Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten I

Call me morbid, but one of my favorite parts of the annual Academy Awards telecast is the tribute to people who have died during the previous year. Not that I get any particular pleasure out of seeing how many actors, directors and other artists have passed on during the year, but I just get some sense of satisfaction out of seeing even a brief tribute to people who have brought a little joy and/or art into our lives.

Over the past months, I have occasionally paid tribute, where I was so moved, to those who have left the earth but who left it a somewhat brighter place. These have included Sir Alec Guinness, Richard Farnsworth, Ring Lardner Jr. and Jason Robards. But there were many other souls whom I missed, for one reason or another, who shuffled off this mortal coil during the year 2000 (and one already since 2001 began).

For the sake of some sense of closure, this week and next I present, in alphabetical order, my own personal mini-tributes to those who have left us during the past year:

  • Steve Allen: Movie-wise, your legacy is essentially The Benny Goodman Story, but your real gift to future generations was making Jay Leno and David Letterman possible.

  • Billy Barty: From the 1930s through the 1990s, you were in virtually every movie that needed a small person. You can stand tall for your body of work.

  • Vincent Canby: For years you were the most respected voice I listened to regarding new films. For a New York critic, you were strangely non-judgmental and non-snobbish about the range of things that Hollywood spewed forth.

  • David Dukes: Not a bigoted politician but a classically trained actor who will be remembered mainly for soaps and for trying to rape Archie Bunker’s wife.

  • Douglas Fairbanks Jr.: You followed well in your father’s footsteps as a silver screen swashbuckler. Personally, I liked you best (appearing with fellow oldie but goodies Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, and John Houseman) in 1981’s Ghost Story.

  • Sir John Gielgud: What can I say? You were one of the really great ones. You added class to many, many films. But just as Sir Alec will be best remembered for Obi-Wan, you will always be thought of as drunken Dudley Moore’s butler.

  • Charles Gray: Another face from several movies, your fate is forever to have people in strange costumes yelling “Boring!” at midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

  • Durwood Kirby: Your résumé says “actor” but I can’t find anything you acted in, unless being Garry Moore’s longtime sidekick counts.

  • Werner Klemperer: Despite a number of film roles, your destiny is to be remembered as a bumbling concentration camp commandant on TV’s Hogan’s Heroes. An odd lot for a refugee from Nazi Germany.

  • Hedy Lamar: Your name alone was enough to evoke exoticism and eroticism for years. But you were more than a body or a face. You were a major patent holder.

  • Larry Linville: Your movie parts were too few and obscure, but you will be remembered for TV’s M*A*S*H.

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 11 January 2001

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