Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten XIII

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 2006 and to whom I have not previously bid my adieus. I am going to try something new this year. I am going to write these while I am sober. Just kidding! No, I am writing these drunk as usual.

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

  • Veteran iconoclastic filmmaker Robert Altman
  • Director, producer and creator of Dark Shadows Dan Curtis
  • Longtime movie star Glenn Ford
  • TV and movie villain and frequent extraterrestrial Andreas Katsulas
  • Possibly the greatest cinematographer who ever lived Sven Nykvist
  • Tough guy of the big and small screens Jack Palance
  • Award-winning star of stage, screen and television Maureen Stapleton
  • Award-winning star of stage, screen and television Shelley Winters
  • Veteran actor and iconic TV mom Jane Wyatt

    Either a lot more movie-related people died this year, or else the internet is just making me more aware of all of them. Anyway, there is quite a list to go through, so I am going to be even more flow-of-consciousness (read drunk) than usual. Here is the first half of my (alphabetical) list, with the remainder to be enumerated next week.

  • Edward Albert: Funny how life works out sometimes. Your more famous father died only sixteen months before you, at the age of 97. Now you’re dead (of lung cancer) at only 55. You were in more movies than we realized, but we really only remember you for one, your second one, in which you played a young blind man with Eileen Heckart for a domineering mother and Goldie Hawn as the kookie neighbor, who introduces you to romance: Butterflies Are Free.

  • William Aldrich: Another son not quite as famous as his father. Your dad, Robert, directed movies like The Dirty Dozen. You produced remakes of your father’s films, like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and The Flight of the Phoenix, in addition to having small roles in the originals.

  • Jay Presson Allen: I have to confess, with more than a little embarrassment, that I always thought you were a man. Sorry about that, ma’am. You specialized in adapting plays and novels for the screen, including Cabaret, The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, Deathtrap, the Streisand/Kristofferson version of A Star Is Born, and a sentimental favorite of mine, Travels with My Aunt.

  • June Allyson: Your name was synonymous with 1940s movies. You were such a big star in your day that, in the 1949 version of Little Women, you got top billing over Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh and Margaret O’Brien. In the 1940s you were the perfect girlfriend (often of Van Johnson, e.g. Two Girls and a Sailor) and in the 1950s you were the perfect wife (often of Jimmy Stewart, e.g. The Glenn Miller Story). In the twilight of your career, you got to twist the perfect wife persona and play Hal Holbrook’s lesbian wife in They Only Kill Their Masters. Sadly, the last times we saw you were on The Love Boat (with Van Johnson again) and in Depends commercials.

  • Anicee Alvina: While not the most famous French actor to grace the world’s cinemas, you were an object of some erotic interest for male baby boomers. You starred in a 1971 movie belonging to a particular subgenre that involves teenage couples living in idyllic isolation. It was called Friends, a name made implausibly memorable because of a forgettable title song by Elton John.

  • Joseph Barbera: I was taken aback by all the heartfelt outpouring of affection for you (and, I suppose, by extension for your partner William Hanna, who died in 2001). As it happens, I am living in my own little animated hell of your creation. A while back, my daughter discovered a satellite channel that runs non-stop reruns of Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Top Cat and, her current favorite, every series ever made of Scooby-Doo. Of course, I grew up on most of these, as well as Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. They’re an indelible part of my childhood, and now my daughter’s. But you know what? That still doesn’t make your cartoons anywhere as good as Disney’s or Warner Bros.

  • Remy Belvaux: Film-wise, you were a one-trick wonder. Your 1992 Belgian movie Man Bites Dog presaged later faux documentaries, like Death of a President. You and your co-director André Bonzel played a reporter and cameraman following a serial killer, played by third co-director Benoit Poelvoorde. In the most controversial scene, the killer invites the other two characters to join in a rape, which they do. Your supposedly anti-violence message earned you awards at Cannes and other films festivals.

  • Peter Benchley: Like your grandfather (celebrated Algonquin Round Table wit Robert Benchley), you were a writer, mainly of novels. But one of your novels had a lasting impact on movies in general. It was, of course, Jaws, which you helped adapt for Steven Spielberg and in which you had a cameo as a TV reporter. Unfortunately, your other cinematic efforts (The Deep, The Island) could not match the success of that first outing. And even your original triumph was sadly tarnished by several wretched sequels.

  • Frances Bergen: Before you were “wife of” and then “mother of,” you actually had a career of your own. In the 1950s you appeared in Titanic and Interlude. In the 1980s, you showed up in movies like American Gigolo, The Star Chamber and The Morning After. But mostly we noticed you when you appeared on your husband’s TV show (The Edgar Bergen Show), along with your wooden stepchildren, or your daughter’s TV show (Murphy Brown). But you didn’t play Murphy’s mother. That was Colleen Dewhurst.

