Sunday, February 24, 2013

April 2006 Film World Obituaries


The first band to leave me awestruck was The Who. It happened on September 15, 1967. My family was sitting around the TV watching "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." The Who took the stage and broke into their anthem "My Generation." As the song came to an end, Pete Townsend destroyed his guitar and amps. The song ended with Keith Moon blowing up his drum kit. I think that was the only time in my entire life that I said the word ‘groovy’ spontaneously. My dad spent the rest of the hour trying to convince me that the destruction was a waste of resources and not the kind of behavior I should copy. I almost believed him by the time the show ended. Of course Tom Smothers came out with brother Dick to do their last song. At that point Tom Smothers grabbed his brother’s guitar and stomped on it. Everyone but my dad laughed. He shook his head and left the room. Parents! The great rockumentary "The Kids Are Alright" begins with the "Smothers Brothers" performance. The 1979 film is one of the best Rockumentaries ever filmed. Film editor Edward Rothkowitz co-produced this great film. In my book, that is reason enough to sing the man’s praises. Mr. Rothkowitz was an assistant editor on the Oscar-winning "Midnight Cowboy." He was a sound assistant on the Oscar-winning "Lenny." Mr. Rothkowitz edited a number of David Kelley’s TV shows including "Picket Fences" and "Chicago Hope."

JOSEPH BERNARD Died Apr. 3, 2006

Actor and teacher Joseph Bernard died at age 82. Mr. Bernard enjoyed successful stage and screen careers. He studied his craft under Stella Adler. Marlon Brando was a friend and classmate in the early days. Mr. Bernard later shared his craft as a much sought after acting teacher. Mr. Bernard’s film and TV credits include Stanley Kramer’s "Judgment at Nuremberg." He played the assistant to the prosecutor portrayed by Richard Widmark. He was chilling as mobster Mendy Weiss in Stuart Rosenberg’s Oscar-nominated "Murder Inc." Director Rosenberg also cast Mr. Bernard in a small role in his thriller "The Laughing Policeman." Mr. Bernard appeared in the pilot film for one of my all-time favorite TV series: Joseph Wambaugh’s "Police Story." The picture at right is from Mr. Bernard's guest performance as Tark in the original TV series "Star Trek." Other credits include "Ice Station Zebra," Burt Reynold’s "Heat" and numerous TV series. Mr. Bernard served his country in the US Army during WWII.


"Dutch actress Frederique Huydts died of colon cancer at age 38. Ms. Huydts had battled the disease since 2004. She was interviewed for a book dealing with having cancer. She also spoke about the disease on TV talk shows. Ms. Huydts began her acting career after graduating from the famed Toneelacademie Maastricht. Ms. Huydts worked on stage, but was best known in her native land for her work on TV. She appeared in the TV series "Good Times, Bad Times" and "Meiden van de Wit." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.

DOUG COOMBS Died Apr. 3, 2006

Champion skier Doug Coombs was killed while trying to save a fellow skier in the French Alps. The 48-year-old extreme skier was trying to reach a skier who had slipped over the edge of a cliff, when he, himself fell over the edge. The man Mr. Coombs was trying to save also perished. Mr. Coombs appeared in the films "Aspen Extreme" and "Waiting Game." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

GARY GRAY Died Apr. 4, 2006

I got to know Gary Gray at the Memphis Film Festival in 2001. Over the four-day festival Mr. Gray spent several hours talking with me, not just about his career in the movies, but about his family and his faith. Gary Gray impressed me as a decent man by his actions and his words. I saw and heard him defend people who were not present to speak for themselves. He even had nice things to say about Joan Crawford! I saw the joy in his eyes as he spoke about his children and grandchildren. I especially saw the joy in his eye when his wife came up and hugged him. I was strengthened in my own faith when Mr. Gray spoke so openly and freely about his own walk with Christ. There are many tales of former child actors who came to tragic ends when their careers didn’t continue into adulthood. This was not the case with Gary Gray. In fact, Mr. Gray retired voluntarily at a time when he was working steadily. Mr. Gray retired to get married and go into business. Both his marriage and his business thrived, as had his film career. Gary Gray appeared in 100 films and TV shows in his 20-year career. Mr. Gray died of cancer at age 69.

Gary Gray starred in many notable films. His best know work may be "Rachel and the Stranger." Mr. Gray played Loretta Young’s son. William Holden and Robert Mitchum were the rival leading men. He also starred in the Lassie film "The Painted Hills." Gary Gray appeared in films with former President Ronald Reagan and former first lady Nancy Reagan! He appeared with President Reagan and Virginia May in "The Girl From Jones Beach." The former first lady played Gary Gray’s mother in William Wellman’s thought-provoking "The Next Voice You Hear."

Gary Gray’s many film and TV credits include "Sun Valley Serenade," "Heaven Can Wait," "Gaslight," "Meet Me In St. Louis," "Whispering Smith," "The Great Lover," "Studio 57" and "I Love Lucy." Gary Gray came from a showbiz family. His father was an agent.

POLLY BURSON Died Apr. 4, 2006

Legendary, award-winning stunt woman Polly Burson died at age 85 after a short illness. Ms. Burson was a noted rodeo rider who also enjoyed a long and successful career in Hollywood. Among her many awards was the Golden Boot Award in 1991 for her career contributions to the Western Genre. Her work was not limited to Westerns. She worked with directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder and Cecil B. DeMille. Ms. Burson worked on such films as "Vertigo," "Spartacus," Some Like it Hot," "The Ten Commandments," "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Earthquake" and "The Creature From the Black Lagoon." Ms. Burson’s many Western films include "Winchester ’73," "McClintock!," "Unconquered," "Westward the Women," "Rodeo," "Gunsmoke," "The Man From the Alamo," "Destry," "Hell Bent for Leather," "El Dorado" and "True Grit."

