12/19/03 - Hope Lange - SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) - Hope Lange, who starred opposite Hollywood's top actors over a decades-long career and earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in the 1957 film "Peyton Place," has died, her husband said Sunday. She was 70.
Lange died Friday at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica after suffering an infection caused by an intestinal inflammation known as ischemic colitis, said her husband, Charles Hollerith.
Lange split her time between homes in Los Angeles' Westwood section and New York City, said Hollerith, a former theatrical producer and vice president of the Actors' Fund of America.
Lange starred in dozens of films and television shows and captured two Emmy awards in 1969 and 1970, both for lead actress in a comedy series for her role in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."
Her big-screen credits included "The Best of Everything" in 1959 with Joan Crawford, "The Young Lions" in 1958 with Marlon Brando and "Peyton Place" with Lana Turner. More recently, she was in 1986's "Blue Velvet" and 1994's "Clear and Present Danger."
Actor Don Murray, who was married to Lange for several years in the 1950s, said Lange combined good looks and acting prowess.
"She was considered a great beauty who was also a serious and dedicated actor who didn't pay attention to being glamorous," Murray said.
Murray said her looks even intimidated Marilyn Monroe, who wanted Lange's naturally blonde hair dyed light brown in their 1956 film "Bus Stop."
"Marilyn complained about sharing the screen with another blonde," said Murray, who also starred in the movie. "I guess she felt competition because Hope was a young beauty."
Lange is survived by her husband, a son, actor Christopher Murray, a daughter,
Patricia Murray, and two grandchildren.
12/14/03 - Jeanne Crain - (AP) - LOS ANGELES - Jeanne Crain credited her mother for bringing her up in a household free of prejudice. As a Hollywood star, she won an Oscar nomination for a role that broke racial taboos of the day — a black girl passing for white.
The winsome beauty who specialized in frothy comedies in the 1940s and whose career was capped by her starring role in the controversial Elia Kazan classic “Pinky,” died Sunday. She was 78.
Crain died of a heart attack at her Santa Barbara home, according to her son, Paul Brinkman Jr. She appeared in 64 films and many television shows during her long career, playing opposite such stars as Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas and William Holden.
“Pinky” brought Crain’s only Academy Award recognition, a nomination for best actress in 1949. It was a daring film at a time when Hollywood avoided racial controversy, about a girl who passes for white in the North but faces the bitter hatred of whites after returning to her grandmother’s home in the Deep South.
“I grew up without knowing anything about prejudice; my mother saw to that,” Crain said in 1995. “If parents would keep prejudice and intolerance to themselves for one generation, we would have a different world.”
Lena Horne and other black actresses sought the role, but Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck decided on a white star with box-office appeal.
“Pinky” was widely praised by critics but encountered opposition in the South, especially because a white man in the film wants to marry Pinky despite knowing her heritage. Marshall, Texas, banned the film, but the town’s film censoring ordinance was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The movie’s controversy enhanced Crain’s popularity. She recalled that her fan letters rose to 6,000 a week, and only 1 percent were critical.
With her lovely features, slender figure and demure manner, Crain became a leading star in the wartime and postwar years. For faraway GI’s she seemed the ideal girl back home. At 20th Century-Fox studio, her fan mail was second only to that of pin-up queen Betty Grable.
Crain’s 1943 movie debut followed the Hollywood cliche: She appeared in a swimming suit beside a pool in the all-star “The Gang’s All Here.” She was elevated to leading roles in her next films — “Home in Indiana,” “In the Meantime, Darling,” “Winged Victory” and “State Fair,” which featured Rodgers and Hammerstein’s only original score for a movie.
“Margie” (1946), an entertaining, nostalgic tale of a small-town girl in the 1920s who gets a crush on her French teacher, established Crain as an important Fox star. She followed with a musical, “You Were Meant for Me,” opposite Dan Dailey, and “An Apartment for Peggie,” a romance with William Holden.
Crain was born in Barstow, Calif., and raised in Los Angeles, where her father became head of the English department at Inglewood High School. She began winning leads in school plays at 14 and beauty contests at 15.
As Camera Girl of 1942 in Long Beach, she attracted the attention of 20th Century-Fox and was given a routine studio contract. That was soon discarded for better terms as her career rapidly ascended.
In 1945, Crain married Paul Brinkman, an actor who later became a successful businessman. The couple had seven children.
By the 1960s, her Hollywood career had dimmed. She made three films in Europe and then retired. She and Brinkman spent their time at two working ranches.
In her 70s she still received regular bundles of mail from fans who had seen her films on TV or video.
“They write as if the films were just being released,” she said wonderingly. “The films must have aged well.”
Crain’s husband died in October. She is survived by her sons, Paul
Jr. and Timothy Brinkman, and three daughters, Jeanine Brinkman, Lisa Binstock
and Maria Brinkman.
12/4/03 - David Hemmings - LONDON - David Hemmings, the British actor who attained international stardom as the existential fashion photographer in the 1966 film "Blow Up," has died at age 62, his agent said Thursday.
Hemmings, who also forged a successful career behind the camera directing
cinema and TV, died of a heart attack Wednesday while filming a movie role in
Romania, said agent Liz Nelson.
Paramedics on the film set of "Samantha's Child" were unable to
"He had just finished his final shots of the day and was going back
dressing room," she said. "He had only recently returned to acting. He opted for
a number of years to work on his own projects, directing and producing."
Born Nov. 18, 1941 in Guildford, England, Hemmings was a notable boy soprano
was featured in English Opera Group performances of the works of Benjamin
After his voice changed, Hemmings studied painting at the Epsom School of
where he staged his first exhibition at 15.
He returned to singing in his early 20s with nightclub appearances before
onto the stage and gradually into films.
His early British movie roles usually saw him cast as misunderstood youths
belligerent "Teddy Boys," leading to his role in Michelangelo Antonioni (news)'s
His boyish good looks were also put to use in science-fiction romp "Barbarella"
and the film version of the stage musical "Camelot."
With 1971's "Running Scared," Hemmings began a new career as a
movie and TV productions in England, Australia and Canada.
The two careers ran in parallel for several years with his directing credits
including the movie "Just a Gigolo," but by the 1980s his TV directing took
precedence with shows such as "Magnum PI," "Airwolf," "The A-Team" and "Quantum
"People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The A-Team,"
Hemmings returned to acting in 2002 with the role of Cassius in the
Oscar-winning "Gladiator." Other recent roles included parts in "Gangs of New
York," and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
Hemmings, who was divorced twice, is survived by his third wife, Lucy Williams,
and their two sons; and by a daughter from his first marriage and a son from the
11/19/03 - Gene Anthony Ray - Gene Anthony Ray, who starred as Leroy, a street-smart urban teenager, in the 1980 movie "Fame" and the later television series, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 41.
The cause was complications of a stroke he had in June, and he was also H.I.V.
positive, said Jean E. Ray, his mother.
Mr. Ray was a natural fit when he was cast as Leroy in the film, which won
Academy Awards for best song and original score. Like his character in the film,
Mr. Ray had never had professional dance training but had a raw talent that
The actors who performed in the movie and in the television series "Fame"
portrayed students at New York's High School of the Performing Arts, which Mr.
Ray attended for a year before being kicked out. "It was too disciplined for
this wild child of mine," Mrs. Ray said.
His journey into the spotlight began at Julia Richmond High School. He performed
in a dance class there and later auditioned for Louis Falco, the choreographer
for the film "Fame." He skipped school the day of the first tryout, and "Leroy
Johnson was born," Mrs. Ray said.
Mr. Ray also played Leroy in the NBC television series "Fame,"
which made its
debut in 1982. It was canceled by NBC because of poor ratings but was later
picked up by MGM Television, which distributed it in syndication from 1983 to
Born on May 24, 1962, in Harlem, Mr. Ray lived on on West 153rd Street. After
gained stardom for his roles in "Fame," Mr. Ray left school to pursue his
In 1982 he toured Britain, to perform with other "Fame" cast members
concerts. "The Kids From Fame," a television special about the tour, was
broadcast in the United States a year later. His other film credits include "Out
of Sync" (1995), which was directed by his "Fame" co-star Debbie Allen, and
"Eddie" (1996), which starred Whoopi Goldberg.
According to Selma Rubin, who managed Mr. Ray for 24 years, his last video
project is a one-hour BBC "Fame" reunion documentary, "Fame Remember My Name,"
which was taped in Los Angeles in April 2003 but has not yet been shown.
11/18/03 - Jonathan Brandis - LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jonathan Brandis, who from an early age appeared in a string of roles on television, commercials and film, including the starring role in 1991's "The Neverending Story 2: The Next Chapter" and two seasons on Steven Spielberg's "SeaQuest DSV," has died. He was 27.
The county coroner's office is investigating the Nov. 12 death, which was
reported by the Los Angeles Police Department as a possible suicide, Lt. Ed
Winter of the coroner's Investigations Bureau said Thursday.
The coroner performed an autopsy but the cause of death will not be announced
until the results of blood and toxicology tests are returned. The investigation
could take as long as four to six weeks.
Police said a friend of Brandis called 911 from the actor's apartment just
before midnight on Nov. 11 to report Brandis had attempted suicide. Paramedics
transported Brandis to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but he died the next day,
police Detective Gene Parshall said.
The office of Brandis' agent at Innovative Artists refused to comment.
Brandis started his career in commercials and on television, landing a recurring
role on the soap "One Life to Live" at age six. After moving with his family to
Los Angeles at age nine, he made guest appearances on such shows as "L.A. Law,"
"Who's the Boss?" and "Murder, She Wrote."
Other film credits included the Rodney Dangerfield comedy "Ladybugs,"
martial arts comedy "Sidekicks" with Chuck Norris, and a small part in the 2002
film "Hart's War," starring Bruce Willis.
Brandis also starred as crew member Lucas Wolenczek in the underwater sci-fi
series "SeaQuest DSV," a role that garnered him a Young Artists Award in 1993
and helped turn him into a teen idol.
More on Jonathan Brandis - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The death two weeks ago of actor Jonathan Brandis, who starred as a teenage techno-prodigy on NBC's undersea drama "SeaQuest DSV" in the 1990s, has been ruled a suicide, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said on Tuesday.
Brandis, 27, the star of an ABC drama pilot, "111 Gramercy Park,"
network passed on this year, hanged himself by a nylon rope in a hallway of his
apartment complex on Nov. 11, David Campbell (news), a spokesman for the coroner
He was found unconscious by friends late that night and rushed to a hospital,
where he died the following afternoon, Campbell said.
Campbell said no suicide note was found, and investigators were "not
any history or issue" that would suggest a reason for suicide. Yet, the medical
examiner found no reason to suspect foul play, he added.
Born in Danbury, Connecticut, Brandis began his career at age 5 acting in
commercials and landed small parts in several TV shows and movies before his
first starring role in the 1990 film "The NeverEnding Story II: The Next
But his big break came as the teenage whiz kid Lucas Wolenczak aboard the
fictional Deep Submergence Vehicle in Steven Spielberg (news)'s futuristic
sci-fi drama "SeaQuest DSV," which aired for two seasons on NBC starting in
Lucas, whose best pal was the talking dolphin Ensign Darwin, became somewhat
a heartthrob to young viewers.
Other big-screen credits include last year's military drama "Hart's
starring Bruce Willis (news), the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield (news) comedy
"Ladybugs," and a bit part in the 1987 Michael Douglas (news) thriller "Fatal
11/18/03 - Michael Kamen - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated composer, conductor and arranger Michael Kamen, one of Hollywood's most sought-after musicians, died at age 55 on Tuesday after suffering from multiple sclerosis for several years, members of his family said.
Kamen died in a hospital in London, where he had lived with his wife and
daughters, his brother Leonard said during a telephone interview from New York.
Doctors were unable to resuscitate Kamen following a "cardiac event," he said.
The native New Yorker and Juilliard School of Music Graduate was one of
Hollywood's most successful composers who worked on music for the "Lethal
Weapon" series and scored "Die Hard" among many other films.
He was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996, but did not go public
about the disease until late September.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system
causes various disabilities.
Kamen grew up in Queens, the son of liberal activists.
In the late 1960s, he helped found the New York Rock 'n' Roll Ensemble, a
critically acclaimed group that fused classical with pop and recorded five
albums before dissolving.
In the 1970s, Kamen scored ballets, served as musical director for David
(news)'s "Diamond Dogs" tour and began writing scores for film.
Although he began in Hollywood working on offbeat films like "Polyester"
"Brazil," he turned more mainstream in the 1980s, working on the "Lethal Weapon"
series, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "X-Men," plus
the HBO series "Band of Brothers."
In 1991, Kamen earned his first Academy Award nomination for "(Everything
I Do It for You," the Bryan Adams (news) pop hit from the movie, "Robin Hood:
Prince of Thieves."
Co-written with Adams and Robert John "Mutt" Lange, the song received
Grammys (news - web sites). The three united in 1993 for "All for Love." In
1999, Kamen conducted the orchestra which backed Metallica (news - web sites) on
their S&M project.
11/18/03 - Kay Kuter - Kay E. Kuter, 78, a character actor and director best remembered for his long-running role as farmer Newt Kiley on the intertwined CBS sitcoms "Green Acres" and "Petticoat Junction," died of pulmonary complications Wednesday at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank.
Kuter played farmer Newt throughout the entire run of "Petticoat Junction"
1964 to 1970 and, after Eddie Albert's and Eva Gabor's "Green Acres" began in
1965, became one of the most frequent visitors between the two Hooterville-based
Born to show business, Kuter was the son of pioneer motion picture art director
Leo "K" Kuter and wrote a biography about him, "Picture Perfect World." His
mother was silent-screen actress Evelyn Edler, who died in July at age 103. He
studied at Pomona College and UCLA, and graduated from what is now Carnegie
During his 55-year career, Kuter directed more than 50 plays and appeared
about 200 stage productions, 50 films and 435 TV shows. He voiced Hershey's
Kisses commercials for the last 14 years.
11/13/03 - Penny Singleton - Penny Singleton, best remembered as Blondie, the scatterbrained yet often sensible character she played in 28 movies from 1938 to 1950, died Wednesday at Sherman Oaks Hospital. She was 95.
She had suffered a stroke two weeks ago, according to her longtime friend, Dick
Sheehan. Singleton was also known to later generations as the voice of Jane Jetson in the cartoon movies and TV shows about the futuristic family. But she was most identified with her role as the wife of the bumbling Dagwood Bumstead in the movies based on the popular comic strip created by ChicYoung.
The family life of the Bumsteads and their children, Alexander (Baby Dumpling)
and Cookie, along with their dog Daisy, centered around humorous and numerous misunderstandings and mishaps concerning everything from Blondie's efforts to get Dagwood's job back (he was always getting fired, it seemed) to Blondie's efforts to start a bakery business. As Mrs. Bumstead, Singleton was constantly on call to her husband's high-pitched and plaintive cry of "Blon-deeeeeee!"
Like the Andy Hardy and Charlie Chan movies of about the same era, the "Blondie"
episodes brought audiences to movie houses two or more times a year. "For a while there, Blondie was apt to turn up on the bottom half of the bill about every other time you went to the movies," John Springer and Jack Hamilton wrote in "They Had Faces Then."
Besides her movie role as Blondie, Singleton played the character on a popular
radio program from 1939 to 1950. But by the time Blondie came to television for the first time in 1957, Singleton was almost 50 years old, and the role was given to the younger Pamela Britton.
Born Dorothy McNulty on Sept. 15, 1908, in Philadelphia,
Singleton was thedaughter of a newspaper typesetter. She began her career
at age 7 singing songs at movie houses and performed in vaudeville. "
I suppose it would be difficult for many people today to understand, but vaudeville
was the most marvelous school for a child
imaginable," she told the Cincinnati Post in 1997.
She also was a talented gymnast whose coach thought she should try out for the
Olympics, but by then she had already earned money professionally and was not
considered an amateur.
By the time she was a teenager, she was getting chorus girl and other small
roles on Broadway, including doing a number with Jack Benny in a revue called
"The Great Temptations." By 1928, she had joined a road company of "Good News,"
starring opposite Jack Haley. Back on Broadway, she also sang two numbers with
Haley-"Button Up Your Overcoat" and "I Could Give Up Anything But You"-in
While still in her 20s, she moved to Hollywood, appearing in a series of minor
roles in better movies - or sometimes better roles in minor movies - and
changing her name to Penny Singleton. She chose her first name because she had
always saved pennies; Singleton was the name of her first husband, to whom she
was married briefly.
Singleton had a role in the 1930 film version of "Good News" and in "After the
Thin Man" (1936), one of the William Powell/Myrna Loy Nick-and-Nora movies. In
the latter, Singleton, playing saucy nightclub singer Polly Byrnes, delivers
this line: "Hey, don't call me illiterate - my parents were married right here
at City Hall!"
Singleton also had a role in "Boy Meets Girl" (1938) and many other films.
By the time she was 30, she landed the role of Blondie."I was thrilled, but also
surprised," she told the Cincinnati Post in 1997. "I had been a brunette all my
She quickly bleached her hair and went on to star opposite Arthur Lake, who
played Dagwood, for the next dozen years for Columbia Studios. This remarkable run of movies began with "Blondie" and included "Blondie on a Budget" (1940), in which budding actress Rita Hayworth had a role; "Blondie for Victory" (1942), "Blondie Hits the Jackpot" and the final film in the series, "Beware of Blondie" (1950). Only in 1944, a war year, was no "Blondie" movie released. None were shorter than 64 minutes or longer than 75.
Besides Hayworth, many actors who later became well known appeared with
Singleton and Lake in supporting roles, including Robert Sterling, Bruce
Bennett, William Frawley, Jimmy Durante, ZaSu Pitts, Lloyd Bridges, Glenn Ford,
Hans Conreid and Anita Louise.
The regular characters besides the Bumsteads were Dagwood's boss, JC Dithers,
played by Jonathan Hale; the beleaguered mailman, Mr. Crumb, played by Irving
Bacon (later mailmen were Eddie Acuff and Dick Wessel); and Daisy the dog,
played by a series of cute canines. The Bumstead children were played by Larry
Simms and Marjorie Kent (also known as Marjorie Ann Mutchie). Robert Sparks, who became Singleton's second husband and to whom she was married
for 22 years until his death in 1963, produced some of the Blondie movies.
In his movie guide, critic Leonard Maltin said the first Blondies "were the best
- fresh and original, with many clever touches belying the fact that they were
low-budget films." He said that by the mid-1940s, however, the movies had become
After the Blondie franchise died out, Singleton went on the road with a
nightclub act but became mostly inactive in Hollywood. She appeared in the film
"The Best Man" in 1964 and, briefly in 1971, she replaced her old friend Ruby
Keeler in "No No Nanette" on Broadway. (As children, Singleton and Keeler had
gone to professional children's school together in New York, where their
classmates were Milton Berle and Gene Raymond).
Almost 20 years later, Singleton was the voice of Jane Jetson in the 1990 movie
about the futuristic family. She also did Jetson projects on TV, including three
movies and the series, as well as a few guest appearances on other television
After "Blondie," Singleton became active in labor unions, particularly the
American Guild of Variety Artists, to which she was elected president in 1969.
In 1966, she was a leader in the strike to get better working conditions for
Radio City Music Hall's Rockettes.
