LUTHER VANDROSS Died Jul. 1, 2005
When it came to getting romantic with the ladies in the eighties, you either put on Barry White or Luther Vandross. Luther Vandross had one of the smoothest voices ever possessed by an R&B singer. Even after he suffered a crippling stroke in 2003, he continued to make great music. The four-time Grammy winning singer died of undisclosed causes at age 54. Mr. Vandross performed live on numerous TV shows including "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson," "Soul Train" and "Saturday Night Live." He contributed songs to a number of film soundtracks including "The Wiz," "Ruthless People," "Mo’ Money" and "Hero." Mr. Vandross appeared in Robert Townsend’s super-hero comedy "The Meteor Man."
RENALDO BENSON Died Jul. 1, 2005
Renaldo Benson, one of the original members of The Four Tops died of cancer at age 68. Mr. Benson provided the deep bass for the soul group’s many harmonies. With such hits as "I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," "Baby I Need Your Loving," "It’s the Same Old Song," "Bernadette" and "Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)" Mr. Benson and fellow Four Tops Levi Stubbs, Lawrence Payton and Abdul Fakir enriched the pop culture of the 1960s and beyond. Mr. Benson was also known for writing Marvin Gaye’s anti-violence anthem "What’s Going On." Mr. Benson and The Four Tops performed on a number of TV shows, and appeared is such documentaries as "Motown 45."
ARVO OJALA Died Jul. 1, 2005
For twenty years, fans of the Western TV series "Gunsmoke" watched the opening credits in which James Arness as Matt Dillon faced down a gunslinger. Each week, Dillon killed the badguy. What many people didn’t know was the name of the gunslinger in the famous credit sequence, now you do: Arvo Ojala. The sequence was actually filmed four different times during the series's two decade run, but Mr. Ojala was the duelist in the first version. Arvo Ojala was one of the top gun coaches in Hollywood history. He was a master of the quick draw, and not just in the movies. Mr. Ojala was a marksman with few peers. The man who lost the draw against Matt Dillon every week finally lost the draw that all of will face someday. Arvo Ojala died at age 85. Mr. Arvo worked both in front and behind the cameras. He acted in such films and TV shows as "Lancer," "Two-Gun Lady" and "The Oregon Trail." He was technical advisor and gun coach on such films and TV shows as "Silverado," "The War Wagon," "Back to the Future III," "Sugarfoot," "Maverick," the rock and roll Western "Zachariah" and "Three Amigos."
JAMES L. FISHER Died Jul. 1, 2005
Oscar and Emmy winning inventor James L. Fisher died after a lengthy illness. Mr. Fisher was the founder of JL Fisher, Inc. His company developed many boom mikes and camera dollies, which are the industry standard to this day. Mr. Fisher began his career in film during the 1930s working for such studios as MGM and Republic. In 1990, Mr. Fisher was awarded a Technical Oscar for his innovative ‘Model 10’ camera dolly. The TV industry recognized his contribution to the technical crafts with the 1991 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement and Engineering for Booms and Base. He also received a Technical Achievement Award from the Society of Operating Camera Men, and a special Outstanding & Devoted Service Award from the International Cinematographers Guild. The next time you watch or listen to a film and admire a smooth tracking shot or are awed by the clarity of the sound, take a moment to thank Mr. Fisher. You may never have heard his name before, but the chances are you seen a number of films which benefited from his technical artistry.
ERNEST LEHMAN Died July. 2, 2005
Multi-Oscar nominated writer/producer Ernest Lehman died at age 89 following a lengthy illness. Ernest Lehman produced three films. Two of them, "Hello Dolly!" and "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" received Best Picture Oscar nominations. Ernest Lehman wrote screenplays for sixteen feature films. Four of them, "Sabrina," Alfred Hitchcock’s "North By Northwest," "West Side Story" and "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" were nominated for Oscars. In 2001, Mr. Lehman’s contribution to the art of motion pictures was recognized with an honorary Oscar. He was the first screenwriter to receive the honorary Oscar! His work was also revered by his peers in the Writer’s Guild. He received nine WGA nominations, winning five times. He was also give the Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement by the WGA in 1972.
There didn’t seem to be a genre that Ernest Lehman couldn’t master. Ernest Lehman wrote some of the most caustic dialogue ever put on screen. "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and the Burt Lancaster/Tony Curtis classic "The Sweet Smell of Success" both dealt with bitter, amoral people. The two films are filled with endless quotable dialogue. Hard-edge drama not your thing? Ernest Lehman was also the master of the suspense genre. In addition to Hitchcock’s classic "North By Northwest," Mr. Lehman adapted Thomas Harris’s thriller "Black Sunday" to the big screen. The Robert Shaw/Bruce Dern thriller had 1977 audiences on the edge of their seats. At times we like a little comic relief to go along with our thrills. Lehman’s "Family Plot" was a warm, funny and at times thrilling swan song for Alfred Hitchcock. "The Prize" also combined thrills and laughs. Maybe you are more the romantic type. One word: "Sabrina." Mr. Lehman’s script was filmed twice. The first and best version pitted an aging Humphrey Bogart against the dashing William Holden for the affections of the beautiful Audrey Hepburn. Modern audiences were treated to Lehman’s words with Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear and Julia Ormond as the members of the love triangle. Maybe you like a little song and dance with your romance. Mr. Lehman left us with some of the best examples of this genre. "The King and I" with Yul Brynner and Deborah Carr, "West Side Story" with Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, "The Sound of Music" with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Some folks prefer melodrama. Consider Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in the Lehman scripted "From the Terrace" or William Holden and June Alluson in "Executive Suite." Others like sports biographies. Lehman’s biography of boxer Rocky Graziano "Somebody Up There Likes Me" was one of the first and one of the best.
Even the best miss the mark occasionally. Mr. Lehman adapted Philip Roth’s hilarious novel "Portnoy’s Complaint" to the screen. He was the producer and it was his sole effort as director. The Richard Benjamin comedy was an interesting misfire. Along with "Hello Dolly!" the only commercial and critical failure in a grand career.
GU YUE Died Jul. 2, 2005
Chinese actor Gu Yue died of a heart attack at age 68. Mr. Yue made a career of playing former Communist Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong. His uncanny resemblance to his character led to Mr. Yue portraying the leader of the Chinese Communist revolution over 80 times in film and on TV. He was nominated for three Best Actor Golden Rooster Awards, winning twice. The Golden Roosters are Communist China’s highest film awards. They were named Golden Rooster because the awards were first given in 1981 which was the Year of the Rooster according to the Chinese calendar.
NORMAN PRESCOTT Died Jul. 2, 2005
Emmy-winning producer Norman Prescott died of natural causes at age 78. Mr. Prescott and Lou Scheimer teamed up to found Filmation Studios. Filmation specilized in animated cartoons for children. Mr. Prescott and Mr. Schemer were nominated for three Daytime Emmy Awards for the animated version of "Star Trek" and "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids." "Star Trek" was nominated twice, winning in 1973. Among his many credits are the TV series "Fantastic Voyage," "The Archie Show," "Lassie’s Rescue Rangers," "The Space Sentinels," "He Man and the Masters of the Universe," "She-Ra: Princess of Power," "Shazam" and "The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry."
STEPHEN MENDELSON Died Jul. 2, 2005
Former Tri Star employee Stephen Mendelson died of muscular dystrophy at age 52. Mr. Mendelson kept a positive attitude and persevered in the face of his debilitating and fatal illness. Mr. Mendelson was married to Carmen Apelgren. His wife was blind due to her own battle with retinitis pigmentosa. The story of this couragous couple is the subject of the award-winning short film "White Cane & Wheels." "White Cane & Wheels" was directed by Mr. Mendelson’s nephew Paul Apelgren. The film was shown at the Detroit Film Festival and on the Cinemax cable channel.
HARRISON YOUNG Died Jul. 3, 2005
Actor Harrison Young died at age 75. Mr. Young was best known for his cameo as the elder Pvt. Ryan in Steven Speilberg’s "Saving Private Ryan." Mr. Young’s scenes provided the bookends for Speilberg’s unflinching look at the horrors of war. Fnas of the soap opera "Passions" will remember Mr. Young for his recurring role as Palmer Harper. Mr. Young appeared in nearly 100 films and TV episodes. His credits include "Taxi Driver," "The Game," "The Opposite of Sex," "ER," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "C.S.I.," "Bubba Ho-Tep" and Rob Zombie’s "House of 1000 Corpses."
