopher Lee is generally considered by fans to be Margheriti’s best film. There is some controversy over who directed the films "Blood for Dracula" and "Flesh For Frankenstein." Margheriti is listed as the director of the Italian version. The American versions of those films were released under the titles "Andy Warhol’s Dracula" and "Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein." The US version credits Paul Morrissey as the director. There are witnesses to support the claims of both men as the true directors. Mr. Margheriti also directed numerous science fiction films including "Battle Between the Planets" and the forgettable "Yor, the Hunter From the Future." Mr. Margheriti was not as influential as his contemporaries Mario Bava and Dario Argento were. He was however, a consistent contributor to the genre of horror films. Mr. Margheriti will be missed. Fortunately, he left behind nearly 60 films for fans to continue to enjoy.
TONIO SELWART Died Nov. 4, 2002
German actor Tonio Selwart died at age 106! Mr. Selwart appeared in over 20 films during his 30-year career. His credits include "The Hitler Gang." Selwart also appeared in one of my favorite films "The Cross of Lorraine" which features Gene Kelly in a rare dramatic role. Selwart also appeared in "The Barefoot Contessa" with Ava Gardner and Peter Ustinov’s "Romanoff and Juliet."
JERRY SOHL Died Nov. 4, 2002
Writer Jerry Sohl died at age 88 after a lengthy illness. Mr. Sohl was best known for his science fiction novels. Mr. Sohl wrote the scripts for the original "Twilight Zone," "Outer Limits," "The Invaders" and "Star Trek" TV series. His feature film scripts include the Japanese horror/sci-fi mess "Frankenstein Conquers the World." That film starred Nick Adams and involved the creature growing to ‘Godzillian’ proportions! That same year, Sohl adapted H.P. Lovecraft’s "The Colour Out of Space" into the film "Die, Monster Die!" As is usually the case with Lovecraft’s stories, the translation to screen was shaky at best. The film starred Boris Karloff and Nick Adams. Mr. Sohl had better luck with Lovecraft’s kinky "The Dreams in the Witch House." Sohl adapted that story into the film "The Crimson Cult" AKA "The Curse of the Crimson Alter." While not completely true to Lovecraft’s book, the Christopher Lee/Boris Karloff vehicle is a kinky funfest of horror. Mr. Sohl also wrote the teleplay for the 1970 made for TV sci-fi film "Night Slaves" with James Franciscus and Lee Grant. Thanks for the frights!
STAN BURNS Died Nov. 5, 2002
Emmy award winning writer Stan Burns died of heart failure at age 79. Mr. Burns wrote for numerous TV shows four nearly 40 years. Mr. Burns won his Emmy in 1972 for "The Carol Burnett Show." Other credits include "Get Smart," "F Troop" and "Lance Lot Link, Secret Chimp." Mr. Burns long time writing partner Mike Marmer died earlier this year.
VINNETTE CARROLL Died Nov. 5, 2002
Writer, actress director and Broadway producer Vinnette Carroll died at age 80. Ms. Carroll was the first Black woman to direct a play on Broadway. While Ms. Carroll had film experience as an actress, writer and director, she is best remembered for creating the Broadway musical "Your Arms Too Short to Box With God" based on the Gospel of St. Matthew. Ms. Carroll’s film acting credits include "Up the Down Staircase," "The Reivers" with Steve McQueen," Ossie Davis’s "Cotton Comes to Harlem" with Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques and "Alice’s Restaurant." Ms. Carroll won an Emmy Award in 1964 for "Beyond the Blues," a dramatization of the works of several Black poets. Ms. Carroll directed the 1979 TV musical "When Hell Freezes Over, I’ll Skate." Ms. Carroll was an inspiration to people of color and people of faith during her long career. Thanks for making the world a better place.
BILLY MITCHELL Died Nov. 5, 2002
Billy Mitchell was lead singer for the Doo-Wop group "The Clovers." The groups had hits with the songs "Blue Velvet" and "Love Potion #9." Both of those songs have appeared on the soundtracks of numerous films including George Lucas’s "American Graffiti" and David Lynch’s "Blue Velvet." Mr. Mitchell died of cancer at age 71.
