RAND BROOKS Died Sept. 1, 2003
Actor Rand Brooks died of cancer at age 84. Mr. Brooks was best known for playing the nebbish first husband of Scarlett O’Hare in the classic "Gone With the Wind." Despite being identified with this role, Mr. Brooks had a prolific career, appearing in over 100 films and TV Shows. Mr. Brooks appeared in many episodes of "The Lone Ranger" as well as being a regular in the "Hopalong Cassidy" films. His final film as the made for TV film "The Sex Symbol" with Connie Stevens. If you get the chance to see the European theatrical version of the film you will be treated to a nude Ms. Stevens. "The Sex Symbol" told the tale of a Marilyn Monroe type actress. Ironically, Mr. Brooks gave Miss Monroe her first screen kiss in the film "Ladies of the Chorus."
JACK SMIGHT Died Sept. 1, 2003
Emmy-winning director Jack Smight died of cancer at age 78. Mr. Smight worked in the early days of TV. He also had a successful feature film career. Mr. Smight directed Rod Steiger in a couple of his best films. "No Way to Treat a Lady" is a cult classic starring Rod Steiger and George Segal. Steiger plays a flamboyant serial killer. Segal is the detective tracking him down. Smight also directed Steiger in the film version of Ray Bradbury’s "The Illustrated Man." Mr. Smight also directed Paul Newman in "Harper," the first of Newman’s Lew Harper films. Smight and Newman teamed up again to make WWII comedy "The Secret War of Harry Frigg." Another cult film by Mr. Smight is "The Traveling Executioner" with Stacy Keach. Believe it or not, "The Traveling Executioner" is based on the true story of a man and his portable electric chair. Mr. Smight directed on of the most intelligent horror films of all time. "Frankenstein: The True Story" was a faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. Smight also directed the WWII epic "Midway" which was released in Sensurround on its original theatrical run. Other credits include "Airport 1975," "Loving Couples" and "Fast Break."
WILLIAM ROY Died Sept. 2, 2003
Child actor Billy Roy grew up to be composer/pianist/musical director William Roy. Though Mr. Roy appeared in nearly 20 well known films as a child, he greatest fame came in the music world as an adult. As a child, Mr. Roy appeared in "The Pride of the Yankees " with Gary Cooper, Billy Wilder’s "The Major and the Minor," the excellent war film "The Cross of Lorraine," "That Hagen Girl" with Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple and "It Happened in Brooklyn." Mr. Roy died of respiratory failure at age 75.
MARSHALL JAMISON Died Sept. 2, 2003
Actor/director/producer/writer Marshall Jamison died of congestive heart failure at age 85. Mr. Jamison, along with Leland Hayward, won an Emmy for producing "The Fabulous Fifties," which starred Henry Fonda. He made his Broadway debut in "Mr. Roberts." Mr. Jamison directed David Frost’s satirical TV show "That Was the Week That Was." Mr. Jamison left commercial TV and worked with PBS, producing a number of acclaimed shows including an award winning series of "Mark Twain" films.
WILLIAM PATERSON Died Sept. 3, 2003
Actor William Paterson died of lung cancer at age 84. Mr. Paterson was active in the San Francisco theater scene. Though primarily a stage actor, Mr. Paterson appeared in a number of films and TV shows. His credits include "Dirty Harry," Peter Bogdanovich’s first real failure "At Long Last Love," the PBS version of "The Taming of the Shrew," "Pacific Heights" and "Bonanza." Mr. Paterson played Scrooge in the 1981 TV version of "A Christmas Carol."
BEN ARIS Died Sept. 4, 2003
British character actor Ben Aris died at age 66. Mr. Aris appeared in nearly 50 films and TV shows during his lengthy career. He worked with director Ken Russell in the sexy "Savage Messiah," "The Music Lovers" and "Tommy." He played Rev. Simpson, the father of Sally in "Tommy." Mr. Aris also worked with acclaimed director Lindsey Anderson twice, appearing in "If…," "O Lucky Man!" Other credits include Richard Lester's "The Three Musketeers," the cool thriller "Juggernaut" with Richard Harris, the original version of "Get Carter," "The Royal Flash" and "The Plague of the Zombies."
GISELE MACKENZIE Died Sept. 5, 2003
Canadian singer Gisele MacKenzie died of colon cancer at age 76. Ms. MacKenzie became a star on the American TV series "Your Hit Parade." She appeared on the show between 1953 and 57. Ms. MacKenzie followed this stint with her own weekly show on NBC. Ms. MacKenzie was nominated twice for an Emmy as Best Female Singer (in 1955 and 56). Ms. MacKenzie made appearances on such TV series as "Murder She Wrote," "Boy Meets World" and "MacGyver."
DAVID B. FEIN Died Sept. 5, 2003
Producer David B. Fein died at age 67. Among Mr. Fein’s many credits were the TV shows "Joker’s Wild," "Liar’s Club," the "Live Aid Broadcast" and "All About Faces." Three of Mr. Fein’s four children are involved in the entertainment industry.
HARRY GOZ Died Sept. 5, 2003
Actor Harry Goz died of cancer at age 71. Mr. Goz appeared on Broadway as Tevia in "Fiddler on the Roof." He played the part longer than any other actor and his costume from the play is on display at the Smithsonian. Mr. Goz also did a stint as the Apple in the Fruit of the Loom commercials! Mr. Goz most recently provided the voice for Captain Murphy on the Cartoon Network’s irreverent "Sealab 2021." "Sealab 2021" is part of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim segment at night. If you have not seen the hilarious cartoon, I highly recommend it. Other film and TV credits include "Marathon Man," "Mommie Dearest," the great TV film "Bill" with Mickey Rooney and the TV series "Wiseguy."