At the age of 88, Singleton said of her career, "I loved everything I did, big
or small, it didn't matter as long as it was fun and was pleasing to people."
Singleton, who had lived in Sherman Oaks for many years, is survived by her
daughters, Dorothy Henry of Sherman Oaks and Susan Sparks of Paris; two
grandchildren and a great-grandson.
11/13/03 - Tony Thompson - Tony Thompson, one of the premier session drummers of the past twenty-five years, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles of renal cell cancer at age forty-eight. The former member of Seventies disco funk band Chic, Thompson had worked with everyone from David Bowie to Madonna to Diana Ross.
Born in New York on November 15, 1954, Thompson came to prominence on the late-Seventies disco scene, thanks to his funky, rock influenced big-beat style. After sitting in with LaBelle, Thompson met Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, with whom he formed Chic in 1976. The band's 1977 debut featured the hit "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," but they became disco legends with 1978's C'est Chic, which contained the number one classic "Le Freak," as well as the rollerboogie anthem "Good Times."
"The thing that was most apparent about Tony as a drummer was his sense of inventiveness and cleverness," says Rodgers. "All three of us had roots in jazz, fusion and rock, which is why he would never think of the typical R&B drum fill . . . He just cherished those brilliant moments to sparkle."
Chic disbanded in 1983, and Thompson became an in-demand session musician, working with Debbie Harry, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, David Bowie and Madonna.
In 1985, he joined Duran Duran members Andy and John Taylor and the late Robert Palmer in the supergroup Power Station, whose hit singles "Some Like It Hot" and the T. Rex cover "Get It On (Bang a Gong)" were driven by Thompson's propulsive drumming.
A longtime rock fan, Thompson got the gig of a lifetime in 1985 when he was asked to sit in with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin when they played at the Live Aid benefit concert at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium. Thompson then joined the Zeppelin trio for some secret recording sessions in 1986. Rumors of a reunion were quashed, however, when Thompson was involved in a serious car accident later that year.
He remained a prolific session drummer throughout the late Eighties, working with Robert Palmer, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart and Jody Watley, though he was less active in the Nineties.
11/11/03 - Art Carney - NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Art Carney, best known as the awkward, endearing sidekick to Jackie Gleason in the 1950s television series "The Honeymooners," has died at age 85, a Connecticut funeral home said on Tuesday.
Carney, who lived in Westbrook, Connecticut, died on Sunday after a long
illness, according to a statement issued by the local Swan Funeral Homes Inc.
Carney had a long career in vaudeville, radio, television, Broadway and
Hollywood, but is best remembered as Ed Norton, an "underground sanitation
expert" who appeared clad in a trademark T-shirt, vest and pork-pie hat on "The
Honeymooners," a classic of early live television that has enjoyed huge
popularity in syndication.
Carney's cry of "Hey, Ralphie boy!" to co-star Gleason invariably
meant a new
misadventure -- or another get-rich-quick scheme gone awry. His good-natured
quirkiness and physical agility made him the perfect complement to Gleason's
easily frustrated, easily angered Ralph Kramden.
Broadcast live, the show had remarkable mishaps. When Gleason once missed
to enter during a live broadcast, Carney looked inside the set refrigerator,
pulled out an orange and for almost a full minute peeled it with humorous
aplomb. The moment was remembered as a classic comedy ad-lib.
Carney won the 1974 best actor Oscar for his portrayal of an aging loner
travels cross country with his cat in the film "Harry and Tonto." He also won
five Emmy awards.
Carney was born Nov. 4, 1918, in Mount Vernon, New York. He took a job as
a jazz pianist after high school but ended up on stage impersonating such
Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
He moved on to freelancing on radio serials, mysteries and dramas in the
Carney enlisted in the army and received a leg wound in France that gave him a
In 1951, Carney met Gleason while appearing on the popular variety show
"Cavalcade of Stars." There the two paired up for skits that would spin off to
become "The Honeymooners."
Privately, Carney was a shy man who fought a long battle with depression
"I'm a serious guy," he once said. "I'm not 'on' all the time,
you know, as far
as being funny at home or at parties. I tend to be more of an introvert, I
think, and I think my extrovert qualities come out in my work."
"I enjoy doing comedy," he said, "but I'm not a comedian.
... I'm an actor
that's done an awful lot of comedy."
11/10/03 - Irv Kupcinet - CHICAGO (Reuters) - Irv Kupcinet, whose column has run in the Chicago Sun-Times and its predecessors for 60 years, died on Monday, the newspaper said. He was 91.
Kupcinet, who had continued his entertainment and personality-oriented column
despite a series of illnesses in recent years, was taken to a hospital on Sunday
suffering from breathing difficulties.
He began "Kup's Column" in 1943 for the Chicago Times and continued
uninterrupted after the paper combined with the Chicago Sun in 1948.
The Sun-Times said his column was at one point syndicated in more than 100
newspapers around the world, from Europe to South America.
Kupcinet's abbreviated professional football career was ended by injury after
just two games and he turned to sportswriting, spicing his stories with personal
items about athletes that an editor suggested he expand.
He also became the Chicago Bears' longtime radio broadcaster and hosted one
the early television talk shows, "At Random," beginning in 1959. It later became
"Kup's Show" and featured local celebrities, writers and activists.
Karyn, one of his two children, was an aspiring 22-year-old actress who was
murdered in Los Angeles in 1963, a crime that remains unsolved.
11/5/03 - Dorothy Fay Ritter - Dorothy Fay Ritter, a leading lady for Buck Jones, William "Wild Bill" Elliott and other sagebrush screen heroes of the 1930s and '40s, including the man she married, singing cowboy Tex Ritter, has died. She was 88.
Ritter, the mother of the late actor John Ritter, died of natural causes
at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills,
where she had lived since 1989, her son Tom said Wednesday. She had a stroke in
Ritter's death came less than two months after that of John, who died as
result of an aortic dissection Sept. 11.
The daughter of a doctor in Prescott, Ariz., Ritter was born Dorothy Fay
Southworth on April 4, 1915.
She grew up in Prescott but spent her last year of high school at Hollywood
High. After attending USC, she studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Art in London and the Pasadena Playhouse.
As Dorothy Fay, she played opposite Buck Jones in "Law of the Texan"
first of three westerns with Jones, including the 1941 serial "White Eagle."
From 1938 to 1941, she appeared in about a dozen B-movie westerns made primarily
at Monogram and Columbia studios. She also was a featured player in the 1940
action serial "The Green Archer," starring Victor Jory, and had bit parts in
"The Philadelphia Story" and "Lady Be Good."
Boyd Magers, editor and publisher of Western Clippings, a film publication
westerns, said Dorothy Ritter was "a little more forceful" than other leading
ladies in B westerns.
"She was no shrinking violet, that's for sure," Magers said. "She
is not just
waving goodbye to the star as he rides away."
Magers said Ritter "was well thought of at the time. Part of that was
The blued-eyed and brown-haired — later blond — actress was vivacious
"She was very outgoing, very charming — the sort of person who
walks into a room
and the energy is driven to her," Tom Ritter said Wednesday, adding that "my
brother was very much his mom's son."
Dorothy Ritter made the first of four westerns with Tex Ritter, "Song
Buckaroo," in 1938. The couple married in 1941.
"I loved Tex," she said in a 1973 interview with Magers, "but
I think I enjoyed
working in westerns more with Buck Jones."
As a married couple in the 1940s, the Ritters were often photographed for
magazines on their small ranch in what was then rural Van Nuys.
"Tex and I would get requests for autographs of not only ourselves but
horse, White Flash, too," Dorothy Ritter said in the 1973 interview. "We would
put ink on the horse's hoofs and 'autograph' pictures for the fans."
Although Dorothy Ritter went on a USO tour to Southeast Asia during World
II, she gave up her show business career after marrying Tex, who became one of
the top 10 Western stars at the box office and a top-selling recording artist
who sang the haunting ballad used in "High Noon." He also was one of the six
original members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Tom Ritter said his mother did charity work for the United Cerebral Palsy
the President's Commission on Employment of People With Disabilities and other
organizations, "but she really focused on her family after she married."
When he and John were growing up, Ritter said, his parents "were very
very supportive in whatever my brother and I wanted to do." And although his
father had reservations about John's desire to go into acting, he said, "My
mother was especially supportive in the beginning."
The Ritters moved to Nashville in 1968. After Tex Ritter died of a heart
in 1974 at the age of 68, Dorothy Ritter became an official greeter at the Grand
Ole Opry. She returned to California in 1981.
It was John Ritter who contacted the London Daily Telegraph after it mistakenly
published an obituary on his mother Aug. 25, 2001, which was picked up by other
newspapers. The Daily Telegraph ran an apology five days later for publishing
what it called Dorothy Ritter's "premature obituary."
In explaining what had happened, Andrew McKie, the paper's obituaries editor,
wrote that "a member of staff at her nursing home believed her to have died
(after arriving in her room to be told that she 'had gone' — as she had, but
only to another wing of the hospital) and then phoned one of our regular
contributors who is a great friend of Mrs. Ritter."
McKie apologized, writing that "I am genuinely delighted she is still
with us —
I came to like her a lot while preparing her obituary for the page."
In addition to her son, Ritter is survived by four grandchildren.
A private funeral service is being held today in Prescott. A memorial service
the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home is pending.
11/5/03 - Bobby Hatfield - DETROIT - Bobby
Hatfield, whose soaring tenor blended with partner Bill Medley's
silken baritone to create the "blue-eyed soul" of the Righteous Brothers, has
died in a Kalamazoo hotel, his manager said. He was 63.
Hatfield's body was discovered in his bed Wednesday evening, 30 minutes before
the duo was to perform at Miller Auditorium on the Western Michigan University
campus, manager David Cohen said.
The duo, whose 42-year career featured pop standbys like "Unchained
"(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," were
in Kalamazoo to kick off a four-day series of performances in Michigan and Ohio.
"It's a shock, a real shock," Cohen said during a telephone interview. Medley,
he said, was "broken up. He's not even coherent."
The cause of death was unknown. Hatfield's body was taken to Lansing, where
autopsy was to be performed, Joe Hakim, an executive with the Radisson Plaza
Hotel in Kalamazoo, told the Kalamazoo Gazette.
The duo's signature 1965 single, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling,"
cited by numerous sources as the most-programmed song in American radio history.
The inclusion of their songs in films such as "Top Gun," "Ghost" and "Dirty
Dancing" repeatedly re-established the Righteous brand.
Earlier this year, singer Billy Joel (news) inducted Hatfield and Medley
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"Sometimes people with blue eyes transcended the limitations of what
and culture can actually be," Joel said. "Sometimes white people can actually be
soulful. This was a life-changing idea. It changed my life."
Robert Lee Hatfield was born Aug. 10, 1940, in Beaver Dam, Wis. His family
to Anaheim, Calif., when he was 4. Hatfield organized singing and instrumental
groups in high school while helping his parents with their dry cleaning
An avid athlete, Hatfield considered a career in professional baseball, but
found his true calling in music — a love he pursued while attending Long Beach
State University, where he formed a band and performed at bars and proms.
Hatfield teamed up with Medley in 1962 as part of a five-piece group called
Paramours. According to the Righteous Brothers Web site, a black Marine called
out during one of their performances, "That was righteous, brothers!"
They renamed themselves the Righteous Brothers before the release of their
album in 1963.
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," produced by Phil Spector in
"wall-of-sound" fashion, was released months after British rock 'n' roll was
beginning to dominate U.S. record charts and airwaves.
"We had no idea if it would be a hit," Medley once said. "It
was too slow, too
long and right in the middle of the Beatles and the British Invasion."
The performing rights organization BMI, however, has tallied about 8 million
radio plays of the song.
After splitting up in 1968, the duo reunited in 1974 and returned to the
the charts with "Rock and Roll Heaven." They performed sporadically, then went
through another career revival in 1982.
Hatfield and Medley in later years routinely went on the road for 60 to 80
a year in addition to 12-week stints in Las Vegas, where they had found work as
a lounge act during the dawn of their careers in 1962.
Note from the Underground - Bobby Hatfield
was laid to rest at Pacific View Memorial Park, Newport Beach, CA. Thanks
to Underground Member Kim Eazell of GravesRUs.com.
10/27/03 - Rod Roddy - LOS ANGELES (AP)
-- Rod Roddy, the flashy-dressed announcer on "The Price is
Right" whose booming, jovial voice invited lucky audience members to "Come on
down!" for nearly 20 years, died Monday. He was believed to be 66.
Roddy, who suffered from colon and breast cancer, died at Century City Hospital,
according to his longtime agent, Don Pitts. He had been hospitalized for two
"He had such a strong spirit. He just wouldn't give up," Pitts said Monday.
Roddy had been ill for more than two years but continued to work as much
possible and for as long as he could, said Bob Barker, host of "The Price is
Right." Roddy had been with the game show for 17 years.
"We all admired his courage," Barker said last week. "He was
always upbeat and
Note from the Underground - Rod Roddy was laid to rest at an unknown location in Texas. Thanks to Underground member, Lisa Burks, for that information.
10/22/03 - Fred "Rerun" Berry - LOS ANGELES - Fred Berry, the bulb-shaped, squeaky-voiced actor famous for playing red-beret-wearing Rerun on the 1970s TV sitcom "What's Happening!" has died at age 52, police said Wednesday.
Berry died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles of apparent natural causes,
Officer Jason Lee said. The county coroner was investigating the exact nature of
the death, but friends said Berry had been in ill health due to a recent stroke.
He wore his red beret and suspenders in real life, and it was unclear whether he
originally brought his own style to the character of Rerun or whether he was
forever mimicking the character that made him famous.
Rerun was a 1970s version of latter-day goofball TV characters like Steve
from "Family Matters": loud, a little whiny, a little dim and definitely geeky.
"What's Happening!", which ran from 1976-1979, focused on three teenage friends
— Rerun, Raj and Dwayne — who learn about life, women and trouble while growing up in Los Angeles.
Among the more famous episodes was one in which Rerun joined a bizarre cult
another in which he got busted for making bootlegged tapes of a Doobie Brothers
The name Rerun, according to Berry, referred to the character's brainlessness:
In the summer, he had to rerun all the classes he failed during the school year.
Berry's success on the show was clouded by his heavy use of marijuana and
cocaine. "There were dealers right there in the studio, people that worked
there," he said in 1996. "In the '70s, it was like that on a lot of TV shows. It
was the Hollywood lifestyle then. Everybody was doing it."
By the time "What's Happening!" ended, Berry said he had blown
more than a
million dollars on drugs, cars, homes and an airplane. With no acting jobs
heading his way, Berry tried to live off his fame by charging to appear at
Even later in life, he was still cashing in: lately, he earned money by calling
fans on the telephone with the service www.HollywoodIsCalling.com. About $30
would earn a fan a 30 second call.
Berry's love life was another complication. He married a dancer while in
20s, and the two divorced, remarried and divorced again. Berry repeated that
performance with his second wife, whom he married and divorced twice (most
recently in 1991). He also married and divorced two other women.
Rerun brought Berry another brief moment of success in 1985, when "What's
Happening!" was revived as the syndicated "What's Happening Now!" Berry quit in
a contract dispute after the first season and the show ended in 1987.
By 1986, Berry says, he abandoned drugs and started to speak at churches,
schools and other groups, finally working as a minister in Madison, Ala., at the
New Shiloh Church Ministry.
He was still dabbling in show business. Berry recently appeared on the TV
"Star Dates" on the E! Entertainment Network, MTV's "Doggy Fizzle Televizzle"
with Snoop Dogg and in a cameo role in the David Spade ( news ) comedy film
"Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star."
10/12/03 - Bill Shoemaker - SAN MARINO,
Calif. - Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker, who rode four Kentucky
Derby winners and was a commanding presence in thoroughbred racing for more than
40 years, died Sunday. He was 72.
Shoemaker died in his sleep at his suburban home near Santa Anita racetrack,
according to longtime friend and trainer Paddy Gallagher. Gallagher, an
assistant during Shoemaker's training career, said doctors told him Shoemaker
died of natural causes.
He had been paralyzed from the neck down since a car accident in 1991.
It was the second major death in horse racing this year. Johnny Longden,
the Triple Crown aboard Count Fleet in 1943 and was the only jockey to ride and
train a Kentucky Derby winner, died in February at 96.
Shoemaker broke Longden's record of 6,032 career victories in 1970 and held
until Laffit Pincay Jr. broke Shoemaker's mark of 8,833 wins in 1999.
"He was one of the greatest human beings I have ever had the pleasure
in my life," said retired jockey Chris McCarron, now general manager of Santa
Anita. "Forget about his ability to communicate with horses, his compassion for
people was second to none."
Only 4-foot-11, the athlete known simply as "The Shoe" throughout
rode for 41 years, most of them in Southern California, considered to be the
most competitive circuit in America.
"For a man his size, wearing a size 2 1/2 shoe, he was a giant,"
retired Hall of
Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye said.
Shoemaker broke his neck when he veered off the highway in his Ford Bronco
suburban Los Angeles, tumbled down an embankment and rolled. He had been
drinking after playing golf and police said his blood-alcohol level was twice
the legal limit. He sued Ford and won a multimillion-dollar settlement.
He continued training horses for another six years despite being in a
wheelchair. He operated the chair by turning his head and breathing into a tube.
"I knew the last couple of years he was having problems," said Delahoussaye, who
last spoke with Shoemaker four days ago. "Shoe never let on. He was a quiet guy,
he kept a lot of things to himself. He never complained."
Pincay, who was forced to retire after breaking his neck in March, called
Shoemaker last week and told him about a trip Pincay had taken to New York to
help find a cure for paralysis.
"I told him how close they were to finding a cure and he was very excited
sounded happy about it," Pincay said Sunday. "I know he wasn't happy in that
wheelchair, but he never complained."
In 1986, at age 54, he became the oldest jockey to win a Kentucky Derby when
guided Ferdinand along a small opening on the rail in a ride considered one of
the greatest ever.
That win came 21 years after his previous Derby win, aboard Lucky Debonair
1965. He won America's most famous race four times, including in 1959 with Tomy
Lee and 1955 with Swaps.
Perhaps his most famous Derby ride was one he lost, in 1957.
Dueling toward the finish line at Churchill Downs were Gallant Man, ridden
Shoemaker, and Iron Liege, ridden by Bill Hartack.
At the sixteenth pole, Shoemaker stood up, mistaking it for the finish line.
sat back down immediately but Gallant Man lost by a nose. He received a 15-day
suspension from the stewards for the rule violation.
The night before, Gallant Man's owner, Ralph Lowe, told Shoemaker he had a dream
about a jockey on one of his horses misjudging the finish line. Shoemaker
insisted it wouldn't happen to him. Afterward, Lowe found no fault and gave
Shoemaker $5,000 and a new car.
"I didn't make any excuses," Shoemaker said in his 1987 book "Shoemaker:
America's Greatest Jockey."
Five weeks later, Shoemaker rode Gallant Man to an eight-length victory in the
Besides four Derby victories, Shoemaker won two Preakness Stakes, five Belmont
Stakes and rode Ferdinand to a victory over Alysheba in the 1987 Breeders' Cup
Classic to capture Horse of the Year honors.
His last race was Feb. 3, 1990, after a yearlong tour of racetracks in North
America to exhibit his skill to fans who had never seen him. A crowd of 64,573
showed up at Santa Anita to see him and his mount, Patchy Groundfog, finish
fourth in a nationally televised race.
