Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Passings: January 2013

I’ve finally made it into the current year with my mini-tributes to the movie and other entertainment people who have shuffled off the mortal coil. In January we lost, among several others, directors who made male moviegoers put their knees together, put snakes on a plane and gave Charles Bronson a death wish.


  • David Ellis: Sure, you had an acting career, going all the way back to child roles in movies like Disney’s The Strongest Man in the World. But you spent a lot more time doing stunts in scores of movies beginning with Bound for Glory and ending with Hotel for Dogs—with flicks like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, S.O.B., The Beastmaster, Lethal Weapon, Fatal Attraction, Misery, Days of Thunder and Patriot Games in between. But I’ve put you in the director category because, after all, you did helm seven notable feature films. They include a couple Final Destination movies, Cellular, Shark Night 3D and the one that became an internet legend (until it was actually released), Snakes on a Plane. (7-I-2013, at 60)

  • Nagisa Oshima: Yeah, yeah, lots of critics considered you the greatest Japanese director of the post-Kurosawa era. Yeah, yeah, you were a politically engaged socialist. Yeah, yeah, you were a great admirer of the French New Wave. Yeah, yeah, you were acclaimed for movies like Death by Hanging, Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, Boy and The Ceremony. But let’s be real. The reason we know you in the English-speaking world is that you made a movie (based on an actual incident) about a maid who has a passionate affair with her employer and ends up killing him when he bleeds out from having his, er, um, thing severed. In the Realm of the Senses led to obscenity charges (eventually dropped) in Japan and a banning by U.S. Customs. Let us also remember a couple other movies of yours: the 1983 POW film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (with Tom Conti and David Bowie) and Max, Mon Amour, about a housewife with a sexual fascination with a gorilla. (15-I-2013, at 80)

  • Michael Winner: For some reason I came to think of you mainly for the restaurant column you wrote for years in the UK’s Sunday Times, called “Winner’s Dinners.” Maybe that’s because you stopped making movies in 1998 with the aptly titled Parting Shots, about a dying man who decides to take violent revenge on everyone who ever bothered him. It was a romcom. No, really. And it had John Cleese, Bob Hoskins, Diana Rigg, Ben Kingsley, Oliver Reed and lots of others. And that was typical. Your movies tended to be violent and crowd-pleasing although not critic-pleasing. Earlier flicks included things like Some Like It Cool (pop star Billy Fury in a nudist colony), The Jokers, I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname and Hannibal Brooks (all with Oliver Reed), Lawman and Scorpio (both with Burt Lancaster) and The Nightcomers (a prequel to The Turn of the Screw, with Marlon Brando). But your most lasting artistic collaboration was with Charles Bronson, with whom you made six movies, including Chato’s Land, The Mechanic and The Stone Killer. But your most memorable collaboration—and the flick with which most people associate you—was 1974’s Death Wish, in which Bronson goes all vigilante after Jeff Goldblum kills his wife and rapes his daughter. You also directed the first two sequels. No wonder you described your most successful work as a “puddle of blood.” (21-I-2013, at 77)


  • Jack F. Murphy: A Montreal-born independent producer, you were the founder of Criterion Pictures. The seven movies you produced, starting in 1974, were ones that we never heard of, with actors we never heard of (mostly). They had titles like The Klutz, Pinball Summer, The Delos Adventure, Syngenor, Ticks and Progeny. Wait, your last one, Havoc, actually sounds pretty interesting. It starred Anne Hathaway, Bijou Phillips, Michael Biehn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Channing Tatum and lots of other people. Why did I never hear of it? (6-I-2013, at 69)

  • Lloyd Phillips: You get a hat tip from me for being co-producer on one of my favorite movies, Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys. Other movies you produced included The Edge (with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin), The Legend of Zorro (with Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones) and The International (with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts). What’s notable is how many recent and upcoming prominent movies you had a hand in at the moment of your untimely death from a heart attack. Those include Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, The Tourist (with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie), Zack Snyder’s about-to-be-released Man of Steel and the eagerly anticipated xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, with Vin Diesel. (26-I-2013, at 63)


