Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten XI

With the beginning of a new calendar year, it is time once again for my annual look back over the previous year to say my own personal public good-bys to the movie and entertainment folk who left us during 2005 and to whom I have not previously bid my adieus.

Here is the list of people, who passed away over the past year, about whom I have already written in this space:

  • Award-winning star of stage and screen Anne Bancroft
  • Stage, screen and television star Barbara Bel Geddes
  • TV talk show hosting legend Johnny Carson
  • Original Star Trek cast member James Doohan
  • Veteran journalist and TV network anchor Peter Jennings
  • Producer of high-class literary adaptations Ismail Merchant
  • Gifted comedian and actor Richard Pryor
  • Multiple-Oscar-winning director of many classic movies Robert Wise

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

  • Don Adams: Sorry about that, chief. You were one of three major 1960s sitcom stars we lost during the year (the others being Bob Denver and Eddie Albert). Few actor/comedians were so identified with a single character as you were with inaptly named secret agent Maxwell Smart. But your voice turned up for a couple of well-known cartoon characters as well. It would have been fitting if you could have at least lived four more years and passed on 86. Missed it by that much.

  • Mason Adams: Did you ever play any other role besides Lou Grant’s editor? Not that we’d notice. But you had a great voice that oozed home-spun. It was put to good use on a number of TV commercials, notably the ones for Smuckers jams. With a name like that, it had to be good. After several years went by, I finally realized that you more or less had the same voice as Casey Kasem.

  • Moustapha Akkad: There is always something creepy when someone involved in making horror movies dies in a horrific way. It’s even worse when any artist dies as a consequence of political violence. You came to California from Syria to make movies and caused a bit of controversy with a film called The Message, about the origins of Islam. You also made The Lion of the Desert, starring Anthony Quinn. John Carpenter convinced you produce a little thriller about a babysitter menaced by a bogeyman, and you wound up owning the Halloween franchise. It all came to an end for you and your daughter Rima when Al Qaeda in Iraq set off bombs in hotels in Amman, Jordan, in November.

  • Eddie Albert: Your career was long and varied. You were in a ton of movies, often playing the sidekick. You were in everything from Oklahoma! to Carrie and played the conniving warden in the original The Longest Yard. Of course, that all pales next to the role we will always remember you for: idealistic but frustrated big-city-lawyer-turned-farmer Oliver Wendell Douglas on Green Acres. It’s strange to think that, if not for you, we might not have had to know about Paris Hilton.

  • Lloyd Bochner: You had a respectable film and TV career, often playing a suave and wealthy villain type. That persona made you suitable to play Cecil Colby on the primetime soap Dynasty. But as far as we are concerned, you entered immortality for playing a cryptographer on an episode of The Twilight Zone called “To Serve Man.” You were the guy who decoded the book the aliens brought and went screaming, “It’s a cook book!”

  • Argentina Brunetti: I didn’t think that there was anyone left from the cast of It’s a Wonderful Life. But there you were, passing away at 93 in your mother’s native Italy. You came from your namesake birth country to Hollywood, where you not only played the immigrant Mr. Martini’s wife in Frank Capra’s classic, but also Barbara Stanwyck’s chaperone in California, Jeff Chandler’s wife in Broken Arrow and a French maid bantering with Bing Crosby in Anything Goes. At various times you played the mother of John Derek, George Raft and Dean Martin, who sang “That’s Amore” to you in The Caddy.

  • Hamilton Camp: You started out as half of a folk music duo called Gibson and Camp, helped found a San Francisco comedy troupe called The Committee, and wound up with a long, solid career as a character actor. You were Del on WKRP in Cincinnati and Boots Miller on M*A*S*H. Your 5'2” height made you a natural for guest shots like a short blind date for Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Personally, I will always remember you as the very funny assistant to superhero creator Richard Benjamin on the all-too-short-lived sitcom He & She.

  • Jack Colvin: You did a lot of stage work, some small film roles and some guest shots on TV. Why do we remember you? Because you played the obsessed tabloid journalist Jack McGee, who was determined to uncover the secret of The Incredible Hulk.

  • George P. Cosmatos: Born in Tuscany and a director of movies in multiple countries, you got your start as an assistant director on Exodus and Zorba the Greek. You went on to make international adventures like Massacre in Rome, The Cassandra Crossing and Escape to Athena. You even directed Kurt Russell (as Wyatt Earp) in a western, Tombstone. But I’m afraid you will always be remembered for directing the sequel to a movie called First Blood. When President Reagan saw Sylvester Stallone in your Rambo: First Blood Part II, he quipped that he knew better how to deal with the bad guys.