All told, Shoemaker rode in a record 40,350 races.
Shoemaker's riding style of sitting almost still on a horse was emulated by
generations of jockeys. His former wife, Cindy, said watching him ride was "like
listening to a pretty song or reading poetry."
Known mostly as Willie, Shoemaker was only 2 pounds when he was born in Fabens,
Texas, on Aug. 19, 1931. He was so small he was kept as an infant in a shoebox
near a fire to stay warm.
He boxed and wrestled in high school but decided to become a jockey because of
his size. He dropped out of school to ride for $75 a month plus room and board
at a La Puente, Calif., horse ranch.
He won his first race April 20, 1949, at Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco;
his final victory came nearly 41 years later, on Jan. 20, 1990.
Shoemaker loved to ride — at any time.
In 1965, he was returning to his hotel from a party at 4:30 a.m. on the day of
the Kentucky Derby when a friend suggested they go to Churchill Downs and that
Shoemaker work out a horse the friend had stabled there.
He did, wearing a tuxedo, then 12 hours later rode Lucky Debonair to his third
After retirement, Shoemaker was emphatic when asked if he missed riding.
"No, I went 40 years," he said. "That's long enough. It's time to do something
Two days after being released from a hospital where he underwent rehabilitation
after the 1991 car accident, Shoemaker returned to act as a trainer at Santa
Anita. He retired from training in 1997, after winning 90 races and nearly $3.7
He is survived by his former wife and only child, 23-year-old Amanda.
Funeral arrangements were pending
10/5/03 - Wally George - LOS ANGELES (Reuters)
- Wally George, the feisty talk-show host whose
conservative southern California program pioneered high-volume "combat TV," has
died at age 71, his TV station said on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for KDOC, an independent over-the-air station that broadcasts
Los Angeles and Orange counties, said George died on Sunday of pneumonia at a
local hospital. He had been ill with cancer, she said.
George, the father of actress Rebecca De Mornay (news), called his style
broadcasting "combat TV" and was known for berating and belittling people who
did not agree with his conservative views.
KDOC is working on a tribute show for George scheduled to air this Saturday,
spokeswoman said, adding that no decision has been made about airing reruns of
the show beyond that.
Note from the Underground - Wally George was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, Ca. Thanks to Underground member Kim Eazell of GravesRUs.com for the info.
10/3/03 - Florence Stanley - LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actress
Florence Stanley, who launched her career on Broadway
and was a regular on television shows including "Barney Miller," has died of
complications of a stroke. She was 79.
Stanley died Oct. 3 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said her husband, Martin
She appeared on Broadway in "Fiddler on The Roof," "The Prisoner
Avenue" and was in the Manhattan Theater Club's "What's Wrong with This
Picture?" before heading to Hollywood.
Her TV appearances include Judge Margaret Wilbur on "My Two Dads"
Fish on "Barney Miller," as well as numerous guest roles on shows including
"Dharma & Greg" last year.
Stanley had film roles in this year's "Down With Love" and was
voice of Wilhelmina Packard in the 2001 animated film "Atlantis: The Lost
Born in Chicago, Stanley graduated from Northwestern University.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by two children and two
9/30/03 Robert Kardashian - LOS ANGELES
- Robert Kardashian, a lawyer who was an important figure in the
O.J. Simpson saga, has died. He was 59.
Kardashian died Tuesday night at his Encino home eight weeks after being
diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, said his ex-wife, Kris Jenner, who is
married to Olympic champion Bruce Jenner.
Simpson, a former football star the University of Southern California and
National Football League, camped out at Kardashian's house in the days after
Simpson's ex-wife and her friend were stabbed to death in 1994. The infamous
televised chase involving Simpson in a white Ford Bronco that transfixed the
country began after he fled Kardashian's home.
Kardashian was surrounded by his family, including his four children, when
died, said Kris Jenner, the mother of his children.
"I will always remember him as the world's greatest father, whose first
in his life was his kids," she said Wednesday. "He will be lovingly missed by
his children and friends."
Kardashian married Ellen Pierson about six weeks ago, his former wife said.
Kardashian, a member of Simpson's defense team, said in a 1996 interview
ABC's "20-20" that he questioned Simpson's innocence.
"I have doubts. The blood evidence is the biggest thorn in my side;
me the greatest problems. So I _ I struggle with the blood evidence."
Kardashian, who knew Simpson for 25 years, also described him in the interview
as a spoiled athlete and confirmed earlier reports that Simpson badly failed a
lie detector test shortly after the slayings.
Simpson was acquitted in the slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson,
her friend, Ronald Goldman, but was found liable for the killings in a later
civil trial and ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.
Kardashian is survived by his wife and daughters, Kourtney, 24, Kimberly,
Khloe, 19, and a son, Robert, 16.
9/29/03 - Elia Kazan - NEW YORK - Director Elia Kazan, whose triumphs included the original Broadway productions of ''Death of a Salesman'' and ''A Streetcar Named Desire,'' and the Academy Award-winning film ''On the Waterfront,'' died Sunday. He was 94.
Kazan was at his home in Manhattan when he died, lawyer Floria Lasky said. She did not give a cause of death.
''A genius left us,'' said Lasky. ''He was one of the greats.''
Five of the plays he staged won Pulitzer Prizes for their authors: ''The Skin of Our Teeth,'' ''A Streetcar Named Desire,'' ''Death of a Salesman,'' ''Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'' and ''J.B.,'' for which Kazan himself won a Tony Award. Other stage credits included ''Camino Real,'' ''Sweet Bird of Youth'' and ''Tea and Sympathy.''
In Hollywood, he won Oscars for directing ''Gentleman's Agreement'' and ''On the Waterfront.'' He also did ''A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,'' the film version of ''Streetcar,'' ''East of Eden,'' ''Splendor in the Grass,'' ''A Face in the Crowd'' and ''The Last Tycoon.''
He turned to writing in his 50s and produced six novels - including several best sellers - and an autobiography. The first two novels, ''America, America'' and ''The Arrangement,'' he also made into movies.
''Even when I was a boy I wanted to live three or four lives,'' he once said.
To some, Kazan diminished his stature when he went before the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the McCarthy era and named people he said had been members of the Communist Party with him in the mid-1930s.
But he insisted years later that he bore no guilt as a result of what some saw as a betrayal. ''There's a normal sadness about hurting people, but I'd rather hurt them a little than hurt myself a lot,'' he said.
In early 1999, leaders of the motion picture academy announced they would give Kazan a special Academy Award for his life's work. The decision reopened wounds and touched off a painful controversy.
On awards night, some in the audience withheld applause, though others gave him a warm reception. Director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro presented the award.
''I thank you very much. I really like to hear that and I want to thank the Academy for its courage, generosity,'' Kazan said.
He started out as a stage actor but his ambition was to direct, which he began doing in the mid-1930s. The breakthrough came when he staged Thornton Wilder's ''The Skin of Our Teeth'' in 1942 and won a New York Drama Critics Award.
He first teamed with Arthur Miller to direct ''All My Sons'' and went on to do ''Death of a Salesman,'' which one critic termed ''as exciting and devastating a theatrical blast as the nerves of modern playgoers can stand.''
His Broadway collaboration with Tennessee Williams began with ''Streetcar'' in 1947 and later included ''Camino Real,'' ''Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'' and ''Sweet Bird of Youth.''
''He approaches a play more critically than anyone I know; you find yourself doing more revisions for him than for any other director,'' Williams once said.
Kazan, Lee Strasberg and other Group Theatre alumni founded the Actors Studio in 1948, which became a sort of spiritual home for theater people. Actors liked Kazan's approach to directing.
''Some directors regard actors as a necessary evil; others, as children to be handled,'' actress Mildred Dunnock once said, adding that Kazan treated actors ''like an equal. Once he casts you, he makes you confident.''
Kazan left Broadway and the Actors Studio in 1962 to co-direct, with Robert Whitehead, the Lincoln Center Repertory Company. He resigned after two disastrous seasons, saying he was ''not an administrator by taste.''
His friendship with Miller was never the same after his congressional testimony. Kazan talked with Miller before he testified, and Miller later wrote in his journal about a side of his friend that he had not seen before: ''He would have sacrificed me as well.''
Kazan told the committee that he had joined a unit of the Communist Party made up of members of the Group Theatre in the summer of 1934 and left 18 months later, disillusioned at ''being told what to think and say and do.''
Playwright Clifford Odets, actress Phoebe Brand and Paula Miller, Strasberg's actress-wife, were among the eight he identified as communists.
He defended his naming names on the ground that all were already known to the committee; others have said that at least half were not.
Some critics saw in as a subtext of ''On the Waterfront'' a justification for Kazan's decision to cooperate with congressional Red hunters. The movie's hero, portrayed by Marlon Brando, breaks the code of silence on the docks and courageously fingers a corrupt, murderous union boss in televised hearings.
In his 1988 autobiography, an 848-page tome titled ''Elia Kazan - A Life,'' Kazan wrote candidly of the many affairs he had over the years, including one with Marilyn Monroe.
''The affairs I've had were sources of knowledge; they were my education,'' he wrote. ''For many years, in this area and only in this area, I've used the lie, and I'm not proud of that. But I must add this: My 'womanizing' saved my life. It kept the juices pumping and saved me from drying up, turning to dust and blowing away.''
Kazan once said he turned to writing because ''I wanted to say exactly what I felt. I like to say what I feel about things directly and no matter whose play you direct or how sympathetic you are to the playwright, what you finally are trying to do is interpret his view of life. ... When I speak for myself I get a tremendous sense of liberation.''
Born Elia Kazanjoglous on Sept. 7, 1909, in what was then Constantinople, Turkey, he was the son of a Greek rug merchant. The family came to New York when Kazan was 4 and he grew up in a Greek neighborhood in Harlem and later suburban New Rochelle.
He went to Williams College, where he picked up the nickname Gadget - ''I guess because I was small, compact and eccentric,'' he once said. Shortened to Gadge, it was a name that stuck - and one that he came to loathe.
During his senior year he saw Sergei Eisenstein's film ''Potemkin'' and focused on the performing arts. After graduating with high honors, he attended the Yale University Drama School, then joined the Group Theatre in New York in 1933.
Kazan, a short, stocky intense man, preferred casual dress and was direct in social dealings.
''Gadge is the kind of man who sends a suit out to be cleaned and rumpled,'' actress Vivien Leigh once remarked. ''He doesn't believe in social amenities and, if he is bored by any individual or group, he simply departs without apology or explanation.''
Kazan married three times. With first wife Molly Day Thatcher he had four
children, Judy, Chris, Nick and Katharine. After her death he married Barbara
Loden and they had two sons, Leo and Marco. She died of cancer in 1967; in
1982 he married Frances Rudge.
9/27/03 - Donald O'Connor - LOS ANGELES - Entertainer Donald O'Connor, who combined comedy and acrobatics in the show-stopping "Make 'Em Laugh" number in the classic movie "Singin' in the Rain," died Saturday, his daughter said. He was 78.
O'Connor, who had been in declining health in recent years, died of heart failure at a retirement home in Calabasas, his daughter, Alicia O'Connor, told The Associated Press.
In a brief statement, the family said that among O'Connor's last words was the following quip: "I'd like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get."
O'Connor won an Emmy, but never an Oscar. He was best known for films he made in the 1950s - a series of highly successful "Francis the Talking Mule" comedies and movie musicals that put his song and dance talents to good use.
"He was such a fine man and was one of the great ones," actor Tony Curtis said Saturday.
Songs in movie musicals are often touching or exciting, but O'Connor performed a rare feat with a number that were laugh-out-loud funny.
The best, 1952's "Singin' in the Rain," also starred Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds and took a satirical look at Hollywood during the transition from silent to sound pictures.
As he sings "Make 'Em Laugh," O'Connor dances with a prop dummy and performs all manner of amusing acrobatics.
"Someone handed me a dummy that was on the stage," he recalled in a 1995 Associated Press interview. "That was the only prop I used. I did a pratfall and we wrote that down. Every time I did something that got a laugh, we wrote it down to keep in the number."
The American Film Institute's list of the top 100 American movies ever made ranked "Singin' in the Rain" at No. 10.
"He was incredible, a consummate performer. Always entertaining, always talking, always laughing," said Tim Fowlar his musical director for 30 years. "He loved to perform and that's pretty much all he knew."
Among O'Connor's other '50s musicals were "Call Me Madam," "Anything Goes" and "There's No Business Like Show Business."
He said it was a fluke that he landed in so many musicals, noting he started out as a "straight" actor. He also said his song-and-dance image came with a downside.
"Back then, when you were typecast that way, it was very difficult to get dramatic parts," he recalled. "Look at Fred Astaire, who was a darn good actor."
The "Francis" comedies, which featured a bumbling O'Connor and a talking mule, began in 1949. A few years later, the man who directed them created the "Mr. Ed" TV series.
O'Connor quit the "Francis" series in 1955, saying, "When you've made six pictures and the mule still gets more fan mail than you do .."
O'Connor also had some success in television. He won an Emmy for "The Colgate Comedy Hour" in 1954 and appeared in "The Donald O'Connor Texaco Show" from 1954 to 1955.
Born in Chicago to circus performers who went into vaudeville, O'Connor joined his family's act when he was an infant. He made his film debut at age 11 in a dancing scene with two of his brothers in "Melody for Two."
As a contract actor for Paramount, he played adolescent roles in several films, including Huckleberry Finn in "Tom Sawyer - Detective" (1938). He was Bing Crosby's kid brother in "Sing You Sinners" (1938), which he later ranked among his favorite roles.
When he grew too big for child roles, he briefly returned to vaudeville, but was soon back in Hollywood playing high-energy juvenile leads opposite such actresses as Gloria Jean and Susanna Foster.
In recent years, he continued working when he found a project he liked, such as appearing in an episode of "Tales From the Crypt."
But he said he had little desire to leave home for long stretches. He and his wife had moved to Arizona after their California home was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
"Revivals are so popular now. But doing one would mean being out in cold, cold New York for a year, a year and a half," he said. "I'd rather do something where I go in and work a week, maybe three days. Get it done and come back home."
9/26/03 - Robert Palmer - LONDON (AP) - Rock singer Robert Palmer, known for his sharp suits and hits including "Addicted to Love," died Friday in Paris of a heart attack, his manager said. He was 54.
Palmer was on a two-day break in Paris following a television recording session in Britain, his manager Mick Carter said from the French capital.
In the 1980s, Palmer became a superstar with singles which also included "Simply Irresistible" - accompanied by slick videos featuring the smartly dressed Palmer with a back-up band of attractive women, all in black outfits and glossy makeup.
A side project, Power Station, formed in 1985 with John Taylor and Andy Taylor of '80s supergroup Duran Duran, scored three U.S. Top 10 hits, including "Communication" and "Get it On."
The son of a British naval officer, Palmer was a member of several British rock bands before he hit the big time as a solo artist.He had lived in Switzerland for the past 16 years.
Known for his GQ sense of style, Palmer was named best dressed male artist by Rolling Stone in 1990.
The "Addicted to Love" video, with its miniskirted models strumming guitars as Palmer sang, became one of MTV's most-played clips, and sparked protests from some feminists.
"I'm not going to attach inappropriate significance to it because at the time it meant nothing. It's just happened to become an iconic look," Palmer once said of the video.
He had his first hit album and single, "Sneakin' Sally through the Alley," in 1974.
In his 20s, Palmer worked with a number of small-time bands including Dada, Vinegar Joe, and the Alan Bown Band, occasionally appearing in opening acts for big draw including The Who and Jimi Hendrix.
Palmer once confessed that he was not attracted to the excesses of rock 'n' roll stardom.
"I loved the music, but the excesses of rock 'n' roll never really appealed to me at all," he said. "I couldn't see the point of getting up in front of a lot of people when you weren't in control of your wits."
He was noted for dressing up and being somewhat restrained.
"I don't want to be heavy," he said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
"I can't think of another attitude to have toward an audience than a hopeful and a positive one. And if that includes such unfashionable things as sentimentality, well, I can afford it."
9/25/03 - George Plimpton - George Plimpton, the self-deprecating author of "Paper Lion" and a patron to Philip Roth, Jack Kerouac and countless other writers, has died. He was 76.
Plimpton died Thursday night at his Manhattan apartment, his longtime friend, restauranteur Elaine Kaufman, said Friday.
"I saw him the other day. He was full of energy," said Kaufman, who said she had known Plimpton for 40 years. "He was talking about a trip he took with his family to the tip of South America."
Praised as a "central figure in American letters" when inducted in 2002 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Plimpton also enjoyed a lifetime of making literature out of nonliterary pursuits.He boxed with Archie Moore, pitched to Willie Mays and performed as a trapeze artist for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. He acted in numerous films, including "Reds" and "Good Will Hunting." He even appeared in an episode of "The Simpsons," playing a professor who runs a spelling bee.
But writers appreciated Plimpton for The Paris Review, the quarterly he helped found nearly in 1953 and ran for decades with eager passion. The magazine's high reputation rested on two traditions: publishing the work of emerging authors, including Roth and Kerouac, and an unparalleled series of interviews in which Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and others discussed their craft.
The Paris Review remained more respected than read. The subscription base was rarely higher than a few thousand and the bank account seemed to descend at will. At one point in 2001, Plimpton reported, funds dropped to $1.16. Donations from various wealthy friends kept it going.
Plimpton proved all too effective at praising others at the expense of himself. Until 2002, when he turned 75, his highest honor was being named New York City fireworks commissioner, a position that didn't officially exist. But within a month of the academy induction, the French made him a Chevalier, the Legion of Honor's highest rank. The Guild, an arts organization based on Long Island, gave him a lifetime achievement award.
In 2003, Plimpton decided to write his memoirs, signing a $750,000 deal with Little, Brown and Co.
A native of New York, Plimpton held the parallel identities of insider and outsider. He was born into society - diplomat's son - and spoke in an upper-class accent worthy of a Harvard man.
But the public knew him better as an amiable underdog, stumbling amid the feet of the giants of sports and other professions. Much of his career served as a send-up of Hemingway's famous credo: "Grace Under Pressure."
Starting in the 1950s, when he began his vocation as a "participatory" journalist, he practiced the singular art of narrating panic. In a culture where millions fantasized about being movie stars or sports heroes, the lanky, wavy-haired Plimpton dared to enter the arena himself, with results both comic and instructive.
In "Paper Lion," he documented his time training with the Detroit Lions in 1963. Allowed briefly to play quarterback, he remembered the crowd cheering as he left the field after a series of mishaps.
"I thought about the applause afterward. Some of it was, perhaps, in appreciation of the lunacy of my participation and for the fortitude it took to do it," he wrote, "but most of it, even if subconscious, I decided was in relief that I had done as badly as I had.
"It verified the assumption that the average fan would have about an amateur blundering into the brutal world of professional football. He would get slaughtered. ... The outsider did not belong, and there was comfort in that being proved."
His other books included "Bogey Man," "Out of My League" and "Shadow Box." Plimpton could also take credit for at least one memorable fictional character: Sidd Finch, a baseball pitcher of unprecedented gifts (168 mph fastball) and unlikely background (reared in the mountains of Tibet) portrayed so vividly by Plimpton in a 1985 Sports Illustrated article that many believed he existed.
