Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten XVIII

Here is the second of three parts of my eighth annual alphabetical roll call (begun last week) of movie and other entertainment media personalities who passed on during the year 2008. Come back next week for the conclusion.

  • Nina Foch: With a name like yours, we might have thought you were French-born, but you were born in The Netherlands and grew up in New York. Born Nina Consuelo Maud Fock, you were the daughter of a Dutch composer and an American showgirl. You got your start in horror movies, getting bitten by Bela Lugosi in Return of the Vampire and making a lupine transformation in Cry of the Werewolf, and made your mark in film noir type movies like My Name is Julia Ross, The Dark Past (with William Holden), The Undercover Man (with Glenn Ford), Johnny Allegro (with George Raft) and Illegal (with Edward G. Robinson). But we will most likely remember you for your turn as the secretary mourning her recently deceased boss and anchoring an all-star cast in Executive Suite (earning an Oscar nomination) and especially as Gene Kelly’s patron and rival to Leslie Caron for his affections in An American in Paris.

  • Beverly Garland: You made your film debut in a classic, D.O.A. with Edmond O’Brien. But you were mainly a B movie actor and supporting player on myriad TV shows. You had regular or recurring roles on shows like Decoy, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and a couple of soaps, Port Charles and 7th Heaven. Particularly notable TV roles: Monica’s aunt Iris on Friends and Lois Lane’s mother on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. But the role that gets you most remembered is that of Barbara Harper, the woman who married widower Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) thereby becoming step-mother to My Three Sons.

  • Steve Gerber: Comic book artist, editor and writer and television script writer, you worked on such Marvel comics as Daredevil and Submariner and TV shows like G.I. Joe, Transformers, Superman, Yu-Gi-Oh! and The New Batman Adventures. You co-wrote the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Contagion,” created the series Thundarr the Barbarian and, for the comic books, created Man-Thing. And there was one other comic book hero you birthed. Your most memorable hero came to earth from a planet where higher life forms evolved from ducks. He smoked cigars and wore a jacket and a fedora and (after Disney threatened to sue because of a perceived similarity to Donald Duck) trousers. He fought enemies like Bessie the Hellcow and Phelch the Space Turnip. In 1986 George Lucas produced and Willard Huyck directed a big screen adaptation that was considered one of the worst commercial and critical disasters of all time. Personally, I saw Howard the Duck and I didn’t think it was all that bad.

  • Estelle Getty: Given that you played a woman in her 80s back in the Eighties, we might reasonably assume that you lived to a very advanced age. But you were only in your 60s (and a year younger than Bea Arthur, your onscreen daughter) when you played wisecracking octogenarian Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls—followed by its spinoff The Golden Palace. And that is pretty much your claim to fame. You played Sophia as a guest on a couple of other sitcoms, Blossom and Empty Nest (also a spinoff), and capitalized on the character’s popularity to star as Sylvester Stallone’s mother in a 1992 movie Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Earlier you played Harvey Fierstein’s mother on the stage in his Torch Song Trilogy and went on to play mothers in plays by Neil Simon, Arthur Miller and Tennesse Williams. As you summed it up, “I’ve played mother to everyone but Attila the Hun.”

  • William Gibson: You and Anne Bancroft were definitely good for each other. Your first novel The Cobweb, set in a mental clinic, was adapted into a film starring Richard Widmark and Lauren Bacall. The money from that deal made it easier for your to finish your play Two for the Seesaw, about a Midwestern lawyer who has an affair with a life-embracing gamin. On the stage, Henry Fonda played the lawyer, and the role of the gamin made a star of Bancroft. And you made even more money when the play was adapted for a movie starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine. But it was your play The Miracle Worker that really established your reputation and Bancroft’s. The film version garnered Oscar nominations for you and director Arthur Penn and delivered statuettes to both Bancroft and the very young Patty Duke, who played Helen Keller. You collaborated again with Bancroft, less successfully, on the play Golda, about Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. A reworked version called Golda’s Balcony, with Tovah Feldsuh, was more successful. Another notable work: a musical version of your friend Clifford Odets’s 1930 boxing drama, Golden Boy, starring Sammy Davis Jr.