MARGARET PHILLIPS Died Nov. 7, 2002
Margaret "Peg" Phillips retired from the accounting business and took up acting lessons at age 65. The late bloomer is best known to fans as store owner Ruth-Anne Miller on the TV series "Northern Exposure." Ms. Phillips died of lung disease at age 84. Other credits include appearances on the TV series "Touched By An Angel" and "7th Heaven." She also appeared in "Waiting for the Light" with Shirley MacLaine, "Dogfight" with River Pheonix and Lili Taylor, the Olsen Twin TV movie"How the West Was Fun" and "Chase" with Jennifer O'Neill and Michael Parks.
DILYS HAMLETT Died Nov. 7, 2002
Veteran British stage actress Dilys Hamlett died of a brain hemorage at age 74. Although Ms. Hamlett was primarily a stage actress, she did appear in feature films as well as TV. Ms. Hamlett appeared in numerous murder mysteries. Her credits include "Assault" with Frank Finlay and Suzy Kendall, "Diagnosis: Murder" with Christopher Lee, the ‘Miss Marple" mystery "The Moving Finger" and "Lord Peter Wimsey."
HILLARY BADER Died Nov. 7, 2002
Writer Hillary Bader died of cancer at age 50. Ms. Bader was a longtime "Star Trek" fan. She wrote episodes for "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Star Trek: Voyager." Ms. Bader’s other TV credits include "Lois and Clark," "Silk Stalkings" and "Xena: Warrior Princess." Ms. Bader was nominated multiple times for Daytime Emmy Awards her writing on the animated TV series "Batman Beyond" and "The New Batman/Superman Adventures." Ms. Bader won the Emmy twice
IRVING WYNER Died Nov. 8, 2002
What a year for animators. We lost Chuck Jones, several of Disney’s "Nine Old Men" and now one of Warner Brother’s work horses has passed on. Irving Wyner was a background artist and layout artist for Warner Brothers for nearly 50 years. His credits include "The Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie," "Daffy Duck’s Movie: Fantastic Island" and "The Phantom Tollbooth" among many, many others.
JACK SOLOMON Died Nov. 8, 2002
Jack Solomon and his work partner Murray Spivack had the distinction of winning the first Best Sound Oscar given out to individuals. Before Solomon and Spivack were given the Oscar for the movie "Hello Dolly," Best Sound Oscars went to the studio that produced the movie, not the individuals who did the work. Jack Solomon was nominated for 6 Oscars for Best Sound. He won the first time he was nominated, but never again. Mr. Solomon was also nominated for an Emmy award for his word, and was given a lifetime achievement award by the Cinema Audio Society in 1992. Mr. Solomon worked on 66 films. His credits include "Kiss Me Deadly," two films by Otto Preminger: "The Man With the Golden Arm" and "Anatomy of a Murder." Mr. Solomon worked on the b-films also. The cheesy "The Amazing Colossal Man" is proof of that. Mr. Solomon worked on some of the biggest films of the 1960s. His credits include "The Magnificent Seven," "El Cid," "The Days of Wine and Roses," "The Alamo," "The Collector," "The Graduate," "Funny Girl" and "Hello Dolly." Most of Mr. Solomon’s Oscar nominations came in the 1970s. He was nominated for "Hello Dolly," "Kotch," "Funny Lady," the Dino De Laurentiis remake of "King Kong," Burt Reynolds’ "Hooper" and the Sean Connery disaster film "Meteor." The 89-year-old Mr. Solomon died of complications following heart surgery.
MERLIN SANTANA Died Nov. 9, 2002
26-year-old actor Merlin Santana was shot to death as he sat in a car in Los Angeles. Mr. Santana began his career as a child actor. He appeared in episodes of "The Cosby Show," "Major Dad," "Moesha" and "NYPD Blue." Mr. Santana had a recurring role on "The Steve Harvey Show." Mr. Santana was awarded the NAACP Image Award as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on "The Steve Harvey Show." He appeared in the TV movie "In the Line of Duty: Street War." Mr. Santana also appeared in "Showtime" with Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro. Stop the violence people!
TRACEY COLEY Died Nov. 9, 2002
38-year-old actor and gospel singer Tracey Coley died from complications after surgery. Mr. Coley appeared in two films and on several TV series. His credits include "The Bogus Witch Project," "Blood and Concrete," "Notes in a Minor Key," "The Jamie Foxx Show," "In the House" and others. Mr. Coley was also an activist interested in helping children. He co-founded the Amazing Grace Conservatory, a performing arts school for kids.