He seemed to know everyone: athletes, actors, musicians, statesmen. He had deep connections to the political world, dating back to childhood, when Adlai Stevenson - the two-time presidential nominee - was a family friend and Jacqueline Kennedy a debutante he would see at dances. Robert Kennedy was a classmate at Harvard.
Plimpton maintained a light touch in his work, but he knew tragedy firsthand. He served as a volunteer for Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential run and was walking in front of him as the candidate was assassinated in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel.
"I had my hands around his neck," he recalled in a 2002 interview with The Associated Press, referring to gunman Sirhan Sirhan, whom he helped wrestle to the ground. Plimpton turned his head away as he spoke, his clear voice turned foggy.
He sailed with John Kennedy, played tennis with former President Bush and rode on Air Force One with President Clinton. He witnessed a baffling encounter between Richard Nixon and Casey Stengel, when the president wanted to talk baseball and the former baseball manager wanted to discuss banking.
Sports was the common bond between Plimpton and politicians. He knew the current President Bush from his days as owner of the Texas Rangers and chatted with him shortly after Election Day 2000, when the outcome was still in doubt.
"He wanted to talk about Sidd Finch," Plimpton recalled. "I thought that was rather odd."
Plimpton was married twice: to Freddy Medora Espy, whom he divorced in 1988, and to Sara Whitehead Dudley. He had four children.
9/22/03 - Gordon Jump - LOS ANGELES - Gordon Jump, who played a befuddled radio station manager on the sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati" and made his mark in commercials as the lonely Maytag repairman, died Monday. He was 71.
Jump suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, said his cousin, Katherine Jump Wagner. The illness causes scarring of the air sacs of the lungs, leading to heart or respiratory failure.
Wagner, of Arcanum, Ohio, said she learned of her cousin's death from her father, also named Gordon Jump. Her cousin was under hospice care at his home southeast of Los Angeles, she said.
Jump played Arthur Carlson in "WKRP in Cincinnati," which aired on CBS from 1978-82 and featured Gary Sandy, Loni Anderson, Tim Reid, Howard Hesseman and Richard Sanders as the ragtag station's crew.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Jump began his career working at radio and TV stations in the Midwest. He worked behind the microphone and the camera, including jobs as a producer for Kansas and Ohio stations.
Jump portrayed the Maytag repairman "Ol' Lonely," a well-recognized advertising symbol, from 1989 until he retired from the role in July and another actor took over.
"Gordon was an incredibly talented actor and a remarkable human being," said Ralph Hake, chairman and chief executive officer of Maytag Corp.
Jump came to appreciate the attention he got for the ad campaign and the steady work it provided, Wagner said. But his heart was elsewhere professionally.
"What he loved more than anything was doing theater. He was a marvelous actor," she said, recalling a visit to Florida to watch him perform in "Norman, Is That You?"
Jump began his Hollywood career after moving to Los Angeles in 1963, appearing on series including "Daniel Boone," "Get Smart" and "The Partridge Family."
His dramatic roles included a part in the TV movie "Ruby and Oswald," about the assassination of President Kennedy, and "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes."
Jump is survived by his wife, four daughters and a son, Maytag said in a statement. He also had a brother, Wagner said.
Note from the Underground - Gordon Jump was laid to rest at El Toro Memorial Park, El Toro, CA. Thanks to Underground member Kim Eazell for GravesRUs.com for the info.
9/12/03 - Johnny Cash - NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 12) - Johnny Cash, ''The Man in Black'' who became a towering figure in American music with such hits as ''Folsom Prison Blues,'' ''I Walk the Line,'' and ''A Boy Named Sue,'' died Friday. He was 71.
''Johnny died due to complications from diabetes, which resulted in respiratory failure,'' Cash's manager, Lou Robin, said in a statement issued by Baptist Hospital in Nashville.
He said Cash died at the hospital at 1 a.m. EDT.
''I hope that friends and fans of Johnny will pray for the Cash family to find comfort during this very difficult time,'' Robin said.
Cash had been released from the hospital Wednesday after a two-week stay for treatment of an unspecified stomach ailment. The illness caused him to miss last month's MTV Music awards, where he had been nominated in seven categories.
Cash had battled a disease of the nervous system, autonomic neuropathy, and pneumonia in recent years.
Dozens of hit records like ''Folsom Prison Blues,'' ''I Walk the Line,'' and ''Sunday Morning Coming Down'' defined Cash's persona: a haunted, dignified, resilient spokesman for the working man and downtrodden.
Cash's deeply lined face fit well with his unsteady voice, which was limited in range but used to great effect to sing about prisoners, heartaches, and tales of everyday life. He wrote much of his own material, and was among the first to record the songs of Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson.
''One Piece at a Time'' was about an assembly line worker who built a car out of parts stolen from his factory. ''A Boy Named Sue'' was a comical story of a father who gives his son a girl's name to make him tough. ''The Ballad of Ira Hayes'' told of the drunken death of an American Indian soldier who helped raise the American flag at Iwo Jima during World War II, but returned to harsh racism in America.
Cash said in his 1997 autobiography ''Cash'' that he tried to speak for ''voices that were ignored or even suppressed in the entertainment media, not to mention the political and educational establishments.''
Cash's career spanned generations, with each finding something of value in his simple records, many of which used his trademark rockabilly rhythm.
Cash was a peer of Elvis Presley when rock 'n' roll was born in Memphis in the 1950s, and he scored hits like ''Cry! Cry! Cry!'' during that era. He had a longtime friendship and recorded with Dylan, who has cited Cash as a major influence.
He won 11 Grammys - most recently in 2003, when ''Give My Love To Rose'' earned him honors as best male country vocal performance - and numerous Country Music Association awards. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
His second wife, June Carter Cash, and daughter Roseanne Cash also were successful singers. June Carter Cash, who co-wrote Cash's hit ''Ring of Fire'' and partnered with her husband in hits such as ''Jackson,'' died in May.
The late 1960s and '70s were Cash's peak commercial years, and he was host of his own ABC variety show from 1969-71. In later years, he was part of the Highwayman supergroup with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kristofferson.
In the 1990s, he found a new artistic life recording with rap and hard rock producer Rick Rubin on the label American Recordings. And he was back on the charts with the 2002 album ''American IV: The Man Comes Around.''
Most recently, Cash was recognized for his cover of the Nine Inch Nails song ''Hurt'' with seven nominations at last month's MTV Video Music Awards. He had hoped to attend the event but couldn't because of his hospital stay. The video won for best cinematography.
He also wrote books including two autobiographies, and acted in films and television shows.
In his 1971 hit ''Man in Black,'' Cash said his black clothing symbolized the downtrodden people in the world. Cash had been ''The Man in Black'' since he joined the Grand Ole Opry at age 25.
''Everybody was wearing rhinestones, all those sparkle clothes and cowboy boots,'' he said in 1986. ''I decided to wear a black shirt and pants and see if I could get by with it. I did and I've worn black clothes ever since.''
John R. Cash was born Feb. 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Ark., one of seven children. When he was 12, his 14-year-old brother and hero, Jack, died after an accident while sawing oak trees into fence posts. The tragedy had a lasting impact on Cash, and he later pointed to it as a possible reason his music was frequently melancholy.
He worked as a custodian and enlisted in the Air Force, learning guitar while stationed in Germany, before launching his music career after his 1954 discharge.
''All through the Air Force, I was so lonely for those three years,'' Cash told The Associated Press during a 1996 interview. ''If I couldn't have sung all those old country songs, I don't think I could have made it.''
Cash launched his career in Memphis, performing on radio station KWEM. He auditioned with Sun Records, ultimately recording the single ''Hey Porter,'' which became a hit.
Sun Records also launched the careers of Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and others.
''Folsom Prison Blues,'' went to No. 4 on the country charts in 1956, and featured Cash's most famous couplet: ''I shot a man in Reno/ just to watch him die.''
Cash recorded theme albums celebrating the railroads and the Old West, and decrying the mistreatment of American Indians. Two of his most popular albums were recorded live at prisons. Along the way he notched 14 No. 1 country music hits.
Because of Cash's frequent performances in prisons and his rowdy lifestyle early in his career, many people wrongly thought he had served prison time. He never did, though he battled addictions to pills on and off throughout his life.
He blamed fame for his vulnerability to drug addiction.
''When I was a kid, I always knew I'd sing on the radio someday. I never thought about fame until it started happening to me,'' he said in 1988. ''Then it was hard to handle. That's why I turned to pills.''
He credited June Carter Cash, whom he married in 1968, with helping him stay off drugs, though he had several relapses over the years and was treated at the Betty Ford Center in California in 1984.
June Carter Cash was the daughter of country music great Mother Maybelle Carter, and the mother of singer Carlene Carter, whose father was country singer Carl Smith. Together, June Carter and Cash had one child, John Carter Cash. He is a musician and producer.
Singer Rosanne Cash is Johnny Cash's daughter from his first marriage, to Vivian Liberto. Their other three children were Kathleen, Cindy and Tara. They divorced in 1966.
In March 1998, Cash made headlines when his California-based record company, American Recordings, took out an advertisement in the music trade magazine Billboard. The full-page ad celebrated Cash's 1998 Grammy award for best country album for ''Unchained.'' The ad showed an enraged-looking Cash in his younger years making an obscene gesture to sarcastically illustrate his thanks to country radio stations and ''the country music establishment in Nashville,'' which he felt had unfairly cast him aside.
Jennings, a close friend, once said of Cash: ''He's been like a brother to me. He's one of the greatest people in the world.''
Cash once credited his mother, Carrie Rivers Cash, with encouraging him to pursue a singing career.
''My mother told me to keep on singing, and that kept me working through the cotton fields. She said God has his hand on you. You'll be singing for the world someday.''
Cash lived in Hendersonville, Tenn., just outside of Nashville. He also had a home in Jamaica.
9/11/03 - John Ritter - LOS ANGELES (Sept. 12) - John Ritter, whose portrayal of the bumbling but lovable Jack Tripper helped make the madcap comedy series ``Three's Company'' a smash hit in the 1970s, died of a heart problem after falling ill on the set of his new television sit-com. He was 54.
Ritter became ill Thursday while working on ABC's ``8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter,'' the hit show that became the actor's big television comeback, said Susan Wilcox, his assistant of 22 years.
The cause of his death was a tear in the aorta, the result of an unrecognized flaw in his heart, said his publicist, Lisa Kasteler. He died at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday.
Ritter, a Southern California native who would have turned 55 on Wednesday, came to prominence for his role in ``Three's Company'' and had appeared in more than 25 television movies, a number of films and on Broadway.
He made his successful return to sitcom acting last year with ``8 Simple Rules'' last year. The show was scheduled to begin its second season Sept. 23.
At the Burbank hospital where he died, Ritter was accompanied by producers and co-workers, his wife, Amy Yasbeck, and 23-year-old son Jason, Wilcox said. He is survived by three other children.
``It's just stunning, unbelievable,'' said Wilcox. ``Everybody loved John Ritter. Everybody loved working with him. ... Whatever set he was working on, he made it a very fun place.''
ABC released a statement saying: ``All of us at ABC, Touchstone Television and The Walt Disney Company are shocked and heartbroken at the terrible news of John's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children at this very difficult time.''
Ritter was the youngest son of Western film star and country musician Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay. He graduated from Hollywood High School and earned a degree in drama from the University of Southern California.
``I was the class clown, but I was also student body president in high school,'' he told The Associated Press in a 1992 interview. ``I had my serious side - I idolized Bobby Kennedy, he was my role model. But so was Jerry Lewis.''
Ritter's first steady job was his role as a minister in television's ``The Waltons'' in the early 1970s.
With ``Three's Company,'' starting in 1977, his career took off. His other performances included 1996's Oscar-winning movie ``Sling Blade'' and a Broadway run in Neil Simon's ``The Dinner Party.'' He received an Emmy and other awards for his ``Three's Company'' role and was honored by the Los Angeles Music Center in June with a lifetime achievement award.
``Three's Company,'' about a bachelor sharing an apartment with two attractive women, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt, was considered racy during its run from 1977 to 1984. And Ritter worried about falling into a typecasting trap after the show ended.
``I would get scripts about 'a young swinging bachelor on the make,' and I said 'No, I've done that,''' he told the AP in the 1992 interview. ``Or they'd say, 'You're living alone and .
``What I was looking for in my time off was something a little bit different, a little serious, or funny in a different way.''
Ritter described his time on the show as ``an education'' in quick-study acting.
``When the curtain went up, no matter how long you've studied or haven't studied at all, you had to answer to the audience. We didn't do retakes. If there was a (microphone) boom in the shot, so be it,'' he said.
Ritter later starred in the television series ``Hooperman'' and the early 1990s political comedy ``Hearts Afire.'' He received two Emmy nominations for his PBS role as the voice of ``Clifford the Big Red Dog'' on the animated series.
His TV movie appearances included ``Unnatural Causes,'' Stephen King's ``It'' and ``Chance of a Lifetime.''
Ritter won popularity among independent film directors in recent years and appeared in films including ``Sling Blade,'' ``Tadpole'' in 2002, and the new feature ``Manhood.'' He appears alongside Billy Bob Thornton in the scheduled November release from Miramax ``Bad Santa.''
Ritter was married from 1977 to 1996 to Nancy Morgan, the mother of his three oldest children, Jason, Carly and Tyler. He married actress Yasbeck in 1999, the mother of Stella.
9/9/03 - Larry Hovis - SAN MARCOS, Texas -- Veteran actor, comedian, writer and teacher Larry Hovis died Tuesday following a battle with cancer. He was 67.
Hovis was perhaps best known for his role as "Sgt. Carter" in the
and now syndicated television series "Hogan's Heroes." He also had a regular
role on "Gomer Pyle USMC" and was a co-creator and performer on "The Rowan and
Martin Laugh-In," one of the cutting-edge television shows of its day.
At the time of his death, Hovis was a lecturer in the Department of Theatre
Dance at Texas State University-San Marcos. He had been employed at the
university since 1990 and taught acting and characterization.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in the main theater of the
Theatre Center at Texas State University-San Marcos.
9/7/03 - Warren Zevon - LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8 — Singer-songwriter Warren Zevon is dead after a battle with cancer. He was 56.
His manager says Zevon died yesterday at his Los Angeles-area home. Zevon
was known for songs like “Werewolves of London” and “I’ll
Sleep When I’m Dead.”
Zevon announced in September 2002 that he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and had been given only a few months to live.
After being diagnosed, he spent much of his time visiting with his two grown children and working on a final album, “The Wind” — which was released to critical acclaim just last month.
Note from the Underground: Warren Zevon's ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to Underground Member Lisa Burks for the information.
9/3/03 - Rand Brooks - SANTA YNEZ, Calif., Sept. 2 —
The actor Rand
Brooks, who played Scarlett O'Hara's shy first husband, Charles, in
"Gone With the Wind," died on Monday at his home here. He was 84.
Mr. Brooks endeared himself to western-movie fans of the 1940's and 50's
as Lucky Jenkins, the sidekick to the hero in the Hopalong Cassidy
movies and as Cpl. Randy Boone, one of the officers who take in an
orphaned boy and his dog in the television series "Rin Tin Tin."
But it was as Charles Hamilton, Melanie Wilkes's doomed brother in "Gone
With the Wind," that he achieved screen immortality.
Mr. Brooks once said he despised his part as Scarlett's mild-mannered,
nerdy first husband. She marries Hamilton for spite, and he then goes
off to war, dying not on the battlefield but of disease — as so many
Civil War soldiers did, but movie heroes never did.
"It was an asinine part," he said. "I wanted to be more macho."
Still the role was exactly as written in Margaret Mitchell's novel. In
the proposal scene, Mitchell wrote: "He looked down at her radiantly,
his whole clean simple heart in his eyes. . . . In her queer detachment
she only thought that he looked like a calf."
After the film's release, he had relatively small parts in other movies,
then a regular role as Lucky in the Hopalong Cassidy series of westerns
in the mid- to late 1940's. Among the films, which starred William Boyd
as Hopalong, were "Hoppy's Holiday," "The Dead Don't Dream" and
"Borrowed Trouble." One of his most memorable moments on the big screen
came in 1948 when he was in "Ladies of the Chorus" opposite a young
actress named Marilyn Monroe. Mr. Brooks used to boast that he was the
first actor to give Monroe an on-screen kiss.
Television brought new opportunities, again often in westerns. Besides
being a regular on "Rin Tin Tin," Mr. Brooks had guest roles in 50's
western series including "Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok," "The Lone
Ranger" and "Maverick," and in other series like "Perry Mason."
After he left show business, he ran an ambulance service that became the
largest private ambulance provider in Los Angeles County. He sold the
company in 1994 and retired to the Santa Ynez Valley where he bred
champion Andalusian horses.
While he did not much like the Hamilton part, Mr. Brooks did not shun
the 1989 50th anniversary "Gone With the Wind" cast reunion in Atlanta.
He tearfully read a letter that Olivia de Havilland had sent to the
gathering from her home in Paris. Ms. De Havilland had played Melanie
Hamilton Wilkes, the sister of Mr. Brooks's character. In the letter Ms.
de Havilland sent Mr. Brooks "my fond eternal greetings to the sole
representative of the Hamilton clan."
At one time, Mr. Brooks was married to the comedian Stan Laurel's
daughter, Lois. He is survived by his wife, Hermaine; two children; five
grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
8/30/03 - Charles Bronson - LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31 — Charles Bronson, the Pennsylvania coal miner who drifted into films as a villain and became a hard-faced action star, notably in the popular “Death Wish” vengeance movies, has died. He was 81.
Bronson died Saturday of pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife at his bedside, publicist Lori Jonas said. He had been in the hospital for weeks, Jonas said.
During the height of his career, Bronson was hugely popular in Europe; the French knew him as “le sacre monstre” (the sacred monster), the Italians as “Il Brutto” (the ugly man). In 1971, he was presented a Golden Globe as “the most popular actor in the world.”
Like Clint Eastwood, whose spaghetti westerns won him stardom, Bronson had to make European films to prove his worth as a star. He left a featured-role career in Hollywood to play leads in films made in France, Italy and Spain. His blunt manner, powerful build and air of danger made him the most popular actor in those countries.
At age 50, he returned to Hollywood a star.
In a 1971 interview, he theorized on why the journey had taken him so long:
“Maybe I’m too masculine. Casting directors cast in their own, or an idealized image. Maybe I don’t look like anybody’s ideal.”
His early life gave no indication of his later fame. He was born Charles Bunchinsky on Nov. 3, 1921 — not 1922, as studio biographies claimed — in Ehrenfeld, Pa. He was the 11th of 15 children of a coal miner and his wife, both Lithuanian immigrants.
Young Charles learned the art of survival in the tough district of Scooptown, “where you had nothing to lose because you lost it already.” The Bunchinskys lived crowded in a shack, the children wearing hand-me-downs from older siblings. At the age of 6, Charles was embarrassed to attend school in his sister’s dress.
Charles’ father died when he was 10, and at 16 Charles followed his brothers into the mines. He was paid $1 per ton of coal and volunteered for perilous jobs because the pay was better. Like other toughs in Scooptown, he raised some hell and landed in jail for assault and robbery.
He might have stayed in the mines for the rest of his life except for World War II.
Drafted in 1943, he served with the Air Force in the Pacific, reportedly as a tail gunner on a B29. Having seen the outside world, he vowed not to return to the squalor of Scooptown.
