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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten XI

I now continue and conclude my sixth annual alphabetical roll call (begun last week) of movie and other entertainment media personalities who passed on during the year 2005. A fond farewell to all.

  • Barney Martin: You had the kind of hang-dog mug that could have belonged to a New York cop. Which you were, before you got into acting and provided one of the all-time great movie faces to various movies and TV shows. On Broadway, you originated the role played onscreen by John C. Reilly in Chicago. In films, you were Goring in the original The Producers. You were Liza Minelli’s dad in Arthur. But, of course, what you will always be remembered for is being Jerry Seinfeld’s dad in a Florida condo.

  • Virginia Mayo: You were the gorgeous blonde (former Goldwyn Girl) who appeared in musicals with the likes of Bob Hope (The Princess and the Pirate) and Danny Kaye (Wonder Man, The Kid from Brooklyn, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). You made a bunch of movies, mostly in the 1940s and 1950s, but the two best were White Heat, in which you played a moll opposite mother-obsessed gangster James Cagney, and The Best Years of Our Lives, in which you were the hard-as-nails wife of war veteran Dana Andrews.

  • Pat McCormick: Another funny guy we lost this year, you were known for appearances with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, and you had roles in a few movie comedies, like The Shaggy D.A., Robert Altman’s A Wedding, The Jerk and Scrooged. Your cinematic claim to fame? I’m afraid it’s playing Big Enos to diminutive Paul Williams’s Little Enos in three Smokey and the Bandit movies.

  • Arthur Miller: Unlike James Dougherty (see last week), you would be here even if you hadn’t married Marilyn Monroe. Your passing actually sparked a minor flare-up in the culture wars. Most commentators called you one of the great playwrights of the 20th century, who peeled away the false veneer of American middle class life. Others said you were a strident hack who wrote only one indisputably great play, Death of a Salesman. In addition to that one, other plays were adapted (sometimes multiple times) for the flickers, including All My Sons, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, as well as your adaptation of Henry Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. Your most glamorous cinematic contribution? Penning The Misfits, which starred Monroe. It was her last movie, as well as Clark Gable’s.

  • John Mills: As it happens, just a few days ago I was gazing over at the peninsula where one of your best movies was filmed. It was David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter that earned you your only Oscar, for playing the town idiot in a remote Irish village. But your filmography spans seven decades of the 20th century plus a bit of the 21st, ending with an amusing cameo in Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things. You played Little Colley to Robert Donat’s beloved school teacher in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Shorty Blake to Noel Coward’s Capt. Kinross in In Which We Serve and Pip in Lean’s Great Expectations. You were Scott of the Antarctic, Karatayev in War and Peace, the dad in Swiss Family Robinson, the Viceroy in Gandhi, and you were the blind hermit who befriended Randy Quaid’s Frankenstein. And you were the dad of Juliet and Hayley, who snuck unnoticed (and uncredited) into a scene of the Disney movie in which Hayley played twins, The Parent Trap.

  • Pat Morita: For TV viewers you will always be Arnold from Happy Days. For filmgoers you will always be Mr. Miyagi in four Karate Kid movies (three times mentoring Ralph Macchio and once Hilary Swank). Your own life would make a pretty good movie. The child of migrant California fruit pickers, you spent nine years in a sanatorium with spinal tuberculosis, which you left during World War II to join your family in an internment camp. Somehow that led to a stand-up career (billed as the “Hip Nip”) and supporting parts in movies like Thoroughly Modern Millie and Midway. You played Lamont’s buddy Ah Chew on Sanford and Son, and you were the first Japanese-American to star in a TV series (Mr. T and Tina)

  • Howard Morris: Maybe we should remember you for directing a few comedies in the 1960s and 1970s. These included Doris Day’s last one, With Six You Get Eggroll, Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water. and the Donny & Marie vehicle Goin’ Cocoanuts. Or maybe we should remember you as a supporting player in a number of other people’s comedies: a Three Stooges flick, the original The Nutty Professor, Mel Brooks’s High Anxiety and History of the World—Part 1, Ron Howard’s Splash. Or maybe we should remember you for many TV sitcom guest appearances and cartoon voice roles (including The Flintstones and The Jetsons). Nah. What we will always remember you for is the recurring role of Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show.

