Saturday, May 29, 2010
“Easy Rider” was a seminal movie of my youth. I was a pot smoking kid lost in a dysfunctional world. Dennis Hopper’s Wyatt fascinated me both as a symbol of freedom and as a fellow lost soul. Captain America’s sidekick was a wild blend of greed, paranoia, hedonism, irresponsibility, bravado and loyalty. Not as cerebral as his running buddy played by Peter Fonda. I couldn’t take my eyes off Hopper. Dennis Hopper became one of those actors I sought out in film. Over the top, never playing it safe. Someone who would take you to places you would never otherwise experience. A tour guide to the extreme for those who live vicariously through the movies. Dennis Hopper’s passing was expected. He died today of prostate cancer at age 74. Thanks for the ride.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
RICHARD CUSACK Died June 2, 2003
Actor/writer Richard Cusack has died of pancreatic cancer at age 77. Mr. Cusack was the father of actors John, Joan, Anne, Susie and Bill Cusack. In 2000, the Chicago Film Critic’s Association awarded Mr. Cusack and his family the Commitment to Chicago Award. Mr. Cusack’s film credits include "My Bodyguard" with daughter Joan Cusack, John Sayles’ "Eight Men Out" in which son John played Chicago White Sox player Buck Weaver, "The Fugitive," "High Fidelity" also with son John and "The Jack Bull." Mr. Cusack also wrote the script for "The Jack Bull." Prayers of comfort to Mr. Cusack’s family and friends. Thanks for providing entertainment to so many through your work and your family.
JOHN JYMPSON Died June 3, 2003
British film editor John Jympson has died at age 72. Mr. Jympson was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Editing of "A Fish Called Wanda." Mr. Jympson edited Richard Lester’s classic "A Hard Days Night." My. Jympson’s quick cut editing style on The Beatles’ first movie influenced an entire generation of young film editors. Mr. Jympson edited on of my personal favorites, Cy Endfield’s "Zulu." The true-life story of 100 British soldiers holding off thousands of Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift is a classic action adventure film. Michael Caine became a certifiable movie star in his first starring role. Mr. Jympson’s editing of the final Zulu charge is masterful. Other film credits include Alfred Hitchcock’s "Frenzy," Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s "Suddenly Last Summer," the Clint Eastwood films "Where Eagles Dare" and "Kelly’s Heroes" and the HBO mini series "The Far Pavilions."
BETTY BOLIN Died June 3, 2003
Our Gang actress Betty Bolin died at age 84. Ms. Bolin was a contract player for Hal Roach Studios. She appeared in several of the later "Our Gang" shorts in the early 1930s.
MANUEL ROSENTHAL Died June 5, 2003
Composer Manuel Rosenthal died one day short of his 99th birthday. Mr. Rosenthal was a student of Ravel. Mr. Rosenthal composed only a few movie scores in the 1930s and 40s. Mr. Rosenthal was credited as a music arranger on Baz Luhrmann’s "Moulin Rouge."
JESSICA KAPLAN Died June 6, 2003
24-year-old screenwriter Jessica Kaplan was among 10 people killed in a Los Angeles plane crash. Ms. Kaplan sold her first script while only 16 years old! The script, "The Powers That Be" is set to begin shooting this fall with the title "Havoc."
ROBERT SCHNEIDER Died June 6, 2003
Production manager Robert Schneider died of lymphoma at age 70. Mr. Schneider’s credits include "White Fang" and "An Officer and a Gentleman."
STEPHEN HOPE Died June 8, 2003
Music editor Stephen Hope died of cardiac and renal failure at age 72. Mr. Hope worked on some of the most popular films of the last 30 years. His film credits include "Animal House," "The Right Stuff," "The Seven Per Cent Solution," "Jaws 2,"all three "The Karate Kid" movies, "F/X" and "Lean on Me."
HERSCHEL GILBERT Died June 8, 2003
Oscar nominated screen and TV composer Herschel Gilbert died at age 85 from complications following a stroke. Mr. Gilbert was nominated for three Oscars during the 1950s. His scores for the films "Carmen Jones" and "The Thief" as well as his song for "The Moon is Blue" all garnered nominations. Mr. Gilbert also composed the scores for numerous TV series including "The Rifleman," "Gilligan’s Island" and "Burke’s Law."
TREVOR GODDARD Found June 9, 2003
English actor Trevor Goddard was found dead at the age of 40. Mr. Goddard’s death is under investigation at this time though suicide is suspected. Mr. Goddard had a regular role on the TV series "JAG." Mr. Goddard played Kano in "Mortal Combat." Mr. Goddard appeared uncredited in the remake of "Gone in 60 Seconds" and is set to appear in the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean." Mr. Trevor was an ex-boxer turned actor. He appeared in nearly 20 films and made numerous guest appearances on many TV series including "Baywatch," "Murphy Brown," "The X-Files" and "Silk Stockings."
JANINE BAZIN Died June 9, 2003
Documentary film producer Janine Bazin has died. Ms. Bazin was the widow of renowned film critic and theorist Andre Bazin. Mr. Bazin was a co-founder of the magazine "Cahiers du Cinema." Ms. Bazin produced nearly 30 documentary films for French television about various influential filmmakers.
BEVERLY KARP Died June 10, 2003
Producer Beverly Karp died of emphysema at age 72. Ms. Karp produced the interesting experimental film "My Dinner with Andre." Whenever I recommend this film to folks, I get two reactions: "Thanks!" and "Thanks a lot, jerk!" "My Dinner With Andre" is two hours of two guys sitting down to dinner and discussing everything under the sun. Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory wrote and starred in the Louis Malle directed film. Ms. Karp also produced Louis Malle’s "Vanya on 42nd Street."
ROBIN RIORDAN Died June 11, 2003
TV writer/producer/story editor Robin Riordan died of undisclosed causes at age 38. Ms. Riodan’s credits include "The Wonder Years," "Mary Kay and Ashley in Action" (which she also created), "The Bonnie Hunt Show" and "The Journey of Allan Strange."
DAVID BRINKLEY Died June 11, 2003
Veteran NBC newsman and author David Brinkley died at age 82. Mr. Brinkley was one of the elder statesmen of TV journalism. He was the news anchor at NBC from 1956 through 1971. He returned to that post for three more years in 1976. Mr. Brinkley was co-host of "The Huntley-Brinkley Report." When his co-anchor Chet Huntley retired, NBC renamed the program to "The NBC Nightly News" with Mr. Brinkley as the sole news anchor. Mr. Brinkley appeared as himself in several films and documentaries including Oliver Stone’s "Nixon," "Powaqqatsi," "4 Little Girls" and "Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam."
WILLIAM MARCHALL Died June 11, 2003
Actor William Marshall died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease at age 78. Though Mr. Marshall was a classically trained actor who performed Shakespeare, he is best known for his performance in the Blaxploitation film "Blacula." Mr. Marshall played the African prince Manuwalde who was bitten by Count Dracula and turned into a vampire. Mr. Marshall leant an air of dignity and sophistication to the low-budget film. Marshall elevated the movie above the original script. A sequel "Scream, Blacula, Scream" followed with less success. Mr. Marshall also starred "Abby," in the Blaxploitation version of "The Exorcist." Marshall played the Bishop who performs the exorcism. Even Mr. Marshall great talent could not save this poorly made rip-off.
Mr. Marshall appeared in over 30 films during his 40-year career. His film credits include "The Boston Strangler" with Tony Curtis, "Skullduggery" with Burt Reynolds, the very entertaining thriller "Zigzag" with George Kennedy and an all-star cast, John Landis’s "Amazon Women on the Moon," Terry Gilliam’s "The Fisher King" and "Maverick" with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. Mr. Marshall played The King of Cartoons on the Saturday morning TV series "PeeWee’s Playhouse."
Mr. Marshall was known for his portrayal of Shakespeare’s "Othello," which he performed on Broadway and in Europe. He filmed a version for TV with Jenny Agutter in 1981. Mr. Marshall also portrayed Paul Robeson and Frederick Douglas on stage.
GREGORY PECK Died June 12, 2003
Oscar winning actor Gregory Peck has died at age 87. Mr. Peck appeared in nearly 120 films, documentaries and TV shows and specials during his lengthy career. Like many others, I am saddened by Mr. Peck’s passing as his movies touched me on a deeply personal level. I am an attorney today in part because of the effect Mr. Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird" had on me when I was 10-years old. Gregory Peck was voted as the all time screen hero last week by the AFI for his role in that classic film. He also won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the Southern lawyer fighting racism in depression-era Alabama.