He was attracted to acting not, he claimed, because of any artistic urge; he was impressed by the money movie stars could earn. He joined the Philadelphia Play and Players Troupe, painting scenery and acting a few minor roles.
At the Pasadena Playhouse school, Bronson improved his diction, supporting himself by selling Christmas cards and toys on street corners. Studio scouts saw him at the Playhouse and he was cast as a gob in the 1951 service comedy “You’re in the Navy Now” starring Gary Cooper.
As Charles Buchinsky or Buchinski, he played supporting roles in “Red Skies of Montana,” “The Marrying Kind,” “Pat and Mike” (in which he fell victim to Katharine Hepburn’s judo), “The House of Wax,” “Jubal” and other films. In 1954 he changed his last name, fearing reaction in the McCarthy era to Russian-sounding names.
Bronson’s first starring role came in 1958 with an eight-day exploitation film, “Machine Gun Kelly.” He also appeared in two brief TV series, “Man with a Camera” (1958) and “The Travels of Jamie McPheeters” (1963).
His status grew with impressive performances in “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Great Escape,” “The Battle of the Bulge,” “The Sandpiper” and “The Dirty Dozen.” But real stardom eluded him, his rough-hewn face and brusque manner not fitting the Hollywood tradition for leading men.
Alain Delon, like many French, had admired “Machine Gun Kelly,” and he invited Bronson to co-star with him in a British-French film, “Adieu, L’Ami” (“Farewell, Friend”). It made Bronson a European favorite.
Among his films abroad was a hit spaghetti western, “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Finally Hollywood took notice.
Among his starring films: “The Valachi Papers,” “Chato’s Land,” “The Mechanic,” “Valdez,” “The Stone Killer,” “Mr. Majestyk,” “Breakout,” “Hard Times,” “Breakout Pass,” “White Buffalo,” “Telefon,” “Love and Bullets,” “Death Hunt,” “Assassination,” “Messenger of Death.”
The titles indicate the nature of the films: lots of action, shooting, dead bodies. They were made on medium-size budgets, but Bronson was earning $1 million a picture before it was fashionable.
His most controversial film came in 1974 with “Death Wish.” As an affluent, liberal architect, Bronson’s life is shattered when young thugs kill his wife and rape his daughter. He vows to rid the city of such vermin, and his executions brought cheers from crime-weary audiences.
The character’s vigilantism brought widespread criticism, but “Death
Wish” became one of the big moneymakers of the year. The controversy
accelerated when Bernard Goetz shot youths he thought were threatening him
in a New York subway.
Bronson made three more “Death Wish” films, and in 1987 he defended them:
“I think they provide satisfaction for people who are victimized by crime and look in vain for authorities to protect them. But I don’t think people try to imitate that kind of thing.”
Bronson could be as taciturn in interviews as he appeared on the screen. He remained aloof from the Hollywood scene, once observing, “I have lots of friends and yet I don’t have any.”
His first marriage was to Harriet Tendler, whom he met when both were fledgling actors in Philadelphia. They had two children before divorcing.
In 1966 Bronson fell in love with the lovely blonde British actress Jill Ireland, who happened to be married to British actor David McCallum. Bronson reportedly told McCallum bluntly: “I’m going to marry your wife.”
The McCallums were divorced in 1967, and Bronson and Ireland married the following year. She co-starred in several of his films.
The Bronsons lived in a grand Bel Air mansion with seven children: two by his previous marriage, three by hers and two of their own. They also spent time in a colonial farmhouse on 260 acres in West Windsor, Vt.
Ireland lost a breast to cancer in 1984. She became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and wrote a bestselling book, “Life Wish.” She followed with “Life Lines,” in which she told of her struggle to rescue her 27-year-old son, Jason McCallum Bronson, from drug addiction. He died of an overdose in 1989, and she died of cancer a year later.
Bronson is survived by his wife, Kim, six children and two grandchildren. Funeral services will be private
8/9/03 - Gregory Hines - LOS ANGELES, Aug. 10 — Gregory Hines, the greatest tap dancer of his generation who also transcended the stage with successful film and television roles, has died of cancer. Hines died Saturday in Los Angeles, publicist Allen Eichorn said Sunday. Hines, who started on Broadway and moved to films including “White Nights” and “Running Scared,” was 57.
The dancer, who won a 1992 Tony for best actor in a musical playing jazz legend “Jelly Roll” Morton in “Jelly’s Last Jam,” had a smooth, solo tap style reminiscent of Fred Astaire. Hines first became internationally known as part of a jazz tap duo with his brother, Maurice. The two danced together in the musical revue “Eubie!” in 1978.
The brothers later performed together in Broadway’s “Sophisticated Ladies” and on film in 1984’s “The Cotton Club.”
In “The Cotton Club,” Hines also had a lead acting role, which led to more work in film. He starred with Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1985’s Cold War-era dancers’ story “White Nights” and with Billy Crystal in 1986’s “Running Scared,” and he appeared with Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett in 1995’s “Waiting to Exhale,” among other movies.
On television, he had his own sitcom in 1997 called “The Gregory Hines Show,” as well as a recurring role on NBC’s “Will and Grace.” Last March, he appeared in the ABC spring television series “Lost at Home.”
“His dancing came from something very real,” said Bernadette Peters, who appeared with Hines as co-hosts of the 2002 Tony Awards show. “It came out of his instincts, his impulses and his amazing creativity. His whole heart and soul went into everything he did.”
“He was the last of a kind of immaculate performer — a singer, dancer, actor and a personality,” said George C. Wolfe, who directed “Jelly’s Last Jam.” “He knew how to command.”
Gregory Oliver Hines was born on Feb. 14, 1946, in New York City. He has said his mother urged him and his older brother toward tap dancing because she wanted them to have a way out of the ghetto.
When he was a toddler, he said, his brother was already taking tap lessons and would come home and teach him steps. They began performing together when Gregory Hines was 5, and they performed at the Apollo for two weeks when he was 6. In 1954 they were cast in the Broadway musical “The Girl in Pink Tights,” starring French ballerina Jeanmaire.
“I don’t remember not dancing,” Hines said in a 2001 interview with The Associated Press. “When I realized I was alive and these were my parents, and I could walk and talk, I could dance.”
Paired with his brother Maurice, he was a professional child star. In his teens, joined by their father, Maurice Sr., on drums, they were known as Hines, Hines and Dad. Later Gregory Hines earned Tony nominations on Broadway in “Eubie,” “Comin’ Uptown” and “Sophisticated Ladies.”
There was a time, he said, when he didn’t want to dance. He was in his mid-20s, “a hippie” in a brief moment of rebellion, he said in 2001.
“I felt that I didn’t want to be in show business anymore. I felt that I wanted to be a farmer,” he said with a laugh. Invited to work on a farm in upstate New York, he quickly learned a lesson.
Beginning before dawn, “I was milking cows and shoveling terrible stuff and working all day. By the end of the day all I wanted was my tap shoes — I thought, ‘What am I doing? I better get back where I belong on the stage where we work at night and can sleep late!”’
Hines had a falling out with his older brother in the late 1960s because the younger was becoming influenced by counterculture and wanted to perform to rock music and write his songs. In 1973, the family act disbanded and Hines moved to Venice Beach, Calif.
“I was going through a lot of changes,” Hines told The Washington Post in 1981. “Marriage. We’d just had a child. Divorce. I was finding myself.”
He returned to New York in 1978, partly to be near his daughter, Daria, who was living with Hines’ first wife, dance therapist Patricia Panella. His brother, with whom he had reconciled, told him about an audition for the Broadway-bound “The Last Minstrel Show.” He got the part, but the show opened and closed in Philadelphia.
Hines landed his first film role in the 1981 Mel Brooks comedy “History of the World Part I,” in which he played a Roman slave as a last-minute replacement for Richard Pryor.
He starred in “Tap,” a 1989 film that included veteran hoofers Sammy Davis Jr. — one of young Gregory Hines’ inspirations — and Sandman Sims, and then-newcomer Savion Glover in a story that joined Hines’ talents for drama and dancing.
Hines had been nominated for a number of Emmy Awards, most recently in 2001 for his portrayal of the troubled legendary dancer Bill Robinson in the 2001 Showtime film “Bojangles.”
His PBS special “Gregory Hines: Tap Dance in America” was nominated in 1989, and in 1982 he was nominated for his performance in “I Love Liberty,” a variety special saluting America.
He also won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1999 for his work as the voice of “Big Bill” in the Bill Cosby animated TV series “Little Bill” and NAACP Image Awards for “Bojangles” and “Running Scared.”
Hines is survived by his fiancee, Negrita Jayde; his daughter, Daria; his son, Zach; his stepdaughter, Jessica Koslow; and his grandson, Lucian, Eichhorn said. Hines had been married twice.
He is also survived by his brother and father. A private funeral will be held in Los Angeles this week.
7/27/03 - Bob Hope - LOS ANGELES (July 28) - Bob Hope, master of the one-liner and favorite comedian of servicemen and presidents alike, has died, just two months after turning 100.
Hope died late Sunday of pneumonia at his home in Toluca Lake, with his family at his bedside, longtime publicist Ward Grant said Monday.
The nation's most-honored comedian, Hope was a star in every category open to him - vaudeville, radio, television and film, most notably a string of ''Road'' movies with longtime friend Bing Crosby. For decades, he took his show on the road to bases around the world, boosting the morale of servicemen from World War II to the Gulf War.
''Bob Hope, like Mark Twain, had a sense of humor that was uniquely American and like Twain, we'll likely not see another like him,'' entertainer Dick Van Dyke said Monday.
President George W. Bush said ''the nation lost a great citizen'' with Hope's death.
''Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations,'' the president said. ''We extend our prayers to his family. God bless his soul.''
A private burial was planned, followed by a memorial service and tribute Aug. 27, daughter Linda Hope said Monday.
She said her father died surrounded by family members, and ''I can't tell you how beautiful and serene and peaceful it was.''
Hope perfected the one-liner, peppering audiences with a fusillade of brief, topical gags.
''I bumped into Gerald Ford the other day. I said, 'Pardon me.' He said, 'I don't do that anymore,''' a reference to Ford's pardon of former President Richard Nixon.
He poked fun gently, without malice, and made himself the butt of many jokes. His golf scores and physical attributes, including his celebrated ski-jump nose, were frequent subjects:
''I want to tell you, I was built like an athlete once - big chest, hard stomach. Of course, that's all behind me now.''
When Hope went into one of his monologues, it was almost as though the world was conditioned to respond. No matter that the joke was old or flat; he was Bob Hope and he got laughs.
''Audiences are my best friends,'' he liked to say. ''You never tire of talking with your best friends.''
Woody Allen called Hope ''the most influential comedian for me.''
''It's hard for me to imagine a world without Bob Hope in it,'' Allen said Monday.
Hope earned a fortune, gave lavishly to charity and was showered with awards, so many that he had to rent a warehouse to store them.
Through he said he was afraid of flying, Hope traveled countless miles to entertain servicemen in field hospitals, jungles and aircraft carriers from France to Berlin to Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. His Christmas tours became tradition.
He headlined in so many war zones that he had a standard joke for the times he was interrupted by gunfire: ''I wonder which one of my pictures they saw?''
So often was Hope away entertaining, and so little did he see his wife, Dolores, and their four adopted children, that he once remarked, ''When I get home these days, my kids think I've been booked on a personal appearance tour.''
Hope had a reputation as an ad-libber, but he kept a stable of writers and had filing cabinets full of jokes. He never let a good joke die - if it got a laugh in Vietnam, it would get a laugh in Saudi Arabia.
''He was very much at home in the TV studio or on stage live anywhere, that is where he really lived,'' comedian Phyllis Diller said Monday. ''And, you know what, it was never a chore for him. It was never nerve-racking. He was always so completely prepared by his tremendous organization that he had put together.''
On his 100th birthday, he was too frail to take part in public celebrations, but was said to be alert and happy - and overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection. The fabled intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street was renamed Bob Hope Square, and President Bush established the Bob Hope American Patriot Award.
''He can't believe that this is happening and that he's made it to his Big 100,'' son Kelly Hope said at the time.
He was born Leslie Towns Hope on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England, the fifth of seven sons of a British stonemason and a Welsh singer of light opera. The Hopes emigrated to the United States when he was 4 and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. They found themselves in the backwash of the 1907 depression.
The boy helped out by selling newspapers and working in a shoe store, a drug store and a meat market. He also worked as a caddy and developed a lifelong fondness for golf. A highly competitive golfer, he later shot in the 70s and sponsored the Bob Hope Golf Classic, one of the nation's biggest tournaments.
Hope changed his name to Bob when classmates ridiculed his English schoolboy name.
He boxed for a time under the name Packy East - ''I was on more canvases than Picasso'' - and also tried a semester in college before devoting himself to show business. He quickly veered from song and dance to comedy patter, and his monologue routine was born.
By 1930, he had reached vaudeville's pinnacle - The Palace - and in the '30s he played leading parts in such Broadway musicals as ''Roberta,'' ''Ziegfeld Follies'' and ''Red, Hot and Blue,'' with Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante. During ''Roberta,'' he met nightclub singer Dolores Reade and invited her to the show. They married in 1934.
After a few guest radio spots, Hope began working regularly on a radio program. In 1938, he created his own show, and that led him to Hollywood.
Paramount signed him for ''The Big Broadcast of 1938,'' in which he introduced the song that became his trademark: ''Thanks for the Memory.''
Soon he was teaming with Crosby in the seven ''Road'' pictures - ''Road to Bali,'' ''Road to Morocco,'' ''Road to Zanzibar'' and so on - playing best friends who lie, cheat and make fun of each other in comedic competition for glory and Dorothy Lamour.
In between, there were such pictures as ''Cat and the Canary,'' ''The Paleface,'' ''Louisiana Purchase,'' ''My Favorite Blonde,'' ''That Certain Feeling,'' ''I'll Take Sweden'' and ''Boy, Did I get a Wrong Number.'' He made 53 films from 1938 to 1972.
In 1950, he entered television, and his successes continued. Even 40 years later, he could be counted on to pull in respectable ratings. He also appeared more than 20 times at the Academy Awards, first on radio and than on television, as presenter, cohost or host between 1939 and 1978.
Hope started playing to troops well before the United States entered World War II.
He tried to enlist, but was told he could be of more use as an entertainer. He played his first camp show at California's March Field on May 6, 1941, seven months before Pearl Harbor.
His traditional Christmas tours began in 1948, when he went to Berlin to entertain GIs involved in the airlift.
''For more than five decades, through four wars and years of peacekeeping missions, Bob Hope came to symbolize, for every man and woman in uniform, the idea that America cared for and supported its troops,'' said Edward A. Powell, president and CEO of the United Service Organizations.
His televised 1966 Vietnam Christmas show was watched by an estimated 65 million people, the largest audience of his career. But his initially hawkish views on Vietnam opened a gap between the comedian and young Americans opposed to the war, who sometimes heckled him.
Later, Hope said he was ''just praying they get an honorable peace so our guys don't have to fight. I've seen too many wars.''
In 1990, he traveled to the Persian Gulf to entertain troops preparing for war with Iraq. Because Saudi Arabia bars female entertainers, he had to leave Marie Osmond and the Pointer Sisters behind in Bahrain.
Hope never had a regular straight man, but he worked often with crooner Crosby, first in radio, where they developed a routine of insulting each other merrily. Crosby helped make Hope's nose famous as a ''droop snoot'' and a ''ski run.'' For his part, Hope replied: ''Only in Hollywood could a meatball make so much gravy.''
Hope's awards included scores of honorary degrees; special Oscars for humanitarianism and service to the film industry; the George Peabody Award; the National Conference of Christians and Jews Award; and the Medal of Freedom from President Johnson. He received honorary knighthood from Britain in 1998.
He was the author or co-author of 10 books, including his 1990 autobiography, ''Don't Shoot, It's Only Me.''
In the mid-'90s, Hope played charity dates around the nation, but he seemed to slow his schedule. What was billed as his last NBC special, ''Laughing with the Presidents,'' focusing on his long friendships with many occupants of the White House, appeared in late 1996. His more than 60-year association with the network was said to be a record.
In recent years, his hearing eroded, although he refused to wear a hearing aid. He suffered recurring eye problems, once remarking: ''I've got a hemorrhage in the right eye now, and I used to have one in the left eye. I'm a walking hemorrhage.''
Until increasing frailty slowed him down, Hope repeatedly pledged never to quit entertaining.
''I'm not retiring until they carry me away,'' he said. ''And I'll have a few routines on the way to the big divot.''
More on Bob Hope: From NBC4 in Los Angeles..................
Bob Hope Buried At San Fernando Mission
Cemetery Blocked To Traffic
UPDATED: 8:55 a.m. PDT July 30, 2003
LOS ANGELES -- Bob Hope was buried Wednesday at San Fernando Mission Cemetery after a private funeral Mass in North Hollywood.
Los Angeles police Sgt. Tony Carranza reported the Mass was at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Charles Borromeo Church. About 100 people attended. There was a procession of about 25 cars to the burial site.
Hope's daughter, Linda, asked for privacy for the funeral.
Carranza reported there was a 30-minute ceremony at the cemetery about 7:30 a.m.
The cemetery is blocked to traffic.
7/25/03 - John Schlesinger - LOS ANGELES (AP) - Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger, the provocative filmmaker who brought homosexual characters into mainstream cinema with ``Midnight Cowboy,'' and shocked audiences with an unflinching look at torture in ``Marathon Man,'' has died. He was 77.
The British-born filmmaker had a debilitating stroke in December 2000, and his condition had deteriorated significantly in recent weeks. He was taken off life support Thursday and died Friday morning at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, hospital spokeswoman Eva Saltonstall said.
Schlesinger broke ground in 1969 with his first American film, ``Midnight Cowboy.'' It starred Jon Voight as a naive Texan who turns to prostitution to survive in New York and Dustin Hoffman as the scuzzy, ailing vagrant Ratso Rizzo.
Voight called Schlesinger a ``true genius'' who took risks without worrying about the outcome.
``He was extremely kind, funny and mischievous,'' Voight said. ``I owe my whole career to him.''
The stocky, baldheaded filmmaker - who was gay - said in 1970: ``I'm only interested in one thing - that is tolerance. I'm terribly concerned about people and the limitation of freedom. It's important to get people to care a little for someone else. That's why I'm more interested in the failures of this world than the successes.''
The gay theme of ``Midnight Cowboy'' was regarded as scandalous, and it was originally rated X. But the tale of outcasts trying to survive in a merciless metropolis was embraced by critics and Hollywood.
Based on a novel by James Leo Herlihy, ``Midnight Cowboy'' was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three: best director, best picture and best adapted screenplay. It was the only X-rated film ever to win the Oscar for best picture; later, reflecting changing standards, the rating was lowered to ``R.''
``Shakespeare said it best in Hamlet, 'We will never see the likes of him again,''' Hoffman said.
Richard Gere, who starred as an American GI in Schlesinger's 1979 World War II romance ``Yanks,'' described the filmmaker as ``an original.''
``John's string of films in the '60s and '70s are as astonishingly good as any films made, anytime, anywhere,'' Gere said. ``Audacious, challenging, irascible, moving, witty, wise and deeply personal.''
After ``Midnight Cowboy,'' Schlesinger explored homosexuality again in his next project with 1971's ``Sunday Bloody Sunday,'' which starred Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson as acquaintances who each reluctantly share a love for the same young man. The director received another Oscar nomination for the film.
