Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

Custom Search

© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten XVII

Okay, it’s way past time for me to begin my annual look back at the movie and entertainment folk who left us in the previous calendar year. Sorry for the delay, but I actually had a reason, which I may go into once I get through this chore. The bright side is that writing about this this week puts me off going off on another rant about the Golden Globes and how annoying it is that, among the many assertions that journalists throw out as givens without any empirical justification is that the Golden Globes are somehow a portent of the Oscar race. Whew, glad I didn’t wind up writing anything about that.

Anyway, here is the list of people, who passed away last year, about whom I have already written:

  • Television character actor Julius Carry
  • Dancer and actor Cyd Charisse
  • Prolific author and sometime screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke
  • Best-selling author, screenwriter, director and producer Michael Crichton
  • Hollywood film icon Charlton Heston
  • Legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston
  • Australian-born hunk and Oscar-nominated actor Heath Ledger
  • Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella
  • Screen legend, humanitarian and race car driver Paul Newman
  • Movie and TV actor Suzanne Pleshette
  • Veteran Hollywood director and actor Sidney Pollack
  • Child actor, teen idol and drug addict Brad Renfro
  • First Lady of Star Trek Majel Barrett Roddenberry
  • Longtime film actor Roy Scheider
  • Veteran movie actor Richard Widmark
  • Special effects and makeup wizard Stan Winston

    Here is the first part of my (alphabetical) list of good-bys, with more to follow next week. I don’t know if more people are dying these days or what, but I wound up with a long enough list that I am spreading it over three weeks this year, instead of two. And I better hurry. The list for 2009 is already accumulating. (RIP Patrick McGoohan and Ricardo Montalban.) Also, I thought I would try something different this year and write these sober. That lasted about five minutes.

  • Forrest J. Ackerman: When you were inducted into the Horror Hall of Fame in 1990, actor Robert Englund (aka Freddy Krueger) called you “the Hugh Hefner of horror.” That’s about right. I remember, as a teenager, seeing you at a science fiction convention in Los Angeles, with other geeky teens regarding you with Wayne’s World-style “I am not worthy” awe. A lifelong fan of horror and science fiction (indeed you are credited with coining the somewhat controversial term “sci fi”), you presided over fandom with your magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland and inspired movie people like Rick Baker, Tim Burton, Stephen King, John Landis and Joe Dante. You were the geeky kid who proved that you didn’t actually have to grow up—at least not completely.

  • Edie Adams: You have a slew of movie and TV credits, but we remember you for mainly one thing. Not exactly that you played Daisy Mae (winning a Tony) in the stage version of Li’l Abner. Or for being the wife and co-star of comedian TV star Ernie Kovacs. No, we remember you from the bad old days when tobacco products could be advertised on television and decades before Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski made cigars kind of a gross-out thing. You were the incredibly sexy pitchwoman for Muriel cigars and the stuff of young men’s fantasies. Oh, to hear you say, “Pick one up and smoke it sometime” one more time.

  • Bob Anderson: You worked for decades in the production of various movies and TV shows, including The Time Tunnel and Police Story. But before that you had a decade-and-a-half career as a child actor, ranging from the 1940 Shirley Temple film Young People to a part in The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty in the 1950s. In between you had roles in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Bishop’s Wife. But we will always remember you for playing James Stewart’s character as a young boy in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. As young George Bailey, you touched our hearts as you saved your brother from drowning and stopped the drunken pharmacist Mr. Gower from making a fatal mistake.

  • Bebe Barron: You had a wonderful birth name for the composer for the first score for a commercial film to use only electronic music: Charlotte Wind. But you took the surname of your husband and collaborator, Louis Barron. The two of you pioneered such experimentation as amplifying sounds made by vacuum tube circuits and using tape manipulation techniques. The result was the eerie music for the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.

  • Henry Beckman: When I saw your name in the obituaries, I knew that I knew it, but I couldn’t remember why. I checked your c.v. Born in Nova Scotia, you had parts in movies like The Man Upstairs, Blood River and The Brood. No, that wasn’t it. You did guest appearances on TV shows like The Rockford Files, Happy Days and Columbo. No, that wasn’t it. You had recurring roles on shows like Peyton Place (as George Anderson), McHale’s Navy (as Col. Harridan) and The X-Files (as Detective Briggs). No, that wasn’t it. Then it hit me. You were the somewhat unreliable Capt. Clancey on the 1960s series Here Come the Brides, playing a quasi-romantic interest for Joan Blondell’s saloonkeeper Lottie in a newly founded Seattle.