Mr. Peck starred in many classic American films. He worked with many of the finest directors alive or dead. My first exposure to Gregory Peck was in the WWII classic "Twelve O’Clock High." Peck played tough-as-nails Army/Air Corp General Frank Savage in Henry King’s psychological war drama. Mr. Peck received his fourth Best Actor nomination for his work in "Twelve O’Clock High." Pretty amazing when you consider "Twelve O’Clock High" was made in 1949 and Mr. Peck made his screen debut just five years earlier.
Mr. Peck’s first Oscar nomination came in 1946 for his second film "The Keys to the Kingdom" which dealt with the story of a Catholic missionary in China. Peck was nominated the next year for his work in the classic family film "The Yearling." Another nomination followed the next year for his role in "Gentleman’s Agreement." In addition to his Oscar as Best Actor in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Mr. Peck was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy in 1968.
Mr. Peck worked with master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock in the superior psychological thriller "Spellbound" with Ingrid Bergman and Leo G. Carroll and the lame divorce drama "The Paradine Case." "Spellbound" was also famous for the surreal nightmare sequence designed by Salvador Dali.
In 1946, Mr. Peck starred in David O. Selznick’s Western epic "Duel in the Sun." The film was hammered by critics and given the nickname "Lust in the Dust." I still like the film. Mr. Peck turns in a great performance as the unsympathetic Lewt McCanles. Peck’s McCanles is on of the first anti-heroes in the history of cinema. Paul Newman would make his career playing such characters during the 1960s.
One of my all-time favorite Westerns in Peck’s "The Gunfighter." One of the most underrated films of the 1950s, "The Gunfighter" tells the story of a man with a past who comes home to try and start over. Or course, some folks never forget a man’s past. Richard Jaeckel has a great cameo as the young hothead who forces Peck to pick up his guns.
Mr. Peck’s credits from the 1950s include some great films and some not so great films. Among his credits from the era are "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn, John Huston’s "Moby Dick," Stanley Kramer’s WWIII thriller "On the Beach," "Captain Horatio Hornblower" with a young Christopher Lee and the Korean War classic "Pork Chop Hill."
The 1960s started out great for Mr. Peck. He starred in one of the biggest hits of the decade "The Guns of Navarone" with David Niven and Anthony Quinn. He followed this film with the classic suspense thriller "Cape Fear." I don’t care what you say; the original Gregory Peck/Robert Mitchum version of "Cape Fear" is far superior to Martin Scorsese’s remake. Peck did make a cameo in the remake! Next came the epic Cinerama "How the West Was Won." Peck played a shifty riverboat gambler in the all-star epic. Robert Mulligan’s "To Kill a Mockingbird" came next.
Mr. Peck’s output during the 1960s slowed down after "To Kill a Mockingbird." He appeared in a number of films, but they paled when compared to his earlier work. I wanted to see "MacKenna’s Gold" when I was a kid due to the Playboy pictorial of Julie Newmar shot on location. I was disappointed to find that she remained with her clothes on in the movie. I was a typical kid in the 1960s in that I was fascinated by the space race. Gregory Peck starred as the head of NASA in the space rescue movie "Marooned" which also starred Gene Hackman, Richard Crenna, David Jansen and James Franciscus. I probably like the film more than your average viewer does.
Peck followed "Marooned" with another favorite of mine "I Walk the Line." In "I Walk the Line," Peck played a married sheriff who lets the little head do the thinking for the big one. A moonshiner encourages Peck to hook up with his daughter played by the incredibly sexy Tuesday Weld so that the good sheriff won’t bust his still. Again, I probably like the film more than the average viewer does. I think this has to do with a lifelong fantasy involving Ms. Weld.
Mr. Peck enjoyed a resurgence in the mid 1970s with the horror classic "The Omen." Peck followed this with the WWII biography "MacArthur." Peck turned in a memorably hammy performance as Dr. Josef Mengele in the black comedy "The Boys From Brazil" with co-star Laurence Olivier. Mr. Peck’s last performance of note was in Luis Puenzo’s 1989 film "The Old Gringo." The film is a ‘what if’ fantasy about the last mysterious days of writer Ambrose Bierce who disappeared in Mexico.
Mr. Peck was the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1967 through 1970. He received AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989.
Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
HUME CRONYN Died June 15, 2003
Oscar nominated actor Hume Cronyn has died at age 91 of cancer. Mr. Cronyn was the widower of actress Jessica Tandy. He and Miss Tandy were married for 52 years at the time of her death in 1994. Mr. Cronyn married screenwriter Susan Cooper in 1997. Ms. Cooper had been a collaborator of Mr. Cronyn and Ms. Tandy on several TV movies during the 1980s. Mr. Cronyn’s film career spanned nearly 60 years. In addition to starring in nearly 60 films, Mr. Cronyn also wrote several movies including Alfred Hitchcock’s experimental film "Rope," which starred Jimmy Stewart.
Mr. Cronyn was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the 1943 film "The Seventh Cross." Mr. Cronyn was nominated for several Emmy awards, winning three times for the TV films "To Dance with the White Dog," ""Broadway Bound" and "Age-Old Friends." He also was nominated for a Screen Actor’s Guild award for "Marvin’s Room." Mr. Cronyn shared a Humanitas Award with Ms. Cooper for the TV film "The Dollmaker."
Mr. Cronyn delivered memorable supporting performances in several of my favorite films. Mr. Cronyn made his film debut playing the true-crime obsessed Herbie Hawkins in Hitchcock’s classic (and first shot-on-location film) "Shadow of a Doubt" starring Joseph Cotton. Cronyn’s third film is an overlooked WWII classic called "Cross of Lorraine." The film deals with the French underground movement and features a rare dramatic performance by hoofer Gene Kelly. Cronyn’s next film was his second Hitchcock film: "Lifeboat." Another personal favorite is the Film Noir classic "The Postman Always Rings Twice" with John Garfield and Lana Turner. Cronyn played one of the shifty lawyers.
Cronyn played Warren Beatty’s crusty boss in Alan J. Pakula’s assassination thriller "The Parallax View." Cronyn followed that film with the first Pat Conroy film, "Conrack" starring Jon Voight. Mr. Cronyn turned in a very funny cameo as Glenn Close’s father in "The World According to Garp." The scene in which Close and Jenny Fields explains to Cronyn and wife Jessica Tandy how she conceived her son is a riot.
Among Mr. Cronyn’s other film credits are the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton version of "Cleopatra," Ron Howard’s "Cocoon," "The Pelican Brief," "* batteries not included" and the Claude Rains version of "Phantom of the Opera."
PHILIP STONE Died June 15, 2003
British character actor Philip Stone died at age 79. Mr. Stone appeared in a number of famous films. He is probably best known for his collaborations with Stanley Kubrick. Stone played the milquetoast father of Malcolm McDowell’s Alex in "A Clockwork Orange." Stone played a more forceful (at least off screen) character in Kubrick’s "The Shining." Stone played Delbert Grady, the former caretaker with peculiar ideas on ‘correcting’ his children. Mr. Stone also appeared in Kubrick’s period film "Barry Lyndon."
Stone appeared as a SPECTRE agent in the James Bond film "Thunderball." He could be seen operating the cable car in the Richard Burton/Clint Eastwood thriller "Where Eagles Dare." In 1973, Mr. Stone worked with Malcolm McDowell again in Lindsey Anderson’s "O Lucky Man!" Other memorable roles include Stuart Rosenberg’s "Voyage of the Damned" about a group of Jews trying to escape Germany before WWII, "Hitler: The Last Ten Days" with Alec Guinness, "Flash Gordon" and "Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom."
PAUL FRASER Died June 16, 2003
44-year-old TV producer Paul Fraser was killed in Seattle after being struck by a car. Mr. Fraser was the producer of the international versions of "The Weakest Link" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
MEL FERBER Died June 16, 2003
Longtime TV producer/director Mel Ferber died at age 80. Mr. Ferber was the creator and executive producer of "Good Morning America." Mr. Ferber directed a number of TV shows including "Happy Days," "The Odd Couple," "Alias Smith and Jones," "Archie Bunker’s Place," "My Favorite Martian," "Alice" and "Quincy."
ARTHUR MURPHY Died June 16, 2003
Arthur Murphy, the father of box-office analysis died at age 70 of lung cancer. Mr. Murphy was a Navy veteran who went to work for Variety Magazine. Mr. Murphy was the first person to truly analyze box-office returns for the film industry. Mr. Murphy became much sought after by studio heads for his in depth work. All of the box-office prognosticators at Einsiders owe their habit to Mr. Murphy. The final count is in on Mr. Murphy, he grossed one rich life.