The characters in Schlesinger's films often struggled with their place in the world, and he depicted them as lonely, disenchanted and sometimes forgotten. In 1975, he directed an adaptation of the Nathanael West novel ``The Day of the Locust,'' about young wannabe-stars who find only disappointment in Hollywood.
Schlesinger himself felt an estrangement from his own success. ``If I've ever had any commercial success, it's been a total fluke. I wouldn't have known 'Midnight Cowboy' would have done so well,'' Schlesinger said in 1990.
But he wasn't above directing commercial films, like his 1975 thriller ``Marathon Man.'' That teamed him again with Hoffman, who played an innocent man tortured for information by Laurence Olivier, a hiding Nazi war criminal with a penchant for unanaesthetized dentistry.
``It's more human to be frightened,'' Schlesinger said about his characters in 1994. ``I've always had more sympathy for the struggler, the underdog, the person who isn't so much glamorous as on the fringe of everything.''
That turned Schlesinger toward more thrillers, including the 1985 tale of true-life spy skullduggery ``The Falcon and the Snowman,'' starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton as two young Americans convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.
``John left us some magic and I'm proud to have known him and worked with him,'' Penn said Friday.
Schlesinger established himself as one of England's most promising young directors with the 1962 ``A Kind of Loving,'' which starred Alan Bates as a man who marries his pregnant lover only to find himself ill-prepared for commitments.
He followed that with 1963's ``Billy Liar,'' about a lazy young man who hides from responsibility by daydreaming - one of his dreams is about a young woman played by then-newcomer Julie Christie.
``He was clever enough to see in this awkward, terrified creature something that perhaps would never have been seen if it wasn't for him,'' Christie said Friday.
She worked with Schlesinger again on his next film, 1965's ``Darling,'' for which she won an Academy Award for best actress for her role as a ruthless model who bullies her way to success. Schlesinger was nominated for best director.
Christie and Schlesinger also collaborated on 1967's ``Far From The Madding Crowd'' and the 1983 TV movie ``Separate Tables.''
His other films included 1987's ``The Believers,'' starring Martin Sheen as a psychiatrist fighting a voodoo cult, and 1988's ``Madame Sousatzka,'' which featured Shirley MacLaine as an eccentric piano teacher who befriends a 15-year-old student but clashes with him over whether he should try to earn money from his talent.
He started the 1990s with a story about how little neighbors can know about each other - ``Pacific Heights,'' with Michael Keaton playing a malicious tenant who starts out charming but begins to terrorize his landlords, Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith.
Other notable films included 1996's ``Eye for an Eye,'' in which Sally Field played a mother-turned-vigilante who hunts down the rapist killer of her young daughter, who was freed from prison on a legal technicality.
``He was a groundbreaking director and a wonderful man and I was honored to know him and to work with him, and more importantly to be his friend,'' Field said Friday.
His last film was the 2000 comedy ``The Next Best Thing'' - about a straight woman (Madonna) who decides to have a child with her gay friend (Rupert Everett).
Born in London in 1926, Schlesinger started out as a character actor for stage, film and television and also made documentaries such as 1961's ``Terminus,'' about a day in the life of a train station.
The director lived in Palm Springs. He was survived by his companion of 30 years, photographer Michael Childers, and his brother Roger Schlesinger and sister Hilary Schlesinger, both of London.
A public memorial was being planned for Los Angeles and London in late September, and a private religious service was to be held with family next week in London, according to Schlesinger spokesman Jeff Sanderson.
7/7/03 - Buddy Ebsen - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Buddy Ebsen, the lanky, folksy actor best known for TV roles as backwoods millionaire Jed Clampett on "The Beverly Hillbillies" and as a canny elder sleuth on "Barnaby Jones," has died at a Los Angeles-area hospital at age 95, a hospital spokeswoman said on Monday.
Ebsen, who was placed in intensive care last month suffering from an undisclosed illness, died on Sunday morning at the Torrance Memorial Medical Center, the spokeswoman said. A statement from Ebsen's family said his wife, Dorothy, his children and grandchildren were by his side.
Beginning his career on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s as a dancer paired with his sister, Vilma, the tall, gangly Ebsen appeared in one of the last editions of the "Ziegfeld Follies," performed on Broadway and starred in a number of MGM musicals.
He danced in "Captain January" with Shirley Temple, received his first on-screen kiss from Barbara Stanwyck, played Audrey Hepburn's husband in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and co-starred with Gregory Peck in the Cold War thriller "Night People."
Ebsen's film career was just as notable for one of the most famous roles a Hollywood actor ever lost -- the part of the Tin Man in the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz." Ebsen filmed several sequences before an allergy to metallic dust in the character's body paint landed him in the hospital for two weeks, and the role was given to Jack Haley.
But Ebsen became forever linked to a generation of television viewers for his role as patriarch of the zany Clampett clan on the hit fish-out-of-water sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," which debuted on CBS in 1962.
For nine seasons, Ebsen starred as the affable mountaineer who loaded up his truck and moved his whole family, "critters" and all, to the posh, sunny environs of Southern California after he accidentally struck oil and an instant fortune.
The show was derided by many critics for what they regarded as its low-brow humor. But Ebsen and his co-stars -- Irene Ryan as Granny, Donna Douglas as Elly May and Max Baer Jr. as Jethro -- quickly won over audiences and made the show the top-rated series in prime time for its first two years. Drawing as many as 60 million viewers a week, "The Beverly Hillbillies" endured as one of the longest-running series on CBS and became a hit in 35 countries.
Trading in his tattered coat and hat at the end of that series, Ebsen donned a suit and tie, kept his homespun persona and found TV success again on the 1970s CBS drama "Barnaby Jones," playing the title role of the wily private detective. He later reprised his Barnaby Jones role for a cameo in the 1993 big-screen remake of "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Ebsen returned to series television in 1984 when he joined the ABC detective drama "Matt Houston" as the title character's uncle Roy, who comes out of retirement to help his nephew.
Ebsen made his TV series debut in the 1950s for ABC's "Disneyland: The Adventures of Davy Crockett," playing Fess Parker's sidekick, George Russel, a role he recreated for two Davy Crockett motion pictures. In the late '50s, he played veteran Indian fighter Hunk Marriner on NBC's short-lived frontier adventure series "Northwest Passage."
Born Christian Rudolph Ebsen Jr. in Belleville, Illinois, the son of a dancing teacher, his early ambition was to be a doctor. But after two years of premed studies, the Ebsen family fell on hard times and Buddy ventured to New York City as a hoofer with his sister, Vilma. The duo danced together in the 1928 stage show "Whoopee" and made their film debut in 1935 in "Broadway Melody of 1936" with Eleanor Powell.
In later life, he developed an oil-painting hobby into a thriving business, selling his self-portraits and folksy recreations of rural life on his Web site.
His autobiography, "The Other Side of Oz," was published in 1995, and in 2001, at the age of 93, he became a novelist, publishing a romance titled "Kelly's Quest" that became a best-seller.
"There are a lot of me's," he commented at the time. "I didn't retire. They retired me ... So I just moved on to other things."
7/4/03 - Barry White - LOS ANGELES - Velvet-voiced R&B crooner Barry White, renowned for his lush baritone and lyrics that oozed sex appeal on songs such as "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," died Friday morning, his manager said.
White, who had suffered kidney failure from years of high blood pressure, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center around 9:30 a.m., said manager Ned Shankman. He was 58.
White had been undergoing dialysis treatment and had been hospitalized since last September.
His work epitomized seductive disco music, also known as "make out" music. The heavyset musician enjoyed three decades of fame for songs like "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me."
White's canyon-deep, butter-smooth vocals and throbbing musical tempos emphasized his songs' sexually charged verbal foreplay. His 1975 song "Love Serenade" began with the purring, first-person lyrics: "I want you the way you came into the world/ I don't want to feel no clothes ..."
Although his popularity peaked in the 1970s, White received belated recognition for his work in 2000 when he won his first two Grammys for best male and traditional R&B vocal performance for the song "Staying Power."
Born Sept. 12, 1944, in Galveston, Texas, to a single mother, White and his younger brother, Darryl, spent most of their childhood in south central Los Angeles. He said he had a lifelong love for music. During his early teenage years, he began singing in a Baptist church choir and was quickly promoted to director.
In 1990, White told Ebony magazine that his voice changed overnight from the squeaky tones of a preadolescent to the rumbling bass that made him famous.
"It scared me and my mother when I spoke that morning," he said. "It was totally unexpected. My chest rattled. I mean vibrations. My mother was staring at me, and I was staring at her. The next thing I new, her straight face broke into a beautiful smile. Tears came down her face and she said, 'My son's a man now.'"
He was jailed at age 16 for stealing tires, a punishment he credited with helping him straighten out his life and dedicate his efforts to music.
Inspired by the Elvis Presley song "It's Now or Never," White joined the Upfronts soul group as bass singer and cut six singles. For several years, he stayed away from performing and focused on work behind the scenes as a songwriter and producer.
He married a childhood sweetheart, identified only as Mary in his autobiography, and fathered four children with her before they separated in 1969 and later divorced.
White discovered the female trio Love Unlimited — which included his future second wife, Glodean James — and produced their million-selling 1972 single "Walkin' in the Rain With the One I Love."
The next year, White returned to performing with the song "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby," which topped the R&B chart and hit No. 3 on the pop chart.
He is credited by some for helping launch the disco phenomenon with his orchestral "Love's Theme" in 1973, which he conducted with his group, The Love Unlimited Orchestra.
In 1974, his album "Can't Get Enough" climbed to the top of the pop charts on the strength of the signature hits "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything."
That year he also married James. The couple had four children together and collaborated on the 1981 album "Barry & Glodean," which featured the songs "I Want You" and "You're the Only One for Me." They divorced in 1988, but he said they always remained good friends.
White suffered a family tragedy in 1983 when his brother, Darryl, was shot and killed in a dispute with a neighbor over change from a $20 bill. In his 1999 autobiography, "Love Unlimited: Insights on Life and Love," Barry White said music likely spared him a similar fate.
After working on more than a dozen albums in the 1970s, his career waned over the next decade as he attempted small comebacks with the albums "The Right Night & Barry White" (1987) and "The Man is Back!" (1989.)
He enjoyed a larger resurgence with 1994 album "The Icon Is Love," and his ballad "Practice What You Preach" became his first No. 1 hit in 17 years. Toward the end of the 1990s, his songs were regularly featured on the Fox comedy series "Ally McBeal (news - Y! TV)" and he made an appearance on the show as himself.
His single "Staying Power," off a 1999 album of the same name, won White two Grammys and proved he hadn't tamed his libidinous lyrics. "Put on my favorite dress, the one that oozes sexiness," he cooed in the title track's opening lines.
That year White's chronic blood pressure problem forced him to cancel several live performances with the group Earth, Wind & Fire and he was briefly hospitalized.
White's survivors include eight children, grandchildren, and his companion Catherine Denton.
Note from the Underground: According to People Magazine, Barry White was cremated and scattered off the coast of Santa Monica.
6/30/03 - Buddy Hackett - LOS ANGELES, June 30 — Buddy Hackett, the squat, round, rubbery-faced funnyman who appeared for more than 50 years as a top act in nightclubs, Broadway shows, on television and in such movies as “The Music Man,” “The Love Bug” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” has died, his son confirmed Monday night. He was 79.
Hackett died at his Southern California beach house either
late Sunday or early Monday, Sandy Hackett told The Associated Press Monday
night. His body was found Monday.
“He was one of the greatest ever. He was a terrific father. He was my best friend. He prepared me very well for this day, but no matter how much you prepare it still hurts,” Sandy Hackett said as he arrived at his mother’s house in Los Angeles.
The younger Hackett, who is also a comedian, said he had driven to Los Angeles from his Las Vegas home as soon as he got word of his father’s death.
Hackett was invited to join the Three Stooges when “Curly” Howard, the bald-headed member of the comedy team, suffered a stroke in 1946. But Hackett declined, believing he could develop his own comedy style. Playing for small money on the Borscht Circuit for New York City vacationers in the Catskill Mountains, he learned to get laughs with his complaints about being short, fat and Jewish.
His career grew with appearances on the variety TV shows of Jack Paar, Arthur Godfrey and others. Soon he was earning top money in Las Vegas, Florida and Las Vegas. In the beginning his material was suitable for family audiences, but in later years nightclubs advertised his show “For Mature Audiences Only.” His performances in those days were noted for their prolific use of four-letters words at a time when that just wasn’t done.
“Compared to motion pictures,” he remarked in
1996, “I’m very mild these days.”
He was born Leonard Hacker in a Jewish section of New York City’s borough of Brooklyn on Aug. 31, 1924. For a time he apprenticed in his father’s upholstery shop, but at school he found he had a talent for making his fellow students laugh. That was a necessity to offset the taunts about his roly-poly shape.
When he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame a
few years ago, he quipped that he had left Brooklyn “to get away from
the subway” only to discover that the star had been placed above the
one in Los Angeles.
“It’s a damn circle,” he complained.
After graduating from New Utrecht High School, where he played on the football team, Hacker spent three years in the military during World War II, then reinvented himself as Buddy Hackett, standup comedian.
Using other writers’ jokes, he flopped in New York City. Realizing only he could write for Buddy Hackett, he moved on to Los Angeles and scored at a small showcase club. He began making big money across the country, and audiences called for his most noted routine, the Chinese waiter.
In 1954, playwright Sidney Kingsley persuaded Hackett to
appear on Broadway in “Lunatics and Lovers.” Brooks Atkinson,
writing in The New York Times, described Hackett as “a large, soft,
messy comic with a glib tongue and a pair of inquiring eyes.”
He also appeared on the New York stage in “Viva Madison Avenue” (1960) and “I Had a Ball” (1964).
Hackett made his film debut in 1953 with “Walking My Baby Back Home.” Among his other movies: “Fireman Save My Child,” “God’s Little Acre,” “All Hands on Deck,” “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” “Muscle Beach Party,” “Loose Shoes,” “Scrooged” and Disney’s animated “The Little Mermaid,” as the voice of Scuttle.
The comedian appeared on television from the medium’s beginnings, starring in two short-lived series: “Stanley” (1956-1957) and “The Jackie Gleason Show” (1968). He also made guest appearances on numerous sitcoms and played Lou Costello in the 1978 movie “Bud and Lou.”
He turned down numerous other offers from TV series, complaining that he could rarely get along with network executives.
“That ends the meeting,” he once said of network executives telling him how to structure a comedy show.
Hackett was married to the former Sherry Dubois, whom he
met at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills. They had three children: Ivy, Lisa
and Sandy, who did a comedy opening act at his father’s appearances.
6/29/03 - Katherine Hepburn - OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. - Katharine Hepburn , winner of a record four Academy Awards, died Sunday at her home, her executor and town authorities said. She was 96.
Hepburn died Sunday at 2:50 p.m., said Cynthia McFadden, a friend of Hepburn and executor of her estate. Hepburn, who had been in declining health in recent years, died of old age and was surrounded by family, McFadden said.
"It's been a sad day, but a celebration of her life as well," she said.
The lights will dim on Broadway at 8 p.m. Tuesday in her honor, said Patricia Armetta-Haubner, a spokeswoman for the League of American Theaters and Producers.
During her 60-year career, she earned 12 Oscar nominations, which stood as a record until Meryl Streep surpassed her nomination total in 2003. She won the Academy Award for "Morning Glory," 1933; "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," 1967; "A Lion in Winter," 1968; and "On Golden Pond," 1981.
Despite her success, Hepburn always felt she could have done more.
"I could have accomplished three times what I've accomplished," she once said. "I haven't realized my full potential. It's disgusting."
But, she said, "Life's what's important. Walking, houses, family. Birth and pain and joy — and then death. Acting's just waiting for the custard pie. That's all."
Hepburn, the product of a wealthy, freethinking New England family, was forthright in her opinions and unconventional in her conduct.
She dressed for comfort, usually in slacks and sweater, with her red hair caught up in a topknot. She married only once, briefly, and her name was linked to Howard Hughes and other famous men, but the great love of her life was Spencer Tracy. They made nine films together and remained close companions until Tracy's death in 1967.
Her Broadway role in "Warrior's Husband" brought a movie offer from RKO, and she went to Hollywood at $1,500 a week to star opposite John Barrymore in the 1932 film "A Bill of Divorcement." The lean, athletic actress with the well-bred manner became an instant star. The voice Tallulah Bankhead once likened to "nickels dropping in a slot machine" became one of Hollywood's most-imitated.
Hepburn's third movie, "Morning Glory," brought her first Oscar. A string of parts followed — Jo in "Little Women," the ill-fated queen in "Mary of Scotland," the rich would-be actress in "Stage Door," the madcap socialite of "Bringing Up Baby," the shy rich girl in "Holiday." Then a theater chain owner branded her and other stars "box-office poison" and her film career waned.
Undaunted, Hepburn acquired the rights to a comedy about a spoiled heiress, and, after it was rewritten for her, took it to the New York stage. "The Philadelphia Story" was a hit.
She returned to Hollywood for the 1940 film version, which featured James Stewart and Cary Grant. Once again she was a top star, with a contract at MGM for "Woman of the Year," "Keeper of the Flame," "Sea of Grass," "Dragon Seed," "Without Love," "State of the Union," "Pat and Mike" and "Adam's Rib."
Her first film with Tracy was "Woman of the Year," in 1942. Legend has it that when they met she commented, "I'm afraid I'm a little big for you, Mr. Tracy." His reply: "Don't worry, I'll cut you down to size."
One critic compared them to "the high-strung thoroughbred and the steady workhorse."
Tracy never divorced his wife, who outlived him by 15 years; Hepburn, though she led a PBS tribute to Tracy in 1986, rarely mentioned their private relationship.
"I have had 20 years of perfect companionship with a man among men," she said in 1963. "He is a rock and a protection. I've never regretted it." In another interview, she discussed their special screen magic, saying they represented "the perfect American couple."
"The ideal American man is certainly Spencer — sports loving, man's man, strong-looking, big sort of head, boar neck and so forth. And I think I represent a woman. I needle him, and I irritate him, and I try to get around him, and if he put a big paw out and put it on my head, he could squash me. And I think that is the romantic ideal picture of the male and female in this country."
After leaving MGM in 1951, Hepburn divided her time between the stage — she appeared in Shaw's "The Millionairess" and Shakespeare's "As You Like It" — and film. She coolly braved a jungle for "The African Queen" and did her own balloon flying in the low-budget "Olly Olly Oxen Free."
She co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor (news) and Montgomery Clift (news) in "Suddenly Last Summer," with Jason Robards (news) Jr. in "Long Day's Journey into Night," with Laurence Olivier (news) in the TV movie "Love Among the Ruins" and with Henry Fonda (news) in "On Golden Pond," which won both of them Oscars (news - web sites).
She coaxed the ailing Tracy back onto the set for their roles as wealthy, liberal parents faced with the interracial marriage of their daughter in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Tracy died before the film's release.
Though an early appearance in "The Lake" promoted Dorothy Parker's famously scathing remark that Hepburn "ran the gamut of emotions from A to B," she worked as tirelessly on stage as in movies.
