ROY ALON Died Feb. 1, 2006
Veteran stuntman Roy Alon died of a heart attack at age 63. Mr. Alon worked in some of the greatest action films of the last quarter century. He performed over 1000 stunts in numerous films and TV shows. Mr. Alon’s work ethic earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Most Prolific Stuntman. He was the British Stuntman of the Year in 1983. Mr. Alon also holds the UK record for the highest fall. Roy Alon worked on every James Bond film since "The Spy who Loved Me" in 1977. Among Mr. Alon’s many film credits are "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," "The Long Good Friday," "A Bridge Too Far," "Buffalo Soldiers," "Darkness Falls," "Willow," "Superman," "Lifeforce" and "An American Werewolf in London."
ERNEST DUDLEY Died Feb. 1, 2006
Writer Ernest Dudley died at age 97. Mr. Dudley created the detective Dr. Morelle, which became very popular on British radio. One film was made of Mr. Dudley’s character: "The Case of the Missing Heiress." Mr. Dudley created a number of TV shows. Among his most popular were "Judge For Yourself" and "Armchair Detective."
JOHN P. KELLY Died Feb. 1, 2006
Local Florida actor John P. Kelly was killed in a car crash at age 53. Mr. Kelly made his living as a photographer. He had acted in off-Broadway plays during the 1980s before moving to Florida. He kept his foot in the acting world by appearing in a number of student films at Florida State University. He appeared in Dana Buning’s 2004 award-winning comedy short "Zeke." Ms. Buning’s film won a number of awards including the Oscar! I did not know until today that the Academy gave out Student Film Oscars! "Zeke," which was Ms. Buning’s thesis film, won the Silver Medal for narrative film. Mr. Kelly played the vet who neuters the title cat, causing the animal to wreak havoc and revenge on his owner. Mr. Kelly also appeared in the student films "Misfortune" and "The Plunge." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends, especially for his two young daughters.
HAL JEPSEN Died Feb. 2, 2006
Filmmaker Hal Jepson died at age 66. Mr. Jepson captured incredible images in his surfing and skateboard documentaries during the 1970s. He produced the documentaries "Cosmic Children," "A Sea for Yourself," "Super Session," "We Got Surf" and the skateboarding film "Skateboard Madness," which starred Stacey Peralta. Archived footage filmed by Mr. Jepson was incorporated into the fantastic documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys."
ADAM PAUKEN Died Feb. 2, 2006
Emmy-nominated sound editor Adam Pauken died of an unspecified illness at age 48. Mr. Pauken was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the TV special "The AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Robert DeNiro." Mr. Pauken’s other credits include "The AFI Tribute to George Lucas," "The AFI Tribute to Meryl Streep," "Before They Were Stars," "Television's Greatest Performances," "The Three Stooges 75th Anniversary Special" and "I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary."
HUGH CUMMINGS Died Feb. 2, 2006
Hugh Cummings died of heart and lung failure at age 77. Mr. Cummings worked in the film editing department of 20th Century Fox. Mr. Cummings was an assistant editor on the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy "Silver Streak." His other credits include "Tony Rome," "The Kremlin Letter," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Hot Rock."
RICHARD J. STUMPF Died Feb. 2, 2006
I remember going to the Park Theater in Memphis back in the mid 1970s to see "Earthquake" and "Midway." Both movie experiences were amplified by the earth-shattering sound system called Sensurround. The revolutionary sound system was designed to make you feel the movie. Simply put, Sensurround produced a sub-audible tone that could be felt but not heard. In 1974 it was a gas. Movie-goers flocked in droves to see and feel Los Angeles destroyed by the Big One in "Earthquake" US dive bombers destroy the Japanese fleet in "Midway." Sensurround was invented by three sound engineers for Universal Studios: Richard J. Stumpf, Walden Watson and Robert Leonard. In 1974 the men received a Technical Oscar for their creation. Mr. Stumpf is pictured (on the left and inset) with co-inventor Walden Watson on the right. Sensurround went the way of 3-D, in large part because of the expense to theater owners to install and rent the sub-woofers and amplifiers for Sensurround films. Richard J. Stumpf won another Technical Oscar in 1981 for developing a 24-Frame Video System. In 1991 Mr. Stump received the Medal of Commendation from the Academy for his lifetime of contributions to the industry. The Oscar winning sound engineer died at age 79. Mr. Stumpf also worked for NASA during the days of Project Mercury!
PRISCILLA GILLETTE Died Feb. 2, 2006
Actress Priscilla Gillette died at age 80 after a brief illness. Ms. Gillette appeared in several Broadway productions during the 1940s and 50s. She had a recurring role on the Soap Opera "The Edge of Night." She also appeared in a number of live TV dramas during the 1950s. Ms. Gillette appeared in several "Studio One" TV productions.
JOE ADAMS Died Feb. 3, 2006
Producer/director/casting director Joe Adams died at age 38. No cause of death was released. Actor Randy Wayne posted on an IMDB message board that Mr. Adams died of cardiac arrest. Randy Wayne starred in "The Surfer King," a feature comedy produced by Joe Adams. Mr. Adams began his career as an assistant casting director for Aaron Spelling Productions. He later moved to New Line and Fine Line Cinema where he worked as an assistant to Valerie McCaffrey. He worked on over 80 films including "American History X," "Dark City" and "Blade." Mr. Adams was the casting director on one of my favorite horror films: "Cabin Fever." "Cabin Fever" director Eli Roth cast his casting director in a cameo role as a psycho killer (see picture) in the bowling alley scene. Mr. Adams began his own film company: Arcadian Films. In addition to producing "The Surfer King," Mr. Adams produced "Super Fag," "Neo Ned" and "State’s Evidence." Mr. Adams was in production on the horror film "Mary Worth" at the time of his death. He wrote the script and was directing the film based on the Bloody Mary urban legend. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
AL LEWIS Died Feb. 3, 2006
Grandpa Munster died at age 82. Character actor Al Lewis co-starred with Fred Gwynne in back-to-back hit TV shows. The pair starred in "Car 54 Where Are You?," which ran from 1961 through 63. The nest year, the pair were reunited in the horror/comedy series "The Munsters." "The Munsters ran from 1964 through 1966. Al Lewis went on to do bit parts in numerous movies and TV shows, but he was forever known as Grandpa Munster for his hilarious role as the cranky vampire. Among his other memorable performances were as the judge in "Used Cars," as Gig Young’s sidekick in "They Shoot Horses Don’t They?," "Married to the Mob," "They Might Be Giants," "The Night Strangler" and "Night Gallery." Mr. Lewis claimed to have been born in 1910. His birth certificate and his son both say that Mr. Lewis was actually born in 1923. Al Lewis ran for governor of New York on the Green Party ticket in 1998 and received 52,000 votes!
SONNY KING Died Feb. 3, 2006
Las Vegas singer Sonny King died of cancer at age 83. Mr. King was Jimmy Durante’s sidekick for many years. A longtime friend of many members of The Rat Pack, Sonny King is the man who introduced Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis! Sonny King caught on with audiences on Vegas in 1955. He was still performing last year before his illness made performing impossible. His film and TV credits include multiple appearances on "Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town," "Sergeants Three," "Robin and the Seven Hoods" and "Jimmy Durante Presents The Lennon Sisters."
WALERIAN BOROWCZYK Died Feb. 3, 2006
Controversial Polish director Walerian Borowczyk died of heart failure at age 82. Walerian Borowczyk began his career as a respected animator. He produced animated short films for nearly 20 years before turning to live action features. Mr. Borowczyk directed five films in the late 60s and early 70s that challenged the sensibilities of moviegoers worldwide. Borowczyk explored the new freedom and pushed the borders of cinematic sexuality. His films "Goto, Island of Love," "Blanche," "Immoral Tales," "The Story of a Sin" and especially "The Beast" brought, if for just a short time, Walerian Borowczyk to the forefront of world directors. As the 70s wore on, Mr. Borowczyk’s work lost its spark and he turned out sub-par erotica. "Immoral Tales" involved four individual stories. The third tale starred Pablo Picasso’s daughter as a character based on Elisabeth of Bathory, a noble woman who believe she would remain young forever if she bathed in the blood of virgins. Ingrid Pitt starred in the Hammer version of the story: "Countess Dracula." Mr. Borowczyk’s most controversial film was "The Beast." Based in part on "Beauty and the Beast," the film was originally supposed to be part of "Immoral Tales." Borowczyk expanded the story to a feature length film. It was banned in some countries for the visuals of a beast having sex with the female characters in the movie. Sometimes it was rape and at other times, it was consensual. No matter, Borowczyk crossed a boundary that many viewers and censors thought went too far. His film "The Story of a Sin" was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1975. "Blanche" won the Gran Prix at the 1972 Berlin International Film Festival. Mr. Borowczyk was nominated for a BAFTA for his short animated film "Dom."