JULES ENGEL Died Sept. 6, 2003
Oscar nominated animator Jules Ingel died at age 94 after a short illness. Mr. Ingel created "Mr. Magoo" and "The Alvin Show" with Herbert Klynn. Mr. Ingel was nominated for the Best Short Subject, Cartoons Oscar in 1963 for "Icarus Montgolfier Wright." Ray Bradbury wrote the script. In 1977, his film "Rumble" was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes for Best Short Film. Mr. Ingel worked for Disney Studios, animating parts of "Fantasia" and "Bambi." He was the production designer on the 1971 animated feature "Shinbone Alley." Mr. Ingel was the founder of the Experimental Animation program at Cal Arts. Mr. Ingel taught a number of talented and well-known animators including Henry Selick, Eric Darnell, John Lassiter and Mark Osbourne.
LOUISE PLATT Died Sept. 6, 2003
Stage actress Louise Platt died at age 88. Ms. Platt was primarily a stage actress. She made a shot detour through Hollywood in the late 1930s and early 40s. He most famous film role was in the classic John Ford Western "Stagecoach." "Stagecoach" is the movie that made John Wayne an A-list movie star after a decade of making successful b-movies. Ms. Platt left Hollywood to return to the New York stage. She later appeared on a few TV shows including the soap opera "The Guiding Light."
WARREN ZEVON Died Sept. 7, 2003
Warren Zevon faced his impending death the way he embraced life. With zest, creativity, courage and love. Prayers of comfort for his family and many friends. Thanks to Mr. Zevon for not only his music, but also the inspirational final chapter of his life. Last week, Howard Stern played some excerpts from Mr. Zevon’s new album on his radio show. Mr. Stern had to stop playing the music after a couple of verses of a song that asked the listener to "keep me your heart for a while." I had a hard time driving to work as I listened to the cuts that Howard Stern played. Mr. Zevon’s unique and powerful voice was sharing his inner self as he faced death. I was struck, not by sadness, although that is part of it, but more by Mr. Zevon’s openness. He is a class act. Last November. I received press releases from the PR firm promoting Mr. Zevon’s records. The press release said that Mr. Zevon had only weeks to live. Thank God for granting Mr. Zevon almost a year. In that time, he played concerts, recorded an amazing album and saw the birth of his twin grandchildren. I have been a fan of Warren Zevon's since the late 1970s. His humor, intelligence and incredible musical talent never failed to entertain and enthrall me.
Mr. Zevon’s music had been used in a number of movies and TV shows. His credits include "Midnight Cowboy," "FM," "The Color of Money," "Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead." In fact "Denver" took its title from a Zevon song. Mr. Zevon died of lung cancer at age 56. Gone way too soon, but what a full life he led!
MIKE STOKEY Died Sept. 7, 2003
Early TV producer Mike Stokey died at age 84. Mr. Stokey won an Emmy at the very first Emmy Awards for his TV show "Pantomime Quiz."
JAY MORTON Died Sept. 7, 2003
You may not know the name, but Jay Morton wrote one of the most famous introductions of all time. "Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful that a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…" Jay Morton was an animator and writer for Fleischer Studios. He wrote the "Superman" introduction for the "Superman" cartoons produced by the Fleischer brothers in the 1940s. Mr. Morton also wrote the scripts for over 20 of the cartoons. Mr. Morton died of a brain aneurysm at age 92.
MARTIN AZAROW Died Sept. 8, 2003
Tough guy character actor Martin Azarow died at age 69 in Las Vegas. Mr. Azarow played character parts in a number of films and TV shows. His credits include two Richard Pryor films "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling" and "Some Kind of Hero." Other credits include "The Jigasaw Murders," "The Call Me Bruce?," "The A-Team," "Hooperman," "The Twilight Zone," "Remington Steele," "LA Law," "Starsky and Hutch" and "Charlie’s Angels." Mr. Azarow did voice work for the video game "Balde Runner."
LENI RIEFENSTAHL Died Sept. 8, 2003
Controversial filmmaker/actress Leni Riefenstahl has died of cancer at age 101. Ms. Riefenstahl was responsible for the powerful Nazi propaganda film "The Triumph of the Will." "Triumph of the Will" documented the 1934 Nazi rally in Nuremberg. Ms. Riefenstahl also directed the films "Olympia" parts 1 and 2, which chronicled the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. Ms. Riefenstahl has been the center of controversy for her role in Hitler’s Reich. While there is no doubt that Ms. Riefenstahl was in innovative photographer and a powerful filmmaker, there have been many people who wanted her prosecuted for war crimes. Gypsies used as extras in some of her films later died in concentration camps. Ms. Riefenstahl always denied knowledge of the death camps. However, there can be no doubt that her powerful imagery helped Adolph Hitler rise to power.
JACLYN LINETSKY and VADIM SCHNEIDER Died Sept 8, 2003
17-year-old actors Jaclyn Linetsky and Vadim Schneider were killed in an automobile accident in Canada. The pair were on their way to the set of a new TV show when the mini-van they were riding in collided with a tractor-trailer. Ms. Linetsky did voice work in the TV series "Calliou" in the English version as the lead role, "Mega Babies" and "What’s with Andy?" Mr. Schneider also worked on "Calliou." Prayers of comfort for their family and friends.