She starred in the musical "Coco" in 1969. When she broke an ankle during "A Matter of Gravity" in 1976, she went on in a wheelchair. Fans flocked to see her on Broadway in "West Side Waltz," in 1982, and when the show moved on to Boston, Hepburn displayed her outspokenness by ordering out a spectator who disturbed her by taking pictures.
Hepburn nearly lost a foot in a car accident in late 1982 and spent almost three weeks in a hospital. But by the end of the year she was back before the cameras, co-starring with Nick Nolte (news) in "Grace Quigley," a comedy about a woman teaming with a hit man to help old people who want to die.
"I don't believe in shocking people, but if I got sick and was no longer of any use to myself or anyone else, I would find a way of ending it," she once said.
For many years, she divided her time between New York and Connecticut. Even well into her 70s, she was restless with energy, arising at dawn and going to bed at 7 p.m. when she wasn't appearing in a play or making another film.
She took to writing; her first book, "The Making of `The African Queen': Or, How I Went To Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind" made her a best-selling author at 77. She followed it up with "Me: Stories of My Life" in 1991.
In 1994, Warren Beatty (news) persuaded a reluctant Hepburn to fly out to Los Angeles and play his aunt in the romantic comedy "Love Affair." She also appeared in a television movie, "One Christmas."
Among the honors coming her way in later years: In 1999, a survey of screen legends by the American Film Institute (news - web sites) ranked her No. 1 among actresses.
She was born in Hartford, Conn., on May 12, 1907, one of six children of Dr. Thomas N. Hepburn, a noted urologist and pioneer in social hygiene, and Katharine Houghton Hepburn, who worked for birth control and getting the vote for women.
"My parents were much more fascinating, as people, than I am," the actress once said. "Mother was really left of center; women's suffrage was her great cause, and I remember appearing at all the local fairs carrying huge flocks of balloons that said `Votes for Women.' I almost went up with them."
Young Kate was educated by tutors and at private schools, entering Bryn Mawr in 1924. After graduating, she joined a stock company in Baltimore.
She made her New York debut in "These Days" in 1928, the same year she married Philadelphia socialite Ludlow Ogden Smith. She divorced him in 1934 and later remarked, "I don't believe in marriage. It's bloody impractical to love, honor and obey. If it weren't, you wouldn't have to sign a contract."
But she also lauded "Luddy" for opening doors in New York for a raw young actress. She berated herself as behaving like "a pig" toward him.
"At the beginning I had money; I wasn't a poor little thing. I don't know what I would have done if I'd had to come to New York and get a job as a waiter or something like that.
"I think I'm a success, but I had every advantage — I should have been," she said.
She had various health problems in later years, including hip replacement surgery and tremors similar to Parkinson's disease (news - web sites).
In a 1990 interview, she told The Associated Press: "I'm what is known as gradually disintegrating. I don't fear the next world, or anything. I don't fear hell, and I don't look forward to heaven."
"There comes a time in your life when people get very sweet to you," she said in another interview. "I don't mind people being sweet to me. In fact, I'm getting rather sweet back at them.
"But I'm a madly irritating person, and I irritated them for years. Anything definite is irritating — and stimulating. I think they're beginning to think I'm not going to be around much longer. And what do you know — they'll miss me, like an old monument. Like the Flatiron Building."
McFadden said that according to Hepburn's wishes, there will be no memorial service and burial will be private at a later date.
Hepburn is survived by a sister, Margaret Hepburn Perry; a brother, Dr. Robert Hepburn; and 13 nieces and nephews.
Note from the Underground: Katherine Hepburn was cremated and buried in the family plot at Ceder Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Conneticutt.
6/16/03 - Hume Cronyn - FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) - Hume Cronyn, the versatile stage and screen actor who charmed audiences with his portrayals of irascible old men and frequently paired up with his wife, Jessica Tandy, has died of cancer. He was 91.
Cronyn died of prostate cancer Sunday at his home in Fairfield, Conn., family spokeswoman Karen Connelly said Monday. He and Tandy were married for nearly 52 years at the time of her death from ovarian cancer in September 1994.
The couple were honored at the 1994 Tony Awards with the first-ever Special Lifetime Achievement Award.
Cronyn, known to modern audiences for his roles in the 1980s ``Cocoon'' movies, was a seasoned stage actor, making his theater debut in 1931 as a paperboy in ``Up Pops the Devil.''
He was known for his versatility as an actor, playing a wide variety of characters on stage, including a janitor in ``Hippers' Holiday,'' in his Broadway debut in 1934; the gangster Elkus in ``There's Always a Breeze,'' in 1938; and Andrei Prozoroff, the brother in Chekhov's ``Three Sisters,'' in 1939.
He made his film debut in 1943 as the detective story addict Herbie Hawkins in Alfred Hitchcock's ``Shadow of a Doubt.''
After Cronyn appeared in Hitchcock's ``Lifeboat'' in 1944, a critic in the New York World-Telegram wrote: ``Hume Cronyn is one of the most vivid young character actors to come along in Hollywood in quite a time.''
Cronyn went on to take other film parts, both major and minor, appearing in numerous movies over the next 50 years, including: ``Phantom of the Opera'' (1943); ``The Postman Always Rings Twice'' (1946); ``People Will Talk'' (1951); ``Cleopatra'' (1963); ``There Was a Crooked Man'' (1970); and ``The World According to Garp'' (1982).
He was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actor for his performance in ``The Seventh Cross'' in 1944.
Cronyn frequently worked with his wife - on Broadway in ``The Gin Game'' (1978), on television, in ``Foxfire'' (1987); and in movies, as a married couple, in ``Cocoon'' (1985) and ``Cocoon: The Return'' (1988).
Both he and Tandy were Emmy Award nominees in 1994 for their performances in ``Hallmark Hall of Fame: To Dance With the White Dog.'' Cronyn won the award for best actor in a miniseries or special for the CBS movie about an elderly man whose dead wife's spirit returns in the form of a dog. He won two other Emmys as well.
He also won a Tony as supporting actor for playing Polonius in ``Hamlet,'' a 1964 production of Shakespeare's play directed by John Gielgud.
Cronyn, who often found himself playing curmudgeons, joked about his crusty image in a 1987 interview with the New York Post.
``I don't mind playing absolute bastards - some of the best parts I've had have been heavies. I just don't want to play the grouch,'' he said.
Cronyn also tried his hand at writing and directing.
In 1946, he directed a production of Tennessee Williams' ``Portrait of a Madonna,'' starring Tandy, and in 1950, on Broadway, Ludwig Bemelmans' ``Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.''
He co-wrote the television adaptation of ``The Dollmaker,'' starring Jane Fonda, in 1985.
Tandy once told an interviewer that Cronyn had a certain restlessness about him.
``I find it very difficult just to sit. I would love to learn how to do that with contentment,'' Cronyn said in 1988.
``I fill my life with a lot of `busyness' in between jobs. Then I work very hard. Some of it is quite unhealthy. It's compulsive. I don't know what to do about it. I'm a little old to change.''
On the set, Cronyn was known for being something of a perfectionist.
Director Dan Petrie, who worked with Cronyn in ``Cocoon: The Return'' and ``The Dollmaker,'' said Cronyn was meticulous about learning the idiosyncrasies of his characters.
``Hume ... had to work out everything very, very carefully for himself - how he would sit, how he would wear a hat, should he wear a hat, should it be down over his right eye or over his left eye, should he wear glasses, should he wear suspenders ... all of those things were very vital concerns of his,'' Petrie said. ``The mechanics of it, all of that was grist for his mill,'' Petrie said. ``He very painstakingly built his character through the way he would dress, the way he would present himself.''
Cronyn conceded he could be somewhat persnickety when preparing for a role.
``I do a lot of planning and plotting. That's my greatest weakness,'' he said in a 1984 interview. ``If I'm not terribly careful, I'll plan to a point where it could come out cut and dried.''
Cronyn was born in London, Ontario, one of five children of Hume Blake, a prominent Canadian financier and political figure.
He studied law for two years at McGill University in Montreal, but gave up a legal career for the theater.
At McGill, Cronyn was an amateur boxer; he was nominated for the Canadian Olympic boxing team in 1932.
Cronyn spent a summer studying under Max Reinhardt, a famous Austrian drama teacher and theatrical producer. From 1932 to '34, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
Cronyn leaves his wife, children's writer Susan Cooper Cronyn, whom he married in 1996.
He also is survived by a son, Christopher Cronyn of Missoula, Mont., daughters Tandy Cronyn of New York, and Susan Tettmer of Los Angeles and stepchildren Jonathan Grant and Kate Glennon, both of Scituate, Mass, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Services will be private, Connelly said.
6/12/03 - Gregory Peck - LOS ANGELES (AP) - Gregory Peck, who embodied saintly fatherhood in ``To Kill a Mockingbird'' and played a range of real-life figures from Abraham Lincoln to Josef Mengele, died Thursday at 87.
With his wife of 48 years, Veronique, at his side, Peck died about 4 a.m. at his Los Angeles home, spokesman Monroe Friedman said.
Though he played a handful of villains, including the Nazi doctor Mengele in ``The Boys From Brazil,'' Peck was best known for upright, chivalrous characters in such films as ``Roman Holiday'' and ``Gentleman's Agreement'' or stalwart heroes in ``Captain Horatio Hornblower'' and ``Pork Chop Hill.''
Nominated for Academy Awards four times early in his career, Peck finally won the best-actor honor with his fifth and final nomination for ``To Kill a Mockingbird.'' The 1962 classic was based on Harper Lee's novel about widowed lawyer Atticus Finch, who is raising two children amid Southern racial unrest as he defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
``Gregory Peck was unique. He represents integrity, compassion and honesty. His star shone brightly for a long time, and now it will continue to shine in heaven,'' said Kirk Douglas. ``We talked so often about doing a picture together, and I am sad that we never got to do one.''
Peck's ``legacy not only lies in his films, but in the dignified, decent and moral way in which he worked and lived,'' said Steven Spielberg. ``He was the reigning father of the actor.''
Finch earned Peck his final Hollywood honor, placing No. 1 last week on the American Film Institute's list of top 50 heroes in U.S. movies.
``I put everything I had into it - all my feelings and everything I'd learned in 46 years of living, about family life and fathers and children,'' Peck said in 1989, recalling the role. ``And my feelings about racial justice and inequality and opportunity.''
Spokesman Friedman said Peck had not been suffering from any particular ailments. Friedman said Peck's wife told him she held his hand as the actor slipped off to sleep and died.
``He had just been getting older and more fragile,'' Friedman said. ``He just sort of ran his course and died of old age.''
Off-screen as well as on, Peck conveyed a quiet dignity. He had one amicable divorce, and scandal never touched him. He served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and was active in the Motion Picture and Television Fund, American Cancer Society, National Endowment for the Arts and other causes.
``He was more than a great man. He was a complete and total gentleman,'' said Polly Bergen, who played Peck's wife in the 1962 thriller ``Cape Fear.'' ``One of the dearest I've worked with. He taught me chess between scenes.''
Peck's lanky, gaunt-cheeked good looks, measured speech and courtly demeanor quickly established him as star material in the 1940s.
He made his film debut in 1944's ``Days of Glory,'' a tale of Russian peasants coping with Nazi occupation. The next year, Peck played a priest in his second film, ``Keys to the Kingdom,'' which brought him his first Oscar nomination.
Three more nominations soon followed: for 1946's ``The Yearling,'' the family classic about a boy and his pet fawn; for 1947's best-picture winner ``Gentleman's Agreement,'' in which Peck played a reporter posing as a Jew to expose anti-Semitism in America; and for 1949's ``Twelve O'Clock High,'' with Peck as a World War II flight leader coming unglued under the pressures of command.
Other films included Alfred Hitchcock's ``Spellbound,'' the Ernest Hemingway adaptation ``The Snows of Kilimanjaro,'' the corporate-America critique ``The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit'' and the nuclear-Armageddon tale ``On the Beach.''
Peck played Gen. Douglas MacArthur in ``MacArthur,'' Lincoln in the TV miniseries ``The Blue and the Grey'' and F. Scott Fitzgerald in ``Beloved Infidel.''
Roles became scarce late in his career. He played writer Ambrose Bierce in 1989's ``Old Gringo'' and the owner of a company targeted for a hostile takeover in the 1991 Danny DeVito comedy ``Other People's Money.''
``It was an honor to know him. It was an honor to have worked with him,'' DeVito said. ``He was gentle, sweet and generous.''
Among Peck's final roles were playful revisitations of his past films. In the 1998 TV miniseries ``Moby Dick,'' Peck had a small part as a fire-and-brimstone preacher, a role Orson Welles played in the 1956 movie version in which Peck starred as Capt. Ahab.
Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of ``Cape Fear'' cast Peck and Robert Mitchum in a reversal of the good and evil types they played in the 1962 original. Mitchum, the vengeful ex-con who terrorized Peck and his family in the original, played a sympathetic policeman in the new version, while Peck played the ex-con's vile lawyer in the remake.
Born Eldred Gregory Peck on April 5, 1916, in La Jolla, California, Peck had a disjointed childhood after his parents divorced when he was 6. He was shuffled back and forth between them for two years, lived two more years with his maternal grandmother, then was sent at age 10 to a Roman Catholic military school in Los Angeles.
An English major at the University of California, Berkeley, Peck was lured into acting when the director of the campus little theater accosted him and said he needed a tall actor for a stage version of ``Moby Dick.''
Peck appeared in five more plays his last year at college, then went to New York City, where he studied with Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham, did summer stock and made his Broadway debut with the lead in Emlyn Williams' ``Morning Star.''
After his first few films, Peck was soon under non-exclusive contracts to four studios; he refused an exclusive pact with MGM despite Louis B. Mayer's tearful pleading. With most male stars absent in the war, the studios desperately needed strong leading men. Peck was exempt from service because of an old back injury.
A Roosevelt New Dealer, Peck campaigned for Harry Truman in 1948 ``at a time when nobody thought he had a chance to win.'' He continued championing liberal causes, producing an anti-Vietnam War film in 1972, ``The Trial of the Catonsville Nine'' and helping the campaign against the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987.
Peck married his first wife, Greta, in 1942 and they had three sons, Jonathan, Stephen and Carey. Jonathan, a TV reporter, committed suicide at age 30. After his divorce in 1954, Peck married Veronique Passani, a Paris reporter. They had two children, Anthony and Cecilia, both actors.
Note from the Underground: Gregory Peck was laid to rest at Our Lady of the Angels Catherdral in Los Angeles. Thanks to Underground members Roger Sinclair and Jesuit Jim for the information!
6/12/03 David Brinkley - NEW YORK (AP) - David Brinkley always downplayed his pioneering role in TV news, insisting, ``I didn't create anything. I just got here early.'' But during a half-century on the air, he helped write the rules of TV journalism while becoming one of its biggest stars.
Although the courtly but sometimes acerbic newsman could be found more recently in the company of Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson on ABC's ``This Week,'' it was at NBC that Brinkley, who died Wednesday at 82 at his Houston home of complications from a fall, first won fame.
In 1956, he was paired with Chet Huntley for NBC News' coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions. TV's first co-anchor team clicked with viewers, and a few weeks later the pair took over NBC's nightly 15-minute newscast, with Huntley in New York and Brinkley in Washington.
Their signoff - ``Good night, Chet,'' ``Good night, David'' - became a national catch phrase in the late 1950s. Ironically, Brinkley never cared for the signoff, which was coined by the show's producer.
``Neither of us liked it,'' Brinkley said a few years ago. ``Two guys on the air saying good night to each other didn't look quite right.''
But they had to close the newscast somehow, and their exchanged ``Good nights'' did the trick as ``The Huntley-Brinkley Report'' fused them into TV journalism's dominant force for a decade and a half.
``It's hard to overstate the enormous impact they had on the country,'' NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said Thursday. ``TV didn't have two bigger stars.''
Brinkley began the second act of his career in 1981 by moving to ABC News. There he flourished for another 15 years, particularly on Sundays with ``This Week with David Brinkley.''
He won 10 Emmy awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards and, in 1992, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. He is the author of four books, including the forthcoming ``Brinkley's Beat: People, Places, and Events That Shaped My Time,'' to be published in November.
Nonetheless, Brinkley insisted, ``I didn't create anything. I just got here early.''
Born in Wilmington, N.C., on July 10, 1920, he was still in high school when he began writing for his hometown newspaper. He attended the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University, and after Army service he worked in Southern bureaus for the United Press syndicate.
He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1943, thinking a radio job awaited him at CBS News. Instead, he landed a job four blocks away at NBC News and became White House correspondent - NBC's first.
Not long after that, as Brinkley recounted in his 1995 memoir, ``a large, odd-looking object arrived at the Washington studio ... so big it could barely be rolled through the door. It was our first television camera.''
In those early days, Brinkley was unusual for his courtly manner, wry wit and a clipped style of delivery that suggested a mild case of hiccups.
After reporting for NBC's ``Camel News Caravan with John Cameron Swayze'' in the early 1950s, Brinkley was paired with craggy, leading-man-handsome Chet Huntley for NBC News' coverage of the 1956 national conventions. It was a perfect fit.
``He and Huntley represented a transition from wartime radio, which had dominated television news for its first few years,'' said former NBC News president Reuven Frank, who came up with their soon-to-be-famous signoff as the young producer of their weeknight newscast.
``I used to classify newscasters as the Singers and the Shouters, and Brinkley was neither of those,'' Frank said Thursday. ``He was adult, he was stylish, he was skeptical. And the best writer I ever worked with.''
Beyond their nightly newscast, which began in October 1956, Huntley and Brinkley led NBC as it covered space shots, assassinations, riots and other breaking news with a beat-the-competition thoroughness expressed by the unofficial byword ``CBS plus 30 (minutes).''
During the 1964 Democratic convention, NBC, up against CBS and its anchor Walter Cronkite, won an astonishing 84 percent of the viewership.
But the fame of Huntley-Brinkley reached far beyond the realm of journalism. In 1965, a consumer-research company found that the twosome was recognized by more adult Americans than John Wayne or the Beatles.
One New Yorker magazine cartoon showed two parrots with a sign that says ``$150 a pair.'' The pet shop clerk tells a wavering customer, ``Madam, would you ask NBC to break up Huntley and Brinkley?''
And satirist-songwriter Tom Lehrer paid them tribute in his song about World War III: ``While we're attacking frontally, Watch Brinkally and Huntally, Describing contrapuntally, The cities we have lost.''
But if they were part of pop culture, they didn't act like it.
``One thing I've always been grateful for,'' said Brokaw, ``is how they held to a standard. They kept television news moving in the right direction.''
Then, in 1970, Huntley retired. He died four years later.
Brinkley co-anchored the renamed ``NBC Nightly News'' with John Chancellor, then became the program's commentator. But the spell was broken. ``The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite'' seized the ratings lead as NBC News stumbled.
After a falling out with his bosses, Brinkley gratefully moved on to ABC News, a late bloomer finally making a name for itself (thanks in part to Brinkley).
In November 1996, he stepped down as host of ABC's ``This Week with David Brinkley'' but continued to do commentary. He left amid a rare controversy: Late on Election Night, after a long evening, he said unkind things about President Clinton on the air, including calling him a ``bore.'' Even so, Clinton sat for an interview for Brinkley's last show anyway, during which Brinkley apologized.
Divorced from his first wife, Ann, in the 1960s, Brinkley married Susan Benfer in 1972.