  • Dody Goodman: “I just opened my mouth and people laughed,” you once told The New York Times, a paper that passed along a description of your voice as “sounding ‘like a Tweetie Pie cartoon bird strangling on peanut butter.'” You first became known to TV viewers as a foil to Jack Paar on The Tonight Show, but he ended up dropping you, saying he felt “like the like the announcer on ‘The Dody Goodman Show.'” Ever since, you were a background fixture for lots of TV shows and movies. You were a regular on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and its spinoff Forever Fernwood. You were in both Grease and Grease 2 and in both Splash and Splash, Too. You were Aunt Sophia on Diff’rent Strokes and Mrs. Morton on Punky Brewster. And you were the voice of Miss Rebecca Miller in the 1980s children’s series Alvin & the Chipmunks.

  • Johnny Grant: Mainly a radio reporter and announcer, you appeared in a few movies (The Babe Ruth Story, Mask of the Dragon, White Christmas, The Girl Can’t Help It, The Great Man) but never with screen credit. But you will be remembered as the longtime honorary mayor of Hollywood. For years you presided over the unveilings of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Your own star is located between those of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Glenn Miller, under whom you served in the Air Force during World War II.

  • Charles H. Gray: Not to be confused with the English actor who was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you were a Missouri-born character actor who, over three decades, was often seen in westerns and frequently, but not always, playing a sheriff. The list goes on and on. On the small screen: Banacek, The Rookies, Alias Smith and Jones, Bonanza, The Virginian, McCloud, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Death Valley Days, Riverboat, Have Gun – Will Travel, Zane Grey Theater, Highway Patrol. On the big screen Sam Peckinpah’s rodeo film Junior Bonner, Stanley Kramer’s Bless the Beasts & Children, Blake Edwards’s Wild Rovers and Elvis Presley’s western Charro!. Your one regular role: playing Clay Forrester during the last four seasons of Rawhide.

  • David Groh: People who think they can second-guess these things are sure that I will say that your main claim to fame was marrying Rhoda. And I suppose it is. But your main love was the theater. You left a successful gig on General Hospital to take a role on Broadway in Be Happy for Me (“completely convincing as the brash gold-chain-and-bikini-clad Lothario,” wrote then-critic Frank Rich), even though you told The New York Times that your New York living expenses surpassed your pay for the play. But it was your role as Joe Gerard that captured a TV-watching nation’s attention when, in the seventh episode of Valerie Harper’s spinoff of the Mary Tyler Moore show, you married the eponymous heroine in one of the most-watched TV episodes ever. Viewers celebrated and suffered with you, as you and Rhoda separated and eventually divorced, thereby breaking new ground for a sitcom. But forgive me if I choose to salute you for something else. The IMDB lists you as appearing on two episodes of Dark Shadows, once as Ghost of One-Armed Man and once as Hangman’s Assistant.

  • Earle Hagen: When we think back nostalgically to The Andy Griffith Show and remember the opening title sequence, we can hear a man whistling the familiar theme song. It’s you whistling that tune. In fact, you wrote that tune. As well as other memorable theme songs and the music for more than 3,000 TV episodes and movies. After arranging and orchestrating music for movies like Call Me Madam and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, you moved over to television and became the composer of choice for Danny Thomas and producer Sheldon Leonard. That led to you writing that famous Mayberry theme, as well as themes for The Dick Van Dyke Show (watch out for that footrest, Rob!), I Spy, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and That Girl. Your musical scores also graced such shows The Mod Squad, Eight Is Enough and The Dukes of Hazzard. You literally wrote the book (well, one of the first ones anyway) on composing for the movies.

  • Bernie Hamilton: As a teenager, you ran away from home and wound up staying in someone’s garage. In your new place, you got into football and acting. You began with lots of bit parts in movies and guest shots on TV shows. You ended with two decades in the music business, producing R&B and gospel records. In between, you played the role we remember you for: brusque, by-the-book Capt. Dobey on Starsky and Hutch.

  • Isaac Hayes: Singer, songwriter and actor, you left your mark on our popular music and our popular movies. Born in a tin shack in rural Tennessee, you grew up raised by grandparents and in working cotton fields. By 21, you were a backup musician for Stax Records and working with the likes of Otis Redding. You co-wrote “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin’” for Sam and Dave before breaking out as a solo artist. Parallel to your music career, you occasionally acted in films and on TV. In movies like Tough Guys, Truck Turner, Escape from New York, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Prime Target, Final Judgment, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, It Could Happen to You and Reindeer Games. And you became the voice of the character Chef on South Park—until you resigned in protest when the show’s infamous satire targeted your own religion of Scientology. You main contribution to the movies? Undoubtedly, the theme for Shaft. Who’s a black private dick? Who’s a sex machine to all the chicks? That says it all.