JEAN BYRON Died Feb. 3, 2006
Actress Jean Byron died at age 80. Born Imogene Burkhart, she adopted the stage name Jean Byron when she signed as a contract player at Columbia Studios. Ms. Byron was well-known to several groups of movie fans. Fans of 1960s TV shows remember her as Patty Duke’s mother on "The Patty Duke Show." Horror and sci-fi movie fans remember Ms. Byron for her appearance in a number of B-Movies from the 1950s. Her genre credits include "The Magnetic Monster" with Richard Carlson, "Jungle Moon Men" with Johnny Weissmuller, "Invisible Invaders" with John Agar and John Carradine. She also appeared on several episodes of the TV series "Science Fiction Theater." Jean Byron had two recurring roles on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." She played Ruth Adams in the 1959/60 season. She returned for the final two seasons of "Dobie Gillis" in a role written especially for her: a role that used her real name. She played the character of Dr. Imogene Burkhart! Ms. Byron’s many credits include "Mannix," "77 Sunset Strip," "My Friend Flicka," "Batman," "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Maude."
DENNE BART PETITCLERC Died Feb. 3, 2006
WGA-nominated writer Denne Bart Petitclerc died at age 75. Mr. Petitclerc was nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award for his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s "Islands in the Stream." The script was filmed in 1974 and starred George C. Scott. Mr. Petitclerc was a friend of the late, great American author. When Mr. Petitclerc was a war correspondent in the Korean War, he happened to send a letter to Ermest Hemingway. Hemingway responded and the two men became friends. Mr. Petitclerc wrote the script "Papa" based on his experiences with Hemingway. Anthony Hopkins is set to play the title role in the film which is now in pre-production. Mr. Petiotclerc’s other wrioting credits include the TV series "Bonanza," "Then Came Broson" and "The High Chapaarral." His film and TV movie credits include the Stephen Boyd/Woody Strode pilot "Key West" and the Charles Bronson/Toshiro Mifune Western "Red Sun."
MARQUARD BOHM Died Feb. 3, 2006
German actor Marquard Bohm died of heart failure at age 64. Mr. Bohm worked with famed and troubled director Rainer Werner Fassbinder in nine films. Fassbinder directed Mr. Bohm in eight films and TV shows including "Berlin Alexanderplatz," "Jail Bait," "Satan’s Brew" and "The American Soldier." Both men worked together as actors in the 1971 film "Supergirl." Mr. Bohm appeared in nearly 70 films and TV shows. He was the brother of actor/writer/director Hark Bohm. The brothers worked together as actors in 15 films: ten as actors, four times with Hark directing Marquard and once with Marquard directing his older brother Hark.
BETTY FRIEDAN Died Feb. 4, 2006
Feminist leader Betty Friedan died of congestive heart failure on her 85th birthday. Ms. Friedan’s book 1963 book "The Feminine Mystique" was on of the seminal moments of the feminist movement. She was a co-founder and first president of the National Organization for Women. Ms. Friedan was the subject of the Lee Grant directed "Intimate Protrait: Betty Friedan." She also appeared as herself in a number of documentaries and TV shows. Ms. Friedan’s credits include "The First Measured Century," "A Century of Women," D.A. Pennebaker’s "Town Bloody Hall" and "The Last Party."
MYRON WALDMAN Died Feb. 4, 2006
Animator Myron Waldman died at age 97. Mr. Waldman began his career working for Fleischer Studios in 1930. He retired from the industry 54 years later! He worked on over 100 cartoons including many "Raggedy Ann," "Betty Boop" and "Superman" cartoons. Mr. Waldman created Betty Boop's dog Pudgy. He was one of the sequence animation directors on the Fleischer animated features "Gulliver's Travels" (1939) and "Hoppity Goes to Town" (1941). Mr. Waldman worked as an animator on the TV series "Milton the Monster." In 1997 Mr. Waldman received the Winsor McCay Award at that year’s Annie Awards. It is one of the highest awards given to animators. The award is named after Winsor McCay, the creator of "Little Nemo." In 1986, Mr. Waldman also received the Golden Award from the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists in recognition of 50 years work in the animation field. Mr. Waldman served his country in the US Army during WWII.
MARGARET RUTH WOOD Died Feb. 4, 2006
Her only film scene ended up on the cutting room floor. However, Margaret Ruth Wood’s legacy to the world of cinema is immeasurable. She was the mother of Oscar-winning director, movie star, action hero, 20th Century Icon and Man With No Name Clint Eastwood. Margaret Ruth Wood died at age 97. One of the most heartwarming Oscar acceptance speeches ever given was delivered by Clint Eastwood in 1993 when he spoke about his mother, stating that she was the most important woman in his life. Mr. Eastwood won the Oscar for his film "Unforgiven." By the way, "Unforgiven" was the one film in which Margaret Ruth Wood would have appeared, had her scene not been cut by the director, Clint Eastwood!
FRANKLIN COVER Died Feb. 5, 2006
Character actor Franklin Cover died of pneumonia at age 77. Mr. Cover may have been best known for his role as Tom Wilis on the hit TV series "The Jeffersons." Mr. Cover and the late actress Roxy Roker played Tom and Helen Willis, one of the first interracial couples on TV. The liberal viewpoint of the Willises became the springboard for character George Jefferson’s comical but skewed rants. Tom Willis became George Jefferson’s Meathead so to speak. Franklin Cover appeared in numerous films and TV shows during his career. He played Tina Louise’s husband in the original film version of "The Stepford Wives." Mr. Cover had a nice supporting role in Oliver Stone’s "Wall Street." Mr. Cover played both a US President and a US Vice President on TV. He played LBJ’s VP Hubert Humphrey in the biopic "A Woman Called Golda." Mr. Cover played president Herbert Hoover in "The Day the Bubble Burst," which dealt with the stock market crash of 1929. Other credits include "Naked City," "ER," "The Honeymooners," "All in the Family," "The Love Boat" and "Will & Grace."
WILLIAM ALLEN CASTLEMAN Death Announced Feb. 5, 2006
Exploitation filmmaker Willaim Castleman died at age 83. Mr. Castleman produced, directed and scored a number of well-known exploitation films. Looking back on myself when I was a 12-year-old, I must admit that my imagination was sparked by the lurid newspaper ads for the type of films made by William Castleman. He directed three films. "The Erotic Adventures of Zorro" is a perfect example of the exploitation genre. A sexy title and poster that promises to deliver much more than it actually does. The movie was co-directed by Robert Freeman and produced by the illustrious schlockmaster David F. Friedman. Mr. Castleman worked closely with Mr. Friedman. Mr. Friedman produced Mr. Castleman’s other two films as a director: "Bummer" and "Johnny Firecloud." "Johnny Firecloud" was a "Billy Jack" take off with the native American hero raging war on redneck town boss played by Ralph Meeker. Mr. Castleman also produced several films. He produced the sex comedy "Trader Hornee," "Starlet" as well as the three films he directed. Mr. Castleman stepped out of the exploitation field and into hardcore as the producer of "Seven Into Snowy." "Seven Into Snowy" was a send-up of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," the difference being, in this film the seven aren’t dwarves. William A. Castleman was also a composer. He scored such great exploitation films as "The Swinging Cheerleaders" and "The Big Bird Cage."
LUTHER JAMES Died Feb. 5, 2006
Renowned writer/director Luther James died at age 77 after a lengthy illness. Mr. James was a successful stage director and playwright during the 1950s and beyond. He became one of the first minority TV executives and directors. He produced the TV anthology series "On Being Black." The series ran from three seasons from 1968 through 71. Mr. James directed such TV shows as "Bewitched," "The Bill Cosby Show" and "The Courtship of Eddie’s Father." He also directed the landmark TV series "Julia." "Julia" was one of the first TV series to be based on a Black main character. "Julia" starred Diahann Carroll starred as a single mother nurse. Mr. James also directed episodes on my favorite TV show from the 1970s "Police Story." Mr. James also shared his craft as a professor at UC San Diego.
NORMA CANDAL Died Feb. 5, 2006
Puerto Rican actress Norma Candal died at age 77 of injuries suffered in a fall at her home on Friday. Ms. Candal suffered a serious head wound and massive blood loss before she was rushed to the hospital. Ms. Candal was a respected actress who worked in all mediums: radio, TV, film and stage. Ms. Candal was also a drama teacher. Her film credits include "And God Created Them," "And God Created Them II," Kevin Conway’s "The Sun and the Moon" and "Air Bus." The comedic actress was known and loved by her many fans as Petunia. Massive crowds turned out for her public funeral.
ESTHER SANDOVAL Died Feb. 6, 2006
Esther Sandoval is the second grand dame of the Puerto Rican acting community to die in the last two days. Her passing comes one day after Norma Crandal died of injuries sustained in a fall. Ms. Sandoval and Ms. Crandal both appeared in the 1979 film "And God Created Them." Ms. Sandoval died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, a stroke and diabetes at age 78. Esther Sandoval began her career acting on radio during the 1940s. She went on to become a very familiar face on Telemundo, appearing in many soap operas. Ms. Sandoval was also a respected stage actress. Not all of her work was in top-notch productions. She was in the cast of Roger Corman’s all-time worst film "Creature From the Haunted Sea." Of course, Ms. Sandoval wasn’t the only person to achieve respect in their filed to appear in Roger Corman’s notorious bomb. Future Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne also appeared in "Creature From the Haunted Sea." Ms. Sandoval is the second cast member from the Corman film to die recently. Star Beach Dickerson passed away on December 7th of last year.