CARLOS RIVAS Died June 16, 2003
Hispanic American actor Carlos Rivas died of prostate cancer at age 78. Although Mr. Rivas had featured roles in several major motion pictures featuring some of the best directors of all time, Mr. Rivas will always be special to me for a couple of monster movies featuring the stop-motion animation and writing of Willis O’Brien. Carlos Rivas worked both in America and Mexico. He appeared in nearly films and almost as many TV series during his nearly 50-year career.
Carlos Rivas played the boyfriend of Rita Moreno’s character in "The King and I." He was also featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s "Topaz," John Huston’s brilliant Western "The Unforgiven" with Burt Lancaster, "True Grit" and "The Undefeated" with John Wayne and Allison Anders’ "Mi Vida Loca" and "Gas, Food, Lodging."
Who cares about big-budget, A-List movies, I love monster movies! One of my first movie memories comes from my pre-school years. At the end of "The Beast of Hollow Mountain," a cowboy swings on a vine over a pit of quicksand to lure a T-Rex to its death. The story of cowboys vs. dinosaurs was written by "King Kong" animator Willis O’Brien. This was a close as O’Brien ever got to filming his story "The Valley of Gwangi." Ray Harryhausen would later fulfill O’Brien’s dream. Carlos Rivas co-starred with Guy Madison in this film. Mr. Rivas starred in another O’Brien film: "The Black Scorpion." Mr. O’Brien actually did the animation for "The Black Scorpion."
Mr. Rivas was a founding member of "Nosotros," an organization aimed at improving the image of Hispanic people in the entertainment industry.
REN YAMAMOTO Died June 17, 2003
Japanese actor Ren Yamamoto died at age 73 of a cerebral apoplexy. Mr. Yamamoto appeared in nearly 50 films between 1952 and 71. He appeared in a number of Toho Studio’s monster movies including the original 1954 "Gojira." That’s "Godzilla" to American viewers. He appeared in the first (and underrated) sequel "Gigantis, The Fire Monster." Both of these films created a sensation in Japan before the Americanized version with Raymond Burr as reporter ‘Steve Martin’ was re-edited for American consumption. In Japan, the original "Gojira" is revered in the same manner we look upon "King Kong." It is also a substantially different film. If you ever get the chance to see this sci-fi classic in its original form, you will be greatly surprised by what you discover. Mr. Yamamoto appeared in a number of other monster movies including "Mothra," "King Kong vs. Godzilla" (the second movie I ever saw in a theater!), "Godzilla vs. Mothra," "Rodan, The Flying Monster," "Frankenstein Conquers the World" and "War of the Gargantuas."
ANNE BELLE Died June 18, 2003
Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker Anne Belle died of a heart attack at age 68. Ms. Belle made films about New York ballet dancers. Her movie "Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse" was nominated for Best Documentary: Features at the 1996 Oscars. Her film "Dancing for Mr. B: Six Balenchine Ballerinas" was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1990.
LARRY DOBY Died June 18, 2003
Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby died after a lengthy illness at either 78 or 79 years of age. Like the Clarol Lady, not even his friends know for sure! Larry Doby made history as the man who broke the color barrier in the American League. Doby joined the Cleveland Indians a couple of months after Jackie Robinson signed with the Dodgers. Doby played in the big leagues for 13 years. In the 70s, Mr. Doby became the second Black manager in baseball when he joined the White Sox organization. Mr. Doby appeared, along with the rest of the 1948 Cleveland Indians in the 1949 drama "The Kid From Cleveland." Doby also joined a group of retired players for a scene in the lame Michael Douglas/Jill Clayburgh romance comedy "It’s My Turn." Mr. Doby also appeared on an episode of "Sex and the City."
LAURA SADLER Died June 19, 2003
22-year-old British actress Laura Sadler died from injuries sustained in a 40-foot fall from a balcony. Actor George Calil was arrested by police in connection with Ms. Sadler’s death. He has been released on bail. Ms. Sadler received the Jean Carment Award at the 1997 Anger’s European First Film Festival for her performance in the movie "Intimate Relations." Ms. Sadler was a star on the hit British soap opera "Holby City." She appeared in an episode of the popular TV series "Inspector Morse." Among her other credits were the TV movies "Coming Home" and "The Fallen Curtain." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
FIELDER COOK Died June 20, 2003
Award winning director Fielder Cook died of a stroke at age 80. Mr. Cook won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for another five! Mr. Fielder also won a DGA award for Best Direction in Television for the TV movie "Teacher, Teacher." Mr. Fielder began his career in the late 40s directing live television. Among Mr. Fielder’s TV and film credits are "The Homecoming" which was the pilot film for the popular TV series "The Waltons." Other credits include the hilarious poker movie "Big Hand for the Little Lady" starring Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward, "Prudence and the Pill," "Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys" about one of the great miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history, "A Member of the Wedding" and "Seize the Day" for which Mr. Cook was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
MICHAEL MORRIS Died June 20, 2003
TV and film writer Michael Morris died of Alzheimer’s disease at age 84. Mr. Morris wrote for several popular TV series, most notably during the 1960d. His credits include "Perry Mason," "Bewitched," "F-Troop" and "McHale’s Navy." Mr. Morris was also a producer on the TV series "Chico and the Man." Mr. Morris wrote the Kirk Douglas vehicle "For Love or Money" and "Wild and Wonderful" which starred Tony Curtis.
RAY SERRA Died June 20, 2003
According to the New York Friar’s Club, longtime member and movie tough-guy Ray Serra has died. Mr. Serra was 71. Raymond Serra was a familiar face in crime films for over 30 years. Whether on the big screen or TV, Ray Serra could be spotted in numerous wiseguy roles. Mr. Serra’s credits include "The Gambler" with James Caan, the great TV cop epic "Contract on Cherry Street" with Frank Sinatra, "Arthur" with Dudley Moore, "Wolfen" with Albert Finney, William Lustig’s brutal "Vigilante" with Robert Forster, "Prizzi’s Honor" with Jack Nicholson, "Sugar Hill" with Wesley Snipes and "Wannabes."
MARIANNA ELLIOT Died June 21, 2003
Costume designer Marianna Elliot died at age 72 of cancer. Ms. Elliot’s film credits include "Whose Life is it Anyway?," the excellent TV film about Senator Jeremiah Denton’s captivity as a POW in Vietnam: "When Hell Was in Session," "Blue Thunder" and "Burden of Proof" among others. Ms. Elliot is survived by her husband of 44 years, actor Allan Oppenheimer.
GEORGE AXELROD Died June 21, 2003
Oscar nominated writer George Axelrod died of heart failure at age 81. George Axelrod wrote smart. He wrote funny. Mr. Axelrod was responsible for several of the best scripts ever filmed. I challenge you to find a funnier script that "Lord Love a Duck." Mr. Axelrod’s twist on life was very unique. Watch his films and consciously look for his subversive humor. Even his classic adaptation of Richard Condon’s political thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" is filled with hilarious wordplay. Axelrod also co-produced the political thriller.
George Axelrod received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay "Breakfast at Tiffanys." Axelrod’s credits include "Phffft!" which starred Judy Holiday, Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak. Axelrod wrote the play "The Seven Year Itch" which was turned into a hit film by Billy Wilder starring Marilyn Monroe. Axelrod’s adaptation of William Inge’s "Bus Stop" became another hit for Miss Monroe. Frank Tashin adapted Axelrod’s play "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" for the screen. Axelrod disowned the movie. The movie starred Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield.
Mr. Randall also appeared, with a very hot Tuesday Weld in Axelrod’s "Lord Love a Duck." If you have not taken the time to find and watch "Lord Love a Duck," by all means do so. Mr. Axelrod’s genius will become very apparent to you after watching the movie. "Lord Love a Duck" also marked Mr. Axelrod’s directorial debut. Who better to interpret his words than the writer himself! Another very funny film written by Axelrod is "How to Murder Your Wife," which starred Jack Lemmon and Verna Lisi. It doesn’t rise to the level of his earlier work, but it is a nice diversion.
In addition to his Oscar nomination, Mr. Axelrod was nominated for three WGA Awards, winning for "Breakfast at Tiffanys." He was nominated for a Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival for "Lord Love a Duck." Mr. Axelrod is the father of producer Jonathan Axelrod and B-Movie actress turned casting director Nina Axelrod (Motel Hell, Roller Boogie).