  • Neal Hefti: The ranks of composers seemed to be especially hard hit during 2008—leaving me at a loss to convey the music written by these talents. Take this one, for example: da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da BATMAN!! Yes, it’s the immortal theme to the 1960s Adam West TV series Batman. You couldn’t escape it for a year or so, at the height of the inexplicably popular camp series. But, as a trumpeter, composer and arranger, you had a lot more going on than that one tune. You worked with Sinatra, Count Basie and Woody Herman. You composed lots of film scores, including a few for Neil Simon movies. Other memorable tunes of yours: “Li’l Darling,” “Girl Talk” (for the movie Harlow) and this unforgettable one: da da-da-da-da da-da da-da-da. That’s right, it’s the theme from The Odd Couple.

  • Sally Insul: Back around the time FDR was elected, you wrote and directed a play. In the decades that followed, you were active in legit theater, as well as appearing in small roles on TV shows (Seinfeld, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond) and in movies (for the Coen Brothers, in Adam Sandler flicks). Before you succumbed at the age of 92, you made appearances in My Name Is Earl and, as Aunt Peggy, in Click.

  • Charles H. Joffe: When Annie Hall won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1978, Woody Allen was too busy playing clarinet with his jazz band in New York, so you were the one who collected the statuette in Los Angeles. You were a producer on just about all of the Woodman’s films, from Take the Money and Run right down to Vicky Cristina Barcelona. A wisecracking, cigar-chewing talent manager in the agency Rollins Joffe, you managed to get Allen total creative control for his movies, something nearly unheard of in Hollywood. Your agency handled other talent as well. It booked Lenny Bruce’s first act in New York and later handled the likes of Dick Cavett, Robert Klein, Tom Poston, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Martin Short, Martin Mull and Billy Crystal.

  • Van Johnson: A metal plate in your head, a result of a traffic accident, prevented you from serving in World War II, so you became America’s war hero on the big screen. Your clean-cut good looks inevitably got you tagged as “the boy next door,” and your presence in numerous song-and-dance movies earned you the dubious sobriquet of “the voiceless Sinatra.” A lifelong friend of Lucille Ball, she was instrumental in keeping you in Hollywood after your first movie, Murder in the Big House. Spencer Tracy made MGM keep you in A Guy Named Joe (as the young pilot guided by the spirit of Tracy’s older pilot) after your accident, and that role sealed your reputation. Lots of movies followed: Two Girls and a Sailor, The White Cliffs of Dover, State of the Union, Mother Is a Freshman, In the Good Old Summertime, Battleground, Plymouth Adventure, The Caine Mutiny. You were the matchmaker who got Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball together in the 1968 film Yours, Mine and Ours. After the 1960s, you spent a lot of time in dinner theater and inevitably playing Cap’n Andy in Show Boat. Also inevitable were the TV guest shots on Quincy, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Murder, She Wrote. Other notable appearances in your latter years, trading on your movie idol image: Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo and the villain The Minstrel on the 1960s TV series Batman.

  • Stanley Kamel: Frankly, with your round head and glasses and the small roles you played, we really didn’t notice you in all those TV shows since the 1970s. But you did have recurring roles in Hill Street Blues, Hunter, Cagney & Lacey, L.A. Law, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Murder One. But your most recent and prominent gig was as Dr. Charles Kroger on the series Monk. But it should also be mentioned that you had a small role in David Lynch’s latest film Inland Empire and that you played the arrogant Starfleet propulsion expert Kosinski in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Where No One Has Gone Before.”

  • Shell Kepler: For more than two decades you were the busybody nurse Amy Vining on General Hospital. And that’s about it.

  • Evelyn Keyes: Three decades before Linda Gray and Dallas, you were the original Suellen. Your claim to fame is playing Scarlett O’Hara’s kid sister in the classic Gone With the Wind. But despite your respectable film c.v. (Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Jolson Story, The Mating of Millie, Mrs. Mike, The Seven Year Itch), you are nearly more memorable for the men you were with and/or married. Your first husband committed suicide after you left him for director Charles Vidor. Before long you were married to another director, John Huston, who once surprised you with a pet chimp that Jennifer Jones had given him and on another occasion brought home a newly adopted son from Mexico after shooting The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. You were with Michael Todd while he was filming Around the World in Eighty Days, until he left you for Elizabeth Taylor. Other affairs were with Anthony Quinn, David Niven and Kirk Douglas. Your last marriage was to Artie Shaw, who had previously been dumped by seven wives, including Ava Gardner and Lana Turner. My favorite quote of yours: “I always took up with the man of the moment… and there were many such moments.”