KERRY KENNEDY Died Feb. 6, 2006
Writer Kerry Kennedy died of lung cancer at age 56. Ms. Kerry began acting and dancing in her home state of Arkansas. Ms. Kennedy gave up performing to write full time. She has had plays produced in New York City and elsewhere. Ms. Kennedy wrote the Made for TV movie "Hope," which starred Christine Lahti and the late, great J.T. Walsh. Goldie Hawn directed "Hope." Ms. Kennedy also co-wrote the TV movie "Baby." "Baby" garnered Ms. Kennedy and her co-writers David Manson and Patricia MacLachan a Writers Guild nomination in 2002. (NOTE: IMDB states that Ms. Kennedy is Robert Kennedy’s daughter. This is just another case of IMDB putting the credits for two separate people under one person’s name.)
BRUCE MCCAY Died Feb. 6, 2006
Emmy-nominated producer Bruce McCay died of lung cancer at age 56. Mr. McCay was nominated for an Emmy in 1976 as co-producer of "The Tomorrow Show." Mr. McCay’s other credits include "Living it Up with Ali & Jack," "Judge Mathis" and "The Peoples' Court."
DONALD ESCEN Died Feb. 6, 2006
Former Disney Studios exec Donald Escen died at age 86. Mr. Escen worked for Disney Studios for 35 years. When he retired, Mr. Escen was the company Treasurer. Mr. Escen served his country in the armed forces during WWII and took part in the D-Day Invasion. Thanks for the service to your country.
ALAN SHALLECK Death discovered Feb. 7, 2006
Book editor, writer and filmmaker Alan Shalleck was found murdered in his driveway in Florida. The 76-year-old collaborator of the "Curious George" books lay in his driveway for at least 24 hours. His neighbors thought he was a pile of trash. Mr. Shalleck had been stabbed to death in a brutal home invasion. Two men have confessed to the crime. Mr. Shalleck worked with "Curious George" co-creator Margaret Rey to write more stories in the series. He also worked with her as a writer, producer and director of over 100 short animated "Curious George" stories, which were aired on TV in the early 1980s.
AL CIURCZAK Died Feb. 7, 2006
United States Air Force filmmaker Al Ciurczak died at age 84. Mr. Ciurczak served his nation in the USAF for 22 years. He served during WWII and Korea. After retiring in 1960, Mr. Ciurczak worked as a civilian producer and director for the Air Force. Mr. Ciurczak was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He was a gunner on B24 Liberators and flew nearly 40 combat missions. Mr. Ciurczak produced a multitude of films for the USAF. Training films, classified films, documentary films. He received numerous awards for his work behind the camera. Mr. Ciurczak’s work was noted with thanks by the makers of the documentary "Atomic Filmmakers: Behind the Scenes." Thanks for the service to you country.
GEORGE B. HIVELY Died Feb. 7, 2006
Film editor George B. Hively died of complications from pneumonia at age 73. Mr. Hively was the son of Oscar nominated film editor George Hively (The Informer). Mr. Hively was the editor on numerous films and TV shows dating back to the 1960s. Most recently, Mr. Hively was a staff editor for Sony Pictures. Among his many credits are the TV series "Daktari," "Perry Mason" and "Hart to Hart." His many film credits as editor and assistant editor include the original version of "The Longest Yard," "Friday the 13th Part III," "Lucky Lady," "Movie Movie," "The Last Dragon" and "Blame It On Rio."
KULJIT RANDHWA Died Feb. 8, 2006
Indian actress and model Kuljit Randhwa committed suicide by hanging herself at home. Ms. Randhwa was 30 years old. Her suicide note stated that she could not handle life’s pressures. Ms. Randhwa appeared in the TV series "Kohinoor" and "Special Squad." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
STUART PHELPS Died Feb. 8, 2006
Pioneer TV director Stuart Phelps died at age 84. Mr. Phelps learned his craft in the US Army during WWII. After the war Mr. Phelps began working in local TV. He became a successful TV director during the 1950s. His credits include the TV series "Truth or Consequences," "Password," "Showdown," "I’ve Got a Secret" and "The Bill Gwinn Show." Mr. Phelps also produced "The Bill Gwinn Show." He was also the producer of the 1976 fiasco "The First Nudie Musical."
AKIRA IFUKUBE Died Feb. 8, 2006
Prolific composer Akira Ifukube died of multiple organ failure at age 91. Mr. Ifukube composed the scores to nearly 300 films. He was best known for his work for Toho Studios and particularly on over two dozen "Godzilla" movies. Mr. Ifukube also created the fire breathing monsters famous roar. The truth is, Mr. Ifukube scored nearly all of Toho’s classic monster movies: "Rodan," "Mothra," "Varan," "Ghidrah" and the rest were scored by Ifukube. He also composed the score for eleven films in the "Zatoichi" series. Mr. Ifukube scored Akira Kurosawa’s early film "The Quiet Duel." He also scored three films which were written by Kurosawa but directed by Senkichi Taniguchi. Mr. Ifukube was twice nominated for Best Music Score by the Awards of the Japanese Academy.
THIERRY FORTINEAU Died Feb. 8, 2006
French actor Thierry Fortineau died of cancer the day before his 53rd birthday. Mr. Fortineau began his successful career as a stage actor in 1974. He was nominated for a Most Promising Actor Cesar for his work in the 1989 film "Summer Interlude." Mr. Thierry appeared in over 30 films and TV shows.
PEDRO GONZALEZ-GONZALEZ Died Feb. 8, 2006
Actor Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez died of cancer at age 80. Mr. Gonzalez was discovered on the Groucho Marx TV show "You Bet Your Life." After his humorous banter with Groucho, Mr. Gonzalez found himself in demand as an actor. One of his first film roles was in John Wayne’s "The High and the Mighty." I recently saw "The High and the Mighty" for the first time, as the movie has been tied up in litigation for years. Mr. Gonzalez’s performance in the film was one of the standouts. It was nice to see a minority in an American film from the 1950s being portrayed without a negative stereotype. Mr. Gonzalez’s films with John Wayne include "Rio Bravo," McClintock!," "Chisum" and "Hellfighters." IMDB reported that Mr. Gonzalez died in Willcox Arizona. I spoke with Ainslee Wittig, Associate Editor of The Arizona Range News. Ms. Wittig stated that Mr. Gonzalez actually died in Culver City, California. Mr. Gonzalez’s connection to Willcox, Arizona comes from his longtime working relationship with Willcox’s favorite son Rex Allen. Mr. Conzalez’s worked as Rex Allen’s sidekick for many, many years. Ms. Wittig told me that Mr. Gonzalez had attended 53 of the 54 Rex Allen Days celebrations held in Willcox. More than Rex Allen himself attended! Mr. Gonzalez’s film and TV credits also include "I Died a Thousand Times," "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Gunsmoke," "Big Country" with Gregory Peck, "Perry Mason," "Branded," "The Monkees," "The Love Bug" and "The Wonderful World of Disney." Mr. Gonzalez’s grandson Clifton Collins Jr. delivered a chilling performance as the real-life killer Perry Smith in the Oscar nominated "Capote." Mr. Gonzalez’s brother Jose Gonzalez-Gonzalez was also a prolific character actor who passed away in December of 2000.
GIGI PARRISH Died Feb. 8, 2006
Former actress Gidi Parrish died at age 93. Ms. Parrish was one of the actresses who’s career was promoted by the Western Association of Theater Advertisers as a WAMPAS Baby Star. During the late 1920s and early 30s a number of young actresses were chosen to be WAMPAS Baby Stars by the Theater Advertiser’s Association as they believed the women were on the verge of film stardom. Some such as Jean Arthur, Joan Blondell and Ginger Rogers did become stars. Others didn’t. Ms. Parrish appeared in nine films during the 1930s. Her credits include "Roman Scandals," "Twentieth Century" and "August Weekend."
PHIL BROWN Died Feb. 9, 2006
Actor Phil brown died at age 89 after a lengthy illness. Mr. Brown survived the McCarthy Blacklist by moving to Europe. He became known to millions of "Star Wars" fans worldwide for his role in the original film in the series. Mr. Brown played Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen, the man who raised the future hero of the rebellion. Phil Brown always denied being a communist and claimed to be proud of America. Like many other innocents, he was betrayed by the country he loved because he was once a member of the Group Theater. Brown was named as a communist by actor Lee J. Cobb before the HUAC in 1952. Cobb fought the pressure to testify for several years, but finally gave in after his wife was driven mad and he was nearly bankrupt. Mr. Cobb regretted naming names. Phil Brown had acted in a number of films before the blacklist. He also directed the movie "The Harlem Globetrotters." Mr. Brown moved to England and continued his career as an actor. His many film credits include "Weird Woman," "The Jungle Captive," "State Fair," the original version of "The Killers," "A King in New York," "The Bedford Incident," "Tropic of Cancer," "Valdez is Coming," "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "Twilight’s Last Gleaming," "Superman" and "Chaplin."