LARRY HOVIS Died Sept. 9, 2003
Actor/writer/producer/teacher Larry Hovis died of cancer at age 67. Mr. Hovis was a regular on three of the most popular TV series of the 1960s. Mr. Hovis is best remembered for his role as Sgt. Carter on the hit TV series "Hogan’s Heroes." Mr. Hovis was also a regular on both "Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In" and "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C." I never met Mr. Hovis in person, but he was involved in trying to produce one of my screenplays: a rock music version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray." The script was co-written with my uncle, 60s New Age musician Malachi. He and Mr. Hovis worked very hard for a number of months to put a deal together. Close, but no cigar. I have always been thankful for the work he did for us. When I told my uncle that Larry had died, he said "He was, probably, one of the fathers of 'reality' TV. (I'm sure that so-called 'reality TV's mother was a whore - thus - many fathers.) He was an unusually warm guy for that part of the world." In addition to his acting career, Mr. Hovis was a successful TV game show producer. He produced "The Liar’s Club," "Celebrity Sweepstakes" and "Yahtzee." He wrote the 1960s spy spoof/beach movie "Out of Sight." Most recently, Mr. Hovis taught drama at Texas State University in San Marcos Texas. Prayers of comfort to his family and friends.
EDWARD TELLER Died Sept. 9, 2003
Edward Teller will forever be known by a nickname that he hated. The Father of the H-Bomb died at age 95 after recently suffering a stroke. Mr. Teller worked on the Manhattan Project during WWII. He was a proponent of a strong military arsenal. His efforts to gain support for the research and development of the hydrogen bomb resulted in his unwanted moniker. Mr. Teller has been portrayed by several actors on film. Barry Yourgrau did the honors in feature film "Fat Man and Little Boy." David Suchat played him in the TV mini series "Oppenheimer." There were others. Mr. Teller appeared in several TV movies, documentaries and feature films including the JFK conspiracy film "Executive Action," "Hiroshima," "Trinity and Beyond" and "The Century."
JOHN LOWENTHAL Died Sept. 9, 2003
Law professor turned filmmaker John Lowenthal died of throat cancer at age 78. Mr. Lowenthal had done volunteer work on the defense team of Alger Hiss during his perjury trail in 1949-50. In 1980, Mr. Lownethal took a sabbatical from teaching to produce and direct the documentary film "The Trials of Alger Hiss." Richard Nixon rose to national prominence during his investigation of State Department employee Alger Hiss for spying for the Russians.
EDWARD TERNES Died Sept. 10, 2003
Makeup artist Edward Ternes died of a heart attack at age 61. Mr. Ternes worked on over 30 films and TV shows during his career. Mr. Ternes’ film credits include John Carpenter’s "The Fog," "Kentucky Fried Movie," "Rich and Famous," "Choose Me," the remake of "The Desperate Hours" and "White Sands." Mr. Ternes did John F. Kennedy’s makeup during his presidential campaign!
JOHN RITTER Died Sept. 11, 2003
It is always a shock when someone dies unexpectedly. John Ritter, fine comic and serious actor died at age 54 unexpectedly from a dissection of the aorta. High blood pressure caused the walls of Mr. Ritter’s aorta to deteriorate and separate. Mr. Ritter was on the set of his hit TV show "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter" when he fell ill. He was rushed to the hospital where attempts to save his life were unsuccessful. Mr. Ritter died on his daughter’s 5th birthday. His wife, actress Amy Yasbeck’s birthday is today.
The Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning John Ritter was the youngest son of cowboy movie star and singer Tex Ritter. Mr. Ritter is best known for his role as Jack Tripper in the 1970s sitcom "Three’s Company." The series was one of the surprise hits of its era. Despite horrendous critic opinion, "Three’s Company" became a huge hit with the fans. Ritter’s character shared an apartment with two women: Suzanne Somers, Joyce DeWitt and Priscilla Barnes after Ms. Somers’ contract was cancelled. Jack Tripper pretended to be gay to appease his nosey landlord. Times were different in those days. The gay ruse was used to make the ‘living in sin’ element of the storyline less controversial.
Ritter trained with famed acting teacher Stella Adler. He appeared in nearly 200 TV shows and feature films. He also had extensive stage experience. Though most people know Mr. Ritter from "Three’s Company," he appeared in a number of fine films. Critics heaped great praise on Mr. Ritter for his performance in Billy Bob Thorton’s "Sling Blade." He made a funny cameo in the hilarious made for TV Western "Evil Roy Slade." He had a bit part in Charles Bronson’s brutal cop film "The Stone Killer." Mr. Ritter played Rev. Fordwick on the family TV series "The Waltons" for three years. Other credits include Peter Bogdanovich’s ode to the days of silent films: "Nickelodeon." One of his most under-rated films was "Hero at Large" where he played an actor who inadvertently becomes a super hero when he stops a robbery while wearing a movie prop costume. In Blake Edwards’ "Skin Deep," Ritter played a womanizer who gets what is coming to him. The near miss is best remembered for the glow-in-the-dark dueling condom scene. Mr. Ritter also made a good impression in the TV mini series version of Stephen King’s "It."