  • Peter Boyle: It’s the nature of things that most people now think of you as the father of Raymond (as in Everybody Loves) but, of course, you had an entire career before playing a grandfather in a sitcom. I’ll always remember your comic flair as the monster in Mel Brooks’s inspired parody/tribute Young Frankenstein. But your early work had a decidedly political edge, including your turn as a gun clinic manager in Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool, about a TV cameraman emotionally detached from what he films at the 1968 Democratic convention. Later came the title role in Joe—an examination of generational and class conflict, in which you played a bigot in a hardhat—as well as parts in The Candidate (as Robert Redford’s campaign manager) and the anti-establishment comedy Steelyard Blues (with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland). At the end of the 1970s, you were George C. Scott’s guide in looking for his missing daughter in Paul Schrader’s Hardcore. You were also in a lot of movies that we might have forgotten you were even in, like Taxi Driver, Outland, Hammett, Honeymoon in Vegas, Malcolm X, The Santa Clause and While You Were Sleeping. Nice to know that you have one more (Dennis Fallon’s All Roads Lead Home) coming out.

  • Roy Brewer: Starting as a projectionist in Nebraska and rising through the ranks of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, yours is a story that kind of got lost in the histories of the McCarthy era. You were the union leader who was fervently anti-communist and who fought against unions that you thought were overly influenced by the Soviets. That made you many enemies, but at least one powerful friend in union and, later, national politics. In the 1980s President Ronald Reagan appointed you to a labor relations panel.

  • Richard Bright: You killed Fredo Corleone (John Cazale) and Emilio Barzini (Richard Conte). In fact, you played Al Pacino’s bodyguard Al Neri in all three Godfather movies, avenging the murder of Pope John Paul I in the last one. Your screen mafia credentials are impeccable, even appearing on TV’s The Sopranos. A durable character actor, your numerous other movie credits include The Panic in Needle Park, The Getaway, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (getting shot by James Coburn), Marathon Man (as evil Laurence Olivier’s assistant), Hair (playing a redneck seduced by Beverly D’Angelo) and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.

  • James Brown: We lost several music legends this year, but few get mentioned here. But you, Godfather of Soul, rate a place on this list. Not only did your music grace a number of movie soundtracks, but you provided memorable cameos as far back as 1965’s Ski Party, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Others included The Blues Brother (and its two-decades-later sequel), Doctor Detroit and Rocky IV. When I hear you sing… I feel good.

  • Phil Brown: You’re not here because of your numerous (small) stage and film roles. Nor are you here because of your progressive politics, which resulted in you being blacklisted in the McCarthy period. You’re here because you were the only actor around in a London sound stage with a strong American accent when George Lucas was looking for one. Because of that you got the brief but memorable role of Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen in the original Star Wars and, consequently, a place in the pantheon of geekdom—and this mention.

  • Red Buttons: Your professional moniker was definitely more memorable than your birth name, Aaron Chwatt. For a comedian, you did all right as an actor, usually playing a grunt and/or regular guy. You got the Oscar for Supporting Actor in the Korean war drama/romance Sayonara, starring Marlon Brando. Your many other film credits include One, Two, Three, Hatari!, The Longest Day, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, The Poseidon Adventure, Pete’s Dragon and It Could Happen to You. A friend of a friend always thought you were incredibly sexy, but I don’t see it.

  • Jean Byron: Supposedly, you have scores of film and TV credits on your c.v., but we don’t know about that. We remember you for one or maybe two things. One (maybe) is playing Dr. Imogene Burkhart (your actual real name) on the Dobie Gillis show. But what we really remember you for is playing Natalie Lane, the mother (and aunt) of Patty Duke on The Patty Duke Show.

  • William Castleman: Not to be confused with horror master William Castle, who died three decades ago, you produced and directed and even scored some of the most forgettable (if one’s lucky) movies ever made. The titles say it all: The Erotic Adventures of Zorro, Bummer, Johnny Firecloud (a ripoff of Billy Jack) and Trader Hornee.

  • Betty Comden: Three years ago, we wrote of your longtime partner, Adolph Green, “your words and music will be immortalized in moviedom forever.” That is still true of your words and his music. Your lyrics graced the movies Good News, On the Town and It’s Always Fair Weather. Your screenwriting was featured in movies like The Barkleys of Broadway, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Auntie Mame, Bells Are Ringing and What a Way to Go! That’s entertainment, indeed.

  • Pat Corley: You’re another one with a long list of TV and movie credits but who sticks in our mind for a single (recurring) role. Sure you were in movies like Audrey Rose, The Onion Field, True Confessions, Night Shift and Against All Odds. But to us you will always be rotund, no-nonsense Phil the bartender of Murphy Brown.