MICHEL BOISROND Died Nov. 10, 2002
French director/writer/producer/actor Michel Boisrond died at age 81. Mr. Boisrond directed over 30 films during his nearly 50 year career. Mr. Boisrond was an assistant director on the 1950 French version of ‘Faust’ titled "La Beaute du Diable." One of Mr. Boisrond’s first directing jobs was the Bridget Bardot film "Naughty Girl" written by Roger Vadim. Mr. Boisrond’s biggest hit was the 1970s sex comedy, "Catherine and Company" with Jane Birkin. Mr. Boisrond acted in the New Wave crime classic "Le Samouri" which starred Alain Delon as a professional killer. Very cool movie.
JOHNNY GRIFFITH Died Nov. 11, 2002
Johnny Griffith was the keyboardist for the legendary band "The Funk Brothers." "The Funk Brothers" provided the music for many of the greatest songs ever recorded at Detroit’s ‘Motown’ Records. Griffith’s keyboard magic can be heard on such hits as "(I Heard It Through the) Grapevine," "Ain’t To Proud To Beg" and "Shotgun." Mr. Griffith died of a heart attack just hours before he was to attend the premiere of the documentary film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Story of the Funk Brothers."
BILLY GUY Died Nov. 12, 2002
Billy Guy is the third Black musical great to die this month. Mr. Guy was the baritone for the popular singing group "The Coasters." ‘The Coasters’ had hits with such novelty songs as "Charlie Brown," "Poison Ivy" and "Yakety Yak." The Coasters appeared in one of the best Concert films ever made. "Let the Good Times Roll" is a documentary filmed during a series of reunion concerts in and around New York and Long Island in the early 70s. If you ever get a chance to see the widescreen version of "Let the Good Times Roll" do not miss it! It is an outstanding concert film, which features Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley in a split-screen guitar battle at the end. "The Coasters" do a great set, which features "Charlie Brown" and "Poison Ivy" among others.
RUSSELL CLARK Died Nov. 12, 2002
Choreographer Russell Clark died of cancer. Mr. Clark’s credits include the hilarious "I’m Gonna Git You Sucka," "Two Moon Junction," "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," "The Crossing Guard," "House Party 3" and "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" Mr. Clark acted in the movies "Fright Night Part II" and "Temptations."
SIR ROLAND HANNA Died Nov. 13, 2002
"Sir" Roland Hanna was a pioneer jazz pianist. Mr. Hanna played with Benny Goodman and others. Mr. Hanna was a proponent of the Detroit school of jazz piano. Mr. Hanna insisted on being billed as "Sir" Roland Hanna after he was knighted by the government of Liberia during a 1971 concert tour of the African nation. Mr. Hanna played piano on the soundtracks of Spike Lee’s films "Jungle Fever" and "Malcolm X." Sir. Hanna died at age 70 of a viral heart infection.
EDDIE BRACKEN Died Nov. 14, 2002
Comedy actor Eddie Bracken died at age 87 from complications following surgery. Mr. Bracken was known to comedy fans of several generations for his work over a 70-year career. Mr. Bracken was best known for two of the all-time great comedy films. Director Preston Sturges's two WWII era films "The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek" and "Hail the Conquering Hero" both starred Bracken. "The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek" was very risqué for its time. Betty Hutton plays Trudy Knockenlocker, a young woman who gets drunk at a "farewell to the troops party" and wakes up pregnant. She doesn’t know which soldier did the deed. Eddie Bracken plays the goofy sailor she convinces to marry her. This is one of the all time great American movies. If you get the chance, you must see it. Bracken also appeared in Sturges’s political satire "Hail the Conquering Hero" about a total klutz who didn’t serve in the war, but is foisted on the voters as a war hero anyway. It is also very funny.
Bracken was a child actor. He appeared in four "Our Gang" comedies and also in a competing series of shorts called "Kiddie Troopers." Bracken’s career was jump started in the 1980s when he played Roy Walley of ‘Walley World’ fame in "National Lampoon’s Vacation." Younger audiences recognize Mr. Bracken as the lovable toystore owner in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York." Mr. Bracken’s credits include "Rookie of the Year," "Oscar," "Baby’s Day Out," "A Slight Case of Larceny," "The Girl From Jones Beach" and "Hold That Blond." Mr. Bracken also acted on stage. He was nominated for a Tony Award for "Hello, Dolly."