  • Yoshitaro Nomura: I never saw the 1974 suspense thriller Castle of Sand, but I have heard about it numerous times over the years. Many film critics consider it one of the best, if not the very best, movies ever to come out of Japan. And you directed it.

  • Sheree North: You’re another one whose image in the memory will have been formed by the age of the person doing the remembering. The oldest among us will recall you as the platinum blonde who was signed somewhere between Marilyn Monroe and the likes of Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren and who starred in flicks with names like How to Be Very, Very Popular and The Lieutenant Wore Skirts. Slightly younger people will remember you for a roles in There Comes Bronson and The Shootist (John Wayne’s last movie) and various other TV roles. These people will probably remember you best for playing Lou Grant’s girlfriend on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And even younger people will remember you as Kramer’s mother Babs on Seinfeld.

  • Louis Nye: Among other things, you are the reason that we always take those man-on-the-street interviews with a grain of salt. You often played the “man on the street” in fake interviews on the old Steve Allen show, as well as an unctuous ad executive named Gordon Hathaway, who made “Hi-ho, Steverino!” a catch phrase of the 1950s. Your movie credits were, um, eclectic: Sex Kittens Go to College, The Last Time I Saw Archie, Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?, A Guide for the Married Man, Harper Valley P.T.A. But we’ll mainly remember you for television roles like the dentist on The Ann Sothern Show and, especially, banker’s son Sonny Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies.

  • Dan O’Herlihy: Yet another Irish actor (from Wexford) who emigrated to the States for a long and successful Hollywood career. Not surprisingly, you played more than a few Irishmen or Irish-Americans, starting with a role as an IRA lieutenant in Odd Man Out and winding up as JFK’s dad in the HBO Rat Pack movie. Along the way you also played the title role in Luis Buñuel’s Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, a nobleman in The Virgin Queen, the vice-president in Fail Safe, FDR in MacArthur and the Protestant Mr. Browne in John Huston’s last film (based on James Joyce’s Dubliners), The Dead. But we preferred you in your quirky, oddball and sinister roles like the head of a lethal toy company in Halloween III, a reptilian alien in The Last Starfighter, a military robot contractor in two Robocop movies, and Andrew Packard in the TV series Twin Peaks.

  • Brock Peters: You have a solid double claim to immortality. In addition to a respectable acting career (which began with getting discovered on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts), in which you started off playing villains in the movie operas Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess, you played an iconic character for the ages, as the janitor accused of rape who is defended by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. At the other end of the immortality scale, you played not only Admiral Cartwright in two Star Trek movies but you also played Benjamin Sisko’s restaurateur father (in a reassuringly surviving New Orleans a few centuries hence) on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

  • Thurl Ravenscroft: Great name! You gave voice to many Disney characters, but your legacy is giving a very distinctive voice to a corn-flakes-hawking tiger named Tony. You’re Grrrrreeeat!

  • Wolf Rilla: Another great name! Born in Berlin, you had a long and varied career as a filmmaker, television producer and novelist. You made several movies, but we really only remember one of them. You made the 1960 thriller about a town full of evil little blond children, Village of the Damned.

  • Charles Rocket: Let’s face it. You’re not going to be remembered for your supporting roles in Earth Girls Are Easy, Dances with Wolves, Short Cuts and Dumb & Dumber. You’re going to be remembered for being the guy (years before a certain wardrobe malfunction renewed interest in broadcast TV time delays) who was fired from Saturday Night Live for letting the F word slip out on air. Coincidentally, I uttered the very same expletive when I heard that you did yourself in.

  • Nipsey Russell: We mainly think of you for being a perennial guest on TV game shows like Hollywood Squares and The $50,000 Pyramid. Or, if we’re old enough, for appearances on The Dean Martin Show. And your comedy act was very funny, in a pre-Richard Pryor sort of way. But let us not forget that you played a cop in the classic sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? and made an appearance in its 1994 big screen adaptation. But your finest (by default) movie role was as the Tinman in the 1978 adaptation of the musical The Wiz.