JOHN GHAVAM Died Apr. 4, 2006

Actor John Ghavam died of acute alcohol intoxication at age 58. The dwarf actor worked in film and on stage. He played an Ewok in "Return of the Jedi." Mr. Ghavam's other credits include "Flash Gordon," "History of the World: Part 1" and "The Dark Crystal." Mr. Ghavam also acted on stage. In 2002, after falling and injuring himself at home, Mr. Ghavam drove to the theater to appear in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." It was discovered that Mr. Ghavam had broken his collar bone and he was sent to the hospital.

SHIRLEY CRUMLEY Died Apr. 4, 2006

Casting director Shirley Crumley died at age 53 of undisclosed causes. Ms. Crumley was, for many years, a southeastern actor’s best friend. Ms. Crumley cast numerous Hollywood films being shot on location in the South. She cast extras and locals for smaller roles in big films. She used her eye to provide local color in many notable films. Ms. Crumley’s film credits include "Gator," "Roots," "Kent State," "The River," "Dead Poets Society," "The Last of the Mohicans," "A Time to Kill," "The Chamber," "The Insiders," "Ali," "The Patriot" and "Ray."

VICKERY TURNER Died Apr. 4, 2006

Actress and novelist Vickery Turner died at age 66. Ms. Turner enjoyed success as a stage and film actress. She also wrote plays and five novels. Ms. Turner was married to Warren Oates from 1969 to 1974. They met while acting in the film "Crooks and Coronets." Ms. Turner is survived by her second husband, actor Michael Shannon. Ms. Turner’s film and TV credits include "The Good Soldier," "Softly, Softly," "Love, American Style," "The Mind of Mr. Soames," "The Waltons," "Prudence and the Pill" and "The Bermuda Triangle."

DONALD SIPES Died Apr. 5, 2006

Studio exec/writer/producer Donald Sipes died at age 77. Mr. Sipes worked in various executive capacities at such studios as CBS, Universal and MGM among others. Mr. Sipes co-produced the PBS adaptaion of Eudora Welty’s "The Ponder Heart."

GENE PITNEY Died Apr. 5, 2006

Rock and roll singer/songwriter Gene Pitney died of natural causes at age 65. Mr. Pitney had performed a concert in Cardiff, Wales the night before. He was found dead in his hotel room the next morning. The coroner stated that the autopsy revealed Mr. Pitney died of natural causes. Gene Pitney may be best known for the Oscar-nominated song "Town Without Pity." He sang the Dimitri Tiomkin/Ned Washington composition in the 1961 Kirk Douglas film. He also performed the song on TV at the "34th Annual Academy Awards" telecast. Though he didn’t compose "Town Without Pity," Gene Pitney did write a number of classic of the early Rock and Roll era. Among his biggest songs are "Hello, Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)" and "She’s a Rebel." Gene Pitney appeared on such TV shows as "Tops of the Pops," "Shindig," "Hullabaloo" and "Beat Club."

ROGER KACHEL Died Apr. 5, 2006

Broadway dancer Roger Kachel died of undisclosed causes at age 44. He was best known for appearing in the musical "Cats" for 11 years. His film and video credits include "Tuff Turf," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells Tour."

MARTINE BARTLETT Died Apr. 5, 2006

Emmy-nominated character actress Martine Bartlett died of renal failure at age 81. Ms. Bartlett was nominated for an Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress Emmy for her work in an episode of the 1960s TV series "Arrest and Trial." Ms. Bartlett gave an impressive performance as Sally Field’s mother in the award-winning TV movie "Sybil." She played one of Rod Steiger’s murder victims in the black comedy "No Way To Treat a Lady." Ms. Bartlett appeared numerous films and TV shows dating back to the 1950s. Her feature film credits include "Splendor in the Grass," "Lord Love a Duck," "Fuzz," "Kansas City Bomber," "Aloha, Bobby and Rose" and "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." She also appeared in the excellent Made for TV movie "Attack on Terror: The F.B.I. vs. the Ku Klux Klan." Ms. Bartlett many TV credits include "The Big Valley," "The Mod Squad," "Mission Impossible," "Then Came Bronson" and "Kojak." Ms. Bartlett also appeared several times on Broadway.

SASHA FERRER Died Apr. 6, 2006

Emmy-nominated writer/producer Sasha Ferrer died of breast cancer. Ms. Ferrer was nominated for an Emmy Award for the NBC TV special "Destined to Live." The TV show dealt with the recovery of 100 breast cancer patients. Unfortunately, Ms. Ferrer was not to be one of those survivors. Ms. Ferrer was a producer on the TV series "Big Brother." She wrote the TV movie "In Defense of a Married Man." Ms. Ferrer also directed the TV show "Smarkus and Company." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.

AMANDA DUFF DUNNE Died Apr. 6, 2006

Former actress Amanda Duff Dunne died of cancer at age 92. Ms. Dunne was the widow of Oscar nominated writer Philip Dunne. Ms. Dunne appeared in such films as "Just Around the Corner," "Mr. Moto in Danger Island" and "The Devil Commands." She retired from acting after marrying writer/director Philip Dunne. Ms. Dunne later became a political activist for Democratic causes.

KERMIT SHEETS Died Apr. 6, 2006

Actor/director Kermit Sheets died at age 90. Mr. Sheets was an artistic partner with poet James Broughton. Mr. Sheets and Mr. Broughton co-directed the experimental short film "The Golden Positions." The photo at right is a still from that film. The pair also made the award-winning 1953 short "The Pleasure Garden." The film was nominated for a BAFTA and won the Best Fantastic-Poetic Film award at Cannes! British director Lindsay Anderson was among the cast members.

BURT PEARL Died Apr. 6, 2006

Writer/producer Burt Pearl died of lymphoma at age 49. Mr. Pearl was a producer on the TV series "Touched By an Angel." He also wrote for the series. Mr. Pearl’s writing credits include the TV series "Stingray," "Riptide" and "The A-Team." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

LOWELL FENNER Died Apr. 7, 2006

Former TV newsman turned actor Lowell Fenner died at age 74. After a full and productive career in TV news and then with NASA, Mr. Fenner retired to acting. He enjoyed success in regional theater in Florida. He also appeared in several films. Mr. Fenner shared his craft as a college drama teacher. Mr. Fenner’s film and TV credits include "Alligator Alley," "All Shook Up" and "Rosewood." Before becoming an actor, Mr. Fenner worked doing PR for NASA. He may have been able to draw on his experiences when he was cast in the great HBO mini-series "From the Earth to the Moon."