LEON URIS Died June 21, 2003
Leon Uris wrote his own epitaph before he died: American Soldier, Jewish Writer. Mr. Uris died at age 78. Mr. Uris saw all of the horrors of war as a combat soldier in the Pacific Theater of Operation in WWII. He wrote a number of best selling novels, which brought all the elements of war to vivid life on the page. A number of Mr. Uris’s books were translated into movies.
I remember watching the TV mini series "QBVII" when it first aired in 1974. I was aware of the holocaust before that. I had always been a hungry reader with a bent toward history. It wasn’t until the end of the first episode, when Ben Gazzara’s character sees the real film footage of the horrors of Auschwitz, that I too saw this for the first time. I could completely understand the horror on Mr. Gazzara’s character’s face as he viewed the footage. After this amazing mini-series, I went out and got Mr. Uris’s book from the library. Mr. Uris wrote a book about Holocaust survivors called "Mila 18." In that book, he named a doctor as a person who had committed atrocities at Auschwitz. The doctor sued for libel. Mr. Uris used this real-life experience as the basis for "QBVII." Ben Gazzara played the author. Anthony Hopkins the Doctor suing for libel and an all-star cast. Jack Hawkins being a standout as the presiding judge.
Mr. Uris wrote one screenplay, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." In addition to the TV version of his book "QBVII," many of his other books made it to the big screen. Alfred Hitchcock filmed "Topaz" with mixed results. Otto Preminger filmed Mr. Uris’s account of the birth of the modern state of Israel, "Exodus." Paul Newman led an all-star cast, again, with mixed results. Director Raoul Walsh had better luck with Uris’s tale of WWII Marines, "Battle Cry." This movie has the historical footnote of being one of the two films playing at the theater where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. "The Dirty Dozen" director Robert Aldrich directed Uris’s tale of Jewish soldiers from Palestine fighting with the British in Greece during WWII, "The Angry Hills" with Robert Mitchum.
BURT RHODES Died June 21, 2003
British composer Burt Rhodes died at age 80. Mr. Rhodes credits include "Dr. No," "The Benny Hill Show," "The Good Life" and "The Nixon Line."
MAYNARD JACKSON Died June 23, 2003
Former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson died of a heart attack at age 65. Mr. Jackson was the first Black mayor of a major southern city, having been elected mayor of Atlanta 30 years ago. Mr. Jackson appeared in the mini-series "King" which starred Paul Winfield as Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Jackson also had a small part in the Richard Pryor film "Greased Lightning."
AKIRA NAGOYA Died June 24, 2003
Japanese character actor Akira Nagoya died of pneumonia at age 72. Mr. Nagoya may be best known to international audiences as the voice of Usi-Kai in Hayao Miyazaki’s anime classic "Princess Monoke." Mr. Nagoya’s career spanned 40 years.
ALEX GORDON Died June 24, 2003
B-movie legend Alex Gordon died at age 80. Alex Gordon produced a number of films for American International Pictures including Roger Corman’s "The Day the World Ended," "The She-Creature" and "Voodoo Girl." Mr. Gordon collaborated with legendary bad-movie director Ed Wood on two occasions. Mr. Gordon wrote the scripts for "Jail Bait" and the Bela Lugosi vehicle "Bride of the Monster." Other credits include the Westerns "The Bounty Killer" with Dan Duryea and "Requiem for a Gunfighter" with Rod Cameron. Mr. Gordon also produced such low-budget cult films as "Dragstrip Girl," "The Atomic Submarine" and "Girls in Prison." Mr. Gordon was Gene Autry’s publicist in his later years.
LESTER MADDOX Died June 25, 2003
While Maynard Jackson represented on end of the political spectrum in Georgia, former Governor Lester Maddox surely represented the other end. Maddox was a strict segregationist. Maddox closed his restaurant rather than serve Black customers. Maddox appeared in the made for TV movie "The Kansas City Massacre" which starred Dale Robertson as G-Man Melvin Purvis and Bo Hopkins as ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd.
DAVID NEWMAN Died June 26, 2003
Yet another prominent screenwriter has died this month. Oscar nominated writer David Newman died at age 66 after suffering a stroke. Mr. Newman was nominated, with his frequent writing partner Robert Benton for a Best Screenplay Oscar for "Bonnie and Clyde." "Bonnie and Clyde" was Mr. Newman’s first script. The groundbreaking film established Newman as a major Hollywood talent. In addition to Mr. Benton, David Newman also collaborated on scripts with his wife Leslie. Mr. Newman never wrote another script that lived up to the potential he showed with "Bonnie and Clyde." The closest he came was "Bad Company," an off-beat Western co-written with Benton. Robert Benton also directed the film. Other credits include the "Superman" film series which starred Christopher Reeve. Mr. Newman also scripted the hilarious Peter Bogdanovich homage to the slapstick comedies of the 1930s, "What’s Up Doc?"
GEORGE BAXT Died June 28, 2003
Screenwriter/author George Baxt died at age 80 following heart surgery. Mr. Baxt wrote several of my favorite horror films. His most famous film work was the cult classic "Circus of Horrors," which starred Anton Diffring and Donald Pleasence. Mr. Baxt followed that up with the creepy occult film "City of the Dead." Director John Moxley took the script and made the film his own with his stylish and moody vision. Christopher Lee starred. Mr. Baxt co-adapted the Fritz Leiber novel "Conjure Wife" into a taut little film: "Burn, Witch Burn." Mr. Baxt provided elements of the story for Hammer’s erotic "The Vampire Circus." Mr. Baxt gained some notoriety in the mid 1960s with the publication of his novel "A Queer Kind of Death." The detective hero was the first openly Black gay hero in literature.
RODNEY AMATEAU Died June 29, 2003
Emmy nominated director Rodney Amateau of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 79. Writer/producer/director Armateau was nominated for an Emmy for his work on "The Bob Cummings Show." Other credits include directing "The Garbage Pail Kids Movie," "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, I Love You," "The Statue" starring David Niven, "Where Does It Hurt?" with Peter Sellers. Mr. Armateau directed a number of TV shows including "Mr. Ed," "Gilligan’s Island," "The George Burns Show" and "My Mother the Car." Mr. Armateau was the supervising producer of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and its spin-off "Enos."
KATHERINE HEPBURN Died June 29, 2003
The last of the great movie stars from the 1930s has died. Katherine Hepburn was nominated for twelve Oscars and won four times. Pretty amazing when you consider that Miss Hepburn only made 43 films. The New England bred actress died at age 96. Katherine Hepburn was an unlikely movie star. She didn’t possess the physical beauty of many of her contemporaries. What Miss Hepburn had was enormous talent backed up by intelligence and tenacity.
Miss Hepburn won her first Oscar as Best Actress for her third film, "Morning Glory." After a promising start in the movies, Hepburn was labeled as troublemaker. Seems she wanted to do things her own way. After a string of box-office flops, Miss Hepburn returned to the stage. Writer David Ogden Stewart wrote a play for Miss Hepburn called "The Philadelphia Story." The play was a hit and Miss Hepburn bought the rights. She negotiated a sale to Louie B. Mayer which guaranteed that she play the lead role. The 1941 film garnered Miss Hepburn her third Oscar nomination and put her back on the top of the Hollywood heap. Her next film would change her life.
George Steven’s "Woman of the Year" paired Miss Hepburn with actor Spencer Tracy. Their on-screen chemistry was a hit at the box-office. The couple went on to make a total of nine movies together. They also became lifelong lovers. Mr. Tracy was married and a Catholic. He refused to get a divorce. Hepburn and Tracy’s decades long affair did not hurt either career. Unlike the foreign born Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn did not pay a career price for her adultery. Miss Hepburn was an avowed atheist. I guess she knows one way or the other at this point in time.
My first memory of Miss Hepburn was from watching "Suddenly Last Summer" when I was six or seven. For some strange reason, my parents let me watch the twisted tale by Tennessee Williams. Miss Hepburn didn’t make much of an impression on my young mind, but Elizabeth Taylor’s ample bosom and the films horrific ending sure did.
One of my all-time favorite films is "The Lion in Winter." Miss Hepburn won her third Oscar for her powerful performance as Eleanor of Aquitaine. The film is a brutal and darkly funny tale of one of history’s most dysfunctional families. I can’t think of another film, which contains such caustic and cutting dialogue. Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry and Timothy Dalton co-starred. You will be hard pressed to find a better performance by any actress in any role than Miss Hepburn’s. I am still amazed that Miss Hepburn tied with Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) for the Best Actress Oscar that year. There is no comparison between the two performances.
