12/31/00 - Julius Epstein - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Screenwriter Julius Epstein, who co-wrote the screenplay for one of cinema's classics, "Casablanca," died on Saturday at age 91, hospital officials said on Sunday. A highly visible and well-respected figured in the Hollywood writing community, Epstein died on Saturday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and is survived by his son, James, his wife, Ann, and daughter Elizabeth Schwartz. The Oscar-winning writer was born the son of a livery stable owner on Manhattan's Lower East Side on Aug. 22, 1909. Epstein turned out 50 produced screenplays, both with his twin brother, Philip, who died in 1952, and by himself during a career that spanned 60 years. "Casablanca" brought the brothers and Howard Koch a shared Oscar for the screenplay. The 1942 Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman romantic drama also won the Oscar for best picture. Epstein, revered for his wit, later commented that the screenplay contained "a great deal of corn, more corn than in the states of Kansas and Iowa combined. But when corn works, there's nothing better." Casablanca has achieved cult status due largely to the Epsteins' unforgettable dialogue, which includes such gems as "Here's looking at you, kid," "We'll always have Paris," and "Round up the usual suspects." Epstein was a boxer in college and originally planned to be a sportswriter, but had trouble finding work after his graduation in 1931 in the midst of the Depression. He came to Los Angeles in 1933 to ghostwrite a script and by 1935 was placed under contract with Warner Bros. The Epstein brothers were very much in demand in the years preceding World War II, and "Casablanca" came out of one of their typical writing assignments for the studio. They were asked to write a script based on an unproduced play called "Everybody Comes to Rick's." The making of the movie, considered by movie buffs to be one of the finest films ever made, was subject to the same chaotic conditions of other movies made under the studio system, according to Aljean Harmetz, who wrote about the film in her book "Round Up The Usual Suspects." "Movies made under the studio system were accumulations of accidents, and Casablanca was no exception," she wrote in her book. "A classic movie is the biggest accident of all," she added. Despite their success, the brothers' tenure was tumultuous at Warner Bros. and Epstein frequently disparaged "Casablanca" and most of the films he wrote during his 17-year stint there. During the 1940s and 1950s when government investigators were trying to root out alleged communists in Hollywood, Epstein, a critic of communism, was asked if ever belonged to a subversive organization. "Yes," he replied. "Warner Bros." His other film credits include "The Strawberry Blonde," The Man Who Came to Dinner," "Four Daughters," and "Pete 'n' Tillie."

Note from the Underground: Mr. Epstein will be buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, CA.

12/26/00 Jason Robards - BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- Jason Robards, the veteran stage and screen actor who won back-to-back Oscars for ''All the President's Men'' and ''Julia,'' died Tuesday after battling cancer. He was 78. Robards died at Bridgeport Hospital, nursing supervisor Sally Dalton said. Robards started out as a stage actor in the 1950s, gaining critical acclaim for his performances in Eugene O'Neill plays, including ''The Iceman Cometh'' and ''Long Day's Journey Into Night.'' He won a Tony award for his performance in ''The Disenchanted.'' He made his film debut in 1959, playing a Hungarian freedom fighter in ''The Journey.'' After the film was shot, Robards said he preferred theater to the movies. ''Once you're on, nobody can say 'cut it.' You're out there on your own, and there's always that thrill of a real live audience,'' he told Newsweek in a 1958 interview. Yet he went on to make more than 50 feature films, winning Academy Awards for his portrayal of Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee in ''All the President's Men'' in 1976 and novelist Dashiell Hammett in ''Julia'' the following year. Modern movie audiences knew Robards for his portrayal of Bradlee in the story of the Watergate scandal. He also appeared in last year's Oscar darkhorse ''Magnolia,'' portraying the dying father of Tom Cruise's character. His other films included: ''Divorce American Style,'' 1967; ''Johnny Got His Gun,'' 1971; ''Comes a Horseman,'' 1978; ''Melvin and Howard,'' 1980; and ''Philadelphia,'' 1994. In 1997, he played the tyrannical land baron father in ''A Thousand Acres,'' the film adaptation of Jane Smiley's Pulitzer-prize winning novel. The film featured Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Jason Leigh as his daughters. In 1999, Robards was one of five performers selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. Despite his prolific film work, Robards stayed loyal to the theater. ''The theater has kept me alive and it's allowed me to work at my craft,'' he said in a 1997 interview. Robards, who was known as a classical actor, shunned the notion of ''method'' acting and actors who look for motivation for their stage work. ''I look at the words,'' he said in a 1993 interview with The Providence Journal-Bulletin. ''All I know is, I don't do a lot of analysis. I know those words have to move me. I rely on the author.'' ''I don't want actors reasoning with me about 'motivation' and all that bull. All I want 'em to do is learn the goddamn lines and don't bump into each other.' ''Robards was born Jason Nelson Robards Jr. on July 26, 1922, in Chicago, the son of Jason Nelson Robards Sr., a prominent actor. Despite his father's prolific career in more than 170 movies, the young Robards had no interest in acting while he was growing up. At Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, Robards was on the baseball, football, basketball and track teams, and thought about becoming a professional athlete. After graduating in 1939, he went on active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve as an apprentice seaman. While serving in the Pacific, Robards read some plays by O'Neill and told his father he wanted to try his hand at acting. At his father's urging, Robards enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1946. In 1953, director Jose Quintero gave him the male lead in Victor Wolfson's ''American Gothic,'' which opened at the off-Broadway Circle in the Square. He earned his first critical acclaim in May 1956, when he appeared in ''The Iceman Cometh'' at the Circle in the Square, again under Quintero's direction. Robards played Hickey, the salesman who forces the characters to accept death. Robards was married four times -- including once to Lauren Bacall -- and had six children. In his later years, he lived with his wife of more than 30 years, Lois, in what he once called ''a quiet life on the water'' in nearby Fairfield. After a bad car accident in 1972, Robard's face had to be surgically reconstructed. He said that he had had bouts of depression during his life and was once a heavy drinker. He said he gave up alcohol in 1974. He sometimes rejected characterizations of him as America's leading actor, saying in 1993: ''All I know about acting is that I just have to keep on doing it.'' Funeral arrangements were pending.