GERARD REVE Died Apr. 8, 2006

Controversial Dutch author Gerard Reve died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 82. Gerard Reve was both revered and reviled for his work. His post WWII novels and articles did much to change attitudes about homosexuality in his native land. His debut novel "Evenings" gained him immediate attention. A number of his works have been translated into film. Paul Verhoven adapted Mr. Reve’s novel "The Fourth Man" to the screen. It is one the directors best films. In fact the main character of the film is named ‘Gerard Reve’! I highly recommended this great psychological thriller in a DVD review several years ago. The film deals with many of the issues that Mr. Reve wrote about and suffered with in real life: his sexuality and his faith in conflict. Mr. Reve’s novels "Evenings" and "Dear Boys" were also turned into films, but did not gain the world wide audience that Paul Verhoven’s "The Fourth Man" achieved.

GORDON TERRY Died Apr. 9, 2006

Country Music Hall of Fame member Gordon Terry died at age 74 after a lengthy illness. Gordon Terry was one of the premiere fiddle players in the Country and Western music industry. There are few people that Mr. Terry did not play with. Mr. Terry began his career playing for Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. He appeared in several films and TV shows. Clint Eastwood cast him as one of the Texas Playboys in "Honkytonk Man." Mr. Terry appeared in Ron Ormond’s bizarre "The Monster and the Stripper" and "The Girl From Tobacco Row." Other credits include an episode of the TV series "Sky King." Gordon Terry served his country in the US Army during the Korean War.

VILGOT SJOMAN Died Apr. 10, 2006

Director Vilgot Sjoman died of a brain hemorrhage at age 81. In the days before Al Gore invented the Internet, erotica was hard to come by for a teenaged boy with a healthy curiosity about the mysteries of the female form. My older brother’s Playboy magazines gave me my introductory courses in female anatomy 101. Every October, Playboy magazine would feature the "Sex in the Cinema" issue. I believe this is where I first heard of the film "I Am Curious (Yellow)." I was a bit advanced for a preteen. Once I mastered what the female form looked like, I became curious as to deeper mysteries. The 1967 film "I Am Curious (Yellow)" promised to answer these questions. Of course, I’ve long since grown up, but I remember vividly how I felt when I heard of this infamous film. I remember how much I wanted to see it. I am also amazed to realize that I never have seen the movie. Swedish director Vilgot Sjoman broke international taboos by directing the explicit film. Two years later he filmed the sequel "I Am Curious (Blue)." In the days prior to "Deep Throat," "I Am Curious (Yellow)" was probably the best known adult film in the world. Vilgot Sjoman’s output was not limited to his infamous erotica. In 1963 Mr. Sjoman directed a wonderful TV documentary "Ingmar Bergman Gor en Film," about Ingmar Bergman. Mr. Sjoman chronicled the Swedish master’s making of the film "Winter’s Light." The five-part TV documentary series focused on different areas of the development of Mr. Bergman’s movie. Mr. Sjoman made several films which drew critical comparisons with Ingmar Bergman’s work. Most notable among these was the BAFTA winner "My Sister, My Love." Mr. Sjoman’s final film was the 1995 biopic "Alfred," which dealt with the life of Alfred Nobel.

PAUL PAIN Died Apr. 10, 2006

Canadian hair stylist Paul Pain died at age 34 after a brief illness. Mr. Pain plied his art on stage and screen. Mr. Pain was an assistant hair stylist on the TV crime drama "Hollywood Flies."

PAUL HIPP Died Apr. 10, 2006

Cinematographer Paul Hipp died at age 68. Mr. Hipp’s career began in porn and ended up in family films. Along the way he also shot a number of horror and sci-fi films. Paul Hipp lenses such early adult classics as "Thar She Blows!" and "Trader Hornee." His horror film credits include "The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant" and "The Boogens." From soft core porn to such films as "In Search of the Historic Jesus" and "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams." Talk about your varied career! Mr. Hipp often worked with such noted exploitation icons as David F. Friedman and William A. Castleman.

SHIN SANG-OK Died Apr. 11, 2006

Talk about being wanted! South Korean writer/producer/director Shin Sang-Ok and his wife, actress Choi Eun-Hie were kidnapped by order of North Korean Kim Jong Il and forced to make movies for the North Korean regime! How was this plot device overlooked in the "Team America" movie! Mr. Sang-Ok and his wife were abducted in 1978. They remained in North Korea, working until 1986. The pair escaped while representing North Korea at the Berlin International Film Festival. Mr. Sang-Ok produced over 100 films. He directed nearly 80. Mr. Sang-Ok won awards at several film festivals including the Berlin International Film Festival.

PROOF Died Apr. 11, 2006

Rap singer Proof (birth name DeShaun Holton) was shot and killed outside a Detroit nightclub. The 30-year-old singer was a member of the Rap group D12. He was a friend of Eminem, who was also a founding member of "D12." Proof made a cameo appearance in Eminem’s semi-autobiographical film "8 Mile." In fact, the character played by actor Mekhi Phifer in "8 Mile" was based on Proof. If the real man was anything like his cinematic counterpart, he must have been a hell of a guy. Proof also appeared in the remake of "The Longest Yard." He appeared as himself on a number of TV shows including two episodes of "Saturday Night Live." Stop the violence people! Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

MIGNON LOWE Died Apr. 11, 2006

Guyanese actress Mignon Lowe died enroute to the hospital in Georgetown Guyana. The 45-year-old actress suffered from heart problems. She had been involved in Guyanese theater since her childhood. Ms. Lowe had won three Best Actress awards for her theater work. She starred in the Guaynese film "If Wished Were Horses." She also had a supporting role as the Voodoo Priestess in the Troma horror film "Zombie Island Massacre." While there were no Zombies on display in the film, the movie did feature Rita Jennrette, the wife of Congressman John Jennrette of ABSCAM fame.