  • Franklin Cover: You had nice supporting roles in the original Stepford Wives and in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, but your mark is in TV history, playing half of one of the first recurring interracial couples in primetime television. You were Tom Willis, a neighbor of The Jeffersons and comic foil for hotheaded George.

  • Tamara Dobson: Before Pam Grier and Foxy Brown, there was you. Indeed, in 1973, you were arguably the first female action movie star. At 6-foot-2, you swung into glorious action as a flamboyant CIA narcotics agent, playing the titular Cleopatra Jones, who unravels a drug ring commanded by Shelley Winters. There was one sequel, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, in which you took on Stella Stevens’s Dragon Lady. Originally a model, you had a few other film roles: in the Burt Reynolds comedy Fuzz, the sexual-orientation comedy Norman… Is That You? and the women-in-prison potboiler Chained Heat.

  • Robert Donner: Not to be confused with Superman director Richard, you had a face that was nearly ubiquitous in TV and movie westerns. Credits include The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Cool Hand Luke (as Boss Shorty), El Dorado, Chisum, Rio Lobo, Vanishing Point, High Plains Drifter and The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing. Still, you might be more easily identified for a couple of recurring TV roles: Yancy Tucker on The Waltons and Exidor on Mork and Mindy.

  • Mike Douglas: My mother loved watching you on TV, but then she loved talk shows in general. And she found you one of the most accessible. The single funniest thing I ever heard you say was a self-deprecating quip: “Want to hear a medley of my hit?” It was a reference to (as far as I know anyway) your only popular hit song on the radio: “The Men in My Little Girl’s Life.”

  • Christian Drake: If you had been an actor on Star Trek (which, as far as I know, you weren’t), you would have been one of those security guys with the red shirt. Instead, you were James Whitmore’s partner, who was left behind to guard a murder scene, early in the 1950s scifi flick Them! The result was one of the best (off-screen) screams in horror movie history. A WWII veteran of the Marines, you appeared mostly in war films, including Tokyo Rose, Battleground, Halls of Montezuma, Operation Pacific and The Annapolis Story.

  • Mike Evans: Another loss for the former cast of The Jeffersons, you started out playing young Lionel Jefferson on All in the Family and then reprised the role in the spinoff. (Damon Evans took over the role for several seasons in your absence.) You were also a co-creator of another sitcom Good Times, which gave us the persistent catch-phrase “Dy-no-mite!”

  • Richard Fleischer: Son of legendary animator Max, you were a journeyman director with a long list of movies to your credit. The titles go on and on: Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Vikings, Compulsion, Fantastic Voyage, Doctor Dolittle, The Boston Strangler, Che!, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Soylent Green, Mandingo, The Jazz Singer (with Neil Diamond) and two Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks: Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja. If you can come up with any generalizations that tie all those films together… please be my guest.

  • Anthony Franciosa: In a strange coincidence, you died a mere five days after your ex, Shelley Winters. I mainly remember you for starring in the 1966 TV pilot movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, as well as the resulting series (title shortened to The Name of the Game), in which you rotated the lead role with Robert Stack and Gene Barry. Eventually, you got fired. But you had an impressive career aside from that TV show. In the 1950s, you were in such respectable movies as A Face in the Crowd, A Hatful of Rain (for which you got an Oscar nomination), The Long Hot Summer. In the 1980s, you were in a couple of disturbing thrillers, Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Paul Nicolas and Maurice Smith’s Julie Darling. You were also in things like Matt Helm and Death Wish II.

  • Paul Gleason: For some reason, I’ve always mixed you up with Michael Murphy, who was in a lot of Woody Allen movies. All your obituaries identified you primarily as the uncool principal from The Breakfast Club. Indeed, your forte was always authority figures, not always cast in a positive light—as well as outright villains. Other memorable roles included a henchman in Trading Places and the FBI agent who, in contrast to Bruce Willis’s John McClane, is completely full of crap, in the original Die Hard. Other appearances included Tender Mercies, The Great Santini, Fort Apache The Bronx, Arthur and Miami Blues.

  • Gary Gray: Refreshingly, you were one child actor whose story did not end prematurely in tragedy or in bitterness. You were Loretta Young’s son in Rachel and the Stranger and Lassie’s boy in The Painted Hills. You played the son of Nancy Reagan (then known as Nancy Davis) in The Next Voice You Hear, in which God’s voice is heard over the radio. You also appeared with Ronald Reagan, playing Virginia Mayo’s son in The Girl from Jones Beach. You were also in such films as Heaven Can Wait, Meet Me in St. Louis and Whispering Smith.