12/23/00 Billy Barty - LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Billy Barty, a 3-foot-10 actor whose career spanned seven decades and all types of roles, died Saturday of heart failure. He was 76. Barty had been hospitalized in Glendale for heart problems and a lung infection, said his publicist, Bill York. Barty appeared in his first Hollywood feature in 1927 at the age of 3 and performed for radio, television and on Broadway. He played a number of outrageous characters, including a wizard in the movie ''Willow'' (1988), a tongue-in-cheek role as a German spy in ''Under the Rainbow'' (1981) with Chevy Chase, a suspected stalker in ''Foul Play'' (1978), and an agent in ''Day of the Locust'' (1975). In the late 20s and early 30s, he played Mickey Rooney's kid brother in the ''Mickey McGuire'' series of comedy shorts. He later had several TV appearances, including his own children's show called ''Billy Barty's Big Show'' in Los Angeles in the 1960s, and he appeared on several shows over the past three decades, most recently an episode of ''Frasier.'' In 1957, Barty founded Little People of America, an advocacy group for others with dwarfism. He later started a non-profit foundation that bears his name to help improve the quality of life for little people, the term he said he preferred. On his foundation's Web site, Barty says: ''The name of my condition is Cartilage Hair Syndrome Hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy.'' ''The general public thinks all little people are in circuses or sideshows,'' Barty said in an interview last year with The Associated Press. ''We have doctors, nurses, just about every field covered.'' ''The world lost a giant and a hero in the passing of Billy Barty,'' said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who chose Barty to be his son's godfather. Barty brought ''recognition, dignity and respect to those who were born little,'' he said. Barty was injured in May when he fell off a motorized scooter onto concrete stairs, bruising his face and fracturing an eye socket. He had been using the scooter since undergoing hip surgery earlier in the year. Despite the injury, he said he was feeling good. ''I just look horrible,'' he told the AP at the time. Barty was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pa., in 1924. In October, he was awarded the Long Beach Film Festival's Humanitarian of the Year Award. He also was active in George W. Bush's presidential campaign and he served on a disabilities commission for Jack Kemp when Kemp was secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Antonovich said. Barty is survived by his wife, Shirley; son, Braden; daughter, Lori; and granddaughter, Tina.

Note from the Underground - Billy Barty is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, in the Freedom Mausoleum.

12/23/00 Victor Borge - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pianist Victor Borge, who died in his sleep Saturday at his Greenwich, Connecticut home, was known as the unmelancholy Dane of international show business. He would have turned 92 on Jan. 3. "The cause of death was heart failure," his daughter, Sanna Feirstein, told Reuters. "He had just returned from a wonderfully successful trip to Copenhagen ... and it was really heartwarming to see the love he experienced in his home country," she said. Borge was one of five performers selected for the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999. "He went to sleep, and they went to wake him up this morning, and he was gone," said his agent, Bernard Gurtman. "He had so much on the table, and to the day he died he was creative, and practicing piano several hours a day," Gurtman told Reuters. "He was just a great inspiration." Funeral services will be private, his daughter said. Borge made a career of falling off piano stools, missing the keys with his hands and getting tangled up in the sheet music. One of his inspirations was a pianist who played the first notes of the Grieg A Minor Concerto and then fell on the keys dead. He said that the only time he got nervous on stage was when he had to play seriously and adds that if it had not been for Adolf Hitler he probably would never have pursued a career as a concert-hall comedian. Until he was forced to flee Denmark in 1940 he was a stage and screen idol in his native country. 

LAMPOONED HITLER  But as a Jew who had lampooned Hitler, Borge -- his real name was Boerge Rosenbaum -- was in danger and fled first to Sweden and then to the United States, where he arrived penniless and unknown and by a fluke got booked on the Bing Crosby radio show. He was an instant success. He became an American citizen in 1948, but thought of himself as Danish. It was obvious from the numerous affectionate tributes and standing ovations at his 80th birthday concert in Copenhagen in 1989 that Danes felt the same way.   In the concert at Copenhagen's Tivoli gardens, Borge played variations on the theme of "Happy Birthday to You" in the styles of Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and Beethoven -- all executed with such wit that the orchestra was convulsed with laughter that a woman performing a piccolo solo was unable to draw breath to play. "Playing music and making jokes are as natural to me as breathing," Borge told Reuters in an interview after that concert. "That's why I've never thought of retiring because I do it all the time whether on the stage or off. I found that in a precarious situation, a smile is the shortest distance between people. When one needs to reach out for sympathy or a link with people, what better way is there? "If I have to play something straight, without deviation in any respect, I still get very nervous. It's the fact that you want to do your best, but you are not at your best because you are nervous and knowing that makes you even more nervous." His varied career included acting, composing for films and plays and writing but he was best known for his comic sketches based on musical quirks and oddities. 

UNPREDICTABLE ROUTINE  His routines were unpredictable, often improvised on stage as his quick wit responded to an unplanned event -- a noise, a latecomer in the audience -- or fixed on an unlikely prop -- a fly, a shaky piano stool. Borge was born in Denmark on January 3, 1909, son of a violinist in the Danish Royal Orchestra. His parents encouraged him to become a concert pianist, arranging his first public recital when he was 10. In 1927 he made his official debut at the Tivoli Gardens. Borge's mischievous sense of humor was manifest from an early age. Asked as a child to play for his parent's friends he would announce "a piece by the 85-year-old Mozart" and improvise something himself. When his mother was dying in Denmark during the occupation, Borge visited her, disguised as a sailor. "Churchill and I were the only ones who saw what was happening," he said in later years. "He saved Europe and I saved myself." From 1953 to 1956, he appeared in New York in his own production "Comedy in Music," a prelude to world tours that often took him to his native Scandinavia. On radio and television, Borge developed the comedy techniques of the bungling pianist that won him worldwide fame. Many of his skits were based on real-life events. One of his classics evolved from seeing a pianist playing a Tchaikovsky concerto fall off his seat. Borge's dog joined the show after it wandered on stage while he was at the keyboard -- an entrance nobody would believe had been unplanned. One incident could not be repeated. A large fly flew on to Borge's nose while he was playing. "How did you get that fly to come on at the right time?" people asked. "Well, we train them," Borge explained. Borge's book, "My Favorite Intervals," published in 1974, detailed little-known facts of the private lives of composers describing Wagner's pink underwear and the time Borodin left home in full military regalia but forgot his trousers. In 1975, Borge was honoured in recognition of the 35th anniversary of his arrival in the United States and his work as unofficial goodwill ambassador from Denmark to the United States. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 1984 with a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall and in Copenhagen. Borge received a host of honors from all four Scandinavian countries for his contributions to music, humor and worthy causes. Borge, who had lived in Greenwich since 1964, is survived by five children, nine grandchildren, and one great grandchild. His wife of many years, Sanna, died earlier this year. 