JUNE POINTER Died Apr. 12, 2006

Singer June Pointer died of cancer at age 52. Ms. Pointer was the youngest sister of the popular singing group "The Pointer Sisters." June and her sisters Bonnie, Ruth and Anita formed the group during the early 1970s. They had a number of hit records. June, Ruth and Anita continued to perform and record after sister Bonnie embarked on a solo career. (Brother Aaron Pointer played for the Houston Astro's during the 1960s!) Among their most popular hits were "The Neutron Dance," "Jump (For My Love)" and "Fire." "The Pointer Sisters" performed on many TV shows including "American Bandstand" and "The Carol Burnett Show." Their music was featured on the soundtracks of such films as "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Night Shift." Ms. Pointer appeared in the films "Car Wash" and "French Exit." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.

RAJ KUMAR Died Apr. 12, 2006

Popular India actor Raj Kumar died of a heart attack at age 77. Mr. Kumar appeared in over 200 Kannada language films in the southern Indian film industry. His career spanned five decades. Mr. Kumar made world news in 2000 when he was kidnapped by the notorious Indian bandit Veerappan. Mr. Kumar was held in the Indian jungles for 108 days before being released. Veerappan’s long and colorful criminal career became the subject of a 2002 film. Veerappan died in a hail of police bullets in October 2004. Mr. Kumar’s death sparked mass grief and violence in his home city of Bangalore. According to the Indian press, Kannada language actors are often highly revered as they often portray Hindu Gods. Their fans tend to transpose their awe and reverence from the Gods to the actors playing them. This might account for the riots Mr. Kumar’s death touched off.

KAZUO KUROKI Died Apr. 12, 2006

Award-winning Japanese director Kazuo Kuroki died of a stroke ata ge 75. Mr. Kuroki’s career spanned six decades. He was best known for his WWII trilogy. It took Mr. Kuroki 16 years to complete the three films. "Tomorrow" was released in 1988. The film dealt with life in Nagasaki Japan the day before the A-Bomb was dropped. The film was nominated for five awards by the Awards of the Japanese Academy. Mr. Kuroki won a Best Director Award and Best Picture Award at two other Japanese industry film award ceremonies. In 2002, he directed "A Boy’s Summer in 1945." The film gave viewers an insight into the Japanese home front during the last year of WWII. Mr. Kuroki won two different Best Director awards from various Japanese award ceremonies for the second film in the trilogy. Mr. Kuroki’s final film, which completed his trilogy, "Chichi to Kuraseba" dealt with the survivors of the Hiroshima A-Bomb and their tribulations. Once again, Mr. Kuroki received a Best Director award for the film.

CHRISTINE MAYBACH Died Apr. 12, 2006

German actress Christine Maybach died of cancer at age 74. Ms. Maybach appeared in over 50 films during her lengthy career. She had a supporting role in Richard Brooks hilarious heist caper "$." Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn starred in the 1971 hit. Ms. Maybach worked for controversial directed Rainer Werner Fassbinder on a number of occasions. She appeared in Fassbinder’s epic TV mini series "Berlin Alexanderplatz." She also appeared in his films "Satan’s Brew," "Fox and His Friends" and "World on a Wire." Among Ms. Maybach’s other credits are "Just a Gigolo" with David Bowie, "Naughty Nymphs" with Sybil Danning, "A Study in Terror" and "The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse."

SARAHJANE AVIDON Died Apr. 12, 2006

Author/actress/artist Sarahjane Avidon died of cancer at age 64. This was Ms. Avidon’s 5th battle with the disease. She underwent many painful procedures in her lengthy battles against the killer. Ms. Avidon has shared her story as a survivor with many others. May those who were inspired by her stories not get discouraged by this final outcome. Ms. Avidon was a well known regional actress in Chicago. She was a co-founder of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Ms. Avidon also wrote two novels: "Audition for Murder" and "Cruising for Murder," which featured an actress who was also a detective. Ms. Avidon appeared in several films including "Opportunity Knocks," "The Imposter" and "Through Naked Eyes." Her biggest impact on the arts, though, was her work on the local level in Chicago.

DICK D’ARCY Died Apr. 12, 2006

Dancer Dick D’Arcy died after a long and successful career on Broadway. His Broadway career began in the 1930s as a dancer in the production of "Three Waltzes." He went on to appear in such plays as "Brigadoon," "On the Town" and "Show Girl" (which he also choreographed). Mr. D’Arcy appeared uncredited as a dancer in the 1944 film "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."

MARILYN HOWARD Died Apr. 13, 2006

Former actress turned casting director Marilyn Howard died of lymphoma at age 771. Under the name Marilyn Mercer, she was an actress during the 1940s. Ms. Howard appeared in Nicholas Ray’s Bonnie and Clyde inspired Noir classic "They Live By Night." Robert Altman remade the film as "Thieves Like Us." Ms. Howard also appeared in "The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer" and "Hard, Fast and Beautiful." Ms. Howard later became a casting director. She worked with Carol Burnett on both "The Carol Burnett Show" and the TV movie adaptation of Erma Bombeck’s "The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank."

EDWARD CORBETT Died Apr. 13, 2006

Character actor Ed Corbitt died at age 74. Mr. Corbett began acting in community theater before landing roles in a number of films and TV shows. I remember Mr. Corbett as the man who sold Adrian Pasdar a bus ticket in Katherine Bigelow’s classic vampire tale "Near Dark." He had a small part in Louis Malle’s "Crackers" as well as Lawrence Kasden’s "The Right Stuff." Mr. Corbett appeared in a number of horror films including "Fright Night 2," "976-EVIL" and "John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned." Mr. Corbett appeared on such TV shows as "L.A. Law," "Hunter" and "Starman." Mr. Corbett served his country in the US Navy during the Korean War.