John Ritter brought happiness into the world. He was great at sophisticated comedy as well as slapstick. He also proved himself worthy as a serious dramatic actor. He was nominated for three Daytime Emmy Awards and five Emmys, winning as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for "Three’s Company." He was also nominated for five Golden Globes, also winning for "Three’s Company. He was nominated, along with the entire cast of "Sling Blade" for the Screen Actor’s Guild Outstanding Performance by a Cast Award. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
KENT POOLE Died Sept. 11, 2003
Former actor Kent Poole committed suicide due to depression concerning his pending divorce. Mr. Poole was 39. Friends found Mr. Poole hanging from a tree in front of his house. Mr. Poole was a high school basketball star who landed a role in the great sports film "Hoosiers." His character yelled the famous line "Let’s win this one for all the small schools who never had a chance to get here." Mr. Poole also appeared in "Fresh Horses" as Molly Ringwold’s husband.
JAMESON BREWER Died Sept. 11, 2003
Veteran writer Jameson Brewer has died at age 87. Though Mr. Brewer had a lengthy career in film, his biggest fan base comes from the anime series "Battle of the Planets." Mr. Brewer adapted the Japanese film "Gatchaman" into the TV series "Battle of the Planets." Mr. Brewer oversaw almost every element of the TV series, including an almost complete re-write of the series. Mr. Brewer’s other credits include "Fantasia," "Voltron," "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," the TV series "The Virginian" and "Mr. Lucky," "The Over the Hill Gang." Mr. Brewer also co-wrote the comedy horror film "Arnold" and the over-looked "Terror in the Wax Museum." Fans of Mr. Brewer may send their condolences to his family at the address below.
JOHNNY CASH Died Sept. 12, 2003
What a day of conflicting emotions. While the death of John Ritter is shocking by its unexpected nature, the passing of Johnny Cash was expected. While his voice and vision will be missed, Mr. Cash’s passing can be celebrated. Mr. Cash lived a full life. His pain and suffering are at an end. The grief he felt at the recent death of his soul mate is quenched. To paraphrase I Corinthians 9:24-27, Mr. Cash ran the good race, he stayed the course. Hopefully Mr. Cash has found eternal peace.
Johnny Cash, the Man in Black. I discovered the music of Johnny Cash when he released the "Live at Folsom Prison" album. I’ve always been a rock and roller, but something about Johnny Cash’s music transcends genres. He was a badass with a guitar. Mr. Cash was also a role model. He was one of the lucky ones who survived drug and alcohol addiction.
Johnny Cash had a lengthy movie and TV career. He wasn’t the best actor in the world. His impact on film was not anywhere as important or influential as his impact on the world of music was. He did deliver a good performance in the made for TV film "Murder in Coweta County." Mr. Cash wrote produced and co-starred with his wife in "The Gospel Road." He co-starred with Kirk Douglas in the mediocre Western "A Gunfight."
As a composer, Mr. Cash has provided music to a number of films including "I walk the Line" starring Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld, "Frailty," "Dead Man Walking," "Things to Do in Denver When You are Dead" and "Big Fauss and Little Halsey" among others. There was a nice reference to his music in Ron Howard’s "Apollo 13." During the ‘untelevised show from space’ scene, Bill Paxton plays Norman Greenbaum’s "Spirit in the Sky." One of the ground control astronauts reacts by saying "When I go up on Apollo 18 I’m taking my entire collection of Johnny Cash." Johnny Cash died at age 71 from complications related to diabetes.
BILL HARGATE Died Sept. 12, 2003
Multi-Emmy award winning costume designer Bill Hargate died of leukemia at age 68. Mr. Hargate designed costumes for stage, film and TV. He won four Emmy awards and was nominated for another five. Mr. Hargate was honored with a Career Achievement Award by the Costume Designer’s Guild in 2001. Mr. Hargates credits include "Murphy Brown," "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters," "Once Upon a Brothers Grimm," "The World of Magic," "The Louie Show," "Back to the Future 2" and "Love and War."
LOUIS LICHTENFIELD Died Sept. 12, 2003
Oscar nominated special effects artist Louis Lichtenfield died of cancer at age 84. Mr. Lichtenfield was a matte artist on the remake of "King Kong." Mr. Lichtenfield was also a matte painter on the campy "Flash Gordon." Mr. Lichtenfield was nominated for a Best Special Effects Oscar for his work on "The Spirit of St. Louis." Mr. Lichtenfield also provided photographic special effects for the films "No Time for Sergeants," "Helen of Troy" and "The Silver Chalice."
GERALD FLECK Died Sept. 14, 2003
Assistant director/actor Jerry Fleck died of undisclosed causes at age 55. Mr. Fleck began his career as a production assistant on TV shows and feature films during the 1970s. He was an assistant on "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams." Mr. Fleck worked with Tim Burton as a second unit director on "Beetlejuice" and first assistant director on "Edward Scissorhands." Mr. Fleck also worked on "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers." Mr. Fleck worked on a number of TV series, but is best known for his 11-year association with the various "Star Trek" TV series and films. His credits include the films "Star Trek: First Contact," "Star Trek: Insurrection," the TV series "Enterprise" and "Voyager." Mr. Fleck acted in the films "The Lincoln Conspiracy" and "Earthbound."
SHEB WOOLEY Died Sept. 16, 2003
Veteran character actor/singer-songwriter Sheb Wooley died of Leukemia at age 82. Mr. Wooley had attended the family visitation for the funeral of Johnny Cash on Sunday when he became ill. Mr. Wooley was close friends with singer Tex Ritter, father of John Ritter. Though Mr. Wooley had a successful acting career, he is best known for his #1 novelty song "Purple People Eater." Mr. Wooley’s film credits include the classic Western "High Noon." Tex Ritter sang the title song for "High Noon." Mr. Wooley met the singer on that set. He played bad guy Ben Miller in the Fred Zinneman film. Other film appearances include Clint Eastwood’s "The Outlaw Josey Wales," George Stevens’ "Giant," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "The War Wagon," "Silverado" and "Hoosiers." Mr. Wooley was a regular on the hit TV series "Rawhide." He also starred with Clint Eastwood on the TV series "Rawhide." Movie in-joke fans are endebted to Mr. Wooley as the man who recorded the scream for the Gary Cooper western "Distant Drums" which has become known as the 'Wilhelm Scream.' The distinctive cry of anguish has been used in over 100 films and TV shows by sound editors with a sense of humor including just about every movie George Lucas has made.