LEWIS GORDON Died Feb. 9, 2006
Canadian actor Lewis Gordon died of a heart attack at age 70. Mr. Gordon was a noted Canadian stage actor. He was a regular at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. He appeared in nearly 100 productions since he made his debut in 1960. Mr. Gordon’s film and TV credits include the 3-D attempt to revive Spaghetti Westerns: "Comin’ at Ya." He also appeared in "Friday the 13th: The Series" and "Chasing Rainbows." Mr. Gordon’s real name was Don Lewis. He used his real name when he worked as a propmaster and stage designer at the Stratford Festival.
MICHAEL COLGAN Died Feb. 9, 2006
Former actor and BAFTA nominated sound editor Michael Colgan died at age 95. Mr. Colgan was nominated twice for the BAFTA Best Sound Award. The nominations were for his work on the megahit "Saturday Night Fever" and Martin Scorsese’s misfire "New York, New York." Michale Colgan was the sound editor for Sam Peckinpah’s "The Getaway" and "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." His other sound editor credits include Sydney Pollack’s "Jeremiah Johnson," Walter Hill’s excellent "Hard Times," Peter Bogdanovich’s overlooked "Nickelodeon," Nicholas Meyer’s magical "Time After Time" and Ken Russell’s "Altered States." Mr. Colgan was also an actor earlier in his career. He played the doomed millionaire in the 1950s sci-fi film "Donovan’s Brain." His other acting credits include "The 49th Man" and "Space Patrol."
UTAH GROUND Died Feb. 9, 2006
Choreographer and agent Utah Ground has died. Her age was not released. However, her funeral announcement claimed that she was a child actor in the "Our Gang" series, which would mean she would have to be at least in her late 60s or 70s. Utah Ground studied dance with George Balanchine and Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. She taught Tommy Tune and Sandy Duncan. Later, she represented them as a talent agent. Ms. Ground choreographed Paul Bartel’s comedy "Not For Publication."
PETER BENCHLEY Died Feb. 11, 2006
Author Peter Benchley died of the lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at age 65. Mr. Benchley wrote the popular novel "Jaws." Steven Speilberg turned his book into on of the highest grossing films of all time. Peter Benchley co-wrote the screenplay for "Jaws" with Carl Gotlieb. They were nominated for BAFTA, Golden Globe and WGA Awards for their screenplay. Mr. Benchley is pictured in the center of the photo. He is flanked by actor Roy Schieder and his "Jaws" co-writer Carl Gotlieb. Peter Benchley made a cameo appearance in the film as a TV reporter covering the opening day of the tourist season on Amity Island. The success of "Jaws" sounded the death knell of smaller personal studio films and began the era of the Mega-Blockbuster. Mr. Benchley wrote several other novels, which were made into either feature films or TV movies. His novel "The Deep" came the closest to matching the success he enjoyed with "Jaws." The film version of "The Deep" was directed by Peter Yates. The film’s cast included "Jaws" star Robert Shaw as well as Nick Nolte, Jacqueline Bisset and Lou Gossett Jr. The otherwise excellent director Michael Ritchie had a tough time turning Mr. benchley’s novel "The Island" into a film worth watching. Michael Caine and David Warner starred in Benchley’s modern tale of pirates in the Caribbean. The TV mini-series "The Beast" and "Creature" were also based on Peter Benchley novels. Peter Benchley also wrote directly for the screen on occasion. He wrote the script for the TV biopic "The Great Houdini," which starred Paul Michael Glaser as the famed escape artist.
WAYNE JONES Died Feb. 11, 2006
Construction coordinator Wayne Jones died at age 59. Mr. Jones worked on such films as "The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper." He was a member of I.A.T.S.E. Local #44.
RICKIE LAYNE Died Feb. 11, 2006
Ventriloquist Rickie Layne died of heart failure at age 81. Mr. Layne became a national star after nearly 40 appearances on Ed Sullivan’s TV show "The Toast of the Town." Mr. Layne appeared on TV and in night clubs with his dummy Velvel. His film and TV credits include Disney’s films "The Strongest Man in the World," "Pete’s Dragon," "The Shaggy D.A." and "The North Avenue Irregulars" as well as the TV series "Night Court," "The Jimmy Stewart Show" and "The Thin Man." Mr. Layne received the Askins Award for his lifetime of work by the International Ventriloquist Association. Mr. Layne served his country in the US Army during WWII.
ED TOMEI Died Feb. 11, 2006
Actor/stuntman Ed Tomei died at age 91. Mr. Tomei was a stunt horseback rider and stage coach driver during the early Talkie era. Mr. Tomei worked on the Best Picture Oscar winner "Cimarron," the Marx Brothers’ comedy "A Day at the Races," John Ford’s "Stagecoach," and the classics "Gone With The Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."
DONNA PAIKER Died Feb. 12, 2006
Animator Donna Paiker died at age 91. Ms. Paiker worked with her late husband Frank Paiker in the field of animation for over 30 years. Ms. Paiker worked at MGM and also for Hanna Barbera. She and her husband worked on such shows as "Tom and Jerry," "Johnny Quest" and "Yogi Bear." Frank Paiker died in 1989.
ALAN LEVIN Died Feb. 13, 2006
Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alan Levin died in his sleep at age 79. Mr. Levin won the CableACE Award for the HBO documentary "Gang War: Bangin’ in Little Rock." The film was directed by his son Marc Levin. Marc Levin has won numerous awards for his work. Alan Levin’s producer credits include "Prisoners of the War on Drugs," "Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder" as well as many documentaries for the PBS TV series "Frontline." Mr. Levin served his country during WWI.
ANDREAS KATSULAS Died Feb. 13, 2006
Character actor and noted screen villain Andreas Katsulas died of lung cancer at age 59. Mr. Katsulas played the murderous ‘One-Armed Man’ in the feature film version of "The Fugitive." Star Trek fans knew and loved Mr. Katsulas for his roles as G’Kar, the Nam ambassador in "Babylon 5" and as the Romulan Commander Tomalak in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." I met Mr. Katsulas at DragonCon a few years back. He seemed nice enough. He wasn’t on my list of people I wanted to interview that year, so I only passed a few words with him as he held court for his many "Star Trek" fans. Mr. Katsulas also appeared in such films as Michael Cimino’s "The Sicilian," "Jane Austin’s Mafia!," ," "Ragtime," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Next of Kin," "Hot Shots! Part Deux" and "Communion." The bulk of his work was on TV. In addition to his regular roles on the "Star Trek" series, Mr. Katsulas made guest shots on "NYPD Blue," "Diagnosis Murder," "Hunter," "Jake and the Fatman" and "The Equilizer."
ROBERT "TIGER" WEST Died Feb. 13, 2006
Animator Tiger West died at age 81. Mr. West worked in various capacities for such studios as Disney, MGM, Hanna-Barbera and Marvel. He actually began his show business career as an infant actor in silent film shorts at Warner Brothers in the early 1920s! Mr. West began learning his craft as an animator in the 1940s as an assistant to such famed Disney animators as Ub Iwerks and Bob Carlson. He later worked at MGM as an assistant on the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons. Mr. West had numerous credits as the head of Hanna-Barbera’s Xerox department. The Animation Guild presented Tiger West with the Golden Award in 2005 for his 50-year career in the animation field. Mr. West was a long-time member of I.A.T.S.E. Local #839, the Animation Guild!
LYNDEN DAVID HALL Died Feb. 14, 2006
British soul singer Lynden David Hall died of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 31. He had been battling the cancer for two years. The talented singer burst onto the British music scene in the late 1990s. His debut album "Medicine 4 My Pain" was well received on its 1998 release. Mr. Hall appeared as the Wedding Singer in the movie "Love Actually." Mr. Hall performed with many, many other musicians in the TV tribute concert for Linda McCartney: "Here, There and Everywhere: A Concert for Linda." Prayers of comfort for his family, fans and friends.
DARRY COWL Died Feb. 14, 2006
Comic French actor Darry Cowl died of lung cancer ata ge 80/ Mr. Cowl appeared in nearly 150 films and TV shows. He also wrote and directed one film. He appeared in the nudie comedy "Strip Tease" with Andy Warhol actress Nico and blues legend Big Joe Turner! In 2001, Mr. Cowl was given an Honorary Cesar for his body of work. Three years later he won a Best Supporting Actor Cesar for his performance in Alain Resnais’ comedy "Not on the Lips."
ANDREI PETROV Died Feb. 15, 2006
Award-winning Russian composer Andrei Petrov died at age 75. Mr, Petrov was much more than just a film composer. He also composed operas and ballets including "The Creation of the World." Mr. Petrov won Russia’s highest film honor, the Nika Award twice. He won a Best Music Nika for the 1998 film "Khrustalyov, My Car!" He won the Best Composer Nika for the 1991 film "The Promised Land." Mr. Petrov composed the scores to nearly 90 films during his lengthy career.
