Saturday, November 30, 2013

DECEMBER 2008 FILM WORLD OBITUARIES

PAUL BENEDICT Died Dec. 1, 2008

Noted character actor Paul Benedict died at age 70. Mr. Benedict was best known for his role as Harry Bentley on the hit TV sitcom "The Jeffersons." Mr. Benedict worked on TV, in film and on Broadway. He appeared in over 50 films and TV shows during his career. Whether playing comedy or drama, Mr. Benedict's characters were uniquely his. Like most people my age, my first exposure to Mr. Benedict's work was as the Mad Painter on "Sesame Street." My all-time favorite Paul Benedict role was that of Professor Fleeber in "The Freshman." Benedict shone as the NYU film professor obsessed with "The Godfather." He added extra magic to an already wonderful film. Mr. Benedict's other notable film credits include "A Mighty Wind," "The Devil's Advocate," "Waiting for Guffman," "The Addams Family," "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Man with Two Brains," "The Goodbye Girl," "Smile," "Mandingo," "The Front Page," "Up the Sandbox," "Jeremiah Johnson," "Deadhead Miles," "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," "They Might Be Giants" and "Cold Turkey."

Paul Benedict was a prolific stage actor. He appeared on Broadway in a handful of plays including the 1999/2000 revival of "The Music Man" "The Play's the Thing" and "Bad Habits." Paul Benedict's many TV credits include "The Drew Carey Show," "The Guiding Light," "Seinfeld," "Tales from the Crypt," "A Different World," the 1980s version of "The Twilight Zone," "Murder, She Wrote," "The Blue and the Gray," "All in the Family," "Maude," "Harry O" and "Kojak."


JAMES BREE Died Dec. 1, 2008

British actor James Bree died at age 85. Mr. Bree appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows during his career. "James Bond" fans remember his as Blofeld's lawyer in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." Mr. Bree was also an accomplished stage actor. He served his country in the RAF during WWII. Mr. Bree's many film and TV credits include "Lust in Space," "The Return of Sherlock Holmes," "Rumpole of the Bailey," "Satan's Slave," "The Duchess of Duke Street," "I, Claudius," "Z Cars," "Softly Softly," "Upstairs, Downstairs," "The Avengers" and "The Prisoner."


ODETTA Died Dec. 2, 2008

Folk and Gospel singer Odetta died of heart disease at age 77. The legendary singer influenced such noted singers as Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. Odetta appeared in a number of documentaries including "Blues Divas," "Get Up, Stand Up" and "Peter, Paul and Mary: Lifelines." She performed on many TV shows including "The Virginia Graham Show," "The Johnny Cash Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show." Odetta also acted, appearing in the landmark TV movie "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" and "Have Gun - Will Travel."


DR. ELIZABETH FERNEA Died Dec. 2, 2008

Author, anthropologist and filmmaker Elizabeth Fernea died at age 81. Dr. Fernea was the wife of anthropologist Robert Fernea. The pair traveled the world. Ms. Fernea made a number of documentary films including "Saints and Spirits," "Reformers and Revolutionaries: Middle Eastern Women," "The Struggle for Peace: Israelis and Palestinians," "The Price of Change," "A Veiled Revolution," "Women under Siege," "The Road to Peace: Israelis and Palestinians" and "Living with the Past."


DEREK WADSWORTH Died Dec. 3, 2008

Composer, arranger, orchestrator Derek Wadsworth died at age 69. Mr. Wadsworth wrote the theme music for the sci-fi TV series "Space 1999." Mr. Wadsworth worked as conductor on numerous films including "Dick Tracy," Nicholas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth," "Britannia Hospital," "The Whales of August," "Swallowtail Butterfly" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." Mr. Wadsworth was the conductor for the original productions of "Hair" and "Rocky Horror Show." Other credits include "Do Vampire Bats Have Friends?," "Cosmic Princess," "A Child Is a Wild Thing," "Alfie Darling," "Christa: Swedish Fly Girls," "Life on Mars" and "Wild Man Blues."


FORREST J. ACKERMAN Died Dec. 4, 2008

This is a sad one for me and millions of other Monster Kids around the world. Our beloved Uncle Forry died at age 92. Forry introduced millions of kids to the wonders and magic of monster movies through his magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmdom." Publisher James Warren and beloved editor Forrest Ackerman began the magazine in 1958. Many of his loyal readers such as Oscar-winner Rick Baker, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Tom Savini and John Landis grew up to make their mark on the industry. Forrest Ackerman was a teenage friend with author Ray Bradbury and Oscar-winning animator Ray Harryhausen. Mr. Ackerman coined the term "Sci-Fi" in the 1950s. He was one of the foremost promoter of science fiction as a respectable literary form. Mr. Ackerman helped form the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in the mid-1930s.

I discovered "Famous Monsters of Filmland" at the Stop and Go convenience store at Union and McLean in Memphis. That was in April 1970 Issue #64. The cover by Basil Gogos caught my eye and I was hooked. I would save up my paper route money to by the new issues and try my best to raise the money to buy the back issues. When I was 15-years-old I was hit by a car and spent the summer in the hospital. My Ma surprised me with a copy of the first issue as I lay in traction. Living in Tennessee, I dreamed of living in Los Angeles so I could visit the Ackermansion. Uncle Forry's home in LA housed a collection of over 300,000 pieces of sci-fi and monster movie memorabilia. The cape Bela Lugosi wore…Willis O'Brien armatures…priceless artifacts from the world of fantasy. Uncle Forry didn't hoard this fantastic collection. He allowed fans of all ages into his home to share the joy. Eventually girls and work moved to the front of the line in my life and I stopped collecting "Famous Monsters." What I didn't lose was the desire to discover all the great horror and science fiction films I had first read about in Uncle Forry's great magazine.

In September 2003 one of my childhood dreams came true when I met Uncle Forry at DragonCon in Atlanta. The room was noisy and crowded so we were not able to do much talking. That was OK. I have to believe that Forrest Ackerman can see the joy in the eyes of those who meet him and know that he had an impact on their life. I wish I could say that I'm one of those writers who knew him well, because I would have loved to have known him. I didn't, except through his writings. But he was MY Uncle Forry too.

Uncle Forry's final years were marked by illness and a costly (but victorious) legal battle with a man whose name is not worthy to appear here took their toll on Forry. Forry spent several hundred thousand dollars on his legal war with the nameless one. After winning, the nameless one declared bankruptcy.

Uncle Forry was forced to sell much of his memorabilia to pay his legal fees. The Ackermansion was no more. The Acker mini-mansion was born. Despite his set-backs, Uncle Forry still kept up his spirit. He attended fan conventions, entertained guest and conducted tours of the mini-mansion. Though Forry didn't believe in God, he did show love to his fellow man.

Forrest Ackerman made cameo appearances in hundreds of films. He can be seen looking through Dick Miller's book store with a copy of "Famous Monsters" in his hand during the scene in which Dee Wallace's friend buy the silver bullets in Joe Dante's "The Howling." He was the guy who got his car stolen outside the hotel in John Landis' "Innocent Blood." Uncle Forry was the President in "Amazon Women on the Moon." Other credits include "Kentucky Fried Movie," "Schlock," "Dracula vs. Frankenstein" and "Michael Jackson's Thriller." Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the inspiration and education.


UMBERTO BONSIGNORI Died Dec. 4, 2008

Director and film professor Umberto Bonsignori at age 87. Mr. Bonsignori produced and directed the 1961 film "Maeva." Avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren wrote the tale of a girl from Tahiti who goes through a very rough time with men before finding the man of her dreams. Mr. Bonsignori was the chairman of the communication department at William Patterson College in New Jersey.


MIKIO TERASHIMA Died Dec. 4, 2008

Japanese actor Mikio Terashima died at age 77. Mr. Terashima was a prolific voice actor. He was best known for playing the villain Berg Katze in the "Gatchaman" series. He also worked in live action films. Mr. Terashima worked on a number of the "Space Battleship Yamato" films. He also worked on Miyazaki's "Arsene Lupin and the Castle of Cagliostro." Other credits include "Mobile Suit Gundam F9," "Crusher Joe," "The Blade of Kamui," "Area 88," "Black Narcissus of Lust" and "The Love Robots."


NINA FOCH Died Dec. 5, 2008

Oscar and Emmy-nominated actress and drama coach Nina Foch died of the blood disorder myelodysplasia at age 84. Ms. Foch received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her work opposite William Holden in the 1954 film "Executive Suite." Her Emmy nomination was for "Lou Grant." Ms. Foch appeared in over 160 films and TV shows during her 65-year career. Ms. Foch continued to work up until her death. In addition to her many acting credits, Ms. Foch was George Stevens' assistant director on the classic film "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Ms Foch appeared in a number of notable films during her career. She played Moses' adoptive mother Bithiah in Cecil B. Demille's 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments." Director Stanley Kubrick also used Ms. Foch in his epic "Spartacus." Horror movie fans remember Ms. Foch for the 1940s films "The Return of the Vampire" with Bela Lugosi, "Cry of the Werewolf" and the 1970s "Carrie" rip-off "Jennifer." Other notable credits include "Sliver," Blake Edwards' "Skin Deep," George Cukor's final film "Rich and Famous," "Mahogany," Otto Preminger's "Such Good Friends," "Cash McCall," "Scaramouche," "An American in Paris," "Johnny O'Clock," "A Thousand and One Nights" and Bud Boetticher's "Escape in the Fog."