ALBERTO LATTUADA Died Jul. 3, 2005
Award-winning Italian director/writer/producer/actor Alberto Lattuada died at age 91. Mr. Lattuada was recognized at the David di Donatello Awards with a lifetime achievement award (1994), a special award (1977), and the Golden Medal of the Minister of Tourism (1982). His directorial skills on individual films won him three Silver Ribbon Awards by the Italian Syndicate of Film Journalists. His work was also awarded at the Venice and San Sebastian Film Festivals. Mr. Lattuada directed on or wrote nearly 50 films and TV shows during his long career, which began in the 1940s. He wrote and directed the TV mini series "Christopher Columbus," which starred Gabriel Byrne in the title role. In 1946 he helmed the Fellini scripted "The Bandit" starring Anna Magnani. He also collaborated with Fellini on "The Mill on the Po" and "Variety Lights." His lusty "The She Wolf" had a young May Britt battling her mother, played by Anna Arena for the affections of a soldier. In "Tempest," Mr. Lattuada told the story of Russia’s Catherine II with an international cast, which included Van Heflin and Vittorio Gassmann. He also directed one of Natasha Kinski’s early films, the sex comedy "Come As You Are" co-starring Marcello Mastroianni.
PIERRE MICHELOT Died Jul. 3, 2005
Jazz bassist Pierre Michelot died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 77. The French musician was world respected, having played with such legends as Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Mr. Michelot’s music can be heard on the soundtracks of the films "Beau Pere," "Elevator to the Gallows" and "Scarlet Fever." Mr. Michelot had a small role in Bertrand Tavernier’s excellent "Round Midnight." He also appeared in Claude Berri’s comedy "The Housekeeper."
SIV ERICKS Died Jul. 3, 2005
Veteran Swedish character actress Siv Ericks died two days after turning 87 years old. Ms. Ericks made her film debut in 1939. She appeared in over 65 films and TV shows during her career. Ms. Ericks had a supporting role in Ingmar Bergman’s films "Fanny and Alexander," "Dreams" and "A Lesson in Love." She also appeared in the children’s films "Pippi Longstocking" and "Pippi Goes on Board." Another memorable movie she appeared in was the Max Von Sydow film "Flight of the Eagle."
ROBERT L. ANDERSON Died Jul. 3, 2005
Construction coordinator Robert L. Anderson died at age 77. The I.A.T.S.E. Local 44 member was a special effects foreman on Steven Spielberg’s "War of the Worlds." His construction coordinator credits include Lawrence Kasden’s "Body Heat," John Landis’s "Into the Night," "Eddie Macon’s Run," "California Dreaming," "A Change of Seasons" and the last two "Naked Gun" films.
CHARLES OKUN Died Jul. 3, 2005
Oscar-nominated producer and DGA-winning assistant director Charles Okun died of cancer at age 80. Mr. Okun shared a Best Picture Oscar nomination for Lawrence Kasdan’s "The Accidental Tourist." Mr. Okun was assitant director to Michael Cimino on "The Deer Hunter." They shared the DGA award for Best Direction of the Vietnam War drama. Mr. Okun worked with both Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Cimino on other projects. He was assistant director on Mr. Cimino’s debut film, the Clint Eastwood/Jeff Bridges crime drama "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot." Mr. Okun also produced and was production manager on Mr. Cimino’s flawed, but still interesting Western "Heaven’s Gate." Mr. Okun’s business relationship with Lawrence Kasdan was much more extensive. He produced eight of the director’s films including "Grand Canyon," "Silverado," "Wyatt Earp" and "Dreamcatcher." Mr. Okun and Mr. Kasdan were slated to work together once again on Kasdan’s upcoming film "The Risk Pool" with Tom Hanks. Mr. Okun was assistant director on a number of memorable films from the 1970s including Michael Winner’s "Death Wish," Otto Preminger’s "Such Good Friends," the underrated gem "Rancho Deluxe" and the original version of "Fun With Dick and Jane."
CHRIS BUNCH Died Jul. 4, 2004
Writer Chris Bunch died at age 62. Mr. Bunch, along with writing partner Allan Cole authored a number of popular science fiction books including the eight-volume "Sten" series. They also wrote the excellent Vietnam War novel "A Reckoning for Kings." Mr. Bunch also wrote solo projects. In addition to his many books, Mr. Bunch wrote for a number of TV series. His small screen credits include "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Magnum, P.I.," "The A-Team" and "The Rockford Files."
JOHN SEITZ Died Jul. 4, 2004
Two-time-Obie-winning character actor John Seitz died at age 67. Mr. Seitz appeared in hundreds of off-Broadway and regional theater plays during his career. He won two Obie awards for his work in the plays "Abingdon Square" and "Talk." Mr. Seitz added his gruff style to a number of films and TV shows. He worked with Oliver Stone in the films "JFK" and "Talk Radio." Other film credits include The Coen Brothers’s "The Hudsucker Proxy," "Citizen Coen," "Presumed Innocent," "A Rage in Harlem" and "G.I. Jane."
MARGA LOPEZ Died Jul. 4, 2005
Multi-Ariel-winning actress Marga Lopez died of heat illness at age 81. Ms. Lopez suffered a heart attack in April of this year and her health was up and down ever since. Ms. Lopez was born in Argentina, but became one of Mexico’s most respected film actresses during the 1940s and 50s. She was nominated for seven Best Actress Silver Ariels and two Best Supporting Actress Silver Ariels. Ms. Lopez won twice as Best Actress and once as Best Supporting Actress. In 1993 she was given a Special Golden Ariel for her lifetime of work in the Mexican film industry. The Ariel Awards are the Mexican film industry’s highest honor. Ms. Lopez followed her film career with a successful career on the small screen. She appeared in over 100 feature films and TV shows.
HANK STRAM Died Jul. 4, 2005
Former Kansas City Chiefs football coach Hank Stram died at age 81 following a lengthy illness. Coach Stram led the Chiefs to their only two Super Bowl appearances. The Chiefs lost to Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers in the very first Super Bowl. His luck was better in 1970 when the Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Mr. Stram appeared in the documentary "Rebels With a Cause: The Story of the American Football League." He was also a contestant on the 1980 TV show "Battle of the Network Stars VIII."
MARJORIE IRVING Died Jul. 4, 2005
Australian actress Marjorie Irving died at age 98. Ms. Irving had a lengthy career on stage and radio in her adopted homeland. The British born actress appeared in one film that I could find. Since it happens to be one of my favorites, I’m paying tribute to her here. Ms. Irving appeared in Peter Weir’s excellent WWI film "Gallipoli." The fact-based movie is one of the best anti-war indictments ever committed to film.
JUNE HAVER Died July 4, 2005Actress June Haver died of respiratory failure at age 79. Ms. Haver enjoyed a brief Hollywood career during the mid to late 1940s. She was the widow of actor Fred MacMurray. Ms. Haver appeared in a little over a dozen films before retiring from films in 1953 to become a nun. She appeared in the 1945 film "Where Do We Go From Here?" with Fred MacMurray. Nine years later, where the pair would go was down the aisle to a 37-year marriage. Ms. Haver left films following some personal tragedies and entered a convent. She left the convent due to illness and never returned, but she also did not return to the big screen either. She fell in love with widow Fred MacMurray and gave up the cloister. Ms. Haver’s film credits include "The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady," "Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!" and "Oh, You beautiful Doll." Ms. Haver was being groomed by Fox to be the ‘next Betty Grable.’ Fox cast Betty Grable and her young protégé in the 1945 musical biography "The Dolly Sisters." She made one last small screen appearance with her husband in 1958. Playing themselves, the MacMurrays were joined by two other popular, but fictional couples, the Ricardos and the Mertzes on a uranium hunt in Nevada. This was the third of thirteen episodes of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour," a short lived sequel series to "I Love Lucy."
VICE ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE Died Jul. 5, 2005
Vietnam War hero James Stockdale died at age 81 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Adm. Stockdale was the highest ranking officer to be shot down and captured by the enemy during the Vietnam War. He suffered through countless torture sessions during his imprisonment at the Hanoi Hilton. Adm. Stockdale proved his mettle to the enemy when he refused to cooperate under with those who beat and tortured him. At one point he nearly killed himself, showing the will to die rather than betray his country. Adm. Stockdale was one of the few in our nation’s history to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He spent seven and a half years as a POW. Ross Perot chose Adm. Stockdale as his running mate during his 1992 presidential campaign. Adm. Stockdale’s book "In Love and War" chronicled his experiences in Vietnam. Actor James Woods was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Stockdale. Adm. Stockdale also appeared in the PBS documentary "Return With Honor." Thank God that our country has been defended by men such as Adm. Stockdale.