ROBIN HAISLIP Died Feb. 15, 2006
Production assistant and researcher Robin Haislip died in hospice care at age 49. Ms. Haislip worked with Raplh Bakshi on his animated TV special "Christmas in Tattertown." She was a researcher for New Dominion Pictures, a company that produced documentaries for the Discovery Channel. She was also a researcher for the TV game show "Win Ben Stein’s Money." Ms. Haislip was an associate producer on the animated TV series "The Critic." While at New Dominion Pictures, Ms. Haislip spent several months researching a documentary on the 1969 monster Hurricane Camille. Last year, she got some first hand knowledge of hurricanes when she survived Katrina.
RAYMOND MAUER Died Feb. 15, 2006
Advertising exec Raymond Mauer died at age 89 after a lengthy illness. Mr. Mauer wrote the famous civil defense film "Duck and Cover." Even if you weren’t a child during the height of the cold war, you probably have seen the snappy short film that told you how to survive a nuclear strike. As the animated narrator Bert the Turtle sang "just duck and cover" the school kids on screen dropped under their desks and covered their heads. Mr. Mauer also wrote the short civil defense film "Our Cities Must Fight." Mr. Mauer also appeared in "Duck and Cover" playing an air raid warden.
XAVIER BARQUET Died Feb. 15, 2006
Actor/stuntman/writer/producer/director Xavier Barquet died of respiratory failure at age 46. Mr. Barquet was a dreamer. He had a vision of unity among indie filmmakers. He created United Event for the purpose of bringing actors, actresses, producers and directors together. A big dream that hasn’t completely succeeded, but Mr. Barquet did bring a lot of hopeful filmmakers together in South Florida. Mr. Barquet acted and did stunt work in a number of films and TV shows including "Miami Vice," "The Toxic Avenger," "The Guiding Light," "Days of Our Lives," "Running Scared" and "The Unholy." He wrote several B-Movies like "The Sinners" (also directed), "DV8" and "Bikini Beach Race." He costarred with the late Dana Plato in "Bikini Beach Race."
FRANK Q. DOBBS Died Feb. 15, 2006
Producer/director/writer Frank Q. Dobbs died of cancer at age 66. Mr. Dobbs promoted filmmaking in his native Texas. He wrote and produced a number of films and TV shows in Texas. A majority of the movies that Mr. Dobbs worked on were Westerns. He produced the excellent TV mini-series "The Johnson County War." The TV movie covered the same territory as Michael Cimino’s "Heaven’s Gate," only in a more coherent manner. One of his few non-Western films was the 1972 horror film "Enter the Devil," which he wrote and directed.
CLIFTON JAMES Died Feb. 16, 2006
Drummer Clifton James died at age 69. Mr. James was the original drummer for Rock and Roll pioneer Bo Diddley. Mr. James played with Bo Diddley from the 1950s through the 70s. He was also a session drummer with a number of other recording artists at Chess Records. Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry recorded some of the greatest Rock and Roll songs of all time for Chess Records. Mr. James appeared with Bo Diddley on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1955. He also appeared in the concert films "The Big T.N.T. Show." He also appeared in "Sweet Toronto," the only filmed concert featuring John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton also appeared in the DA Pennebaker rockumentary.
SID FELLER Died Feb. 16, 2006
Emmy-nominated composer and music arranger Sid Feller died at age 89. Mr. Feller was also a noted conductor who worked with many top musicians. He had a longtime professional relationship with the late Ray Charles. Mr. Feller was the music director on "The Flip Wilson Show." Mr. Feller was nominated for an Emmy for his work on "The Magic of David Copperfield III: Levitating Ferrari." He composed songs which were used on the soundtracks of "Fun in Acapulco" and "Donnie Brasco" among others.
DENNIS KIRKLAND Died Feb. 16, 2006
British TV producer Dennis Kirkland died at age 63. Mr. Kirkland was nominated for two Emmy Awards for co-producing "The Benny Hill Show."
PIERRE JALLAUD Died Feb. 17, 2006
French writer/director Perre Jallaud died at age 83. Mr. Jallaud directed three films: "The Empty Chair," "An Indefinate Tenderness" and "Le Temps d’un Instant." His 1985 film "Le Temps d’un Instant" was recognized at Cannes with the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.
HAROLD HUNTER Died Feb. 17, 2006
Professional skateboarder Harold Hunter was found dead in his New York apartment. The 31-year-old skateboarder is believed to have died of an overdose of cocaine. An autopsy has not been performed yet. Mr. Hunter appeared in the gritty film "Kids." He also appeared in "Mind Games," "Hand on the Pump" and "Collage." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
WILLIAM COWSILL Died Feb. 17, 2006
Another member of the Cowsill family has died. William Cowsill, the lead singer of the family band died at age 58. He had suffered from a number of illnesses. William Cowsill died the day before the memorial service for his brother Barry Cowsill. Barry Cowsill died during Hurricane Katrina, but his body was not discovered or identified for several months. The memorial service for Barry Cowsill took place on the 18th in Newport, Rhode Island. The Cowsills 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."
PAUL CARR Died Feb. 17, 2006
Prolific character actor Paul Carr died of lung cancer at age 72. Mr. Carr appeared in over 150 films and TV shows during his lengthy career. Trekkies remember Mr. Carr for his role as Lt. Kelso in the pilot episode of the original "Star Trek." Mr. Carr appeared in just about every TV series during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. His many credits include "77 Sunset Strip," "The Rockford Files," "Felony Squad," "The F.B.I.," "The Mod Squad," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Gunsmoke," "The Time Tunnel," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "The Invaders," "Twelve O’Clock High," "Combat!," "Land of the Giants," "The Green Hornet," "Police Story," "Perry Mason," "Mission Impossible," "Get Smart," "Adam-12" and "Hawaii 5-0." Paul Carr made his feature film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Wrong Man." Among his film credits are "Raise the Titanic," "Ben," "Truck Stop Women," "Executive Action," "The Bat People" and "Captain Newman M.D." Mr. Carr also appeared in the great Made for TV movie "The Deadly Tower," which starred Kurt Russell as the Texas sniper Charles Whitman.
YEGENY SAMOILOV Died Feb. 17, 2006
Award-winning Russian actor Yegeny Samoilov died in Moscow at age 94. Mr. Samoilov’s career spanned seven decades. He was honored with three State Prizes for his acting. Mr. Samoilov gained his greatest popularity during the WWII years. He appeared in a number of films that boosted the morale of the country as the fought off the attacks by Hitler’s troops. He may be most familiar to international audiences for his appearance in the Dino De Laurentiis production "Waterloo." The epic film was a Russian/Italian co-production and featured an international cast. Mr. Samoilov appeared in the 1947 Russian version of "Tom Sawyer." His other film credits include "Bright Road," "Heart of Four," "Six O'Clock After the War," "Admiral Nakhimov," "They Fought for the Fatherland" and "Boris Godunov." He was the father of popular Russian actress Tatyana Samoilov.
RICHARD BRIGHT Died Feb. 18, 2006
Character actor Richard Bright was killed in New York City when a tour bus ran over him. The 68-year-old actor was walking in the crosswalk at 86th and Columbus when the rear wheels of a tour bus ran over him. Mr. Bright was dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.
Richard Bright was best known to movie audiences as Al Neri, Michael Corleone’s bodyguard and top assassin. Mr. Bright played the role in all three of "The Godfather" films. He was the guy who killed Michael’s brother Fredo. He was the guy who killed rival mobster Emilio Barzini. He was the guy who helped Michael through his medical emergencies in "Part III" as well as killing the evil Vatican official who helped kill Pope John Paul I. As memorable as his work as Al Neri was, Richard Bright contributed so much more to many great films.
Richard Bright made his feature film debut in Robert Wise’s late entry into the Film Noir genre "Odds Against Tomorrow." Richard Bright has a small role as a New York hepcat criminal. If you get a chance, discover this great movie from 1959. You will be surprised by the freshness and power of the film. Mr. Bright’s contribution is just one of many wonderful things about this tale of crime and prejudice.
Mr. Bright’s film career didn’t take off until the early 1970s. He first gained audience and critical attention playing Al Pacino’s brother in the 1971 drug abuse cautionary tale "Panic in Needle Park." This was the first time I remember seeing Mr. Bright’s work. The owner of the local theater which was showing "Panic in Needle Park" felt the movie was too important to enforce the MPAA’s R-Rating. He took an ad out in the paper letting the public know that he was going to let kids into his theater to see the movie. Richard Bright played a burglar who paid for his heroin habit by crime. The following year, Mr. Bright reteamed with Al Pacino in the role he is best remembered for.