NATE LONG Died Nov. 14, 2002
Stunt man/actor/assistant director/TV producer/ teacher Nate Long died of Leukemia at age 72. A 20-year Air Force vet, Nate Long was a pioneer in the field of teaching children about working in TV and film. He founded Oscar Productions to teach inner city kids in Seattle the art of working in TV and film. Mr. Long was the second unit director on the great B movie "Over the Edge" with Matt Dillon. I have recommended this story of troubled kids in a small western town for years. Great soundtrack album too! Mr. Long also did second unit work on another Matt Dillon movie, "Tex." Mr. Long was an assistant director on several Blaxploitation films including Isaac Hayes’ "Truck Turner," "The Slams" with Jim Brown and "Hit Man" with Pam Grier and Bernie Casey. Mr. Long performed stunts in the Jan Michael Vincent redneck classic "White Line Fever." His acting credits include the sexy "Scorchy" with a very naked Connie Stevens.
BERT GRANET Died Nov. 15, 2002
Writer/producer Bert Granet died of injuries sustained in a fall at age 92. Mr. Granet produced the TV series "The Untouchables" and the original "The Twilight Zone" among others. Mr. Granet wrote 30 screenplays or back stories during a career that went back to 1934. Most of his screenwriting was for RKO studios. His writing credits include "Legion of Terror" with Bruce Cabot, "Maid's Night Out" with Joan Fontaine and "Career" with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. Mr. Granet wrote scripts for three of Lucille Ball’s early films. As a producer, Mr. Granet worked with Ms. Ball in TV producing the "Desilu Playhouse." Mr. Granet also produced several feature films including "Berlin Express" and Judy Holiday’s "The Marrying Kind."
LYNDA VAN DEVANTER Died Nov. 15, 2002
Lynda Van Devanter was an Army surgical nurse during the Vietnam War. She died of systemic collagen vascular disease, which she attributed to her exposure to Agent Orange. Ms. Devanter wrote an autobiography about her experiences in Vietnam. That book was the inspiration for the ABC TV series "China Beach." Ms. Devanter also contributed source material used in the documentary film "Dear American: Letters Home From Vietnam." Ms. Devanter was 55 years old.
ALFRED LEVITT Died Nov. 16, 2002
Screenwriter Alfred Levitt died of heart failure at age 87. Mr. Levitt was blacklisted during the McCarthy era from joining to the Young Communist League while a student in 1932. Mr. Levitt continued to write scripts under pseudonyms. He also wrote scripts with his wife Helen Levitt. Mr. Levitt quit the communist party and became a self described political agnostic. Mr. Levitt’s credits include the Disney films "The Monkey’s Uncle" and "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones." Other credits include "The Boy With Green Hair," "Dream Wife," "Love on a Rooftop" and the TV series "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "The Brady Bunch" and "All in the Family."
ABBA EBAN Died Nov. 17, 2002
Israeli statesman Abba Eban has died at age 87. Mr. Eban was the only Israeli to be Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States at the same time. Mr. Eban was one of the foremost voices which convinced the United Nations to vote to create Israel. Mr. Eban narrated the highly acclaimed, nine-episode TV series "Heritage: Civilization and the Jews." Mr. Eban also appeared in the documentary "The Long Way Home" about the creation of modern Israel after WWII. Usually, famous politicians appear in mainstream films through archived footage. Mr. Eban did that in the mini-series "Cold War," but in another mainstream film, Mr. Eban and other people involved on opposite sides in the Middle East actually sat down for interviewsto be included in the film. Mr. Eban sat for an interview in the Faye Dunaway terrorist thriller "Double Edge" made by Israeli filmmaker Amos Kollek. Mr. Eban was a dove among hawks. Prayers for his family and friends.
MARVIN MIRSICH Died Nov. 17, 2002
Marvin Mirisch was the younger brother of Walter and Harold Mirisch. The three bothers ran the independent production company ‘Mirisch Productions.’ They gave the big studios a run for their money during the waning days of the studio system. ‘Mirisch Productions’ recruited top talent and gave them free rein to make their films. While Walter Mirisch’s name was the most recognizable to the public, all three brothers played important roles in their company’s day to day procedures. ‘Mirisch Productions’ was responsible for the production of three Best Picture Oscar winners: "West Side Story," Billy Wilder’s "The Apartment" and "In the Heat of the Night." While Marvin Mirisch was more involved in behind the scenes matters, he did act as Executive Producer on several films including the Frank Langella version of "Dracula" and the Dudley Moore comedy "Romantic Comedy." Marvin Mirisch died of a heart attack at age 84.
