Classic Film Stars Lost in 2013
It’s the time of year when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) posts their remembrance short. It’s a nice, sharply edited compilation of clips featuring the artists of the film industry who have passed away since the last clip was seen. It is as touching as it is beautiful, and a nice reminder of what has been.
Take a few minutes to use the image at right as a link to the latest TCM Remembers short. When you do I encourage you to just watch it the first time through. You’ll been tempted to try and keep up with the names, but you won’t be able to so don’t try. Just enjoy the lyrical editing, matched so well to the music and let the feeling of fond remembrance wash over you. Then I suggest you watch it again, and pause at each name. Chances are you won’t know from what film each image is from, let alone every name. And yet you’re likely to have seen these artists’ work, especially if you’re a regular viewer of TCM or classic films in general. You just don’t recognize them off the bat, and that’s not surprising.
Because so much of why we love a particular film has to do with more than just the big name movie stars in them we absorb more than we realize about them, and are able to make the connection once we’ve been given context. I offer to you in the following some context. Of course there are the big names that seem to need no reference, however let’s not forget the younger or unexposed classic film fan who will appreciate the reference. Be prepared for some, “ah!”, and, “oh, yeah”s as you finally make the connection that’s been eluding you. This will be sad in many ways as you morn the passing of so many favorites. However, don’t be surprised if you experience a sense of appreciation as you are given a lovely reminder of just how wonderful each of these talents were in there own time. They all will be missed. Thank goodness we had them at all.
Patty Andrews was best known as one of the Andrews Sisters, an American institution during WWII who appeared in many films of the era including the Abbott and Costello favorite, Buck Privates.
John Kerr was the handsome young officer in South Pacific and played opposite of Deborah Kerr in Tea and Sympathy.
Rossella Falk was an Italian beauty best known for her role in Fellini’s 8 1/2.
Bernadette Lafont won a Cesar (French Oscar) in 1983 and is best known for her role in the Cannes Festival winner of 1973, The Mother and the Whore.
Valentin de Vargas, although best recognized for his role as a thug in A Touch of Evil was also in several John Wayne films, and is one of Calvera’s henchmen in The Magnificent Seven.
Sara Montiel was a Spanish actress who starred opposite Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Ernest Borgnine and Cesar Romero all in one film, Vera Cruz.
Elliott Reid is best known for playing the investigator who gets Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Although Jean Stapleton was best known as Edith Bunker in TV’s All in the Family, she also played key roles in Bells Are Ringing and Up the Down Staircase.
Director/Writer Bryan Forbes directed the original The Stepford Wives and wrote the screenplay for 1990’s Chaplin.
Writer Richard Matheson was a rather prolific writer who wrote many iconic scripts including The Pit and The Pendulum, The Omega Man (and it’s remake I Am Legend), The Martian Chroniclesand Steven Spielberg’s Duel.
Eileen Brennan is probably best known for three roles - the commanding officer in Private Benjamin, Paul Newman’s love interest in The Sting and Mrs. Peacock in Clue. She was a very funny lady.
Annette Funicello will forever be associated with two men - Walt Disney for her early appearances in The Mickey Mouse Club and Frankie Avalon for the many Beach movies they made together.
Harry Carey, Jr. was the son of Silent Screen star Harry Carey and became a well established character actor in his own right after appearing in many John Wayne movies, including playing key roles in both The Searchers and 3 Godfathers (a remake of one of his father’s films).
Director Ted Post was known mostly for television but did direct Clint Eastwood in two films, Magnum Force and Hang ‘Em High.
Diane Clare was an English actress known for a run of horror films including The Haunting, Whistle Down the Wind and The Plague of the Zombies.
Dale Robertson was a Western star whose career spanned several decades on TV and in films such as Sitting Bull and Fighting Man of the Plains (with Randolph Scott).
Deanna Durbin is only credited in 24 films (including Three Smart Girls and 100 Men and a Girl), but left an indelible impression on audiences of the 1930s and 40s whose wild admiration for the young singing sensation made her the highest paid female star in the world at the age of 21.
Jack Klugman will forever be remembered for his TV role as Oscar Madison, but it’s not likely you can forget his role as Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men either.
Charles Durning will always remain in my mind as Jessica Lange’s father in Tootsie. But he’s also known for The Best Little Whore House in Texas, The Sting, and Dog Day Afternoon.
Writer Elmore Leonard was a popular author who was responsible for the original story of 3:10 to Yuma and Hombre (with Paul Newman) among many other modern classics such as Get Shorty.
Dennis Farina spent a lot of time on both the big and little screen (Law & Order) and gave stand out performances in Midnight Run and Manhunter.
James Gandolfini is to most people the patriarch of television’s most beloved mafia family, The Sopranos. However, the man gave one hell of a performance in the fight scene with little Patricia Arquette in True Romance.
Screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni was a prolific Italian writer with 70 screen credits to his name, including The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, as well as its predecessor, For a Few Dollars More.
Nino Baragli was a very busy Italian Editor who gathered over 200 credits including the three Sergio Leone classics, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America.
Although Mickey Knox was mostly a bit actor he did work with many of the Studio era greats such as James Cagney in White Heat, Humphrey Bogart in Knock on Any Door, and Clark Gable in Any Number Can Play.
Steve Forrest was a 6’ 3” beefcake whose biggest role came with his breakout part as Jane Wyman’s son in So Big.
Jean Kent was an English actress who will be best remembered for her role as the unfaithful wife in The Browning Version with Michael Redgrave and opposite Boris Karloff in The Haunted Strangler.
Roger Ebert will be remembered for generations as one of the most notable and recognized film critics in the history of cinema.
Screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was responsible for most of the wonderful films produced by Merchant/Ivory including A Room with A View, Howard’s End and The Remains of the Day.