SHIRLEY GOODMAN Died Jul. 5, 2005
Shirley Goodman, one half of the 1950s Rock and Roll duo Shirley & Lee died at age 69. Shirley & Lee’s biggest hit was the song "Let the Good Times Roll." That happens to be the title of one of the best Rockumentaries you will see. "Let the Good Times Roll" is a mixture of several concerts in Long Island New York featuring just about every great 50s Rock act alive at the time. The film is climaxed by a split screen guitar duel between Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. The opening credits feature the quirky hit by Shirley & Lee. Ms. Goodman had a high pitched voice that has never been duplicated. It was juxtaposed to the late Leonard Lee’s deep bass voice. When Ms. Goodman sings the words "Feels so good…" it sends shivers down my back. Though their song is featured over the credits of "Let the Good Times Roll," they do not appear in the film. What a shame. Their hit song was also featured on the soundtracks of "Heart of Dixie," "Book of Love" and Michael Ritchie’s wonderful satire "Smile."
JIM HASKINS Died Jul. 6, 2005
Writer/professor Jim Haskins died at age 63. He had been suffering from emphysema for some time. Mr. Haskins wrote over 100 books on African-American history. His book "The Cotton Club" was used as source material by Mario Puzo, William Kennedy and Francis Ford Coppola for Coppola’s gangster film of the same name. Forget what the critics said about "The Cotton Club," check it out for the great interplay between Bob Hoskins and Fred Gywnn. Mr. Haskins’s biography "Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson" was turned into the Made for TV movie "Bojangles" starring Gregory Hines.
EVAN HUNTER a.k.a. ED MCBAIN Died Jul. 6, 2005
Writer Evan Hunter died of cancer at age 78. Mr. Hunter wrote hundreds of novels and short stories under the names Evan Hunter and Ed McBain. Ed McBain wrote mysteries exclusively, Evan Hunter wrote everything but mysteries. As Ed McBain, Hunter had his biggest following for his series of "87th Precinct" books. His most famous novel was "The Blackboard Jungle." Director Richard Brooks adapted the novel and directed the 1955 film starring Glenn Ford. Mr. Hunter was known to adapted other people’s work to the screen himself. He adapted a short story by Daphne Du Maurier for Alfred Hitchcock. That script, "The Birds" was Hitchcock’s scary follow-up to "Psycho." Unfortunately, Mr. Hunter’s ominous original ending wasn’t used by the studio. Japanese master director Akira Kurosawa even filmed one of Mr. Hunter’s ‘Ed McBain’ books! Kurosawa filmed Hunter’s novel "King’s Ransom" as "Heaven and Hell" starring Toshiro Mifune. Other film and TV credits include "The Pusher," "Strangers When We Meet," "The Young Savages," "Last Summer," "Fuzz," "Kofuku," "The Legend of Walks Far Woman," two episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Ironside," "Climax!" and "Columbo."
JACK L. WATSON Died Jul.6, 2005
Musician and TV producer Jack L. Watson died at age 86. Mr. Watson Worked for NBC as a unit manager and later as an associate producer. He played drums in several early MGM musicals. Mr. Watson served his country in the US Army during WWII.
JOCELYN RICKARDS Died Jul. 7, 2005
Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning costume designer Jocelyn Rickards died at age 80. Ms. Rickards designed costumes in some of the most influential films of the 1960s. She worked with such directors as David Lean, Michelangelo Antonioni, Tony Richardson, Richard Lester, John Schlesinger and Karel Reisz. Ms. Rickards was nominated for an Oscar for her work on Riesz’s "Morgan! A Suitable Case for Treatment." She was nominated for three BAFTAs, winning for Tony Richardson’s "Mademoiselle." Ms. Rickards most lasting innovative designs were in Antonioni’s classic "Blow-Up." Other credits include "The Entertainer," "Ryan’s Daughter," "The Knack: and How to Get It," "Look Back in Anger" and the great James Bond film "From Russia With Love."
MAURICE BAQUET Died Jul.8, 2005
French actor/cellist/Olympic skier/mountain climber Maurice Baquet died at age 94. Mr. Baquet was a world-renowned cellist. He also had a lengthy and successful career as an actor. Mr. Baquet appeared in his first film in 1934, two years before he represented France as a member of their Olympic Ski Team. Mr. Baquet was also an accomplished mountain climber. This skill came in handy on a number of films shot in the mountains. Mr. Baquet appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows during his lifetime. Mr. Baquet’s film credits include the Erich Von Stroheim film "L’ Alibi," "The Last Metro," "Sextette," "Innocents in Paris," Costa-Gavras Oscar-winner "Z" and "Bobby Deerfield."
KEVIN HAGEN Died Jul. 9, 2005
Actor Kevin Hagen died of cancer at age 77. Mr. Hagen appeared in over 160 films and TV episodes during his lengthy career. He may be best known for his role as Doc Baker on the TV series "Little House on the Prairie." Though Mr. Hagen’s character on "Little House" was a kindly frontier doctor, he made a career of playing badguys in numerous Western films and TV shows. His film appearances include "Pork Chop Hill," "Shenandoah," "The Learning Tree" and "Rio Conchos." He appeared in just about every popular TV series during the 1960s and 70s. His credits include "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "Mannix," "Land of the Giants," "The Big Valley," "Mission Impossible" and the list goes on. Mr. Hagen served his country in the US Navy during WWII.
FREDDY SOTO Died Jul. 10, 2005
Comedian Freddy Soto died in his sleep at age 35. The cause of death has not been revealed, but his family believes he died of an aneurysm. The stand-up comedian appeared in several films including Adam Sandler’s "Spanglish." Mr. Sotto performed his comedy routines on such TV shows as "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Late Friday," "The Three Amigos" and "Inside Joke." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
ANN LORING Died Jul. 10, 2005
Actress turned writer Ann Loring died of complications following a stroke at age 90. Ms. Loring appeared in a few films including the true-life Western "The Robin Hood of El Dorado." The movie dealt with the famed California bandit Joaquin Murrieta. Ms. Loring won three Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the soap opera "Love of Life." Ms Loring also enjoyed a successful career as a writer. She penned a number of books including the cool horror story "The Mark of Satan."
BARBARA CHRISTIAN Died Jul. 10, 2005
Former actress Barbara Christian died at age 79. Under her maiden name of Barbara Brier, the 1945 Miss California runner-up became a contract player for Universal and Warner Brother’s Studios. After getting married, Ms. Brier retired from films. Her film credits include "I Surrender Dear," "An Old Fashioned Girl" and "Hard, Fast and Beautiful."
DEREK AYLWARD Died Jul. 10, 2005
Actor Derek Aylward died of old age at 82. What a strange and curious career actor Derek Aylward had. He began his career on the London stage. Became a TV actor during the early days of the medium. After enjoying a successful career in film and TV, Mr. Aylward moved into the world of softcore sex comedies and eventually filmed a hardcore film. In the 1977 sex-comedy "Come Play With Me," Mr. Aylward filmed a hardcore scene with 70s British sex bomb Lisa Taylor. The actor said of the film that he provided the "dick and proper diction." Among Mr. Aylward’s many mainstream credits are "Quatermass II," "The Trials of Oscar Wilde," "Dixon of Dock Green" and "The Moonstone."
PHILIP NICHOLSON Died Jul. 10, 2005
Author Philip Nicholson, who wrote under the name of A.J. Quinnell died at home in Malta at age 65. Mr. Nicholson wrote the thriller "Man on Fire" about a bodyguard protecting a small child from kidnappers. Mr. Nicholson was inspired to write the book following a rash of kidnappings in Italy during the 1970s. Mr. Nicholson’s novel has been translated to the screen twice. The first, and inferior film version starred Scott Glen and Joe Pesce. In 2004, Denzel Washington starred in the second film version of "Man on Fire." Dakota Fanning co-starred as the child in jeopardy. Mr. Nicholson was very pleased, as were audiences with the remake.
RICHARD EASTHAM Died Jul. 10, 2005
Character actor Richard Eastham died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 89. Mr. Eastham had a successful career on both stage and screen. Though he began his career as a stage singer, he switched to straight acting on TV and in film and never really went back to singing. His best know stage role was opposite Mary Martin in "South Pacific." TV fans of the 1950s knew him from the series "Tombstone Territory." Audiences of the 1970s knew him as the co-star of the Linda Carter series "Womder Woman." He played General Blankenship during the first two years of the series run. Other film and TV credits include "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," John Wayne’s "McQ," "Attack on Terror: The F.B.I. vs. the Ku Klux Klan," as Doc Robinson in the Johnny Whitaker version of "Tom Sawyer," "Murderer’s Row," "That Darn Cat" and "Not With My Wife, You Don’t!" Mr. Eastham served his country in the US Army during WWII.