ELLEN IDELSON Died Sept. 19, 2003
Writer/producer/actress/series creator Ellen Idelson died of cancer. In her short lifetime, Ms. Idelson appeared as an actress on film, TV and the stage. Her acting credits include a staring role in the film "Moose Mating" and supporting roles in the Made for TV movie "Eye of the Sparrow" and guest spots on "Will and Grace." Ms. Idelson appeared in the play "Elinor Adjusting" in Los Angeles. Ms. Idelson’s biggest professional success came in the field of TV writing. The daughter of TV writer Bill Idelson, Ms. Idelson was on the road to surpassing her father’s success. Ms. Idelson created the new TV series "Sixteen to Life." She also wrote for the TV series "Boy Meets World," "The Nanny," "Grosse Pointe" (also supervising producer) and "Holding the Baby." In addition to creating "Sixteen to Life," Ms. Idelson was the producer. She was the co-executive producer of the series "Danny." Other writing credits include HBO’s "Dream On," "Suddenly Susan" (also supervising producer) and "Caroline in the City." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
GORDON MITCHELL Dies Sept. 20, 2003
Actor/producer/cult movie icon Gordon Mitchell has died at age 80. Mr. Mitchell appeared in over 200 films during his lengthy career. The muscleman was a WWII combat veteran who fought in Europe and was present when the death camp at Buchenwald was liberated. Mr. Mitchell who turned to teaching after the war. Mr. Mitchell served his country once more as a First Lieutenant during the Korean War. Mr. Gordon became a fixture on Muscle Beach in California. He was a notorious ladies man. In 1956 he went on the road as part of the Mae West Revue. Mr. Mitchell had bit parts in a number of fines films such as "The Ten Commandments," "Around the World in Eighty Days," "The Enemy Below," "Rio Bravo," "The Spirit of St. Louis" and "Spartacus."
Mr. Gordon went to Rome with a six-week contract to act in a sword and sandal film. He stayed for 30 years. The bulk of Mr. Gordon’s films involved gladiators. He also appeared in a multitude of spaghetti Westerns. I remember Mr. Gordon from "The Sons of Hercules" TV series in the early 60s which showed films like "Hercules vs. the Sea Monster" and "The Fury of Achilles." In
addition to his many sword and sandal films, Mr. Gordon appeared in Fellini’s "Satyricon" and "Reflections in a Golden Eye." Mr. Gordon appeared in a film during which the producer couldn’t pay him. Instead, Mr. Gordon received some land outside Rome. He built his own Western movie studio. Over 50 films were shot at Cave Studios in the early 1970s.
TOM BUSBY Dies Sept. 20, 2003
Canadian actor Tom Busby died at age 67 of an apparent heart attack. Mr. Busby only appeared in a few films, but was part of one elite group. Busby played Milo Vladek, one of "The Dirty Dozen." Busby is quoted as saying he was part of "the second six" as the movie focused more on the big name stars in the film. His character’s big scene involved his having to execute the staff of the hideaway the group is attacking. Lee Marvin tells him to "feed the French and kill the Germans." Mr. Busby’s other film credits include Carl Foreman’s "The Victors," "The War Lover" with Steve McQueen and "Heavenly Pursuits." Mr. Busby retired from acting in the 1980s and moved to Scotland.
STANLEY FAFARA Died Sept. 20, 2003
Child actor Stanley Fafara died of complications after surgery at age 54. Mr. Fafara played ‘Whitey,’ the Beaver’s best friend on the hit TV series "Leave it to Beaver." Mr. Fafara developed a severe drug and alcohol problem, but he had been clean for the last 8 years. Mr. Fafara also appeared in "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm," "Good Morning Miss Dove" and the TV series "Wanted: Dead or Alive."
SONORA WEBSTER CARVER Died Sept. 21, 2003
Sonora Carver has died at the age of 99. Ms. Carver was the first woman to dive off of the Steel Pier in Atlantic City while on horseback. Ms. Carver’s story was told in the wonderful Disney film "Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken." The film starred Cliff Robertson and Gabrielle Anwar as Ms. Carver. Ms. Carver was blinded during one of her jumps, yet she continued to perform for another 11 years.
PAMELA GORDON Died Sept. 21, 2003
Actress and drama coach Pamela Gordon died at age 67. Ms. Gordon appeared in a number of films and TV shows. She was very active in the LA Theater scene. Ms. Gordon was awarded the LA Weekly’s Golden Angel Award for Long Term Achievement earlier this year. Ms. Gordon’s credits include "The Technical Writer," "Stealing Harvard," "The Dog Walker," "My Favorite Martian," "Poltergeist 2," "Francis," "NYPD Blue," "The West Wing," "ER" and "The Twilight Zone." She played Wyatt’s mom in John Hughes’ "Weird Science." Ms. Gordon appeared as herself in the documentary "Doing Unto Others."