Nina Foch was also a prolific TV actress. She played the victim of the very first murder to be solved by TV detective Columbo in the 1968 pilot film "Prescription Muder." Her most recent TV credits were on "The Closer" and "Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service." Among Ms. Foch guest appearances on TV shows and TV movie credits are "Just Shoot Me!," "Dharma & Greg," "Alien Nation: Dark Horizon," "Murder, She Wrote," "L.A. Law," "War and Remembrance," "McMillan & Wife," "The Great Houdini," "Barnaby Jones," "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," "Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law," "Hawaii Five-O," "The Mod Squad," "That Girl," "The Name of the Game," "McCloud," "The F.B.I.," "Gunsmoke," "The Wild Wild West," "Bonanza," "I Spy," "Combat!," "Dr. Kildare," "Burke's Law," "Route 66," "The Outer Limits," "The Virginian," "Naked City," "Studio One," "Wagon Train" and "Your Show of Shows."

Nina Foch appeared in five Broadway productions including revivals of "King Lear" and "Twelfth Night." Probably Ms. Foch's most lasting contribution to Hollywood was made in her role as a drama teacher. For 40 years Ms. Foch shared her craft with hundreds through her class at USC. She also taught at the American Film Institute. Ms. Foch was doing what she loved when she fell ill in class on Thursday. She was taken to the hospital where she died the next day. Next to dying onstage at the end of a perfect performance, I can think of no more fitting end for an actor.


BEVERLY GARLAND Died Dec. 5, 2008

Emmy-nominated actress Beverly Garland died at age 82. Ms. Garland was best known for her role as Fred MacMurray's wife on the hit TV series "My Three Sons." She also had a cult following for her roles in a number of monster movies including "It Conquered the World," the original version of "Not of This Earth" and "The Alligator People." Beverly Garland appeared in over 180 films and TV shows. She was nominated for a Best Actress in a Single Performance Emmy for her work in the 1954 TV show "Medic."

Ms. Garland was known for playing tough women. When compared to other women's characters in 1950s horror and sci-fi movies, her characters were not your typical damsels in distress. Ms. Garland gave back as good as she got. Her genre film and TV roles include "The Neanderthal Man," "Science Fiction Theater," "It Conquered the World," "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon," "Not of This Earth," "The Alligator People," "The Twilight Zone," "Boris Karloff's Thriller," "Stark Fear," "Kraft Suspense Theater," "Twice-Told Tales," "The Mad Room" and the TV series "Planet of the Apes." While not a horror film, per se, Ms. Garland also co-starred as Tuesday Weld's doomed mother in the cult classic "Pretty Poison."

She made her film debut in the Film Noir classic "D.O.A." Her many feature film credits include "It's My Turn," "Roller Boogie," "Airport 1975," "Where the Red Fern Grows," "Salome '73," "Gundown at Sandoval," "The Joker Is Wild," "Chicago Confidential," "Naked Paradise," "Gunslinger," the original version of "The Desperate Hours," "Swamp Women," "The Miami Story," "The Rocket Man" and "The Velvet Cage."

Beverly Garland was a prolific TV actress. She joined the cast of "My Three Sons" during the 12-year series' final three seasons. Ms. Garland was a regular cast member on a number of TV series. She played Teri Hatcher's mother on "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." Ms. Garland played Cookie LaRue on the comedy series "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" fans will remember her character Dotty West. She also had a recurring role on thesoap "Port Charles."

Ms. Garland's other TV series and TV movie credits include "7th Heaven," "Diagnosis Murder," "Friends," "Magnum, P.I.," "Flamingo Road," "Charlie's Angels," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "Medical Center," "Kung Fu," "Ironside," "Love, American Style," "Mannix," "The Rookies," "The Voyage of the Yes," "The Mod Squad," "Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole," "Then Came Bronson," "Here's Lucy," "The Wild Wild West," "Judd for the Defense," "The Fugitive," "Rawhide," "Dr. Kildare," "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Tales of Wells Fargo," "Perry Mason," "The Millionaire" and "The Lone Ranger."


SUNNY VON BULOW Died Dec. 6, 2008

Heiress Sunny Von Bulow died after spending almost 28 years in a coma. Ms. Bulow was found in a coma on December 21, 1980. She was married to Claus Von Bulow. Her husband was trial for her murder. Mr. Von Bulow was accused of trying to kill her with insulin injections. He was convicted, but the conviction was overturned and he was then acquitted. Mr. Von Bulow was represented by attorney Alan Dershowitz. The case was the basis for the Oscar-winning film "Reversal of Fortune." Actress Glenn Close portrayed Ms. Von Bulow. Jeremy Irons won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Claus Von Bulow. Actor Ron Silver portrayed attorney Dershowitz. The case was also the subkect of several TV series documentaries.


PAULINE TENNANT Died Dec. 6, 2008

Actress Pauline Tennant died at age 79. Ms. Tennant was the daughter of actress Hermione Baddeley (Mary Poppins). Ms. Tennant was born into British high society and lived a very full life. She was married three times, her last to Sir Anthony Rumbold, ambassador to Austria. Ms. Tennant acted on stage in a number of productions She only made two films. Her debut was in the 1945 film "Great Day." Ms. Tennant also played a supporting part in the 1949 cult classic "The Queen of Spades." The film is part of an excellent Anchor Bay double feature DVD which also includes "Dead of Night." The movie is a gem that deserves to be discovered by film buffs everywhere.


GERARD LAUZIER Died Dec. 6, 2008

French director and comic book artist Gerard Lauzier died at age 76. Mr. Lauzier gained fame as a comic book artist in the 1970s. He turned to filmmaking as a writer and director His best know work was "My Father the Hero." The script was filmed twice. Gerard Depardieu starred in bothte 1991 French version and the 1994 American remake. Mr. Lauzier directed the original French version. Mr. Lauzier's other writing credits include "The Frenchman's Son," "Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar," "The Best Job in the World" and "Rat Race."


DENNIS YOST Died Dec. 7, 2008

Singer Dennis Yost died of respiratory failure at age 65. Mr. Yost had been in a nursing home since suffering brain damage in a 2005 fall. Mr. Yost was the lead singer of the band Classics IV. The group had several hit records in the late 1960s and early 1970s including "Spooky," "Stormy" and "Traces of Love." Several members of Classics IV went on to form the band The Atlanta Rhythm Section. Mr. Yost's wonderful vocals can be heard on the soundtracks of such films and TV shows as "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," "Six Feet Under," David Lynch's "Lost Highway," "Fandango" with Kevin Kostner and "The Chicken Chronicles."


JOSEPH UDDO Died Dec. 7, 2008

Camera production assistant Joe Uddo died at age 33. Mr. Uddo's credits include "Sonny," "Monster's Ball," "Stranger Than Fiction" and "Alabama Moon." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.


ARNA-MARIA WINCHESTER Died Dec. 7, 2008

Australian actress Arna-Maria Winchester died at age 60. She was the daughter of actress Joan Winchester. Ms. Winchester was a familiar face to TV audiences in Australia during the 1970s and beyond. Ms. Winchester appeared in nearly 40 TV shows and feature films during her career. She made a number of guest appearances on the hit TV show "Homicide." Her many credits include "H2O: Just Add Water," "The Lost World," "A Country Practice," "1915," "The Box," "Shannon's Mob," "Division 4," "Matlock Police," "Spyforce" and "Phoenix Five."


BOB SPIERS Death announced Dec. 8, 2008

BAFTA-winning director Bob Spiers died at age 63. Mr. Spiers was nominated for seven BAFTAs, winning twice for the TV series "Absolutely Fabulous" and "Fawlty Towers." Mr. Spiers directed every episode of the twisted comedy series "Absolutely Fabulous." Mr. Spiers also directed the Spice Girls' feature film "Spice World." Mr. Spiers' other credits include "French and Saunders," "A Tribute to the Likely Lads," "The Fast Show Live," "The Adventures of Lano & Woodley," the 1997 remake of "That Darn Cat," "A Bit of Fry and Laurie," "Bottom," "Murder Most Horrid," "Press Gang," "Are You Being Served?," "The Goodies" and "Dad's Army."


