Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

Custom Search

© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten IX

During 2004, there wasn’t exactly the virtual tsunami of legendary Hollywood names on the obituary pages as there was in 2003. Still, the number of familiar movie and general entertainment personalities that left us during the year was, again, striking. In addition to such big stars as Marlon Brando and Janet Leigh, there was such an important historical figure as actor-turned-president Ronald Reagan. For me personally, there was also sadness at the passing of a major star of the Babylon 5 series (Richard Biggs) and two actors who, among other roles, had prominent guest roles on the series (Paul Winfield and Tim Choate). Also, we die-hard Dark Shadows fans were also saddened by the death of a cast member of that series, Don Briscoe.

For the record, here is the to-date list of people in the movie world (and others) who have previously been eulogized on this web site:

  • Oscar-winning film composer Elmer Bernstein
  • TV actor Richard Biggs
  • Icon of the silver screen Marlon Brando
  • Stage and TV actor Don Briscoe
  • Legendary singer and sometimes movie actor Ray Charles
  • Supporting player in film and on TV Tim Choate
  • Veteran French film director Philippe de Broca
  • Actor and monologuist Spalding Gray
  • Star of film and stage musicals Howard Keel
  • Enduring Hollywood movie star Janet Leigh
  • Exploitation movie auteur Russ Meyer
  • Veteran of stage, film and television Tony Randall
  • Movie actor, TV pitchman and U.S. President Ronald Reagan
  • On- and off-screen super-hero Christopher Reeve
  • Comic book guru Julius Schwartz
  • Controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh
  • Respected TV and film actor Paul Winfield
  • Long-lived movie actor Fay Wray

    Sadly, there are many more names to remember of people who left us during 2004. Below is the first half of my (alphabetical) list, with the remainder to be enumerated next week.

  • Cecily Adams: While not exactly a household name, you were known to die-hard Star Trek fans as one of two actors to play the Ferengi publican Quark’s mother Ishka (affectionately called by her sons Moogie). Other TV guest roles included Murphy Brown, Party of Five and Just Shoot Me. Some people may have known you as the daughter of Don Adams of Get Smart fame. But a lot of us knew you as the valiant woman fighting lung cancer and dying way too young (at 39), leaving a two-year-old daughter. This is because your husband, the actor Jim Beaver (The Life of David Gale, Deadwood) shared your story with an entire community of concerned people on the internet.

  • Carl Anderson: Superstar? Do you believe what they say you are? We were blown away by your dynamic and energetic portrayal of Judas in the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, the role you had originated on the stage. After that performance, we were sure we would see a lot more of you. But other than a role in The Color Purple and some TV guest shots, you seemed to vanish. Dead of leukemia too young at 58.

  • John Barrymore Jr.: Let’s face it, it’s your name that’s famous. Not that you were probably ever thankful for that. Having famous actor parents (mother Dolores Costello) did you no good at all. Your body of work included such fare as The Sundowners, High School Confidential and Nights of Rasputin, but you were better known for problems with drink, drugs and the law, as well as violent fights with your first wife, Cara Williams. Even your kid (Drew Barrymore) was more successful than you.

  • Larry Buchanan: Your movies may not have been great, but the titles sure were: The Loch Ness Horror, Mistress of the Apes, A Bullet for Pretty Boy, Creature of Destruction, Zontar the Thing from Venus and, of course, the classic title of all time, Mars Needs Women. As if that wasn’t enough, we still have your final movie to look forward to, which you considered your magnum opus. Following in the footsteps of Mel Gibson, you told the story of Jesus in something called The Copper Scroll of Mary Magdalene.

