OTIS CARNEY Died Jan. 1, 2006
Writer/producer Otis Carney died at age 83. Mr. Carney wrote nearly 20 books and novels. He was also a prolific writer for TV. He created the Western TV series "The Monroes," for which he shared a Western Heritage Award. Mr. Carney wrote for such TV series as "Zane Gray Theater," "Dragnet," "Johnny Guitar," "The Dick Powell Show," "Adventure Showcase" and "G.E. True." Mr. Carney also wrote and produced the feature film "Cinerama Holiday." Mr. Carney served his country as a captain in the US Marine Corps during WWII.
JERRY SUMMERS Died Jan. 1, 2006
If you are an action fan, chances are you have seen Jerry Summers’ work. Mr. Summers has added his expertise as a stuntman, stunt driver and actor to over 400 films and TV shows. He has done so much work that it would take IMDB a year to get his page corrected. The versatile Jerry Summers died at age 74. What a full and frenzied life the man had! I could go on and on about how many of my favorite films her worked on. Hey, that sounds like an idea! Jerry Summers added the punch and zip and zest to a whole heaping helping of my favorite films. Just what movies am I talking about? Well… there’s "Dillinger," "What’s Up Doc?," "Hickey & Boggs," "Coogan’s Bluff," "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry," "Spartacus," "The French Connection," "Diamonds Are Forever," "The Poseidon Adventure," "Charley Varrick," "The Seven-Ups," "Magnum Force," "Blazing Saddles," "Marathon Man," "The Gumball Rally," the original version of "The In-Laws," "Midnight Run," "Throw Mamma From the Train" and "Alien Nation." Not a bad list of credits. The thing is, Mr. Summers’ list of credits goes way beyond what I’ve pointed out. He appeared in every major Western TV series ever produced. Mr. Summers worked on the first episode of "Bonanza." Mr. Summers was there 21-years-later to work on the last episode of "Bonanza."
Mr. Summers wrote this reflection on what life meant to him: Ode to a Stuntman You only have one time on earth. Your one time in life. And my time was Summers Time. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Anything I ever wanted to do, I was able to accomplish. Anything I ever wanted to do, I did. Somebody once asked me if I had to do it all over again, would I? I didn't have to give it a second thought. It was a great life. It was Summers Time. I wouldn't trade it. I did it all. I couldn't count the times I was shot and killed or all of the wars and fights I've been in. I played life over centuries and far into the future. I have been one of the first humans on earth. I fought with Spartacus and I fenced in the days of King Arthur. And I have been a crew member of the Enterprise, beamed up to a distant planet by Scotty, only to find myself as an alien. I was part of the Mafia and I have been on the side of the law as an Untouchable. I fought side by side with Custer in his fight with the Indians. And I have fought side by side with Geronimo against the cavalry. I have even fought with the Texas Rangers against the Dalton gang. And I robbed trains with Jesse James. A few times in my life I have even been part of the opposite sex. I have voluntarily put myself in life-threatening situations many times in my career. Believe me, I've done it all. With jest in his voice but contempt in his heart, he said, "You're so old, all you have left are eight by tens and memories of friends." I could have told him he wasn't immune, but instead played the game. Sure I have memories. Memories of working with great actors, great directors. And all the great people behind the scenes who make it happen. When I was in my prime, I never thought I'd make it to age 30. When I hit 40, I said, "Hey, from here on in it's all a gift." Now that I'm retired and I look back at my mortality, it was all a gift. It was all Summers Time.
ALEX MILLER Died Jan. 1, 2006
Former actor Philip Alexander Miller was killed by a hit and run driver on the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge near New Orleans on New Years Day. Mr. Miller crashed his car into a parked vehicle. When He got out of his car to inspect the damage, he was in turn hit by another car, which drug him several hundred feet. Mr. Miller was well known in New Orleans for his stage work. He also appeared on such TV shows as "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Gunsmoke." Mr. Miller was also a successful New Orleans business man who owned several stereo stores.
PHILOMINA Died Jan. 2, 2006
Indian character actress Philomina died of diabetes at age 80. Philomina acted on over 750 films! She worked in Malayalam language films in her native India. She began her film career in 1964. Philomina won the Best Supporting Actress for her work in the 1970 film "Thurakkata Vathil."
RAUL DAVILA Died Jan. 2, 2006
Actor Raul Davila died of a heart attack at age 74. Mr. Davila delivered a chilling performance as the Voodoo priest in the 1987 thriller "The Believers." Soap opera fans may remember Mr. Davila for his role as Hector Santos in "All My Children" during the 1990s. In addition to his work on TV and in film, Mr. Davila also worked on stage in regional theater. Mr. Davila’s other film and TV credits include "The Trial of Bernard Goetz," the TV version of "The Old Man and the Sea," "New York Undercover" and "Law & Order."
EVELYN FARNEY Died Jan. 2, 2006
Singer/dancer Evelyn Farney died of natural causes at age 89. Ms. Farney worked with The Ink Spots in 1941, as well as having toured with a number of Big Bands as a solo dancer. She was one of the first people to perform in the main showroom at the Last Frontier Casino on the old Las Vegas Strip back in the bad-old days when Bugsy and the boys were still around. In 1945, Ms. Farney’s tap-dancing skills were caught on film in the Universal short musical "Synco-Smooth Swing." She performed her act to the sounds of a Stephen Foster medley. Ms. Farney later became a talent agent. She helped the child actor Mitch Vogel get parts in "Yours, Mine and Ours" and "Bonanza" among others. In 1983, Ms. Farney made a donation to the Motion Picture Academy of her collection of Louella Parsons newspaper clippings.
OSA MASSEN Died Jan. 2, 2006
Danish actress Osa Massen died at age 91. Ms. Massen had a busy film career in the late 1930s and 40s. She worked more in TV during the 1950s and early 60s. Ms. Massen retired in the 1960s. After two films in her native Denmark, Ms. Massen was brought to Hollywood. Ms. Massen’s feature film credits include George Cukor’s "A Woman’s Face," "You’ll Never Get Rich" with Fred Astaire, the Oscar-nominated "Jack London," the lame "Cry of the Werewolf," "Tokyo Rose" and the early sci-fi film "Rocketship X-M." She also appeared in the pro-America WWII propaganda film "The Master Race." Ironically the film was directed by Howard (Salt of the Earth) Biberman who would be Blacklisted during the McCarthy era!
JOHN WOJTOWICZ Died Jan. 2, 2006
Convicted bankrobber John Wojtowicz died of cancer at age 60. Mr. Wojtowicz was portrayed by Al Pacino in an Oscar nominated performance in Sidney Lumet’s "Dog Day Afternoon." Mr. Wojtowicz was arrested and sentenced to 20 years (served seven) in Federal prison for a botched bank robbery in Brooklyn, during which he wanted to raise money for his boyfriend’s sex change operation. His partner in crime Sal Naturale was shot and killed by the FBI during the robbery attempt. The late actor John Cazale played Sal in the film. Mr. Wojtowicz’s boyfriend Ernest Aron eventually got his sex-change operation. She died of AIDS related pneumonia in 1987. From many articles and books written about the man, Mr. Wojtowicz sounds like a very different from the character portrayed by Al Pacino. Wojtowicz himself said the movie was only about 30% accurate. He reenacted the crime for the documentary short subject "The Third Memory." He also appeared as himself in the feature length documentary about the robbery: "Based on a True Story."
RAGTIME Died Jan. 3, 2006
The miniature horse Ragtime died at age 19. The 29-inch tall horse became the center of a legal battle when residents of Thousand Oaks, California sued the owners to have the house horse removed from the community because it was ‘livestock.’ Ragtime’s owners won the lawsuit and the diminutive horse was allowed to stay. The tiny horse co-starred with Shelley Long, Perry King and Kay Lenz in the film "The Adventures of Ragtime." Ragtime also appeared in a number of TV shows and commercials including a guest spot on The Family Channel’s show "Lassie."
BARRY COWSILL Death Announced Jan. 3, 2006
Barry Cowsill’s death was announced on January 3rd. Mr. Cowsill’s remains had been discovered on Dec. 28, 2005 on a wharf in New Orleans. Mr. Cowsill was reported missing after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy. He was last heard from in September when he made a phone call to his sister. Mr. Cowsill was a member of the band The Cowsills. The family band rose to prominence during the 1960s. The band consisted of five brothers their sister and mother. Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Susan, Paul and their mother Barbara scored a string of hits including "Hair," "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" and "Indian Lake." The band was also the inspiration for the TV series "The Partridge Family." They performed on a number of TV shows including "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," "Get It Together" and "The Ice Palace." Their hit song "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" was featured on the soundtrack of the movie "Dumb and Dumber."
JOHN WOODNUTT Died Jan. 3, 2006
Prolific British character actor John Woodnutt died at age 81. Mr. Woodnutt had a bit role in one of my guilty pleasures. He played the metallurgist in Tobe Hooper’s gonzo sci-fi/horror/space vampire/zombie/end-of-the-world movie "Lifeforce." Trust me, go see that movie. Anyway. Mr. Woodnutt was more familiar to fans of British TV. He appeared in numerous series including "Dr. Who," "The Avengers," "Z Cars," "Softly, Softly," "Sherlock Holmes," "Dixon of the Dock Green," "The Tomorrow People," "Callan" and the movie "Oh! What a Lovely War."
GRANT MAXWELL Died Jan. 3, 2006
Multi-Emmy-winning Sound Mixer Grant Maxwell died after a lengthy battle against leukemia. Mr. Maxwell was 47. Mr. Maxwell shared in Emmy awards for his work on the great mini-series "The Stand" and the documentary "9/11." He also won a Daytime Emmy Award for his work on the kid’s educational show "3-2-1 Contact." He was also nominated five times by his peers in the Cinema Audio Society for his excellent work. Mr. Maxwell worked on nearly 50 films and TV shows during his career. His many credits include "Homicide: Life on the Streets," "Beavis and Butt-Head," "The Langoliers," "OZ," "Wingspan" and "The Hours." Most of Mr. Maxwell’s career was spent at Sync Sound, Inc. in New York. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
ARTHUR BROWNE JR. Died Jan. 3, 2006
TV writer Arthur Browne Jr. died at age 82. Mr. Browne wrote the Elvis film "Clambake," but he was primarily at TV writer. Mr. Browne wrote a multitude of episodes for such Western TV series as "The Rifleman," "The Rebel," "Law and the Plainsman," "My Friend Flicka," "Wagon Train," "The Virginian," "Fury," "Gunsmoke," and "The Big Valley." Mr. Browne’s non-Western TV creidts include "The Detectives," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "The Incredible Hulk," "Planet of the Apes" and "Hot Wheels."