  • T.S. Cook: Over four decades you wrote almost exclusively for television series (Airwolf, Project U.F.O., Baretta) and TV movies (The Tuskegee Airmen, a remake of High Noon, a Lucille Ball biopic Lucy). But you are mainly remembered for a big screen movie which featured one of your earliest screenplays. Working with Mike Gray and director James Bridges, you wrote The China Syndrome, which starred Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon and scared people away from nuclear power for decades. Although the movie won no Oscars, it got four nominations, including one for original screenplay. (5-I-2013, at 65)


  • Conrad Bain: Born to play stuffy, pompous types, you had a long career on stage and screen. Of course, most of us remember you as the very white Mr. Drummond, who was Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges’s adoptive father in the long-running sitcom Diff’rent Strokes. Those of us a bit older will also remember you for being Rue McClanahan’s conservative husband Arthur on the Norman Lear sitcom Maude. Attentive viewers will also recall you for bit roles in movies like Madigan, A Lovely Way to Die, Coogan’s Bluff, I Never Sang for My Father, Woody Allen’s Bananas, The Anderson Tapes and Postcards from the Edge. Then there are those who may remember that you were on another sitcom, in which George C. Scott played a chief executive in Mr. President. And then there are those of us who think of you first and foremost for playing Mr. Wells, the clerk at the Collinsport Inn, in 1966 in the very first ever episode (and a few others) of Dark Shadows. (14-I-2013, at 89)

  • Robert F. Chew: A native of Baltimore, you specialized in gritty TV dramas. In your too-brief career, you were drug supplier Wilkie Collins on Homicide: Life on the Street, a shoe salesman on The Corner and, in the role that gave you the highest profile, “Proposition Joe” Stewart, a well-connected and refreshingly civilized drug kingpin on The Wire. (17-I-2013, at 52)

  • Bernard Horsfall: Another one of those Brit actors with a long and varied career on telly (Casualty, The Bill, The Jewel in the Crown, Minder, Z Cars) and on the big screen (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Gandhi, Braveheart). You might think that fanboys would be impressed by the fact that you played the Black Knight on Ivanhoe or that you were the title character in Captain Moonlight: Man of Mystery or that you played three different characters on The Avengers. But we’ll reserve our respect for you for the fact that you played opposite no fewer than three different Doctors in the classic days of Doctor Who. In the Patrick Troughton era, you were Lemuel Gulliver in “The Mind Robber” and the First Time Lord in the final Troughton adventure, “The War Games.” In the Jon Pertwee era, you helped the Doctor against his enemies, as Thal Taron, in “Planet of the Daleks.” And in the Tom Baker era story “The Deadly Assassin,” you were Chancellor Goth, whose attempt to drown the Doctor was so disturbing that it was pulled from re-broadcast. (29-I-2013, at 82)

  • Tony Lip: For a guy who specialized in playing mobsters, your name seems too good to be true. And it is. You were born Frank Anthony Vallelonga. Even though you didn’t get a credit, you started out in the godfather of mobster movies (as a wedding guest), The Godfather. You also had an un-credited bit as a nightclub customer in Raging Bull. Roles followed in The Pope of Greenwich Village, Year of the Dragon, Goodfellas (as Frankie the Wop), the John Landis vampire flick Innocent Blood and Donnie Brasco (as Philly Lucky). But most people will remember you as Carmine Lupertazzi on The Sopranos. (4-I-2013, at 82)