DON MCLEAN Died Jul. 11, 2005
Canadian film production giant Don McLean died of pneumonia after undergoing a double heart bypass at age 72. Mr. McLean was the founder of The Film Partners Company. The Film Partners Company is Canada’s largest TV commercial production company. Mr. McLean mentored a number of up-and-coming filmmakers who made the jump from TV ads to feature films. Among those who owe part of their success to Mr. McLean’s guidance are David McNally, Phillip Borsos, Rupert Wainright, Marco Brambilla and Colin Chilvers. Marc Ford of White’s Motion Picture, Television & Theatrical Equipment Supply stated that Mr. McLean "really created the advertising production community in Toronto. He formed partnerships with many international production companies to create a global market for his clients and promoted his people to outside markets. Through the creation of smaller boutique commercial houses he was able to help many up and coming cameramen, directors and editors. Don McLean was an icon in the Canadian commercial production industry. Partner's Film Company was and still is the largest commercial production company in the world."
GRETCHEN FRANKLIN Died Jul. 11, 2004
British actress Gretchen Franklin died at age 94. Ms. Franklin had a lengthy career in both film and TV. She was a familiar face to audiences in the UK for her role in the long-running soap opera "Eastenders." Ms. Franklin appeared in the series for 12 years. She left the series when her character was killed of by euthanasia. She appeared in several of my personal favorites. She had a small role as D’Artagnan’s mother in Richard Lester’s wonderful "The Three Musketeers." She also worked with Lester in the second Beatles film "Help!." In "Help!" Ms.Franklin and actress Dandy Nichols played the two ladies who were standing across the street from the Beatles' house waving that the four lads from Liverpool. Ms. Franklin worked with Boris Karloff and Nick Adams in the H.P. Lovecraft horror "Die, Monster, Die!" Other credits include "Ragtime," "How I Won the War" and the TV series version of "Quatermass." Ms. Franklin played the character Else Garnett in the pilot episode of the British TV show "Til Death Do Us Part." That show was the basis for the landmark US TV series "All in the Family." The Else Garnett character became Edith Bunker in the US version. Ms. Franklin did not take the role in the British TV series because she had a prior theatrical commitment. Ms. Franklin shared this with fellow actress Dandy Nichols on the set of "Help!" and Ms. Nichols herself got the role in "Til Death Do Us Part" and a serving of fame in the UK.
FRANCES LANGFORD Died Jul. 11, 2005
Actress/singer Frances Langford died at age 91. Ms. Langford reminded US soldiers of one of the things they were fighting for as a USO entertainer during WWII. She toured with Bob Hope during the war singing her trademark song "I’m in the Mood for Love." She wrote a newspaper column about her war experiences called "Purple Heart Diary." She played herself in the 1951 film based on her column. Ms Langford appeared in over 60 films and TV shows during her career. Ms. Langford and actor Don Ameche were wildly popular in the 1940s for their hit radio show "The Bickersons." The pair also had a short lived TV show in 1951. Ms. Langford’s film credits include "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Palm Springs," "The Glen Miller Story," "Career Girl" and "Someday When Clouds Roll By." Her final concert performance was in the 1960s entertaining out troops in Vietnam.
DEREK HILTON Died Jul. 11, 2005
BAFTA-nominated composer Derek Hilton died at age 78. Mr. Hilton received a BAFTA nomination for Best Original Television Music for the mini-series "Lost Empires." Mr. Hilton arranged the theme music for the long-running UK TV series "Coronation Street." He was the musical director for Granada Television and wrote over 200 TV theme songs. Mr. Hilton’s many credits include "The Lovers," "The Comedians," "Laurence Olivier Presents: A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "The Glamour Girls."
AXEL STROBYE Died Jul. 12, 2005
Popular Danish actor Axel Strobye died at age 77. Mr. Strobye studied to be an architect but his heart was always set on acting. He made his film debut in 1950 and never looked back. In addition to a successful career in Scandinavia, Mr. Strobye appeared in a number of international hits. He had a nice supporting roles in Best Foreign Film Oscar winners "Pelle the Conqueror" and "Babette’s Feast." Mr. Strobye played Inspector Jensen in the popular crime/comedy film series "The Olsen Gang." He appeared in ten episodes in the long running movie series. Mr. Strobye appeared in over 100 films and TV shows during his career. He was best known in his native land for his role on the TV series "Matador." Mr. Strobye appeared in the final film by "Vampyr" director Carl Theodor Dreyer.
SCOTT PAUL Died Jul. 12, 2004
CNN employee Scott Paul died of head injuries sustained in a fall at age 24. Mr. Paul played the young version of Morgan Earp in Lawrence Kasdan’s "Wyatt Earp." Mr. Paul also appeared in the directo-to-video action movie "Street Vengeance." Mr. Paul’s passing reminds me of how blessed I am to have had my daughter survive her own traumatic head injury. Prayers of comfort for Mr. Paul’s many family members and friends.
ALAN BARRY Died Jul. 13, 2005
Irish stage and screen actor Alan Barry died at age 71. Mr. Barry enjoyed success on the stage in Ireland and England. He was also a prolific voice actor on British radio. Mr. Barry worked in both feature films and on TV. He worked with director John Boorman in "The General." He had a supporting role in the Daniel Day-Lewis film "In the Name of the Father." He was part of the great ensemble cast in Roger Spottiswood’s excellent docu-drama about the early years of the AIDS epidemic "And the Band Played On." His small screen credits include the police drama "Z Cars," "Ballykissangel" and "Softly, Softly."
ASEN KISIMOV Died Jul. 13, 2005
Popular Bulgarian actor Asen Kisimov died at age 69. Mr. Kisimov had a film career that spanned 50 years. He was also a popular stage actor in his native land. Mr. Kisimov devoted much of his stage and film career to entertaining children.
RICHARD LEITERMAN Died Jul. 14, 2005
Award-winning cinematographer Richard Leiterman died in Vancouver at age 70. Mr. Leiterman was one of the most respected cinematographers in the Canadian film industry. Mr. Leiterman was nominated for three Best Achievement in Cinematography Genies. He won for his work on Allan Kings "Silence of the North." The Genie Award is Canada’s highest film awards. He won the Canadian Film Award for the 1975 film "The Far Shore." In 2000, the Canadian Society of Cinematographers recognized Mr. Leiterman’s body of work with the Kodak New Century Award. He mentored many up and coming filmmakers. He was a professor in the Film and Television department of Sheridan College in Toronto. Mr. Leiterman lensed nearly 80 films and TV shows. He also directed two films. Among his many credits are "Stephen King’s IT," "Death Hunt," "Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog," "Ticket to Heaven," the great documentary "Hail! Columbia" and "Watchers."
JOSEPH HARNELL Died Jul. 14, 2005
Multi-Emmy-nominated and four-time-Grammy-winning composer Joesph Harnell died of heart failure at age 80. He composed the logo music for United Artists films. Mr. Harnell was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his dramatic underscores to the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno TV series "The Incredible Hulk," the sci-fi mini series "V" and the prime time soap opera "Santa Barbara." Mr. Harnell was the musical director for the TV series "The Mike Douglas Show." Among his many TV credits are the series "Alien Nation," "Cagney & Lacey," "Shadow Chasers," "In the Heat of the Night" and "The Bionic Woman." Mr. Harnell also contributed music to the Best Picture Oscar winner "Marty." Mr. Harnell recorded eighteen albums including the popular "Fly Me To the Moon." During WWII, Mr. Harnell served in the US Army/Air Corp attached to the Glenn Miller Air Force Band.
MICHAEL GIBSON Died Jul. 15, 2005
Tony Award nominated orchestrator Michael Gibson died of lung cancer at age 60. Mr. Gibson was one of the top orchestrators on Broadway. Among his many hits were "Grease," "Cabaret" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman." He was nominated for Tony Awards in 1997 and 98 for his work on "Steel Pier" and "Cabaret." Mr. Gibson had worked with composer John Kander for many years including on the two Tony nominated plays. Mr. Gibson also did some film work. His credits include "Grease," James Ivory’s "Roseland," the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie "The Boys Next Door," "Cold River" and "Still of the Night."