SOPHIE HEATHCOTE Died Jan. 4, 2006
Australian actress Sophie Heathcote died of a brain aneurysm at age 33. Ms. Heathcote was also suffering from pancreatic and skin cancer. Ms. Heathcote was a familiar face to Australian soap opera fans. She appeared in such popular TV series as "A Country Practice," "Water Rats," "Grass Roots," "Sun on the Stubble" and "Raw FM." She also appeared in the feature film "Reckless Kelly" with Yahoo Serious. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
IRVING LAYTON Died Jan. 4, 2006
Poet Irving Layton died after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease at age 93. I can’t do this man’s life justice in so few words. Is it enough to say that he was mentor and friend to the genius Leonard Cohen? Probably not if you haven’t had the same experiences I have. Go find out about Irving Layton. Seeks greater minds than mine to find out who he was. Better yet, seek out his many, many volumes of work. Poet Irving Layton was the subject of two documentaries: "Irving Layton: An Introduction" and "Poet: Irving Layton Observed." He appeared as himself in the documentaries "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen" and "A Tall Man Executes a Jig by Irving Layton."
JOHN HAHN PETERSEN Died Jan. 4, 2006
Danish actor John Hahn-Peterson died of a heart attack in his dressing room at The Royal Theater in Denmark. Mr. Hahn-Peterson was to perform in the play "Indenfor Murene." The actor was 75 years old. In addition to his long stage career, Mr. Hahn-Peterson appeared in a number of films and TV shows. He appeared in Lars Von Trier’s horror mini-series "Riget 2." Mr. Hahn-Peterson also appeared in several of the popular crime comedy "Olsen Gang" films. Actress Liv Ullman cast Mr. Hahn-Peterson in "Sofie," her second film as a director.
PHYLLIS GATES Died Jan. 4, 2006
Phyllis Gates, the ex-wife of Rock Hudson, died of lung cancer at age 80. Ms. Gates was a secretary for Hollywood talent agent Henry Willson during the 1950s. Though she didn’t know it at the time, Ms. Gates was set up to be Rock Hudson’s beard. Fears that exposing Rock Hudson’s sexual orientation might destroy his career, Mr. Hudson’s handlers set out to find him a wife. Ms. Gates was picked and the hunky actor began his whirlwind romance of the young secretary. They were married in 1955 and divorced in 1958. Ms. Gates claimed that she did not know the purpose of the marriage or that Mr. Hudson was Gay. She wrote about her marriage in the book "Rock Hudson, My Husband." Actress Daphne Ashbrook portrayed Ms. Gates in the TV movie "Rock Hudson." She appeared as herself through archived footage in the documentary "Rock Hudson’s Home Movies."
ROBERT SCOTT Died Jan. 5, 2006
Actor Robert Scott died of cancer at age 84. Mr. Scott also was credited in films and TV under the name Mark Roberts. His film career dated back to the 1940s. His many credits include "Gilda," "Brother Rat," "Intersection," "For the Boys," "Once is Not Enough," "Beastmaster 2," "Meet the Applegates," "Spontaneous Combustion," "Next of Kin," "Perry Mason," "The F.B.I.," "Dynasty," "The Rockford Files," "Highway to Heaven," "Friends," "The Geena Davis Show," "The Practice," "Seinfeld." "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "The Larry Sanders Show," "Murder, She Wrote." and "L.A. Law." Mr. Roberts was Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's partner in crime during the dance floor/swimming pool scene in Frank Capra's classic "It's a Wonderful Life." My fellow Memphian and the author of the well respected "Obituaries in the Performing Arts" series Harris Lentz remembered Mr. Roberts from an appearance at the Memphis Film Festival as "quite friendly and interesting to talk with."
THORA MATHIASON Died Jan. 5, 2006
Singer Thora Mathiason died two days shy of her 92nd birthday. Ms. Mathiason was a talented soprano who worked on stage, film and radio. She sang in several films. Ms. Mathiason was Jeanette MacDonald’s vocal stand-in on the film "I Married an Angel." She appeared and sang in the films "Meet the People" and "Kathleen" among others.
VAJRAMUNI Died Jan. 5, 2006
Indian actor Vajramuni died of a heart attack at age 62. Vajramuni appeared in over 350 films in the Kannada language. He was best known for playing villains.
LOU RAWLS Died Jan. 5, 2006
Multi-Grammy winning singer/actor Lou Rawls died of brain and lung cancer at age 72. Mr. Rawls was blessed with a rich baritone voice and a four-octave singing range. He scored hits in various genres including soul, gospel, disco and jazz. His biggest hit was the 1976 song "You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." In addition to Mr. Rawls’ long singing career, he also enjoyed an acting career. Mr. Rawls appeared in nearly 100 films, TV shows documentaries and variety programs. A number of Mr. Rawls’ appearances were as a voice actor. In his later years, Mr. Rawls leant his vocal talents to a number of cartoons. He provided the singing voice for "Garfield" in several of the TV specials featuring the cat with an attitude. Mr. Rawls other voice work included such animated shows as "The Proud Family," "The Rugrats Movie," "Hey Arnold!," "The New Adventures of Captain Planet," "Happily Ever After," "This is America, Charlie Brown" and "Snowden on Ice." Lou Rawls appeared in a few of feature films including "Leaving Las Vegas" and "The Blues Brothers 2000." He appeared in far more TV shows than films. His many TV credits include "77 Sunset Strip," "The Fall Guy," "Fantasy Island," "Baywatch," "Roc" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Lou Rawls served his country in the US Army as a member of the Screaming Eagle Paratroopers. That was the same outfit that Jimi Hendrix served in a few years later.
DREW WILSON Died Jan. 5, 2006
Commercial artist turned teacher turned actor Drew Wilson died of diabetes at age 80. Mr. Wilson appeared as Mark Twain in an episode of "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch." His other credits include "Black Sheep," "Fragrance," "Hard Rock Zombies" and "Soul Food." Mr. Wilson was best known for his one-man stage show concerning Thomas Edison. He toured with his show for nearly 20 years. Mr. Wilson served his country in the US Army Corp of Engineers during WWII.
HUGH THOMPSON Died Jan. 6, 2006
American hero Hugh Thompson died of cancer at age 62. Mr. Thompson was the US Army helicopter pilot who put and end to the My Lai Massacre in March of 1968. Mr. Thompson was piloting a recon helicopter when he realized that Lt. Calley and the men of Charlie company where out of control and were killing Vietnamese civilians by the hundreds. Mr. Thompson set his helicopter down between a group of Vietnamese civilians and his own US troops. He ordered his door gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta to aim their own weapons at the US soldiers and kill them if they continued the massacre. Thompson’s crew covered him as Thompson confronted the US troops and shamed them into stopping the slaughter. The three men were eventually awarded the Soldier’s Medal. Andreotta received the medal posthumously as he was killed in action three weeks after My Lai. Mr. Thompson appeared in the BBC documentary "Four Hours at My Lai."
SUZANNE WILKIE Died Jan. 6, 2006
Singer Suzanne Wilkie died at age 83. Ms. Wilkie was a member of the Los Angeles Master Choir. She provided the singing voice for Rosiland Russell in the Hayley Mills comedy "The Trouble With Angels." Ms. Wilkie’s singing voice can be heard in such films as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Damien: The Omen II."
LEONARD J. SOUTH Died Jan. 6, 2006
Cinematographer Leonard J. South died of pneumonia at age 92. Mr. South was also suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Leonard South was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s regular collaborators. He began working for Hitchcock as a camera operator in the days when cinematographer Robert Burks oversaw the photography of Hitchcock’s films. Mr. South was hired as the cinematographer on Hitchcock’s final film "Family Plot." Mr. South was the camera operator on the best films made by Alfred Hitchcock. He personally shot two of Hitch’s most famous scenes: the crop-duster attack in "North By Northwest" and the final attack on Tippi Hedron by "The Birds." Mr. Souths Hitchcock credits include "Strangers on a Train," "Dial M for Murder," "Rear Window," "To Catch a Thief," "The Trouble With Harry," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Vertigo," "North by Northwest," "Psycho," "The Birds," "Marnie," "Torn Curtain," "Frenzy" and "Family Plot." Mr. South appears as himself in some of the Making Of documentaries found on the new 15 DVD "Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection."
Mr. South worked as a camera operator for other directors also. He worked on such films as "Hondo," "Houseboat" and "The Cincinnati Kid." In 1968, Mr. South moved up and began his career as a cinematographer. He shot "Hang ‘Em High," Clint Eastwood’s first post-Sergio Leone Western. Rod Serling called on Mr. South to lens nearly 20 "Night Gallery" episodes. Most of Mr. South’s work from 1970 on was in TV. He shot a number of Made for TV movies as well as such TV series like "Designing Women" and "The Rockford Files." Mr. Smith did work on the occasional feature film such as Disney’s "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo" and "The North Avenue Irregulars." Mr. South served his country in the US Army Air Force during WWII.
GREG SCANLON Died Jan. 6, 2006
Director/producer Greg Scanlon died at age 53. Mr. Scanlon wrote and directed the 1994 indie film "Shelter From the Storm." Mr. Scanlon shared his love for the craft with film students as a teacher at USC. Mr. Scanlon later founded Filmworks Laboratory, which was designed to help first time filmmakers with post production. He recently sold Filmworks in order to concentrate on producing films. Mr. Scanlon produced such films as "Role of a Lifetime" starring Scott Bakula, "Intoxicating" with John Savage and Eric Roberts and "Jimmy and Judy" starring Edward Furlong.
JIM ZULEVIC Died Jan. 7, 2006
Comedic actor Jim Zulevic collapsed Saturday in Chicago and died of as yet undisclosed causes. The Second City alumni was 40 years old. Mr. Zulevic appeared in several films including "Matchstick Men." His TV credits include the final episode of "Seinfeld." He wrote for the TV series "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
HEINRICH HARRER Died Jan. 7, 2006
Mountaineer and author Heinrich Harrer died at age 93. Mr. Harrer wrote the book "Seven Years in Tibet" about his experiences in the Himalayas. Mr. Harrer was a Nazi captured by the British during WWII during a failed attempt by a Nazi paramilitary group to climb Mount Naga Parbat. He escaped the POW camp and made his way to Tibet. He became a friend and tutor of the Dalai Lama. Mr. Harrer’s book was turned into a film. Brad Pitt starred as Mr. Harrer. Mr. Harrer himself starred in a 1956 documentary version of his book. The 1956 documentary was nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.
JOHN BAER Died Jan. 7, 2006
I haven’t seen the film in over 30 years. I’m not sure if I want to see it today. I would hate to ruin one of my favorite childhood memories by revisiting "The Night of the Blood Beast." I’m afraid that if I were to watch the movie today, I could not look back in fondness on how much the movie scared the crap out of me when I was in elementary school. Actor John Baer starred in the American International Pictures production. Mr. Baer played an astronaut who returned to earth dead, but alive. And also pregnant! Damned inventive those horny space aliens. Mr. Baer is pictured at right with the title monster. John Baer died at age 82. The prolific character actor appeared in over 50 films and TV shows. He later went into the real estate business. He appeared in such films and TV shows "Superman and the Mole Men," "Terry and the Pirates," "Wanted Dead or Alive," "77 Sunset Strip" and "Leave it to Beaver." He played JFK in a 1957 Made for TV version of "PT 109."