Miss Hepburn won her other two Oscars for her work in the films "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" and "On Golden Pond." In addition to her memorable on-screen pairings with Spencer Tracy, Miss Hepburn is probably best remembered for her role as the spinster with a bit of life still in her in John Huston’s "The African Queen."
I saw an interview with Miss Hepburn once. I believe it was one of the Dick Cavett interviews, but I can’t be sure. She said that her father told her, upon her initial success as an actress, to not change her frugal lifestyle. Her father explained that her success might be fleeting. If she didn’t take to living the high life, she wouldn’t miss it when it was gone. Miss Hepburn stated that she always tried to heed that particular advice. She didn’t go Hollywood. Yet she conquered Hollywood anyway. And she did it on her own terms.
BUDDY HACKETT Died June 29 or 30, 2003
I can’t think of another actor’s voice better suited to say the word "snarfblatt" than that of Buddy Hackett’s. That was the name Hackett’s character Scuttle gave a smoking pipe in Disney’s "The Little Mermaid." Rubber-faced comedian Buddy Hackett died at age 79. He had suffered from diabetes for a number of years. Buddy Hackett was one of those rare people who could make you laugh just by standing up. He was a master of both physical and verbal comedy. He also had the gift of being able to make you laugh with clean material more than most younger comics could with more risqué material. Buddy Hackett was also known as a true gentleman and a decent man.
Among Mr. Hackett’s film credits are "God’s Little Acre," "The Music Man," the overblown "It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm," Disney’s "The Love Bug," "Little Mermaid" and "Little Mermaid II." Buddy Hackett was a perennial favorite on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." Buddy Hackett had that special ease, like other frequent guests Burt Reynolds and Robert Blake, which made him a natural choice as a guest star.
Richard Donner’s "Scrooged" with Bill Murray has become a regular Christmas tradition at my house. Buddy Hackett played himself in "Scrooged." Mr. Hackett had a lengthy TV career which include roles on "The Jackie Gleason Show" and "You Bet Your Life." Hackett played comedian Lou Costello to Harvey Korman’s Bud Abbott in the made for TV biopic "Bud and Lou." What should have been a great film is only mediocre.
I lived in Las Vegas for a number of years. I regret not having taken the time to see Buddy Hackett perform live when I lived there. Life is short. Take advantage of your opportunities when you can. Thanks for a lifetime of laughter. Prayers of comfort for his wife, children and friends.
ELIZABETH HULETTE Died May 1, 2003
The world of Pro Wrestling lost one of it most beloved members. Elizabeth Hulette died of as yet undisclosed causes at age 42. Hulette was known in the Wrestling world as ‘Miss Elizabeth.’ Hulette was at the home of wrestler Lex Luger (Larry Pfohl) in Georgia when a 911 call was placed for medical assistance. Pfohl was questioned by police and released. Ms. Hulette appeared in over 30 WWF and WCW videos between 1984 and 1999.
GEORGE WYLE Died May 2, 2003
"Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship…" George Wyle, the author of "The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island" has died at age 87 of leukemia. The Emmy nominated TV composer also wrote music for "The Andy Williams Show," "The Flip Wilson Show" and many TV specials. Mr. Wyle also wrote the famous Christmas song "The Most Wonderful Tine of the Year." Mr. Wyle composed over 400 songs during his lifetime.
SUZY PARKER (DILLMAN) Died May 3, 2003
Proto-super model/actress Suzy Parker has died at age 69. Ms. Parker is survived by her husband of 40 years, actor Bradford Dillman, four children and two step children. Ms. Parker was one of the most beautiful and elegant models in the world during the 1950s and 60s. Ms. Parker was the highest paid model in the world at the height of her career. Ms. Parker appeared in a number of films before retiring to private life in 1968. Her film credits include "Funny Face" with Audrey Hepburn, "Kiss Them for Me" with Cary Grant, "Ten North Frederick" with Gary Cooper, "The Best of Everything" with Hope Lange, "A Circle of Deception" with future husband Bradford Dillman and the horror film "Chamber of Horrors." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
WILSON VIANNA Died May 3, 2003
Brazilian actor Wilson Vianna died of a heart attack at age 75. Mr. Vianna appeared in nearly 30 films and TV shows during his career. Mr. Vianna was best known for his role as ‘Captain Aza’ on Brazil’s TV Tupi from 1966 through 1979. The children’s show is considered to be a classic in Brazil and is revered along side "Speed Racer" and others by those who grew up with the uniformed super hero. Mr. Vianna appeared in one of the cheesiest horror films of the 1950s: "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon."
QUETA CLAVER Died May 3, 2003
Spanish actress Queta Claver died of heart disease at age 73. Ms. Claver’s film career spanned 36 years. Ms. Claver appeared with Antonio Banderas in "Against the Wind" and "Pestanas Postizas." Other credits include "Prince of Shadows" with Terrence Stamp, "The Impeccable Sinner," "Time of Silence" with Victoria Abril, a Spanish version of Henry James’s horror classic "Turn of the Screw," "Extrano Matrimonio" with Pedro Armendariz Jr. and Camilo Jose Sela’s "The Beehive."
MICHAELA DENIS Died May 4, 2003
Belgian wildlife filmmaker Michaela Denis died at age 88. Ms. Denis, along with her late husband Armand filmed a 1950s BBC wildlife series in Africa called "Safari." The pair also made a couple of feature films. Ms. Denis was the cinematographer for the documentary "Under the Southern Cross." Ms. Denis appeared as herself in the documentary "Below the Sahara." The Denis’s TV show was helped in the ratings by the fact that Ms. Denis was one sexy woman almost as much as it was by the show’s exotic locales. Armand Denis died in 1971 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
CARL ISAACS Died May 6, 2003
Murderer Carl Isaacs had the distinction of being the longest surviving inmate on death row in America. The state of Georgia executed Carl Isaacs by lethal injection for the murder of six-members of a Georgia farming family. Mr. Isaacs escaped from prison in Maryland with two other men. The trio were joined by Mr. Isaacs’ little brother as they fled south. On May 14, 1973, they slaughtered the family of Ned Alday. The case was the subject of a movie called "Murder One." Carl Isaacs was portrayed by actor James Wilder. ET’s Henry Thomas played Billy Isaacs. Mr. Isaacs was executed 8 days shy of the 30th anniversary of the Alday family massacre. The 1994 movie "Midnight Edition" was also based on these events. Actor Michael DeLuise played the character based on Carl Isaacs.
JOCELYN HERBERT Died May 6, 2003
Oscar nominated production designer Jocelyn Herbert died at age 86. Ms. Herbert was a renowned British stage designer. She was one of the most innovative stage designers from the 1950s through the 1980s. Ms. Herbert shared an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction with Ted Brinton and Ralph Marshall for their work on "Tom Jones." Ms. Herbert’s other film credits include "Oh Lucky Man!" and "If…" by director Lindsey Anderson, Karel Reisz’s "Isadora" and "Ned Kelly" which starred Mick Jagger as the famed Australian outlaw.
LOWELL HAWLEY Died May 6, 2003
Writer Lowell Hawley died of age related causes at 94. Mr. Hawley wrote and composed songs for the 1050s TV series "Zorro." Mr. Hawley’s other TV credits include "My Friend Flicka" and "The Loretta Young Show." Mr. Hawley wrote several scripts for Disney including the classic adventure tale "Swiss Family Robinson." His other Disney scripts include "Babes in Toyland," "In Search of the Castaways" and "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band" which starred Buddy Ebson and a very young Kurt Russell. Mr. Hawley was nominated for a Writers Guide Award for Best Musical along with Ward Kimball for the movie "Babes in Toyland."
JANINE FLUET Died May 8, 2003
French Canadian actress Janine Fluet died of Lung Cancer. Ms Fluet appeared on TV and in film during a career that spanned over three decades. Ms. Fluet is best known to American audiences for her role in "Agnes of God." Other credits include "L’ Apparition" and "Bingo."
DOTTIE KEY Died May 8, 2003
Professional baseball player Dottie Key died of cancer at age 80. Ms. Key played for the Rockford Peaches for 10 years. Ms. Key appears in film clips in the 1987 documentary short "A League of Their Own." Ms. Key was one of the inspirations for Madonna’s Character in the feature film of the same name.
BERNARD SPEAR Died May 9, 2003
British character actor/singer Bernard Spear died at age 83. Mr. Spear served in the British forces during WWII. He began his career in radio. Mr. Spear appeared in over 300 TV episodes in England. He appeared in the sci-fi series "Quatermass and the Pit." Mr. Spear was also a successful stage actor appearing in "Man of La Mancha" as Sancho Panza. Mr. Spear’s film credits include roles in the original (and best) version of "Bedazzled" with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, "Yentl" with Barbra Streisand and "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang" among others.
