Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2017
Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gone but not forgotten XV

Ten days into a new calendar year, it is finally time once again for my annual look back over the previous year to say my own personal public good-bys to the movie and entertainment folk who left us during 2007 and to whom I have not previously bid my adieus.

Here is the list of people, who passed away over the past year, about whom I have already written in this space:

  • Seminal Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Valhallan Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman
  • Comedian/actor/Rat Pack buddy Joey Bishop
  • Veteran film star Deborah Kerr
  • Long-lived character actor Charles Lane
  • Author/playwright Ira Levin
  • Beloved French actor Michel Serrault
  • Author/screenwriter/hobnobber-with-icons Peter Viertel
  • Legend of big and small screens Jane Wyman

    The year 2007 had its share of familiar and not-so-familiar people in the arts and entertainment biz who, in one way or another, became part of our lives and, now, are gone. This year, the ranks of former game show panelists seemed especially hard hit. Here is the first half of my (alphabetical) list of good-bys, with the remainder to follow next week. Please forgive me, if my remembrances are terse and impressionistic—even to the point of incoherence. I ran out of scotch and am having to work with Irish whiskey this year.

  • Tige Andrews: Your lot was to play detectives, and it is indeed for a law enforcement figure you will always be remembered. You were the white, male, middle-aged authority figure in the generation-clash-inspired Aaron Spelling-produced pop culture hit of the lates 60s/early 70s The Mod Squad. That youth-versus-fuddy-duddy law-enforcement riff paved the way for everything from Miami Vice to the animated Totally Spies.

  • Jean-Claude Brialy: When I was freshly arrived as a student in France, I went to a Cine Club screening of a movie called Le Genour de Claire. My French wasn’t quite up to following a lot of conversational chitchat, which was a problem, since Claire’s Knee was directed by Éric Rhomer and his movies are basically nothing but conversational chitchat. I couldn’t quite follow everything that was going on, but it all culminated with you putting your hand on the titular knee, which in a Rohmer film, constitutes something like a major action set piece. You had a long and much-loved career in France, but it is that role, as well as your leading man turn in Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge, for which you are best remembered.

  • Roscoe Lee Browne: With the possible exception of James Earl Jones, no one had as deep, rich, resonant and beautiful a voice as yours. And let us not forget your wonderful face that seemed to be taciturn and mischievous all at the same time. I wish I could have seen you on the stage, but I had to be content with occasional movie roles (Topaz, The Cowboys, Black Like Me) and TV guest appearances (The Cosby Show, Barney Miller and everything from Bonanza to E.R.). And we heard that wonderful voice lots of times, without even realizing it, on animated shows.

  • Carole Bruce: The story is a familiar one. You were an up-and-coming stage actor and singer in the 1940s, and in your later years you appeared on any number of TV sitcoms and dramas. But the role you will always be remembered for is Mama Carlson, the ruthless station owner of WKRP in Cincinatti.

  • Sonny Bupp: With so many sad stories and early ends for child actors, it is always reassuring to hear about one that lived to a ripe old age (79 in your case). You appeared in quite a few movies as a kid, often westerns, alongside such stars as Ronald Reagan, William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd and Barbara Stanwyck. But you enter trivia history by being the last surviving member of the cast of the venerated Citizen Kane, in which you played the son of Orson Welles.

  • Leo Burmester: You were mainly a stage actor, but you did show up in the odd movie. Memorable roles: Holly Hunter’s father in Broadcast News, a bum in the Bette Midler-Lily Tomlin farce Big Business and Catfish De Vries in James Cameron’s The Abyss. You also worked with John Sayles a couple of times, in Passion Fish and Lone Star.

  • Ronnie Burns: So how did you make my list and Jack Linklater did not, since you both are mainly known for being the sons of your more famous parents? I guess because I have fonder memories of you (and your sister) from seeing you as kids on the Burns and Allen program. Maybe I also feel like I knew you a little bit from reading Joan Benny’s memoir (including some reminiscences penned by her father, Jack), Sunday Nights at Seven, all about what it was like to grow up in Hollywood around the mid-century mark. You didn’t like the spotlight and soon went into television production and then real estate investment and raising horses. Gracie says, good night.

  • Frank Capra Jr.: Speaking of sons with famous parents, would we remember you at all, if not for the name you got from your father, one of the best-loved directors of the last century? Well, they probably remember you in North Carolina, which you single-handedly made into a filming destination after going there in 1983 to find a location for a movie you were producing, Firestarter. You also founded EUE/Screen Gems there which, under your tenure, produced the movies Black Knight, Domestic Disturbance, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, A Walk to Remember and the TV shows Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill. But what a childhood you must have had, with the likes of Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Barbara Stanwyck dropping by for dinner!