10/30/00 Steve Allen - LOS ANGELES (AP) - Steve Allen, the droll comic who pioneered late night television with the original ``Tonight Show,'' composed more than 4,000 songs and wrote 40 books, has died at 78. He died Monday night at the Encino home of his son, Bill Allen, the son said Tuesday. Allen also starred as the King of Swing in the 1956 movie ``The Benny Goodman Story.'' He appeared in Broadway shows, on soap operas, wrote newspaper columns, commented on wrestling broadcasts, made 40 record albums, wrote plays and a television series that featured guest appearances by Sigmund Freud, Clarence Darrow and Aristotle. His skill as an ad libber became apparent in his early career as a disc jockey in Phoenix. He once interrupted the playing of records to announce: ``Sports fans, I have the final score for you on the big game between Harvard and William & Mary. It is: Harvard 14, William 12, Mary 6.'' Allen's most enduring achievement came with the introduction of ``The Tonight Show'' in 1953. The show began as ``Tonight'' on the New York NBC station WNBT, then moved to the network on Sept. 27, 1954. Amid the formality of early TV, ``Tonight'' was a breath of fresh air. The show began with Allen noodling at the piano, playing some of his compositions and commenting wittily on events of the day. He moved to a desk, chatted with guests, taking part in sketches, doing zany man-in-the street interviews. ``It was tremendous fun to sit there night after night reading questions from the audience and trying to think up funny answers to them; reading angry letters to the editor; introducing the greats of comedy, jazz, Broadway and Hollywood; welcoming new comedians like Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters, Mort Sahl and Don Adams,'' he once said. Allen's popularity led NBC in 1956 to schedule ``The Steve Allen Show'' on Sunday evenings opposite ``The Ed Sullivan Show'' on CBS. A variation of ``Tonight,'' the primetime show was notable for its ``Man in the Street Interview'' featuring new comics Louis Nye (``Hi-ho, Steverino''), Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Pat Harrington and Bill Dana. The show lasted through 1961, although the last year was on ABC. Allen cut back his ``Tonight' duties to three nights a week when the primetime show started. He left even that in 1956. He was replaced for a season by Ernie Kovacs, then NBC tried a new format in 1957, ``Tonight! America after Dark.'' It failed, and ``Tonight'' resumed with Jack Paar, followed by Johnny Carson in 1962. Over the years, Allen maintained a busy career, making appearances in movies and TV series, often with his wife Jayne., Her sister, the late Audrey Meadows, portrayed the long-suffering Alice to Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden on ``The Honeymooners.'' He wrote great quantities of songs, and several were recorded by pop vocalists. His most popular song was ``This May Be the Start of Something Big.'' A self-styled advocate of ``radical middle-of-the-roadism,'' Allen often spoke out on political matters such as capital punishment, nuclear policy and freedom of expression. He once considered running for Congress as a Democrat, but decided against it. Toward the end of his life, he spoke out against the increase of sexual content on television. In a speech last year, he said tabloid television talk shows such as the ``Jenny Jones'' show have ``taken television to the garbage dump.'' ``There are moral failures in the marketplace,'' he said. Allen was proudest of his ``Meeting of Minds'' series which appeared on PBS from 1976 to 1979. He moderated a panel of actors impersonating historic figures such as Galileo, Emily Dickinson, Cleopatra (played by Jayne Meadows), Charles Darwin and Attila the Hun, who explained their diverse philosophies. When an interviewer asked Allen in 1985 how he managed to do so many creative things, he replied: ``I never asked myself that question. It would be like asking how my hair grows. The mystery of creativity is just that: it is a mystery, and particularly mysterious to me about myself.'' Steve Allen came by his humor naturally; both his parents, Billy Allen and Belle Montrose, were vaudeville comedians. Their son was born in New York City on Dec. 26, 1921, during a brief respite from their travels. Steve was 18 months old when his father died, and his mother continued touring the circuits as a single. The boy grew up in other people's homes, mostly with his mother's family in Chicago, the Donahues. He remembered the place as ``a rooming house with the smell of cabbage cooking.'' Allen won a partial scholarship to study journalism at Drake University, but severe asthma caused him to transfer to Arizona State Teachers College in 1942. After a few months he dropped out to work as a disc jockey and entertainer at radio station KOY in Phoenix. Drafted in 1943, he was soon released because of asthma. He returned to KOY, and married his college sweetheart, Dorothy Goodman. They had three sons, Steve Jr., David and Brian, and divorced in 1952. Allen moved to Los Angeles and began offering his comedy and music on local radio. A midnight show on KNX brought Allen a small but enthusiastic audience and attracted national attention in 1950 when it was carried on the CBS network as a summer replacement for ``Our Miss Brooks.'' The networks were converting to television, and he was invited to New York for ``The Steve Allen Show,'' which appeared five evenings a week on CBS. In 1952, Allen was invited to a dinner party at which he was seated next to the beautiful actress Jayne Meadows. Uncharacteristically, he was speechless. At the end of the evening, she turned to him and said, ``Mr. Allen, you're either the rudest man I ever met or the shyest.'' His reddened face indicated the latter. They began dating and married in 1954. Their only child, Bill, said that on Monday, his father was visiting his home. ``He said he was a little tired after dinner. He went to relax, peacefully, and never reawakened,'' the younger Allen said. He added that his father had a ``long, full and extraordinary life.'' Note from the Underground: Steve Allen was cremated and given to his wife, Jayne.

10/18/00 - Gwen Verdon - NEW YORK (AP) - Gwen Verdon, the biggest dancing star of Broadway's Golden Age who appeared in such musicals as ``Damn Yankees,'' ``Sweet Charity'' and ``Chicago,'' has died at the age of 75.  From the seductive Lola in ``Damn Yankees'' in 1955 to the cynical, sexy Roxie Hart in ``Chicago'' 20 years later, she dominated dance on Broadway. The petite, red-haired performer, captivated audiences and critics with her saucy yet vulnerable smile and unlimited energy. ``The amount of physical activity in which this frail-seeming creature indulges is perfectly flabbergasting; spinning, prancing, curvetting, she is seldom out of sight and never out of breath,'' critic Kenneth Tynan once wrote. Verdon, who had maintained an active schedule and was not known to be ill, died in her sleep Wednesday while visiting her daughter in Woodstock, Vt. The cause of death was a heart attack, Regional Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Parrott said Thursday. Most of Verdon's successes were with her husband, director-choreographer Bob Fosse, whom she married in 1960. Besides ``Damn Yankees'' and ``Chicago,'' they worked together on such musicals as ``New Girl in Town'' (1957), an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's ``Anna Christie,'' and ``Redhead'' (1959), a Victorian thriller about Jack the Ripper in which Verdon played one of his potential victims. The dancer also starred in Fosse's ``Sweet Charity'' (1966) as the love-struck streetwalker with a heart of gold. Her last Broadway appearance was in ``Chicago'' in 1975 with Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach. Verdon made her Broadway debut in 1950 in a short-lived revue called ``Alive and Kicking.'' Theatergoers first noticed her in 1953 in ``Can-Can,'' the Cole Porter musical in which she literally stopped the show. Its star was the French chanteuse Lilo but it was Verdon who got all the reviews for a provocative ``Garden of Eden'' ballet and an apache dance, both created by choreographer Michael Kidd. Two years later, she was elevated to stardom as the devil's amorous assistant in ``Damn Yankees,'' a musical about a baseball fan who sells his soul so he can play for his favorite team, the Washington Senators. Verdon was born Jan. 13, 1925, in Culver City, Calif. Her father worked as a stage electrician for MGM. Forced to wear corrective boots as a child because of badly bent legs, she took dance lessons to strengthen them. As a teen-ager, Verdon found work as a dancer in Los Angeles night clubs, eventually getting a job as an assistant to dance director Jack Cole. She assisted Cole at various movie studios where they coached such stars as Lana Turner, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Verdon made few movies, but did repeat her Broadway success in the 1958 film version of ``Damn Yankees.'' Among her other movies were ``The Cotton Club'' (1984), ``Cocoon'' (1985) and ``Marvin's Room'' (1996). But it was Fosse with whom she had the most productive years. They inspired each other, remaining friends even after they separated in 1975. They never divorced. Verdon often helped Fosse with revivals of his shows. She helped oversee the current Broadway production of ``Fosse,'' which won the 1999 Tony Award for best musical. Fosse collapsed and died of a heart attack in 1987 just before the opening of a revival of ``Sweet Charity'' in Washington. Verdon was with him. The actress' survivors include a daughter, a son, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  10/18/00 -