JACK GELBER Died May 9, 2003
Writer Jack Gelber died of blood cancer at age 71. Mr. Gelber wrote the controversial and groundbreaking play "The Connection" in 1959. The play dealt with a group of jazz musicians waiting to score some heroin. The play was adapted to the screen in 1961. Mr. Gelber made a cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s "Another Woman."
LEONARD MICHAELS Died May 10, 2003
Writer and professor Leonard Michaels died of lymphoma at age 70. Mr. Michael’s novel "The Men’s Club" was nominated as Best Novel by the National Book Critics Circle. That book was made into a film with Harvey Keitel, Roy Scheider and others. Mr. Michaels adapted his own novel for the screen.
NOEL REDDING Died May 11, 2003
Irish rocker Noel Redding died of undisclosed causes at age 57. Mr. Redding was the bass player for "The Jimi Hendrix Experience" from 1966 through 1969. Redding can be seen in the great documentary film "Monterey Pop," which marked the American debut of the reinvented Jimi Hendrix. The climax of the set features Jimi burning his guitar during the song "Wild Thing." Noel Redding played on all three "Jimi Hendrix Experience" albums. Prior to joining the "Experience," Mr. Redding played with his band "Fat Mattress." "Fat Mattress" made an appearance on the British TV show "Beat Club," as did "The Jimi Hendrix Experience." Mr. Redding was involved in a protracted legal suite to recover royalties he claimed were never paid from his years with "The Jimi Hendrix Experience." Mr. Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Mr. Redding appeared as himself in the documentary "Plaster Caster" about groupie/artist Cynthia Plaster Caster, who made plaster casts of the genitalia of many famous Rock and Roll stars of the 60s and 70s. Mr. Redding also appeared in the documentary "Robert Wyatt: Little Red Riding Hood," about Robert Wyatt of "Soft Machine." Mr. Redding’s mother passed away shortly before her son. Thanks for the great music. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
ROBERT STACK Died May 14, 2003
Oscar nominated, Emmy winning actor Robert Stack died of heart failure at age 84. My love of gangster movies and history came about in part from growing up watching the weekly adventures of Elliot Ness and his Untouchables in the classic 1950s TV series "The Untouchables." Robert Stack’s no-nonsense approach to the role was both heroic and simple. Robert Stack appeared in a number of my favorite childhood TV series. In addition to "The Untouchables," Stack co-starred in the very cool TV series "The Name of the Game." Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Anthony Franciosa starred in the series, which was really three TV series in one. Stack played a retired FBI agent working for a rich publisher played by Gene Barry. Stack’s episodes dealt with his character’s battle with organized crime.
Robert Stack made his film debut in 1939 in "First Love." Stack co-starred with Universal teen star Deanna Durbin. He planted Ms. Durbin’s first screen kiss on her. Stack re-teamed with Ms. Durbin two years later in "Nice Girl?" Stack made four more films before enlisting in the Navy to serve his country in WWII. Mr. Stack made 19 more films after WWII before landing the role for which he is best identified. Among his pre-Eliot Ness credits are the films "Bwana Devil" which told the same story as Michael Douglas’s "Ghosts in the Darkness," "The High and the Mighty" with John Wayne and Douglas Sirk’s "Written on the Wind," for which Mr. Stack received a Best Supporting Oscar nomination.
While Robert Stack continued to make feature films after "The Untouchables," he became more and more recognized as a TV actor at this point. I remember watching Mr. Stack in ABC TV’s version of the great mystery "Laura." ABC promoted the heck out of the fact the film co-starred Lee Radziwill, the sister of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Mr. Stack co-starred in "Airplane," which was inspired by his earlier film "The High and the Mighty." Stephen Speilberg’s WWII comedy "1941" was universally reviled. One thing the critics agreed on was that Robert Stack was great as the "Dumbo" obsessed General Joe Stilwell.
Many younger people know Robert Stack as the host of "Unsolved Mysteries." Robert Stack was perfect as the host. He brought the same honest, straightforward quality to that show that he brought to every performance. Robert Stack wasn’t the greatest actor who ever lived, but he always brought a high degree of professional quality to his work. Whether playing an iconic hero, romantic lead, whiny rich kid, or slightly addled military man, Robert Stack gave his all. No film failed because of Mr. Stack’s performance. He was a professional and an entertainer. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
DAME WENDY HILLER Died May 14, 2003
Oscar-winning British actress Dame Wendy Hiller died at age 90. I first noticed Dame Hiller in the Agatha Christie classic "Murder on the Orient Express." Wendy Hiller shone among a stellar cast that included Six Oscar Winners and Five Oscar Nominees! Wendy Hiller creeped me out in "Murder on the Orient Express." She played grand Princess Dragomirof, the aged matriarch of the family haunted by the kidnapping and murder of her young grandson. Her make-up was unforgettable. The way she brought it to life was even more remarkable. Miss Hiller turned in one her most touching performances as the sympathetic but stern head nurse in David Lynch’s "The Elephant Man."
Wendy Hiller won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the 1958 film "Separate Tables," co-starring David Niven and Burt Lancaster. Miss Hiller was nominated twice more for Best Supporting Actress Oscars in the films "A Man for All Seasons" (1966) and George Bernard Shaw’s "Pygmalion" (1938).
Other film credits include "Major Barbara," "Sons and Lovers," "Toys in the Attic" and "Voyage of the Damned." Wendy Hiller also had a remarkable career on various London stages. Miss Hiller married Robert Gow in 1937. They remained married until his death in 1993!
PEPPER LABEIJA (WILLIAM JACKSON) Died May 14, 2003
Harlem drag queen Pepper LaBeija died of a heart attack at age 54. LaBeija was one of the featured performers in Jeannie Livingston’s award winning documentary "Paris is Burning." "Paris is Burning" looked inside the world of Drag Balls in New York. I saw this on cable many years ago. A fascinating look into a sub-culture many are rarely exposed to. Ms. Livingston’s film is also a learning experience for would be documentarians.
JUNE CARTER CASH Died May 15, 2003
Emmy-winning singer/songwriter June Carter Cash died at age 73 of complications following heart surgery. Johnny Cash, her husband of 35 years was at her side. Prayers for Mr. Cash that the comfort and stability his fine wife brought into his life remains with him during this difficult time.
I have to say that I am a Rocker. I grew up in the South, but I never acquired a taste for Country music. Johnny Cash was the one exception. Once every year or so, I go through a phase where I spend a couple of weeks listening to "Johnny Cash: Live at Folsom Prison." I’ve been driving my teenage kids crazy for the last two weeks. One of the highlights of the CD is the duet "Jackson" by Johnny and June Carter Cash. Mrs. Cash snarls like some feral banshee as she taunts her man to step out on her. The recording has a raw power that is rarely found on Live Albums, much less studio recordings. My five-year-old likes the CD. Today we drove home from daycare. Lauren sang along with "25 Minutes to Go." She is too young to realize that the novelty song is about a condemned man singing down to his own hanging. The song ended and I switched the CD player off and turned on "Drake and Zeke" at Rock 103. They announced that Mrs. Cash had died today. That was a creepy feeling.
Mrs. Cash occasionally acted in films. She and her husband produced the Christian film "Gospel Road" and Mrs. Cash played Mary Magdalene in the film. During the 1950s, Mrs. Cash, then June Carter appeared on two soap operas: "The Edge of Night" and "The Secret Storm." She co-starred with her husband in the true-crime TV movie "Murder in Coweta County." She played Robert Duvall’s mother in his Oscar nominated film "The Apostle." The Cash’s were frequent performers at the various crusades of Billy Graham.
WILLIAM C. ANDERSON Died May 16, 2003
Author William C. Anderson died of heart failure at age 83. Mr. Anderson, a Vietnam veteran wrote the book "Bat*21" about the real-life rescue of downed pilot Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton during the Vietnam conflict. Mr. Anderson adapted his book to the screen for the movie starring Gene Hackman and Danny Glover. Mr. Anderson wrote 20 books. His novel "Hurricane Hunters" was made into the TV movie "Hurricane" starring Martin Milner and Larry Hagman. I was stationed in Biloxi Miss. When I was in the Air Force. That town was devastated by Hurricane Camille. For some strange reason, the TV movie "Hurricane" played several times during my stay there. It isn’t a bad little movie. Mr. Anderson also wrote an episode of the TV series "12 O’Clock High."