JAMES ECHERD Died Jan. 7, 2006
Costume designer James Echerd died at age 45 after a lengthy illness. Mr. Echerd’s many credits include "Sordid Lives," "Sarah Plain and Tall: Skylark" and "Robin Cook's Virus."
STUART QUAN Died Jan. 8, 2006
Stuntman, actor and martial arts teacher Stuart Quan died of undisclosed causes at age 43. Mr. Quan was returning home from a snow-boarding trip in California when he lost consciousness. Paramedics could not revive him. Mr. Quan worked as an actor in such films as "Big Trouble in Little China," "Lethal Weapon 4," "Dragnet" and "License to Kill." He did stunt work in a number of films including "We Were Soldiers," "Rapid Fire," "Windtalkers," "Escape From L.A." and "Collateral." Mr. Quan operated a martial arts studio in Fresno, California. Mr. Quan was a nationally-ranked Forms Champion in the 1980s. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
ARNOLD ALBERT Death announced Jan. 8, 2006
Former producer/director Arnold Albert died at age 93 after a lengthy illness. Mr. Albert directed and produced several films during the 1940s. His credits include "The Man I Love," "Road to Victory," "Devil Boats," "Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys" and "Coney Island Honeymoon." Mr. Albert retired from the film industry to join his wife in a successful fashion business.
PHILIP HETOS Died Jan. 8, 2006
Color timer Philip Hetos died of cancer at age 73. Mr. Hetos spent 53 years in the film industry and worked on over 200 films. How important is a color timer? Ask any cinematographer that question and you will probably hear the words "very important, but don’t tell anyone!" A color timer is the person who makes sure the color matches from shot to shot in a movie. The color timer is part chemist, part alchemist and all artist. Conrad Hall won the Oscar for Best Cinematography for "American Beauty." There’s not a person out there who can say the award wasn’t deserved. What rich colors and beautiful images. Phil Hetos was the man in the lab making sure that the colors matched. Mr. Hetos was the first color timer to receive screen credit. Among his many films are Brian De Palma’s "Scarface," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia," "Sea of Love," "The Rainmaker," "The Firm," "Stargate" and "Independence Day."
GARY RHINE Died Jan. 9, 2006
Documentary filmmaker Gary Rhine died in a single engine plane crash early Monday afternoon. The 54-year-old filmmaker was also a flight instructor. Mr. Rhine and his unidentified student were killed in Lancaster, California. Mr. Rhine wrote, produced and directed a number of documentary films, which focused on the plight of Native Americans. His films include "Wiping the Tears of Seven Generations," "The Peyote Road," "The Red Road to Sobriety" and "Your Humble Serpent." His thought-provoking films have won nearly 30 films at Film Festival the world over. Mr. Rhine was one of the original settlers in and founders of The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. The Farm is one of the country’s oldest working communes. Mr. Rhine lived at The Farm for 13 years. Mr. Rhine was married to Irene Romero-Rhine. The couple owned their production company Kifaru Productions. Mrs. Romero-Rhine produced the feature film "Follow Me Home." She was also responsible for financing a number of well-known films including "Braveheart," "Midnight Clear" and "What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?" Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
DON STEWART Died Jan. 9, 2006
Actor Don Stewart died at age 70. Mr. Stewart was battling both lung cancer and aplastic anemia. Mr. Stewart was best known for playing Michael Bauer for 16 years on the Soap Opera "The Guiding Light." Mr. Stewart played Springfield’s leading lawyer on "The Guiding Light" between 1968 through 1984. He came back for one last season in 1997. His other film and TV credits include "Anmerican Ninja," "Santa Barbara," "The Young and the Restless," "War and Remembrance," "L.A. Law," "JAG" and "The X-Files." Mr. Stewart served his country in the USAF and the AF Reserve. At the time of his service, he was the youngest crew commander in the Strategic Air Command. He flew the B-47 Stratojet.
DENNIS MARKS Died Jan. 10, 2006
Writer/producer Dennis Marks died of pancreatic cancer at age 73. Mr. Marks wrote "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" as well as "The Jetsons: The Movie." He was a prolific writer for animated TV shows during the 1960s and beyond. Mr. Marks worked on such TV series as "Josie and the Pussycats," "The Beatles," "Spider Man and His Amazing Friends" and many others. Mr. Marks also provided the voice of The Gree Goblin in the "Spider Man" cartoons. Mr. Marks was a producer on the TV series "Wonderama" during the 1970s.
JOHN MACKIN Died Jan. 10, 2006
Canadian actor and radio announcer John Mackin died at age 84. Mr. Mackin began his radio career in 1945. In addition to his success on radio, Mr. Mackin appeared in a number of popular Canadian TV shows during the 1950s and 60s. His credits include the feature film "The Far Country" as well as the TV series "Forest Rangers," "Wojeck" and "Front Page Challenge." Mr. Mackin served his country in the Royal Canadian Navy and saw combat during WWII.
MAE GIRACI Died Jan. 10, 2006
Mae Giraci was discovered by Cecile B. Demille. He cast the child in two of his films: the 1918 film "Till I Come Back to You" and 1929’s "The Godless Girl." "The Godless Girl" was Ms. Giraci’s final film. Ms. Giraci also worked with director William C. de Mille, the older brother of Cecil B. DeMille. The older brother kept the original family spelling of their name. Ms. Giraci appeared in three films directed by brother William. She played young Meriem in the 1920 serial "Son of Tarzan." Ms. Giraci appeared in "The Fall of a Nation," the sequel to D.W. Griffith’s "The Birth of a Nation." The sequel was directed by Thomas F. Dixon, the author of both books "The Birth of a Nation" and "The Fall of a Nation." Mae Giraci died 12 days shy of her 96th birthday.
NOTE: Once again, I will defer to the expertise and knowledge of filmmaker and writer Austin Mutti-Mewse. I wrote Mr. Mewse to see if he could confirm Ms. Giraci's passing. Being the helpful chap that he is, Austin wrote back with another of his wonderful and indepth tributes. My thanks to the director of the documentary "I Used to Be In Pictures" for letting me share his words with you.
Mia Giraci was thought to be the last known survivor among the personal friends and co-stars to Rudolph Valentino and one of the few actresses to have attended the first Academy Awards at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929. Mia Giraci, whose death was only made public, in March has died in Los Angles aged 96 in January. Her beauty was recognized at an early age when discovered playing on a Hollywood street ninety-two years ago by the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille. She was the last of the director/producers contract players, appearing in his monumental silent epics of the 1910s, including ‘Captive’ (1914), co-starring Blanche Sweet and the adaptation of JM Barrie’s ‘Male and Female’ (1919), in which Gloria Swanson, as a spoilt rich society women gets a reality check after she becomes shipwrecked with her butler (played by Thomas Meighan.)
Mia Giraci’s, whose original stage name was Tina Rossi, made a total of twenty-five films all of which were silent. Seventy-nine years after the advent of sound in the cinema, Giraci hazard a guess why she made it in movies when so many other child actors disappeared. "Even at the tender age of four I seemed to know what was right and wrong," she said. "I had strong opinions on who was good and who wasn’t. Later on I realized that under the thin surface of gloss in Hollywood there was much dross. I wasn’t naïve like my playmates Madge Evans and Mary Miles Minter. I knew that most men were wicked and wanted their way with you."
She was born Mae Georgia Giraci in Los Angeles in 1910. Her parents Santo Giraci and Anna De Nubila were Italian immigrants and ran a moderately successful eatery. Mia Giraci’s uncle was one of the founders of the famed Hollywood boulevard restaurant Musso & Franks, still the best steak house in Tinsel Town.
Giraci’s debut into the acting world was an uncomplicated one. Just hours after she was spotted playing with friends outside her Grandmothers home, Mia Giraci found herself in front of the camera and facing a bevy of film technicians, the director Francis Powers and her Grandmother who was given a seat next to the director and urged to make her grandchild laugh and cry in all the right places.
"My parents were delighted that I should have been plucked from obscurity," said Mia Giraci. "They were very welcoming of film folk and often cooked for them after shooting each day." A handful of Mia Giraci’s film appearances had her billed just below the title an impressive feat for someone so young. She was four years old when she debuted in ‘The Crest of Van Endheim’ (1914), and six when billed above Dorothy Gish and Elmo Lincoln in ‘Children of the Feud’ (1916).
Mia Giraci was fair with wide eyes and cupid bow lips; all tremendous assets for a child wanting to make it in silent films of the time. She was believable in comedies like Anita Loo’s ‘A Daughter of the Poor’ (1916), starring Carmel Myers and Bessie Love, was dramatic as Marcia Mannon’s daughter Tessa Riccardo in William DeMille’s ‘One More American’ (1917) and headlined in director Clifford Smith’s western ‘Untamed’ (1917).
In 1919, she starred in one of the first of the screen adaptations of Edgar Rice Burrows ‘Tarzan’. The film ‘Son of Tarzan’ (released in 1920) starred the now forgotten actor P. Dempsey Tabler in the lead and Manilla Martan as Jane. Filming was manly conducted on location in Florida and in the hills above Mulholland Drive on land that now houses mansions belonging to Jack Nicholson and the late Marlon Brando.
The same year Mia Giraci starred in ‘The Cheater’ with May Allison and befriended a handsome film extra working under the name of Rodolph Valentino. "He became a friend of my parents and I," said Mia Giraci. "Rudolph Valentino was kind to me and we’d play with my dolls together whilst my mother prepared great tasting Italian dishes for us to feast on." The friends were reunited for ‘Once to every Woman’ (1920), which had Valentino, in a featured part and billed for the first time as Rudolph Valentino.
Mia Giraci and Rudolph Valentino went on to star in the crime drama ‘The Wonderful Chance’ (1920). She was Little Annie, the daughter of a traveling preacher in ‘The Faith Healer’ (1921) and shared top billing with Priscilla Dean in ‘Reputation (1921).
The following year Mia Giraci’s parents faced prosecution by the Los Angles authorities for allowing their daughter to miss out on an education in favor of well paid film work. Although no action was taken Mia Giraci did curtail filming and enrolled in school.
She did make the occasional film appearances notably director Frank Borzage’s ‘Secrets’ (1924) with Norma Talmadge and Alice Day and Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘The Godless Girl’ (1929) starring Lina Basquette.
She did try a comeback after completing education at Hollywood High School. The film world had moved on however and it appeared that Mia Giraci had been all too quickly forgotten. She was now grown up and grateful for five dollars a day as an extra as she needed the money. When she did get a bit it was never for the role of the popular friend of the heroine instead she play homely young things. "I stood on a film set and there along side me was the former Baby stars Jean Darling, Mary Kornman, Baby Marie Osborne and Baby Peggy. None of us were unattractive but we couldn’t get the work."