JAMES COBURN Died Nov. 18, 2002
Beloved tough-guy actor James Coburn died of a heart attack at age 74. During Coburn’s 40+ year career he appeared in some of the greatest action films ever made. Mr. Coburn was more than just another tough guy though. He was a consummate actor who could perform comedy, drama and action with equal finesse. Mr. Coburn won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1997 for his portrayal of an abusive alcoholic father in "Affliction."
James Coburn’s list of credits is impressive. He appeared in over 130 feature and TV films and documentaries
during his lifetime. It didn’t matter if James Coburn was in a soldier’s uniform, on the back of a horse in the old West, or jet setting across the globe in a private jet: on screen, he was the epitome of Cool! Mr. Coburn appeared in many of my favorite films.
James Coburn appeared in three Sam Peckinpah films, and was a second unit director on another! While he had a supporting role in the studio-butchered civil war film "Major Dundee," Coburn starred in the underrated "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," and Peckinpah’s only war film "Cross of Iron." Coburn brought an intensity and sadness to both films. As Pat Garrett, Coburn was able to present all of the conflicts and contradictions of a man who has sold out. "Cross of Iron" contains one of Coburn’s best screen performances. He plays a German Sergeant on the front lines in Russia. His loyalty is to the men he fights with and not the politicians who run the war. The film said everything "Platoon" did about Vietnam 20 years before Oliver Stones film was made. Mr. Coburn was taken under the master’s wing as a second unit director on Peckinpah’s weakest film, "Convoy." Coburn appeared in the documentary "Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron" to talk about working with "Bloody Sam."
James Coburn also worked with the Italian master Sergio Leone. Coburn
co-starred with Rod Steiger in Leone’s forgotten masterpiece "Giu La Testa" (Fistful of Dynamite, a.k.a. Duck You Sucker). In that film, Coburn plays Sean, an ex-patriot Irish revolutionary in exile in Mexico. Coburn manipulates Steiger’s Juan, a peasant bandit, into becoming a hero of the revolution. This is a must see film, epic in scale and powerful in its imagery.
James Coburn began as a stage and TV actor in the late 1950s. He made his big screen debut in 1959. Stardom came in the 1960 classic "The Magnificent Seven." Mr. Coburn played one of seven gunmen hired by a group of villagers to fight off a bandit and his army. The remake of Kurosawa’s "The Seven Samurai" was a worldwide hit that spawned several sequels. Coburn’s performance and on-screen death in that film made him one of the hot young actors in Hollywood at the time. The big supporting roles began to pour in. Mr. Coburn made memorable appearances in such high-profile films as "The Great Escape," Blake Edwards’ "The Americanization of Emily," "Hell is for Heroes," "Charade" with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and the dark comedy "The Loved One." Superstardom came in 1966.
James Coburn played American super spy Derek Flint in "Our Man Flint." The
take off on James Bond was a showcase for Coburn’s comedic and dramatic talents. He became a sex symbol overnight and followed the box office hit a sequel the next year. Other memorable performances during the 1960s include "The President’s Analyst," the all-star, misfire sex romp "Candy," "Waterhole #3" with Carroll O’Conner" and the misunderstood "Hard Contract."
One of my all time favorite films is the great mystery "The Last of Sheila." In the Anthony Perkins/Stephen Sondheim scripted puzzler, James Coburn plays a billionaire bastard Hollywood producer who invites a group of tinsel town’s finest for a week of games on his yacht in the Mediterranean. Coburn is murdered by someone on the boat. If you have never seen this film, by all means do so.
Coburn continued to turn in memorable performances during the 1970s. Walter Hill cast him opposite Charles Bronson in the depression era boxing drama "Hard Times." Coburn co-starred with Gene Hackman in Richard Brooks’ all star Western epic "Bite the Bullet." Brooks’ film relied as much on characterization as action. Mr. Coburn meshed well with the large ensemble cast. Coburn was also powerful in the brutal Charlton Heston Western "The Last Hard Men." Coburn also appeared in one of my favorite B-movies "High Risk" with Anthony Quinn and James Brolin.
Mr. Coburn suffered from debilitating arthritis during the later part of his life. He reduced his on screen time. After finding a way to control the pain, Mr. Coburn returned to the screen with a bang. In addition to his Oscar winning role in "Affliction," Mr. Coburn made memorable contributions to "Monsters, Inc.," "Maverick" with Mel Gibson, "Young Guns II," "Eraser," the documentary "Kurosawa" and "Snow Dogs." James Coburn was a class act. I have enjoyed his work my entire life. Prayers of comfort for those who loved him.