  • Ron Carey: A comedian by trade, you sometimes showed up in comedic ensemble films, notably those by Mel Brooks. But you may be best remembered as hapless Officer Levitt on the Barney Miller TV series. You were funny in Brooks’s High Anxiety and History of the World—Part 1, but I liked you in Silent Movie, in which you played (with Harold Gould) the latter half of the corporate partnership Engulf + Devour.

  • Kitty Carlisle: For years I only knew you as the panelist on To Tell the Truth, and that was eons ago. At the time, that show seemed to go on forever, and so did you. What a surprise to learn that you were only 96 when you passed away. Only when I more or less became an adult did I learn that you had an entire career as an actor and singer before TV game shows—all the way back to the 1934 comedy classic, A Night at the Opera, with the Marx Brothers and you as Rose Castaldi. You didn’t appear in a lot of movies, but you did put in the odd appearance as late as the 1980s (Woody Allen’s Radio Days) and 1990s (Fred Schipisi’s Six Degrees of Separation). A strong supporter of the arts in New York (earning you a National Medal of the Arts in 1991), you were also the widow of legendary playwright/screenwriter Moss Hart (The Man Who Came to Dinner, Gentleman’s Agreement, A Star Is Born), who died in 1961.

  • Jean-Pierre Cassel: You made a ton of movies in your native France, but it all began with being discovered by Gene Kelly when he cast you in his French-set movie The Happy Road. After that, you were often the go-to guy when a big movie with an international cast needed a Frenchman. You were King Louis XIII in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers and its sequels. You were the conductor in Murder on the Orient Express. You were the dinner host in Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Other notable flicks: La Ronde, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, Is Paris Burning? and Robert Altman’s Vincent & Theo and Prêt-à-Porter. Your family’s acting tradition is safe in the hands of your son Vincent.

  • Bob Clark: It’s probably not fair, but the first movie I always think of when I hear your name is Porky’s. That movie, which was every bit as necessary as its sequels, Porky’s II: The Next Day and Porky’s Revenge, cemented your rep as the lowest common denominator for raunchy teen comedies. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising, given your earliest directing efforts, which were of the low-budget horror variety: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Deathdream, Black Christmas (aka Silent Night, Evil Night). But you also teamed up Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton in Rhinestone. And some of your movies actually had a bit of class, like the Sherlock Holmes adventure with Christopher Plummer and James Mason, Murder by Decree, and the father-son tear-jerker Tribute, with Jack Lemmon and Robby Benson. But your true redemption lies with the Christmas memoir that has become a holiday perennial, A Christmas Story, in which Darren McGavin heads an all-American family in the 1940s. The flicks about fathers and sons take on an added poignancy, given the circumstances of your death: killed, along with your 22-year-old son Ariel, in a collision with a drunk driver.

  • Laraine Day: One bit of wisdom of yours that should live on forever was this tacit acknowledgement that you never were nor would be a Hollywood superstar: “Let someone else be the world’s greatest actress. I’ll be the world’s greatest baseball fan.” You were converted to baseball fandom by your second husband, legendary Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher. As for your own career, you worked opposite such acting legends Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Joel McCrea and Kirk Douglas over the course of more than two decades. Notable films include Mr. Lucky, The Locket and Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, but your most steady work came from playing opposite Lew Ayres in a series of movies about one Dr. Kildare.

  • Yvonne De Carlo: Who can hear your name and not immediately think of the one role you are most associated with, that of the wife of… Moses? Oh yeah, that’s right. You did play Charlton Heston’s wife in Cecil B. De Mille’s The Ten Commandments. But didn’t you play another wife? While I’m trying to remember, let’s remember some of your other work. For someone who started out as a bit of Hollywood eye candy, you actually had a fairly respectable acting career. Born in British Columbia (original name: Peggy Middleton), your looks got you cast in exotic roles in westerns and other adventure stories, often as temptress (Salome, Where She Danced, The Song of Scheherazade, Slave Girl). But you will be best known for a 1960s sitcom that was basically counter-programming to The Addams Family: in which you played vampiric wife Lily to Fred Gwynne’s Frankenstein-monster-like Herman in The Munsters. A couple of movie spin-offs followed, as well as the usual shlock for aging actors. A personal favorite: American Gothic, a Puget Sound-set horror fest in which you and Rod Steiger did a murderous update on Ma and Pa Kettle.