With the advent of the talkies, Mia Giraci invested money in having photos taken of herself as a promising ingénue. When she went to collect and pay for the pictures a middle aged clerk handed them over and said "How does it feel to be a has been?" She threw the photos away and despite the odd bit never worked again.
Mia Giraci married Herman C. Platz in May 1931. "Ours was a happy marriage as he understood. Growing up in Hollywood as a child star isn’t normal and when it fades so many of us hit the bottle and become addicted to drugs. Genuine love and affection isn’t taken seriously either as in Hollywood it’s a way of trying to seduce you into bed."
Mia Giraci death occurred at the beginning of the year however was was only made public on April 3rd. She is survived by three children Ralph, Howard, Carole.
JESSE CRYOR Died Jan. 11, 2006
Singer and vaudevillian Jesse Cryor died of congestive heart failure and kidney failure at age 99. Mr. Cryor played Vaudeville houses and major theaters during the 1920s and 30s. He also recorded with his band Jesse Cryor and the Rambling Rascals during the 1940s He retired from showbiz 55 years ago! One of Mr. Cryor’s many claims to fame is that he provided the singing voice for the character Br’er Rabbit on the song "Everybody Has a Laughing Place" in Disney’s unjustly exiled film "Song of the South." It is sad to think that the only remaining place that you could probably hear the singing voice of one of America’s last Black Vaudevillians is in a movie that will probably never see the light of day again. So many Black American artists have left us legacy of rich performances. Many of these performances are in films and TV shows that are now considered politically incorrect. Rather than give people the credit of being enlightened enough to realize the historical context in which these older films were made the PC police have decided that we can’t see certain material. Shame.
NORMAN SHELLY Died Jan. 11, 2006
Actor turned psychologist Norman Shelly died at age 84. Mr. Shelly was a prolific Broadway actor. He originated the roles of Nana and the Crocodile on Broadway in the 1954 production of "Peter Pan." Mary Martin starred in the title role. The production ran for 152 performances at the Winter Garden Theater. Mr. Shelly was also a stage manager on several Broadway plays. His film and TV credits include "Mannix," "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Made for Each Other" and the 1960 TV version of "Peter Pan" starring Mary Martin. Mr. Shelly became a psychoanalyst later in life.
ANNE MEACHUM Died Jan. 12, 2006
Award-winning stage actress Anne Meachum died at age 80. Ms. Meachun appeared in a number of plays written by Tennessee Williams. In 1958, Ms. Meachum originated the role of Catherine Holly in Mr. Williams’ controversial play "Suddenly Last Summer." The following year Elizabeth Taylor played the part in the film version. Ms. Meachum won her first of Two Obie Awards for her part in the play. Ms. Meahcum was primarily a stage actress, but she did make the occasional film and TV appearance. Fans of the Soap Opera "Another World" will remember Ms. Meachum for her ten-year-run as Louise Goddard Brooks. Ms. Meachum appeared in Robert Rossen’s film "Lilith," playing opposite such heavy-weights as Warren Beatty, Kim Hunter, Jean Seberg, Gene Hackman, Peter Fonda and Jessica Walter.
BRENDAN CAULDWELL Died Jan. 12, 2006
Irish actor Brendan Cauldwell died in his sleep at age 83. Mr. Cauldwell was well-known in his native land. His acting career encompassed film, TV, the stage and radio. Mr. Cauldwell appeared in a number if international films. His credits include Ron Howard’s "Far and Away," Alan Parker’s "Angela’s Ashes," Ralph Nelson’s "Flight of the Doves," "Ulysses," "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
ELDON DEDINI Died Jan. 12, 2006
Cartoonist Eldon Dedini died of esophageal cancer at age 84. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Dedini’s cartoons since the mid 1960s. Ever since I sneaked my first peak at the Playboy magazines my older brother Vic had hidden under his mattress, I’ve enjoyed Mr. Dedini’s work. His voluptuous women and horny satyrs were a regular event in Hefner’s popular magazine. They say he also did cartoons for The New Yorker, but I couldn’t have told you whether that was true back in the 1960s. As I got older, I did discover Mr. Dedini’s other work. However, as is often the case, your first love holds the best memories. Mr. Dedini began his career as a storyboard artist. He worked for Disney and Universal. He was a writer and storyboard artist on Disney’s 1947 short film "Fun and Fancy Free." That film included the first version of "Mickey and the Beanstalk."
STU LINDER Died Jan. 12, 2006
Oscar-winning film editor Stu Linder died of a heart attack at age 72. Mr. Linder was on location for the film "Man of the Year" with frequent collaborator Barry Levinson when he passed away. Mr. Linder has edited nearly every one of Barry Levinson’s films since "Diner." He was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA for editing Levinson’s "Rain Man." Mr. Linder’s peers in the American Cinema Editors awarded him the Eddy Award for "Rain Man." He actually tied with "Mississippi Burning" editor Gary Hambling for the award that year. Stu Linder won the Oscar as part of the team that edited the 1966 racing film "Grand Prix." Mr. Linder began his career as an assistant editor on one of the best sci-fi films of all time "Seconds." He also was an assistant editor on Mike Nichols’ films "Catch-22," "Day of the Dolphin" and "Carnal Knowledge." Mr. Linder was also the film editor on Mike Nichols’ comedy "The Fortune." He worked with director Tony Bill on "My Bodyguard" and "Six Weeks." The bulk of Mr. Linder’s career was as Barry Levinson’s film editor. His credits with Mr. Levinson are impressive. They are "Avalon," "Bandits," Bugsy," "Diner," "Disclosure," "Envy," "An Everlasting Peace," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Liberty Heights," "The Natural," "Rain Man, Sleepers," "Sphere," "Tin Men," "Toys," "Wag the Dog" and "Young Sherlock Holmes." Mr. Linder served his country in the US Army during the Korean War.
NORRIS SPENCER Died Jan. 12, 2006
Production designer Norris Spencer died of pneumonia at age 62. Mr. Spencer served as production designer for director Ridley Scott on the films "Thelma & Louise," "Black Rain," "1492: Conquest of Paradise" and "Hannibal." He began his career working on commercials with brothers Ridley and Tony Scott. Workinh with the Scotts was a tradition with Mr. Norris. He was the production designer on Tony Scott’s "Spy Game." He worked with Ridley Scott’s son director Jake Scott on the film "Plunkett & Macleane." Not all of his work was for the Scott family. Director Lindsay Anderson used him on the comedy "Britannia Hospital." His last film was the Nicolas Cage actiom thriller "National Treasure." The picture at right is a screen capture from Mr. Norris’ appearance in the "National Treasure On Location" documentary. His work in his final film was worthy of professional recognition, especially for his design of the catacombs for the film’s finale.
RICHARD NEWTON Died Jan. 13, 2006
Actor/producer/director Richard Newton died at age 79. The cause of death wasn’t disclosed. Mr. Newton was best known for his recurring role as Judge Cooksey on the Andy Griffth TV series "Matlock." Mr. Newton worked primarily on TV. He acted in TV series dating back to the 1950s. His many acting credits include "Zane Gray Theater," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Hallmark Hall of Fame," "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" and "The A-Team." Mr. Newton was a successful TV producer working for Aaron Spelling Productions. His producer credits include "Hawaii 5-O," "Burke’s Law," "Honey West" and "Felony Squad." Mr. Newton also produced several Made for TV movies including "Run, Simon Run," "The Concrete Cowboys" and "If Tomorrow Comes." Mr. Newton directed some episodic TV including "The Rookies" and "Emergency!"
JUSTINE JOHNSON Died Jan. 13, 2006
Broadway actress Justine Johnson died of a stroke at age 84. Ms. Johnson was in the original 1971 cast of Stephen Sondheim’s musical "Follies." Ms. Johnson’s final stage show was in a 2002 revival of "Follies," which starred Patty Duke, Carol Lawrence and Stella Stevens. Ms. Johnson appeared in eight Broadway plays in addition to her numerous off-Broadway, regional and touring company performances. Ms. Johnson’s film credits include "Arthur," "9 ½ Weeks" and the powerful River Phoenix movie "Running on Empty."
LITA RECIO Died Jan. 13, 2006
French actress Lita Recio died of natural causes at age 99. Ms. Recio began acting in the 1930s. She appeared in a handful of films before and after WWII including the classic crime caper "Rififi." Ms. Recio is best known for her voice work. She was a prolific voice actress who provided the French voice to hundreds of US actresses. Ms. Recio was the voice of Agnes Moorehead’s character Endora in the French broadcast of the TV series "Bewitched." She dubbed Ann Sheridan’s voice in "I Was a Male War Bride." Ms. Recio provided the voices to many Disney films released in France. She was the evil queen in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," Cruella De Ville in "101 Dalmations," Ms. Mim in "The Sword in the Stone." Other live-action dubbing included Barbara Stanwick's voice in "Sorry, Wrong Number," Marlene Dietrich in "Witness For the Prosecution" and Bette Davis in "Death on the Nile."
SHELLEY WINTERS Died Jan. 14, 2006
One of the last true Movie Stars is gone. Multi-Oscar-winning actress Shelley Winters died of heart failure at age 85. Shelley Winters was nominated for three Best Supporting Actress Oscars and a one Best Actress Oscar (A Place in the Sun) during her lengthy career. She won two Best Supporting Actress Oscars for her performances in "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "A Patch of Blue." Ms. Winters’ third Supporting Actress nomination was for the disaster flick "The Poseidon Adventure." In addition to her Oscars, Ms. Winters’ work has been honored by the BAFTA (2 nominations), Emmy (3 nominations with 1 win), Golden Globe (6 nominations with 1 win), Laurel (3 wins) and David di Donatelo (1 win) Awards.
Shelley Winters was what was once known as great broad. Sure, she had great talent as an actress. She also had a lust for life…and she didn’t mind talking about it either! Her gift of gab made Shelley Winters on of the most popular guest on Johnny Carson’s "Tonight Show." Ms. Winters was also the author of two best-selling tell-all autobiographies "Shelley, Also Known as Shirley" and "Shelley II: The Middle of My Century."
Shelley Winters appeared in over 200 films and TV shows during her lifetime. She started out in bit parts during the 1940s. She appeared in such films as "Red River," "Winchester ’73," "A Double Life," "The Great Gatsby" and "Larceny." Things changed for Ms. Winters in 1951. She co-starred with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in George Steven’s classic "A Place in the Sun." Ms. Winters received a Best Actress Oscar nomination as the woman Montgomery Clift murders so he can be with Elizabeth Taylor.