  • Vincent Schiavelli: Your droopy-eyed hulking presence made you a character actor that ran the gamut from menacing to sinister to merely creepy. People might not have remembered your name, but they always remembered your face. You were Frederickson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Mr. Vargas in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Salieri’s valet in Amadeus, and The Organ Grinder in Batman Returns. You probably made your greatest impression, however, as a malevolent spirit in a subway car in Jerry Zucker’s supernatural tearjerker Ghost.

  • Simone Simon: Know what I love about British newspapers? Little tidbits like this one from your obit in The Telegraph: “Simone Simon never married, but was the petite amie of a married French millionaire.” If Fay Wray was known for her scream, you were known for your pout. No one could pout like you. Darryl Zanuck brought you to Hollywood to make movies like Girls’ Dormitory and Ladies in Love. A silly scandal sent you back to France to make La Bête humaine with Jean Renoir, and WWII sent you back to Hollywood to make The Devil and Daniel Webster and, most memorably Val Lewton’s Cat People and its sequel, in which you played a woman who harbored an ancient panther curse. Your other memorable role: one of a chain of lovers in Max Ophüls’s classic La Ronde.

  • Lane Smith: A stage actor, you matured into roles in films and TV. You had supporting roles in movies like Rooster Cogburn, Network, Blue Collar, Prince of the City, Frances, Places in the Heart, Red Dawn, The Mighty Ducks and My Cousin Vinny. Your career breakthrough was your uncanny impersonation of Richard Nixon in 1989’s The Final Days. But we will always remember you as the strangely Elvis-obsessed editor Perry White in the 1990s TV series Lois and Clark.

  • John Spencer: For the record, I always liked you best in L.A. Law. But it has been legions of West Wing fans who have been mourning you these past few weeks. You started out in movies as a grunt in the youth suspense thriller WarGames, followed by a stint as Harrison Ford’s sidekick in Presumed Innocent. You also had roles in The Rock and Twilight. But it is the role of Leo McGarry for which you will be most remembered and the presidential campaign that didn’t happen they way it was supposed to.

  • Wendie Jo Sperber: Your real-life legacy is as an activist against breast cancer (the disease that killed you) and founder of the we-Spark cancer support center. As for your acting life, moviegoers will remember you as Michael J. Fox’s weird sister in Back to the Future, and TV viewers will remember you as the sitcom costar of the cross-dressing duo of Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in Bosom Buddies.

  • Lorna Thayer: I’ll be honest. Not every actor who dies gets mentioned here. Every year I let many of them fade into obscurity without my personal farewell. I’ll admit it. They have to have made an impact for me to notice. Frankly, your small roles in I Want to Live!, Cisco Pike and Skyjacked didn’t do it. No, it was your one small but memorable scene in Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces. You were the waitress in a roadside coffee house who told an irritated Jack Nicholson that he couldn’t get toast because no substitutions were allowed. In a heated exchanged that heartened chain restaurant diners everywhere, a steaming Nicholson demanded “a chicken salad sandwich on toast, but throw the chicken away and I’ll pay for the sandwich.” It’s a moment that will live forever, and you played your part perfectly.

  • Hunter S. Thompson: What can I say? You knew how to go out with a bang. Literally. You forever changed journalism in general and magazine writing specifically. And I’m not sure it was in a way that was for the better. Still you did entertain us and you did inspire Gary Trudeau to create the endlessly amusing Uncle Duke. And your writing did get adapted into a couple of movies. But neither Art Linson’s baffling Where the Buffalo Roam or even the great Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas quite did justice to your vision. But nobody really could—short of handing out drugs at the box office.

  • Consuelo Velazquez: Okay, you’re here for entirely personal reasons. Personal to me that is. You wrote a song many years ago that came to be significant to me for reasons that I won’t go into here. Is there a movie connection here? Okay, your “Bésame Mucho” was used to repetitively jarring effect in at least two movies that I know of: Emir Kusturica’s Arizona Dream and Alfonso Cuarón’s Great Expectations.