ROBERT PROSKY Died Dec. 8, 2008

Tony-nominated actor Robert Prosky died of complications from a heart procedure at age77. Mr. Prosky was nominated for a Best Featured Actor Tony and won the Drama Desk Best Actor award for his performance as Shelly Levene in David Mamet's play "Glengarry Glen Ross." Jack Lemon played the part in the film version. Mr. Prosky also received a Best Actor Tony nomination for the 1988 production of "A Walk in the Woods." Robert Prosky appeared in six Broadway productions. On his road to Broadway and the silver screen, Mr. Prosky honed his skills in regional theater for over 20 years.

Robert Prosky made his feature film debut at age 51 in Michael Mann's intense crime thriller/character study "Thief." Mr. Prosky played the crime boss pressuring James Caan's character to continue his life of crime. "Thief" is one of my all-time favorite films. There are so many things right with this movie that it is impossible to lay the credit for the movie's success on just one person. That aside, Robert Prosky's performance as Leo remains one of the best screen villain portrayals of all time. Prosky's Leo is the Prince of Darkness. He captures the charm and menace of a made man like few before him. Prosky's performance contains subtle nuances which show you don't always have to talk loudly to be a badass. He holds his own against a strong performance by star James Caan. Mr. Prosky's other great villainous role was as the demonic baseball team owner in "The Natural."

Robert Prosky appeared in over 70 films and TV shows during his career. He was not typecast as a heavy and showed himself to be adept at comedy and drama. In juxtaposition to the menace of Leo in "Thief," Robert Prosky was a lovable teddy-bear as Sergeant Stan Jablonski on the TV series "Hill Street Blues." Mr. Prosky's best comedic performance on film came in "Mrs. Doubtfire." Other notable feature film credits include "The Chamber," "Dead Man Walking," "The Scarlet Letter," the remake of "Miracle on 34th Street," "Rudy," "Last Action Hero," "Hoffa," "Far and Away," "Green Card," "Gremlins 2," "The Great Outdoors," "Broadcast News," "Outrageous Fortune," "The Keep," "John Carpenter's Christine," "The Lords of Discipline," "Monsignor" and "Hanky Panky."

In addition to his recurring role on the TV series "Hill Street Blues" Mr. Prosky was a regular or had a recurring role on the TV series "Veronica's Closet," "The Practice," "Lifestories" and "Danny." Mr. Prosky's guest roles and TV movie credits include "ER," "Touched by an Angel," "Frasier," "Cheers," "Brooklyn Bridge," "Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story," "The Murder of Mary Phagan," "Murder, She Wrote," the 1980s version of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Lou Grant" and "They've Killed President Lincoln."


PHILLIP PALOUSEK Died Dec. 8, 2008

Visual effects coordinator with Amalgamated Pixels and DJ Phillip Palousek died of undisclosed causes at age 32. Mr. Palousek worked on over 50 feature films during his short career. Ironically his last film credit was in the movie "Crossing Over." Mr. Palousek's numerous film credits include "Traitor," "My Sassy Girl," the feature film version of "Get Smart," "Nim's Island," "Rush Hour 3," "Live Free or Die Hard," "Epic Movie," "The Last Mimzy," "300," "The Fountain," "Fast Food Nation," "Syriana," "Blade: Trinity," "The Chronicles of Riddick," "Elf," the remake of "The Italian Job," "The Matrix Reloaded," "The Cooler," "Halloween: Resurrection," "Swordfish," "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" and "Donnie Darko." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.


OLIVER POSTGATE Died Dec. 8, 2008

British children's TV pioneer Oliver Postgate died at age 83. Mr. Postgate created numerous characters for children's TV including Bagpuss the cat. Mr. Postgate's creations brought joy to the hearts of generations of British kids. Mr. Postgate wrote, produced, directed and provided voices for his creations. Mr. Postgate's many credits include "Tottie: The Story of a Dolls' House," "Bagpuss," "Ivor the Engine," "The Clangers," "Pogles' Wood," "The Pingwings," "Noggin the Nog," "Pinny's House" and "Little Laura."


LYNN BERNAY Died Dec. 9, 2008

Actress, dancer, costume designer and costumer Lynn Bernay died of brain cancer at age 77. Ms. Bernay worked as a dancer and actress in a number of films and TV shows before turning to costume design. Her acting credits include "Steelyard Blues," "Drive, He Said," "Burke's Law," "Night of Evil," "Pit and the Pendulum," "M Squad," "Wagon Train," "The Millionaire," "77 Sunset Strip," "I Bury the Living," "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet," "The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent," "Rock Around the Clock," "Highway Patrol," "Guys and Dolls," "The Pajama Game," "Singing in the Rain," "Don't Knock the Rock," "Ed Sullivan Show," "The Milton Berle Show," and "The Jackie Gleason Show."

Ms. Bernay's many costume design and wardrobe credits include "Transporter 2," "The Hours," "Sunshine State," "Outside Providence," "Analyze This," "The Spanish Prisoner," "Miami Blues," "Running on Empty," "Arthur 2: On the Rocks," the remake of "And God Created Woman," "Miami Vice," "The White Shadow," "Hearts of the West," "The Ransom of Red Chief," "Crime Story" and "The Promise."


WLADYSLAW SLESICKI Died Dec. 9, 2008

Award-winning Polish director Wladyslaw Slesicki died at age 81. Mr. Slesicki won numerous awards during his career. He was a noted documentary filmmaker. His 1973 film "In Desert and Wilderness" was the second most popular film in Polish history. Among his many awards were two Grand Prizes at the Venice Film Festival in 1962 and 1966.


DAKOTA CULKIN Died Dec. 10, 2008

Art production assistant Dakota Culkin was killed when she was struck by a car in Los Angeles. Ms. Culkin was the 29-year-old sister of actors Macaulay and Kieran Culkin. Ms. Culkin was working on the film "Lost Soul" at the time of her death. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.


MADDIE BLAUSTEIN Died Dec. 11, 2008

Voice actress, photographer and comic book production artist Maddie Blaustein died after a short illness at age 48. Ms. Balustein was the voice of Meowth, the arch-enemy of "Pokeman." Maddie Blaustein was transgendered, having been born Adam Blaustein. Ms. Balustein's other credits include "Sonic the Hedgehog," "Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie," "Cutie Honey: Live Action," "Kirby: Right Back at Ya!," "Cubix: Robots for Everyone," "Slayers Try" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue."


BETTIE PAGE Died Dec. 11, 2008

Enigmatic pin-up goddess Bettie Page died eight days after suffering a heart attack. Ms. Page was one of the most popular pin-up models of the 1950s. Ms. Page appeared in bikini, nude and bondage poses. She was a model for ‘photography clubs’ which allowed men to come and take photos of naked models. Ms. Page quickly became one of the top models for these clubs. The Tennessee-born Southern Belle captured the eyes, hearts and loins of millions of men with her beautiful smile, sexy eyes and playful attitude. Her trademark bangs hair cut became known as Bettie Page hair. Ms. Page was one of the first Playboy Playmates of the Month (January 1955). She was hired by Irving Klaw to star in movie loops of women spanking each other. No nudity, just harmless B&D. Congress didn’t think so and Ms. Page was subpoenaed to appear before congress. Her presence was then excused, but the films and photos sold by Mr. Klaw were outlawed.

She came from a hardscrabble upbringing which included being molested by her father and blazed like a comet for several years in the mid-1950s. Ms. Page disappeared from the limelight in 1957. Her life afterwards was marked by mental illness and tragedy and finally peace.

Ms. Page became a Christian in 1959. She worked as a missionary for a time. She maintained an unorthodox view towards nudity. Ms. Page felt that nudity was fine as long as it wasn’t combined with promiscuity. She married several times but each ended in failure. Ms. Page began to show signs of mental illness in the late 1960s. In 1979 she attacked and stabbed an elderly couple who were her landlords. She spent several months in a mental institution followed by outpatient care. In 1982 Ms. Page attacked another landlady with a knife. This time she stabbed the woman more than a dozen times, slicing her face and cutting off the end of one finger. Ms. Page was tried for Criminal Attempt Murder One. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to a mental institution for 10 years.

Ms. Page was released in 1992. She discovered that she had been discovered by a new generation. Comic book artist and writer Dave Stevens based the girlfriend of his hero "The Rocketeer" on Bettie Page. Another comic series "The Betty Pages" was based on her life as a model. Ms. Page’s image was fodder for numerous artists. She became the subject of a number of rock songs. Ms. Page shunned the limelight in her later years. She gave several audio interviews, but did not wish to be seen. Ms. Page felt that no one would want to see her as an old woman. Better to remember her as she was back in the day. This was sadly ironic as the few, rare photos of her in her later years show her to still be a beautiful woman. More mature, but still beautiful. By all accounts, her later years were happy in that she controlled her mental illness with medications and had come to grips with her past.

Ms. Page appeared in several feature-length stripper compilations including "Striporama," "Teaserama" and "Varietease." Her life was the subject of two feature films. "The Notorious Bettie Page" starred Gretchen Mol as Ms. Page. Director Nico B’s "Bettie Page: Dark Angel" starred Bettie Page impersonator Paige Richards as the pin-up icon.