Julie Harris was one of those actresses who transitioned from age to age, from film to television with great ease. Her greatest roles include East of Eden, The Haunting and The Member of the Wedding.
Screenwriter Fay Kanin was responsible for the Doris Day and Clark Gable film, Teacher’s Pet and the remake of The Women, The Opposite Sex.
Film critic Stanley Kauffmann worked as an editor at Knopf before writing film reviews for The New Republic magazine.
Virginia Gibson was a singer and dancer who was one of the female objects of affection in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Matt Mattox was often cast as a featured dancer in musicals and played Caleb, the third brother in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Audrey Totter will be best remembered as a great Noir beauty who plays Robert Montgomery like a violin in Lady in the Lake.
Graham Stark appeared in most of the Pink Panther films and stood out as the befuddled waiter in Victor Victoria, the one he serves Julie Andrews a meal when she’s starving and then later just can’t place where he’s seen Victor before.
Jay Robinson will be remembered mostly for his repeat performances as Caligula in The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators, and an episode of Bewitched.
Harry Lewis was a character actor who played many a soldier before he became one of Edward G. Robinson’s thugs in Key Largo - a role that served as part of the inspiration for the weasels in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Otto Sander was a German actor who was one of the main stars of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and its sequel, Faraway, So Close, and a supporting actor in Das Boot.
Margaret Pellegrini was just a teenager when she participated as one of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.
Producer A. C. Lyles was a legend at Paramount Studios, maintaining an office there up until his death. His work was mostly with great actors past their heydays in B movies such as Night of the Lepus with Janet Leigh and Stuart Whitman, and Johnny Reno with Dana Andrews and Jane Russell.
Jon Finch played the charismatic leads in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Roman Polanski’s Hamlet.
Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor was responsible for Dr. Strangelove, Frenzy, the first Star Warsmovie, The Omen and Flash Gordon.
Make-up artist Stuart Freeborn created looks for David Lean’s Oliver Twist and The Bridge on the River Kwai, for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey, for Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express, for George Lucas’ Star Wars and for Richard Donner’s Superman.
Michael D. Moore was in the business a long time, first as a child actor, then as an Assistant Director and then as a Second Unit Director responsible for stunt, action and establishing scenes for such films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Patton, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Visual effects creator Ray Harryhausen may only have 17 credits to his name, however his groundbreaking work on Mighty Joe Young, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonautsetc. has influenced generations of visual effects artists.
Director Richard Sarafian helmed The Vanishing Point which has become a cult classic that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
Hal Needham emerged from being a highly sought after stunt coordinator into an action director of the late 1970s including Smokey and the Bandit and many other Burt Reynolds films of the 80s.
Tom Laughlin had many small supporting roles in the 1950s but will be remembered for his series of films he wrote, produced and directed based on the character of Billy Jack.
Every comedian alive today knows the work of Jonathan Winters, who acted in two of the biggest comedies ever made including his feature film debut in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming.
Cliff Osmond was a comedic character actor who appeared in many of Billy Wilder’s films. He played the detective spying on Jack Lemmon in The Fortune Cookie and Ray Walston’s best friend in Kiss Me, Stupid.
Although most people will recognize Richard Griffiths as Harry Potter’s mean uncle, the man has 91 screen credits to his name including roles in Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, and Withnail & I.
Set decorator Stephenie McMillan also worked on the Harry Potter films as well as A Fish Called Wanda, The English Patient and Chocolat.
Writer Tom Clancy is best know for his creation of the Jack Ryan character played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger, as well as Patriot Gamesand Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears.
Mostly known for his lengthy list of TV credits, Michael Ansara also performed opposite Marlon Brando in Julius Cesar and played Judas in The Robe.
Nagisa Oshima directed both the international sensation In The Realm of the Senses and the American film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.
Among 182 credits Rentaro Mikuni stared in Japan’s 1956 Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film The Burmese Harp.
Jim Kelly was the first black martial artist to become a movie star in such films as Enter the Dragonopposite Bruce Lee and Black Belt Jones.
Haji was an actress with extreme looks who made a name for herself in Russ Meyer films, one of which was the cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Eleanor Parker had a long career that began during the WWII era, and continued through the 50s when she played Kirk Douglas’ wife in Detective Story and right on through the 60s when she played the Baroness in The Sound of Music.
Robert Nichols was mostly a bit player who worked in some memorable films such as Giant, The Thing From Another World and The Out-of-Towners.
Ed Lauter had small but memorable roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, Cujo, Born on the Fourth of July and The Rocketeer.
Director Michael Winner will be best remembered for his work with Charles Bronson and their Death Wish films.
Karen Black’s career includes three iconic films of the 1970s: Five Easy Pieces, Nashville and Family Plot.
Nigel Davenport played the Duke of Norfolk in 1966‘s Best Picture winner A Man For All Seasons, and Lord Birkenhead in 1981’s Best Picture winner Chariots of FIre.
Kim Hamilton’s big screen break came opposite Harry Belafonte in Odds Against Tomorrow. She later played wife to Brock Peters in To Kill a Mockingbird, before her third and final feature film appearance in Kotch with Walter Matthau.
Most classic film fans will have their favorite Joan Fontaine film, each of them true classics. Even the shortest lists will include Rebecca, Suspicion, Jane Eyre, and Letter From An Unknown Woman.
Esther Williams is THE swimming queen of the studio era who started her career with Andy Hardy’s Double Life and emerged as a star in Bathing Beauty.
And I’d be surprised if there was anyone who couldn’t name at least one Peter O’Toole film, especially since his career spanned more than half a century, from Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 to Venus in 2006 and included 8 Oscar nominations for Best Actor for the aforementioned films, as well as Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man and fan favorite, My Favorite Year.
May they all rest in peace.