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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten III

With another calendar year behind us, I now continue my tradition (begun last year) of mini-tributes to those who made memorable contributions to the world of movies and who shuffled off this mortal coil during the year 2001.

Frankly, it feels a bit trite to pay more attention than has already been paid to the passing of people in the entertainment field after a year when so many people died under tragic circumstances in New York, the Pentagon, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, and many other places. But, as they say, life goes on. And part of life is trivializing death. And I’m here again to do my part.

Please note that I slipped the immortal Ray Walston into last year’s roll call, even though he actually died in 2001 (on January 1). Also, I’ve already penned a memorial to veteran movie producer and director Stanley Kramer in February. In June I mourned no fewer than five actors at once: the indefatigable Anthony Quinn, the beloved Carroll O’Connor, screen legend Jack Lemmon, winsome comedienne Imogene Coca, and character actor Anne Haney.

Inevitably overshadowed by the tumult of 9/11 was my tribute (and those of others) to longtime New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who is undoubtedly the only reviewer to inspire such fear in filmmakers that she earned the distinction of actually having a movie villain named after her (General Kael in Star Wars). And just last month I paid tribute to composer, singer, film producer and sometime actor George Harrison.

So, are there any other late film luminaries left to praise? Sadly, there are. What follows is the first part of my two-part list of mini-tributes to the others, in alphabetical order. Look for the rest next week.

  • Aaliyah: The year’s most heartbreaking story in the entertainment biz. A rising singing career and a part in the Matrix sequel. All undone by too much luggage in the cargo hold.

  • Samuel Z. Arkoff: You put the “exploit” into “exploitation.” From The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini to The Abominable Dr. Phibes, you gave the public (well, the teenage public) what it really wanted. But hey, you also gave directors like Coppola, Scorsese and the Woodman early breaks.

  • Fred De Cordova: Your TV producer career ran the gamut of legends, from Jack Benny to Johnny Carson. But you also directed more than 20 films, including Bedtime for Bonzo and its sequel.

  • Troy Donahue: You were Robert Redford without the staying power. A turn-on for teenage chicks in flicks like A Summer Place. But you hung on long enough to have a part in The Godfather II, not to mention John Waters’s Cry-Baby.

  • Dale Evans: You and Roy kept us entertained on endless Saturdays, as you galloped away on ol’ Buttermilk. Will the world ever be so simple or innocent again? Happy trails to you.

  • Arlene Francis: We thought that all you did was sit on the panel for a hundred years on What’s My Line? But you actually acted in a couple of movies, like 1948’s All My Sons and the Doris Day comedy The Thrill of It All. Turn all the cards over.

  • Kathleen Freeman: You were one of those innumerable faces that we sort of recognized but never knew the name of. Personally, I always mixed you up with Anne Ramsey. But you were in everything from Singin’ in the Rain to The Fly to The Blues Brothers to Naked Gun 33-1/3: The Final Insult.

  • Nigel Hawthorne: Your acting c.v. is well-rounded, but face it. You will always be remembered for two characters: on TV, Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes, [Prime] Minister and, in the movies, the title character in The Madness of King George.

  • Eileen Heckart: Your had a face that was made to play Eleanor Roosevelt. And, you did, in a one-woman stage show and in a TV miniseries. Film buffs will remember you for bringing two of your best stage roles (both as mothers) to the movies: the woman whose son is done in by an evil little girl in The Bad Seed and a blind man’s oppressive mother in Butterflies Are Free. TV buffs will remember you as Mary’s globetrotting Aunt Flo on the Mary Tyler Moore show. And trivia buffs will remember you as the only character from that TV show to make a guest appearance on the Lou Grant spinoff.

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 10 January 2002

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