VAN JOHNSON Died Dec. 12, 2008

Movie star Van Johnson died at age 92. Mr. Johnson emerged as a popular leading man during the 1940s. Mr. Johnson's career spanned seven decades and included work on Broadway, London's West End, in film and on TV. Van Johnson appeared in over 120 films and TV shows during his lengthy career. He is best known for his excellent performance as Lt. Merrick in the 1954 film "The Caine Mutiny." Mr. Johnson received an Emmy-nomination for his work in the 1976 miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man."

Van Johnson was married to Eve Wynn in 1947. The marriage was arranged by MGM boss Louie B. Mayer to end rumors that Mr. Johnson was gay. Ms. Wynn was the wife of Johnson's 'best friend' Keenan Wynn. The Wynns divorced in Mexico and the Johnsons were married only hours later. A number of authors and the even children of the Wynns and Johnsons have confirmed that Van Johnson was gay. There has been much speculation that Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn were lovers. Van and Evie Johnson separated in 1961 and were divorced in 1968. Mr. Johnson remained estranged from his daughter and ex-wife for the rest of his life. Evie Wynn died in poverty in 2004.

Mr. Johnson's stage career included six Broadway productions between 1936 and 1987. He appeared in the 1987 production of "La Cage aux Folles," as well as the 1941 production of "Pal Joey." Mr. Johnson also played the lead in the 1961 West End production of "The Music Man."

Van Johnson made his film debut in 1940. He quickly rose up the ranks to become one of MGM's most popular leading men. He was often paired on screen with actresses June Alyson and Esther Williams. Mr. Johnson began the decade in the chorus and ended as a star. In between he nearly died in a 1943 automobile crash which badly scarred his face. The crash occurred during the filming of "A Guy Named Joe." The movie made Johnson a star. The scars added realism to his man WWII film performances. Mr. Johnson's credits from the 1940s include such WWII classics as "Battleground," "Command Decision" and "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo." Other notable credits from the 1940s include "In the Good Old Summertime," "State of the Union," "Till the Clouds Roll By," "The White Cliffs of Dover," "Madame Curie," "The Human Comedy" and "Murder in the Big House."

While Mr. Johnson's film career continued forward in the 1950s, he lost much box-office appeal because of his image as a homewrecker for having married his best friend's wife. In many way's Louie B. Mayer's plan backfired on MGM. Back then, adultry was looked down on. He appeared in 27 feature films and made a handful of TV appearances. The highlight of his career was the 1954 classic "The Caine Mutiny." Mr. Johnson held his own against Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg's executive officer Lt. Merrick. Mr. Johnson co-starred with Jane Wyman in the 1956 classic romance film "Miracle in the Rain." He and Ms. Wyman had previously starred together in the 1951 romantic comedy "Three Guys Named Mike." Other notable credits from the 1950s include "23 Paces to Baker Street," "The End of the Affair," "The Last Time I Saw Paris," "Brigadoon," "Siege at Red River" and "Plymouth Adventure."

Van Johnson slowed the pace down during the 1960s, only appearing in 15 films and TV shows. His biggest hit of the decade was the comedy "Yours, Mine and Ours" opposite Lucille Ball. Mr. Johnson played the villain The Minstrel on the campy hit TV series "Batman." (Coincidentally Mr. Johnson is the third actor to play a villain on the TV series "Batman" to die on December 12th: Tallulah Bankhead-12/12/1968 and Anne Baxter-12/12/1985 being the others.) Other credits from the decade include "Where Angels Go Trouble Follows!," "Divorce American Style" and "Ben Casey."

Except for the occasional foreign film, Van Johnson spent the 1970s working on TV. He made guest appearances on nearly two dozen shows. Mr. Johnson earned an Emmy nomination for the miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man." He also appeared in the sequel "Rich Man, Poor Man Book II." Other credits include "The Sicilian Boss," "The Concorde Affair," "Black Beauty," "Quincy," "McMillan & Wife," "McCloud" and Maude." Between 1980 and his retirement in 1992 Van Johnson continued to focus on TV and the Stage. His film credits from this final period include Woody Allens The "Purple Rose of Cairo," "Murder, She Wrote," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Fantasy Island" and "The Love Boat."


ALAIN RENOIR Died Dec. 12, 2008

English professor Alain Renoir died at age 87. Mr. Renoir was the son of famed director Jean Renoir. He was a Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley. Mr. Renoir was cinematographer on his father's classic "The Rules of the Game." He worked as an assistant cameraman on his father's 1938 film "The Human Beast." He appeared in several documentary films about his father's career. Mr. Renoir fought in the French Army during WWII and was wounded in battle. After being wounded he came to the US and joined his father. Mr. Renoir enlisted in the US Army and shipped out to the Pacific Theater to fight the Japanese. Mr. Renoir received numerous combat citations. On one occasion Mr. Renoir saved his entire platoon from being wiped out by the Japanese. Thanks for your service to both France and the US during WWII.


HORST TAPPERT Died Dec. 13, 2008

German actor Horst Tappert died of complications of diabetes at age 85. Mr. Tappert was best known for playing the title role in the long-running detective TV series "Derrick." He played the brainy, unassuming detective Stefan Derrick for 25-seasons (281 episodes!) from 1974 through 1998. In 1998 Mr. Tappert received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bambi Award ceremony. Horst Tappert appeared in over 70 films and TV series during his career. His many credits include "Der Kommissar," "The Corpse Packs His Bags," "She Killed in Ecstasy," "The Devil Came from Akasava," "School of Fear," "Terror on Half Moon Street," "Gorilla Gang," "The Horror of Blackwood Castle," "The Great British Train Robbery," "Tatort," "Whiskey and Sofa" and "The Trapp Family in America."


KATHY STAFF Died Dec. 13, 2008

British actress Kathy Staff died at age 80. Ms. Staff was best known for portraying the battle-axe Nora Batty for 29 seasons (243 episodes!) on the BBC sitcom "Last of the Summer Wine." Ms. Staff appeared in over 30 films and TV shows during her career. Her many credits include "Mary Reilly," "Little Dorrit," "The Benny Hill Show," "The Dresser," "Crossroads," "Emmerdale Farm," "Coronation Street," "The Family Way" and "A Kind of Loving."


TOD HOMME Died Dec. 13, 2008

'Reality' TV series contestant Todd Homme died of unknown causes at age 23. Mr. Homme was a contestant on the Lifetime Channel TV series "Blush: The Search for the Next Great Make-Up Artist." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.


LEO LOTITO JR. Died Dec. 13, 2008

Emmy-nominated makeup artist Leo Lotito Jr. died at age 86. Mr. Lotito was nominated numerous times for Emmy awards for his work on such TV shows and specials as "V," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Fantasy Island." Mr. Lotito began his Hollywood career in the mid 1940s. His many credits include "T.J. Hooker," "Fantasy Island," "V: The Final Battle," "Blow Out," "The Competition," "When Time Ran Out...," "Over the Edge," "Oh, God!," "White Line Fever," "The Terminal Man," "Cleopatra Jones," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Blume in Love," "Getting Straight," "The Undefeated," the original "Planet of the Apes," "The Virginian," "Wagon Train," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Thriller," "Bachelor Father," "The Jack Benny Show," "The Millionaire," "M Squad" and "The Adventures of Kit Carson." Mr. Lotito served his country in the US Marines during WWII.

DORIS TOTTEN CHASE Died Dec. 13, 2008

Sculptress, painter and filmmaker Doris Totten Chase died at age 85. Ms. Chase made over 70 experimental and dramatic films. Ms. Chase wrote, produced, directed and filmed her many movies. Her credits include "By Herself: Glass Curtain," "By Herself: Sophie," "By Herself: A Dancer," "By Herself: Still Frame" and "By Herself: Dear Papa."


JAY HUGUELY Died Dec. 13, 2008

Writer, producer and director Jay Huguely died at age 68. Jay Huguely was a man of many talents. He began his career as a stage actor and director. He then turned to advertising where he won numerous Addy awards for his ad campaigns. Next came success as a country singer with the number one novelty song "White Knight" which capitalized on the CB craze of the 1970s. During his singing phase Mr. Hugely appeared on such TV shows as "Hee Haw" and "Pop! Goes the Country." He parlayed his country music success into a starring role in the Broadway play "Play Me a Country Song." Mr. Hugely then turned his sights on Hollywood and enjoyed success as a screenwriter and director! Mr. Hugely's film and TV writing credits include "Magnum P.I.," "B.L. Stryker," "Once a Hero," "MacGyver," "Airwolf," "Murder, She Wrote," "Quantum Leap," "Silk Stalkings" and "Friday the 13th: Jason Goes to Hell."