Her Oscar nomination opened up a number of doors for Ms. Winters. The well-deserved nomination proved that Shelley Winters was more than just a sexpot. Most of her previous film roles had played up her curves. In "A Place in the Sun" Shelley Winters shed her makeup and sexy image and became a frump. This one film showed that she could also play character roles. The roles kept coming. In the 1950s, Shelley Winters turned in memorable roles in several great movies. Two of my personal favorites are from this era. She played the doomed mother in the Charles Laughton directed gothic horror film "Night of the Hunter." I can’t tell you how many nightmares I had as a child trying to shake the image of Shelley Winters tied to the front seat of her car, with her throat slit, setting at the bottom of the river. Much was made of the opening scene of David Lynch’s "Blue Velvet," in that it exposed the hidden under-belly of suburbia. Shelley Winter’s death scene in "Night of the Hunter" accomplished the same thing when David Lynch was still in grade school. Ms. Winters also co-starred in Robert Wise’s gritty crime thriller "Odds Against Tomorrow." The taut little film is so much more than just a bank robbery film. I highly recommend it. While Shelley Winters started off the 1950s with an Oscar nomination, she ended the decade with an Oscar win as Best Supporting Actress in "The Diary of Anne Frank."
Her artistic success continued in the 1960s. Shelley Winters was able to portray people we didn’t really like in such a way that we never transferred our dislike to the actress herself. She brought out the subtleties of such characters. Director Stanley Kubrick used this talent to great effect in his dark 1962 comedy "Lolita." Ms. Winters was able to use both her great talent as an actress and her natural sexiness to play the sex-starved mother of Sue Lyons’ title character. That same year, Ms. Winters played another sex-starved wife in George Cukor’s cheesy "The Chapman Report." She won her second Oscar in the 1965 film "A Patch of Blue." Other notable films from the 1960s include "Harper," "Alfie," "Wild in the Streets" and "The Young Savages."
My favorite period for Ms. Winters’ films was the 1970s. This should be no surprise to folks who know what a B-Movie and horror film fan I am. A few years back, I had the pleasure of interviewing director Curtis Harrington. Shelley Winters starred in two of his best films: "Who Slew Auntie Roo?" and "What’s the Matter With Helen?" In fact, you can get both movies on one of the MGM Midnight Double Feature DVDs! A great investment of $14.00! Ms. Winters started the decade with Roger Corman’s gangster biopic "Bloody Mama." Ms. Winters chewed up the scenery as Ma Barker. A Young Robert DeNiro played her drug addict son. The movie is great white-trash fun. In 1972, Ms. Winters earned her fourth and final Oscar nomination as Jack Albertson’s wife in "The Poseidon Adventure." The rest of the decade was a lot like Ms. Winters entire career. She worked in A-list films ("Blume in Love" "King of the Gypsies"), B-movie exploitation ("Cleopatra Jones" "The Visitor"), Art and Indie films (Roman Polanski’s "The Tenant" "Next Stop, Greenwich Village") and Family films (Pete’s Dragon). Shelley Winters could do it all. She also wasn’t afraid to work. She brought a sense of professionalism to many projects that some would deem as beneath her. To me, that is the definition of class. Being from Memphis, I have to say that I really enjoyed Ms. Winters as Gladys Presley in John Carpenter’s excellent Made for TV biopic "Elvis."
For my money, the last film she appeared in that was worthy of her talent was Blake Edward’s "S.O.B." That was 1981. Shelley Winters continued to work steady after that. She was great as Rosanne’s grandmother on the TV series "Rosanne." Her ex-husbands include Italian director Vittorio Gassman and actor Tony Franciosa.
HENRI COLPI Died Jan. 14, 2006
Award-winning writer/director/editor Henri Colpi died at age 84. Mr. Colpi was a film journalist and critic in the 1940s and 50s. His 1961 film "The Long Absence" was nominated for awards at Cannes, the BAFTAs and Kinema Junpo Awards. Mr. Colpi won the Golden Palm at Cannes as well as Best Foreign Film and Best Director at the Japanese Kinema Junpo Awards for "The Long Absence." In 1963, Mr. Kolpi was again honored at Cannes. This time he won the Best Screenplay award for his film "Codine." Mr. Colpi worked as a film editor with several noted directors. Mr. Colpi edited Charlie Chaplin’s last film as an actor/director "A King in New York." He edited Alain Resnais’ Oscar nominated films "Last Year at Marienbad" and "Hiroshima Mon Amour." Mr. Colpi was the sound recordist on Resnais’ powerful Holocaust documentary "Night and Fog." Mr. Colpi also was the sound editor Henri-Georges Clouzot’s award-winning documentary "The Mystery of Picasso." Mr. Colpi was nominated for an Emmy for editing the TV series "The Cousteau Odyssey." He also edited the wonderful, multi-award-winning Swedish film "The Sacrifice." Mr. Colpi was also an accomplished director. His most popular film was the Omar Shariff version of "Mysterious Island."
ERNO NEUFELD Died Jan. 14, 2006
Erno Neufeld’s name doesn’t appear in the credits of a single movie that I have been able to discover. If you’ve seen a movie made in the last 50 years, the chances are that you’ve heard Mr. Neufeld’s masterful violin playing. Erno Neufeld worked on hundreds of films and TV shows as well as hundreds of records. He worked with such artists as Sinatra, The Monkees, Ella Fitgerald, Peggy Lee. Percy Faith, Desi Arnez and Bobby Darin. Numerous film composers including Lalo Schifrin, Henry Mancini called on Mr. Neufeld to help bring their compositions to life. Some of the films that feature Mr. Neufeld on the soundtrack include "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," "Hatari," "Enter the Dragon," "Roots," "The Fox," "Che!," "The Master Gunfighter," "Once a Thief," "The Cincinnati Kid" and "The NBC Mystery Movie."
BUD FREEMAN Died Jan. 14, 2006
Veteran TV writer Bud Freeman died at age 80. Mr. Freeman wrote for a number of TV series including a personal favorite: "Nichols," which starred James Garner as a motorcycle riding sheriff in turn-of-the-century New Mexico. Mr. Freeman also wrote for "Lou Grant," "My Three Sons," "Hawaii 5-0," "Room 222" and "Anna and the King." Mr. Freeman wrote and produced the unsold pilot "Hello Mother, Goodbye!" The comedy pilot starred Bette Davis and frequent Mel Brooks actor Kenneth Mars.
DOUGLAS HINES Died Jan. 16, 2006
Multi-Emmy-winning editor Douglas Hines died at age 82. Mr. Hines was nominated for eight Emmy Awards for the TV series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Cheers" and "The Tracey Ullman Show." He won four Emmy Awards: twice each for the series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Tracey Ullman Show." His peers at the American Cinema Editors guild nominated him three times for an Eddie for his work on "Cheers." Though he worked primarily on episodic TV, Mr. Hines edited the Made for TV biopic "Little Mo," which starred Glynnis O’Connor as tennis great Maureen Connolly.
SHANTAKUMARI Died Jan. 18, 2006
Veteran Indian actress Shantakumari died of diabetes at age 85. Shantakumari appeared in Tamil and Teluga language films. She was also a noted singer. Shantakumari began her film career in the 1930s. She began as a singer and eventually became a respected character actress who specialized in playing mothers.
NORM MCCABE Died Jan. 18, 2006
The last of the great Warner Brothers animators has died. Norm McCabe died at age 94. While his work never received the praise and recognition that other WB animators such as Fritz Freiling, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and others did, Norm McCabe was a solid animator and a fine director. Norm McCabe had the bad-luck to be in charge of a division the only made Black and White cartoons. Mr. McCabe also got some flack for his wartime propaganda cartoons like "Tokio Jokio" and "The Ducktators." Mr. McCabe left Warner Brothers to fight in WWII. After the war, Mr. McCabe would not return to Warners for nearly 40 years. Mr. McCabe worked as an animator during the 1960s and beyond. Mr. McCabe only directed a handful of shorts during his pre-WWII tenure at Warner Brothers. The bulk of his prolific work was as an animator. In 2000 Mr. McCabe received the Winsor McCay Award. It is one of the highest awards given to animators. The award is named after Winsor McCay, the creator of "Little Nemo." Mr. McCabe also received the Golden Award from the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists in recognition of 50 years work in the animation field.
WILSON PICKETT Died Jan. 18, 2006
Soul and Rock singer Wilson Pickett died of a heart attack at age 64. Mr. Pickett had a string of hits that included "Mustang Sally," "In the Midnight Hour," "Funky Broadway" and the best version of "The Land of 1000 Dances" ever recorded. Pickett’s version of "The Land of 1000 Dances" appears on the soundtracks of such films as "Forest Gump" and "The Full Monty." Mr. Pickett appeared in the films "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Blues Brothers 2000," "Save the Children," "Soul to Soul" and "Immaculate Funk."
ANTHONY FRANCIOSA Died Jan. 19, 2006
Oscar-nominated actor Anthony Franciosa died of a stroke at age 77. Mr. Franciosa died five days after his Oscar-winning ex-wife Shelley Winters. Tony Franciosa burst onto the entertainment scene with a Tony-nominated performance as Polo Pope, the brother of a heroin addict in Michael Gazzo’s powerful play "A Hatful of Rain." In 1957, Mr. Franciosa recreated the role in the film version. He received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance, but lost to Sir Alec Guiness for "The Bridge on the River Kwai."
As a kid, I always enjoyed watching Tony Franciosa. I thought he was cool. My first memory of his work was as the mastermind behind the hijacking of a luxury liner in "Assault on a Queen." Granted, I haven’t seen the film since 1968, and couldn’t tell you how it stands up. What I can say is that I thought it was a cool movie when I was a kid. I remember rooting for Franciosa’s character to get away with the crime and how upset I was that he didn’t make it. In fact, when I heard that Tony Franciosa had died, that memory was the first thing that flashed across my memory. A minor film in a career that included some great films. Maybe the reason that Mr. Franciosa stood out in "Assault on a Queen" was that he had a dangerous screen persona. He was intense. That intensity eventually hamstrung his career. In later years, Mr. Franciosa was able to reflect on earlier mistakes and put things in perspective. I guess that’s what you call wisdom.
Mr. Franciosa starred in one of Italian horror master Dario Argento’s best films. "Tenebre" is a twisted, kinky tale of a serial murderer who is killing anyone involved with an American writer played by Franciosa. The film contains some of Argento’s best set pieces. It also includes what I think is his greatest plot twist. The following year Mr. Franciosa followed "Tenebre" with the truly disturbing and little seen "Julie Darling."
Tony Franciosa’s film career got off to an impressive start. He made his debut in the Robert Wise comedy "This Could Be the Night" opposite Jean Simmons. He delivered a great performance as a sleaze-bag agent in the classic "A Face in the Crowd." Of course, his sleaze-bag performance was overshadowed by the star Andy Griffith’s performance as the ultimate sleazebag Lonesome Rhodes. Mr. Franciosa’s third film was the film version of "A Hatful of Rain." That performance resulted in Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and a win for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. Mr. Franciosa would later receive two more Golden Globe nominations as Best Actor in a Movie Drama, winning in 1959 for his work in "Career."