Julie London - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Julie London, the sultry voiced actress and singer who had a hit record with the 1950s single "Cry Me a River" and was once married to "Dragnet" producer-star Jack Webb, died on Wednesday at age 74. London, who had been in declining health since suffering a stroke five years ago, died at a hospital in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino, according to her business manager, Meyer Sack. She had been out of the public eye since playing nurse Dixie McCall on Webb's 1970s television drama "Emergency!" Oddly enough, she was hired on the show by Webb, her then-former spouse, to co-star with her second husband, jazz musician and composer Bobby Troup, who played a doctor on the series. Born Julie Peck to a song-and-dance team who performed in vaudeville, she started singing on her parents' radio show and started working in movies in the 1940s after changing her name to London. She appeared in nearly two dozen pictures during the 1940s and '50s, starring in such films as "Task Force" (1949), "The Fat Man" (1951) and "A Question of Adultery" (1959). She married Webb in 1947 just as her singing career was getting off the ground. She is perhaps best remembered for her 1955 single "Cry Me a River," which sold 3 million copies and remained in demand into the 1960s. She sang the song in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield film "The Girl Can't Help It." She recorded her last album, "Easy Does It," in 1967. Describing her own smoky vocal style, London once said, "It's only a thimbleful the of a voice, and I have to use it close to a microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate." London went on to gain renewed fame on the small screen, co-starring on "Emergency!" during its five year run on NBC before retiring from show business. She and Webb were divorced in 1953, and London married Troup, composer of the hit "Route 66," several years later. He died in 1999. 

Note from The Underground: She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills with Bobby Troup

10/7/00 Richard Farnsworth - LINCOLN, N.M. (AP) - Actor Richard Farnsworth, a former stuntman and two-time Academy Award nominee, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday night. He was 80. Farnsworth, who had been involved in filmmaking for more than 60 years, was nominated this year for an Oscar for best actor for his performance in "The Straight Story". Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan released a statement Friday night saying Farnsworth died at his home in Lincoln, about 250 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Police did not release any further details, but Farnsworth's fiancee, Jewely Van Valin, was at home when he died. "I was just in the other room and I heard the shot," she said in a telephone interview from Farnsworth's home. "He was incredible pain today. He was going down hill." Van Valin said Farnsworth was diagnosed several years ago with terminal cancer, which had left him partially paralyzed. He struggled with the pain while he was working on "The Straight Story," she said. "He was very ill in that movie, but phenomenally he made it through. He didn't want the world to know he was sick," Van Valin said. "He couldn't fight it, and cancer got him." Farnsworth had said the heart of his performance in "The Straight Story," came from his respect for Alvin Straight, the real-life person on whom his portrayal of a 73-year-old man who rode a tractor across the country was based. "I admired him very much and tried to be as much like his character as I could, talked to two of his boys, who are now truck drivers, and we filmed along his actual route. Every time we stopped somewhere, people would come by and say, 'Heck, I remember when old Alvin came through,' and tell us about it," he told The Associated Press last March. At 79, Farnsworth was the oldest leading actor to receive an Oscar bid. "Titanic" star Gloria Stuart was the oldest performer ever nominated when she was nominated for supporting actress at 87. "It feels a lot better because I'm getting up there in age and might not have a chance again," he said in an interview after he was nominated in February. The Oscar went to Kevin Spacey, who won for his portrayal of a suburban father in "American Beauty." It was the second nomination for Farnsworth, who was nominated for the 1978 film "Comes a Horseman." Henry Fonda had been the oldest leading actor when he was nominated at 76 for his role in "On Golden Pond." Farnsworth was a poor student who dropped out of school during the Depression at age 15 and went to work as a stable boy at a polo barn. Two years later, in 1937, two men from the Paramount studio came by looking for ponies and mentioned they needed someone who could ride horses on film. Farnsworth took the job, which paid $7 a day, about what he had been making per week. The Los Angeles native was a stuntman for more than 30 years who moved into acting at age 57, appearing in "The Grey Fox", "The Natural", "Tom Horn," "Resurrection," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Anne of Green Gables." His 50-year-old son, Diamond Farnsworth, followed in his footsteps and has become a top stuntman, doubling for Sylvester Stallone in the first two "Rambo" movies. Since his appearance in "Comes a Horseman," Farnsworth has acted in nearly three dozen films and TV movies. In 1990, Farnsworth moved out of his home of 40 years in the Hollywood Hills and came to the outskirts of Lincoln, a town of 565 in the foothills of two mountain ranges that is known for Billy the Kid's famous escape.

Note from the Underground: Mr. Farnsworth is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, CA, in the Court of Remembrance. 

9/28/00 Richard Mulligan - LOS ANGELES (AP) - Actor Richard Mulligan, who won Emmys for his portrayals of dads in the sitcoms ``Soap'' and ``Empty Nest,'' has died at age 67.Mulligan died at his home Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, publicist Julian Myers said in a statement. A native of New York, Mulligan began his nearly 40-year career in show business as an aspiring writer. He fell into acting when was drafted into playing a role at a rehearsal while trying to sell a play. From 1977 to 1981, Mulligan played lovable working-class screwball Burt Campbell - stepfather to Billy Crystal's character - on the quirky television series ``Soap.'' He won an Emmy for the role in 1980.On ``Empty Nest,'' a spin-off of ``The Golden Girls'' that ran from 1988 to 1995, Mulligan played Dr. Harry Weston, a widower with three grown daughters. The part won him another Emmy, in 1989.``He's certainly different from my role on 'Soap,''' Mulligan said in a 1988 Associated Press interview. "This guy's a good doctor who cares deeply about his patients. He's a good fellow trying to take care of his daughters. His wife died 18 months ago and he still can't take the ring off." Mulligan is survived by his son, James, and brothers Robert, and James