  • Mariangela Melato: For a glorious time in the 1970s, a series of exhilarating movies emerged from Italy that were directed by Lina Wertmüller and starred you and Giancarlo Giannini. In The Seduction of Mimi, you were the Trotskyite street vendor Fiorella who takes up with a metallurgist who has run afoul of the Mafia. In Love and Anarchy (the best of the three films), you were the Roman prostitute Salomè, who takes in a naive anarchist from the country with plans to assassinate Mussolini. And in Swept Away, you were the wealthy Raffaella, who finds social classes reversing when she becomes dependent on an underclass deckhand after the two are shipwrecked on a Mediterranean island. (The less said about the Guy Ritchie remake with Madonna, the better.) In these movies, politics became sexual and sex became political and (thanks largely to your charisma) it was all very, very hot. You worked another time with Wertmüller (without Giannini), in Summer Night, with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil, which explored the director’s familiar themes, with you as an industrialist who turns the tables on her kidnapper. You appeared in lots of other Italian movies but, sadly, I have not seen any of them. You did show up in a couple of American movies at the beginning of the 1980s. You were General Kala in an ill-advised version of Flash Gordon, which was nearly redeemed by a bondage scene involving you and the very fit Sam J. Jones. And in the Andrew Bergman comedy So Fine, starring Ryan O’Neal, you played the alluring wife of a very jealous Richard Kiel (“Jaws” in the James Bond movies). (11-I-2013, at 71)

  • Patty Shepard: I can’t improve on the headline on the WeAreMovieGeeks website: Eurohorror Starlet Dead at 65. A native of South Carolina, you moved to Spain at 18 and became a model and actor. A natural beauty, your acting range encompassed both innocence and evil. Best known for 1971’s Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman, you were a star in Spain and a cult favorite of horror fans everywhere. Other titles in your c.v.: Assignment Terror (in which your husband Manuel de Blas played Dracula), Hannah Queen of the Vampires, Rest in Pieces and, your final film, Edge of the Axe. (3-I-2013, at 67)

  • Ned Wertimer: Another trooper of a character actor who made countless appearances on sitcoms over the years, your face showed up on everything from Car 54, Where Are You? and He & She to Mary Tyler Moore and Mork & Mindy. On the big screen you had a part in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, played a stockbroker opposite Lucille Ball in Mame and were a “singing gallows pirate” in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. But most people will know who we’re talking about when told that you were Ralph the doorman in 51 episodes of The Jeffersons. (2-I-2013, at 89)


  • Patty Andrews: The last of the Andrews Sisters, you were the one in the middle and the lead singer. During World War II you entertained people like my parents with songs like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time,” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar” and “Rum and Coca-Cola.” Your musical popularity led to a contract with Universal Pictures and about a dozen low-budget musical comedies with the three of you playing yourselves. They had titles like Argentine Nights, In the Navy, Follow the Boys and Her Lucky Night. The only real hit, though, was Buck Privates, which introduced the perennial retro favorite “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and launched the career of Abbot and Costello. You also showed up in Hollywood Canteen and in Road to Rio, with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Now your harmonies are entertaining the Greatest Generation in heaven. (30-I-2013, at 94)


  • Leslie Frankenheimer: An award-winning set decorator, you provided the look for such TV shows as L.A. Law, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, SeaQuest 2032 and Star Trek: Voyager. And you won Emmys (shared with others) for Max Headroom, Buddy Faro, the TV movie James Dean and Carnivale. (22-I-2013, at 64)

  • Jimmy O’Neill: In 1959 Los Angeles radio station KRLA-AM dropped its country-western format and switched to rock music. And the first voice heard on the made-over station was yours. Just a young guy from Oklahoma, you were the hottest thing on the airwaves. And that’s why you were chosen five years later to host a new primetime music-and-dance show to compete with Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, which aired in the afternoons. The first episode featured the Righteous Brothers, Sam Cooke and the Everly Brothers. Musical stars like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Bobby Sherman, Leon Russell, Darlene Love, Billy Preston and even the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would appear. Shindig! lasted only 15 months, but it was way cool while it did. (11-I-2013, at 73)

  • Connie Wexler: You won an Emmy for a soap opera (Search for Tomorrow), but your career in costume design covered all kinds of movies and TV shows. Early on you worked on films like Separate Tables, The King and I and Friendly Persuasion. On the small screen your work could be seen on the Tony Randall sitcom Love, Sidney. Your most lasting contribution to the culture? You were in charge of Marilyn Monroe’s underwear in the famous scene where a New York subway grate blows her dress in The Seven Year Itch. (14-I-2013, at 85)

    -S.L., 30 May 2013

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