Mr. Franciosa continued to receive star-grooming roles. He co-starred in George Cukor’s "Wild is the Wind." He held his own opposite Paul Newman, Orson Welles, Joanne Woodward, Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury in Martin Ritt’s "The Long, Hot Summer." Mr. Franciosa’s character was easy to hate, but also easy to pity. In the mid 1960s, Tony Franciosa branched out and began to work on TV. His 1966 TV pilot "Fame is the Name of the Game" was picked up two years later as the TV series "The Name of the Game." He co-starred with Robert Stack and Gene Barry. In 1971, Mr. Franciosa was fired from the series. They say he butted heads with folks. He said as much himself later on in his life. Plato said the unexamined life isn’t worth living. I guess to really examine all that life has to offer, you have to butt heads now and then. I think that trait made for more interesting performances. If I had ever had the chance to speak with Tony Franciosa, I would have wanted to thank him for trying to bring something extra to each part he played. Intense man, intense.
GARY DOWNIE Died Jan. 19, 2006
Production manager Gary Downie died after a lengthy battle with cancer. Mr. Downie is best known for his work on the sci-fi cult TV series "Dr. Who." Other credits include "All Creatures Great and Small," "Star Cops" and "The Few Doctors."
FRANZ SEITZ JR. Died Jan. 19, 2006
German writer/producer/director Franz Seitz Jr. died at age 85. Mr. Seitz was the son of German film director Franz Seitz Sr. The son’s film career surpassed that of his father. His biggest success came as the producer and co-writer of "The Tin Drum." The disturbing film won the Best Foreign Film Oscar as well as the Palm d’Or at Cannes. Mr. Seitz produced over 40 films during his career, many of which he wrote. He also directed a handful of films.
KENNETH HEELY-RAY Died Jan. 19, 2006
Award-winning sound editor Kenneth Heeley-Ray died at age 89. Mr. Heeley-Ray was born in Wales but adopted Canada as his homeland. Kenneth Heeley-Ray’s work as a sound editor earned him ten nominations for Canada’s highest film award. Those ten nominations include four wins. He was also honored with the Genie Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. Mr. Heeley-Ray won the Canadian Film Award twice for Best Sound Editing (Feature Film) for "A Place to Stand" and the 70s horror classic "Black Christmas." In 1980, the Canadian Film Awards were renamed the Genie Awards. Mr. Heeley-Ray won two Genie Awards for Sound Editing and Best Overall Sound for the unique "Quest for Fire." What Mr. Heeley-Ray achieved in "Black Christmas" was the beginning of my appreciation of sound as a character in movies. Bob Clark’s 1974 horror film utilizes sound to push the characters (and viewers) to the edge of madness. Sure, sound has always been important to horror films, but there was something different about the use of sound in "Black Christmas." It was subtle…and terrifying. Check it out the next time you get the chance. Keeneth Heeley-Ray had a long working relationship with director Bob Clark. They worked on ten films together including "Turk 182," "Porky’s," "Tribute," "Rhinestone," "Murder by Decree" and "A Christmas Story." Among Mr. Heeley-Rays other impressive credits are such films as Disney’s classic "Treasure Island," "Tom Brown’s Schooldays," "Krakatoa, East of Java," "The Neptune Factor," "The Big Easy" and "Iron Eagle II."
BLAKE BALL Died Jan. 20, 2006
Former minor-league hockey player Blake Ball died of natural causes at age 67. Mr. Ball played minor league hockey for 14 years during the 1960s and 70s. His reputation as a brawler lead to his being cast as hockey goon Gilmore Tuttle in George Roy Hill’s hilarious 1977 sports satire "Slap Shot."
ROBERT KNUDSON Died Jan. 21, 2006
Multi-Oscar-winning sound re-recordist Robert Knudson died died at age 80. Mr. Knudson began working in film in 1952. He had played professional baseball for seven years prior to moving into the movie business. Mr. Knudson worked for Todd A-O and then a number of hit TV shows such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction." His first feature film as a supervisor was one of my personal favorites: "Electra Glide in Blue." His second film lead to his first Oscar nomination and first of three Oscar wins. Mr. Knudsen shared the Best Sound Oscar for "Cabaret" with David Hildyard. The following year, Mr. Knudson was nominated for and won his second Oscar for "The Exorcist." All in all, Robert Knudson was nominated for ten Oscars during his career. His third and final Oscar win was for "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial." He was nominated for seven BAFTAs, winning twice for "Cabaret" and "Empire of the Sun." In 2000, Mr. Knudson was honored by his peers at the Cinema Audio Society with a Career Achievement Award. Among Mr. Knudson’s many credits are such films as including "Save the Tiger," the original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Shampoo," the secong remake of "A Star Is Born ," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Coming Home," "Thief," "Scarface," "Ghost," "Manhunter" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."
TOM AMUNDSEN Died Jan. 21, 2006
Actor/writer/producer Tom Amundsen died suddenly at age 50. Tom Amundsen was successful in a number of areas of the industry. He was a respected writer who worked steady on such shows as "Sister, Sister," "Full House," "Perfect Strangers," "Two of a Kind" and the Tori Spelling version of "A Christmas Carol." Mr. Amundsen was also a producer. His credits include "Full House" and "Sister, Sister." Mr. Amundsen also co-produced the comedy Golf DVD "Roger Maltbie’s Golf’s a Funny Game." Mr. Amundsen was also an accomplished voice actor. He worked on Miyazaki’s "Nausica," Disney’s "Mulan," "Chicken Little" and "Shrek." Tom Amundsen was a decendant of explorer Roald Amundsen. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends, especially his wife and teenage son.
MALCO HIGHLAND QUARTET THEATER Ceased Operation Jan. 22, 2006
After 35-years of business, the first multiplex theater in Memphis has closed. My buddy, filmmaker Jeremy Benson and I were among about ten people in attendance tonight. We saw "Syriana." I can’t tell you how many movies I saw at that theater. The theater first opened 35-years ago. Showing that night were the films "Patton," Airport," "M*A*S*H" and "Paint Your Wagon." I can't say that I was there opening night, but I did see "Airport" with my mom at the Quartet when I was a kid. I got my first celebrity autograph from hometown hottie Cybil Shepard when she was there to promote "The Last Picture Show." I was too young to see the movie, or to even try and sneak in at the time. The Highland Quartet was this movie fan’s dream back in Junior High School. A geek like me (without a date) could buy a ticket for a late afternoon movie and then sneak in to the rest of the films. Yes, I had no life! I saw my first R-Rated film (The French Connection) at the Quartet. The next year I was at the Quartet on a school field trip seeing the Billy Graham movie "A Time to Run." I skipped out and sneaked into "Deliverance." I found out that my principle wasn’t that bad a guy. He caught me and another guy in the R-Rated film, told us the school bus was leaving and never said another word about it. My first double date, hell my first date of any kind was at the Quartet. My buddy Bruce Ingram and I went to see the British horror film "Asylum" with Melanie Miller and Barbara Bjorkland. I wonder where they are now? I tried out my first fake ID to get into "Blazing Saddles." I made fake sideburns with hair and spirit gum to get into "Magnum Force" without a fake ID. I have many, many wonderful memories of the Quartet from the early 1970s. I left Memphis for a decade in 1977. When I returned, the Quartet was still around, but so many nicer theaters had sprung up to take its place. I still went to the occasional movie at the Quartet. But it was not the same. Two days ago I read that the old theater was closing down. The lease expired and the owners of the theater chain were putting their resources elsewhere. Jeremy and I were the last paying customers out of the theater. An employee looked the other way as two thumb tacks were removed from a poster and one last memento of a building that brought me a lot of joy was stuck under my coat.
SHERMAN FERGUSON Died Jan. 22, 2006
Jazz drummer Sherman Ferguson died of complications from diabetes at age 61. Mr. Ferguson played with the best of the best in the world of jazz. He accompanied such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Lou Rawls, Stan Kenton, Benny Carter and many others. Mr. Ferguson recorded over 80 albums! He was a teacher at UCLA, UC Irvine as well as at his own private drum workshop. He appeared in the HBO movie "Pirates of the Silicon Valley" as a jazz musician.
LOUANNE HOGAN Died Jan. 23, 2006
Singer Louanne Hogan died at age 86. Ms. Hogan dubbed the singing voice for a number of Hollywood actresses including Jeanne Crain, Joan Leslie, Sophia Loren (humming actually!) and Virginia Mayo. Ms. Hogan sang with a number of Big Bands including Tommy Dorsey, Russ Morgan and Henry James. He film credits as a singing double include "State Fair," "Desire Under the Elms," "Cinderella Jones" and "The Prince and the Pirate."
MICHAEL SMEDLEY-ASTON Died Jan. 23, 2006
British producer Michael Smedley-Aston died at age 93. Mr. Smedley-Aston began his career as a production manager in the 1920s and 30s. He moved up as an assistant director and eventually became a successful independent producer during the post-WWII era in England. Mr. Smedley-Aston worked in various positions on such films as "Drake of England," " OHMS," "Goodbye Mr Chips," "Great Expectations," "Theatre of Death" and the TV series version of "The Third Man." Mr. Smedley-Aston served his country during WWII. He was the father of Emmy-winning editor (Holocaust) and producer (Vampyres) Brian Smedley-Aston.
JOSEPH M. NEWMAN Died Jan. 23, 2006
Oscar nominated director Joseph M. Newman died at age 96. From 1934 through 1938, the Academy awarded a Best Assistant Director Oscar. Joseph M. Newman was nominated for this award twice. In 1936 for the movie "David Copperfield" and in 1937 for "San Francisco." Joseph M. Newman was an assistant director on nearly 20 film and a director of nearly 60 films and TV shows. Fans of 1950’s sci-fi films remember Mr. Newman as the man who directed "This Island Earth." In addition to an intelligent story, the film featured one of the most distinctive alien creatures of the era: the Metaluna Mutant (see photo). Mr. Newman’s other credits include the early Marilyn Monroe film "Love Nest," "The George Raft Story," four episodes of "The Twilight Zone," the Denny Miller version of "Tarzan, The Ape Man" and "The Story of Alfred Nobel." His AD credits include "Dinner at Eight" and "Maytime."
KEN BRIDGEMAN Death Announced Jan. 24, 2006
British production designer and art director Ken Bridgeman died at age 75. Mr. Bridgeman did work as a set dresser on several films before working his way up the ladder to art director and production designer. Mr. Bridgeman worked in various capacities on such films and TV shows as John Schlesinger’s "Billy Liar," Richard Lester’s "A Hard Day’s Night," the innovative TV series "The Prisoner," Sam Peckinpah’s other masterpiece "Straw Dogs" and the erotic cult classic "Vampyres."
CHRISTOPHER PENN Died Jan. 24, 2006
I never enjoy writing these obituaries. Yes, I like to pay tribute to those in the industry who have passed away, but I don’t enjoy this. I don’t enjoy this because it means that someone has died. It means that their loved ones are grieving. I especially dislike writing these tributes when the person died before they reached the fullness of life. I really hate writing the words actor Chris Penn died at age 43. The cause of death has not been determined, however, the Santa Monica Police say that there is no evidence of foul play. My first memory of Chris Penn was in the movie "Footloose." He and my old 7th-grade-classmate John Laughlin played Kevin Bacon’s new country friends in the hit film. I thought to myself that Chris Penn had a future as a sidekick. Little did I know at the time that he had a future as an excellent character actor and villain. His first few films were ‘good guy’ roles. It was a nice surprise when Clint Eastwood cast him as the heavy in the supernatural retake on "Shane" called "Pale Rider."