MAURICE MCENDREE Died May 17, 2003
Actor/producer/editor/cinematographer/writer Maurice McEndree died at age 71. Mr. McEndree was a collaborator of John Cassavetes. McEndree produced two of Cassavettes’ independent films: "Shadows" and "Faces." In addition to producing those films, he also edited both and was the cinematographer on "Faces." Mr. McEndree made a cameo appearance in Cassavetes’ "Husbands." Mr. McEndree acted in several TV Westerns during the 1950s. McEndree also appeared in the film "Hollywood Nudes Report." Mr. McEndree wrote "Bunny Yeager’s Nude Las Vegas." His one directing credit was the drama "Self Portrait."
EDITH CARLMAR Died May 17, 2003
Norway’s first woman director, Edith Carlmar died at age 92. Ms. Carlmar made 10 films between 1949 and 59. Ms. Carlmar directed actress Liv Ullman in her first starring role: "Ung Flukt" (The Wayward Girl). Ms. Carlmar received a lifetime achievement award from Norway’s Amanda Awards in 1994. All of Ms. Carlmar’s films were produced by her husband Otto Carlmar.
HAROLD LOEB Died May 17, 2003
Producer/director Harold Loeb died of cancer at age 84. Mr. Loeb served his country in WWII and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. Loeb worked as a publicist and turned to directing for TV in the 1950s. Mr. Loeb is best known for producing two box-office hits in 1970. I saw Clint Eastwood’s WWII comedy "Kelly’s Heroes" at the Federal Drive-In in Pompano Beach Florida when it was first released. I remembered that night when I heard about Mr. Loeb’s passing. I have a strange ability to recall in which theater I’ve seen just about any movie. I wish I could channel that memory to something more productive. Mr. Loeb’s second big hit of 1970 was Ralph Nelson’s violent and controversial "Soldier Blue." The film starring Candice Bergman dealt with the massacre of Native Americans by the US Calvary during the 1800s. "Soldier Blue" was the subject of a bitter ratings battle. Director Mike Nichols cited the film in one of his most famous quotes. Nichols battles the MPAA over the rating of his film "Carnal Knowledge." Nichols film received an R Rating, while "Soldier Blue" was rated GP (the old rating system). Nichols quipped "If you kiss a woman’s breast on film, you get an R Rating, but if you cut a woman’s breast off with a sword you get a GP."
ALBERT SENDREY Died May 18, 2003
Longtime MGM composer and arranger Albert Sendrey died of congestive heart failure at age 91. Mr. Sendrey contributed in one capacity or another to nearly 170 films. His credits include "Royal Wedding," "Father’s Little Dividend," "A Date With Judy," "Guys and Dolls," Mary Martin’s TV special "Peter Pan" and Walter Hill’s "Hard Times."
LINDA MABALOT Died May 19, 2003
Documentary filmmaker and mentor to a host of Asian American filmmakers Linda Mabalot died of cancer at age 49. Ms. Mabalot founded the Asian Pacific Film and Video Festival 19 years ago. She acted as a mentor to a number of up-and-coming Asian filmmakers. Ms. Mablot produced and directed the documentary film "Manong" which chronicled the history of Filipino farm workers in California.
JEAN YANNE Died May 19, 2003
Award-winning French writer/actor/producer/director/composer Jean Yanne died of a stroke just short of his 70th birthday. Mr. Yanne appeared in nearly 100 films during his lengthy career. He also wrote, produced and directed nearly 10 more films. Mr. Yanne appeared in the international hit "Brotherhood of the Wolf." Yanne appeared in a number of films with director Claude Chabrol including "Madame Bovary" with Isabelle Huppert, "Le Boucher," "The Beast Must Die" and "Line of Demarcation." He also starred in Claude LeLouch’s "Attention Bandits!" He starred in director Costa Gavras’ "Hannah K." opposite Jill Clayburgh. Mr. Yanne also starred in Jean Luc-Goddard’s "Weekend." Mr. Yanne won the Best Actor award at Cannes in 1972 for Maurice Pialat’s "We Will Not Grow Old Together." He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Cesar (the French equivalent of the Oscar) for his work in the film "Indochine" which starred Catherine Deneauve.
EDDIE LITTLE Died May 20, 2003
Ex-con turned writer Eddie Little died of a heart attack at age 48. Mr. Little wrote about his introduction to drugs as a teenager and descent in a life of crime in the novel "Another Day in Paradise." "Paradise" was made into a film, which starred James Woods and Melanie Griffith. Mr. Little also wrote a column for the L.A. Weekly called "Outlaw L.A."
HOWARD ’SANDMAN’ SIMS Died May 20, 2003
Legendary tap dancer ‘Sandman’ Sims died at age 86. Mr. Sims appeared as himself in the 1979 documentary film "No Maps on My Taps." His acting credits include the films "The Cotton Club," "Tap" and "Harlem Nights."
FELICE ORLANDI Died May 21, 2003
Actor Felice Orlandi, husband of actress Alice Ghostley, died at age 73. Mr. Orlandi and Ms. Ghostley had been married since 1953! Mr. Orlandi was a familiar face to movie and TV viewers for his appearances in many tough-guy films. Orlandi is probably best known for his role in Peter Yates "Bullitt." Orlandi played Edward Rennick, the patsy hired to impersonate mob-guy turned informant Johnny Ross. Mr. Orlandi’s character is the guy shot-gunned to death by hitmen he mysteriously lets into his hotel room near the beginning of the movie. Mr. Orlandi worked with Walter Hill on several films including "Hard Times" with Charles Bronson and James Coburn, "The Driver" with Ryan O’Neal and Bruce Dern, "The Long Riders" with the Carradines, the Quaids and the Keaches and "Another 48hrs" with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy. Mr. Orlandi made his film debut in Stanley Kubrick’s "Killer’s Kiss." Other credits include Bogart’s last movie, "The Harder They Fall," "Never Love a Stranger" with Steve McQueen, Mike Nichols’ misfire "Catch 22," Sidney Pollack’s classic "They Shoot Horses Don’t They?" and the TV adaptation of Gay Talese’s biography of syndicate chieftain Joseph Bonnano "Honor Thy Father." Mr. Orlandi played a recurring role on the TV series "Hogan’s Heroes" in addition to guest starring roles on such series as "Police Story," "The Naked City," "The Bionic Woman," "Mission Impossible" and "Tales From the Darkside."
ARNE SKOUEN Died May 23, 2003
Award winning Norwegian filmmaker Arne Skouen died at age 89. Mr. Skouen was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Norwegian Amanda Awards in 1986. His 1959 film "Herren og Hans Tjenere" was nominated for a Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Mr. Skouen wrote and directed nearly 20 films between 1949 and 1969.
FRED BERGER Died May 23, 2003
Oscar nominated and Emmy winning film editor Fred Berger died at age 94. Mr. Berger was nominated for a Best Editing Oscar for the hilarious 1972 heist film "The Hot Rock" with Robert Redford, George Segal. Mr. Berger was nominated for four Emmy Awards, winning for the "Welcome to Korea" episode of the "M*A*S*H" TV series. Mr. Berger was nominated three times for his work on "Dallas." Mr. Berger was four Best Editing Awards from the American Cinema Editors for his work on "M*A*S*H" and "Dallas." He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Cinema Editors. He is survived by Francis, his wife of 66 years!
ARTHUR BREWER Died May 24, 2003
Special effects coordinator Arthur Brewer died of cancer at age 57. Mr. Brewer worked on a number of popular films including "Smokey and the Bandit," "The Blues Brothers," a personal favorite of mine "Carney" with Robbie Robertson, Gary Busey and Jodie Foster, the camp sci-fi flick "Cherry 2000" with a very sexy Melanie Griffith, "The Hitcher" and "Swamp Thing."
RACHEL KEMPSON Died May 24, 2003
Matriarch Rachel Kempson died at age 92. Ms. Kempson was the widow of British actor Michael Redgrave. Her children are actors Vanessa, Lynn and Corin Redgrave. Her grandchildren are actors Natasha and Joley Richardson and Jemma Redgrave. Quite a talented family. Ms. Kempson appeared in over 30 films during her career. Her credits include "Tom Jones," "Grand Prix," "Georgy Girl" which starred daughter Lynn, "Curse of the Fly," "The Sea Shall Not Have Them" and "Out of Africa." Ms. Kempson was married to Michael Redgrave for 50 years. He passed away a few months after their 50th anniversary. Ms. Kempson was a stage actor also, debuting at the ‘Old Vic’ in 1935. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
JULES LEVY Died May 24, 2003
Veteran producer Jules Levy died at age 80. One of the first credits I ever remember seeing as a small child was Jules Levy (along with partner’s Arthur Gardner and Arnold Laven) at the beginning of "The Rifleman" with Chuck Conners. Levy produced Sam Peckinpah’s series during its five year run. Levy also produced the popular Western series "The Big Valley." Mr. Levy produced over 39 movies and TV series. His film credits include a pair of under-rated but very good 1950s horror films: "The Vampire" and "The Return of Dracula." Other credits include "The Flame Barrier," "Clamback" with Elvis, "White Lightning" "Gator" and "Sam Whiskey" with Burt Reynolds. "White Lightning" is one of the best redneck B-movies ever made. Gene Hackman and Oliver Reed starred in Levy’s kinky, bloody Western "The Hunting Party." Mr. Levy also produced John Wayne’s two attempts to move in on Clint Eastwood’s "Dirty Harry" territory: "McQ" and "Brannigan."