  • Mercedes Cambridge: Yeah, sure, you got an Oscar for All the King’s Men (your first movie role). And, okay, you got nominated for another one for Giant. And, sure, you were in some other respectable films, like Johnny Guitar, A Farewell to Arms and Suddenly, Last Summer. Heck, your career even lasted long enough that you got to be in one of those silly disaster movies (The Concorde-Airport ‘79, as a Russian gymnastics coach). But, let’s face it, what really interests us is that you provided the voice for Satan, as he spoke through the possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

  • Alistair Cooke: The truth is that I always thought you were sitting somewhere in London, as you introduced episodes of great British miniseries like The Forsyte Saga and The First Churchills on American public television back in the 1970s. Only later did I find out you were a Yank (albeit a naturalized one) like me. You seemed as old as dirt back then, but you had a long way to go. Things came full circle when, in the past few years in Ireland, I sought out your regular Letter to America broadcast on BBC radio to connect the homeland.

  • Frances Dee: No apparent relation to Sandra, you were a leading lady in the 1930s and 1940s to the likes of Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Ronald Colman, Leslie Howard and your own husband, Joel McCrea. Of interest to trivia buffs, you were in the first full-Technicolor feature film, 1935’s Becky Sharp. Also, you were Meg in 1933’s Little Women, with Katharine Hepburn and Joan Bennett. Although your movies generally had titles like Coming-Out Party and Finishing School, you did star in one called I Walked with a Zombie.

  • Fred Ebb: Born in New York, you could make it there, and you could make it anywhere. You penned some of the best lyrics for songs and shows ever. Working with composer John Kander, your oeuvre included stage musicals that became movies (Cabaret, Chicago), as well as stage musicals based on movies (Zorba, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the Spider Woman). You also wrote songs for Funny Lady, the sequel to Funny Girl. And your title song for that a rarest of beasts, a Martin Scosese musical (in 1977), provided yet another signature tune for Frank Sinatra as well as an anthem for a city: New York, New York.

  • Antonio Gades: ¡Olé! Two decades before The Lord of the Rings, there was a different kind of movie trilogy. In the 1980s, I knew Spanish director Carlos Saura mainly for his sensitive 1976 drama about childhood, Cría Cuervos. So, I was surprised when he started to make movies about flamenco dancing. And they all starred a charismatic, handsome man who was a brilliant dancer (and, as I learned, choreographer). Saura was adapting three pieces of dance theater, created by Antonio Gades. A flamenco purist who disdained the bastardized form of the dance that some performed for tourists in Spain, he had created his own species of dance-theater. Gades and Saura collaborated on three films: Blood Wedding, based on the play by Federico García Lorca; Carmen, based on Bizet’s opera; and El Amor Brujo, based on a score of Manuel de Falla. They were energetic, mesmerizing and lovely to watch.

  • Nelson Gidding: In some ways, your screenwriting career was a disaster. I mean, a series of disaster movies: The Hindenburg, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. You also scripted the original The Haunting, which was much creepier than the special-effects-laden 1999 remake. And you worked with the director of The Hindenburg and The Haunting, Robert Wise, on a few other movies: the woman-in-prison flick I Want to Live!, the crime drama Odds Against Tomorrow and the sci-fi thriller The Andromeda Strain. And let’s not forget the Andy Griffith comedy, Onionhead. Come to think of it, your exploits during World War II (shot down over Italy) would have made a pretty good movie.

  • Jerry Goldsmith: This says more about me than about you, but I always associate you with Star Trek. Your rousing, adventure-signaling theme for TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation (borrowed from your score for the first Star Trek movie) stirred me for years. Sometimes it seemed as though every other movie I saw had your name in the credits. (And, if it wasn’t your name, it was probably that of Elmer Bernstein, who died a month after you.) You had a wide breadth of composing styles, but it’s always the fantasy/sci-fi or action scores that stick in my mind: two Gremlins movies, three Rambo movies, two Planet of the Apes movies, Von Ryan’s Express, Our Man Flint, Poltergeist, Supergirl, Alien, Total Recall. And let’s not forget the one Oscar nomination, out of many, that paid off with a golden statue: The Omen.

