Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Passings: June 2012

Last June was a particularly heavy month for losing people in the movie and entertainment world. We remember here no fewer than ten actors of varying styles and contributions. As well three very significant writers left us.


  • Ray Bradbury: Science fiction author extraordinaire. Read this. (5-VI-2012, at 91)

  • Nora Ephron: Writer, director and romcom re-inventor. Read this. (26-VI-2012, at 71)

  • Andrew Sarris: Along with Pauline Kael you were one of the two giants of 20th century film criticism. As I made clear six years ago, I self-identify as a Kael-ian. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate and acknowledge your contribution to the literature. From your vantage point at The Village Voice and The New York Observer, you promoted and celebrated and familiarized us with the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, François Truffaut, Max Ophuls, Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa. Thanks to you we have been talking about auteurs ever since. You may have given American directors short shrift but, hey, no one’s perfect. Great story: your rivalry with Kael was so entrenched that, when you married another great film critic, Molly Haskell, Kael’s reported retort to being invited was, “That’s okay. I’ll go to Molly’s next wedding.” Happily, there was no next wedding and our condolences go to Ms. Haskell. (20-VI-2012, at 83)


  • Frank Cady: Good ol’ Sam Drucker. Read this. (8-VI-2012, at 96)

  • Richard Dawson: Funnyman, game show host and Hogan hero. Read this. (2-VI-2012, at 79)

  • Don Grady: You started out as a Mouseketeer and became an accomplished musician and singer, but to us you will always be Robbie Douglas in Fred MacMurray’s all-male household on the long-running sitcom My Three Sons. Not the first choice for the role, you were told you got it because the cleft in your chin matched MacMurray’s. Dreamy Robbie was the middle son until Tim Considine left home and Chip’s pal Ernie got adopted. Here’s something almost nobody knows. You not only co-wrote “Keep the Dream Alive” (sung by Herbie Hancock, Della Reese and others) for the Jazz to End Hunger project but you also wrote the theme song for Phil Donahue’s talk show. (27-VI-2012, at 68)

  • Caroline John: You appeared in numerous British TV shows and films during your 71 years, including the role of Liam Neeson’s mother-in-law in Love Actually, but we’re wasting valuable time bothering with any of that. You matter to us because you played Cambridge scientist Liz Shaw, first companion to the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) in 1970 on Doctor Who. In the course of four story arcs, you dealt with the Nestene, the Silurians, contact with aliens on the planet Mars and a parallel universe where Britain is a fascistic republic. Writing on the great web site io9, Charlie Jane Anders made a strong case for you actually saving Doctor Who from early cancellation. In what amounted to a reboot of the series, you were crucial to a more grown-up approach to our favorite Time Lord’s adventures. (5-VI-2012, at 71)

  • Kathryn Joosten: Character actor whose art imitated her life and death. Read this. (2-VI-2012, at 72)

  • Richard Lynch: Your scarred face (the result of setting yourself on fire in 1967 while on LSD) made you a natural for scary movies. Your c.v. is adorned with titles like Bad Dreams, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Death Game, Curse of the Forty-niner and The Mummy’s Kiss. Recently you played the school principal in Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake and you will appear in his forthcoming Lords of Salem. (19-VI-2012, at 76)

  • Ann Rutherford: Your screen acting career spanned four decades beginning in the mid-1930s, but you are remembered for two particular roles. You were Polly Benedict, Mickey Rooney’s girlfriend, in several Andy Hardy features. And you were Carreen O’Hara, youngest sister of Suellen (Evelyn Keyes) and Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) in a little 1939 flick called Gone with the Wind. (11-VI-2012, at 94)

  • Doris Singleton: Another veteran who spent decades (specifically the 1950s through the 1980s) popping up on our TV screens, you are best remembered for playing Lucille Ball’s neighbor in several episodes of I Love Lucy, in which the two of you had a bit of a needling rivalry over bragging about your young sons. The character was called Lillian Appleby until, for no discernible reason, she was renamed Caroline Appleby. Your other notable role was in the later episodes of My Three Sons, in which you played Stanley Livingston’s mother-in-law. You would later recount that, during that whole time, you never met Fred MacMurray a single time. Shooting was scheduled so that his scenes could be shot in the briefest amount of time possible and only with actors with whom he shared scenes. (26-VI-2012, at 92)

  • Victor Spinetti: An accomplished British actor, you were visited by two young pop singers backstage after a performance in Oh What a Lovely War! “Victor, you’ve got to be in our film,” said one of the moptops. “You’ve got to be in all our films.” When you asked why, George Harrison said, because his mum fancied you. And you were in all their films, in fact, the only non-Beatle to be in all three of the Beatles’ feature films: A Hard Day’s Night (as a television director), Help! (as a mad doctor) and Magical Mystery Tour (as a drill instructor). Among your many other roles: a hotel concierge in The Return of the Pink Panther, Dr. Strauss in Voyage of the Damned and Desmond in the TV series An Actor’s Life for Me. (19-VI-2012, at 82)

  • Susan Tyrrell: It must have been your eclectic selection of film roles that made you such a cult favorite among fanboys. Probably titles like Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, The Killer Inside Me, Tales of Ordinary Madness and What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon. But more likely it was just the characters you played: mother of a perpetually whimpering baby in Andy Warhol’s Bad, a brothel madam in Islands in the Stream and Doris, Queen of the Sixth Dimension, in the musical Forbidden Zone. You continued to be cast by ever new connoisseurs of cult, like Tim Burton (as three-inch-tall Midge Montana in Big Top Pee-Wee) and John Waters (as Johnny Depp’s grandmother in Cry-Baby.) And let us not forget your two turns as Solly Mosler, the lesbian madam of a troupe transvestite prostitutes in in Angel and Avenging Angel or the trailer park manager who becomes a victim of a serial killer in Far from Home. But your professional peak came early when John Huston made full use of his casting couch to put you in his film Fat City to play one of the most believable on-screen drunks ever. His method (getting you totally drunk for real) worked. You got nominated for an Oscar for Supporting Actress, losing to Eileen Heckart in Butterflies Are Free. (16-VI-2012, at 67)


  • Richard Adler: Your reign of musical success was glorious but all too brief. You and your collaborator Jerry Ross wrote the music and lyrics for two smash successes on Broadway which went on to be motion pictures. Songs from The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees became standards. The two of you were the toast of the town. Then, within months, Ross died at the age of 29 from bronchiectasis. And, in the decades since, you mainly concentrated on writing symphonies and advertising jingles. And you did some producing, including the Madison Square Garden fund raiser in which Marilyn Monroe famously sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK. (21-VI-2012, at 90)


  • Henry Hill: Real life goodfella who came to be played by Ray Liotta. Read this. (12-VI-2012, at 69)

  • Count Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees: You weren’t really a movie person, but let’s remember you anyway. In 1960 you were Rouge Dragon Pursuivant at the UK’s College of Arms when you were contacted by an author named Ian Fleming for help with a novel he was writing. And you gave him plenty of help. As a result, some of your personal details found their way into the book and subsequent movie (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), including the trait of your Basque ancestors to be born without earlobes. This became an inherited peculiarity of James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas in the movie). You also provided the motto for Bond’s family: “The World Is Not Enough,” which in turn became a title of another film in the series. And you yourself became the fictional genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, portrayed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by George Baker. (23-VI-2012, at 87)

    -S.L., 5 March 2013

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