DON HANMER Died May 24, 2003
Prolific TV actor Don Hanmer died at age 83. Mr. Hanmer made guest appearances in nearly 50 TV series during his career. Mr. Hanmer also acted in a number of feature films. He played the butterfly trader who sets up Steve McQueen for capture in "Papillion." He also appeared in the Jack Nicholson directed film "Drive, He Said." Other film credits include "St. Ives" with Charles Bronson, "Newman’s Law" with George Peppard," "Rhinestone" with Sylvester Stallone and Joseph Wambaugh’s "The Blue Knight" with George Kennedy.
LOIS ROSENFIELD Died May 25, 2003
"Bang the Drum Slowly" is a movie that guys can cry at. The list also includes "Field of Dreams" and "The Dirty Dozen." Maybe "Old Yeller" and "Shane." Lois Rosenfield produced the film version of "Bang the Drum Slowly" about a dying redneck catcher playing baseball for New York. Robert DeNiro starred with Michael Moriarty in the 1973 baseball classic. Ms. Rosenfield died at age 78.
SLOAN WILSON Died May 25, 2003
Writer Sloan Wilson died at age 83 after a lengthy illness. Among Mr. Sloan’s work were two novels which became successful films during the 1950. "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" won an OCIC Award at Cannes for director Nunnally Johnson. The film examined the ethical dilemmas facing a young business exec. The film starred Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones. Mr. Sloan’s book "A Summer Place" examined adultery and premarital sex. The film version is very tame by today’s standards. The movie’s theme song became a huge hit. Sloan served in the Coast Guard during WWII. Mr. Sloan appeared through archived footage in the documentary "The Fifties."
CARLOS EDUARDO DOLABELLA Died May 26, 2003
Brazillian soap opera star Carlos Eduardo Dolabella died at age 65 of multiple organ failure. Mr Dolabella starred in over 50 soap operas, mini series and TV movies in Brazil. Mr. Dolabella was the husband of actress Pepita Rodrigues and the father of actor Dado Dolabella.
KATHLEEN WINSOR Died May 26, 2003
Novelist Kathleen Winsor died at age 83. Ms. Winsor could be considered the mother of the modern romance novel Her first book "Forever Amber" was a romantic period piece full of graphic sexual descriptions. Released in 1944, "Forever Amber" had the distinction of being banned in Boston. Director Otto Preminger turned the book into a 1947 film with Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, George Sanders, Jessica Tandy, Leo G. Carroll and Richard Green.
BURR DEBENNING Died May 26, 2003
Actor Burr DeBenning died at age 66. The character actor appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows during his career. His credits include the excellent Made for TV movie "The House on Greenapple Road," "Wolfen," "The Incredible Melting Man," "A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child," "St. Ives," "Cruising," "Love Field," "Matlock," "Matt Houston," "Mike Hammer," "Magnum, P.I.," "Matt Helm," "Medical Center," "McCloud" and "Medical Story."
LUCIANO BERIO Died May 27, 2003
Renowned Italian composer Luciano Berio died at age 77. Mr. Berio pushed the use of electronic technology to new heights in his music. Mr. Berio composed the scores to an eclectic group of documentaries, shorts and avant-garde movies during the 70s and 80s. His credits include Michelangelo Antonioni’s documentary "China," "The Base of the Air is Red" about the New Left and the turbulent years of 1967 and 68, the avant-garde "Le Rougue de Chine" among others.
ERNIE WALLENGREN Died May 27, 2003
TV writer Ernie Wallengren died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at age 50. Mr. Wallengren’s credits include the TV series "The Waltons," "Little House on the Prairie," "Touched By an Angel," "Baywatch," "Eight is Enough," "Falcon Crest," "Knight Rider," "Flipper," "Promised Land" and "Doc."
JOHN CARLYLE Died May 27, 2002
Stage, film and TV actor John Carlyle died at age 72. Mr. Carlyle made his TV debut at age 20 in a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production. Mr. Carlyle’s film credits include Ken Russell’s "Whore," the TV mini-series "Rich Man, Poor Man," "The Spirit of St. Louis," "The Monster that Challenged the World" and a scene that was cut from the Judy Garland/James Mason version of "A Star is Born."
JANET COLLINS Died May 28, 2003
Ballerina Janet Collins died in Texas at age 86. Ms. Collins was the first Black artist to perform at the Met. Though Ms. Collins performed mainly on stage, she did appear in the movie "The Thrill of Brazil." Ms. Collins also worked with avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren.
JAMES PLUNKETT Died May 28, 2003
Irish writer James Plunkett died at age 83. Mr. Strumpett wrote the historical novel "Strumpet City" set in 1913 Dublin. "Strumpet City" was made into TV series in Ireland. The series featured such stars as Peter O’Toole and Cyril Cusack.
MARTHA SCOTT Died May 28, 2003
Oscar nominated actress Martha Scott died at age 90 of natural causes. Ms. Scott was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her work in the 1940 film "Our Town." Ms. Scott reprised the role she originated on stage. While Ms. Scott appeared a numerous films, her first love was the stage where she acted, produced and directed. Ms. Scott played Miriam in "Ben Hur." She also starred with Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments" where she played Yochabel. Her other film credits include "The Turning Point," "Airport 1975," ""Charlotte’s Web" where she voiced the character of Mrs. Arabel and "Sayanora" with Marlon Brando and Red Buttons in his Oscar winning role. Ms. Scott was a regular on the TV series "Dallas," "General Hospital" and "The Bionic Woman."
PETER MACLEAN Died May 28, 2002
Actor Peter MacLean died of lymphoma at age 67. Mr. MacLean had a lengthy career on TV and in a few films, but he was best known as a Shakespearean stage actor. Mr. MacLean had a small role in one of my favorite crime drama’s, "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" with Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle. Mr. MacLean also appeared in one of the worst horror films ever made: "Squirm." "Squirm" is a redneck horror movie about killer earthworms. Mr. MacLean appeared in guest roles in many TV series including "Police Story" and "Starsky and Hutch." He also had recurring roles on the soap operas "General Hospital," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Secret Storm."
LEHMAN KATZ Died May 29, 2003
Studio executive Lehman Katz died of heart failure at age 89. Mr. Katz worked in the motion picture industry in various roles for over 50 years. He was an uncredited assistant director on "Casablanca." Mr. Katz was an associate producer on "Topkapi" and John Huston’s "Moby Dick."
HENRY GARSON Died May 29, 2003
Writer Henry Garson died at age 91. Mr. Garson wrote for both film and TV. He was nominated by the Writer’s Guild of America for Best Musical Comedy for the Elvis film "G.I. Blues." While I’m not a big Jerry Lewis fan, Garson’s scripted "Don’t Give Up the Ship" always makes me laugh. Mr. Garson also co-adapted Gore Vidal’s play "Visit to a Small Planet" for Jerry Lewis.
HASKELL BOGGS Died May 30, 2003
Camera operator turned cinematographer Haskell "Buzz" Boggs died of heart disease at age 94. Mr. Boggs was a camera operator on numerous films including Michael Anderson’s Oscar winner "Around the World in 80 Days." Among Mr. Bogg’s credits as cinematographer is the 1950s sci-fi classic "I Married a Monster From Outer Space" with Tom Tyron. Exploitive title aside, "I Married a Monster From Outer Space" ranks among the best sci-fi films of that decade. The film plays on the fears of the McCarthy era and is comparable to Don Siegel’s original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Mr. Boggs excellent use of light and shadows was one of the major contributing factors to the film’s longevity and success. Another film, which owes part of its success to Mr. Boggs, is the baseball biopic "Fear Strikes Out" with Anthony Perkins playing Jimmy Piersall. Mr. Boggs worked extensively with both Jerry Lewis and Michael Landon.