  • Ossie Davis: You and your wife Ruby Dee were one of a handful of power acting couples to build a respected body of work, both individually and jointly. Your acting career spanned no fewer than five decades, including in the 1980s and 1990s such Spike Lee films as School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X. You also found time for such standard Hollywood fare as Grumpy Old Men and The Client. You also wrote some movies and directed as well, notably 1970’s Cotton Comes to Harlem.

  • Sandra Dee: Tammy, tell me true. Was it that Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea that was the last straw? It was just so strange that you should die just a couple of months after that movie, in which Kate Bosworth played you. Your were the personification of 1950s teenage girlhood. You were the original Gidget. You let Troy Donohue get you into trouble in A Summer Place. And you made those Tammy movies. Although it seemed as though you disappeared after that, you didn’t. You made a few forgettable comedies (A Man Could Get Killed; Doctor, You’ve Got to Be Kidding) and wound up as Dean Stockwell’s hapless girlfriend in the movie version of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. In a strange way, your persona as the perfect female American teenager may forever be immortalized not by your movies but by a sarcastic song (sung by Stockard Channing in the film version) from the musical Grease.

  • Bob Denver: The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who think of you as Gilligan and those who think of you as Maynard. Maybe it’s my age, but I’m a Maynard kind of guy. Maynard was actually cool. Sure, he was comedy relief for Dobie Gillis, but he represented a demographic that wasn’t otherwise represented on 1950s television. Gilligan was just slapstick. Still, both your major TV sitcom roles are immortal. So long, little buddy.

  • James Dougherty: You don’t actually belong here. You’re just here for one simple reason. You were the first guy to marry a girl named Norma Jeane Baker. If she hadn’t changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, this space would be blank.

  • Dana Elcar: You were never going to be anything but a character actor. But you appeared in more than 40 films, including The Sting and 2010, and in a lot of dramas on television. You are best known for playing think tank director Peter Thornton on MacGyver. Rather courageously, you allowed your real-life problems with glaucoma and blindness to be written into the scripts. Frankly, however, that is not why you are on this list. It is my personal prerogative to remember you for a role you played earlier on daytime television. You were one of at least a couple of actors to play the imagination-challenged Sheriff Patterson of Collinsport, who hadn’t a prayer of ever tracking down a vampire or a werewolf, no matter how many bloody clues piled up, on the classic cult series Dark Shadows.

  • Stephen Elliott: You were one of those actors who blossomed in the latter part of your career. You often played authority figures in movies like The Hospital, Death Wish and The Hindenburg. But you will always be remembered for playing the bullying millionaire prospective father-in-law to Dudley Moore’s dipsomaniac carouser in the movie Arthur.

  • John Fiedler: Your voice was always recognizable instantly. Something about it (as if you were permanently breathing helium) sounded like a cartoon character rather than a real person. So it is no surprise that you spent years giving voice to a well-known cartoon character, Piglet in Disney’s various Winnie the Pooh animations. What was surprising was that you would pass away (at 80) exactly one day after Paul Winchell, who provided the voice of Tigger. But you were well known apart from Pooh. Your short, bald, mousy appearance was familiar on lots of TV shows and in movies as the perennial milquetoast. You were the bank clerk jury member in 12 Angry Men, a poker-playing buddy in The Odd Couple, and the guy who offers an African-American family money not to move into the neighborhood in A Raisin in the Sun. And you were the henpecked Mr. Peterson who sought counseling on The Bob Newhart Show.

  • Geraldine Fitzgerald: When you left your native County Wicklow and Ireland for Hollywood in the late 1930s, your acting career got off to a rousing start. You were immediately cast in both Wuthering Heights and Dark Victory. Amazingly, you turned down the part that Mary Astor got in The Maltese Falcon. But you still had many other roles to play on stage and screen, including one opposite Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker. And you passed something of your movie talents on to your son, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Strangely, we will probably remember you best for playing Dudley Moore’s grandmother in Arthur.

  • Anthony George: After a few Hollywood movies, a nervous breakdown sent you back to New York to recover. A second foray to California was more successful and you found work in westerns and in episodic TV drama. You eventually settled into daytime television, with leading roles on Search for Tomorrow and One Life to Live. Why are we even talking about you? That’s right, you were also on another daytime serial that is an iron-clad guarantee for a mention here. You were the second actor (after Mitchell Ryan) to play wealthy bachelor businessman Burke Devlin on Dark Shadows, as well as Collins family ancestor Jeremiah Collins.