  • Paul Benedict: I always thought you were a Brit. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that, in your roles, you always spoke with an English accent. Reportedly, despite being born in New Mexico, you spoke with that same accent even when not in front of a camera or on a stage. Your oversized jaw led to you playing comical characters, including the Mad Painter on Sesame Street and as part of Nicholas Guest’s virtual cast ensemble for the movies This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind—as well as various other movies and plays. But you will always be best remembered for playing the neighbor Harry Bentley, who drove the intolerant George Jefferson up the wall, because of your interracial marriage, in the long-running sitcom The Jeffersons.

  • Mr. Blackwell: Former child actor turned fashion designer, you were Exhibit A of how the media make people famous for being famous. How you got so much of the press to pay attention to your annual Worst Dressed List I will never, for the life of me, understand.

  • Sam Bottoms: Just to be clear, you were not the one who played Sonny in The Last Picture Show, the student who has an affair with the coach’s wife, played by Cloris Leachman. That was your brother Timothy. (I always get that mixed up.) But you went to visit him on the set of the movie and wound up getting cast as Billy, the mentally handicapped boy who sweeps up around town. Your big movie role was in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, in which you played the surfer dude (logical for a Santa Barbara guy) turned acid-dropping Vietnam patrol boat gunner Corporal Lance Johnson. Other notable roles in The Outlaw Josey Wales, Bronco Billy, Gardens of Stone and Seabiscuit.

  • Christian Brando: What a sad life. Your famous father married the actor Anna Kashfi because she became pregnant with you, and you were the subject of a protracted custody battle after they divorced. You barely had an acting career, sometimes using the name Gary Brown. You served nearly five years after shooting one Dag Drollet, the father of your sister Cheyenne’s unborn child, in the back of the head. You claimed the gun went off in a struggle after you threatened him over Cheyenne’s accusations that he beat her. She later turned out to be mentally ill and eventually committed suicide. To make the story even nicer, you yourself later pled guilty to spousal abuse and were a one-time boyfriend of Bonnie Lee Blakley, of whom her husband Robert Blake would later be accused of murdering. Is it any wonder the word “troubled” appeared in the lead of all your obituaries?

  • Chris Bryant: An English screenwriter, you wrote a number of respectable films, including The Girl from Petrovka (with Anthony Hopkins and Goldie Hawn), The Spiral Staircase (with Christopher Plummer and Jacqueline Bisset), The Awakening (with Charlton Heston), Lady Jane (with Helena Bonham Carter) and Stealing Heaven (about Abelard and Heloise). But one stands above all the rest. It is the creepy, unsettling one you wrote for the classic Nicolas Roeg film Don’t Look Now.

  • Iris Burton: River Phoenix, Kirsten Dunst, Henry Thomas, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Drew Barrymore, Tori Spelling, Fred Savage, Jerry O’Connell, Kirk Cameron, Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Hartnett. What do they all have in common? Besides having been young and/or child stars, I mean. They were all, at one time or another, represented by you. A former hoofer with a larger-than-life personality, you had a knack for discovering young talent. At one point in the 1980s, according to Variety, you had child actors in virtually every sitcom on TV. You even discovered your own son Barry, who appeared in Saturday Night Fever and Fame and won a Tony for Biloxi Blues.

  • Peter Caffrey: A Dublin-born actor who mainly worked on the stage in Ireland and the UK, you did have a few memorable film and TV appearances. Movie roles included Neil Jordan’s Angel, Paddy Breathnach’s I Went Down and John Lynch’s Night Train. He also made appearances on the TV series Bracken, Peak Practice, Coronation Street and the wonderfully irreverent Father Ted. But the Missus and I will always remember you as the surly garageman Paidraig in the TV series Ballykissangel. It was as your character’s nephew Danny that many of us got our first look at a young actor named Colin Farrell.

  • George Carlin: When you died in June, we heard all about your wittily provocative standup and the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. But let us not forget that you had a respectable career as an actor. You had roles in the movies With Six You Get Eggroll, Car Wash, Outrageous Fortune, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (and its sequel), The Prince of Tides, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Scary Movie 3 and Jersey Girl. Your last two film jobs involved voice work in Cars (as the flower-powered VW van Fillmore) and Happily N’Ever After (as the wizard). Also not to be overlooked is your short-lived 1994 sitcom The George Carlin Show, in which you played New York cabbie, surrounded by the likes of Alex Rocco, Christopher Rich and Susan Sullivan. Peace, man.