8/12/00 Loretta Young - (AP) LOS ANGELES (Aug. 12) - Loretta Young, the elegant beauty whose acting career extended from silent movies to television and included an Academy Award for best actress in ''The Farmer's Daughter,'' died Saturday of ovarian cancer, her longtime agent and friend Norman Brokaw said. She was 87. Young died at the home of her sister Georgian Montalban and actor Ricardo Montalban early Saturday morning, said Brokaw, her agent for 50 years and chairman of the William Morris Agency. ''She was an incredible lady,'' Brokaw said. ''I learned from her that if you can handle yourself with class and dignity, you can work as long as you want in this business.'' Both on and off the screen, Miss Young presented the image of serene uprightness. In 88 movies dating from 1927 to 1953, she invariably played the strong-willed heroine with firm principles. From 1953 to 1963, she appeared on television in more than 300 episodes of ''The Loretta Young Show,'' opening the program with her much-satirized trademark of sweeping through a doorway, always in a high-style gown. She was nominated seven times for Emmys as best starring actress and won three times. ''During the series I played every role possible - Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, Indian, old, ugly, young, pretty,'' she remarked in a 1973 interview. ''It was a marvelous experience for an actress to do everything she had ever wanted to do. I got it out of my system.'' She retired at the end of ''The New Loretta Young Show'' in 1963, devoting her time to charities and a line of beauty products bearing her name. She returned to acting in 1986, appearing in a television movie, ''Christmas Eve.'' During her Hollywood heyday, Miss Young appeared opposite most of the top male stars of her time. They included Lon Chaney, Ronald Colman, John Barrymore, Clark Gable, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Charles Boyer, Tyrone Power, David Niven, Joel McCrea, Robert Mitchum, William Holden and Joseph Cotten. A shapely beauty with large blue-gray eyes and high cheekbones, Loretta starred at 15 in 1928 with Chaney in ''Laugh, Clown, Laugh.'' She was never less than a star afterward. In 1929 and 1930 she appeared in 15 movies, including ''Broken Dishes'' with the bluff, hard-drinking actor Grant Withers. She eloped with him when she was 17, and they lived together for eight months before she filed for divorce in 1931, claiming she paid most of the bills. Miss Young never spoke of the marriage, and it never appeared in her official biography. Her career flourished in the 1930s, with contracts to Warner Bros.-First National and then 20th Century-Fox. In 1934 she appeared in 10 films, including ''Born to Be Bad'' (Cary Grant), ''The House of Rothschild'' (George Arliss), ''The Devil to Pay'' (Ronald Colman), ''Caravan'' (Charles Boyer), Cecil B. DeMille's ''The Crusades,'' ''Call of the Wild'' (Clark Gable), ''Shanghai'' (Charles Boyer). Miss Young's career flourished into the '40s with such films as ''The Story of Alexander Graham Bell'' (Don Ameche), ''The Doctor Takes a Wife'' (Ray Milland), ''Bedtime Story'' (Fredric March), ''The Lady from Cheyenne'' (Robert Preston), ''China'' (Alan Ladd), ''Along Came Jones'' (Gary Cooper), ''The Stranger'' (Orson Welles). After 20 years of stardom, her career seemed ready for the inevitable decline. Then producer Dore Schary offered her ''The Farmer's Daughter,'' in which she would play a maid who ends up being elected to Congress. ''Do you mean you want me to play it with a Swedish accent, a blond wig and all?'' she asked. ''Isn't that dangerous?'' ''Yes, but it could also win you an Academy Award,'' said Schary. No one else thought so. Rosalind Russell was the heavy favorite for ''Mourning Becomes Electra.'' When Miss Young was announced as best actress of 1947, the audience gasped in surprise. ''At long last!'' she sighed as she held the Oscar. The award bolstered her career, and she went on to such films as ''The Bishop's Wife'' (Cary Grant, David Niven), ''Come to the Stable'' (John Lund), ''Mother Was a Freshman'' (Van Johnson), ''Because of You'' (Jeff Chandler). Her last feature came in 1953 with ''It Happens Every Thursday'' (John Forsythe). ''Pictures were great, but there was no real communication with the audience,'' she said in a 1966 interview. ''The other aspects of being a movie star I can't knock: the fame, the grand houses, the glamour, the money, friends.'' A lifelong Roman Catholic, the actress worked tirelessly for the church's charities, including a home for unwed mothers and a children's foundation. She insisted on propriety on her movie sets, and even enforced a kitty for her charities, to which set workers contributed a coin every time they swore. Legend has it that on ''Rachel and the Stranger,'' the irreverent Robert Mitchum loosed a spate of profanity and dropped $5 into the kitty. Miss Young's daughter Judy, adopted in the mid-'30s, claims Miss Young hid one lapse from traditional morality. In a 1994 book, ''Uncommon Knowledge,'' Ms. Lewis claimed she was the result of an affair between a married Gable and Miss Young. According to Ms. Lewis, Miss Young had her baby in secret in late 1935, then eventually ''adopted'' the child when she was 2. A spokesman denied it, and in a 1995 New York Times interview, Miss Young refused to discuss the story, calling it a ''rumor of a bygone time,'' and adding, ''I have made peace with my daughter.'' She was born Gretchen Young on Jan. 6, 1913, in Salt Lake City, where her father was a railroad auditor. She had two older sisters, Polly Ann and Elizabeth (who had her own movie career as Sally Blane) and younger brother, Jack. When Gretchen was 3, her father abandoned his family. Her mother moved the children to Los Angeles and opened a boarding house. She later married and had a fourth daughter, Georgianna, who became the wife of Ricardo Montalban. An uncle in the movie business found work for the Young girls as extras, and Gretchen started when she was 5. Eight years later, director Mervyn Leroy called the Young house with a role for Polly Ann in ''Naughty but Nice.'' ''Polly Ann isn't here; will I do?'' Gretchen inquired. She made her acting debut in the comedy, and the star, Colleen Moore, changed the 13-year-old's name to Loretta. Throughout her career and afterward, she always appeared the movie queen, with perfect coiffure and makeup, dressed in the latest fashion, upbeat in her view of life. On the screen and off, she always seemed taller than her 5 feet 5 inches. She seldom varied from 109 pounds. After the end of her TV series, she pursued the things denied her during the hectic years in the studios. ''I decided the whole world was a soundstage, and I wanted to see it,'' she told a reporter in 1986. ''I traveled for two years. When I came back, I wasn't anxious to return to work, and I didn't need to financially. Suddenly the years slipped by. I was living my life. It was quiet when I wanted it quiet and exciting when I wanted it exciting.'' Except for ''Christmas Eve'' in 1986, she stayed out of the limelight, pursuing her charities and spending time with her family. In 1940 she married broadcast executive Thomas Lewis, and they had two sons, Christopher, born in 1944, and Peter, in 1945. Miss Young and Lewis were separated for many years before she divorced him in 1969. In August 1993, Miss Young surprised her friends by marrying fashion designer Jean Louis. She was 80, he was 85. She told Daily Variety: ''We've known each other for so long. And when something is right, it just slips into place.'' Jean Louis died in April 1997. Funeral arrangements were incomplete. She is survived by her sister, daughter Judy, of Los Angeles, and two sons, Peter, of Solvang, and Christopher, of Palm Springs.

Note from the Underground: Loretta Young will be buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA with her mother.

