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."