MARK CHORVINSKY Died Jul. 16, 2005
On rare occasions, I will ask another writer if I may publish an obit they have written. The words of a friend and colleague can express the loss of a person much better than I can. Renowned writer/lecturer/cryptozooligist Loren Coleman has graciously allowed me to reprint his words about an amazing friend of his.
Mark Chorvinsky was born in Philadelphia, on March 4, 1954. A magician from the age of seven, Chorvinsky acquired an interest in mysteries, and a desire to explain them, in his childhood. As an adult, Chorvinsky became a filmmaker and bookstore owner.
In the early 1980s, Chorvinsky devoted endless hours categorizing the data collection of the International Fortean Organization, while running his commercial bookstore, Dream Wizards, in suburban Rockville, Maryland. Displeased with the administration of INFO, Chorvinsky broke with the group, then founded and became the editor of Strange Magazine in 1987. His magazine reflected Chorvinsky's journey in Fortean investigations, at first publishing detailed overview articles on phenomena, but then slowly moving to more skeptical and debunking articles on cryptozoological and unexplained subjects, as well as the occasional sympathetic pieces.
Chorvinsky was one of the first to discuss the possible role of Washington state construction magnate Ray Wallace in the seminal hominological events in 1958, when Jerry Crew found the now-famous "first" Bigfoot prints -- or, at least, the first to be labeled as such. Chorvinsky, an outspoken skeptic of the 1967 Roger Patterson-Bob Gimlin Bigfoot film footage, suspected that the clip was a hoax. In columns in Fate Magazine and in essays in Strange Magazine, Chorvinsky tied his theories especially to the Hollywood special-effects award winner John Chambers (although Chambers denied his role to investigator Bobbie Short). Another favorite debunking focus of Chorvinsky's was the Loch Ness and Owlman work of fellow magician, Englishman Doc Shiels. Chorvinsky carried on decades-long debates on these topics with his critics.
Chorvinsky had a light side, and it appeared most often when he was able to share his passion for the magic of the movies as seen in cryptozoological topics. He contributed an appendix to my book, Tom Slick and the Search for Yeti (1989), on the role of Abominable Snowmen in the cinema, and he often described how he enjoyed writing that essay. His film short "Strange Tangents," was screened at the American Film Institute, the Library of Congress and film festivals at Cannes, Berlin and Los Angeles. Mr. Chorvinsky described the film: "It's about a young sorceress who tries to save her dying master with the help of her friend, a 3-foot-tall talking salamander." In his later years, Chorvinsky seemed to return, as with the piece he wrote on the truth behind The Exorcist, to reflective examinations that overlapped his deep interests in film and Fortean topics.
One of Mark Chorvinsky's favorite Charles Fort quotations was from New Lands: "There is not a physicist in the world who can perceive when a parlor magician palms off playing-cards."
Chorvinsky passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was a devoted father, family man, and fellow to a close circle of friends in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
GAVIN LAMBERT Died Jul. 17, 2005
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Gavin Lambert died of lung disease at age 80. Mr. Lambert shared two Oscar nominations with T.E.B. Clarke and Lewis John Carlino respectively for adapting D. H. Lawrence’s "Sons and Lovers" and Joan Greenberg’s "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" to the screen. He also adapted the Hansel and Gretel as "Who Slew Auntie Roo?" A few years back I had the pleasure of interviewing director Curtis Harrington. Mr. Harrington turned Lambert’s "Who Slew Auntie Roo?" into what is probably his most subversive film. Shelly Winters delivered one of her most over the top performances as the evil Auntie Roo. Mr. Lambert also wrote novels. He adapted his most famous novel "Inside Daisy Clover" to the screen. Like his later Oscar nominated script "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," "Inside Daisy Clover" dealt with mental illness in teenagers. Natalie Wood played the title role in the 1965 screen version of "Inside Daisy Clover." Other credits include Nicholas Ray’s "Bitter Victory," Merle Oberon’s final film "Interval" and Nicholas Roeg’s TV version of "Sweet Bird of Youth" starring Elisabeth Taylor.
GERALDINE FITZGERALD Died Jul. 17, 2005
Oscar/Emmy/Tony-nominated actress Geraldine Fitzgerald died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 91. Ms. Fitzgerald received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her work opposite Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in the 1939 version of "Wuthering Heights." Ms. Fitzgerald appeared in over 100 films and TV shows during her lengthy career. She worked with Bette Davis in three films including the classics "Dark Victory" and "Watch on the Rhine." She co-starred as First Lady Edith Wilson opposite Alexander Knox in Henry King’s Oscar-winning biopic "Wilson." Ms. Fitzgerald starred opposite Gary Cooper in the underrated romantic drama "Ten North Frederick." Geraldine Fitzgerald appeared in two of the best films of the 1960s: Sidney Lumet’s powerful "The Pawnbroker" and the Paul Newman directed "Rachel, Rachel." She had a small, but memorable supporting role in Paul Mazursky’s "Harry and Tonto." Audiences in the 1980s rediscovered Ms. Fitzgerald for her role as Dudley Moore’s mother in both of the "Arthur" films. She also made a memorable guest appearance on the TV series "The Golden Girls" for which she earned an Emmy nomination. Ms. Fitzgerald also had a long and successful career on the stage. She was nominated for a Best Director Tony Award for the play "Mass Appeal." Ms. Fitzgerald was the mother of "Let It Be" director Michael Lindsay-Hoag.
GENERAL WILLIAM WESTMORELAND Died Jul. 18, 2005
Retired General William Westmoreland died of natural causes at age 91. Gen. Westmoreland was the commander of all American forces during the Vietnam War from 1964 through 1968. I liked the General’s attitude about the results in Vietnam. He stated that we didn’t lose the war, but instead: "It's more accurate to say our country did not fulfill its commitment to South Vietnam. By virtue of Vietnam, the U.S. held the line for 10 years and stopped the dominoes from falling." Though US troops won battle after battle under Westmoreland’s command, including the huge defeat of North Vietnamese forces during the Tet Offensive, dissent at home and political restrictions on striking the enemy in their own strongholds led to the withdrawal of America and the ultimate communist victory in Vietnam and the genocide of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Gen. Westmoreland fought for his country in three wars. He was in command of an artillery battalion during WWII, going up against The Desert Fox Erwin Rommel. He was a two-star General during the Korean War. General Westmoreland was also the superintendent of West Point! Gen. Westmoreland appeared as himself in a number of documentary films and TV shows including "Hearts and Minds," "The Ten Thousand Day War," "Vietnam: A Television History" and "Vietnam: The Call of Duty." If you look close in Francis Ford Coppola’s near-masterpiece "Apocalypse Now!" you will see Gen. Westmoreland in a photograph pinning a medal on Marlon Brando’s Col. Kurtz. Thank you for you service to our country.
EDDIE BUNKER Died Jul. 19, 2005
Teenage bank robber turned author/writer Eddie Bunker died during surgery at age 71. Mr. Bunker was ill with cancer and diabetes. It is so appropriate that Eddie Bunker was born in Hollywood. It is highly unlikely that a screenwriter could have concocted Mr. Bunker’s life. Maybe E.L. Doctorow could have written the life story of Edward Bunker. He was born to working class show people. His dad was a stage hand and his mother a chorus girl. They split and Eddie was left in boarding schools and military schools. He rebelled in a big way. At 17, Eddie Bunker became the youngest man to that time to enter San Quentin for the crimes of bank robbery and car theft. He eventually paroled out and found himself rubbing elbows with the high and mighty of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The wife of producer Hal Wallis introduced Mr. Bunker to such people as Tennessee Williams and William Randolph Hearst. It was back to prison after a parole violation that landed him on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. Eddie Bunker turned to the written word to deal with his life and his rage. His output as a writer was prolific. He persevered through 17 years of rejection slips before he published his first book. Mr. Bunker’s second book, written in prison: "No Beast So Fierce" became the source material for the excellent Dustin Hoffman film "Straight Time." Both book and film are harrowing looks at the life of the outlaw. Bunker adapted his book to the screen with help from Michael Mann. Years later Michael Mann would call on Mr. Bunker as a technical advisor for his great urban crime film "Heat." Eddie Bunker taught the cast how to act like convincing convicts. Eddie Bunker wrote two more films after "Straight Time." He adapted an Akira Kurosawa screenplay into his own "The Runaway Train." He also adapted his novel "The Animal Factory" to the screen for a film directed by Steve Buscemi. Mr. Bunker and Mr. Buscemi met on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s debut film "Reservoir Dogs" where they played Mr. Pink and Mr. Blue. Mr. Blue wasn’t Eddie Bunker’s first film role. He made his debut in "Straight Time." Mr. Bunker’s next film was as Jesse James gang member Bill Chadwell in Walter Hill’s great Western "The Long Riders." Among his other acting credits are "Tango & Cash," "Relentless," "The Running Man," "Best of the Best" and the remake of "The Longest Yard."