  • John Vernon: You get this year’s prize for Most Justifiable Abandonment of an Actor’s Birth Name. Born Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz, you were big and rugged, as Canadian men so often seem to be. That meant you were often cast as authority figures or villains. After starring in the CBC series Wojeck, you went to Hollywood, where you appeared in numerous films, including Point Blank, Topaz, Dirty Harry (as the mayor) and The Outlaw Josey Wales. To lots of us, however, you will always be Dean Wormer, the apoplectic university administrator who was continually exasperated by the antics of the Delta House fraternity (John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Tom Hulce et al) in 1978’s Animal House. You personified what we imagined our own deans were feeling and thinking. Your classic reactions gave us something to shoot for in our dreams of being thorns in authority’s side.

  • Herta Ware: When Ron Howard’s Cocoon came out in 1985, audiences were enchanted by his magical tale of four senior citizen couples in Florida, who find a fountain of youth brought to earth by benevolent aliens. The four couples were played by beloved veteran performers who, in some cases had delighted us for many decades. Except you. In a cast that included Don Ameche, Gwen Verdon, Wilford Brimley, Maureen Stapleton, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Jack Gilford, you were the one (as Gilford’s pill of a wife) who made us go, “Who?” Married to Will Geer from the 1930s to the 1950s, you didn’t start to appear in films and on TV until you were in the 60s. Typical roles included playing the mothers of Keir Dullea in 2010 and Chuck Norris in Top Dog.

  • Ruth Warrick: Movie careers do not start stronger than yours. Your very first movie was a little flick called Citizen Kane, in which you played the wife who sits across a very long table from her husband, the title character. After a busy career in the 1940s, you seemed to disappear from major movies. But you reappeared in TV soap operas. In the 1950s you were a promiscuous nurse on The Guiding Light. You also had roles on As the World Turns and Peyton Place. Then in 1970 you were cast in the role that would employ you for 35 years: the imperious Phoebe Tyler on All My Children. A trooper ‘til the end, you made your last appearance on the show a year ago in a wheelchair, less than a fortnight before you died at 88.

  • Paul Winchell: In the course of two days last June, we lost the voice of Piglet. And Tigger too! I always remembered you as a ventriloquist, sort of a younger Edgar Bergen with your dummy Jerry Mahoney. You even had your own variety show on TV. But then times got tough for ventriloquists, and you found plenty of work as a voice artist. Tigger in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh movies and TV shows was your most high-profile gig. You were also Dick Dastardly in the 1960s cartoon series Wacky Races. We’ll miss you whenever we hear that song about “the wonderful thing about Tiggers.” TTFN: Ta-ta for now.

  • Teresa Wright: Yet another major female movie star of the 1940s to succumb during the year, you were in some of that decade’s best films. You debuted in William Wyler’s The Little Foxes, as Bette Davis’s greedy daughter, and went on to appear in Mrs. Miniver, The Pride of the Yankees, Shadow of a Doubt and The Best Years of Our Lives. Not bad for the first five years or so of a film career. You starred opposite Marlon Brando in his first film, The Men, about an ex-GI adjusting to life in a wheelchair. And later on you would appear in the romantic fantasy Somewhere in Time and as Matt Damon’s eccentric aunt in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker. Final score: three Oscar nominations (with one win, for Mrs. Miniver) and three Emmy nominations.

  • Harrison Young: Yet another bit player who went from local theater to the New York stage to Hollywood, you were not exactly what one would call high-profile. A guest shot on ER, a role on General Hospital, a part in Primary Colors. But you made my list for one more small role, which just happened to be the title role in one of the most popular movies of the 1990s. The story in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan was book-ended by scenes in modern-day Normandy at Omaha Beach, and you were the American war veteran who had been the young Private Ryan (played by Matt Damon) who was saved. We salute you.

    -S.L., 12 January 2006

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