  • Eartha Kitt: Meow…! The mainstream press has already hashed over your riveting stage and cabaret performances, your anti-war outburst at a White House luncheon and your turn as Catwoman opposite Adam West. You did have something of a film career, but you were often consigned to roles like “singer” or “priestess” or “cult leader.” Titles included names like Up the Chastity Belt, The Serpent Warriors, Master of Dragonard Hill, I Woke Up Early the Day I Died, and let us not forget Ernest Scared Stupid and the spoof Fatal Instinct. I was amused at my kid’s school’s Christmas concert to hear a trio of schoolgirls singing quite innocently Santa Baby as if it were just any old standard and not the suggestively naughty ditty that it was in your hands. But you were not a bad fit for children’s entertainment. After all, you were in Disney’s Holes and voiced the character of Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove, its sequel and its spinoff TV series. My verdict on the Catwoman thing: I’m more of a Julie Newmar guy, but you edged her out on pure feline ferocity. Too bad you only played the character in three of that villainess’s 17 outings in the series.

  • Harvey Korman: You will most be remembered for years in Carol Burnett’s TV comedy troupe. But many of us also remember you for being part of Mel Brooks’s movie comedy ensemble. Memorably, you were the villainous Hedley Lamarr in the classic Blazing Saddles, as well as Dr. Montague in the Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety and the Count de Monet in History of the World, Part 1. Less remembered are your associations with The Pink Panther (playing Prof. Auguste Balls in three movies; Graham Stark played the character in two others) and The Flintstones (voicing the Great Gazoo in the 1960s series and the Dictabid in the 1994 live-action movie, plus playing Colonel Slaghoople in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas). You got your start with bit parts in classic shows like The Milton Berle Show, The Red Skelton Show, The Jack Benny Program and The Lucy Show. You also appeared in a few more serious films, like the 1974 version of Huckleberry Finn (playing the King to David Wayne’s Duke) and the TV biopic Bud and Lou (playing Bud Abbot to Buddy Hackett’s Lou Costello). Your time on the Burnett show led to your own brief sitcom and appearances on the spinoff Mama’s Family as Ed Higgins—as well as a directing job. And here’s a role that only the most grizzled and preserved of baby boomers will remember. For several episodes in the 1960s you were the reporter Brownie, friend to intrepid copyboy Gallegher (played by Roger Mobley) on the TV series Disneyland.

  • Don LaFontaine: (Deep voice.) In a world where nerds like me sit in rapt attention to every new trailer that is spooled before the main feature, your voice made us sit up and pay attention. You voiced more than 5,000 trailers in your 33-year career, but who’s counting? In 1965 you were an audio engineer. When an announcer for a promo didn’t show up, you voiced it yourself, MGM liked what they heard, and the rest is history. When you died in September, there was a strange flurry of attention paid, particularly by NPR. Maybe because of those Geico commercials. Anyway, your deep, authoritative, momentous-sounding voice was one of the reasons the trailers so often seemed better than the movies they were touting. (Deep voice.) In a world where watching a big screen in the dark is magic, you were the aural wizard.

  • John Phillip Law: Let’s face it, you were gorgeous. Tall, blond and well-built, you were eye candy of the highest order. Definitely not to be confused with similarly named Philip Baker Hall, your looks got you on screen fairly regularly for five decades (as recently as last year’s Chinaman’s Chance), but we stopped paying attention after the fuss over the 1971 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine. Your Teutonic looks often got you cast as foreigners: a young Soviet sailor in Norman Jewison’s The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, the infamous Red Baron in Roger Corman’s Von Richtofen and Brown, Major Stark in The Cassandra Crossing and various Scandinavians on TV shows like Murder, She Wrote. A lot of your work was done abroad in all kinds of B movie and direct-to-video fare, from spaghetti westerns (Death Rides a Horse with Lee Van Cleef) to science fiction and fantasy (Diabolik, Space Mutiny, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) to action yarns (American Commandos, Combat Force). You did make at least one fairly serious film, John Flynn’s The Sergeant, in which you played a young army private who becomes an object of obsession of Rod Steiger’s master sergeant. Before that you appeared in Otto Preminger’s star-studded Southern melodrama Hurry Sundown and that is where you met Jane Fonda. And that is how you came to have the role for which we will most remember you: the beautiful blind angel that accompanies Fonda on her intergalactic quest in Roger Vadim’s cult classic, Barbarella.