VERNON SCOTT Died Nov. 18, 2002
Vernon Scott was a reporter for UPI who covered Hollywood for nearly 50 years. Not a bad gig. Mr. Scott interviewed just about everyone from old Hollywood to the new. Mr. Scott appeared in a number of movies himself , usually playing reporters. His credits include "Teacher’s Pet" with Clark Gable, "Operation Bikini," "The Legend of Lylah Clare" and "Vanished." Mr. Scott died at age 79 of a heart attack.
NINA ELIAS BAMBERGER Died Nov. 20, 2002
Nina Bamberger was an Emmy nominated producer of quality children’s TV shows. I spent many mornings watching "Dragon Tales" when my teenager was just a little one. I have a lot of memories of quality time with my daughter from those days. Thanks to Ms. Bamberger for adding to our life. Ms. Bamberger was also a producer of "Sesame Street Stays Up Late," "Sesame Songs" and "Big Bag." Ms. Bamberger died of ovarian cancer at age 48. Prayers of comfort for the husband and children she leaves behind. Isn’t it about time we found a cure for that?
JERRY GROSS Died Nov. 20, 2002
Master of Exploitation marketing Jerry Gross has passed away. Mr. Gross was found on Nov. 20, but he had been dead for some time. Mr. Gross directed a few films, but he is best known for his imaginative and titillating promotion of movies. He helped kick off the Blaxploitation craze when he promoted the film "Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song." Mr. Gross also produced one of my favorite gore classic double features "I Drink Your Blood" and "I Spit on Your Grave." Mr. Gross also produced the one decent film by Lucio Fulci: "Zombi." Other credits include Harry Neilson’s "Son of Dracula." Mr. Gross produced and appeared in the soft core "The Female Animal." He brought the Swedish sex films "Fanny Hill" and "Inga" to the US during the 1960s. Mr. Gross also produced one of the last Blaxploitation films: "The Black Godfather." Other credits include Ralph Bakshi’s "Fritz the Cat," "Blood Beach" with John Saxon, "Girl on a Chain-Gang" and "Mondo Cane."
BUDDY KAYE Died Nov. 21, 2002
Composer Buddy Kaye died at age 84. Mr. Kaye composed songs for Frank Sinatra and Doris Day among others. He provided music for the 1960s TV series "I Dream of Jeannie." Other credits include songs and music for "Hurry Sundown," Elvis’s "A Change of Habit," "Kill a Dragon" and "The Corrupt Ones."
HADDA BROOKS Died Nov. 21, 2002
Hadda Brooks, the ‘Queen of Boogie,’ died at age 86. Ms. Brooks was a renowned piano player and torch song singer in the 1940s and 50s. Ms. Brooks starred in "The Hadda Brooks Show," the first TV series hosted by a Black entertainer! Ms. Brooks appeared in the films "The Thirteenth Floor," Sean Penn’s "The Crossing Guard" and "The Bad and the Beautiful" among others.
PARLEY BAER Died Nov. 22, 2002
The Mayor of Mayberry has died at age 88. Veteran character actor Parley Baer played Mayor Stoner on "The Andy Griffith Show." Mr. Baer appeared in over 80 films during his long career which also included acting in the days of Radio. Mr. Baer played Chester on the radio version of "Gunsmoke." Mr. Baer’s numerous film and TV credits include "Dave," "Inside Out," "Roswell," "Star Trek: Voyager," "White Dog," the hilarious Western "Skin Game," "The FBI Story," "Away All Boats," "D-Day: The 6th of June," "Gypsy," "L.A. Law" and "Quantum Leap."
ADELE JERGENS Died Nov. 22, 2002
Sexy B-movie actress/WWII pin-up Adele Jergens died at age 84. Ms. Jergens was one of the more popular pin-up girls with American GI’s in WWII. Ms. Jergens appeared in 50 films during her 12-year movie career. Her credits include "Abbot and Costello Meet the Invisible Man," "Aaron Slick From Punkin Crick," "The Day the World Ended," "The Corpse Came C.O.D.," "Jane Eyre" and "Blonde Dynamite." Ms. Jergens was married actor Glenn Langan from 1949 until his death in 1991. Mr. Langan will always be know to me and countless other sci-fi fans as Col. Glenn Manning from "The Amazing Colossal Beast."