Chris and his older brother Sean Penn played real life brothers in the true crime film "At Close Range." Christopher Walken played their evil father. Chris Penn’s death scene in "At Close Range" is as good a piece of work as his older brother has ever done. The combination of fear, acceptance and the feeling of being totally betrayed that Chris Penn brought to that scene moves me every time I see it. I think that scene will be damn near impossible to watch for the foreseeable future. Like most folks, I guess my favorite Chris Penn performance was as Nice Guy Eddie in Tarantino’s break-out debut "Reservoir Dogs." Penn was perfect as the spoiled wiseguy son of Lawrence Tierney’s Joe Cabot. He held his own in a film full of meaty performances. Other film credits include "Rumble Fish," "All the Right Moves," "True Romance," "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," "Mulholland Falls," "Rush Hour" and "Starsky and Hutch."
Chris Penn’s talent was recognized by a number of organizations. He was nominated for a Best Actor Genie in 1996 for "The Boys Club." The Genie Award is Canada’s equivalent of the US Oscar. The next year, Mr. Penn’s talent was recognized with a Best Male Lead nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards for his work in Abel Ferrara’s gangster period piece "The Funeral." In "The Funeral," Chris Penn was reunited with actor Christopher Walken. This time they played brothers instead of father and son. Mr. Penn won the Best Supporting Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for that same film. Director Robert Altman added Chris Penn to his great ensemble cast for the film "Short Cuts." The entire cast won awards for Best Ensemble Cast at the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Globes.
Chris Penn came from a show business family. His father was the prolific TV director Leo Penn. Leo Penn died of cancer in 1998. Chris Penn’s mother is the actress Eileen Ryan. Chris Penn’s two brothers are actor Sean Penn and composer Michael Penn. 43-years-old is so young. Younger than me. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
FAYARD NICHOLAS Died Jan. 24, 2006
Dancer/choreographer Fayard Nicholas died at age 91. There are few things on earth as exciting as a Nicholas Brothers dance routine. Fayard and his younger brother Harold Nicholas were two of the most amazing dancers to ever wow an audience. I first saw them in the excellent compilation film "That’s Entertainment!" Words really can’t describe The Nicholas Brothers style of dancing. The athletic brothers would leap into the air and land hard on the ground in full splits that would make any man on earth cringe. If you have never had the pleasure of watching a Nicholas Brothers routine there are many movies which immortalize their talents. The Nicholas Brothers can be seen in such films as "The Pirate," "Tin Pan Alley," "Down Argentina Way," "Sun Valley Serenade," "Orchestra Wives" and "Stormy Weather." Fayard Nicholas shared his memories of working on "Orchestra Wives" as part of the commentary track for the recently released FOX Studio Classics Collection DVD of the film. Fayard Nicholas won a Tony Award for Best Choreography for the play "Black and Blue."
ANNA MALLE Died Jan. 25, 2006
Adult film actress Anna Malle was killed in a car crash in Las Vegas at age 37. She was the wife of adult actor Hank Armstrong. Ms. Malle (not her real name) appeared in over 200 adult videos during her lengthy career. In addition to her many adult film credits, she appeared in the thriller "Joy Ride," albeit as an adult actress on a motel porn channel. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
MOSS MABRY Died Jan. 25, 2006
Multi-Oscar nominated costume designer Moss Mabry died at age 87 of heart and respiratory disease. Mr. Mabry was nominated four times for Best Costume Design. One was a solo nomination, while the other three nominations were shared with Edith Head, Marjorie Best and Dorothy Jeakins respectively. His Oscar nominations were for the films "Giant," "The Way We Were," "Morituri" and "What a Way to Go!." Mr. Mabry worked on nearly 100 films in various capacities. Mr. Mabry made the red jacket James Dean wore in "Rebel Without a Cause." Among his many credits are "Dial M for Murder," "Them!," "Mr. Roberts," "The Bad Seed," the original version of "The Manchurian Candidate," "The Detective," "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," "Portnoy’s Complaint," "The Trial of Billy Jack," Lauren Bacall’s costumes in "The Shootist" and the 1976 version of "King Kong."
ENDESHA IDA MAE HOLLAND Died Jan. 25, 2006
Pulitzer-prize-nominated playwright Endesha Ida Mae Holland died at age 61 after a lengthy battle with the genetic nerve disorder Ataxia. Born into a poor Black family in the Mississippi delta, Ms. Holland overcame great adversity that included being raped as a child and then turning to prostitution. Ms. Holland became a worker in the civil rights movement and was arrested 13 times for registering Black voters. Her house was firebombed and her mother killed in the attack. From these beginnings, she went on to earn her doctorate and teach in several noted Universities. Her play "From the Mississippi Delta" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Ms. Holland was the subject of award-winning filmmaker Charles Burnett’s short documentary "Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland."
DAVE TATSUNO Died Jan. 26, 2006
Dave Masaharu Tatsuno had a full life. He touched people in many ways, whether it was through business, volunteer work or church activities. Mr. Tasuno was an American, born and raised. Unfortunately he was one of the many Americans of Japanese heritage who were interned in concentration camps during WWII. Mr. Tatsuno secretly and illegally filmed the day to day life in the camp at Topaz, Utah. The home movies were turned in the 1945 documentary "Topaz." Congress made the film part of the National Film Registry in 1997.
PAUL VALENTINE Died Jan. 26, 2006
Actor Paul Valentine died at age 87. Though he had a short film and TV career, Mr. Valentine did appear in one certifiable classic. He played Kirk Douglas’ henchman Joe Stefanos in the Film Noir classic "Out of the Past." He also appeared in the minor Film Noir movie "House of Strangers" as one of Edward G. Robinson’s sons. Other credits include the TV series "Naked City" as well as the films "Yes, Gorgio" and "Pennies From Heaven."
GENE MCFADDEN Died Jan. 27, 2006
Composer and singer Gene McFadden died of liver and lung cancer at age 56. Mr. McFadden along with his writing partner John Whitehead wrote over 400 songs for numerous artists. The songwriting pair had over 37 Gold and Platinum Albums. They wrote the hit "Back Stabbers," which became the first hit of the band The O-Jays. Their songs appeared on the soundtracks of such films as "Carlito’s Way," "Brown Sugar" and "Radio." Mr. McFadden appeared as himself on the TV show "My Music: Superstars of Seventies Soul Live." Mr. McFadden’s writing partner John Whitehead was shot and killed in May of 2004 while working on his car. A second man was also shot during the attack. Police believe the second man was the intended target. Mr. Whitehead’s murder remains unsolved. Gene McFadden in on the right and John Whitehead is on the left of the picture.
ARTHUR BLOOM Died Jan. 28, 2006
TV director Arthur Bloom died of cancer at age 63. Mr. Bloom was with the hit CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" from the very beginning of the show. He worked for the show for 38 years. Mr. Bloom received a DGA Awards in 1974 for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary/News Specials for his work on "60 Minutes." In 1995 Mr. Bloom received the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Trivia Note: The stop-watch used in the opening credits of "60 Minutes" belonged to Mr. Bloom.
TED FERRARI Died Jan. 28, 2006
Filmmaker Ted Ferrari died of leukemia at age 57. The Colorado based filmmaker was the co-owner, with his wife Denise, of Ferrari Films, Inc. Their company made films ranging from industrial films to documentaries. Mr. Ferrari also worked on Hollywood films being shot in his home state of Colorado. He was an assistant director on "3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain." Mr. Ferrari was a production assistant on the excellent Made for TV Western "Conager," which starred Sam Elliot and Katherine Ross. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends, especially his young daughter.
HENRY MCGEE Died Jan. 29, 2006
British actor Henry McGee died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 77. Mr. McGee was well known and beloved worldwide by millions of fans of "The Benny Hill Show." Mr. McGee played a multitude of characters on the various incarnations of "The Benny Hill Show." He also appeared with Benny Hill in the original version of "The Italian Job." In addition to the decades of work with Benny Hill, Mr. McGee appeared in such films and TV shows as "Z Cars," "Softly, Softly" (what kind of name is that for a cop show?), "The Avengers," "The Revenge of the Pink Panther," "Carry On Emmannuelle" (yes it is supposed to be spelled that way) and "Come Play With Me." Thanks for the many laughs!
WENDY WASSERSTEIN Died Jan. 30, 2006
Tony-Award-winning-playwright Wendy Wasserstein died at age 55 after a lengthy battle with lymphoma. Ms. Wasserstein was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for play "The Heidi Chronicles." That play also won Tony for Best Play. She was also nominated for another Best Play Tony Award for "The Sisters Rosensweig." Ms. Wasserstein adapted her plays "The Heidi Chronicles" and "An American Daughter" to TV. Ms. Wasserstein wrote the screenplay for the Jennifer Aniston comedy "The Object of My Affection." Other writing credits include "Kiss-Kiss, Dahlings!," "Uncommon Women and Others," "3 by Cheever: The Sorrows of Gin." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends, especially her young daughter Lucy Jane.
OTTO LANG Died Jan. 30, 2006
Oscar- nominated producer and director Otto Lang died of heart disease at age 98. Otto Lang is probably more famous for his role as a pioneer ski instructor in the American Northwest. In the 1930s, Mr. Lang set up ski schools on Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker. His film career stemmed from meeting Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck on the slopes. He was hired by Zanuck to direct skiing sequences for the film "Sun Valley Serenade." Mr. Lang was one of the few people to work in the three-camera, widescreen process known as Cinerama. Mr. Lang received three Oscar nominations for producing and directing the Cinerama short subjects "Jet Carrier" and "The First Piano Quartet." He also directed the Cinerama short "Vesuvius Express" as well as the Cinerama feature "Search for Paradise." Mr. Lang also worked on less gimicky films. He was an AD on the classic "The Ox-Bow Incident" as well as "Viva Las Vegas" and "Love is a Many Splendored Thing." He produced the classic Film Noir "Call Northside 777," which starred Jimmy Stewart. He produced the thriller "Five Fingers." That film garnered two Oscar nominations and won Mr. Lang an Edgar Allen Poe Award as Best Picture. Mr. Lang was also an associate producer on "Tora! Tora! Tora!." He directed a few films and numerous TV shows. His TV directing credits include "Daktari," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "Lancer" and "Sea Hunt."
CORETTA SCOTT KING Died Jan. 31, 2006
Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. died of complications from a stroke and heart attack at age 78. Mrs. King carried on the work left her when her husband was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. She stood strong and worked hard for equality in the United States. Many people of all races looked to her as an inspiration and example. Yes, it is sad to have such a person leave us, but what a joyous reunion as husband and wife are reunited for eternity in the presence of the God they served so faithfully!