In 1972, Richard Bright also worked for Sam Peckinpah for the first time in "The Getaway." He had a memorable cameo as the train station con man who steals the bank robbery money from Ali McGraw. Steve McQueen kicks his ass and retrieves the cash. Bloody Sam called on Mr. Bright again for his 1973 Western "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid." His death scene is one of the best set pieces that Peckinpah ever created. James Coburn corners Richard Bright, Bob Dylan and Donnie Fritts in a bar. Coburn as Pat Garrett intends to send Billy the Kid a strong message. He has Bob Dylan knock out Donny Fritts and then go stand in the corner. The purpose of the scene is to show Pat Garrett murder Richard Bright’s character Holly. Pat wants Billy the Kid to leave the country. This murder is supposed to send the message. Richard Bright is excellent in this suspenseful scene. His character is forced to get drunk. He knows that his is going to be killed. The question is when will it happen. Peckinpah would call on Richard Bright again in 1974 for a cameo in "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia."
Other memorable performances include his work in Sergio Leone’s "Once Upon a Time in America," Milos Forman’s "Hair," "Marathon Man," the over-looked "Rancho Deluxe" and "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." Speaking of his work in "Hair," how great is the scene in which he and Beverly DeAngelo blow smoke rings together! One of the all-time great red-neck seduction scenes. Later in life, Mr. Bright worked almost exclusively on TV. His was a frequent guest star on "Law & Order."
Among Mr. Bright's other nearly 80 film and TV credits are "The Sopranos," "The Ref," "Night Falls on Manhattan," "OZ," "The Ambulance," "Red Heat," "Brighton Beach Memoirs," "The Verne Miller Story," "Hill Street Blues," "The Idolmaker" and the TV mini-series version of "From Here to Eternity."
Truth be told, like many actors before him, Richard Bright will always be associated with one specific role. Richard Bright's strong, loyal and murderous performance as Michael Corleone’s bodyguard Al Neri was one of the strengths of all three "Godfather" films. There was a menace just below the surface. Whether he was killing a rival or shutting the door on Michael’s wife at the end of the first film, Richard Bright made the viewer believe he was a cold-blooded killer. He didn’t need to be flashy. He let his actions speak for him.
ALEXANDER RAMATI Died Feb. 18, 2006
Writer/producer/actor/director Alexander Ramati died at age 86. Mr. Ramati wrote several novels, which were adapted to the screen. He also wrote scripts directly for the screen. Mr. Ramati wrote and directed the all-star movie "The Assisi Underground." Mr. Ramati’s writing credits include "The Desperate Ones," "Trunk to Cairo," "Sands of Beersheba" and "And the Violins Stopped Playing." He also directed all of those films except for "Trunk to Cairo."
JAMES HINTON Died Feb. 19, 2006
Documentary filmmaker James Hinton died of prostate cancer at age 69. Mr. Hinton was a noted photographer who chronicled may historic events during the 1960s. In addition to his many documentary films, Mr. Hinton produced the films "Identity Crisis" and "Greased Lightning" which starred Richard Pryor. Mr. Hinton was also the cinematographer on "Identity Crisis." He also shot the truly bizarre vampire film "Ganja & Hess."
ERNA LAZARUS Died Feb. 19, 2006
Screenwriter Erna Lazarus died at age 102. Ms. Lazarus began her career in the 1930s. Her final screen credit was the last Martin and Lewis film "Hollywood or Bust." She began her career in the 1930s at Monogram Pictures. She also worked for Universal, FOX and Warner Brothers. Ms. Lazarus wrote teleplays for the TV series "Racket Squad" and "Mr. & Mrs. North."
WI KUKI KAA Died Feb. 19, 2006
Maori actir Wi Kuki Kaa died at age 67. Mr. Kaa was a familiar face to New Zealanders, having worked on stage and in film and TV for over 40 years. Mr. Kaa was best known to international audiences for playing the King of Pitcairn Island in the Mel Gibson/Anthony Hopkins version of mutiny on the high seas: "The Bounty." Mr. Kaa won the Best Film Performance Male Award at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards for his work in the movie "Ngati." "Ngati" was the first feature film written and directed by a Maori.
JAMES HARDIMAN Died Feb. 19, 2006
Studio exec and writer James Hardiman died at age 86. Mr. Hardiman served in executive capacities for Columbia, CBS, Disney and the Rank Organization among others. He was also a noted screen publicist. James Hardiman was also a successful novelist. He wrote 13 published books. His first book was turned into a creepy/sexy horror film. "The House Where Evil Dwells" is a guilty pleasure of mine, mostly because of the presence of the ultra sexy Susan George. The film deals with an American couple buying a house in Japan that turns out to be haunted. Fun is a trashy, cheesy sort of way.
LOU GISH Died Feb. 20, 2006
British actress Lou Gish died of cancer at age 35. Ms. Gish was the daughter of actress Shelia Gish and actor Roland Curram. She was the stepdaughter of "Star Wars" actor Denis Lawson. In a very sad coincidence, Ms. Gish died of cancer almost exactly one year after he mother died of cancer. Ms. Gish’s stepfather played Wedge, fighter pilot friend of Luke Skywalker in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. Ms. Gish was primarily a stage actress. He filmed work was mainly on TV. She did appear in the film version of the play "Bent." Ms. Gish had a recurring role on the hilarious BBC series "Coupling." Her other credits also include the TV series "Hope and Glory." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
CURT GOWDY Died Feb. 20, 2006
Legendary sports caster Curt Gowdy died of leukemia at age 86. Curt Gowdy worked as a sports announcer on both radio and TV for more than half a century. He called some of the most important games in sports history. Among his more memorable broadcasts were Super Bowl 3 when the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts as well as Ted Williams final at bat with the Boston Red Sox in 1960. Ted Williams went out with style, hitting a home run over the right field wall. Saturday afternoon in the 60s and 70s wasn’t complete without the late afternoon broadcast of "The American Sportsman." Baseball fans will fondly remember Curt Gowdy’s classy commentary for years on NBC. He was inducted into the Broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Curt Gowdy was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1992 Emmy Awards. He appeared in several films including the original "Naked Gun," "BASEketball" and "Heaven Can Wait."
JACK GOTH Died Feb. 20, 2006
Canadian stage actor Jack Goth died at age 82. Mr. Goth was a noted actor in regional theater in Canada. He worked in numerous theaters Calgary. Mr. Goth was a pilot in the RAF during WWII. Although most of his work was on stage, Mr. Goth appeared in several films. His credits include Disney’s "Cool Runnings," "Rad" and "Amber Waves."
ROY KAMMERMAN Died Feb. 21, 2006
Writer/producer Roy Kammerman passed away. His age was not released. Mr. Kammerman wrote for both TV and Radio. Among his many credits are "Gilligan's Island," "Alice," "The Patty Duke Show," "Getting Away From It All," "The Flying Nun," "Love American Style," "Family Affair," "Lotsa Luck" "Temperatures Rising." Mr. Kammerman also produced the TV series "Fish" and "Alice."
BRUCE HART Died Feb. 21, 2006
Writer/composer Bruce Hart died of lung cancer at age 68. Mr, Hart wrote the lyrics to the TV theme song "Sesame Street." He wrote the scripts for the TV movies "Leap of Faith" and "Sooner or Later." His wife was Emmy-winning producer Carole Hart.
BILL TUNG Died Feb. 22, 2006
Chinese horse racing commentator turned actor Bill Tung died of kidney failure at age 72. Mr. Tung appeared in nearly 40 films during his career. He was a frequent co-star of Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan. He appeared in nine of Jackie Chan’s films including the "Police Story" series and "Rumble in the Bronx."
WILLIAM FOSSER Died Feb. 22, 2006
Set designer and master puppeteer William Fosser died at age 77. The long time member of the Set Designer’s Union Local # 476 worked on such films as "Backdraft," "Curley Sue," "Damien: Omen II," "The Package," "Flowers in the Attic" and "Ordinary People." He also acted in "Damien: Omen II," playing a minister. Mr. Fosser’s real passion in life was puppetry. He was inducted into the National Puppeteer’s Hall of Fame last December. Mr. Fosser was the producer of the long-running Puppet Production "Opera in Focus." Mr. Fosser invented the articulated rod puppets used in the productions. "Opera in Focus" has been in continuous production at Rolling Meadows Park District since 1993. Of course, the productions date back to 1958. While Mr. Fosser designed his one-of-a-kind puppets in the 1930s, he could not afford to actually build them until the 1950s. His first "Opera in Focus" production took place in 1958!
RICHARD SNELL Died Feb. 22, 2006
Reporter April MacIntyre from Monsters and Critics informed me that Oscar-nominated and multi-Emmy-winning make-up artist Richard Snell died on location in the Bahamas while working on "Pirates of the Caribbean 2." The longtime I.A.T.S.E. Local 706 member was 49-years-old. The cause of death has not been released. Mr. Snell shared an Oscar nomination with Michael Mills and Ed French for his work on "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country." Mr. Snell was also nominated for six Emmy Awards. He won twice for his work on the TV series "Alien Nation" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Mr. Snell’s many credits include "The Running Man," "The River Wild," "Amistad," "Dante’s Peak" and "AI: Artificial Intelligence." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends, especially his wife and infant daughters.