CYNTHIA GAMBLE Died Apr. 13, 2006

Film editor and wildlife activist Cynthia Gamble was killed by a tiger at her property in Minnesota. Her death has raised discussion of the private ownership of big cats in Minnesota. Ms. Gamble edited film for Marty Stoufer of "Wild America" fame. She edited her husband Steve Kroschel’s film "Running Free." Ms. Gamble appeared on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" with a group of wolverines. Ms. Gamble also edited film for Jacques Cousteau. She founded the "Center for Endangered Cats" in 1992. The company filed Chapter 7 in 2004. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.

MURIEL SPARK Died Apr. 13, 2006

Novelist Muriel Spark died in Florence, Italy at age 88. Ms. Spark wrote more than 20 novels including "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." Her most famous novel was adapted as a feature film in 1969. Maggie Smith won a much-deserved Best Actress Oscar for her portrait of Miss Jean Brodie, a complex and conflicted school teacher. The novel also became a very short-lived Scottish TV series in 1978. Ms. Sparks hilarious and sardonic novel "The Abbess of Crewe" was turned into the interesting "Nasty Habits" starring Glenda Jackson. The film "The Drivers Seat" was also based on a novel by Ms. Spark. Elizabeth Taylor starred as woman roaming Europe to find a man to kill her. It is true twisted fun. A very black comedy. Of course, most of Ms. Spark’s work did have a dark undertone. Ms. Spark was also a noted biographer who wrote about the live of Mary Shelley among others.

PAVEL KOUTECKY Died Apr. 14, 2006

Award-winning documentary film director Pavel Koutecky was killed in a fall from a high-rise building, which was under construction. The 49-year-old filmmaker was making a documentary about a young man who climbs buildings. It is believed that Mr. Koutecky died in an accidental fall while working on his movie. Mr. Koutecky won the OIAF Award at the Ottawa International Film Festival for his 1998 TV animated short "Az Na Veky."

PUPAK GOLDHARREH Died Apr. 14, 2006

Iranian actress Pupak Goldharreh died of complications from injuries sustained in a car crash. Ms. Goldharreh had been in a coma for eight months. Ms. Goldharreh was a popular TV actress in her native land. Reading of this woman reminded me of standing by my own daughter's bed as she lay in a coma for two months. It brought home the fact that, half way around the world, in a country with completely different values and beliefs, a father must have stood vigil over his own little girl's bedside. For everything that separates us, this is still much that unites us...if we will just take the time to find it. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.

DAVID CHUNG Died Apr. 14, 2006

Actor David Chung died at age 56. Mr. Chung was born in Korea, raised in Japan and came to America to attend college. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Male Actor Independent Spirit Award for his work in the film "The Ballad of Little Jo." Mr. Chung's other credits include "Repo Man," "Paradise Road," "Missing in Action 2," "Out of Bounds" and "Rave." Before taking up acting, Mr. Chung was an elementary school teacher.

ANTHONY JAMES RYAN Died Apr. 15, 2006

Long-time Russ Meyer collaborator Jim Ryan died at age 84. The two men met during WWII when they were combat photographers together in Europe. Mr. Ryan costarred with Russ Meyer’s second wife Eve in the 1961 nudie "Eve and the Handyman." Eve Meyer was killed in the famous collision between two 747 Jumbo Jets in the Canary Islands in March 1977. Jim Ryan acted in two other Russ Meyer film. His biggest contributions were as a writer and producer of several of Russ Meyer’s films. Mr. Ryan wrote the stories for "Vixen!," "Black Snake" and "Up!" He was a producer on "Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers" (also actor), "Vixen!," "Cherry, Harry & Raquel," "Black Snake" and "Supervixens!" He was also an assistant cameraman on "Vixen!"

MALCOLM ATTERBURY JR. Died Apr. 16, 2006

Script supervisor/composer Malcolm Atterbury Jr. died at age 65. Mr. Atterbury was the son of noted character actor Malcolm Atterbury Sr. The younger Mr. Atterbury was the script supervisor on a number of the films of Sidney Poitier including "They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!," "Brother John," "The Organization" and "Buck and the Preacher." Other credits include "My Father’s House" and "Ghost Dad."

FRANCISCO ADAM Died Apr. 16, 2006

Up-and-coming Portuguese actor Francisco Adam was killed in an early morning car crash. The 22-year-old actor was returning from an autograph signing appearance when the predawn accident occurred. The former model turned actor was gaining popularity in his native land for his role on the teen soap opera "Strawberries with Sugar." "Strawberries with Sugar" is popular in both Portugal and Brazil. Mr. Adam joined the cast last year and was gaining in popularity for his portrayal of the character ‘Dino.’ Producers have said they will air the remaining episodes in which Mr. Adam appeared. There is no word yet as to how his death will be handled on the series itself. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

JOHN BAER FETZER Died Apr. 16, 2006

John Fetzer died at home at age 94. Mr. Fetzer lead a full life. He was a successful architect. He enjoyed being married to the same woman for 64 years. Mr. Fetzer spent four years serving his country during WWII. He was a Mormon missionary in Europe and Palestine during the 1930s. Mr. Fetzer founded a regional theater in Salt Lake and acted in many of their productions. He starred in a number of feature films produced by the Mormon church including "Window of Heaven" and " ‘Til Death Do Us Part."

MORTON FREEDGOOD Died Apr. 16, 2006

Writer Morton Freedgood died at age 93. Mr. Freedgood wrote a number of novels under the name John Godey. Three of his novels were turned into very popular and entertaining films. His novel "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" was filmed twice. The 1974 feature film has a huge following. The tale of a subway hijacking in New York starred Walter Mathau and Robert Shaw as the protagonists. Edward James Olmos and Vincent D’Onofrio starred in the 1998 TV version. Walter Hill adapted one of Mr. Freedgood’s books into the brutal crime drama "Johnny Handsome." Mickey Rourke starred as a disfigured criminal who undergoes revolutionary plastic surgery to repair his face. Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth McGovern, Forrest Whitaker, Scott Wilson and Ellen Barkin costarred in the excellent crime/character study. Walt Disney studios turned another of his novels in the Dick Van Dyke comedy "Never a Dull Moment."