RASHIT YANGIROV Died Dec. 14, 2008

Russian film historian Rashit Yangirov died of cancer at age 54. Mr. Yangirov was one of the foremost historians studying Soviet cinema, espicially in the pre-WWII era. In addition to hundreds of research articles published by Mr. Yangirov, her was author of the book "Slaves of the Silent," which chronicles the careers of filmmakers who fled Russia after the revolution. Mr. Yangirov received a Special Thanks credit on the 2005 restoration of the 1922 film "Crainquebille."


HENRY SHAFFER Died Dec. 15, 2008

Art director Henry Shaffer died at age 56. Ms. Shaffer also worked as a theatrical director and producer. Mr. Shaffer was the art director on the excellent and underated "The Exorcist III." He worked as set dresser on the TV movie "Yuri Nosenko, KGB." Other credits include "Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story" and "The Imagemaker."


KWANG-JUNG PARK Died Dec. 15, 2008

South Korean actor and theater director Kwang-Jung Park died of lung cancer at age 46. Mr. Park appeared in over 20 films during his career. His last film "Driving With My Wife's Lover" gained international notice. The film dealt with adultery in a country which still puts people in prison for cheating on their spouses! Mr. Park's other credits include "Princess Aurora," "Mr. Iron Palm," "No. 3" and "A Man Among Men." Mr. Park began his career as a theater actor and director.


JOHN BYRNE Died Dec. 15, 2008

Rocker John Byrne died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 61. Mr. Byrne was the lead singer of the San Jose, California band Count V. The group had the 1966 #5 hit song "Psychotic Reaction." The band has a plaque in the "One Hit Wonder" display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The song "Psychotic Reaction" was used on the soundtracks of such films and TV shows as "Entourage," "End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones," "Auto Focus," "With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America," "Drugstore Cowboy" and "Less Than Zero."


CELINE CAWLEY Died Dec. 15, 2008

Actress turned advertising executive Celine Cawley was found murdered in her backyard. She had been beaten to death with a brick. The Irish business executive's husband was charged with her murder a week later. Her husband stated he saw the assailant flee when he came home from walking his dog. Ms. Cawley was one of the Bond Girls in Roger Moore's last outing as the British spy in "A View to a Kill." Ms. Cawley began one of the most successful ad production houses in Ireland. She was the producer of the award-winning short sci-fi film "Two Fat Ladies." Ms. Cawley leaves a teenage daughter. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.


TONY (KEYES) GUZMAN Died Dec. 15, 2008

Actor Tony Guzman was killed in a single car accident in California. The 48-year-old actor was active in regional theater in California. He also made a number of film and TV appearances under the name Tony Keyes. Mr. Guzman's credits include "Cutting Room," "Salome's Kiss," "Nash Bridges" and "Lethal Weapon 4."


BHARGAVI Death announced Dec. 16, 2008

25-year-old Indian actress Bhargavi was stabbed to death by her lover who then killed himself by taking cyanide. Bhargavi gained notice in her first film "Asta-Chemma." She was filming her second movie "Holidays" at the time of her death. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.


SAM BOTTOMS Died Dec. 16, 2008

Actor Sam Bottoms died of brain cancer at age 53. Mr. Bottoms was the brother of actors Timothy, Joseph and Ben Bottoms. His wife was Oscar-nominated producer Laura Bickford. Mr. Bottoms had a very likable screen persona. Sam Bottoms delivered memorable performances in several classic films. Sam Bottoms appeared in over 50 films and TV shows during his career.


Mr. Bottoms was best known for his role as Corporal Lance Johnson in Francis Ford Coppola's epic war film "Apocalypse Now!" Mr. Bottoms captured how a normal kid is changed by the horrors of war in his performance as the California surfer assigned to a Navy gunboat in Vietnam. He played a key role in a number of the film's most memorable sequences, most notably the exhilarating 'helicopter attack' sequence. Robert Duvall's character Col. Kilgore orders the helicopter attack of a Viet-Cong stronghold in order to watch Bottoms's character Lance surf. "Charlie don't surf!" Lance's escape from what he experiences into drug-induced madness is one of the most subtle and overlooked parts of Coppola's film. Sam Bottoms worked with director Coppola again in "Gardens of Stone."

Sam Bottoms made his screen debut at age 15 in Peter Bogdanovich's Oscar-winning "The Last Picture Show." Mr. Bottoms was cast in the film while visiting his older brother Timothy on the set. Sam played the mentally retarded teenaged boy Billy. His sweet, doomed character was a minor but very memorable part of the classic film. He is pictured with his brother Timothy Bottoms in the 1971 classic.

My favorite Sam Bottom's performance was as Jamie, the doomed side-kick of Josey Wales in Clint Eastwood's epic Western "The Outlaw Josey Wales." The film features many memorable side characters. Each time I watch the movie, I hate the fact that Sam Bottoms character is killed off so early. Mr. Bottoms reteamed with Clint Eastwood in the actor/directors personal favorite "Bronco Billy."

Sam Bottoms's many film and TV credits include "Shopgirl," "NYPD Blue," "Seabiscuit," "The X Files," "Sugar Hill," "Murder, She Wrote," "21 Jump Street," the TV miniseries version of "East of Eden," "Up from the Depths," "Greatest Heroes of the Bible," "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "Zandy's Bride" and "Class of '44."


RICHARD COLEMAN Died Dec. 16, 2008

British actor Richard Coleman died at age 78. Mr. Coleman played Alan a Dale on the 1950s TV series "The Adventures of Robin Hood." He appeared in over 40 films and TV shows. Mr. Coleman also had a successful stage career appearing on London's West End in several productions. Mr. Coleman had a villainous supporting role in the classic "Ben-Hur." His many film and TV credits include "And Mother Makes Five," "And Mother Makes Three," "Z Cars," "10 Rillington Place," "ITV Playhouse," "The Avengers," "Exorcism at Midnight," "Dixon of Dock Green," "Secret Beneath the Sea," "The Adventures of Ben Gunn" and "Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst."


TOM RICHER Died Dec. 16, 2008

Location manager and electrician Tom Richer died of congestive heart failure at age 55. Mr. Richer began his lengthy career as an electrician. He worked as a location manager for 25 years. His many credits include "House Party 3," "The Wrong Guys," "TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes," "Cagney & Lacey," "Hell Town" and "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo."


PAUL GRECO Died Dec. 17, 2008

"You see what you get, Warriors? You see what you get when you mess with the Orphans?" Paul Greco delivered that memorable line in his film debut as the leader of the small-time street gang the Orphans in Walter Hill's cult classic "The Warriors." Hill's gang masterpiece includes a number of memorable set pieces. The confrontation between the Warriors and the Orphans introduces the female lead played by Deborah Van Valkenberg. Just when Michael Beck and Paul Greco have a peaceful solution to their turf quarrel, Ms. Van Valkenberg shakes her ass and taunts Mr. Greco's character into a fight. Paul Greco died at age 53. He appeared in 15 films and TV shows during his career. He had a small role in the under-rated "Four Friends." He was memorable in the redneck revenge classic "Next of Kin." Other memorable credits include "The Last Temptation of Christ," "The Cable Guy," "Broadway Danny Rose," "Miami Vice" and "Crocodile Dundee."


SAMMY BAUGH Died Dec. 17, 2008

NFL Legend 'Slinging' Sammy Baugh died at age 94. Mr. Baugh was one of the pioneering quarterbacks in the NFL. Mr. Baugh showed the world that football was not just a running game as he unleashed an aerial attack which lead his Washington Redskins to two NFL championships and five division titles. Mr. Baugh was the last surviving member of the first group of players to be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. When he retired, Sammy Baugh held all NFL passing records. Mr. Baugh starred in the Republic Serial "King of the Texas Rangers" playing a college football player turned Texas Ranger out to avenge the murder of his father. He also appeared in the 1948 movie "Triple Threat." Mr. Baugh appeared in two documentaries: "The Way It Was" and "Football Fanfare."


AI IIJIMA Death discovered Dec. 17, 2008

Ai Iijima, a former Japanese porn actress turned author and TV personality was found dead in her apartment. An autopsy performed on the 36-year-old Ms. Iijima was inconclusive as she had likely been dead at least a week before her body was discovered. Ms. Iijima was one of the most popular porn stars in Japan during her youth. She retired due to ill health. Ms. Iijima was the author of the book "Platonic Sex" which later became a popular TV series in Japan. Ms. Iijima also devoted her time to raising AIDS awareness.


JAMES TOWNSEND Died Dec. 17, 2008

Sound engineer James Townsend died at age 82. Mr. Townsend worked on such films as the original "Lord of the Flies," "The Speed Lovers" and "All the Way Home." Mr. Townsend was a WWII veteran.