RIDGE BLACKWELL Died July 19, 2005
Title designer Ridge Blackwell died at age 74. Mr. Blackwell worked in TV advertising for both the ABC and NBC TV networks. He later turned to designing titles for movies. His credits include "Prozac Nation," "Air Bud: World Pup" and "The Fear." Mr. Blackwell served as an officer in the US Navy during the 1950s.
JAMES DOOHAN Died Jul. 20, 2005
Canadian Actor James Doohan died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 85. James Doohan was known to legions of Trekies as Lt. Commander Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott, the straightforward Scottish engineer on the Starship Enterprise in Gene Roddenberry’s classic TV series "Star Trek." He was later promoted to full commander in the many "Star Trek" feature films. James Doohan appeared in over 100 films and TV shows during his lengthy career. "Star Trek" wasn’t his first sci-fi TV series. He was a regular on the 1953 series "Space Command." He had a gift for dialects. In Roger Vadim’s sexy thriller "Pretty Maids All in a Row," Mr. Doohan plays a California cop assisting Telly Savalas in the investigation of a series of murders of nubile young high school students. Among his many TV credits are "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "The Virginian," "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "The Twilight Zone," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "The Fugitive," "The F.B.I.," "The Came Bronson," "Fantasy Island" and "MacGyver." Mr. Doohan served his country in the Royal Canadian Artillery. He stormed the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, losing the middle finger of his right hand in the process. Mr. Doohan has spent the past several years suffering from a number of illnesses including the insidious Alzheimer’s Disease. Thankfully he is now free from the disease and at rest.
EMMA PULLEN Died Jul. 20, 2005
Documentary filmmaker Emma Pullen died of breast cancer at age 52. Ms. Pullen’s work examined race relations and Black history. She co-produced the 1997 documentary "Colors Straight Up." "Colors Straight Up" was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar in 1998. Ms. Pullen wrote the "And the Children Shall Lead" episode of the PBS TV series "Wonderworks."
JOHN BALDRY Died Jul. 21, 2005
Back in my high school days I always got a kick out of Long John Baldry’s song "Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll." I haven’t heard the song in years. What I remember was the intro in which Baldry played a low key piano boogie rif while carrying on a narrative about a police report of a loud disturbance. What always gave me a laugh was the way Baldry, as the English Bobby said the words "BooGee WooGee." Of course, I got high back in those days and that may have also had something to do with my uncontrollable laughter. Musician Long John Baldry died of complications from a chest infection at age 64. In addition to his own recording career, Mr. Baldry was also instrumental in helping begin the careers of many of the best musicians of the 60s and 70s including Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Page and Cream’s Ginger Baker. Mr. Baldry was first and foremost a bluesman. One of the best. Forget all of his other contributions (if you can) and you are still left with an amazing discography of some of the best blues recordings this side of B.B. King, Muddy Waters or W.C. Handy. On side of Mr. Baldry that I was unaware of until now was the fact that he was a prolific voice actor. It comes as no surprise considering the many voices her used in his music. John Baldry did voice work for such films and TV shows as "Ewoks," "Madeline," "The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog," "ReBoot," "Sabrina the Animated Series" and "Toad Patrol." He also acted opposite Charlton Heston in the 2003 animated version of "Ben Hur."
SHIRLEY THOMAS PERKINS Died July 21, 2005
Writer Shirley Thomas Perkins died of cancer at age 85. Ms. Thomas was the one-time wife of producer Walter White Jr. The couple started Commodore Productions and enjoyed success with numerous radio serials. Ms. Thomas was a celebrity interviewer for NBC TV during the 1950s. Ms. Thomas was best known for her writing about the early days of the U.S. Space Program. Ms. Thomas wrote the excellent eight-volume book series entitled "Men in Space." Wish I had known her. She loved film and space exploration. My kind of gal!
PHILLIP ESPOSITO Died Jul. 21, 2005
Actor/teacher Phillip Esposito died at age 50. Mr. Esposito worked in regional theater as well as TV and film. His credits include "Identity Lost," "Sundown," "The Velocity of Gary," "Knot’s Landing" and "General Hospital." He was the co-founder of The Heart Acting Studio.
EUGENE RECORD Died Jul. 22, 2005
Grammy-winning composer Eugene Record died of cancer at age 64. Mr. Record was the founder and lead singer for The Chi-Lites. I remember getting dumped by a girlfriend about the time Mr. Record’s song "Oh Girl" came out. It hit home during the pity-party I held after getting kicked to the curb by my junior high school flame. The ironic thing is, the girlfriend who dumped me did so because she was set up with a guy by the girl who eventually became my current wife! Anyway… Mr. Record wrote many songs for The Chi-Lites including "Have You Seen Her?" Mr. Record appeared with The Chi-Lites on "The Flip Wilson Show" and "Saturday Night Live." He appeared in the documentary "Only the Strong Survive." His music was used on the soundtracks of the films "Less Than Zero" and "The Next Best Thing."
GEORGE D. WALLACE Died Jul. 22, 2005
Actor George D. Wallace died of complications from a fall he suffered several weeks ago while on vacation in Italy. Mr. Wallace was 88 years old. Mr. Wallace was nominated fo a N.Y. Drama Critics Guild Award for his performance opposite Gwen Verdon in the Broadway play "New Girl in Town." Mr. Wallace appeared in over 250 films, TV shows and movie serials during his lengthy career. He may be best known to genre fans as Commando Cody in the serial "Radar Men From the Moon." Mr. Wallace played the rocket-powered hero in twelve episodes of the 1952 serial. Mr. Wallace also appeared in another famous sci-fi film from the 1950s: "Forbidden Planet." Mr. Wallace made nearly 150 guest spots on TV shows during the last five decades. The chances are very good that you have seen him in something. Among Mr. Wallace’s many film credits are "Kansas City Confidential," "Destry," Disney’s hit "Daniel Boone" mini-series, "Texas Across the River," "Skin Game," "The Towering Inferno," "Billy Jack Goes to Washington," "The Stunt Man," "Punchline," "Postcards From the Edge," "My Girl 2," "Nurse Betty" and "Minority Report." Mr. Wallace served his country in the US Navy during WWII.
CHRISTIAN ZUBER Died Jul. 23, 2005
Award-winning French documentary filmmaker Christian Zuber died of cancer at age 75. Mr. Zuber should not be mistaken for the young American actor of the same name. Mr. Zuber was a naturalist who devoted his life to the study and protection of animals. Mr. Zuber was on the board of the World Wildlife Fund and the Bridget Bardot Foundation. Mr. Zuber won the Gold Medal at the 1969 Venice Film Festival. Mr. Zuber shot films in many exotic locations including the Galapagos Islands. His films include "Paradis des bêtes" and "Les Plus Belles Iles du Monde."
FINTAN MEYLER Died Jul. 23, 2005
Irish actress Fintan Meyler died of cancer at age 75. Ms. Meyler won a trip to America in Dublin beauty pageant and never returned home She enjoyed success on stage, film and TV before retiring to raise her children. Ms . Meyler appeared as Sterling Hayden’s wife in "Zero Hour!" "Zero Hour!" was the inspiration for the Zucker brother’s hilarious "Airplane." Ms. Meyler was a familiar face on TV and film Westerns, appearing in such shows as "Showdown at Boot Hill," "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "Sugarfoot," "Have Gun Will Travel" and "Wagon Train." She was also adept at drama, appearing in "Perry Mason," "Peter Gunn" and "Thriller" with Boris Karloff.
HOWARD HESTER Died Jul. 24, 2005
Construction coordinator Howard Hester died just shy of his 82nd birthday. The I.A.T.S.E. Local 44 member’s many film credits include Sidney Poitier’s third outing as Virgil Tibbs: "The Organization." He also worked on the lame remake of "Out of the Past": "Against All Odds." His other film credits include "Rambo: First Blood Part II."
DAVID JACKSON Died Jul. 25, 2005
British actor David Jackson died of a heart attack at age 71. Mr. Jackson was a familiar face on British TV. He was a regular on the BBC sci-fi TV series "Blake’s 7." Mr. Jackson’s other TV credits include the police drama "Z Cars," "Lovejoy," "Space: 1999," "The Saint" and "The Avengers." Mr. Jackson appeared in the great true-life crime drama "10 Rillington Place." Other film credits include Hammer’s "Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb" and the Robert Mitchum version of the Philip Marlowe mystery "The Big Sleep."