  • Val Guest: Your main claim to fame may well be as one of several co-directors and co-writers on the original Casino Royale. Otherwise, your long list of director credits is somewhat, ah, eclectic. Once more, the titles themselves tell the story: The Quartermass Experiment, The Abominable Snowman, The Day the Earth Caught Fire and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, which was a sequel to Ray Harryhausen’s One Million Years B.C., but without its chief asset, as evidenced by posters in countless rooms in countless boys’ dormitories: a fur-clad Raquel Welch.

  • Mickey Hargitay: Yet another “famous for being married to and father of” film figure, you were a bodybuilder and once Mr. Universe. You had small parts in many forgettable films but also in ones like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and Slaughter on 10th Avenue. You married blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield and were the father of Emmy-winning TV star Mariska.

  • Arthur Hill: Not to be confused with director Arthur Hiller, you always struck me as one of the blandest actors to hit the screen. Mostly, I remember you as the star of Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, which was set in my beloved Santa Barbara, where I was going to school at the time. So it comes as a surprise to me to learn that you originated the role of George in the Broadway version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? On the other hand, that makes sense. Mostly, you specialized in playing professionals, who are not always what they seem. You have a long line of credits, including The Ugly American, Harper, The Andromeda Strain, The Killer Elite and Futureworld.

  • Barnard Hughes: Over time we came to know you as kindly, grandfatherly characters, like the one you played on TV shows like Blossom or the one called Doc or as Bob Newhart’s father on The Bob Newhart Show. So, it is worth remembering that one of our first looks at you was as a client getting serviced (and a bit traumatized) by Jon Voigt in Midnight Cowboy. Your next memorable turn was as the confused man wandering around a hospital in The Hospital. Other offbeat roles included a war-loving general in Where’s Poppa? and a vampire-hunting grandfather in The Lost Boys. Other notable parts: Tron, Doc Hollywood and as the ghost of a recently deceased Irish father in Da. With all this fine work under your belt, however, you are not getting out of here without a mention of the most prestigious entry on your c.v.: back in 1966 you appeared in a single episode of Dark Shadows, playing a character called Stuart Bronson.

  • Akira Ifukube: You scored the music for more than 300 films. Since they were Japanese, we wouldn’t expect to know about most of them. But your music certainly lives on in more than two dozen Godzilla movies, not to mention a lot of other movies out of Toho Sudios. Some of the titles: Rodan, Mothra, Varan, Ghildah; also eleven films in the Zatoichi series.

  • Shohei Imamura: You are one of only four directors to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes more than once. The first time was in 1983 for The Ballad of Narayama, about a man who follows tradition and allows his mother to die on a mountaintop. The second time was in 1997 for The Eel, about a man who has murdered his wife and who embarks on a new relationship. You also made the 1989 movie Black Rain, about the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. A couple of environmentally conscious friends of mine were recommended to see it but wound up instead seeing the Ridley Scott action movie, starring Michael Douglas, of the same name.

  • Steve Irwin: Crikey, crocodile hunter! We thought you would live forever. But if you didn’t, we thought you’d at least be done in by a reptile, not a fish. Anyway, with all your antics you managed to teach us quite a lot about animals. Perhaps your most valuable lesson was the last one: just because you love animals doesn’t mean they won’t kill you.

  • Robert Earl Jones: Father of James, your acting career dates all the way back to the 1930s. Your film credits include Odds Against Tomorrow (also featuring Richard Bright, above), Hang ‘Em High, Trading Places (also featuring Paul Gleason, above) and The Cotton Club. But we will always remember you as Robert Redford’s ill-fated partner Luther in 1973’s The Sting.

  • Bruno Kirby: Your voice and personality pretty much destined you to play New Yorkers, but you played a slew of them over the past three-and-a-half decades, until leukemia cut your life short at 57. Most people will tend to remember you as one of the trio of friends who set off on a dude ranch holiday in City Slickers. But, if there is any justice, that memory will be eclipsed by your role as the menacing young Clemenza in The Godfather Part II. Or maybe by the humorless Lt. Hauk in Good Morning, Vietnam. Other memorable roles: Cinderella Liberty, Birdy, This Is Spinal Tap, Tin Men, When Harry Met Sally, The Freshman and Hoffa.

  • Phyllis Kirk: Long before Paris Hilton, there was another movie called House of Wax, back in 1953. And in the end, in that 3-D classic, the villain (Vincent Price) was unmasked by one plucky Phyllis Kirk. But I mainly remember you for playing Peter Lawford’s wife, as Nick and Nora Charles, in the TV knockoff of the movie series starring (the much more charming) William Powell and Myrna Loy: The Thin Man. Otherwise, your film career ran the gamut from A Life of Her Own (1950) to the Jerry Lewis comedy The Sad Sack (1957).

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 4 January 2007

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