MAJEL BARRETT-RODDENBERRY Died Dec. 18, 2008

Actress Majel Barrett-Roddenberry died of leukemia at age 76. The widow of producer Gene Roddenberry was known as 'The First Lady of Star Trek.' She appeared in over 60 films and TV series, but it is her "Star Trek" connection which millions of fans will remember her for. Ms. Barrett appeared in all five "Star Trek" TV series, the original pilot film and several of the feature films. Ms. Barrett played the Jeffery Hunter's tough second in command 'Number One' in the original unaired pilot episode "The Cage." Her 'Number One' character was scrapped and Ms. Barrett played nurse Christine Chapel in the series proper. Ms. Barrett provided the voice of the USS Enterprise computer in the remaining "Star Trek" TV series. She also appeared as Nurse Chapel in the feature films "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "Star Trek VI." She did voice work in the feature films "Star Trek: Nemesis" and the upcoming "Star Trek."

Scenic art supervisors Denise and Mike Okuda worked on a number of "Star Trek" projects. They shared their memories of Ms. Barrett-Roddenberry with me: Majel Roddenberry was an important part of the Star Trek dream from the very first episode in 1964, where she played the mysterious "Number One," the original second-in-command of the Starship Enterprise. Ever since then, she has been the "First Lady of Star Trek," first as a talented member of the Star Trek cast, then as a goodwill ambassador to legions of fans, and finally as a keeper of the flame of Gene Roddenberry's vision of a better tomorrow. She was a free spirit, a delightful colleague, and a kind and generous friend. We will miss her terribly.

Ms. Barrett's other credits include "Here Come the Brides," "A Guide for the Married Man," "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," "Love on a Rooftop," "Bonanza," "The Quick and the Dead," "The Lucy Show," "Pete and Gladys," "Love in a Goldfish Bowl," "Leave It to Beaver," "The Untouchables," "The Buccaneer," "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and "Whirlybirds."


BILL LANDIS Died Dec. 18, 2008

Author Bill Landis died of a heart attack at age 49. Mr. Landis published the famed 80s magazine "Sleazoid Express" which dealt with the movies Mr. Landis saw on 42nd street during the late 70s and early 80s. Mr. Landis and his wife Michelle Clifford resurrected the magazine for a period of time during the 1990s. They also collaborated on the book by the same name for Simon and Schuster was well as an unauthorized biography of Kenneth Anger. Mr. Landis also co-published his wife's magazine "Metasex." Mrs. Clifford-Landis said that the last thing they wrote together was an obituary for director Gerard Damiano in early December. SHe also stated what all of Mr. Landis' readers know: "He was one of a kind." Mr. Landis wrote articles for a number of publications, most notably for "Film Comment" and "The Village Voice." Bill Landis played a small role in the 1982 underground film "Vortex." He also appeared in "Divine Trash" a documentary about director John Waters. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends, especially his daughter.


JACK DOUGLAS Died Dec. 18, 2008

British actor Jack Douglas died at age 81. Mr. Douglas was best known for his work as Alf Ippititimus in the "Carry On" film series. He appeared in eight of the feature films as well as several TV specials. His many credits include "The Goodies," "The Benny Hill Show," "Carry On Matron," "Carry On Girls," "Carry On Emmanuelle," "Norbert Smith, a Life," "Shillingbury Tales," "The Allan Stewart Tapes," "What's Up Nurse!," "Sez Les," "Kraft Music Hall Presents: The Des O'Connor Show" and "Nearly a Nasty Accident," "The Tonight Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show."


MARK FELT Died Dec. 18, 2008

Former FBI agent Mark Felt died of congestive heart failure at age 95. Mr. Felt was once the second in command of the FBI. He became a mentor to journalist Bob Woodward and played a major role in toppling the corrupt administration of President Richard Nixon. Mr. Felt was the secret source known as 'Deep Throat' who kept Woodward and Bernstein on track as they investigated the Watergate break-in and the subsequent cover-up. The identity of Deep Throat remained a secret until Mr. Felt came forward and admitted he was the mole in a 2005 interview with "Vanity Fair." Mr. Felt was portrayed by Hal Holbrook in the Oscar-winning film "All the President's Men."


JOHN COSTELLOE Death discovered Dec. 18, 2008

Actor John Costelloe committed suicide by gunshot at age 47. Mr. Costelloe was found dead at home by relatives. Mr. Costelloe was best known for his role as 'Johnny Cakes' the gay lover of wise guy Vito Spatafore on "The Sopranos." Mr. Costelloe appeared in 18 films and TV shows during his career. He was also a stage actor. Mr. Castelloe's credits include "Law & Order," "Billy Bathgate," "Die Hard 2," "Last Exit to Brooklyn" and "Black Rain." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.


RANDY GODWIN Died Dec. 19, 2008

Actor Randy Godwin died at age 50. Mr. Godwin was active in regional theater in Michigan. He wrote the play "Hope for Corky" which was produced in Michigan. Mr. Godwin's film and TV credits include "Cut, Print," "Ghost Town: The Movie," "An Ordinary Killer" and the Roger Maris biopic "61*."


RALPH LEO Died Dec. 19, 2008

Production accountant Ralph Leo died at age 90. Mr. Leo worked in the industry for over 50 years. He served his country in the US Navy during WWII and saw action in the Pacific. Mr. Leo's credits include "Blame It on Rio," the Armand Assante version of "I, the Jury," "Eyewitness," "HealtH," "Willie & Phil," "The Rose," "Quintet," "An Unmarried Woman," "Star Wars," "Next Stop, Greenwich Village," "The Drowning Pool," "Shampoo," "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," "Paper Moon," "Patton," "The Boston Strangler," "The Detective," "Tony Rome," "The Sound of Music," "The Pink Panther," "Cleopatra" and "The Hustler."


GREG SUDDETH Died Dec. 19, 2008

Writer and actor Greg Suddeth died at age 55. Mr. Suddeth was an award-winning playwright. He also wrote a few films including "Oblivion" and "Prehysteria!" Mr. Suddeth's film and TV acting credits include "Pushing Daisies," "Will & Grace," "The Beast," "Maggie Winters" and "Caged Fear."


PAGE CAVANAUGH Died Dec. 19, 2008

Jazz composer Page Cavanaugh died at age 86. Mr. Cavanaugh was the leader of The Page Cavanaugh Trio. He worked with many top recoirding artist during his 60+ year career. Mr. Cavanaugh performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show." He also appeared in and performed in such films as "A Song Is Born," "Frankenstein's Daughter," "Big City," "The Lively Ones," "Lullaby of Broadway," "Romance on the High Seas," "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle" and "Record Party."


NEAL KENYON Died Dec. 19, 2008

Choreographer and Broadway director Neal Kenyon died at age 79. Mr. Kenyon directed the Broadway plays "Frank Merriwell" and "Smith." He won the Drama Desk award for his work on "Dames at Sea." His TV credits include "Robber Bridegroom," "Search for Tomorrow" and "Feeling Good."

ROBERT MULLIGAN Died Dec. 20, 2008

I've shared this story before, but it is appropriate to repeat today. I first saw "To Kill a Mockingbird" when I was 10 years old. I watched in on the Channel 3 late movie with my father. When the movie was over I wanted to either be Atticus Finch or the guy who made that movie. I didn't know Robert Mulligan's name that night, but he was the guy who made that movie.

Oscar and DGA-nominated and Emmy-winning director Robert Mulligan died of heart disease at age 83. Mr. Mulligan received an Oscar nomination for directing the classic "To Kill a Mockingbird." His work on the film earned him the Gary Cooper Award at Cannes as well as nominations from the DGA, Golden Globe and the Palm D'Or at Cannes. Mulligan lost the Oscar to David Lean for "Lawrence of Arabia." Richard Mulligan earned an Emmy for the 1959 special "The Moon and Sixpence." He was honored with four DGA nominations. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association bestowed the Career Achievement Award to Mr. Mulligan in 2006.

Like Robert Altman, Franklin Schaffner and others Robert Mulligan was one of the successful American film directors who cut his teeth during the era of live TV. Robert Mulligan's TV credits from the 1950s include "Playhouse 90," "The DuPont Show of the Month," "Studio One," "The Alcoa Hour," "The Philco Television Playhouse," "Suspense" and "Goodyear Television Playhouse."

Robert Mulligan directed 20 films during his career. His best work was made in collaboration with producer Alan J. Pakula. The pair made seven films together including "To Kill a Mockingbird." Mr. Pakula produced Robert Mulligan's feature film debut "Fear Strikes Out," the biopic of baseball player Jimmy Piersall's battle with mental illness. Anthony Perkins and Karl Malden starred. "To Kill a Mockingbird" was the pair's second film. Next up was the Steve McQueen/Natalie Wood comedy "Love With the Proper Stranger." Mulligan and Pakula worked with both again. Natalie Wood starred in "Inside Daisy Clover" and Steve McQeen in "Baby the Rain Must Fall." Sandy Dennis starred in the sixth Mulligan/Pakula collaboration "Up the Down Staircase." The pair's final film was the disappointing Western "The Stalking Moon," which starred Gregory Peck. The pair's seven films earned 16 Oscar nominations with four wins.