  • Ben Chapman: So why would I be lifting my glass to a man who spent most of his working life in real estate? Well, it sure isn’t because of your bit parts in Ma and Pa Kettle in Waikiki and Wake of the Red Witch. No, it’s because of the scaly monster costume you put on for a 1954 movie, in which you played the title character. Modestly, you said that it was your 6-foot-5-inch frame that got you’re the part rather than your acting ability. And you were most likely right about that. But still, you were and are and forever will be the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

  • Ruth Cohen: Apart from the actors who played Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer, you appeared on more episodes of Seinfeld than any other actor. The name of your character must have been easy for you to remember since it was your own name, Ruthie Cohen. She was the cashier at the Monk’s Café, where the gang gathered continually to discuss anything and everything week after week. Check please!

  • Alexander Courage: Listen carefully while I start humming. Um-um, um-um-um-um… Okay, that didn’t work so well. I guess I should have embedded a sound object here, but I’m too lazy, and there may be copyright issues. Here’s a better evocation from The New York Times: “Mr. Courage’s score opens with a bold fanfare for brass, followed by a lyrical theme for French horn. Over the music are the wordless strains of a high soprano and a whooshing sound (vocalized by Mr. Courage), which accompanies the starship Enterprise as it passes across the screen. The net effect is an exquisite combination of pomp and cheesiness, Valhalla and Vegas in equal measure.” Yes, it is the unforgettable and New Age-y sounding theme from the very original Star Trek series, and you wrote it, and it will live forever. You also wrote lots of background music for TV shows, although for only four episodes of Star Trek. Your one other TV theme is less memorable: Judd for the Defense.

  • Hazel Court: Before Jamie Lee Curtis, before even Janet Leigh, you were screaming in terror in the movies. A green-eyed, red-headed English beauty, you shrieked for the best of them, including Britain’s Hammer Films and America’s Roger Corman. And you screeched opposite the best of them, including Boris, Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Among the films that made you a cult figure: The Man Who Could Cheat Death, Doctor Blood’s Coffin, Premature Burial, The Raven (a personal favorite of mine), The Masque of the Red Death, The Curse of Frankenstein and Devil Girl from Mars. And let us not forget TV appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone.

  • Fred Crane: At the age of 20, you entered cinematic history because a casting director liked your southern twang. You got a small part in a major motion picture, but because you were in the first scene, you have the distinction of speaking the first line heard in the classic Gone With the Wind. You played one of Scarlett O’Hara’s beaux, one of a pair of twins (the other played by future Superman George Reeves), and were heard to say, “What do we care if we were expelled from college, Scarlett? The war is going to start any day now, so we’d have left college anyhow.” Scarlett’s immortal reply: “Fiddle-dee-dee. War, war, war. This war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream.”

  • John Daly: You were the “dale” in Hemdale. That is, you and the actor David Hemmings partnered up to create Hemdale in 1967 and managed rock bands like Yes and Black Sabbath. The company went on to become a leading independent UK film producer, and you must have the world’s biggest mantle for all the awards Hemdale’s movies have earned over the years. The company turned out more than 100 films, producing no fewer than 13 winners of the Best Picture Oscar, with entries like Platoon and The Last Emperor. As noted by the Associated Press, you boosted the careers of directors like Oliver Stone, Bernardo Bertolucci and Robert Altman and of actors like Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves and Julia Roberts.

  • Gerard Damiano: Gulp. You will be remembered for directing a single film, and then mostly for its title. Under the name Jerry Gerard, you created a stir with a film about a woman with a curious anatomical condition that, well, either you know already about it or you don’t, and I’m not going to get into it here. As The New York Times wrote, the movie “created a sensation in every possible meaning of the term when it was released in 1972.” The movie was called Deep Throat, and it was later denounced by its star, Linda Boreman working under the name Linda Lovelace, as depicting her rape. Coincidentally, you died less than two months before your opus’s namesake, Mark Felt, the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame. A sampling of your other films’ titles: The Devil in Miss Jones, Teenie Tulip, Future Sodom and Young Girls in Tight Jeans.