8/6/00 Sir Alec Guinness - LONDON, England (AP) - Actor Sir Alec Guinness, whose roles in a 66-year career ranged from Hamlet to Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars,'' has died, a hospital spokesman said Monday. He was 86. Guinness became ill at his home near Petersfield, southern England and was taken by ambulance to the King Edward VII Hospital where he died Saturday, said hospital spokeswoman Jenny Masding. The cause of death was not released. Sir Alec was one of the last surviving members of Britain's greatest generation of actors, which included Sir Lawrence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. From post-war comedies through epics like "The Bridge on the River Kwai,'' and crowd-pleasers like "Star Wars,'' Guinness played a vast variety of characters with subtlety and intelligence. Guinness was a tall man with large, expressive blue eyes and otherwise unremarkable features - "a player's countenance, designed for whatever might turn up,'' critic J.C. Trewin once said. His precise, modulated baritone voice was distinctive, but if ever there was an actor who never played himself, it was Alec Guinness. "I had countless first impressions of him,'' playwright Ronald Harwood wrote. "Each time I saw him, in films, later in the theater, I had the uncanny feeling I had never before watched him act.'' Guinness first made his mark in films in the Ealing Studio comedies of the late 1940s and the 1950s - "The Man in the White Suit,'' "The Lavender Hill Mob,'' "The Lady Killers,'' and most remarkably in "Kind Hearts and Coronets.'' In that classic black comedy he played the entire d'Ascoyne family - in his own words, "eight speaking parts, one non-speaking cameo and a portrait in oils.'' In parts such as Fagin in "Oliver Twist,'' Guinness was barely recognizable behind his makeup and costume. But with "The Bridge on the River Kwai'' in 1957 he established that his versatility had nothing to do with disguise. He won an Oscar for his performance as the disciplined, inflexible Col. Nicholson in a World War II Japanese prison camp. Three years later, he played Nicholson's opposite - the boorish,hard-drinking Scottish Lieut.-Col. Jock Sinclair in "Tunes of Glory.'' He once described it as his favorite film role - "perhaps the best thing I've done.'' Guinness had a long film partnership with director David Lean, beginning in 1946 as Herbert Pocket in "Great Expectations,'' through "Oliver Twist,'' "The Bridge on the River Kwai'' ``Dr. Zhivago,'' and finally"A Passage to India'' in 1984. 

7/1/00 Walter Matthau - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Academy Award-winning actor Walter Matthau, whose hangdog looks and grouchy, slouchy demeanor transformed him from an early player of straight-on toughs and bad guys into one of America's best-loved comic film stars, died Saturday. He was 79. A spokeswoman for St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, said Matthau, who had a history of heart problems, was brought to the hospital early Saturday in ``full cardiac arrest'' and was pronounced dead at 1:42 a.m. PDT (4:42 a.m. EDT). Fans were gathering by late morning Saturday to place flowers on Matthau's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, fondly remembering the actor for his portrayals of usually rumpled, cantankerous characters. Matthau spent five decades in show business, appearing in more than 60 films, winning his Academy Award for best supporting actor for the 1966 Billy Wilder hit ``The Fortune Cookie'' and later two best-actor nominations. He won a Tony Award for his stage work in ``A Shot in the Dark.'' But Matthau was best known for playing perpetually cranky and unkempt sportswriter Oscar Madison opposite Jack Lemmon's fastidious Felix Unger in 1968's ``The Odd Couple,'' a part he seemed born to play.  In a way he was. Playwright Neil Simon wrote the Broadway version with Matthau in mind, and that 1965 sensation, with Art Carney as Felix, catapulted him to stardom. Simon called Matthau the greatest ``instinctive actor'' he had ever seen. Matthau would later star with Lemmon in the films ``Grumpy Old Men,'' ``Grumpier Old Men,'' ``Buddy Buddy'' and ``The Front Page'' in one of Hollywood's best-loved partnerships. Lemmon, in a statement released through his agent, said: ``I have just lost someone I've loved as a brother, as my closest friend and a remarkable human being. We have also lost one of the best damn actors we'll ever see.'' Matthau won his best actor nominations for playing a grumpy grandfather in 1971's ``Kotch'' and George Burns' feuding show-business partner in 1975's ``The Sunshine Boys.'' In an interview with CNN, Matthau said of Lemmon, his longtime friend and co-star, ``When we were working, we always seemed to understand what we're thinking about.'' Lemmon once told CNN: ``It was a very unusual relationship because right from the start it just clicked. There was nothing to it.'' Lemmon, himself considered one of Hollywood's great film comedians, said Matthau's talents were underrated, calling him a ``marvelous, wonderful actor.'' Matthau's last appearance on the big screen was as the aging father of sisters played by Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow in this year's ``Hanging Up.'' Matthau, whose dry, unpredictable wit off-screen made him a perennially good interview subject, once said that with a face like his, he was destined to be a villain or a comic. In addition to his laconic manner and cynical, bemused expressions, Matthau had a face more than one writer compared to an unmade bed. Matthau saw it as a strength that set him apart in a Hollywood awash in a sea of glamour. ``I don't look like an actor,'' he said. ``I could be anyone from a toilet attendant to a business executive. Most people look at me on the street and say, 'Who the hell is that guy? Was I in the Army with him?''' Matthau, who jokingly called himself ``the Ukrainian Cary Grant,'' was born Walter Matuschanskavasky on Oct. 1, 1920, to poor Russian-Jewish parents. He grew up on the Lower East Side of New York, where ``you learn a lot about life, your facial muscles get workouts and never forget, and that can serve you well as an actor.'' Matthau also made light of his acting training, saying: ``I come to every part totally unprepared. I don't want any methodology to tarnish the way I used to make my mother laugh -- by imitating the landlady asking for the rent.'' As a boy of 11, he sold soft drinks in a Yiddish theater, eventually winning bit parts. After high school and a Second World War stint as a radio man-gunner on Army bombers, he took acting classes. Work in summer stock led to parts on Broadway and in television shows. He made his film debut in ``The Kentuckian'' as a wily villain who tricks star Burt Lancaster into a fight with whips. Through the remainder of the 1950s, he showed proficiency at playing bad guys and drunks in a variety of modest movies, including the Elvis Presley film ``King Creole'' (1958) and an Audie Murphy Western, ``Ride a Crooked Trail'' (1958). But it was ``The Odd Couple'' that made Matthau a star. The story goes that Simon was at a cocktail party when he walked over to Matthau and said, ``You're gonna be in my next play.'' Replied Matthau, ``Who are you?'' Simon had to convince Matthau to play Madison. The actor wanted to play finicky Felix Unger instead because the Madison part was too close to his own personality. A year later, Matthau first teamed with Lemmon in ``The Fortune Cookie.'' Matthau played a sleazy lawyer, Lemmon his brother-in-law. Matthau survived a 1965 heart attack, a 1975 quadruple coronary bypass operation and a gambling habit that once cost him $183,000 in two weeks. He spent two weeks in a hospital with pneumonia in May 1999 but made a full recovery. Matthau, who lived in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, had two children, Jennie and David, by his first wife, Grace Geraldine Johnson, and a son, Charlie, by his second wife, former actress Carol Marcus, whom he wed in 1959.

Note from the Underground: Walter Matthau was buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Westwood, CA.