GORDON JUMP Died Sept. 22, 2003
Two episodes of "WKRP in Cincinnati" stand out in my mind as examples of actor Gordon Jump’s talent. Mr. Jump played Arthur 'Big Guy' Carlson, the radio station president. One funny moment and one serious moment. The TV series most famous line dealt with an ill conceived give away contest involving Les Nessmann dropping turkeys from a helicopter. In response, Mr. Jump delivered the series’ most famous line: "As God is my witness, I thought Turkeys could fly. On the serious side, Mr. Jump shone during the series episode dealing with the tragic deaths of 11 concert goers at a 1979 show by "The Who." Jump’s purpose was to play ‘everyman’ as Howard Hessman and others explained what went wrong. It was a tasteful and powerful way of dealing with real tragedy.
Gordon Jump died at age 71, He was suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. Mr. Jump appeared in over 100 films and TV shows during a 40+ year career. In addition to his most famous role on "WKRP in Cincinnati," Mr. Jump maybe best known for his work in the Maytag TV commercials. Mr. Jump succeeded the late Jessie White as the ‘Maytag Repairman.’ Mr. Jumps credits include Brain DePalma’s "The Fury," the original film version of "House Calls," the classic Made for TV film "Sybil," "Conquest for the Planet of the Apes" and the pilot film "Starsky and Hutch." Mr. Jump had guest roles on a multitude of TV shows including "Seinfeld," "Get Smart," "Baywatch," "Daniel Boone," "Love Boat," "Mannix" and "Different Strokes." Mr. Jump’s guest appearance on "Different Strokes" in episodes "The Bicycle Man: Part 1 & 2" made TV history. Playing against type, Mr. Jump played a child molester who targeted Gary Coleman and Shaver Ross.
REX ROBBINS Died Sept. 22, 2003
Broadway actor Rex Robbins died at age 68 of a subdural aneurysm. Mr. Robbins was best known for his stage work, however he appeared in a number of films and over 300 TV commercials. Mr. Robbins film credits include the original version of "Shaft," "1776," "Simon" with Alan Arkin, "Vampire’s Kiss," "I.Q." and "The Royal Tenenbaums."
LYLE BETTGER Died Sept. 24, 2003
Veteran character actor Lyle Bettger died at age 88. Mr. Bettger’s film and TV career spanned four decades. Mr. Bettger played Klaus, the elephant trainer in Cecile B. Demille’s "The Greatest Show on Earth." Among his many credits are the excellent crime drama "Union Station" with William Holden, "Destry" with Audie Murphy, "Nevada Smith" with Steve McQueen and Russ Meyer’s "The Seven Minutes." Mr. Bettger played Ike Clanton in the classic Western "Gunfight at the OK Corral." Mr. Bettger had a lengthy career on TV. He moved to Hawaii when he became a regular during season 10 of "Hawaii 5-O." He appeared in one of the best episodes of one of the best TV series of the 1970s. Bettger appeared in the gritty "Incident in a Kill Zone" episode of Joseph Wambaugh’s series "Police Story." Mr. Bettger was the son of St. Louis Cardinal 3rd Baseman Frank Bettger.
HERB GARDNER Died Sept. 25, 2003
Tony winning and Oscar nominated writer Herb Gardner died of lung disease at age 68. Mr. Gardner was nominated for the Best Writing, Material Adapted from another Medium Oscar for "A Thousand Clowns." Mr. Gardner adapted his own hit Broadway play. The hilarious comedy starred Jason Robards and Barry Gordon. Mr. Gardner had a number of plays adapted to the screen. I saw Vincent Gardenia on stage in "I’m Not Rappaport." Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis stared in the film version. Mr. Gardner’s other credits include the Dustin Hoffman misfire "Who is Harry Kellerman, and Why is He Saying Those Things About Me?." "Thieves" with Marlo Thomas and "The Goodbye People." Mr. Gardner also directed the film versions of "The Goodbye People" and "I’m Not Rappaport." Mr. Gardner also has the distinction of making a cameo appearance in the stinker "Ishtar."
NAGINA KHANHAM and NASIR RAZA KHAN Died Sept. 25, 2003
Pakistani actress turned director Nagina Khanham was murdered along with film director Nasir Raza Khan and six members of her family. The eight victims had been bound with ropes and shot at close range in the head. A number of theories as to the motive have been forwarded by the press in Pakistan and India. According to one news report, ten suspects have been arrested.
GEORGE PLIMPTON Died Sept. 25, 2003
Author/actor George Plimpton died at age 76. Though Mr. Plimpton came from a privileged background, his appeal spanned all classes of people. His most popular success was the book "Paper Lion," in which Mr. Plimpton chronicled his foray into the NFL. He went through training camp with the Detroit Lions and actually got to take the field for a few catastrophe filled moments. The book was turned into a movie. Alan Alda played Plimpton. Mr. Plimpton acted in over 50 films, TV shows and documentaries. His film credits include Oliver Stone’s "Nixon," "Reds" with Warren Beatty, "Rio Lobo" with John Wayne, "Good Will Hunting," "Little Man Tate," "The Last Days of Disco" and "Edtv." Mr. Plimpton was a classmate of Robert F. Kennedy. He was standing in front of the senator when Kennedy was assassinated. Plimpton was one of the people who tackled Sirhan Sirhan. (EI note: Actress Martha Plimpton is the daughter of Keith Carradine, not George Plimpton.)