LARRY ORENSTEIN Died Feb. 22, 2006
Composer Larry Orenstein died of complications from pneumonia at age 87. Mr. Orenstein played trumpet with a number of big bands using the name Larry Neill. He was a lyricist on the 1949 Film-Noir entry "C-Man." For much of his life, he worked in advertising, creating the first Big Mac jingles. He wrote lyrics for an episode of "I Love Lucy." He also composed the score for the unsold TV pilot "But Mother!" Mr. Orenstein used his music to heal. He played Jazz Therapy to catatonic VA patients in Brentwood! Here is another example of Hollywood marriages that last. Mr. Orenstein is survived by Marilyn Orenstein, his wife of 49 years.
RUDY MAKOUL Died Feb. 22, 2006
Dialogue coach/actor/writer Rudy Makoul died at age 85. Mr. Makoul worked as an actor in film and radio. He mainly worked as a dialogue coach, both for the studios and on his own. Rudy Makoul’s coaching credits include "The Girl Can’t Help It" and "Artists and Models." The Jerry Lewis film "The Geisha Boy" was based on a story by Rudy Makoul.
DIANE SHALET Died Feb. 23, 2006
Actress and novelist Diane Shalet died in Palm Springs. Ms. Shalet was the widow of actor Michael Strong. Ms. Shalet appeared in a number of popular TV series during her career. She played Eula Pendelton, the step-mother of John Boy’s first girlfriend on "The Waltons." She appeared with Darren McGavin in the second Kolchak movie "The Night Strangler." Other TV credits include "The Monkees," "Matlock," "Bonanza," "Mannix" and "Gunsmoke." Ms. Shalet’s feature film roles included playing Robert Deniro’s secretary in Elia Kazan’s "The Last Tycoon." Based on an unfinished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Last Tycoon" was Elia Kazan’s final film as a director. Ms. Shalet also appeared with Steve McQueen in Mark Rydel's’wonderful "The Reivers." "The Reivers" was based on a novel by William Faulkner. Mr. Shalet wrote the comic novel "Grief in a Sunny Climate," about a grieving widow in Los Angeles. Diane Shalet shared her love of acting with students as a drama teacher at UCLA. She taught for 14 years!
ALF MARHOLM Died Feb. 24, 2006
German actress Alf Marholm died at age 87. Mr. Marholm appeared in over 50 films and TV shows in his 50+year career. He also dubbed the voices of English speaking actors into German for foreign display of their movies. He was the German voice of Richard Burton among others. He appeared in the strange comedy "Hitler’s Son," which starred Bud Cort and Peter Cushing. The movie is an underground cult classic. It is underground because the 1978 movie has never been released. Hammer horror fans have created a demand for the film due to Peter Cushing’s appearance.
DON KNOTTS Died Feb. 24, 2006
During my early teen years, I discovered the comedic greats Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and The Marx Brothers. A neighborhood art-house movie theater held weekly film festivals featuring the works of these great comedians. Now that I have many more years of experience and maturity under my belt, I have realized that I had already been exposed to many classic comedians through TV long before I discovered Chaplin and Keaton and Groucho. One stood head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries. Don Knotts was a genius performer of comedy. He may not have written his material as did Chaplin, but Don Knotts was able to reach down and choose just the right phrase, or shudder or twitch and deliver a gag that made you laugh long and loud. Don Knotts’greatest gift was that he could show us how it felt to be the odd man out. Don Knotts made us laugh, but he also touched our heart. Pathos. Didn’t matter if Don Knotts was playing Barney Fife, Henry Limpet, Mr. Morrison, Luther Heggs, Dr. Jessie Heywood, Roy Fleming or an one of a dozen other characters, he made the audience care about his creations. Sure his characters could be silly. So what. You laughed with him. You cared for him. You were happy to have Don Knotts’ merry menagerie enter your house each week.
Actor Don Knotts died of lung cancer at age 81. Don Knotts was best known for his portrayal of Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show." Don Knots was a regular on the TV series for the first five-years of its eight year run. Although Mr. Knotts left the show in 1965, he returned to do guest spots during the final three years of the show. Don Knotts won five Emmy Awards for his work on "The Andy Griffith Show." His second most famous TV role was as the landlord on "Three’s Company." I never thought much of his work on the popular T&A TV series.
Don Knotts and Andy Griffith first worked together on stage in the play "No Time for Sergeants." The pair reprised their roles in the film version. The scene in which Andy Griffith as the country bumpkin Pvt. Will Stockdale frustrates Don Knotts as Cpl. John Brown by figuring out his own solutions to the US Army’s dexterity tests is still hilarious. That one scene shows Knotts brilliance at playing characters on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Don Knotts and Andy Griffith would continue to work together after Knotts left the TV series in 1965. In addition to making guest appearances during the final three years of "The Andy Griffith Show," Don Knotts reprised his role as Barney Fife in the long awaited TV reunion film "Return to Mayberry." He made an uncredited guest appearance on the pilot episode of the short-lived 1971 TV series "The New Andy Griffith Show." Don Knotts would later show up on Andy Griffith’s more successful TV series "Matlock."
Don Knotts role as Mr. Morrison on "The Steve Allen Show" was better known as Mr. Nervous. That role brought him his first widespread notice. However, it was Don Knotts popularity on "The Andy Griffith Show" that led to film roles. Several films were tailored as Don Knotts vehicles. "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" was the first "Don Knotts Movie." Shot during the height of his popularity on "The Andy Griffith Show," "Mr. Limpet" was a combination of live action and animation. It was kind of a take-off on the "Walter Mitty" story. Mr. Limpet wishes he was a fish and the wish is granted. After leaving "The Andy Griffith Show," Don Knotts tried to build a film career. He quickly put out several films that made money, but did not lead to film stardom. "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" was the best of the bunch. This was followed by "The Reluctant Astronaut," "The Shakiest Gun in the West," "The Love God?" and "How to Frame a Figg." Following these films, Don Knotts would go back to guest spots on TV shows and co-starring roles in several Disney films.
Don Knotts and fellow comic genius Tim Conway paired up for a number of films and TV shows for Disney as well as other studios. Their credits include "The Apple Dumpling Gang," "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again," "The Private Eyes," "Gus," "The Prize Fighter" and "Cannonball Run II." Mr. Knotts other numerous film credits include last year’s "Chicken Little," "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo," "Hot Lead and Cold Feet," "Pleasantville," "Move Over Darling," "It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World," "The Last Time I Saw Archie" and "Wake My Up When Its Over."
Don Knotts served his country in the US Army in the Pacific Theater of operations during WWII. Thanks for the laughter and for your service to your country.
DENNIS WEAVER Died Feb. 24, 2006
Emmy-winning actor Dennis Weaver died of cancer at age 81. Depending on your age, you might remember Dennis Weaver best as the gimp-legged Chester from "Gunsmoke" or as the fish-out-of-water Western Marshall in New York "McCloud." Dennis Weaver was nominated for Emmy Awards two times for each character! He won once in 1959 for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series. Both of his "Gunsmoke" nominations came in the 1950s while his "McCloud" nominations came in the 1970s. In 1984 Mr. Weaver was awarded the Golden Boot Award for his work in the Western genre. He received a Humanitarian Award in 1987 at the Women in Film Crystal Awards. His TV movie "The Virginian" was honored with a Bronze Wrangler Award at the 2001 Western Heritage Awards.
My first memory of Dennis Weaver was as the terrorized motorist in Steven Speilberg’s highway horror film "Duel." You will never drive an old car on the highway again after seeing this great movie. I remember losing a bet with my mother later on. I swore that Burt Reynolds played the part, but she said I was wrong. Lost a dollar. Also learned to start checking facts before opening my mouth. I should have listened to my Mom as her favorite TV show at the time was "McCloud." The show began as part of the revolving stories presented each Sunday on "The NBC Mystery Movie." "McCloud" took turns with "Columbo" and "MacMillian and Wife." Other series such as "The Snoop Sisters" joined in later. "McCloud" was inspired by the Clint Eastwood film "Coogan’s Bluff." The series ran for seven seasons. He reprised his role in the Made for TV movie "The Return of Sam McCloud." Mr. Weaver also produced the 1989 film which reunited him with series co-star J.D. Canon.
Dennis Weaver was a regular on the long-running series "Gunsmoke" for nine years. He played Chester Goode for the series first nine seasons (1955-64). When Dennis Weaver left the show, Ken Curtis came aboard as Festus to take his place. His other TV series include "Kentucky Jones" (1964-65), "Gentle Ben" (1967-69), "Stone" (1980) and "Emerald Point N.A.S." (1983-84).
Though primarily a TV actor, Dennis Weaver also worked on stage and the big screen. He appeared on Broadway in "Come Back, Little Sheba" with Shelly Winters in 1950. Shelly Winters was credited with giving Dennis Weaver his big break in the 1950 play. Dennis Weaver would reteam with Ms. Winters 21 years later in one of my personal favorites: "What’s the Matter With Helen?" Curtis Harrington directed the classic gothic horror film. Debbie Reynolds co-starred.