FORD RAINEY Died Jul. 25, 2005
Character actor Ford Rainey died at age 96 from complications following a series of strokes. Mr. Rainey appeared in nearly 250 films and TV shows during his lengthy career. He also had a successful stage career on Broadway and in region theaters. Ford Rainey made his film debut in one of my all time favorite films. He was one of Cody Jarrett’s gang members in the Jimmy Cagney classic "White Heat." Another personal favorite of mine is Robert Wise’s "The Sand Pebbles." The film contains Steve McQueen’s great Oscar nominated performance as Jake Holeman, a simple man who becomes a pariah on a US Navy boat in 1920s China. Ford Rainey plays one the fellow sailors who harass McQueen to no end. During the film’s climatic battle scene, it is Rainey’s character who stops a bullet for McQueen. Ford Rainey made a career playing men in authority. He was the no good town Marshall in Delmer Daves’ "3:10 to Yuma." He played the President of the United States in the pilot episode of Irwin Allen’s "Lost in Space." He was a member of the commission investigating assassinations in Alan J. Pakula’s chilling "The Parallax View." Speaking of playing the President of the United States, Mr. Rainey may have been best know for portraying Abraham Lincoln on stage and screen. His small screen credits playing Lincoln include "The Captains and the Kings" and "Miss Curtis Goes to Washington." On TV, Mr. Rainey’s career included guest spots on many popular shows from the 1950s right up to his last work on "The King of Queens" in 2003. He was a regular on the 1963 TV series "The Richard Boone Show." Among Mr. Rainey’s other memorable film and TV credits are "Halloween II," "The Andersonvill Trial," "The Andromeda Strain," "Friendly Fire," "Gideon’s Trumpet," "The Traveling Executioner," "Perry Mason," "The Outer Limits," "Bonanza," "The Invaders," "Studio One," "ER," "Night Gallery," "Mannix," "The F.B.I.," "The Wild Wild West," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "The Time Tunnel," "The Fugitive" and "Rawhide." Mr. Rainey served his country in the US Coast Guard during WWII.
TUNGIA BAKER Died Jul. 25, 2005
Maori actress/writer and health advocate Tungia Baker died of cancer at age 64. Ms. Baker appeared in the Oscar-winning film "The Piano." In New Zealand and Australia Ms. Baker appeared in the films and TV series "A Difficult Woman," "Mokopuna," "Mirror, Mirror," "Mataku," and "Greenstone." Ms. Baker was also an artist and activist for the Maori people. It was revealed after her death that she had recorded and educational audio series which is to be released to inspire future artists and activists. She set up The Tungia Baker Arts Scholarship to assist others in achieving their dreams.
ALF JOINT Died Jul.25, 2005
Actor/stuntman/stunt coordinator Alf Joint died at age 78. Mr. Joint once performed a 430-foot plunge off of a waterfall for the British TV series "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." Mr. Joint appeared in over 80 films and TV shows as an actor or stuntman. Horror and sci-fi fans have enjoyed his work in many films, probably without knowing who he was. His genre credits include the TV series "Dr. Who," "Space 1999," Michael Reeve’s masterpiece "The Witchfinder General," ""The Omen," "Superman," "Outland," "An American Werewolf in London," "Superman II," "Return of the Jedi," "Krull," "The Keep," Tobe Hooper’s sexy, gonzo space vampire film "Lifeforce" and "Superman IV." Mr. Joint’s work was not limited to the horror and sci-fi genres. James Bond films were made all the more exciting for Mr. Joint’s stunt work. He helped ramp up the excitement on "Goldfinger" and "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service." He worked with Clint Eastwood on "Where Eagles Dare" and "Kelly’s Heroes." Other credits include John Wayne’s "Brannigan," "A Bridge Too Far" and "The Heroes of Telemark."
PETER SEABOURNE Died Jul. 25, 2005
British director/editor/writer/producer Peter Seabourne died. No age or cause of death was given. Mr. Seabourne was the son of noted film editor John Seabourne Sr. He learned his trade assisting his father on the films of famed producers Powell and Pressburger. Mr. Seabourne’s brother, John Seabourne Jr. was a producer. The brothers worked together on several British TV movies in the 1970s including a couple of Gilbert and Sullivan adaptations. Peter directed and John Jr. produced.
JAMES O’BRIEN Died Jul. 26, 2005
Animator James O’Brien died of melanoma the day before his 34th birthday. Mr. O’Brien worked on the TV series "The Simpsons" as an animator. Mr. O’Brien was an artist for the independent animation house DPS Film Roman. The company was started by multi-Emmy-winning producer and former Disney animator Phil Roman.
CAMILLA DE CASTRO Died Jul. 26, 2005
Brazilian transsexual actress Camilla De Castro committed suicide by jumping from an 8th floor balcony in Sao Paulo, Brazil while on an out of control drug binge. Camilla De Castro was one of the most popular transsexuals in the adult industry. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends. I was contact by a reader who informed me that my use of the word "shemale" was an insulting term to transsexuals. I was totally ignorant of this fact and do apologize to anyone who might have been offended by the comment.
DANNY SIMON Died Jul. 26, 2005
Emmy-nominated writer and theater director Danny Simon died of heart failure at age 86. Mr. Simon was the older brother of award-winning playwright Neil Simon. Mr. Simon was one of the writers on Sid Caesar’s classic TV comedy series "Your Show of Shows." Mr. Simon was a mentor and teacher to such writers as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and his brother Neil. Among Mr. Simon’s many writing credits are "Make Room for Daddy," "My Three Sons," "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes." Danny Simon provided brother Neil with fodder for many characters in his own plays. Neil Simon wrote a number of autobiographical plays including "Brighton Beach Memories" and "Biloxi Blues." Brother Danny’s imprint is on those plays somewhat. His biggest contribution to his brother’s writing may be the inspiration for the character Felix Ungar in "The Odd Couple." Danny Simon moved in with a friend following his divorce. Mr. Simon was reported to be a neat-freak ALA Felix Ungar while Mr. Simon’s friend was more slovenly ALA Oscar Madison.
ALEXANDER GOLITZEN Died Jul. 26, 2005
Art director/production designer Alexander Golitzen was nominated for 14 Oscars during his lengthy career! He won three times. Alexander Golitzen died of congestive heart failure at age 97. Mr. Golitzen worked on over 330 films! He was the supervising art director at Universal Studios for 30 years. Mr. Golitzen shared the Best Art Direction-Set Decoration for his work on "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Spartacus" and the Claude Rains version of "The Phantom of the Opera." His first Oscar nomination was for Alfred Hitchcock’s "Foreign Correspondent." He worked with Clint Eastwood on his earliest directorial efforts: "Play Misty For Me" and "Breezy." Among Mr. Golitzen’s multitude of credits are "Earthquake," "The Beguiled," Slaughterhouse-Five," "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid," "Colossus: The Forbin Project," "Airport," "Tell Them Willie Boy is Here," "Madigan," "Coogan’s Bluff," "Rough Night in Jericho," "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," "Send Me No Flowers," "Captain Newman M.D.," "The List of Adrian Messenger," "Flower Drum Song," "Touch of Evil," "Man of a Thousand Faces," "The Incredible Shrinking Man," "Tarantula," "Destry" and "Call of the Wild." Oh yeah, who says Hollywood marriages can’t last? Mr. Golitzen is survived by his wife of 72 years!
BETTY ASTELL Died Jul. 27, 2005
British actress Betty Astell died at age 93. Ms. Astell was the widow of Cyril Fletcher who passed away on January 1st of this year (see the January 2005 column for his obit). Ms. Astell was a TV actress from the 1930s! She also appeared in a number of British films. If not for WWII, the TV broadcast industry would have taken off much earlier. There were experimental and regular TV broadcasts in both the US, England and Germany prior to Hitler’s reign of terror. Ms. Astell began her TV career in 1931! She appeared in the British "30-line" TV transmissions, often performing songs. Ms. Astell appeared in nearly 25 films during the 1930s. Her credits include "The Mysterious Mr. Reeder," "The Man I Want" and "On the Air." Ms. Astell married Cyril Fletcher in 1941 and renewed their vows in church each year of their long marriage. The couple performed together on TV, radio and stage. They later founded a talent agency and were responsible for discovering such talents as Harry Secombe of "Goon Squad" fame.