EDWARD JOSEPH Died Apr. 16, 2006

Producer/production manager and assistant director Edward Joseph died at age 88. Mr. Joseph started out as an assistant director on several films beginning with Alfred Hitchcock's 1939 movie "Jamaica Inn." He was a location scout on John Huston's classic "The African Queen." He produced such films as "Yanks," "The Blue Bird," "S*P*Y*," "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Far from the Madding Crowd." Mr. Joseph was production manger on a number of films including "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold," "Cleopatra," "Sons and Lovers," "Sink the Bismarck!," "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw" and "The Prince and the Showgirl."

SCOTT BRAZIL Died Apr. 17, 2006

Emmy-winning producer/director Scott Brazil died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease at age 50. Mr. Brazil won two Emmys and was nominated twice more for co-producing the series "Hill Street Blues." He also won a Golden Globe as the executive producer of "The Shield." Mr. Brazil directed episodes of many TV series including "Gray’s Anatomy," "Nip/Tuck," "JAG" and "Baywatch." In addition to "The Shield," Mr. Brazil’s producer credits include the TV series "Gideon’s Crossing" and "L.A. Doctors." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.


Tony-award-winning actor Henderson Forsythe died at age 88. Mr. Forsythe won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for playing the sheriff in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Actor Charles Durning played the role in the film version. Mr. Forsythe was best known to TV viewers for his 33-year run as Dr. David Stewart on the soap opera "As the World Turns." He began his TV career in the 1950s in such dramatic shows as "Studio One" and "The Alcoa Hour." Mr. Forsythe’s film credits include "Silkwood," "The Greek Tycoon," "Interiors" and "Species 2." Mr. Forsythe served his country in combat during WWII as an officer in the US Army.

BRETT GOLDIN Death discovered Apr. 17, 2006

The bodies of South African actor Brett Goldin and another man identified as Richard Bloom were found naked in a field, having been shot in the head. Five men were arrested when they were caught using Mr. Goldin’s credit cards. Police suspect robbery as the motive for the killings. Mr. Goldin was a well-respected actor on stage and screen in his native land. Mr. Goldin received good reviews for his work in the play "Pick Ups." His film credits include the horror film "Slash," "Proteus" and "The Crazy Monkey Movie." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

ZOLA LEVITT Died Apr. 19, 2006

Jewish/Christian minister, composer and author Zola Levitt after a short bout with cancer. Zola Levitt was known world wide by millions of students of his TV and radio ministry. Unlike many so-called televangelists, Zola Levitt was a true teacher. His TV show "Zola Levitt Presents" was a very informative and spiritually enriching program. Mr. Levitt taught from the unique perspective of a Jewish man who converted to Christianity. I hope that his worthwhile lessons will continue to be aired. He also hosted the TV series "Thy Kingdom Come With Zola Levitt."

SCOTT CROSSFIELD Died Apr. 19, 2006

Pioneering test pilot Scott Crossfield was killed when his single engine plane lost power in a storm. Witnesses stated they heard the engine cut off before the plane fell from the sky. The 84-year-old test pilot was alone in the plane when it crashed. Scott Crossfield was the first man to fly twice the speed of sound. He was a rival of Chuck Yeager. His exploits were featured in both the book and film "The Right Stuff." Actor Scott Wilson played Mr. Crossfield in Philip Kaufman’s excellent film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book. Scott Crossfield appeared in the documentaries "Space Flight" and "Test Pilot." Scott Crossfield was the first man to pilot the X-15. His work in the X-15 helped pave the way for NASA’s Space Shuttle program. In November 1953, Scott Crossfield became the first man to fly at Mach 2. He achieved the feet behind the controls of the Douglas D558-2 Skyrocket. Thanks for the service to your country.

PETER JORDON Died Apr. 20, 2006

Indie filmmaker Peter Jordan died at home of undisclosed causes at age 47. Mr. Jordan and his brother Andrew made indie films and documentaries in Rhode Island. Mr. Jordan produced the films "Discover Rhode Island," "Used Guyz," "The Hot Line" and "High Art, Low Life." He edited "Terror Island" and the mockumentary "Pimps Up in the Hoe-down." Mr. Jordan was producing the film "The Love Line" for Oscar wining writer director Ernest (On Golden Pond) Thompson when he died. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

MIGUEL ZACARIAS Died Apr. 20, 2005

Veteran Mexican film director Miquel Zacarias died at age 101. Mr. Zacarias was one of the pioneering film directors and producers in the Mexican film industry. He was nominated four times for Mexico’s highest film award, The Ariel. In 1993 Mr. Zacarias was awarded a Special Ariel Award for his lifetime contribution to the Mexican film industry. He directed the third sound film ever produced in Mexico. Mr. Zacarias was also a partner with Howard Hughes in the construction of Churubusco Studios in Mexico.

CHRIS SMITH Died Apr. 21, 2006

Writer/producer Chris Smith died of cancer at age 46. Chris Smith was a mentor to aspiring screenwriters. He began teaching free screenwriting classes at a Baptist church in South Central Los Angeles following the riots of 1992. One of the people he mentored was a security guard named Antwone Fisher. Mr. Smith mentored the young man and introduced him to a film producer. Mr. Smith helped bring the powerful biopic to the big screen. He was a co-producer on the Oscar nominated film "Antwone Fisher." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.

JOAN KIRK Died Apr. 21, 2006

Joan Kirk died at age 82. Ms. Kirk worked as the Continuity person on a number of British films during the 1950s and 60s including "The Quiller Memorandum," "The Password is Courage" and "Desert Attack."

