Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2017
Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Passings: July 2012

Last July we saw an extraordinary number of notable actors and other film and TV professionals pass away. Among them: two significant contributors to the mythology of Doctor Who.


  • William Asher: Thank you for the mindless entertainment of all those silly beach movies in the 1960s. You wrote and directed a string of them, often starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello: Beach Party, Muscle Beach, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo and, of course, the classic How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. The attraction was, naturally, nice-to-look-at young people, but you also threw in your personal friends as cameos, people like Buster Keaton, Boris Karloff and Mickey Rooney. But you were better known for directing TV shows, like Our Miss Brooks, The Danny Thomas Show, The Thin Man, The Donna Reed Show, Gidget and The Patty Duke Show. The most notable one, however, was Bewitched, which starred your wife Elizabeth Montgomery. If the dynamic between Samantha and Darren seemed familiar, it was probably because you also directed more than 100 episodes of I Love Lucy. (16-VII-2012, at 90)

  • Chris Marker: There was always something mysterious about you—including your name. (It turns out it was really Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve.) For a filmmaker who never made a full-length feature film, you were awfully influential. Your movies were like visual essays and sometimes travelogues. Your range of settings can be seen in titles like Sunday in Peking and Letter from Siberia and the documentary you made of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Your controversial attack on French foreign policy in Africa in Les Statues Meurent Aussi was co-directed with Alain Resnais. Israel, Cuba and your native France were also your subjects. Later topics included your friend Yves Montand (The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Singer), Akira Kurosawa (AK) and Alexander Medvedkin (The Last Bolshevik). And I will never forget seeing your pictorial essay Sans Soleil in the 1980s at the Seattle International Film Festival. But most memorable of all your works was your one fiction film, which was a mere 29 minutes in length and is arguably the best time travel movie ever made: La Jetée. A masterpiece in its own right, it was the basis for another fine movie, Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys. (29-VII-2012, at 91)


  • Maeve Binchy: Among the many readers you have entertained over the years are my mother, my wife, my niece and my daughter—and those are just the ones I know about off-hand. One of Ireland’s all-time most popular novelists, seven of your books figure in the top 100 of the country’s best sellers, including the first, third and fourth place slots. A big earth mother of a woman, you gave hope to late-budding writers, as you did not publish your first book (Light a Penny Candle) until the age of 43. Five of your books and two of your short stories were adapted for the big and small screens. These would be TV miniseries Echoes, the TV movies Deeply Regretted By, The Lilac Bus and Anner House and the feature films Circle of Friends (with Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell), Tara Road (with Olivia Williams and Andie MacDowell) and How About You (with Brenda Fricker and Vanessa Redgrave). (30-VII-2012, at 72)

  • Tom Davis: You and your comedy partner were billed on Saturday Night Live as Franken and Davis but, as you would later joke, you were essentially Sonny to future Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s Cher. But as pioneer writers (and sometimes performers) of that groundbreaking late night sketch comedy show, you gave us the Coneheads, Dan Aykroyd’s impersonation of Julia Child and his turn as the toy executive who shilled “Bag o’ Glass” and other dodgy children’s toys, Steve Martin’s medieval barber Theodoric of York and your routine with Franken called “The Brain Tumor Comedian” in which you tried to tell jokes but kept forgetting the punch line. Never losing your sense of humor, in your final months with throat and neck cancer you referred to your impending demise as “deanimation.” (19-VII-2012, at 59)

  • Frank Pierson: You directed a number of TV shows and TV movies as well as the feature films Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson version of A Star Is Born and King of the Gypsies. But we mainly remember you as a screenwriter. That’s because you won an Oscar for writing Dog Day Afternoon and got nominations for Cat Ballou and Cool Hand Luke. Among your last jobs was writing for The Good Wife and Mad Men. (23-VII-2012, at 87)

  • Sidney Reznick: You wrote the book on how to write jokes. I mean that literally. The 1954 manual that you penned was titled How to Write Jokes. And you knew whereof you wrote. You wrote jokes, sketches and scripts for the likes of Jackie Gleason, Garry Moore, Bob Hope and Johnny Carson among many others. (24-VII-2012, at 92)