Robert Mulligan directed 13 other films. Of those, his 1971 film "Summer of '42" was the biggest hit. Jennifer O'Neill and Gary Grimes starred in the sexual coming of age story set during WWII. The movie was nominated for four Oscars. This was followed by the excellent horror film "The Other." Mr. Mulligan also produced as he did his next film "The Nickel Ride" starring Jason Miller. One of his most entertaining films was "The Great Imposter" starring Tony Curtis. Mr. Mulligan received a DGA nomination for the biopic of Fred Demara, a man who impersonated others and ended up working as a prison warden and a Naval surgeon during WWII! Tony Curtis also starred in Mulligan's "The Rat Race." Rock Hudson teamed up with Mr. Mulligan for "Come September" and "The Spiral Road." Mr. Mulligan directed Richard Gere in one of the actor's first starring role in "Bloodbrothers." The film earned one Oscar nomination. That same year, Robert Mulligan directed Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn in the enjoyable tale of an adulterous couple "Same Time Next Year." The movie earned four Oscar nominations. Mr. Mulligan's 1982 film "Kiss Me Goodbye" was a so-so remake of the erotic Brazilian classic "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands." Mr. Mulligan's final film was "The Man in the Moon" which was the film debut of Reese Witherspoon.


DOROTHY SARNOFF Died Dec. 20, 2008

Actress Dorothy Sarnoff died at age 94. Ms. Sarnoff played Lady Thaing in the original Broadway production of "The King and I." She appeared in six Broadway productions between 1942 and 1953. Ms. Sarnoff retired from acting and began a second career as a lecturer and speech teacher. She began the business Speech Dynamics. Ms. Sarnoff appeared on the TV shows "Tanner '88," "Girl Talk" and "The Ed Sullivan Show."


ADRIAN MITCHELL Died Dec. 20, 2008

Playwright Adrian Mitchell died of heart failure at age 76. Mr. Mitchell was also a noted poet. Mr. Mitchell adapted Peter Weiss' unfilmable play "The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" to the screen for director Peter Brook. "Marat/Sade" was one of the artistic cinematic triumphs of the 1960s. Mr. Mitchell's other film and TV credits include "The Magic Flute," "Man Friday," "Churchill's People," "The Body" and "The Younger Generation."


LARRY CORBETT Died Dec. 20, 2008

Musician Larry Corbett died at age 54. Mr. Corbett was a freelance celloist who contributed to such movie soundtracks as "Up," the yet unreleased "Star Trek" movie, "Pineapple Express," "Lost," "Wall-E," "Austin Power, International Man of Mystery," "House of D" and "Inside Man." Mr. Corbett was a member of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.


DALE WASSERMAN Dec. 21, 2008

Tony and WGA-winning and Emmy-nominated writer Dale Wasserman died of heart failure at age 94. Mr. Wasserman was best known for writing "Man of La Mancha." His play won the Tony award in 1966. The play was based on his 1959 Emmy-nominated teleplay "I, Don Quixote" broadcast as part of "The DuPont Show of the Month" series. The play was turned into a feature film starring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren as well as a German TV movie. Mr. Wasserman won a WGA for "The Lincoln Murder Case" also for the "DuPont" show. Mr. Wasserman also adapted Ken Kesey's novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" for Broadway. He did not write the script for the Oscar-winning film. Mr. Wasserman's other credits include "A Walk with Love and Death," "Mister Buddwing," "Quick Before It Melts," "The Richard Boone Show," "The Power and the Glory," "The Citadel," "The Vikings," "Studio One" and "Climax!"


ALAN KAPLAN Died Dec. 23, 2008

Producer Alan Kaplan died of cancer at age 65. Mr. Kaplan was one of director Barry Levinson's friends who inspired his hit film "Diner." He appeared in a small role in that film. Mr. Levinson later made a documentary about his friends called "The Original Diner Guys." Mr. Kaplan also produced several independent films.

ELSA FABREGAS Died Dec. 21, 2008

Spanish actress Elsa Fabregas died at age 87. Ms. Fabregas dubbed the voices of many US actresses for the release of their films in Spain. She dubbed Vivian Leigh's voice for "Gone With the Wind" as well as Rita Hayworth's voice for "Gilda." Ms. Fanregas also dubbed voices for Doris Day, Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, Gena Rowlands, Katherine Hepburn and Grace Kelly.


MANUEL BENITEZ Died Dec. 23, 2008

Former child actor turned drug-dealer and murderer Manuel Benitez was shot and killed after a stand-off with police officers in Los Angeles. Mr. Benitez has been on the lam since the 2004 murder of his child's mother Stephanie Spears. His case was featured on John Walsh's TV series "America's Most Wanted." Mr. Benitez was wanted for the dumb-bell, bludgeoning death of Ms. Spears. Mr. Benitez was holding his young son during the standoff and the child was also shot. The child was not killed. Mr. Benitez was a child actor who appeared in several films and TV shows under the name Mark Everett. His credits include "Stand and Deliver," "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," "Trapper John, M.D.," "Highway to Heaven" and "Battlestar Galactica."


HAROLD PINTER Died Dec. 24, 2008

Oscar-nominated and Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter died of cancer at age 78. Mr. Pinter was one of the greatest British stage directors and playwrights of the past half-century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. In recent years Mr. Pinter was an outspoken critic of the Iraq War and the foreign policy of America's and England's government. While I abhor his views and comments on the subject, like the thousands of US servicemen and women now serving in the Middle East, I would defend with my life his right to make those comments.

Harold Pinter received two Oscar nominations for his screenplays "The French Lieutenant's Woman" and "Betrayal." Mr. Pinter also received BAFTA nominations for both films. He received a total of seven BAFTA nominations, winning twice for "The Go-Between" and "The Pumpkin Eater." His other BAFTA nominated films were "Accident," "The Quiller Memorandum" and "The Servant." Harold Pinter's many film and TV writing credits include the remake of Anthony Shaffer's "Sleuth," "The Handmaid's Tale," "The Last Tycoon" and "The Homecoming" and "The Birthday Party." While Harold Pinter directed a number of stage plays, he only directed one feature film: the 1974 American Film Theater production of "Butley."

Harold Pinter's work has been produced around the world including London's West End and Broadway. There have been 17 Broadway productions of Mr. Pinter's work. He received four Tony nominations, winning once for "The Homecoming." His other three nominations were for "The Caretaker," "The Man in the Glass Booth" and "Old Times."


RICK DARNELL Died Dec. 24, 2008

Composer Rick Darnell died at age 79. Mr. Darnell co-wrote the blues standard "The Thrill is Gone." The song has been recorded and performed by countless musicians, but was best known as the signature song of B.B. King. Mr. Darnell's classic song can be heard on the soundtracks of such films and TV shows as "Lost in Translation," "Payback," "Ghosts of Mississippi," "Heaven's Prisoners," "Heat," "Casino," "Chasers," "Heart and Souls," the feature film version of "The Fugitive," the TV series version of "In the Heat of the Night" and "Stormy Monday."


JAMES KAPLAN Died Dec. 24, 2008

Production assistant James Kaplan died of an aneurysm at age 28. Mr. Kaplan worked as an assistant to directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris on the film "Little Miss Sunshine." His other feature film credits include "2001 Maniacs," "Come Away Home" and "Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius." Mr. Kaplan made a number of short films which he posted on YouTube under the name of 'Chuckhoke.' Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.


EARTHA KITT Died Dec. 25, 2008

Tony-nominated and Emmy-winning actress, singer, dancer Eartha Kitt died of colon cancer at age 81. Ms. Kitt was also a Grammy-nominated singer. Her many accolades and awards include two Tony nominations for "The Wild Party" and "Timbuktu!" She also received a Drama Desk nomination for "The Wild Party." She won two Daytime Emmy awards and three Annie awards for her voice work in Disney's series "The Emperor's New School." She played the character Yzma in the TV series as well as the feature films "The Emperor's New Groove" and "The Emperor's New Groove 2: Kronk's New Groove." She received a primetime Emmy nomination for "I Spy."

Eartha Kitt was one of three actresses to play the villain Catwoman in the campy 1960s TV series "Batman." Her many acting credits include "Oz," "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," "The Wild Thornberrys," "The Nanny," "I Woke Up Early the Day I Died," "Harriet the Spy," "Ernest Scared Stupid," "Miami Vice," "Police Woman," "Friday Foster," "Mission: Impossible," "Ben Casey," "Burke's Law," "St. Louis Blues" and "Your Show of Shows."

The Grammy nominated singer cut a number of albums and performed around the world during her lengthy career. She performed on such TV shows as "It's Showtime at the Apollo," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," "The Barbara McNair Show," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Nat King Cole Show," "The Colgate Comedy Hour" and "The Red Buttons Show." Ms. Kitt's songs can be heard on the soundtracks of "The O.C.," "Elf," "Friday After Next," "The Sopranos" and "Driving Miss Daisy" among others.


