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 II

I now continue my alphabetical roll call (begun last week) of movie personalities who have passed on during the past year. May their souls rest in peace.

  • Julie London: You were the stuff of young boys’ fantasies in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, you were the only reason a lot of us bothered tuning in to TV’s Emergency.

  • Nancy Marchand: You will probably be thought of as TV actor (from Lou Grant to The Sopranos, not to mention—trivia junkies: take note—a one-shot appearance as Frasier Crane’s mother on an episode of Cheers), but you had some good turns as well on the big screen, notably in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! and as Harrison Ford’s mother in the 1995 remake of Sabrina.

  • Walter Matthau: Another biggie. You were a comic genius, with or without Jack Lemmon. Whether a grumpy, old man or a sunshine boy or part of an odd couple, you needed only a look from your world-worn mug to bring a smile to our faces. True story (according to Lemmon anyway): during one of your later films you took a serious fall and an ambulance had to be called. As you lay in pain, Lemmon waited with you and asked if you were comfortable. You replied, “I make a living.”

  • Meredith McRae: From a bit part in Bikini Beach, your film career went downhill from there. But you’re guaranteed immortality as one of the three sisters skinny-dipping in the water tank at Petticoat Junction.

  • Richard Mulligan: A splendid physical comedian (and brother of the director of To Kill a Mockingbird), you were a TV favorite from Soap to Empty Nest. But I enjoyed you more in movies like Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. And let us not forget that you were General Custer in Little Big Man.

  • Steve Reeves: Even your muscles had muscles. Sorry, Kevin Sorbo, but this guy was the greatest Hercules of all time.

  • Beah Richards: For more than 30 years your face popped up in movies and TV, but if you’re to be remembered, it will be for your award-winning role as Sidney Poitier’s mother in the topical Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

  • Roger Vadim: You gave us Jane Fonda’s sex kitten phase (she made Barbarella while married to you) and for that alone you deserve a place in the cinematic pantheon. In the end, you will be remembered less for your shameless teases of movies than envied for your beautiful wives and lovers, which included Brigitte Bardot, Annette Stroyberg, Catherine Deneuve and Marie-Christine Barrault.

  • Jim Varney: Either you liked Ernest or you didn’t. Mostly we didn’t. But like it or not, you’re still some kind of strange pop culture icon. Know what I mean, Vern?

  • Gwen Verdon: Mainly a stage actor, singer and dancer, nevertheless, you definitely made your mark big time on the silver screen. In the 1950s you were the lusty Lola in Damn Yankees, and in the 1980s you were one of the rejuvenated senior citizens in Ron Howard’s Cocoon.

  • Ray Walston: You were a TV fixture in everything from My Favorite Martian to Picket Fences and even Star Trek: The Next Generation. But on the big screen you were equally dependable, whether playing a devil of a guy in Damn Yankees, a pioneer in Paint Your Wagon, a con man in The Sting, Poopdeck Pappy in Popeye, or a vexed teacher in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

  • Loretta Young: You won an Oscar for The Farmer’s Daughter and pre-dated Whitney Houston as The Bishop’s Wife (both in 1947), but I knew you as the woman who twirled her dress every time she walked on camera to host her own TV anthology series in the 1950s and 1960s. And one other thing: in a nod to your penchant for soft lighting and soft focus for close-ups, a friend of mine always says that I look like you when what she actually means is that she isn’t wearing her glasses.

    -S.L., 18 January 2001

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