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Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Passings: May 2012

Among other things, May of last year was a tough month for disco stars passing on before their time. It was also a month that we lost some distinctive actors and writers who mined comedy, drama and the dark corners of childhood.


  • Al Gordon: For those of us who religiously watched the credits at the end of TV shows, you were one of the illustrious names credited with penning one of the classic weekly half-hours of Golden Age of comedy. Working with your longtime collaborator Hal Goldman as well as Sam Perrin and George Balzer, you provided the gags for Jack Benny, as he transitioned from radio to television in the 1950s. And while that is what you’re mainly remembered for, you went on to write for lots of other shows, including The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Flip Wilson Show, The Carol Burnett Show and the sitcoms That’s My Mama, Carter Country and Three’s Company. (23-V-2012, at 89)

  • William Hanley: You were mainly known as a playwright, both on and off Broadway, notably for the 1963 drama Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. But you also had a career in television, writing more than a score of teleplays. Two of the most memorable: Something About Amelia, the incest drama that starred Ted Danson, and The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank, which starred Paul Scofield and Mary Steenburgen. (25-V-2012, at 80)

  • Maurice Sendak: According to The New York Times, you were “widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.” Your books had a dark edge that your post-1960 audience seemed attuned to. A fair amount of your work made the transition from the printed page to the stage and screen. Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! became operas, and The Sign on Rosie’s Door became Really Rosie and got music by Carole King and went on to be an animated TV special. Your sets and designs for Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker for the Pacific Northwest Ballet were subsequently adapted for a 1986 film version by Carroll Ballard. And Where the Wild Things Are became a mixture of live action and animation in a 2009 movie directed by Spike Jonze. (8-V-2012, at 83)

  • Digby Wolfe: Born in London before moving to Australia and then Los Angeles, you were a bit of an intellectual bomb thrower. You worked on the satirical series That Was the Week That Was, which starred David Frost. And you even had acting jobs on shows like The Monkees and I Dream of Jeannie. But your real contribution came when you met producer George Schlatter at a cocktail party and went on to help him set up a new comedy show. You recruited many of the writers and much of the on-air talent, including Arte Johnson, Judy Carne and even Tiny Tim. And you gave the show not only its satirical edge but also the key final part of its name: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (2-V-2012, at 82)


  • Dick Beals: Who knew that Davey in the old Sunday morning stop-motion animation show Davey and Goliath and Gumby had the same voice? Because of a glandular condition, you never grew above four and a half feet or more than 70 pounds, so your voice always sounded like a child. But that got you lots of voice work on radio, on shows like The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, Dragnet and Gunsmoke. In commercials you gave voice to babies, adolescents, parrots, chipmunks, birds and rabbits. You sang with Gene Kelly in the 1967 animated special Jack and the Beanstalk, and at the age of 65 you beat out nearly 300 young boys to voice the role of N.J. Normanmeyer in the animated TV version of The Addams Family. But your biggest claim to fame will always be the words, “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!” You were the voice of Speedy Alka-Seltzer. (29-V-2012, at 85)

  • Janet Carroll: Frankly, you were one of those actors that we didn’t really notice. But you were there on our screens a lot, starting with the TV movie Chicago Story and right up to the yet-to-be-released film comedy College Debts, which also stars the late Celeste Holm. You had regular or recurring roles on The Bronx Zoo, The Boys, Married with Children, Murphy Brown (as news anchor Jim Dial’s wife Doris) and Melrose Place. And you appeared in the movies Family Business and Memories of Me. But for some reason we will always remember you best for your first big screen role: the mother who (unwisely) trusts her teenage son (played by Tom Cruise) to be in charge of the house while she and her husband are away in Risky Business. (22-V-2012, at 71)