FRANCO DI FRANCESCANTONIO Died Jul. 27, 2005
Italian actor Franco Di Francescantonio died at age 53. Mr. Francescantonio was primarily a stage actor. He had appeared on Italian and Spanish stages since 1971. Among his film credits was Carlos Saura’s award-winning "Goya in Bordeaux."
BOB WRIGHT Died Jul. 27, 2005
Multi-Oscar-nominated composer Bob Wright died of natural causes at age 90. Mr. Wright and his long-time musical partner Chet Forrest were nominated for three Best Original Song Oscars during the 1930s for the movies "Mannequin," "Music in My Heart" and "Flying With Music." The pair won a Tony Award for the 1953 production of "Kismet." Their hit Broadway musical "Song of Norway" was poorly adapted to the big screen in 1970. The music of Mr. Wright and Forrest was used in the films "The Great Waltz," "Kismet," "I Married an Angel," "Fiesta," "Kit Carson," "The Women," "Marie Antoinette," "Madame X," "Saratoga," "After the Thin Man" and "Private Lives."
ROBERT KRUME Died Jul. 27, 2005
Construction coordinator Robert Krume died at age 73. The I.A.T.S.E. Local 44 member worked on some of the most popular films of the past few decades. Anyone who has seen Alan J. Pakula’s "All the President’s Men" knows what an amazing set was built for the Washington Post office scenes. The construction coordinator makes sure the sets are built within budget, on time and with sound design and construction integrity. Among the many films Mr. Krume worked on are "RoboCop 2," "Dead Again," Joseph Wambaugh’s films "The Choirboys" and "The Onion Field," "The Mountain Men," "Star 80" and "Witness."
BUTCH BENIT Died Jul. 27, 2005
New Orleans actor/writer Butch Benit died at age 68. Mr. Benit wrote and performed the cabaret revue "Nobody Likes a Smart Ass." His play was a staple in the French Quarter for nearly two decades. Mr. Benit appeared in the Jack Weis horror films "Mardi Gras Massacre" and "Crypt of Dark Secrets."
GARY BELKIN Died Jul. 28, 2005
What a terrible week for the world of comedy. In the span of three days, we lost three of the greatest comedy writers of this generation. Multi-Emmy-winning- writer Gary Belkin died of emphysema after a nearly 60-year career. Mr. Belkin was nominated for nine Emmys during his career! He won three times. Mr. Belkin’s writing earned the highest TV award for his work on "Annie, The Woman in the Life of a Man" and twice for "The Carol Burnett Show." Mr. Belkin’s Emmy nominations include two nods for the 1950s comedy show "Caesar’s Hour," "The Danny Kaye Show" in 1964, "The Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff Special," "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and yet a third nomination for "The Carol Burnett Show." Gary Belkin was a ghostwriter for Monammed Ali, and wrote many of the boxer’s poems. Mr. Belkin reunited with Sid Caesar and nine of his writers at a WGA program. Billy Crystal hosted the event. Also present were Danny and Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Sheldon Keller, Carl Reiner, Aaron Ruben and Mel Tolkin. The event was turned into a PBS fund-raiser program called "Caesar’s Writers."
It was a tough week for stand-up comedian and screenwriter Steve Bluestein as he lost three close friends and mentors this week in Danny Simon, Pat McCormack and Gary Belkin. Mr. Bluestein was kind enough to share his memories of Mr. Belkin with me: "I remember meeting Gary at the Comedy Store in 1972 when I first came to Los Angeles. I can remember his wit and his charm but what I remember the most is his never ending support of my talent, especially when I didn’t believe in myself. Gary was always there. He was a prince of a human being and I will miss him greatly. I guess God must have needed some laughs because this week he took three of the funniest."
LOUIS PITOSCIA Died Jul. 28, 2005
Canadian wrestler turned comedian/tough-guy actor Louis Pitoscia died at age 76. Mr. Pitoscia was a regular performer on Canadian comedy legends Johnny Wayne and Frank Schuster’s many TV shows including the Norman Jewison directed "Wayne and Schuster" and "The Wayne and Schuster Hour." He also appeared with Wayne and Schuster on several of their 67 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Mr. Pitoscia’s other credits include the films "My Favorite Spy," "Moonstruck" and "Mrs. Soffel." He was a professional wrestler during the 1940s and 50s.
NEIL BURGER Died Jul. 28, 2005
Sound editor and writer Neil Burger died at age 73. Mr. Burger Worked as a sound editor for over 40 years. In addition to his work as an editor, Mr. Burger co-wrote several novels and the TV movie "The Disappearance of Flight 412." Mr. Burger’s sound editing credits include "Bull Durham," "Talk Radio," "Steel Magnolias," "L.A. Story" and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."
PAT MCCORMICK Died Jul. 29, 2005
Comedic writer/actor Pat McCormick died of complications from a stroke at age 78. Mr. McCormick spent the last seven-years of his life imprisoned in a paralyzed body, unable to speak. What a shame to have such a creative voice silenced for so long. Pat McCormick was one of the funniest men who ever lived. He wrote jokes for many of the greats in stand-up comedy. His TV writing credits include "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," "The Jack Parr Show," "Get Smart," "The Danny Kaye Show." He also wrote screenplays including "Under the Rainbow." I remember Mr. McCormick best for his many appearances with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show." The imposing 6-foot 7-inch McCormick was paired with diminutive composer Paul Williams as Big and Little Enos Burdette in the popular redneck "Smokey and the Bandit" comedies. Mr. McCormick worked with Mel Brooks on "History of the World: Part I." Robert Altman cast him in the little seen, but interesting "Buffalo Bill and the Indians: Or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson." Two years later, Altman cast him in one of his best films: "A Wedding." Mr. McCormick appeared as himself in such films as "Scrooged" and "The Gong Show Movie." Other memorable credits include "The Don Rickles Show," "If You Don’t Stop It…You’ll Go Blind," "The Jerk, Too" and "Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound."
HILDEGARDE Died Jul. 29, 2005
Singer Hildegarde died at age 99. Hildegarde enjoyed a 60+ year career as a cabaret singer. Hildegarde appeared on a number of TV shows including "The Mike Douglas Show," "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "What’s My Line?" Her film and TV credits include "Vaudeville" and "Music Hath Charms."
MICHAEL STONE Died Jul. 29, 2005
Cinematographer/camera operator Michael Stone was killed in a head-on collision with another car in Ventura County, California. Mr. Stone was 55 years old. It is suspected that Mr. Stone fell asleep at the wheel as his car crossed the yellow line before hitting a car traveling in the opposite direction. Mr. Stone worked on over 50 films during his career. He was the cinematographer on a few films including "Raising Helen." As a camera operator, Mr. Stone worked on many films including Walter Hill’s "The Warriors," Brian DePalma’s "Dressed to Kill," Sidney Lumet’s "Prince of the City," "The Hunger," "All the Right Moves," "The Cotton Club," "Fatal Attraction," "Beaches," "In the Line of Fire," "Don Juan DeMarco," "A Civil Action," Pearl Harbor" and the film version of "The Dukes of Hazzard."
RENEE ROY Died Jul. 30, 2005
Actress Renee Roy died of colon cancer at age 74. Ms. Roy appeared on such TV shows as "The Jackie Gleason Show" and "The Big Payoff" as well as hundreds of TV commercials. She was best know for her regular role in the soap opera "Love of Life." For four years, Ms. Roy played no-nonsense nightclub owner Clare Bridgeman on the CBS daytime drama. Ms. Roy also shared her craft as an acting teacher in New York.
ERNU SINGERL Died Jul. 30, 2005
Popular German actress Erni Singerl died of cancer at age 83. Ms. Singerl began acting as a child on Bavarian radio. She never turned back. Ms. Singerl enjoyed success on stage, radio, TV and film. She was given a Special Award at the 1996 Bavarian TV Awards. Ms. Singerl appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows.
WILLIAM MALDONADO Died Jul. 31, 2005
Veteran construction coordinator William Maldonado died at age 84. Mr. Malonado oversaw the construction of sets on some of the best films from the 1950s through the 1980s. The I.A.T.S.E. Local 44 member helped create the magic on some of my favorite films. And not just my favorite films! Mr. Maldonado’s credits include "West Side Story," "Hour of the Gun," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Breakheart Pass," "Bound for Glory," "The China Syndrome," "Winter Kills," "The Final Countdown," the remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "The River" and "The Milagro Beanfield War." Mr. Maldonado also worked as a production coordinator on several films including one I highly recommend: "Electra Glide in Blue."