  • Gore Vidal: Where to begin with you? Author of some 25 novels, two memoirs and a ton of essays, you were one of the 20th century’s most prominent and outspoken commentators on society, politics and everything else. I will always remember when you called fellow commentator William F. Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” during ABC’s coverage of the 1968 Democratic convention. (Buckley began his retort with “Now listen, you queer…”) But let’s focus on your film contributions. As documented in The Celluloid Closet, you added a homoerotic subtext as an uncredited writer on Ben-Hur; you adapted Tennessee William’s Suddenly, Last Summer for a film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift; you wrote (with Francis Ford Coppola) the screenplay for Is Paris Burning?; you wrote the screenplays for The Best Man (starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson) and the notorious Bob Guccione flick Caligula; and your novel Myra Beckinridge was adapted as a comeback vehicle for Mae West, in which Raquel Welch played a post-op version of film critic Rex Reed. As an actor, you played a senator in Tim Robbins’s Bob Roberts, a professor in Alek Keshishian’s With Honors, a congressman in George P. Cosmatos’s Shadow Conspiracy, a murderous mission director in Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca and a headmaster in your nephew Burr Steers’s Igby Goes Down. (31-VII-2012, at 86)


  • Richard Zanuck: You may have been fired by your own father, legendary 20th Century Fox co-founder Darryl F. Zanuck, but you showed him. You found a young filmmaker named Steve Spielberg and produced his first feature film The Sugarland Express and then, the next year, a little flick of his called Jaws. That got you and fellow producer David Brown an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, as did The Verdict seven years later. You finally won the Oscar (along with your wife Lili Fini Zanuck) for Driving Miss Daisy. Other notable producing credits: The Sting, The Eiger Sanction, Cocoon, Road to Perdition and the Tim Burton movies Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in Wonderland and, yes, Dark Shadows. (13-VII-2012, at 77)


  • Norman Alden: Your biggest role was the title character in Richard C. Sarafian’s 1965 film Andy, in which you played a mentally disabled man who goes out on a night of adventures before his Greek immigrant parents put him in an asylum. But, if we remember you, it will probably be for any of a number of small roles in films over the years. Roles like a cameraman in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood and a soda jerk in Back to the Future. Or maybe we would recognize your voice in any number of animated features and cartoons. You were Sir Kay in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone and the robot Kranix who faced off against Unicron (voiced by Orson Welles) in the 1986 animated version of Transformers. (27-VII-2012, at 87)

  • R.G. Armstrong: Your rugged looks pretty much guaranteed that you would play manly roles in the movies and on TV, particularly westerns. You showed up on every TV western, including Have Gun – Will Travel and Gunsmoke before meeting Sam Peckinpah and becoming a regular his films. You were a brash Christian fundamentalist in Ride the High Country, a minister in Major Dundee and a deputy sheriff in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. You were also a favorite of Warren Beatty, who cast you in Heaven Can Wait, Reds and Dick Tracy, in which you played Pruneface. Among your many TV credits was the part of the police captain in T.H.E. Cat. Other notable films included The Great White Hope and Predator. (27-VII-2012, at 95)

  • Ernest Borgnine: The ultimate character actor. Read this. (8-VII-2012, at 95)

  • Tony Epper: Like your sister and brothers, you were a stuntman, and you practiced that craft in movies and on TV for four and a half decades—as well as performing small acting roles beginning as one of the children of Ma and Pa Kettle. Your movies included Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Dracula movie, Con Air, Thelma & Louise and Patriot Games. Your TV shows included Batman, Charlie’s Angels, MacGyver and The A-Team. Your last TV appearance (and who could ask for a better one?) was as a drunken Klingon on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (21-VII-2012, at 73)

  • Chad Everett: You were, of course, dreamy Dr. Gannon on Medical Center in the 1970s. We’re less likely to remember that you starred in other TV series after that. One was The Rousters, in which you played a bouncer in a traveling carnival who was a descendent and namesake of Wyatt Earp. Another was McKenna, in which you were the titular outdoor tour operator. Not to forget the miniseries Malibu, in which you were a fading tennis professional, and Centennial (as Major Mercy). And you had recurring roles on The Dakotas, Hagen, Melrose Place, Manhattan, AZ, Undercovers and Chemistry. And just a couple of years ago you played an older version of Jensen Ackles on Supernatural. On the big screen, we saw you as the customer who comes in with Marion Crane’s boss at the beginning of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake and as Jimmy Katz in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. And let us not forget that you were the incompetent engineer who builds the first commercial space shuttle to the moon in Airplane II: The Sequel. (24-VII-2012, at 76)

  • John Finnegan: At New York’s Actors Studio you became friends with John Cassevetes and Peter Falk, and that connection served you well in your numerous TV credits. Many of them were for supporting roles on Falk’s long-running Columbo. It also got you parts in Cassevetes’s A Woman Under the Influence and Big Trouble. You were also the voice of Warren T. Rat in An American Tail and a judge in Oliver Stone’s JFK. But the role mentioned at the top of your obits was that of the scout who discovers Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs in Barry Levinson’s The Natural. (29-VII-2012, at 85)