ALIDA VALLI Died Apr. 22, 2006

What a life! Italian actress Alida Valli appeared in well over 100 films. She enjoyed success in Europe and also the US. She made contributions to many different types of films from A-list productions to horror classics. Many different types of film fans will remember Ms. Valli for a variety of different reasons. She also had beauty. She was at the center of one of Italy’s biggest scandals during the 1950s. Ms. Valli was adored by dictators and common men alike. Alida Valli died at age 84.

Being a horror movie fan first and foremost, it isn’t a shock that I remember Ms. Valli primarily for her horror movie contributions. He most famous horror film role was in the 1959 French classic "Eyes Without a Face." The haunting and extremely disturbing film was given the grand treatment as a Criterion Collection DVD release last year. Ms. Valli plays the murderous assistant of the film’s villain: a doctor who murders young women in order to give his own daughter a new face. The movie has been release with a number of titles and a variety of truncated forms. Now it can be seen as originally intended thanks to the Criterion collection. Once seen, this film is hard to forget. Italian horror master Mario Bava cast her in his lost masterpiece "Lisa and the Devil." This film was also released in a number of versions. New footage was shot to cash in on the success of "The Exorcist." Much of the original version was lost in the process. Mario Bava’s disciple Dario Argento gave Ms. Valli a starring role in his best film "Suspiria." He would also cast her in his 1980 film "Inferno." Her other horror film credits include "Tender Dracula," "The Antichrist" and "The Killer Nun."

Ms. Valli also starred in many international A-list films. She is probably best know as Orson Welles much abused girlfriend in Carol Reed’s Film Noir masterpiece "The Third Man." Bernardo Bertolucci cast Ms. Valli in three of his films including his epic "1900" and disturbing tale of incest "Luna." Ms. Valli co-starred in Pasolini’s version of "Oedipus Rex." Unfortunately her one film with master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock was his lessor effort "The Paradine Case." She had a memorable role in the otherwise bland all-star disaster film "The Cassandra Crossing."

Alida Valli had an exciting and eventful personal life. She was one of Italian strongman Benito Mussolini’s favorite actresses. Scandal touched her life during the 1950s. In 1953, the body of a young girl named Wilma Montesi was found washed up on a beach. The girl had drown. It wasn’t quite clear if Ms. Montesi had accidentally drown, committed suicide or was murdered. Ms. Valli ended up providing an alibi for the public’s chief suspect. This event harmed her career for a few years. Several news sources have erroneously reported that Ms. Valli’s husband Oscar De Mejo was the author of the children’s Christmas novelty song "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth." In fact, the song was written by New York music teacher Donald Gardner who died in 2004.

PHIL WALDEN Died Apr. 23, 2006

Record executive Phil Walden died of cancer at age 66. Mr. Walden founded Capricorn Records. Like many Southern boys, I’m grateful to Mr. Walden for giving the world "The Allman Brothers Band." He also helped his boyhood friend Otis Redding reach a national audience. Tragedy struck both of Mr. Waldren’s most famous clients. Otis Redding and members of his backup band from Memphis were killed in a plane crash in 1967. The Allman Brothers Band suffered two tragic deaths when co-founder Duane Allman and bassist Barry Oakley were killed in motorcycle crashes. In an eerie coincidence, the two musicians were killed on the same stretch of road almost exactly one year apart. Mr. Waldren and the Allman Brothers appeared in the documentary "Southern Voices, American Dreams." Phil Waldren would later manage the career of actor/comedian Jim Varney. Mr. Waldren produced a number of Mr. Varney’s films including "Earnest Goes to Jail" and my personal favorite "Earnest Scared Stupid."

CHAT SILAYAN Died Apr. 23, 2006

Philippine actress Chat Silayan died of colon cancer at age 46. Ms. Silayan was the daughter of actor Victor Silayan. She was Miss Philippines in 1980 and placed 3rd in the Miss Universe contest. She turned to acting and enjoyed a successful career on TV. Ms. Siayan was a Christian and occasionally co-hosted "The 700 Club Asia." Ms. Silayan’s best known work was in the TV series and later film version "Esperanza." She is now with the Lord she served.

DAVID PECKINPAH Died Apr. 23, 2006

Emmy-nominated writer/producer David Peckinpah died of a heart attack at age 54. David Peckinpah was the nephew of American master Sam Peckinpah. He was nominated for producing the TV series "Beauty and the Beast." Mr. Peckinpah also produced the TV series "Sliders," "Silk Stalkings" and "Turks." He wrote for a number of series including "Wolf" and "Farscape" as well as the movies "The Paperboy" and "Man of the House."

ANTHONY CASAS Died Apr. 23, 2006

Noted California penologist Tony Casas died at age 77. Mr. Casas worked for the California Department of Corrections for over 20 years and was the first Latino Deputy Director of Corrections for the State of California! He was responsible for organizing the State Prison Gang Task Force and was the first person to recognize the danger of Hispanic gangs in the California prison system. Mr. Casas was an expert on the Mexican Mafia. He served as the technical advisor on Edward James Olmos’ film "American Me." Mr. Casas was responsible for thwarting a prison break by Charles Manson.

JENNIFER JAYNE Died Apr. 23, 2006

British actress/writer Jennifer Jayne died at age 73. Ms. Jayne was familiar to me due to her work in the horror genre. Under the name Jay Fairbank, she wrote the omnibus horror film "Tales That Witness Madness." The movie was directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, with whom Ms. Jayne frequently collaborated. She also wrote his rock/horror flop "Son of Dracula." Harry Nilson’s soundtrack album was one of the best things to come out of the 1970s, but the movie itself was quite forgettable. Ms. Jayne acted in a number of Mr. Francis’ films including "Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors," "Hysteria," "They Came From Beyond Space" and "The Doctors and the Devils." Ms. Jayne’s other genre credits include Hammer’s "The Crawling Eye" and the TV series "Invisible Man." Ms. Jayne also appeared in a number of other films and TV shows. Her non horror/sci-fi credits include "The Medusa Touch" with Richard Burton, "Z Cars," "Dixon of Dock Green," "The Saint" and Terrence Fisher’s cool thriller "The Jigsaw Man."