  • Davey Lee: You had a very brief career as a child actor, and that was 80 years ago. After five movies at the dawn of the talkies, your mother said that was enough, and that was that. She wanted you to have a normal childhood. One of your movies was called The Squealer and one was Frozen River with Rin-Tin-Tin. Two of your movies (The Singing Fool and Say It with Songs) starred Al Jolson, and in two of your movies (The Singing Fool and Sonny Boy) your character’s name was Sonny Boy. And it was in The Singing Fool that Al Jolson famously sang the song “Sonny Boy” (which became the first record to sell more than a million copies), as you crawled up onto his lap in 1929.

  • Perry Lopez: A film and TV actor for 40 years, you were often consigned to playing Hispanics or Native Americans, often in westerns. Your credits include TV shows like Zorro, The Rifleman, The Rebel, Riverboat, Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Virginian and Air Wolf and movies (a number with exclamations in their titles) like Battle Cry, Mr. Roberts, McLintock!, Che!, Kelly’s Heroes, Bandolero! and Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. (Your film debut was an un-credited role as a doomed Brazilian native in The Creature from the Black Lagoon.) But you will be remembered for one role that made a fairly lasting impression. You were Lt. Escobar, the friend and former colleague of Jack Nicholson’s character in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, a role you reprised 16 years later in the eventual sequel The Two Jakes. But also worth mentioning is your one appearance as Lt. Rodriguez on the Star Trek episode “Shore Leave,” in which Kirk and crew transport down to a planet where their thoughts become reality.

  • Bernie Mac: Your professional name sounds like a right proper Irish nickname, which is probably because, at birth, you were given a proper Irish name, Bernard Jeffrey McCullough. Growing up, you survived young two brothers and your mother, who raised you alone for your first 16 years. It was her laughter at Bill Cosby on the Ed Sullivan show that inspired you to be a comic. Somehow you parlayed your angry comedy routines into the persona of a tough but loving father figure on your successful sitcom The Bernie Mac Show. Before that you were Uncle Bernie on Moesha. And for a decade and a half you were a fixture in movies, many (but not all) aimed primarily at the African-American audience. You were Jay in Spike Lee’s Get on the Bus, a judge in Booty Call (with Jamie Foxx), Jangle Leg in Ted Demme’s Life (with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence), Uncle Jack in What’s the Worst That Could Happen? (with Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito), Gin the store detective in Bad Santa and a potential father-in-law to Ashton Kutcher in Guess Who. But it was being featured in Spike Lee’s concert film The Original Kings of Comedy that really put you on the map, and it was being included in the all-star cast of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven (and its two sequels) that solidified your cool status. For your cool status with kids, however, it was playing Bobby Bolivia in Transformers and voicing the lion Zuba, father of Ben Stiller’s character in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Man, at 50 you went way too young. Final films: Soul Men (with Samuel L. Jackson) and Old Dogs (with John Travolta, Robin Williams and Matt Dillon), set to be released later this year.

  • Abby Mann: A screenwriter for a half-century, you turned out a lot of stories, teleplays and screenplays. You created the character of the lollipop-sucking detective Kojak, which was made into not one but two series (with Telly Savalas in the 1970s and Ving Rhames in 2005), but you were unhappy that your social themes were jettisoned for a more standard police drama. You also created the 1980 working-class family drama series Skag, starring Karl Malden and Piper Laurie. A very socially conscious writer, you were a strict defender of your work’s integrity and your own principles. You demanded that your name be taken off your adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Condemned of Altona, if script changes were not undone. Director Vittorio De Sica complied. When Paramount wanted to cast children with no disabilities for your movie about kids with learning handicaps, A Child Is Waiting, you emptied your bank account to buy back the script, which United Artists ended up releasing in 1963. Your TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders was about a black man unjustly arrested for the murder of two white women. And you wrote and directed the miniseries King, in which Paul Winfield played the iconic civil rights leader. You started out in the Golden Age of television writing plays for shows like Studio One and Playhouse 90. It was one of those teleplays, adapted for the big screen, that got you your single Oscar. (You would later get a nomination for Ship of Fools.) Your screenplay for Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg examined the Nazi era in German and threw a light on some of the darkest issues of the 20th century.

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 22 January 2009

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