  • George Lindsey: When Jim Nabors got spun off from The Andy Griffith Show to star in Gomer Pyle: USMC, you were brought on board to fill Mayberry’s amiable-but-dim gas station attendant gap, as Gomer’s cousin Goober. (Nabors had beat you out for the role of Gomer.) You played the role on Griffith’s show until its last episode and then continued playing it on its successor, Mayberry R.F.D. You even continued playing Goober on Hee Haw for what seemed like forever and in the 1978 TV movie Goober & the Truckers’ Paradise. But who knew that you played quite a few other characters on other TV shows? You made appearances on The Rifleman, The Twilight Zone (as a deputy in the episode when the sun refuses to rise on the day of an execution), Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, M*A*S*H and CHiPs. And who knew you had a whole career for Disney? You were Pete the handyman in Charley and the Angel, Trigger in Robin Hood, a sheriff in Treasure of Matecumbe, a rabbit in The Rescuers and Wally in Herbie, the Love Bug. Personally, though, I’ll always remember you for your low-profile country singing career and, in particular, the title song of one of your two albums, which mentioned my birthplace: 96 Miles to Bakersfield. (6-V-2012, at 83)

  • Joyce Redman: You might have been (but probably weren’t) an in-law of mine, since you were born in County Mayo, Ireland. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, you went on to many appearances on UK television, including the series Vanity Fair (as Becky Sharpe), Clayhanger, The Rector’s Wife, a Prime Suspect movie, Ruth Rendell Mysteries and the movie Victoria & Albert (as the elderly Victoria). You also appeared on the big screen in films like Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, Othello (with Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith), Prudence and the Pill (with Deborah Kerr and David Niven) and A Different Kind of Love. But we will always remember you for playing Jenny Jones, the “wanton” woman who is paid to “confess” to being the mother of the title character in Tony Richardson’s 1963 Oscar winning epic Tom Jones. In one of those fascinating coincidences, you passed away just two days after your twin sister Rosalind. (9-V-2012, at 93)

    Music People

  • Robin Gibb: Personally, I preferred the Bee Gees’ early, pre-disco stuff. But it’s the disco stuff written and performed by you and your brothers that is your main contribution to film. The soundtrack for John Badham’s 1977 hit Saturday Night Fever—in which John Travolta gyrated into the hearts of moviegoers everywhere—became a phenomenon and was un-escapable for pretty much all of the 1980s. But your music has graced scores of other films over the years and been heard in everything from Foul Play to a memorable scene in Bernardo Bertolucci’s La Luna to Sylvester Stallone’s SNF sequel Staying Alive to Cadillac Man to the Jackie Chan vehicle Supercop to Mr. Saturday Night to True Lies to Good Will Hunting to last year’s 50/50. Let us note that you had one notable on-screen film role. You and Barry and Maurice played the Henderson brothers who, with Peter Frampton as Billy Shears, form the titular musical group in 1978’s strange celebration of Beatles music, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (20-V-2012, at 62)

  • Donna Summer: Although known as the Queen of Disco, your music was really an eclectic mixture of funk, electronica and, well, sometimes soft-core porn. While the tributes to you were heavy on “I Feel Love” and “Bad Girls” and “Love to Love You Baby,” my personal favorite was always the more melodic and soulful “On the Radio.” You actually had a couple of acting roles. You were in the 1978 disco musical comedy Thank God It’s Friday, and you played Aunt Oona on the sitcom Family Matters. But your music has appeared in numerous films over the years, including Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the aforementioned TGIF, Foxes, Flashdance, Splash, Lost in America, The Full Monty and Frost/Nixon. (17-V-2012, at 63)


  • Frank Bailey: There seem to be only two TV/film credits on your c.v. You seem to have had a small role in a 1967 film adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which starred Milo O’Shea as Leopold Bloom. But it was your other credit that made people like me take note. In fact, people like me actually recognized your name because we used to see it five days a week at the end of our favorite TV show. You were the audio engineer on the immortal gothic daytime serial Dark Shadows. (19-V-2012, at 97)

  • Matthew Yuricich: As a matte artist, you were responsible for those paintings that look so real that they are used as backdrops in movies. And yours (not always credited) graced some of our favorite flicks during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Just a sampling of the titles: The Robe, Prince Valiant, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Egyptian, Forbidden Planet, Run Silent Run Deep, North by Northwest, Ben-Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Ice Station Zebra, The Poseidon Adventure, Soylent Green, Westworld, The Towering Inferno, Young Frankenstein, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, My Favorite Year, Ghostbusters and the original Die Hard. (28-V-2012, at 89)

    -S.L., 19 February 2013

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