5/22/00 Sir John Gielgud - LONDON (Reuters) - Sir John Gielgud, whose portrayal of Shakespearean characters made him one of the towering stage presences of the past century, has died at the age of 96. Tributes flooded in for an actor whose performances in classical theater, film and television entranced audiences around the world -- and whose blunt speaking off stage startled even devoted friends. Gielgud, whose voice was described by Sir Alec Guinness as ''a silver trumpet muffled in silk,'' died peacefully at his country home near Aylesbury northwest of London Sunday. Gielgud's lawyer, Ian Bradshaw, said: ``He had been working until very recently and he was in relatively good health.'' His agent, Paul Lyon-Maris, added: ``He was still hard at work a month ago, filming a Samuel Beckett play called 'Catastrophe' in London.'' It was ``incredibly impressive'' that he had continued working until the age of 96, he said. ``He never suggested stopping.'' Most recently, Gielgud appeared in a production of Merlin, about the legendary wizard, for a Britain television channel. In 1998 he starred in the film ``The Titchbourne Claimant.'' Gielgud once told friends he would like to die on stage in the middle of a good performance and also said he dreamed of playing Methusaleh on his 100th birthday. ``What appeals is a good part with a couple of good lines, a good entrance and a good exit. I like a bit of limelight on me,'' the tall and patrician knight told Reuters at the 1994 opening of the West End Theater renamed in his honor. Gielgud biographer Sheridan Morley said he was the last of a classic generation of actors with Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft. 

DEFINITIVE HAMLET  British theater writer Ned Sherrin said: ``I suppose Gielgud will always be considered the definitive Hamlet.'' ``He was the greatest actor and his life was exactly the history of the British theater in the last century.'' ``Twenty years ago people said he looked more fragile than Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson,'' Morley said. ``But he has had the last laugh by outlasting the competition.'' Despite acclaim as the finest speaker of Shakespearean verse in British theater, Gielgud never rated himself very highly. ``I managed to graduate from being a kind of romantic juvenile into an adequate character actor, which was a great joy and gave me enormous scope,'' he told Reuters in a rare interview following his 90th birthday. He made his theatrical debut in 1921 as a herald in ``Henry V'' and later became the most famous Hamlet of his time. He moved easily from stage to screen, winning acclaim for many character roles, including a 1981 Oscar for best supporting actor as Dudley Moore's butler in the comedy ``Arthur.'' His other films included ``Julius Caesar,'' ``Oh, What a Lovely War,'' ``The Elephant Man,'' ``Chariots of Fire,'' ''Gandhi'' and ``The Charge of the Light Brigade.'' Richard Attenborough, who directed ``Gandhi,'' saw Gielgud as ``the greatest theater actor, the greatest classical actor.'' Gielgud was known for always saying what first came into his head, without worrying about the often devastating effect. He once described Ingrid Bergman as a nice woman who could speak five languages but couldn't act in any of them. On another occasion he went to see Richard Burton's first Hamlet at London's Old Vic theater and told the Welsh actor: ''I'll come back and see it when you're better.'' Leading British actress Helen Mirren, who had lunch with Gielgud only last month, told Reuters: ``It is a sad day, but Sir John's memory will be with us for a very very long time. He was a great addition to our culture and our country.'' 

GREAT SPIRIT GONE  Trevor Nunn, director of London's National Theater, broke off from rehearsals to say: ``Everybody currently working in the theater will agree that his death brought the end of an era. As Shakespeare said: 'there's a great spirit gone'.'' Oscar-winning former actress turned politician Glenda Jackson said: ``He was a remarkable man, as well as being a quite extraordinarily gifted actor.'' Adrian Noble, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: ``His work will remain as a yardstick to many performers and his dedication to the theater will always be remembered with great fondness and admiration.'' Mark Rylance, artistic director of the Shakespeare's Globe theater said Gielgud had ``used his gifts of wit and eloquence to the general and wider good of the theater.'' Photographer Lord Snowdon, ex-husband of Queen Elizabeth's sister Princess Margaret, recalled that he had first photographed Gielgud in 1954. ``This is a very great loss, he was one of the greatest actors of all time and his manners were impeccable. He was loved by everyone in the theater,'' Snowdon told Reuters. Gielgud's lawyer said a private funeral was planned for family and friends. For the towering actor with the stage presence to match, Shakespeare was always the great theatrical mountain to climb. ``I was lucky enough to play all those great parts when I was quite young, in my 20s,'' Gielgud has said. ``'Hamlet' I did about six times. I had extraordinary good luck with that play. It is the most rewarding Shakespearean role but I loved 'Richard II' very much too.'' 

5/21/00 Barbara Cartland - LONDON (AP) - Dame Barbara Cartland, considered the world's most prolific author and Britain's queen of romantic fiction, has died, her family said. She was 98. Cartland died at her estate near Hatfield on Sunday after a short illness, the family said. Critics generally ignored Cartland's work, but a legion of fans snapped up her novels about feminine virtue and manly ideals. Sales of her 723 books exceeded one billion worldwide in 36 languages. The Guinness Book of Records lists her as the world's top-selling author. Cartland's preferred method of work was to recline on the sofa in the afternoons, dictating 6,000 to 7,000 words to a relay of secretaries. Novels were often finished within a week. Christine Hamilton, a friend, remembered Dame Barbara once complained her four female secretaries were useless but confided: ``I would love to employ a man but how can I possibly give a man dictation from the bath?'' Against the increasing pressures of the sexual revolution, Cartland - Princess Diana's step-grandmother - carried the banner of old-fashioned romance with unswerving dedication. The popularity of her virginal heroines and commanding heroes seemed to grow as society grappled with infidelity, divorce, abortion, drugs and AIDS. ``Personally I want to be loved, adored, worshipped, cossetted, and protected. Judging by the Romantic boom, this is what women all over the world want, too,'' Dame Barbara said in 1977, pointing out that she was a best-seller in Europe, North America, Turkey, Singapore, India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Her crusade in the name of virginity brought her ridicule as well as admiration, but even her critics acknowledged her as a force to be reckoned with. ``Although not everyone was a fan of hers, there is no doubt that she was unique in her devotion to standards which some think are now outdated,'' said Baroness Knight of Collingtree. ``She stuck like a limpet to those standards. You could not help admiring the way she would never be moved from what she felt was right.'' It was never clear whether Dame Barbara was strictly serious about her rather rococo image because, as she herself said, ``Nobody sends up Barbara Cartland better than I do myself.'' Her remarks to the press, however slight, were attention-getters. ``I always use boot polish on my eyelashes, because I am a very emotional person and it doesn't run when I cry,'' she once told the Sunday Telegraph. Born July 9, 1901, she lost her father early, a casualty of World War I. Her mother moved the family to London and opened a dress shop in Kensington to support them. Young Barbara was heavily influenced by the leading romantic novelists of the time: Elinor Glyn and Ethel M. Dell. She also learned that ``the things that nice girls couldn't do seemed endless.'' As a young woman she began making money by contributing items to a newspaper gossip column at 5 shillings a paragraph. By the time she was 22 she was writing articles about the social life of the bright young things of London, their parties and short skirts. She said publishing magnate Lord Beaverbrook tried but failed to acquire her as a mistress, but befriended her and helped her career, introducing her to famous people. Her first novel, ``Jigsaw,'' appeared in 1925. In 1927 Cartland married Alexander McQorquodale, a wealthy Scot. Their daughter Raine was born in 1928. They divorced in 1933. She continued writing novels and working for newspapers and in 1936 married Hugh McQorquodale, a cousin of her ex-husband. They had two sons, Ian and Glen. Raine was married in 1948 to Gerald Legge, who later became Viscount Lewisham. They divorced and Raine married the Eighth Earl Spencer, whose daughter was Princess Diana. Hugh McQorquodale died in 1963. At about age 50 Cartland began to develop her inimitable style. She was always glamorously and femininely dressed, wore jewels, white fox furs and rode in a white Rolls Royce. She said her trademark color pink ``helps our brain ... helps you to be clever.''  In 1991 she was made a Dame of the British Empire. She said she was sure the honor was not for her contributions to literature but for her efforts of behalf of charities and gypsies. Asked where her ideas for so many books came from, she told The Associated Press: ``Prayer.'' ``I say a prayer. I really do. I say, `Please God, get me a plot.' It's absolutely extraordinary: Then a plot comes.'' She had no interest in retiring. ``I think old people are so much better when they have something to do. ... People retire at 65, which is wicked, go home to their boring wives and die at once. The whole thing is you must keep going.'' Asked if she was afraid of death, Miss Cartland said in 1990, ``Not a bit. It will either be better than this life or nothing at all, in which case there is no point in being frightened.'' Her family said there would be a small family funeral service and a memorial service. No dates were given. 