JOAN BARCLAY Died Nov. 22, 2002
Actress Joan Barclay died of natural causes at age 88. The veteran actress began her career in the days of silent films. She appeared in over 80 films between 1927 and 1945. She was 13 years old when she co-starred in the 1927 Douglas Fairbanks Sr. film "The Gaucho." She had bit parts in a number of notable films before finding her niche as a B-Western heroine. Ms. Barclay had small parts in "Grand Hotel," "42nd Street," "Gold Diggers of 1933," "Baby Face" and "The St. Louis Kid." Ms. Barclay appeared in over 30 B-Westerns. She appeared in the classic Val Lewton horror film "The 7th Victim."
LIN McCARTHY Nov. 23, 2002
Character actor Lin McCarthy died of pneumonia at age 84. Mr. McCarthy had extensive stage and TV credits. He appeared in the TV movies "Tail Gunner Joe" about Senator Joseph McCarthy, "The Winds of War" with Robert Mitchum and "Eleanor: First Lady of the World." Mr. McCarthy appeared in over 60 episodes of various TV series during his three decade career including "The FBI," "The Waltons," "The Invaders," "Mission Impossible," "Gunsmoke" and "Baretta."
DICK STILWELL Died Nov. 23, 2002
Lieutenant Colonial Dick Stilwell died at age 59 in an auto accident. Mr. Stilwell did two tours of duty in Vietnam and was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart. The Purple heart was for wounds received when he was shot in the face by a sniper. Mr. Stilwell’s second career was as an actor. He studied acting at the Studio Theater Conservatory. In addition to honing the skills needed for a second career, he found his wife.Lt. Col. Stilwell married his acting teacher, Karen Bralove. Ms. Bralove is an actress and yoga instructor in West L.A..In addition to his film and TV work, Lt. Col. Stillwell appeared on stage. He toured Czechoslovakia with actor Jiri Fisher in Vaclav Havel's play "Audience." His film and TV credits include "Forrest Gump," "The Pelican Brief," "The Chamber," "Mimic 2," "L.A. Confidential" and "Major League II."
JACKIE GAYLE Died Nov. 23, 2002
Rat Pack comedian Jackie Gayle died at age 76 from complications after undergoing heart surgery. Mr. Gayle was a stand up comedian for nearly 40 years. His film credits include "Tin Men," "Bulworth," "Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool," "Broadway Danny Rose" and Russ Meyer’s "The Seven Minutes."
GEORGE BARRIE Died Nov. 23, 2002
Producer/songwriter George Barrie has died at age 90. In addition to being a twice Oscar nominated songwriter and film producer, Mr. Barrie was the one time owner and CEO of Faberge. Mr. Barrie introduced the men’s cologne "Brut" to the marketplace. He then formed "Brut Productions" and produced a number of films. Mr. Barrie’s production credits include the Watergate spoof set in a convent: "Nasty Habits," the Made for TV Linda Blair movie "Sweet Hostage" which also starred Martin Sheen and the very kinky character study "Fingers" with Harvey Keitel. Mr. Barrie shared two Oscar nominations for Best Song with lyricist Sammy Cahn for the movies "A Touch of Class" and "Whiffs."
KAREL REISZ Died Nov. 25, 2002
Czech born director/producer Karel Reisz died of a blood disorder at age 76. Mr. Reisz directed some of the best films of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He was nominated for numerous awards including 5 British Academy Awards. There were a series of "angry young man films" produced in England in the early 1960s which are still considered classics. Mr. Reisz directed one and produced another. Reisz directed Albert Finney in the star making film "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning." This story of a young working class man coming to grips with several of life’s harsh realities is as powerful today as when it was first released in 1960. The film also starred Rachel Roberts, Colin Blakely and Byrne Pringle. "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" won three British Academy Awards including Reisz’s award for Best Picture. Reisz also produced "The Sporting Life" with the late Richard Harris. That ‘angry young man’ film dealt with a working class stiff with dreams of becoming a professional soccer player. Harris was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. In 1964, Reisz reteamed with Albert Finney to direct the psycho-thriller "Night Must Fall." I like the movie. A lot of folks don’t. Mr. Reisz brought actor David Warner to world attention in the quirky Mod comedy "Morgan!" "Morgan!" dealt with a mentally ill communist who tries to prevent his ex-wife from remarrying. The film also starred Vanessa Redgrave. Ms. Redgrave also starred in Reisz’s film bio of dancer Isadora Duncan. "Isadora" garnered Mr. Reisz a Golden Palm nomination at Cannes for his powerful direction. Ms. Redgrave won at Cannes as Best Actress, and was nominated for an Oscar.