  • Andy Griffith: The last word in homespun. Read this. (3-VII-2012, at 86)

  • Sherman Hemsley: Few actors become so identified with a single role as you. George Jefferson began as the hostile-to-white-people husband of nice Louis who was only referred to on All in the Family. Then you showed up in the role and became the anti-Archie Bunker, a strutting, chest-puffing tailor-fit foil to Carroll O’Connor’s Archie. Then you and Isabel Sanford were spun off into your own show, in which George and Louise became nouveau riche who left Queens for a posh apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. By then you—who started out as a stage actor who eventually got noticed on Broadway in Purlie—were effectively stereotyped. You played more or less the same character as a deacon on Amen, as well as Capt. Savage on Family Matters, Willie Goode on Goode Behavior, a grandpa on Sister, Sister, Mr. Williams on The Hughleys and Boss on Clunkers. And you have returned occasionally to playing George over the years, e.g. in a few episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and only a couple of years ago in a dream segment on an episode of House of Payne. And, for the benefit of trivia buffs, let us not forget that you played the villainous Toyman on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and that you were the voice of the equine Mr. Ed in the 2004 Mr. Ed TV movie. (24-VII-2012, at 74)

  • Celeste Holm: I apologize. Given your impeccable six-decade career on the stage and on screen, you should have had a week all to yourself, but July was a busy month. Anyway, let’s remember that you made a huge impression at the age of 25 in the role of Ado Annie (“I Cain’t Say No”) in Oklahoma on Broadway. A Hollywood career followed and you won an Oscar for your third role, as a fashion editor in Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement. You went on to play Olivia de Havilland’s fellow psychiatric patient in The Snake Pit and a French nun in Come to the Stable. You were also the (uncredited) voice of Addie Ross, the woman who writes three friends that she is running away with one of their husbands in A Letter to Three Wives. You were playwright Hugh Marlowe’s wife in All About Eve. Then you sang as Frank Sinatra’s girlfriend in the musical romcom The Tender Trap. Then you were the photographer ignored by Frank Sinatra in High Society. After that you entered the TV and character role phase of your long career. I particularly remember you as the mother of a family that hosts ex-marine Warren Berlinger in a four-part story called “Kilroy” on TV’s Disneyland in 1965. In Doctor, You’ve Got to Be Kidding!, you were mother to a pregnant Sandra Dee who was desperately searching for a husband. In the TV series Nancy you were chaperone to the president’s daughter. You were Aunt Polly to Johnny Whitaker in the 1973 version of Tom Sawyer (with Jodie Foster as Becky Thatcher). You were the wife of Warren G. Harding in the miniseries Backstairs at the White House. You even did a stint on As the World Turns and had a recurring role on Archie Bunker’s Place. You had mother roles on the series Jessie (starring Lindsay Wagner) and Christine Cromwell (starring Jaclyn Smith). You were a bitter widow who tried to kill Jane Wyman and burn her house down on Falcon Crest. And you were Gerald McRaney’s mother in the series Promised Land, which was a spinoff of Touched by an Angel. And you were a regular in the cop series The Beat. And your final movie, College Debts in which you and the recently departed Janet Carroll play grandmas, is due to come out in May. (15-VII-2012, at 95)

  • Geoffrey Hughes: Here’s something I didn’t see coming. Apparently, you provided the voice for cartoon Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine. That seems especially incongruous to those of us who mainly know you for your roles in British sitcoms, particularly for playing the oafish Onslow, who constantly disgusted his pretentious sister-in-law Hyacinth Bouquet, in Keeping Up Appearances. You were also the lovable rogue Eddie Yeats for nine years on the venerable soap Coronation Street, Twiggy on The Royle Family and Vernon Scripps on the drama Heartbeat. But despite all that, your true claim to immortality is your turn as Mr. Popplewick in the two-part story “The Ultimate Foe” which was the finale of the story arc “Trial of a Time Lord” on Doctor Who. (27-VII-2012, at 68)

  • Lloyd Kino: For four and a half decades you were one of those go-to character actors for every movie and TV show where they needed a Japanese/Japanese-American/Asian character. That translated to several appearances on Hawaiian Eye, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., McHale’s Navy, Ironside, M*A*S*H, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Hawaii Five-O and the 1998 Godzilla movie, among many others. But let’s highlight one particular role. You were a crewman named Wu under an unstable starship captain, played by Morgan Woodward, who is obsessed without finding a fountain of youth on the planet Omega 4 in the original Star Trek episode “The Omega Glory.” (21-VII-2012, at 93)