HARVEY BULLOCK Died Apr. 24, 2006

Veteran comedy writer/TV producer Harvey Bullock died of age related illnesses at 84. Mr. Bullock wrote for many of the best known TV series of the 1960s and 70s. He also wrote several film scripts. His writing skills were used in both live-action and animated TV shows. Mr. Bullock’s many credits include "Girl Happy," "The Real McCoys," "With Six You Get Eggroll," "The Jetsons," "Top Cat," William Windom’s "My World and Welcome to It," "Who's Minding the Mint," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Flintstones," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Danny Thomas Show," "I Spy," "Gomer Pyle, USMC" and "Hogan's Heroes." Mr. Bullock served his country as an officer in the US Navy during WWII.

SIBBY SISTI Died Apr. 24, 2006

Former major league baseball player Sibby Sisti died at age 85. Mr. Sisti played for the Braves during his entire 15-year career. First in Boston and later after the move to Milwaukee, Sibby Sisti wore the Braves uniform. He was on the 1948 National League Pennant winning team. Boston lost in the World Series to Cleveland, 4 games to 2. That year’s World Series also played a big part in the fictional movie "The Kid From Cleveland." Mr. Sisti appeared in that film. He later played the manager of the Pirates in Robert Redford’s "The Natural."

ANNE MARIE SCHMITT Died Apr. 26, 2006

Multi-Emmy-Award-winning producer Anne Marie Schmitt died after a long and productive career in the TV industry. Ms. Schmitt and her business partner Bob Stewart produced the TV games shows "The $10,000 Pyramid" and its various incarnations. Ms. Schmitt won 9 Emmy Awards for her work. Ms. Schmitt also worked on the TV shows "The Price is Right," "You’re Putting Me On" and "Blankety Blanks."

NOALL WOOTTON Died Apr. 27, 2006

Former Utah County Attorney Noall Wootton died of cancer at age 65. Mr. Wootton was the prosecutor who convicted double murderer Gary Gilmore. Mr. Wootton convinced the jury to give Mr. Gilmore the death penalty. Gary Gilmore then shocked the nation when he refused to appeal the court’s edict and pretty much forced the State of Utah to execute him. Gary Gilmore became the first person in the US to be executed following the moratorium ordered by the US Supreme Court during the 1960s. Mr. Wootton was portrayed by actor Charles Cyphers in the TV mini series "The Executioner’s Song." Tommy Lee Jones played Gary Gilmore.

BRYAN IZZARD Died Apr. 27, 2006

British TV producer and director Bryan Izzard died at age 74. He produced and directed a number of TV series in the 1970s. His credits include "Within These Walls," "The Fenn Street Gang," "Not on Your Nellie," "The Rag Trade" and "On the Buses."

MOJMIR DRVOTA Died Apr. 27, 2006

Writer/director Mojmir Drvota died at age 83. Mr. Drvota wrote a number of plays, novels and poems. He wrote and directed the film "A Distant Journey." Mr. Drvota taught filmmaking at both Columbia and Ohio State University.

ALBERTA NELSON Died Apr. 29, 2006

Actress Alberta Nelson died at age 68. Ms. Nelson enjoyed a career that included working on stage from Broadway to such regional theaters as The Erie Playhouse and also on TV and in film. Fans of the "Beach" movies from the 1960s will remember Ms. Nelson as the busty blond in Eric Von Zipper’s Rat Pack. Harvey Lembeck usually portrayed the dastardly Eric Von Zipper. Ms. Nelson was the only person to appear in all eight of the "Beach" films. Those films were "Beach Party," "Muscle Beach Party," "Bikini Beach," "Pajama Party," "Beach Blanket Bingo," "How To Stuff a Wild Bikini," "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine" and "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini." Goofy fun from a long lost era. Damn, getting old sucks. Oh well. Ms. Nelson also appeared on TV in "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Her Broadway credits include the productions "Once There Was a Russian" and "The Wall."

AL ANTHONY Died Apr. 29, 2006

Big Band era saxophonist Al Anthony died one week after turning 89 years old. Mr. Anthony played with such Big Band greats as Stan Kenton and Tommy Dorsey. Mr. Anthony was the featured saxophonist for Warner Brothers for a number of years, contributing to the soundtracks to many feature and short films. During his tenure with Stan Kenton’s band, the orchestra appeared in the film "Talk About a Lady" and the documentary short "Stan Kenton and His Orchestra."


Liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith died at age 97. Mr. Galbraith was an unapologetic liberal who advised politician from FDR to Bill Clinton. He wrote a number of well known books during his lengthy career. JFK appointed him Ambassador to India. Mr. Galbraith appeared in numerous documentary films including "The Cold War," "The World at War," "11/22/63: The Day the Nation Cried" and "Beyond Hate." He hosted the British TV series "The Age of Uncertainty."

JAY BERNSTEIN Died Apr. 30, 2006

Publicist, manager and producer Jay Bernstein died at age 69 following a stroke. Mr. Bernstein was Farah Fawcett’s personal manager. As one of millions of people in the 1970s who had the famous Farrah Fawcett poster on my wall, I guess I have Mr. Bernstein to thank! For those of us who had to wait until Farrah hit 50 to see what she had underneath her swimsuit, we can also thank Mr. Bernstein. He produced the video "Playboy: Farrah Fawcett: All of Me." Better late than never Mr. Bernstein! He also represented Susanne Somers. I’m also thankful to Mr. Bernstein for producing the great "Mike Hammer" TV series with the wonderful actor Stacy Keach.

MARIEKE DOURIDAS Died Apr. 30, 2006

Actress Marieke Douridas suffered an epileptic seizure and drowned in her bath tub. The 14-year-old actress had just finished performing in her high school production of "Grease." Ms. Douridas appeared in the short films "Free of Charge" and "Number 1 in Security." She was the daughter of Grammy nominated musician/actor Chris Douridas. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.

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