Coretta Scott King appeared in a number of documentaries. Her film and TV credits include Spike Lee’s "Four Little Girls," "I Am Somebody," "Eyes on the Prize," "Eyes on the Prize II," "In Remembrance of Martin," "The N-Word," "The Ten Thousand Day War" and many others.
Actors Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in the 1978 TV mini series "King." Oprah Winfrey voiced the character of Coretta Scott King in the Emmy-nominated animated film "Our Friend Martin." Carmen Ejogo delivered a great performance in HBO’s powerful, award-winning telefilm "Boycott." Probably the most outrageous portrayal of Mrs. King was by the drag queen Sylvester in the bizarre comedy "Tricia’s Wedding." The plot has something to do with Eartha Kitt putting LSD into the punch bowl at President Nixon’s daughter’s wedding.
CHERRY MARSHALL Died Jan. 31, 2006
On occasion, I will post an obituary written by someone else. British filmmaker Austin Mutti-Mewse and his brother made the great documentary film "I Used to Be In Pictures," which dealt with the lives and careers of a number of stars from the days of the silent and early talkie films. Unfortunately many of the people who appeared in their film have since passed on. Austin has provided me with a wealth of information concerning these women he knew so well. It has taken me a while to realize that I can’t write about the people he knew as well as he can, so with Austin’s permission, I give you his tribute to Cherry Marshall, Star of Brit 50s fashion as ‘Miss Susan Small,’ & TV star who became the Queen of Frinton charity shops.
Cherry Marshall who has died in Frinton-on-Sea in Essex at the age of 82, epitomized British fifties fashion with elegant poise, stature and a wide beaming smile which was usually set-off by a slash of scarlet lipstick. As ‘Miss Susan Small,’ she became a household name before the days of the supermodel. Usually referred to as mannequins she and contemporary Barbara Goalen were two of the standouts of that era, despite there differing looks. "I guess today they would say I was more ‘street’ than Barbara," she said early last year. Cherry changed direction becoming a top fashion agent and by the 1970s, was the author of the book "Catwalk" and the face of the groundbreaking "House Party" women’s afternoon television program.
She was born Irene Maude Pearson on July 25, 1923 in Christchurch. Her father was a sergeant major, her mother a house wife. She was educated at Woodlands Road School for Girls, and adored her time there. "I didn’t ever want to leave," she said. However, on failing a formal interview because of poor elocution Cherry Marshall found herself in London and searching for a job. "I wanted to be a gangster’s moll or singer," she said. Choosing her second option, Cherry became a singer in a band. She wore her mother’s remodeled cast-off’s and decided a singing career was definitely for her. However, the band had other ideas and because she never remembered her lines gave the sack.
During WWII, Marshall became a driver with the ATS, opting for motorbikes over cars. She was often mistaken for a boy under her leathers and helmet and invited into the mess where upon she’d remove her helmet shake her flowing hair and raise temperatures. She then became a chauffeur for army officers and majors. It was at an officer’s ball that she met Emmanuelle Litvinoff, a major in the Pioneer Core and a poet. "My friend warned me of him saying he was ‘a bit funny’ because he read palms and wrote poems," she said, adding. "Well, I immediately fell in love with him." He invited Cherry to tea interested to hear some of her our poetry. Settled in the tearooms he presented her with a published volume of his work. "I had my own poems handwritten in a little exercise book. I was so embarrassed that I choose to sit on them rather than show them off to him," she said.
Litvinoff and Cherry were married within six weeks of meeting and Cherry immediately fell pregnant with their first daughter Vida. The war now over, the couple found it hard to get by. He was writing and making little profit and so on the advice of a model friend Senyon, she took modeling assignments within West End department stores. She re-christened herself Cherry Marshall. Cherry was her father’s nickname for her as a child, she took the name Marshall after the much talked about Marshall Plan in America at the time. Her modeling career soon took off. She recalled "Walking the entire Harrods and Marshall and Snelgrove buildings in high heels on thick carpets was murder on ones feet."
Cherry Marshall’s specialty was fashionable evening and formal wear, although she also modeled daywear and sportswear. She was actually seen as something of an all-rounder and achieved fame as 'Miss Susan Small,’ a title bestowed on her when, whilst pregnant with her son Julian she became Susan Small’s house model. The house was a premier name on the ready-to-wear circuit, founded by Leslie Carr Jones in the late 1940s, Susan Small was popular throughout the 1950s and 60s.
"I was terrified of Leslie Carr Jones knowing I was pregnant so would rush off to the lavatories at lunchtime to express my milk. One gay designer chap who had no idea about the functions of a woman’s body thought me astounding as my breast were ever expanding in differing directions.
Increasingly disinterested by modeling, she quit to become Susan Small’s public relations manager. By the mid-fifties she took over a model school and agency and quickly established herself as a leading light, her only competition being Lucy Clayton. Cherry Marshall managed a whole cross range of talent including Vidal Sassoon during his early years playing up his Spanish roots to magazines and fashion directors. One of her biggest clients was Pattie Boyd, whom she discovered in 1962, and would represent until 1966. She also managed moody catwalk model Brenda Walker, a friend of Shirley Bassey and the Beatles and wife of fashion photographer Adrian Consolé.
"I found it hard to recognize that models didn't want to be well groomed any more, or elegant, and that they had a right to push away the old standards," said Cherry. "I know they aimed to look marvelous without trying, to be uniquely themselves with the minimum of effort, and I was a sufficiently good agent to know that the girl who could personify all this was the next top model. I wanted to find a girl who was the product of her generation, not someone a bit older who'd changed course in mid-stream, and I was lucky enough to have Patti Boyd turn up on my doorstep. She was clean fresh and lovely and everything I’d hoped for."
In 1956, Cherry Marshall made international headlines when she took a group of models to Moscow. Pathé, the BBC and NBC covered Cherry’s fashion footsteps in the communist Soviet capital. She was featured in the popular Jack cartoon strip and feted amongst political groups. "We were like film stars, like colored butterflies in the suppressed dank and dreary Soviet Union Russia," she said.
Cherry never socialized with fashion folk preferring instead literary types like the Bulgarian novelist, playwright and Nobel Prize winner Elisa Canetti, Bernice Ruben and "Joy of Sex" author Dr. Alex Comfort. "I did chuckle when I saw his book as I remember he had this queer little house full of beetles and other insects he’d dissected," she said.
In 1971, Cherry Marshall became one of the four regulars on the woman’s afternoon show "House Party." The program was a first; keyhole television with no central presenter, just Cherry and around thirty women all sitting in comfortable chair’s talking candidly about divorce, Tupperware and children’s tantrums. "It was like watching one’s own stair carpet," said a friend. Cherry was the show success story, having a monumental affect on people. When in 1974, she spoke about the glowing properties of cider vinegar; Sainsbury’s supermarkets were forced to run hand-written signs that read "Sorry, out of cider vinegar – will re-order." On another occasion Cherry was once visiting the Sistine chapel when a woman approached her and said "Hello, it’s chilly here at night isn’t it. You know I told my friend that we could do with a pair of those bed socks that Cherry Marshall mentioned last week." The show ran until 1984.
In 1978, her book "Catwalk" was publicized, and read by many would-be models and old friends including Pattie Boyd.
People felt they really knew Cherry Marshall, they saw her as a friend and someone she could trust. Cherry was flattered by her celebrity; her catchphrase even during in her final day’s ill in bed at home was "I’m so lucky!"
Cherry was never reticent about her age. She celebrated it. When she turned sixty and obtained a bus pass she dressed to kill in shear stockings and a short skirt determined that the bus conductor would question why she held a pensioners pass. She was much miffed when he didn’t.
Cherry Marshall bought a red brick mid-terrace within the gates at Frinton-on-Sea, during the mid 1990s, settling there permanently three years ago after a mugger left her badly injured close to her son Julian’s home in Islington, North London. Shaken, with a badly broken leg, which doctors warned her would never heal, she became even more determined, she astounded all around her, by recovering. She continued to venture out alone becoming something of a celebrity on The Avenue in Frinton and an avid campaigner in trying to stop the opening of the town’s first pub. She took to her new ‘country’ life and new friends with vigor, including a series of man-friends, the fashion stylist Fiona Dealey and "The Likes of Us" author Michael Collins, whom she took tea with most weeks and tried to persuade to accompany her to concerts given by obscure singing artist Ollie Austin.
In her latter years in Frinton, Cherry Marshall was joined by her second daughter and author Sarah. By her eighties, Cherry had obtained the look of a glitzy glamour girl by becoming the queen of Frinton-on-Sea’s charity shops. She wore bright colors and skirts that showed off her proud legs and a series of coquettish red hats over her graying bob hairdo, finished off with a multitude of inexpensive jewelry; her bling. Her pace was quick as her humor. She was happy in her skin and years after the end of "House Party" still managed to turn heads and to be an inspiration to her three children, step-son and three grandchildren.
She and husband Emmanuelle Litvinoff divorced in 1970, but remained good friends. He was often a guest at Cherry’s house for Sunday lunch. He and their three children survive Cherry Marshall who died on January 31.
MOIRA SHEARER Died Jan. 31, 2006
Famed ballet dancer Moira Shearer died two weeks after her 80th birthday. Ms. Shearer was the star of the Rank Films classic "The Red Shoes." Ms. Shearer played the doomed dancer who could not stop dancing once she put on the title footwear. The classic film received five Oscar nominations and won two. Ms. Shearer’s second film was "The Tales of Hoffman." When I was 9-years-old, my mother dragged my younger sister and I to see the movie. Don’t inflict such a film on young children. My personal favorite of her films is the Michael Powell horror classic "Peeping Tom." She also appeared in the 1997 documentary about Powell’s misunderstood and much-maligned masterpiece called "A Very British Psycho." The documentary is an extra on the Criterion Collection’s DVD version of "Peeping Tom."
PAUL REGINA Died Jan. 31, 2006
Actor Paul Regina died of liver cancer at age 49. Mr. Regina worked steady on TV and in film for 20 years. He was best known for playing Cliff Waters on the Showtime TV series "Brothers." What was noteworthy about the character is that Cliff Waters was an openly Gay character not played for laughs or over the top. Just a regular guy. Mr. Regina played the character for five years. In real lie, Mr. Regina was straight. He leaves a wife and kids. Mr. Regina worked mainly on TV. He did appear in the Bo Derek vehicle "A Change of Seasons."
CAROL KITTERMASTER Died Jan. 31, 2006
Local California community activist and actress Carol Kittermaster died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at age 74. Ms. Kittermaster was one of the co-founders of the Jewish/Palestinian Living Room Dialog Group in San Mateo California. Her desire was to build brides of communication between opposite groups. Ms. Kittermaster was also a model and actress. She appeared in the Emmy-nominated and WGA winning TV film "Long Road Home."