ANN SAVAGE Died Dec. 25, 2008

Actress Ann Savage died at age 87. Ms. Savage is an icon of the Film Noir genre for her performance as the evil Vera in Edgar Ulmer's low-budget classic "Detour." The 1945 film was a poverty-row production, which took a week to film. It was the first such film to be chosen by the library of congress for preservation. Ms. Savage plays one of the greatest Femme Fatales in movie history in this classic film. She and her "Detour" co-star Tom Neal worked together in a total of four films and an episode of "Gang Busters." Ms. Savage appeared in over 30 films and TV shows during the 1940s and 50s. She made one feature in 1986 and her final film in Canadian director Guy Madden's 2007 movie "My Winnipeg." Ms. Savage's other credits include "Fire with Fire," "Death Valley Days," "Woman They Almost Lynched," "Jungle Jim in Pygmy Island," "The Devil's Den," "The Last Crooked Mile," "The Spider," "Apology for Murder," "The Unwritten Code," "Dangerous Blondes," "Passport to Suez" and "After Midnight with Boston Blackie."


DAVID CLARK Died Dec. 25, 2008

Make-up artist David Clark died at age 56. Mr. Clark's official website states that he worked on many mainstream films such as "The Right Stuff," "Jack," "Metro" and "What Dreams May Come." His website also states that he worked on a number of TV shows including "Party of Five" and "Saturday Night Live." There is no mention of his legit work on IMDB. IMDB states that Mr. Clark was a make-up artist in the adult film industry for over 30 years. That he appeared as himself in the documentary "Wadd: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes." IMDB states Mr. Clark played non-sex roles in "A Thousand and One Erotic Nights" and "Candy Stripers." According to IMDB Mr. Clark's many credits include such shot-on-film vintage porn classics as "Co-Ed Fever," "Aunt Peg," "High School Memories," "Inside Désirée Cousteau" and "The Ecstasy Girls."


JAMES ERIC Died Dec. 25, 2008

Playwright and theater director James Eric died of multiple organ failure at 72. Mr. Eric designed the Greenway Court Theater in Los Angeles. He also built the Matrix Theater and the Court Theater in Los Angeles as well as the Access Theater in Silverlake. Mr. Eric co-wrote the film "A Rumor of Angels."


DELANEY BRAMLETT Died Dec. 27, 2008

Rock legend Delaney Bramlett died of complications following gall-bladder surgery at age 69. Mr. Bramlett wrote or co-wrote a number of hit songs including "Let it Rain," "Superstar" and "Never Ending Song of Love." My first exposure to Mr. Bramlett was in the 1971 cult classic "Vanishing Point." Mr. Bramlett and then wife Bonnie Lynn's band 'Delaney, Bonnie and Friends' played a ragtag group of musicians working for the snake-handling preacher J. Hovah played by actor Severn Darden. The group also appeared in the 2003 rockumentary "Festival Express." The long-delayed film chronicled the 1970 Canadian rock tour which also included performances by The Band, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead among others. 'Delaney, Bonnie and Friends' enjoyed success from the late 1960s until the divorce of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett in the early 1970s. Mr. Bramlett was a member of the house band the Shindogs on the TV series "Shindig" during the early 1960s. He worked with many of the greatest musicians of his era including George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Mr. Bramlett's songs have been recorded by a variety of artists from many musical genres including Rock, Country and Hip-Hop. Mr. Bramlett's music can be heard on the soundtracks of such films and TV shows as "Guitar Man," "Juno," "The Still Life," "Ghost Rider," "A Good Year," "The Sopranos," "Wanted: Dead or Alive" and "The Swimming Pool."


KEITH WILLIAMS Died Dec. 27, 2008

Orchestrator Keith Williams died at age 84. Mr. Williams was the conductor for Charlie Chaplin's 1952 film "Limelight." Mr. Williams was the staff orchestrator for Walter Lantz and staff composer for Gene Autry Productions.

BERNIE HAMILTON Died Dec. 30, 2008

Actor turned record producer Bernie Hamilton died of a heart attack at age 80. Mr. Hamilton was best known for playing Captain Dobey in the hit 1970s TV series "Starsky and Hutch." The part was played by actor Richard Ward in the pilot film. Mr. Hamilton played the part in the series which ran four seasons. Bernie Hamilton appeared in over 60 films and TV shows during his career. He retired from acting in the early 1980s and turned to the music business as a record producer.

Bernie Hamilton's feature film credits include "Bucktown," "Scream Blacula Scream," "Hammer," "The Organization," "The Swimmer," "Synanon," "One Potato, Two Potato," "Captain Sindbad," "The Devil at 4 O'Clock," "Underworld U.S.A.," "Let No Man Write My Epitaph," "The Young One," "Up Periscope," "Kismet," "Carmen Jones," "Bright Victory," "The Harlem Globetrotters" and "The Jackie Robinson Story."

In addition to his work on "Starsky and Hutch," Mr. Hamilton's other TV credits include "The Love Boat," "Battlestar Galactica," "That's My Mama," "Police Story," "Sanford and Son," "All in the Family," "The Bold Ones," "The Name of the Game," "The Virginian," "Judd for the Defense," "Tarzan," "Cimarron Strip," "Ironside," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Ben Casey," "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Jungle Jim" and "General Electric Theater."


JASON COFFEE Died Dec. 30, 2008

Writer Jason Coffee died of complications following surgery at age 33. Mr. Coffee was a writer and creative consultant on the History Channel series "The Universe." He also worked on such TV shows as "Roswell," "Special Unit Two" and "Babylon 5." Mr. Coffee was the nephew of a colleague of mine, former assistant district attorney and now Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee of Memphis. Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.


DONALD WESTLAKE Died Dec. 31, 2008

Oscar-nominated writer and novelist Donald Westlake died of a heart attack at age 75. Mr. Westlake received an Oscar nomination for his adapted screenplay for "The Grifters." Mr. Westlake wrote over 100 books under various pseudonyms. Many of his novels were turned into feature films. His novel "The Hunter" was filmed twice. First by director John Boorman as the 1967 classic "Point Blank." Lee Marvin starred as a single-minded bank robber out to get what was taken from him by double-crossing partners. It is one of the best crime films of the 60s. Mel Gibson took over the role for the 1999 version "Payback." While that film has its advocates, Mel Gibson is no Lee Marvin.

Donald Westlake wrote the award-winning horror film "The Stepfather." His characters were used in two sequels. The movie provided actor Terry O'Quinn with the role of his career. Mr. Westlake's novel was the basis for the hilarious 1970s heist caper "The Hot Rock." Mr. Westlake adapted his own novel to the screen for "Cops & Robbers," another fun 70s heist film. "The Outfit" with Robert Duvall was a cool crime film with similarities to "Point Blank" and "Don Siegel's "Charlie Varrick." Mr. Westlake's comedy "The Bank Shot" starred George C. Scott. That movie was the subject of my very first film review for my highschool newspaper, the Central Warrior. Other credits include "Ripley Under Ground," "A Slight Case of Murder," "Fatal Confession: A Father Dowling Mystery," "Slayground," "Jimmy the Kid," "The Split" and "The Busy Body."


SHIRLEY MUNSEY Died Dec. 31, 2008

Film cutter Shirley Munsey died at age 72. Ms. Munsey worked as a film cutter for the J. Arthur Rank Film Laboratories in her native England. She moved to the US after marrying a USAF officer. Ms. Munsey continued to do freelance film cutting in the US. Her credits include "Edge of Honor" and "The Forgotten One."

BRAD SULLIVAN Died Dec. 31, 2008

Character actor Brad Sullivan died at age 77. He was one of those I know his face, but not his name actors. Brad Sullivan saw extensive combat serving his country in the US Army during the Korean War. Mr. Sullivan appeared in 50 films and TV shows. He turned in a menacingly memorable performance as Nick Nolte's abusive father in "The Prince of Tides." Mr. Sullivan played Al Capone's accountant in Brian DePalma's "The Untouchables." His character came to a sticky end along with Charlie Martin Smiths G-Man character as they were ambushed in an elevator. Brad Sullivan was a regular on the TV series "Ill Fly Away" and "Nothing Sacred." In addition to his film and TV work, Mr. Sullivan was a prolific stage actor. He appeared in six Broadway plays including the original production of "Working" and revivals of "On the Waterfront" and "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial." Mr. Sullivan received a Drama Desk Award nomination for "Working."

His many film and TV credits include "Law & Order," "NYPD Blue," "In the Line of Duty: Blaze of Glory," "Canadian Bacon," "The Jerky Boys," "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit," "Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story," "In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas," "Guilty by Suspicion," "True Colors," "The Abyss," "Dead Bang," "The Equalizer," "Funny Farm," "Tin Men," "Miami Vice," "Ghost Story," "The Island," "Slap Shot" and "The Sting."



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