Mr. Reisz only directed two films during the 1970s, but they were two of the grittiest and thought provoking of the decade. In "The Gambler," Reisz directed James Caan as a compulsive gambler on the road to hell. Caan received a Golden Globe nomination for one of his best performances. Paul Sorvino also starred. "Who’ll Stop the Rain" is one of my personal favorites. Although the film is flawed in comparison to the book it is based on, it is still one of the most powerful and overlooked films of the decade. Nick Nolte, Tuesday Weld and Michael Moriarity star.
Mr. Reisz also directed only two films during the 1980s. They were, however, two of the best from that decade: "The French Lieutenant’s Woman" and "Sweet Dreams." Both films received numerous nominations. Mr. Reisz was a consistently thought-provoking artist. I wish he had directed more films, but I’m grateful for the ones he left us.
NOEL REGNEY Died Nov. 27, 2002
Songwriter Noel Regney died at age 80 after a long battle with Pick’s disease. Mr. Regney wrote the Christmas carol "Do You Hear What I Hear?" with his wife Gloria Shayne. Mr. Regney also wrote the number one hit "Dominique," which was recorded by Sister Luc-Gabrielle, a French nun. Sister Luc-Gabrielle, real name Jeanine Deckers, was the subject of a highly fictional Hollywood bio "The Singing Nun," starring Debby Reynolds. Mr. Regney’s other credits include songs for an early gore-filled horror movie "The Flesh Eaters" and the Rankin Bass animated Christmas special "The Little Drummer Boy Book II."
WOLFGANG PREISS Died Nov. 27, 2002
German actor Wolfgang Preiss appeared in over 100 movies. Mr. Preiss was 82 years old. Mr. Preiss was given a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the German Film industry. Mr. Preiss was best known to American audiences for his many WWII films. His film credits include the mini series "War and Remembrance," "The Formula," "Sidney Sheldon’s Bloodline," "The Boys From Brazil," "A Bridge Too Far," "The Salzburg Connection," "Raid on Rommel," "Anzio," "Is Paris Burning?," "Von Ryan’s Express," "The Train" and "The Longest Day."
BILLIE BIRD Died Nov. 27, 2002
Comedienne, actress and vaudeville star Billie Bird died at age 94. Ms Bird got into show biz at age 7. She was a member of several vaudeville teams. Ms. Bird later moved to the stage where she performed in light operas, comedies and dramas. Ms. Bird had a lengthy career in TV and feature films. Her film credits include "Dennis the Menace," "Home Alone," two of the "Police Academy" films, "Sixteen Candles," "Max Dugan Returns," "The Odd Couple" and "Barefoot in the Park."
DANIEL GELIN Died Nov. 29, 2002
81 year-old French actor Daniel Gelin has died. Mr. Gelin appeared in nearly 170 movies during his 60 year career. Mr. Gelin played the mystery man murdered in front of Jimmy Stewert in Alfred Hitchcock’s second film version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much." Mr. Gelin was the father of the luscious star of "Last Tango in Paris," Maria Schneider. Mr. Gelins other credits include "Mr. Frost," "La Nuit en Varennes," "Is Paris Burning?" and "Napoleon."
JOHN JUSTIN Died Nov. 29, 2002
British actor John Justin has died at age 85. Mr. Justin’s best film was also his first. He played Prince Ahmad in the 1940 classic "The Thief of Bagdad." Mr. Justin made 30 films. Late in his career, Mr. Justin appeared in three films of gonzo director Ken Russell. Those films were "Lisztomania" with Roger Daltry, Ken Russell’s best film "Savage Messiah " and the misfire "Valentino" with Rudolf Nureyev and Michelle Phillips.
JACK SPEIRS Died Nov. 29, 2002
Writer/director Jack Speirs died at age 86. Mr. Speirs specialized in nature films for the Disney studio. There isn’t a baby-boomer alive that doesn’t remember watching "Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar" on "The Wonderful World of Disney." Mr. Speirs wrote that script in addition to "King of the Grizzlies" and "A Tale of Two Critters" among others. Mr. Speirs also directed "A Tale of Two Critters." Jack Speirs appeared as himself in the documentary "Walt: The Man Behind the Myth." Thanks for brightening up the childhoods of millions of people.