  • Calvert DeForest: To paraphrase several characters in Escape from New York, I thought you were already dead. Moreover, I thought your name really was Larry “Bud” Melman. A veteran comic, you played the strange character (I didn’t quite realize it was an act!) regularly on Late Night with David Letterman and even showed up on Saturday Night Live playing him.

  • Solveig Dommartin: At 48, you were too young (by my reckoning, anyway) to move on to the afterlife evoked so wondrously and beautifully in your best known movie, Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire. I can still see you swinging on that trapeze with the grace that made the angel played by Bruno Ganz (and us) fall in love with you. We never saw enough of you. You appeared in at least two more Wenders films, Faraway, So Close! (sequel to Wings of Desire) and Until The End of the World, which you co-wrote. You also directed at least one short film, It Would Only Take a Bridge.

  • Michael Evans: A British-born actor (with an Irish mother) who wound up living and working in Los Angeles, you were one of those stage actors who wound up working on TV and occasionally in the movies. You performed in Ring Around the Moon on Broadway with Harry Belafonte, starred in Gigi opposite a young Audrey Hepburn, and played Henry Higigns in a touring production of My Fair Lady. You had supporting roles in the movies Bye Bye Birdie and Time After Time. But, to the extent you are widely known, it is for playing Col. Douglas Austin on the soap opera The Young and the Restless for 15 years, ending in 1995.

  • Ray Evans: I could do the lazy thing and just reprise my comments from seven years ago, when your songwriting partner Jay Livingston died—since it all applies to you as well. He wrote the music and you wrote the words, and Oscars and pop records sales followed. In addition to songs like “Qué Será Será” and “Silver Bells,” I should also mention “Buttons and Bows” (from The Paleface) and “Mona Lisa” (from Captain Carey, U.S.A.). And you and I may be the only ones to know that there were actually lyrics to the theme song from Bonanza.

  • Ion Fiscuteanu: Two and a half years ago, the movie in which you played the title role picked up a prestigious prize in Cannes for director Cristi Puiu. You got acting awards from film festivals in Denmark and your native Romania. In one of those macabre coincidences, the film was titled The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and it chronicled the last night of an elderly man’s life as he confronts the Romanian health care system. As New York Times critic A.O. Scott wrote, “Fleshy, unshaven and haggard-looking, Mr. Fiscuteanu is painfully believable in the role.”

  • John Flynn: A reliable B-movie director for two decades, your movies’ titles pretty much tell the whole story: Defiance, Marilyn: The Untold Story, Lock Up, Out for Justice, Nails, Scam. Your stars also confirm the tone of your flicks: Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Jan Michael Vincent. On the other hand, The Outfit starred an actor of the caliber of Robert Duvall—as ex-con looking for revenge. And Rolling Thunder starred William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones as Vietnam vets, uh, looking for revenge. Interestingly, your debut directorial effort, The Sergeant, starred Rod Steiger as a sergeant dealing with his attraction to comely private John Phillip Law.

  • Alice Ghostley: One of the best bits of casting I ever saw (I don’t even remember where I saw it now) was something in which you and Paul Lynde played brother and sister. The two of you were clearly separated at birth. Your face and voice were like something out of a fevered cartoonist’s imagination, with a perfect name to match—and you didn’t even have to make it up. Your career was rooted in the stage and cabaret, but we knew you over the years for character roles on TV and in the movies. You were, of course, the disaster-prone magical babysitter Esmeralda for several seasons of Bewitched. But you were also a lovelorn neighbor of Jackie Gleason’s in a recurring series of skits on his variety show, and you were also a regular on other variety shows, including Jonathan Winters’, and sitcoms like Mayberry R.F.D., Car 54, Where Are You? and as ditzy Bernice on Designing Women. We remember you as one of the teachers in Grease, but who remembers that you were actually in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Graduate? And London’s Independent newspaper remembered a memorable scene in the Burt Reynolds vehicle Gator in which “on a sultry Southern evening she tells moonshiner Gator (Burt Reynolds) how much she reveres every living thing just before she viciously swats a fly.”

  • Robert Goulet: We mainly remember you for playing Lancelot on the stage in Camelot, even if we never actually saw it. (Franco Nero had the role in the film version.) Otherwise, we mainly knew you for your singing performances on lots of TV shows over the years. Your contribution to movies? Well, singing with Judy Garland in the animated feature Gay Pur-ee, some comedies (Honeymoon Hotel, I’d Rather Be Rich), at least one adventure yarn (I Deal in Danger), and various good-natured cameos (Atlantic City, Beetlejuice, Scooged, a Naked Gun sequel).