  • Frank Gorshin: Riddle me this: why is it that, despite a long and successful career as a character actor and an impressionist, we always have and always will think of you first and foremost as the Riddler? Not even Jim Carrey’s turn on the big screen could erase our memory of you on the cheesy Adam West Batman TV series. On the stage, you had the title role in Jimmy, a musical about New York mayor Jimmy Walker, and (in your final role) you played George Burns in the one-man show, Say Goodnight, Gracie. If there were any justice, what we would most remember you for was your memorable role on a episode of the original Star Trek series, in which you played black-and-white extraterrestrial commissioner Bele who was trying to apprehend a fugitive who was white-and-black.

  • June Haver: Your very name evokes the sunny era of happy-go-lucky 1940s and 1950s back-lot musicals, with names like Irish Eyes Are Smiling, I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now, Look for the Silver Lining and The Girl Next Door. While still in your 20s, you announced your retirement and entered a convent to become a nun. The nun thing didn’t work out, however, and you became the second and final wife of Fred MacMurray. Scudda hoo! Scudda hay!

  • Paul Henning: You created a minor television dynasty of middle American comedy entertainment. It started with The Beverly Hillbillies and grew with the spinoffs Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. Somehow, your formula of corny country/city culture clash with a dash of young women in short cutoffs (years before Daisy Duke) went down well with 1960s television viewers. You personally contributed the immortal theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies and your actor daughter Linda to Petticoat Junction.

  • Debra Hill: At 54, you were too young to go, even if you did pack a full lifetime of success into your career as a producer. You wrote the original Halloween for John Carpenter and produced several films in the series. You were also producer for The Fog, Escape from New York and its sequel Escape from L.A., Adventures in Babysitting, Big Top Pee-wee and Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King.

  • Gregg Hoffman: And speaking of morbid coincidences of people involved with horror movies dying prematurely, how does one explain the 42-year-old producer of one of the grisliest and most disturbing films of recent years and its sequel (Saw and Saw II) expiring when he did?

  • William Hootkins: Born in Dallas, you had a face and body that seemed to make you destined to play Falstaff. Indeed, you spent a lot of your time working in Britain as well as in the U.S., much of the time on the stage. Your movie roles included Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tim Burton’s Batman and A River Runs Through It. None of your movie roles was particularly large, and neither was the role you will always be remembered for. In the very original Star Wars, you played the Jedi knight Jek Porkins. Ever since, no matter what high-prestige West End production you appeared in, the fans would be at the stage door with Jek Porkins photos for you to sign.

  • Ruth Hussey: You appeared in plenty of movies from the 1930s to the 1950s (and a couple even later than that), but you will always be remembered for the role that got you Supporting Actress Oscar nomination: the cynical magazine photographer in The Philadelphia Story.

  • Jack Keller: You wrote pop songs like “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” and you produced the Monkees’ first album. But the songs you wrote that we really can’t get out of our heads are the themes you wrote for the TV sitcoms Gidget, Hazel and (especially) Bewitched.

  • Frances Langford: You’re another one that I thought was gone long ago. You had a long career as a singer and an actor, but your work has not survived to be known by younger generations. Older folks remember you for your tours to entertain the troops with Bob Hope and singing “I’m in the Mood for Love.” Oldtime radio fans will remember you as the battle ax Blanche opposite Don Ameche on the program The Bickersons, the granddaddy of all sparring spouses comedies.

  • Marc Lawrence: I bet most people don’t even recognize your name, but they’ve probably seen your face if they’ve seen very many movies from the 1930s to the 1970s. Pock-marked and swarthy, you were born to play hoods and sinister types. Your life took a nasty turn when you were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and broke down and gave up names of some fellow actors who had, at one time or another, been members of the Communist Party. You then moved to Italy, where you continued to work, and then returned to the U.S. in 1960. In a typical role, in the 007 flick Diamonds Are Forever, you played a henchman who tossed Lana Wood from a high hotel window into a pool, remarking dryly, “I didn’t know there was a pool down there.”

  • Ernest Lehman: You wrote some of the best scripts in Hollywood from the 1950s to the 1970s. What scribe wouldn’t like to have this résumé? Sabrina, The King and I, Somebody Up There Likes Me, North by Northwest, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? Wow. Sweet Smell of Success indeed.

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 5 January 2006

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