ROBERT PALMER Died Sept. 26, 2003
Rocker Robert Palmer died of a heart attack at age 54. Mr. Palmer died in Paris where he was visiting after having filmed a TV special in England. Palmer had success as a solo artist and as part of Power Station. Power Station also included two former Duran Duran members. Palmer’s song "Addicted to Love" was turned into one of the most popular music videos of all time. Mr. Palmer’s music was used on the soundtracks of "Pretty Woman," "The Wraith" and "The Color of Money" among others. Palmer had a bit part in the Bee Gees misfire "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band."
DONALD O’CONNOR Died Sept. 27, 2003
Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Donald O’Connor has died at age 78. Mr. O’Connor, one of the great song and dance men from the classic era of Hollywood was an accomplished actor, but was typecast in musical comedies. Mr. O’Connor appeared in over 100 films and TV shows during his illustrious career. Mr. O’Connor co-starred with Gene Kelly and Debby Reynolds in the classic "Singing in the Rain." Mr. O’Connor was probably best known for co-starring with a mule in the "Francis" series. "Francis the Talking Mule" was a successful movie series in the 1950s. O’Connor and his four-legged co-star appeared in six "Francis" films. Clint Eastwood’s first credited film appearance was in the 1955 movie "Francis in the Navy."
Mr. O’Connor made the transition to TV where he enjoyed much success during the 1950s. Mr. O’Connor was nominated for five Emmy Awards, winning for Best Male Star of a Regular Series for "The Colgate Comedy Hour." Mr. O’Connor came from a vaudeville background. He appeared in a number of movies while still a child. A number of Mr. O’Connor’s great athletic dance routines were included in the great documentaries "That’s Entertainment" and "That’s Entertainment II." He had a nice cameo in Milos Foreman’s "Ragtime" as Evelyn Nesbitt’s dance instructor. He is on stage performing during the scene that recreates the murder of Stanford White on the roof top theater at Madison Square Garden. Mr. O’Connor’s most famous movie scene has to be the high powered "Make ‘Em Laugh" routine in "Singing in the Rain." He did make us laugh. Thanks.
PAUL BURLISON Died Sept. 27, 2003
Legendary rock guitarist Paul Burlison died of cancer at age 74. Mr. Burlison was the last surviving member of the 1950's Rockabilly band "The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio." The other members were Dorsey and Johnny Burnett. Mr. Burlison’s frantic, raucous guitar style was an inspiration to such other legendary guitarists as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Mr. Burlison was the first person in Rock and Roll to record a fuzz-tone guitar riff. Mr. Burlison accidentally dropped his guitar amp, creating the fuzz-tone unintentionally. The rest is history. Burlison’s guitar riff on "Train Kept A-Rollin" is one of the best in the history of rock. The Trio appeared on the "Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour" three times and won each time! They also appeared on "Dick Clark's American Bandstand," "The Tonight Show" with Steve Allen and "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall." Mr. Burlison appeared in the documentary film "The Sounds of Memphis."
FAY HELM Died Sept. 27, 2003
Veteran actress Fay Helm died at age 93. Ms. Helm appeared in over 60 films during the 1930s and 40s. She is best remembered for her work in the great Universal horror films of yesteryear. Ms. Helm’s most famous film was "The Wolf Man" with Lon Chaney Jr. and Claude Rains. Helm played the friend of Lon Chaney’s date to the gypsy camp. Ms. Helm’s character is attacked and killed by a werewolf played by Bela Lugosi. Chaney kills Lugosi, but is bit during the struggle and becomes a werewolf himself. She made her first screen appearance in Fritz Lang’s "Fury," which starred Spencer Tracy. Her second film appearance was in "San Francisco" starring Tracey and King of Hollywood Clark Gable. She appeared with the great Bette Davis in "Dark Victory." She also appeared with Raymond Massey in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois." Though Ms. Helm had small roles in a number of notable films, she made her biggest impression in genre movies. Ms. Helm’s other horror film credits include "Captive Wild Woman" with John Carradine, "Night Monster" with Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwell and "Calling Dr. Death" also with Lon Chaney Jr. and the creepy J. Carrol Nash. Ms. Helm retired in 1946 and got married.
ELIA KAZAN Died Sept. 28, 2003
Elia Kazan, one of the most talented, gifted and controversial directors in film and theater history has died at age 94. Mr. Kazan’s work received high praise worldwide and he was honored with two Best Director Oscars, an Honorary Oscar, a DGA award, four Golden Globes, a Best Picture at Cannes, New York Film Critic’s Award…the list goes on. Despite directing some of the best films of the 20th century, Mr. Kazan has been vilified by a large number of people because of his testimony before HUAC in 1952. A number of noted celebrities refused to stand or applaud when Mr. Kazan was honored with a special Oscar in 1999. There are politics and there are movies. Sometimes the two paths cross. What if Kazan hadn’t gone before HUAC? Think about it.
Kazan was called before HUAC twice in 1952. He admitted that he had been a member of the communist party in 1934 but had left in disgust. Kazan refused to name names the first time he testified. He was called back a second time. HUAC wanted the names of other members of the Group Theater to which Kazan had belonged. This time he named names. The names were already known to the committee from previous witnesses. Kazan’s exposure to communism had made him devoutly anti-Communist. Kazan explained his beliefs and decision this way: "To defend a secrecy I don’t think right and to defend people who have already been named or soon would be by someone else. . . I hate the Communists and have for many years and don’t feel right about giving up my career to defend them. I will give up my film career if it is in the interests of defending something I believe in, but not this."