  • Merv Griffin: You have a surprising number of movie credits, but they are mainly small roles early in your career (Cattle Town, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, So This Is Love, Phantom of the Rue Morgue) or cameos as yourself (The Seduction of Joe Tynan, The Lonely Guy). Your real contribution to the culture, of course, was the hit song “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.” Oh, and a TV talk show (supported by frequently oblivious sidekick Arthur Treacher) that ran for a quarter-century. And the TV game show institutions Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Man, you must have been rich! My mom (one of your biggest fans, by the way) always wished she could live in the same hotel as you and hang out.

  • Charles B. Griffith: “Feeeeeed Meee!” Say no more. That was your voice! You were Audrey Jr., the man-eating plant in Roger Corman’s original Little Shop of Horrors, which was famously shot in just two days back in 1960. But wait, there’s more. You also played the hold-up man who gets eaten by Audrey, and you were the film’s second-unit director. And you wrote the screenplay. Paid the princely sum of $800 for your work, you held up production of the 1986 musical version until all your law suits were settled. Despite your legal issues, you still managed to make some 25 films with Corman. Your own directing efforts included Forbidden Island, Eat My Dust! (starring Ron Howard), Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (starring Oliver Reed) and Smokey Bites the Dust (starring Jimmy McNichol). Other screenplays to your credit: A Bucket of Blood, The Swinging Barmaids and, of course, Death Race 2000. No wonder Quentin Tarantino dedicated his recent Grindhouse contribution Death Proof to you.

  • George Grizzard: Half a century isn’t a bad length to an acting career. You were mainly a stage actor, finally winning a Tony eight years ago in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. But you also showed up in guest spots on TV dramas and appeared in more than a score of movies over several decades. Memorable roles: a bullying senator in Advise and Consent, a kindly doctor in Happy Birthday, Wanda June, a western oilman in Comes a Horseman, the president in Wrong Is Right and half of a wealthy couple (with Elaine Stritch) in Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks.

  • Curtis Harrington: Another horror director bites the dust. The roster of your film’s titles says it best: Planet of Blood (with John Saxon, Basil Rathbone and Dennis Hopper), How Awful About Allan (with Anthony Perkins), What’s the Matter with Helen? (with Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters), Who Slew Auntie Roo? (with Winters, again, and cherubic Oliver! Star Mark Lester), Killer Bees (with Gloria Swanson) and Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (with Richard Crenna and Yvette Mimieux).

  • Betty Hutton: Your sizzling Hollywood career was cut short by spousal loyalty in 1952. In the 1940s you starred in such movies as The Fleet’s In, Annie Get Your Gun, The Perils of Pauline, Incendiary Blonde and Red, Hot and Blue. Perhaps most memorably, you starred in Preston Sturges’s The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, in which you played a small-town gal who gets pregnant but isn’t sure which soldier is the father. When Paramount wouldn’t let your husband, choreographer Charles Curran, direct your movies, you walked away. And that was pretty much that.

  • Teddy Infuhr: Another child actor who lived to tell the tale. In the end, you were the cause of all of Gregory Peck’s mental issues. In a movie, I mean. Specifically, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound. In the climactic revelatory flashback of the psychological thriller, you are knocked onto a spiked fence by Peck’s character as a child. Your other main claim to fame: playing George, one of the 15 Kettle children in the Ma & Pa Kettle series of movies, beginning with the film they were all spun off from, The Egg and I. Often playing a brat or a bully, you also appeared in such movies as The Ghost of Frankenstein, Madame Curie, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Boy with Green Hair.

  • Blas Jaramillo: Sadly, at 39, you died at the peak of your career. A leading actor on the stage, in films and on TV in Colombia, you had just played Father Ernesto in Andres Baiz’s hit movie Satanas. For what it is worth, it is your country’s official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

  • Roy Jenson: In Roman Polanski’s classic Chinatown, Jack Nicholson’s private investigator runs up against a police detective at the Los Angeles water works. “What are you doing here?” asks Nicholson. “They shut my water off. What’s it to you?” snaps the detective. Responds Nicholson, “How’d you find out about it? You don’t drink it. You don’t take a bath in it. They wrote you a letter? But then you have to be able to read.” You were that detective. From the late 1950s to the early 1980s, you played a series of heavies, mostly in westerns, often opposite Clint Eastwood—as well as doing stunt work. A partial listing of your c.v.: Paint Your Wagon, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can, Honkytonk Man (and those are just some of the Eastwood ones), Tom Horn, Breakheart Pass, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Big Jake, 5 Card Stud, Will Penny… the list goes on and on.

    To be continued…

    -S.L., 10 January 2008

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