  • Lupe Ontiveros: For more than 35 years you had an acting career that began when you traded a job as a social worker for a career as a thespian and went on to appear in Zoot Suit with Edward James Olmos on Broadway and became one of the founders of Los Angeles’s Latino Theater Company. So it had to be frustrating when your trademark role on TV and in movies turned out to be that of a Mexican maid, which invariably required you to speak with a heavy Mexican accent. You played variations of that role well over a hundred times, including in such films as The Goonies and As Good As It Gets. But you eventually gained well deserved recognition for playing a trio of roles. You were the deranged fan who murders the title character in Gregory Nava’s Selena and the domineering mother in Patricia Cardoso’s Real Women Have Curves. But most people probably know you as Eva Longoria’s unfortunate mother-in-law on Desperate Housewives, the role that earned you an Emmy nomination. (26-VII-2012, at 69)

  • Eric Sykes: You began as a scriptwriter for the BBC and collaborated with Spike Milligan on The Goon Show. From there you went on to be one of Britain’s most popular comic actors. You appeared on numerous television series, including the eponymous Sykes and a… Your movie credits include Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, The Spy with a Cold Nose and Theater of Blood (with Vincent Price and Diana Rigg). More recently you were a servant in Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others (starring Nicole Kidman) and a gardener in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (4-VII-2012, at 89)

  • Mary Tamm: You graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and acted on the stage with the Birmingham Repertory Company. You went on to screen roles in Tales That Witness Madness, The Odessa File, a film version of the TV series The Likely Lads and appearances on the inevitable Coronation Street. But we don’t care about any of that. We only care that you originated the role of the Gallifreyan Time Lady Romana, companion to Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor in 1978 and 1979 on Doctor Who. (The character subsequently regenerated and was played by Lalla Ward through 1981.) You also played Romana’s identical double, Princess Strella, as well as android versions of Romana and Strella. Sadly, your husband of 34 years, Marcus Ringrose, died of a heart attack shortly after delivering your eulogy. Current Doctor Who showrunner Steve Steven Moffat put it best: “Perfectly brought to life by Mary, with such style and wit, you always thought she could have kicked the Doctor out of the time machine and got on with the adventure herself. A generation of little girls threw away the idea of being an assistant, and decided to fly the TARDIS for themselves.” (27-VII-2012, at 62)

  • Ginny Tyler: A dead ringer for Annette Funicello, you rarely got to be seen since you specialized in voice work, often portraying animals. These included Sally in Davey and Goliath, Casper the Friendly Ghost in The New Casper Cartoon Show and a 1979 TV movie, a baby in Son of Flubber, lambs in Mary Poppins, a sheep and a cockatiel on The Lucy Show, the frequently-needing-to-be-rescued Jan in Space Ghost and a parrot in the 1967 movie Doctor Dolittle. Your voice was also heard on Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones and The Jetsons. And you were Sue Richards in the 1970s animated Fantastic Four series. There is no better example of how much acting and emotion can be conveyed through animal noises than your performance as the female squirrel that loves and loses a magically transformed Wart in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. (13-VII-2012, at 86)

  • Simon Ward: Your final role—which you had to relinquish due to illness—was Alfie Doolittle in a stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. It was a role you relished because it was a rare chance to play a working class character. More typically you played refined aristocratic types, beginning with an uncredited role as a schoolboy in Lindsay Anderson’s If… That was followed by the Hammer horror Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, in which you played a young doctor blackmailed into helping the mad scientist, and the sci-fi flick Quest for Love, which starred Joan Collins. But your breakthrough role—and the one for which you will always be best known—was as a future British prime minister in Richard Attenborough’s Young Winston. You went on to play the Duke of Buckingham in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, a Lt. Vereker in Zulu Dawn, Zor-El (father of the title character) in Supergirl and Mr. Linton in the 1992 version of Wuthering Heights (with Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes). TV work included A Taste for Death, Family Affairs, Judge John Deed and, most recently, the role of Bishop Gardiner on The Tudors. (21-VII-2012, at 70)

  • Isuzu Yamada: An eminent actor in Japan, you are best known to us westerners as a particularly cold-blooded Lady Macbeth opposite Toshirô Mifune in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. You played a wide array of women through the years, ranging from victims to villains to rebels to your trademarked “fallen woman.” Also notable among your many roles: you were another scheming wife in Kurosawa’s samurai movie Yojimbo (again with Mifune), which was an unacknowledged adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel Red Harvest and which was, in turn, remade by Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars (with Clint Eastwood) and by Walter Hill as Last Man Standing (with Bruce Willis). (9-VII-2012, at 95)

    -S.L., 21 March 2013

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