  • Arthur Hailey: Speaking of disaster movies, where would the genre be without the contributions of British-born Arthur Hailey? Mostly, we know him for his sprawling novels with one-word titles that tell us what the book is about, e.g. Hotel and Airport, both of which were adapted into movies. Airport (which spawned an ungodly number of sequels, including the aforementioned The Concorde-Airport ‘79) was preceded by Zero Hour! (based on a Hailey teleplay), a 1957 airplane-in-jeopardy thriller that was the direct inspiration for the 1980 spoof Airplane!. Other Hailey works that inspired movies: Flight into Danger, The Young Doctors, Runway Zero 8, The Moneychangers, Wheels, Strong Medicine.

  • Fred Karlin: Anyone who got married in the 1970s (and maybe the 1980s and maybe ever since) almost certainly had someone singing your best known song at their wedding. I know it seemed as though I could scarcely attend a marriage ceremony without hearing it. “For All We Know” was a big hit for The Carpenters, but I wonder how many people remember that it was actually written for a movie, Lovers and Other Strangers. In fact, it got you an Oscar. You were nominated three other times for Academy Awards, for “Come Saturday Morning” in The Sterile Cuckoo and songs for two other movies that no one remembers. And let’s not forget your Emmy for the score for the TV movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

  • Bob Keeshan: How weird is it that, when I heard you had died, my first thoughts were of that old song during the Vietnam era. People who are old enough know the one I mean: It don’t bother me at all, counting flowers on the wall, playing solitaire ‘til dawn, with a deck of 51, smoking cigarettes and watching… Captain Kangaroo, I grew up with you and Mr. Greenjeans and the rest of the gang. I thought you were really old back then. But you weren’t really an old man, you just played one on TV. Anyway, you were to me what The Wiggles are to my daughter today. Now there’s a frightening thought.

  • Andrew J. Kuehn: A lot of people who consider themselves film buffs might be surprised to find that they’ve never heard of your Kaleidoscope Films. But, in fact, Kaleidoscope has produced countless films that have been exciting, well constructed, fast paced and, most of all, concise. And they’ve been seen by huge numbers of people, even those who don’t go to movies all that often. That’s because, Mr. Kuehn (rhymes with “scene”), you were a master of that often overlooked art form, the movie trailer. Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., the Indiana Jones movies, Back to the Future, The French Connection, The Sting: they were all yours. Not the movies themselves, the trailers for them, the “coming soon” featurettes that we see before the main movie begins. These are an art form in their own right and, all too often, as you demonstrated (but not in the examples given above), the trailers are way better than the movies themselves.

  • Nino Manfredi: We Yanks knew you mainly for a 1974 film called Bread and Chocolate. A movie that presaged the future work of your countryman Roberto Benigni while harking back to spirit of Charlie Chaplin, Franco Brusati’s film dealt with an issue that has only become more urgent in the decades since: the lot of immigrants in western Europe. You played a hapless waiter in Switzerland, who goes through an absurd ordeal when he is criminalized for the completely natural act of urinating (in public). But Bread and Chocolate was only one of more than 100 movies that you made. A personal favorite of mine: Ettore Scola’s We All Loved Each Other So Much. Ciao, Nino!

  • Irene Manning: Invariably described as a “petite blonde,” you had a long career on film and on the stage and were one of the most glamorous sex symbols of the 1940s. But your dual claim to fame is as follows: you sang with Jimmy Cagney (in Yankee Doodle Dandy), and you took a bullet for Humphrey Bogart (in The Big Shot). It always bothered you that, even though you played Bogie’s romantic interest in the movie (and died for him, for goodness sake), you never got to kiss him. But at least you got to have the distinction of being the last woman to kiss Gene Autrey on screen (in The Old Corral). Bowing to the demands of his many fans, he kissed only his horse after that.

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 6 January 2005

    If you would like to respond to this commentary or to anything else on this web site, please send a message to Messages sent to this address will be considered for publishing on the Feedback Page without attribution. (That means your name, email address or anything else that might identify you won’t be included.) Messages published will be at my discretion and subject to editing. But I promise not to leave something out just because it’s unflattering.

    If you would like to send me a message but not have it considered for publishing, you can send it to

    Commentaries Archive