Dennis Weaver played supporting roles in a number of notable films during the 1950s. He was the manager of the motel where Janet Leigh was held captive in Orson Welles’ Film Noir classic "Touch of Evil." He played a Navel Officer in the great anti-war film "The Bridges of Toko-Ri." He also appeared in the original film "Dragnet," "The Man From the Alamo" and "Seven Angry Men." Beginning in the 1960s, Mr. Weaver worked more and more on TV and in fewer films. His other film credits include the Jerry Lewis comedy "Way…Way Out," "A Man Called Sledge" and "Duel at Diablo."
Dennis Weaver appeared in a number of memorable Made for TV movies. The most famous was "Duel." In "Intimate Strangers," Dennis Weaver created a chilling portrait of a wife beater. I remember fondly his starring role as the Professor Fuller in "Ishi: The Last of His Tribe." Mr. Weaver played the man who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg in the Emmy-winning "The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd." That film was directed by Paul Wendkos. The actor/drector team made several other memorable films together including "Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction," "The Ordeal of Patty Hearst" and "Terror on the Beach."
Dennis Weaver made guest appearances on many, many great TV series. His TV credits include "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Dr. Kildare," "Combat!," "Judd For the Defense," "Name of the Game," "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries," "Magnum PI," "The Simpsons" and "Touched By an Angel."
Who says Hollywood marriages can’t last. Dennis Weaver was married to Gerry Stowell back in 1945! He was the father of actor Robby Weaver and actor/producer/director Rick Weaver. Dennis Weaver was a committed environmentalist who donated time and money to various causes.
DARREN MCGAVIN Died Feb. 25, 2006
Emmy-nominated actor Darren McGavin died at age 83. The prolific stage and screen actor appeared in over 200 films and TV shows in a career that began in the 1940s. Mr. McGavin also enjoyed a successful stage career including numerous Broadway productions. He originated the role of "The Rainmaker" on Broadway. Burt Lancaster played the role in the film version. Most of us will remember Darren McGavin as the rumpled, ruffled newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak for "The Night Stalker" TV movie and TV series. His second wife, Kathie Browne co-starred with him as a police detective in the TV series "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Ms. Browne died in April of 2003. Younger audiences will remember Mr. McGavin as the grumpy father in the modern holiday classic "A Christmas Story."
I always enjoy the surprise of discovering something new. I remember the first time I saw Otto Preminger’s tale of drug addiction "The Man With the Golden Arm." Frank Sinatra was hooked on heroin. He got his stuff from the hulking neighborhood Mafia pusher. The pusher was menacing and seductive at the same time. You knew after seeing him in action for just a few seconds that Sinatra’s character would lose his fight to stay clean and be feeding his veins with poison before the second reel was over. The menacing pusher was played by Darren McGavin. I saw the 1955 film for the first time in the mid-1970s. My impression of Darren McGavin was that he was adept at playing comedy and light drama. Characters with a worldly and cynical persona. His work in "The Man With the Golden Arm" was a revelation. Darren McGavin had depth. He was a formidable heavy. There are hints of this darker side in Robert Redford’s wonderful "The Natural." 1955 was an important year in Mr. McGavin’s filmography. In addition to "The Man With the Golden Arm," he co-starred in David Lean’s "Summertime" and Otto Preminger’s "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell."
I’m a horror movie fan. Grew up watching monster movies. Can’t help but love them. Like many other horror buffs, I love producer Dan Curtis’ 1972 Made for TV movie "The Night Stalker." The smart script was written by Richard Matheson. Curtis hired British director John Moxey to direct the modern tale of a vampire terrorizing Las Vegas. Darren McGavin played Carl Kolchak, the third rate newspaper reporter who uncovers the story. Barry Atwater was excellent as the feral vampire. Audiences loved the movie, so the powers that be decided to test the waters again. The 1973 TV movie "The Night Strangler" followed Kolchak to Seattle. Here he uncovers a very old scientist who uses the blood of young women to make an elixar of youth. This time producer Dan Curtis directed himself. Richard Matheson once again adapted Jeff Rice’s source material to the screen. Once again, the audiences loved it. The success of the two films spawned the short-lived TV series: "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Mr. McGavin made a cameo appearance via an archived video insert from the original series in the pilot episode of ABC’s 2005 bone-headed remake of "The Night Stalker."
Even though Darren McGavin had the range to play darker characters, we loved him for what he did best, and most often. He was finally recognized by his peers with an Emmy nomination for "Murphy Brown." He played Candice Bergan’s father in several episodes. Mr. McGavin was a prolific TV actor. In the late 1950s he had the distinction of starring in two different TV series at the same time! He starred in both "Mike Hammer" and "Riverboat."
Another personal favorite of mine was the 1970 Made for TV movie "Tribes." Mr. McGavin played the tough Marine boot-camp drill sergeant who is faced with a hippie draftee who won’t play by the rules. Jan-Michael Vincent co-starred as the thorn in McGavin’s side. The movie may be gaining new relevance these days. Steven Speilberg directed three Made for TV movies before turning to feature films. "Duel" came first. Next was the 1972 film "Something Evil" starring Darren McGavin and Sandy Dennis as the owners of a possessed farmhouse. That same year Darren McGavin starred in the TM movie pilot for the hit series "The Rookies." Also from 1972 was the TV film "Say Goodbye Maggie Cole." Susan Hayward co-starred with Darren McGavin in what would be her final film. Darren McGavin directed the 1973 feature film "Happy Mother’s Day, Love George." The all-star murder mystery was the final film of singer actor Bobby Darin.
I really could go on and on. Did I mention that Darren McGavin co-starred in the pilot for "The Six Million Dollar Man"? How about the fact that he co-starred with Jerry Lewis in "The Delicate Delinquent," Mr. Lewis's first film after breaking up with Dean Martin? Thanks for the many years spent entertaining us.
JACK LAZARE Died Feb. 25, 2006
Radio broadcaster and actor Jack Lazare died at age 83 after a lengthy illness. Mr. Lazare was a noted radio broadcaster having been heard on Voice of America, WNEW in New York and WEEI & WHDH in Boston. Mr. Lazare appeared in the 1978 TV movies "The Defection of Simas Kudirka" and "See How She Runs." Mr. Lazare served his country as a pilot in the US Navy!
CLIFFORD FEARL Died Feb. 25, 2006
Broadway actor Clifford Fearl died at age 90. Mr. Fearl appeared in numerous Broadway plays during his lengthy career including "Finnian’s Rainbow," "My Fair Lady" and "Mame." He appeared in Alan J. Pakula’s 1987 film "Orphans" as well as the filmed TV special of Disney’s stage play "Snow White Live." Mr. Fearl served his country during WWII in the US Army.
JOHN R. HARRIS Died Feb. 26, 2006
Emmy-nominated music editor John R. Harris died at age 63. Mr. Harris shared an Emmy nomination in 1987 for his work on the TV series "L.A. Law." Mr. Harris worked on numerous films and TV shows during his career. Mr. Harris’ career was cut short by a tragic accident, which left him paralyzed. Mr. Harris was the music editor on Walter Hill’s Zen thriller "The Driver." Other notable credits include "The Changeling," "High Anxiety," "Nine to Five" and "Lucas." May his family take comfort in the fact that he can walk once more.
BRIG. GEN. ROBERT L.SCOTT (USAF Ret.) Died Feb. 27, 2006
WWII fighter ace and military hero Robert L. Scott died at age 97. Robert L. Scott retired for the Air Force as a Brigadier General. That’s a One Star General for you civilian types. During WWII, Robert Scott flew with the famed Flying Tigers. He had 22 confirmed aerial kills during the war. General Scott wrote the book "God is My Co-Pilot" about his exploits during WWII. "God is My Co-Pilot" was made into a film in 1945. General Scott acted as the technical advisor on the film. He was portrayed in the movie by Dennis Morgan. General Scott also served as a technical advisor on Abbott and Costello’s "Keep ‘Em Flying." Following his retirement, General Scott acted as a patron for the Middle Georgia Museum of Aviation. General Scott won numerous awards in the service of his country. His medals include three Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and five Air Medals. Thanks for the service to your country.
ROBERTA STORM Died Feb. 28, 2006
Actress Roberta Storm died at age 71. Ms. Storm worked as an actress for over 40 years. Her many credits include the TV mini series "Captains and the Kings" and "The French Atlantic Affair." She also appeared in the feature films "Seems Like Old Times" and the erotic thriller "Color of Night."
ALFRED BAALAS Died Feb. 28, 2006
Cameraman Alfred Baalas died at age 96. Mr. Baalas was a member of the 1928 graduating class of Hollywood High! He served his country in the US Army during WWII. Prior to the war, Mr. Baalas began working as an assistant cameraman for Technicolor Picture Corp. He made training films during the war. The long-time member of I.A.T.S.E.Local #600 worked as a cameraman on many classic films. He helped capture the images on such films as "Mutiny on the Bounty," "The Ten Commandments," "South Pacific," the original version of "Around the World in 80 Days," "High Noon," "The Searchers," "Rio Bravo," "The Bridge on the River Kwai," "Dirty Harry" and "Play Misty for Me." In addition to being a talented cameraman, Mr. Baalas was also a proud Republican. A rare thing in Hollywood these days.