Kazan was in production on "Viva Zapata!" when he testified. Prior to his testimony, Mr. Kazan had directed "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," "Gentleman’s Agreement," "Panic in the Streets," and "A Streetcar Named Desire." All good movies. Had Kazan not testified about something he hated, these films would be his legacy. He had won a Best Director Oscar for "Gentleman’s Agreement." A number of actors including Vivian Leigh, Karl Malden, Kim Hunter, James Dunn, Celeste Holm won Oscars under his guidance in these pre-HUAC films. Anthony Quinn won one for "Viva Zapata!" which was made during the time Kazan testified. Obituary writers around the world would be praising Kazan and lamenting the films that never got made because of the blacklist had things been different and Kazan not testified. Kazan did testify, and so we have those post-HUAC films with which to judge Mr. Kazan’s talent.
"On the Waterfront," "East of Eden," "Baby Doll," "A Face in the Crowd," "Wild River," "Splendor in the Grass," "America, America." What wonderful films. Important films. What wonderful performances by some of the best actors ever to grace the silver screen. What if they had never been made? Or made by someone else? Kazan was a follower of Stanislavski’s Method. He was able to coach exquisite performances from his actors. James Dean as Cal in "East of Eden," Marlon Brando as Terry in "On the Waterfront." Could another director have pulled such magnificent performances out of these actors? Maybe, but probably not. Kazan’s films stand alone as ahead of their time. Kazan operated in the final days of the studio system, yet his movies foreshadowed the artistic and social freedom of the next decade. Kazan dealt with corruption, sexuality, and child abuse. Heady themes for the Fabulous Fifties.
I guess by now you are wondering what my point is. Am I saying that great artistic talent should be used to excuse behavior that is reprehensible? Not at all. So what if Hitler was a competent painter, or that Charlie Manson was thought to have musical talent by some in Hollywood. Their artistic talent does nothing to mitigate what they did. Maybe Woody Allen would be a better example. I have not watched one of his films since he seduced his adopted daughter and married her. I loved his work. I won’t watch it today, because I am afraid I will enjoy it, and I don’t want to. I was saddened to see Mr. Allen at the Oscars. What is the different between boycotting Woody Allen and vilifying Elia Kazan? I think there is much difference. Kazan believed in what he did. He had a proven track record as an anti-Communist long before HUAC came calling. He was never apologetic. He was willing to pay the price for his beliefs. Would I have rather he took the same stand as his friend Arthur Miller, and stood up to the committee? Hell yes. Not because I’m pro-Communist, but because I am pro-American. HUAC went against everything for which the Bill of Rights stands. The Freedom of Speech separates us from totalitarian countries with deadly thought police. We had much to fear from communism in the 50s as we do today. However, to deny American citizens the right to a livelihood because of their beliefs in Un-American. I have mixed feelings about Elia Kazan. I love his work. I admire the fact that he never equivocated about what he did. Like Harry Truman, the buck stopped with him. He stood by his decision. I hate that some people he named suffered under the terrible blacklist. They would have suffered anyway as they had already been named. Does that make it any less tragic? No. They paid the price for their beliefs the same way as Kazan paid the price for his. Prayers of comfort for those who loved him and for those who hated him
ALTHEA GIBSON Died Sept. 28, 2003
Sports great Althea Gibson died at age 76 after a lengthy illness. Ms. Gibson was the first Black to win Wimbledon and U.S. national titles in tennis. In addition to winning singles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. national championship, Ms. Gibson also won the French Open and three double’s titles at Wimbledon. She retired from tennis in 1959. She also became the first Black woman on the PGA tour. Ms. Gibson appeared in archival footage in the documentaries "The Fifties" and "The Journey of the African-American Athlete." Ms. Gibson played herself in Robert Altman’s "The Player." She also appeared in John Ford’s "The Horse Soldiers."
CORKY HUBBERT Died Sept. 28, 2003
Actor Corky Hubbert died in his sleep from complications from diabetes. The diminutive actor made a big impression in a number of films and TV shows. He was also involved in stand-up comedy. Mr. Hubbert was recently performing with an improve group in California. I first remember seeing Mr. Hubbert in Ringo Starr’s very funny "Caveman." Hubbert played Ta, a fellow misfit taken in by Ringo’s tribe of misfits. Mr. Hubbert also had significant roles in "The Ballad of the Sad Café," as Brown Tom in Ridley Scott's "Legend" and "Where the Buffalo Roam." Mr. Hubbert was a regular on the TV series "The Charmings."
JOHN HAWKESWORTH Died Sept. 30, 2003
British TV producer/writer/art director John Hawkesworth died at age 82. Mr. Hawkesworth is best known as the producer of the classic BBC TV series "Upstairs, Downstairs." Mr. Hawkesworth began his long career in the art department on such films as Carol Reed’s classic "The Third Man" and "The Fallen Idol." Working as a set dresser or set designer, Mr. Hawkesworth then became the art director on "Saadia" and "The Man Who Never Was." Mr. Hawkesworth was also the producer of the TV series "The Duchess of Duke Street," and "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" among others.
PAUL BRADLEY Died Sept. 2003
Canadian actor Paul Bradley died sometime in September of heart failure. Mr. Bradley did not appear in many films, but he was in one magical movie. Donalf Shebib’s "Goin’ Down the Road" is a cult classic from 1970. Shebib’s film follows two sailors, tired of the hardscrabble life of Nova Scotia who set out for beer, girls and good times in Toronto. Mr. Bradley and Doug McGrath played the pair. Both won Best Actor Awards at the Canadian Film Awards. The film also captured the top honor. The DVD is available as part of the Seville Signature Collection. This gem has stood the test of time. Mr. Bradley’s Joey is as memorable a lovable loser as has ever been put on film.