5/7/00 Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. NEW YORK (AP) - He earned a chestful of medals, wrote stories, acted in some 75 movies, produced television shows, and served as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's special envoy. The rakishly handsome Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the son of the swashbuckling superstar of silent films, didn't just glide on his father's coattails: He made his own mark. Fairbanks, the star of such films as ``Catherine the Great,'' ``The Prisoner of Zenda'' and ``Gunga Din,'' died Sunday, said his widow, Vera Shelton Fairbanks. He was 90. ``I never tried to emulate my father. Anyone trying to do that would be a second-rate carbon copy,'' he once said. ``I was determined to be my own man, although having the Fairbanks name did make it easier to get into an office to see someone.'' Film director Michael Winner, who once met Fairbanks while working for a local newspaper, remembered the actor as ``a wonderful representative of a bygone era.'' ``He was a gentleman adventurer,'' Winner said. ``His was a cinema where people played by the rules, where the hero was always well-dressed, well-spoken and impeccably mannered. He typified that type of leading man.'' Fairbanks was born in New York City on Dec. 9, 1909 - the only son of Douglas Fairbanks and his first wife, Anna. His parents divorced when he was 9 and he lived with his mother. His movie career began at age 13 with an appearance in ``Stephen Steps Out.'' In 1925 he made several more films, and the influential movie magazine ``Photoplay'' said that at his studio, ``he is considered a real bet, with much of his father's charm and artistry.'' He made his stage debut in Los Angeles in 1927, winning good reviews. He began getting better movie roles, appearing with Greta Garbo in ``A Woman of Affairs'' and in a Frank Capra film, ``The Power of the Press,'' both 1928. His career picked up with the coming of sound. In the early 1930s he had a string of film successes, including a showy role in ``Little Caesar,'' and was able to write his own ticket. ``I demanded and received approval of cast, story and director. I don't know how I got away with it, but I did!'' he recalled. At age 19 he married Joan Crawford, then the quintessential flapper in films such as ``Our Dancing Daughters.'' They divorced four years later in 1933. But he said they remained friendly up to her death in 1977. ``The Joan Crawford that I've heard about in `Mommie Dearest' is not the Joan Crawford I knew back when,'' he once said. In 1939, he married Mary Lee Epling Hartford, former wife of A&P supermarket heir Huntington Hartford. They had three daughters. A lieutenant, j.g., in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he was called to active service later that year and served until 1946. He earned an American Silver Star, the British Distinguished Service Cross and the French Legion of Honor. He became the first American officer to command a British flotilla of raiding craft during a commando operation in World War II. He served under Adm. Lord Louis Mountbatten, who later introduced him to his nephew, Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth. Fairbanks became a favorite of the royal couple, entertaining them at his home, much to the chagrin of Mayfair society. The first time they came he had a couple of singers to entertain them - Maurice Chevalier and Cab Calloway. In 1941 President Roosevelt appointed him a special envoy to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Panama. After the war, Fairbanks was chairman of the fund-raising committee for CARE, which sent more than $150 million worth of food parcels and other goods to Europe. He resumed his film career with ``Sinbad the Sailor'' - one of the biggest hits of 1946. His last movie was ``Ghost Story'' in 1981. Besides acting, he was involved in a variety of business enterprises - from ball point pens to land development, theatrical copyrights to film production. In the 1950s, he produced 160 episodes of a television anthology series called ``Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents.'' He starred in approximately a quarter of the 30-minute programs, which were filmed in England. In his 50s and 60s he appeared in revivals of ``My Fair Lady'' and ``The Pleasure of His Company'' as well as a variety of TV specials and guest appearances on shows ranging from ``Laugh-In'' to ``Love Boat.'' He once said of all his accomplishments he was proudest of the articles and stories he published over the years. He published the first volume of his autobiography, ``The Salad Days,'' in 1988. His second wife died of cancer in 1988. In May 30, 1991, Fairbanks married merchandiser Vera Shelton. In addition to his wife, Fairbanks is survived by three daughters, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Mrs. Fairbanks said her husband will be buried alongside his father at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, although funeral arrangements were incomplete.   ``I've led an enormously lucky life,'' Fairbanks reflected in 1989. ``I've done what I wanted to do. I worked hard and played hard, and it was all tremendously rewarding. I just wish it could go on and on and on.''

Note from the Underground - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is interred with his father, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA.

4/11/00 Larry Linville - NEW YORK -- Hollywood is mourning the death of Larry Linville, best known for his role as Maj. Frank Burns on the CBS television show "M*A*S*H." Linville died Monday of pneumonia at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He was 60. "He was a wonderful man, a wonderful father, and certainly well prepared for the acting craft," recalled Jamie Farr, who co-starred with Linville in the long-running show. Linville had been fighting a battle with cancer for years and had been in and out of Sloan-Kettering, the actor's manager said. He had been admitted when a tumor was found on a vocal nodule and in 1998 had a lung removed. The Ojai, California, native was born September 29, 1939. An actor who'd trained at the Royal Academy in London, Linville had been living in New York. Along with Farr, Linville co-starred with Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers and Loretta Switt in the show. It premiered in 1972, just after the hit movie of the same name. Using a blend of comedy, sardonic wit and stark political commentary, M*A*S*H* depicted the lives of the military staff at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, where Linville played a whiny military stickler smitten with the head nurse (Switt). The TV show that defined Linville's career continued until 1983, but he left after its fifth season. He went on to guest roles on numerous television series, and had roles in the shows "Grandpa Goes to Washington," "Checking In" and "Paper Dolls. Linville is survived by his wife, Deborah, and daughter Kelly. A memorial service in New York is pending. Linville's remains will be cremated and taken to Sacramento, California.

2/12/00 Roger Vadim - Director

2/12/00 Charles Schultz - Cartoonist, Peanuts

2/11/00 Jim Varney - Actor

2/7/00 Doug Henning - Magician

1/19/00 Hedy Lamarr - Actress