  • Jules Dassin: Your name makes us think you were a French guy, but you were an American. An American who spent most of his life living outside of America. Connecticut-born son of Jewish Russian immigrants, you preceded your stint working for that epitome of patriotism Kate Smith with a brief membership in the Communist Party. You went on to work in Hollywood, directing hard-boiled flicks with names like Brute Force, The Naked City and Night and the City. But then the House Un-American Activities Committee caught up with you, and you left for France. In Europe you made such films as Rififi, He Who Must Die, Where the Hot Wind Blows and Topkapi. But the movie we will always remember you for is the one that earned an Oscar nomination for its Greek star (and a couple for yourself), the life-affirming and amusing Never On Sunday, starring your vibrant wife, Melina Mercouri.

  • Don Davis: You had a slew of guest shots on various TV shows (from Joanie Loves Chachi to Supernatural) as well as supporting roles in lots of movies. You imposing figure, bald head and deep voice made you a natural to play authority figures, specifically military men, and it is for a couple of those roles that we will remember you. The more recent one was as Major General George Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and various spinoffs. But even more memorable was your stint as Major Garland Briggs, strict father of rowdy small town teen Bobby Briggs, in the series Twin Peaks. But I will remember you in particular for the rare of occurrence of playing a man from my own home town, the horse-loving second husband of Annette Funicello, in the 1995 made-for-TV biopic A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story.

  • Marpessa Dawn: A beautiful woman with a beautiful name, you enchanted us in the one film role that you are remembered for. Born in Pittsburgh, you migrated to England and then to France, where you died in August in Paris at the age of 74. You looked like the sort of a girl a man might go to hell for, and that indeed was the scenario of your classic film, Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus. Set amid the giddy joyfulness, color and rhythms of Rio’s Carnival, the film had you as Eurydice, an ill-fated country girl in the big city, opposite Breno Melo’s Orpheus. Perhaps the real star was the samba music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá, which gave us such immortal songs as “Manhã de Carnaval” and “A Felicidade,” but you gave it its real heart. By a strange coincidence, your leading man Melo died 41 days before you did.

  • Guillaume Depardieu: Your anguished persona and intense performances spurred comparisons with other young actors, like James Dean and Heath Ledger. And like those two, your demise came all too soon and as the result of a tragic accident. Just as your acting career was really taking off and you were emerging from the enormous shadow of your father, Gérard, your motorbike ran into a suitcase that had fallen off the roof of a passing car. Thirteen years, 17 operations and one amputation later, a hospital infection did you in. It probably didn’t help that your behavior had always been pretty self-destructive, including a publicly played out troubled relationship with your father, an early stint as a gigolo, heroin dealing and jail time. But your acting talent survives on film, beginning with work as an extra in your father’s films, Jean de Florette and Cyrano de Begerac and culminating with a César (the “French Oscar”) for Les Apprentis. Other highlights: playing a younger version of your father’s character in the Marin Marais biopic Tous les matins du monde and as a French general in Ne touchez pas la hache.

  • Ivan Dixon: It’s nice to know that, after I lost track of you, you got plenty of work directing episodic TV, including The Waltons, The Rockford Files, Magnum P.I. and Heat of the Night. You even directed a couple of feature films back in the 1970s, Trouble Man and The Spook Who Sat by the Door. But mostly, we will remember you as an actor, and it is good to know that you did a lot of serious work on Broadway and in movies like A Raisin in the Sun and A Patch of Blue. And you even got an Emmy nomination for the CBS Playhouse special “The Final War of Olly Winter.” But, of course, we will chiefly remember you for one particular role: Sgt. Kinchloe on Hogan’s Heroes.

  • Mel Ferrer: First of all, let’s get something straight. You are no relation to fellow actor/director José Ferrer or to his son actor/director Miguel. You are, however, the father of Sean Ferrer, the single child you had with your wife (fourth of five) of 14 years, the luminous Audrey Hepburn. A second-generation Cuban-American, you loved directing but kept winding up, reluctantly, in front of the camera. You became a star playing a matador in The Brave Bulls and went on to appear in Scaramouche (dueling with Stewart Granger) and Lili (befriending Leslie Caron). You directed your famous wife in Green Mansions and produced the movie that gave her one of her most riveting roles, Wait Until Dark. Later on you played a conspiratorial lawyer (opposite John Wayne) in Brannigan and a heroic Swiss businessman in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lili Marleen. But, for better or worse, many people will remember you mainly for playing a lawyer for several seasons of the primetime soap Falcon Crest. You even got to marry Jane Wyman’s character although, in typical fashion for that show, the union did not end well.

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 15 January 2009

    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 dis etion 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