Among his four children, Alan is an American Book Award-winning historian and Joel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
A man who shot pool, rode horses and designed more than one of the houses he lived in, Brinkley aptly summed up his career and life in the subtitle of his memoir: ``11 Presidents, 4 Wars, 22 Political Conventions, 1 Moon Landing, 3 Assassinations, 2,000 Weeks of News and Other Stuff on Television, and 18 Years of Growing Up in North Carolina.''
But in a 1992 interview, he summed up his profession this way: ``People go and find out what is happening, and then tell what they have seen. That's all a reporter ever did. I think it's a very honorable thing to do.''
6/9/03 - Trevor Goddard - LOS ANGELES - Australian actor Trevor Goddard, who played Lt. Cmdr. Mic Brumby on the long-running CBS series "JAG," was found dead at his North Hollywood home of a suspected drug overdose, authorities said on Monday.
Goddard's girlfriend discovered his body lying on a bed at about noon on Sunday, Los Angeles County coroner's office spokesman Craig Harvey said.
A preliminary investigation indicated his death was a possible suicide by an overdose of as-yet unknown "illicit, illegal" drugs, Harvey said.
Notes were discovered at Goddard's home, but investigators did not characterize them as suicide notes, he said. "There was nothing in the notes indicating that he meant to take his life," Harvey said. The notes were addressed to a friend.
Investigators think Goddard died sometime after 9 p.m. on Saturday after having a telephone conversation with a friend from his home, Harvey said. An autopsy is set for Tuesday.
A former professional boxer, Goddard was "discovered" while competing at a light-heavyweight bout and asked to appear in a series of beer commercials, according to his Web site.
He built a career on portraying villains in many of Hollywood's top action movies, including tough-guy Kano in New Line Cinema's "Mortal Kombat."
He was best known to U.S. audiences from his recurring small screen role
as Mic Brumby on the military drama "Jag" from 1998 to 2001. Goddard
had just completed work on "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black
Pearl" with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom.
6/3/03 - Richard Cusack - EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - Richard Cusack, an advertising executive turned actor and screenwriter whose children included Hollywood stars John and Joan Cusack, has died at 77.
Cusack, who died of pancreatic cancer Monday, abandoned a 17-year successful advertising career in 1970 to enter the film industry.
``He said, `Who cares if you brush your teeth with Colgate or Palmolive? There are bigger issues out there,''' said his wife, Nancy Cusack.
He won awards for a 1971 abortion documentary, ``The Committee,'' and wrote plays.
Cusack also acted on the stage and in such movies as ``My Bodyguard,'' ``The Fugitive'' and ``Return to Me.''
He wrote the 1999 HBO film ``The Jack Bull,'' in which his son John had a starring role. Daughter Joan got her start in ``My Bodyguard'' with her father.
Joan Cusack has appeared in such movies as ``Sixteen Candles,'' ``Working Girl'' and ``In & Out.'' John Cusack has been in ``High Fidelity,'' ``Grosse Pointe Blank'' and ``Being John Malkovich.''
Their siblings - Ann, Bill and Susie - also have appeared in films.
``He encouraged us to go for our passions, our dreams, what we wanted to do,'' Ann Cusack said.
5/16/03 - June Carter Cash - NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - June Carter Cash, the Grammy-winning scion of one of country music's pioneering families and the wife of country giant Johnny Cash, died Thursday of complications from heart surgery. She was 73.
She died at a hospital with her husband of 35 years and family members at her bedside, manager Lou Robin said. She had been critically ill after May 7 surgery to replace a heart valve.
A singer, songwriter, musician, actress and author, June Carter Cash performed with her husband on record and on stage, doing songs like ``Jackson'' and ``If I Were a Carpenter,'' which won Grammy awards in 1967 and 1970, respectively. Their duets included ``It Ain't Me Babe'' in 1964 and ``If I Had a Hammer'' in 1972.
``People talk about Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette when it comes to pioneering women in country music. But they very seldom mention June, somewhat because she got married to Johnny Cash,'' said Ed Benson, executive director of the Country Music Association. ``I think people should think of her more often when they think of the pioneering women in country music.''
She was co-writer of her husband's 1963 hit ``Ring of Fire,'' which was about falling in love with Cash. In his 1997 autobiography, Johnny Cash described how his wife stuck with him through his years of amphetamine abuse.
``June said she knew me - knew the kernel of me, deep inside, beneath the drugs and deceit and despair and anger and selfishness, and knew my loneliness,'' he wrote. ``She said she could help me. ... If she found my pills, she flushed them down the toilet. And find them she did; she searched for them, relentlessly.''
Longtime friend Kris Kristofferson, who wrote the Cash hit ``Sunday Morning Coming Down,'' said Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash have ``been partners in life for as long as I've known them - always in love, and always there for each other.
``I know how much she means to him. It's the hardest thing he'll ever have to face.''
June Carter was born June 23, 1929, in Maces Spring, Va. Her mother, Maybelle Carter, was in the Carter Family music act with her cousin Sara Carter and Sara's husband, A.P. Carter. In 1927, they made what are among the first country music recordings.
The family act broke up, but mother and daughters June, Helen and Anita continued on as Mother Maybelle & the Carter Sisters, with little June playing autoharp.
Starting in 1939, the sisters starred in a radio show on XERA in Del Rio, Texas, that could be heard as far away as Saskatchewan, Canada. The Carters went on to become staples of the Grand Ole Opry country music show in Nashville.
The Carters' harmony singing still inspires artists today and Maybelle's ``Carter lick'' on the guitar has become one of the most influential techniques in country music.
In the late 1950s, after her marriage to country singer Carl Smith broke up, June Carter moved to New York to study acting at the behest of director Elia Kazan, who had seen her perform while scouting Tennessee for movie locations.
In 1961, she turned down an offer to work on a variety show that had Woody Allen as one of the writers, agreeing instead to tour with Johnny Cash for $500 a week. They married in 1968 after he proposed to her on stage in London, Ontario.
In a 1987 Associated Press interview, June Carter Cash described her husband as ``probably the most unusual, fine, unselfish person I've known.''
``There's a lot of power to him,'' she said then. ``I've seen him on shows with people with a No. 1 record or a lot of No. 1 records, but when John walks on that stage, the rest of 'em might as well leave.''
In 1999, she released an acoustic album, ``Press On,'' that amounted to a musical autobiography and won her another Grammy. The album, her first in a quarter-century, followed her career from its beginning through her then 31-year marriage and collaboration with Cash.
``There's a lot of people who I love - fans that I've known through the years - who will be glad I did it,'' she said about the album at the time. ``And maybe some other people ... wonder what Johnny Cash's wife is really like.''
In 1979, she wrote an autobiography, ``Among My Klediments,'' and released ``From the Heart,'' a memoir, in 1987.
June Carter Cash did occasional acting roles, including the part of Robert Duvall's mother in the 1997 film ``The Apostle.'' With her husband, she periodically performed at Billy Graham crusades.
Johnny and June Carter Cash had a son, John Carter Cash, in 1970. She was also the mother of country singer Carlene Carter, whose father was Smith, and singer Rosanne Cash is her stepdaughter.
Funeral services will be private and details will not be released at the request of the Cash family.
5/15/03 - Robert Stack - LOS ANGELES (AP) - Veteran actor Robert Stack, who earned an Emmy as the tough-guy hero of TV's ``Untouchables'' and an Oscar nomination at the height of his movie fame in the 1950s, has died. He was 84.
Stack, 84, was found dead of a heart attack Wednesday evening at his home by his wife, Rosemarie.
The actor was treated for prostate cancer in October. But his wife said he had been feeling good, and he looked hardy at a weekend 80th birthday party for longtime friend Johnny Grant.
``He came in full of energy and enthusiasm, gave me a good, strong birthday hug,'' Grant said. ``What a shock.''
Nancy Reagan said she and former President Reagan had known Stack more than 50 years. ``Bob had an extraordinary career in both movies and television,'' she said. ``Just when it seemed he was ready to retire, he always found a new project.''
Stack had a lengthy film career, beginning with his screen debut in 1939's ``First Love,'' where he gave young actress Deanna Durbin her much-publicized first screen kiss.
He became a matinee idol overnight.
Longtime Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan recalled Stack's pleasure when Cowan told him he had seen a publicity photo of the actor in the preserved home of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose family hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam house for 25 months before they were captured in World War II.
``There was a big still picture on Anne Frank's bulletin board,'' Cowan said. ``I told him about it last year.''
His greatest fame came with the 1959-63 TV drama ``The Untouchables,'' in which he played Chicago crimebuster Eliot Ness and won a best actor Emmy.
That role, coupled with his job as host of the reality series ``Unsolved Mysteries,'' created an enduring good-guy image.
``I think there's a definite carry-over from Eliot Ness,'' Stack said in a 1998 interview with The Associated Press. ``Somebody once said, 'You really think you're Eliot Ness.' No, I don't think I'm Ness, but I sure as hell know I'm not Al Capone.'''
Stack also could do comedy. He spoofed his screen image as a granite-jawed, humorless tough guy in the 1980 comedy ``Airplane!'' An avid golfer, he had a comic role in 1988's ``Caddyshack II.''
In real life, Stack was an athletic man who liked skeet shooting and golf. Relaxed and jovial, with abundant Hollywood anecdotes, he had a knack for being able to talk to anyone, Grant recalled.
``This guy was at home with the society folks (and) he could sit on a curb down on the Bowery and talk to the less fortunate folks and be just as comfortable,'' Grant said.
``Everybody loved him. I don't think I ever heard one harsh word said about Bob Stack. Nor did I ever hear him give one,'' Grant said.
Stack was born into a performing arts family in Los Angeles. His great-great-grandfather opened one of the city's first theaters, and his grandparents, uncle and mother were opera singers.
His father, however, ``was the only Irishman in County Kerry who couldn't sing, and that's whose singing voice I got,'' Stack said in 1998.
But the young man had a resonant speaking voice and rugged good looks, enough to catch the eye of producer Joe Pasternak when Stack ventured onto the Universal lot at age 20.
``He said 'How'd you like to be in pictures? We'll make a test with Helen Parrish, a little love scene.' Helen Parrish was a beautiful girl. 'Gee, that sounds keen,' I told him. I got the part,'' Stack recalled.
He played a series of youthful romantic leads before leaving Hollywood to serve with the Navy as an aerial gunnery instructor in World War II.
His postwar career climbed in the 1950s with meatier roles and better projects, including ``The High and the Mighty'' starring John Wayne in 1954.
In 1957, Stack was nominated for a best supporting Oscar for ``Written on the Wind,'' a domestic melodrama starring Lauren Bacall and Rock Hudson. When he lost the trophy (to Anthony Quinn, ``Lust for Life''), Jimmy Stewart reassured him he'd win next time.
``But Jimmy, what if I never get another part like this?'' Stack said.
``Well, that's just too damn bad,'' Stewart replied.
Stack was never nominated for another Oscar. But he told that story with a chuckle - he clearly didn't take himself or life in Hollywood too seriously. ``It's all malarkey; even the wonderful part is malarkey,'' he said.
Stack made more than 40 films, including ``The Iron Glove'' (1954); ``Good Morning Miss Dove'' (1955) and ``Is Paris Burning?'' (1966).
His role as Ness in ``The Untouchables'' brought him a best actor Emmy in 1960. The series, awash in Prohibition Era shoot-'em-ups between gangsters and federal agents, drew harsh criticism about its violence - along with good ratings for ABC.
Stack found more series success with ``The Name of the Game'' (1968-71), ``Most Wanted'' (1976-77) and ``Strike Force'' (1981-82).
``Unsolved Mysteries,'' true stories of crime and mysterious disappearances, brought Stack back to TV in 1988, and the popular show continued through the late '90s.
His autobiography, ``Straight Shooting,'' was published in 1979.
Stack is survived by his wife, whom he married in 1956, and their two children, Elizabeth and Charles, both of Los Angeles.
Note from the Underground: Robert Stack was laid to rest at Westwood Memorial Park, in the Room of Prayer, which is locked. Thanks to Underground members Anne, Dana, Gail and Scott Michaels for the information!
- Addie McPhail Arbuckle - LOS ANGELES (AP) - Addie McPhail, a dark-eyed
actress in short-film comedies when she became the third and last wife of
silent-movie star Roscoe ``Fatty'' Arbuckle, died of undisclosed causes April
14. She was 97. After seven years of acting in a few feature films and low-budget
short subjects including series called ``The Newlyweds'' and ``Winnie Winkle,''
she married Arbuckle in 1932 when she was 26 and he was 45. Arbuckle's film
career was halted in the early '20s because of a scandal that included two
murder trials before he was acquitted at a third trial on a reduced charge
of manslaughter. Arbuckle had been one of Hollywood's top comics and highest-paid
actors until he was charged in 1921 with the murder of a young actress, Virginia
Rappe. She died of a ruptured bladder four days after collapsing in Arbuckle's
bedroom during a party in his San Francisco hotel suite. Although he was acquitted
Arbuckle could no longer get acting work. He directed low-budget comedies
under the pseudonym William Goodrich and met 1931 as he successfully staged
a comeback. They were married in 1932 when Warner Bros. gave Arbuckle a chance
to resume acting in films. Arbuckle made a series of successful film shorts
before he died in 1933 in New York City, just after the couple celebrated
their first wedding anniversary. After Arbuckle died, McPhail appeared in
seven more films including five in uncredited bit parts including roles in
``Body and Soul'' and ``Corsair'' and ``Girls Demand Excitement'' starring
John Wayne. Her last film appearance was in ``Northwest Passage'' starring
Spencer Tracy in 1940.
2/27/03 Fred Rogers - PITTSBURGH (Feb. 27) - Fred Rogers, who gently invited millions of children to be his neighbor as host of the public television show ``Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'' for more than 30 years, died of cancer early Thursday. He was 74. Rogers died at his Pittsburgh home, said family spokesman David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the show. Rogers had been diagnosed with stomach cancer sometime after the holidays, Newell said. ``He was so genuinely, genuinely kind, a wonderful person,'' Newell said. ``His mission was to work with families and children for television. ... That was his passion, his mission, and he did it from day one.'' From 1968 to 2000, Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, produced the show at Pittsburgh public television station WQED. The final new episode, which was taped in December 2000, aired in August 2001, though PBS affiliates continued to air back episodes. Rogers composed his own songs for the show and began each episode in a set made to look like a comfortable living room, singing ``It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood,'' as he donned sneakers and a zip-up cardigan. ``I have really never considered myself a TV star,'' Rogers said in a 1995 interview. ``I always thought I was a neighbor who just came in for a visit.'' His message remained simple: telling his viewers to love themselves and others. On each show, he would take his audience on a magical trolley ride into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where his puppet creations would interact with each other and adults. Rogers did much of the puppet work and voices himself. He also studied early childhood development at the University of Pittsburgh and consulted with an expert there over the years. ``He was certainly a perfectionist. There was a lot more to Fred than I think many of us saw,'' said Joe Negri, a guitarist who on the show played the royal handyman in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and owner of ``Negri's Music Shop.'' Negri said Rogers refused to accept shoddy ad-libbing by guests who may have thought they could slack off during a kid's show. But Rogers could also enjoy taping as if he were a child himself, Negri recalled. Once, he said, the two of them fell into laughter because of the difficulty they had putting up a tent on the show. Rogers taught children how to share, deal with anger and even why they shouldn't fear the bathtub by assuring them they'll never go down the drain. During the Persian Gulf War, Rogers told youngsters that ``all children shall be well taken care of in this neighborhood and beyond - in times of war and in times of peace,'' and he asked parents to promise their children they would always be safe. ``We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility,'' he said in 1994. ``It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' ``Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.'' Rogers came out of broadcasting retirement last year to record public service announcements for the Public Broadcasting Service telling parents how to help their children deal with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. ``If they see the tragedy replayed on television, they might think it's happening at that moment,'' he said. Rogers' show won four Emmy Awards, plus one for lifetime achievement. He was given a George Foster Peabody Award in 1993, ``in recognition of 25 years of beautiful days in the neighborhood.'' At a ceremony marking the show's 25th anniversary that year, Rogers said, ``It's not the honors and not the titles and not the power that is of ultimate importance. It's what resides inside.'' The show's ratings peaked in 1985-86 when about 8 percent of all U.S. households with televisions tuned in. By the 1999-2000 season, viewership had dropped to about 2.7 percent, or 3.6 million people. As other children's programming opted for slick action cartoons, Rogers stayed the same and stuck to his soothing message. Off the set, Rogers was much like his television persona. He swam daily, read voraciously and listened to Beethoven. He once volunteered at a state prison in Pittsburgh and helped set up a playroom there for children visiting their parents. One of Rogers' red sweaters hangs in the Smithsonian Institution. Rogers was born in Latrobe, 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Early in his career, Rogers was an unseen puppeteer in ``The Children's Corner,'' a local show he helped launch at WQED in 1954. In seven years of unscripted, live television, he developed many of the puppets used in his later show, including King Friday XIII and Curious X the Owl. He was ordained in 1963 with a charge to continue his work with children and families through television. That same year, Rogers accepted an offer to develop ``Misterogers,'' his own 15-minute show, for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. He brought the show back to Pittsburgh in 1966, incorporating segments of the CBC show into a new series distributed by the Eastern Educational Network to cities including Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. In 1968, ``Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'' began distribution across the country through National Educational Television, which later became the Public Broadcasting Service. Rogers' gentle manner was the butt of some comedians. Eddie Murphy parodied him on ``Saturday Night Live'' in the 1980s with his ``Mister Robinson's Neighborhood,'' a routine Rogers found funny and affectionate. Rogers is survived by his wife, Joanne, a concert pianist; two sons; and two grandsons.
1/23/03 Nell Carter - LOS ANGELES -- "Gimme a Break!" star Nell Carter, who played the sassy, matronly housekeeper on the 1980s sitcom and received a Tony Award in 1978 for the Broadway musical "Ain't Misbehavin,"' died Thursday, her publicist said. She was 54. The singer-actress collapsed in her Beverly Hills home and was found by one of her 13-year-old adopted sons, according to spokesman Roger Lane. Carter had suffered from diabetes for years, Lane added, and underwent brain surgeries to remove two aneurysms in July and September of 1992. They left her with initial short-term memory damage and problems with her equilibrium. Six months after being released from the hospital, however, she made an appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony and performed the nominated song "Friend Like Me" from the Disney cartoon "Aladdin." Carter was recently in rehearsals at a Long Beach theater for "Raisin," the musical version of "Raisin in the Sun." That show was set to run from Feb. 7 to March 9. "She was a pioneer in many ways," said Audra McDonald, the Tony Award-winning actress and singer ("Carousel," "Ragtime," "Master Class") and co-star of the NBC TV series "Mr. Sterling." "She had the ability to be such an incredible comedic musical theater actress, blow a song all the way to the back of the wall ... and then come down and be so intimate and beautiful in a ballad," McDonald added. In addition to Carter's Tony win for "Ain't Misbehavin,"' she received an Emmy in 1982 for a TV broadcast of the show, which was a revue of Fats Waller songs. Her first series was a supporting role in 1980 on the short-lived Claude Akins cop comedy "Lobo." Her NBC comedy "Gimme a Break!" ran from 1981 to 1987, and garnered her two more Emmy nominations, in 1982 and 1983. In February 1985, an episode of the show was broadcast live -- the first for a situation comedy in nearly 30 years. Carter and her co-stars performed flawlessly, and at the end, she threw up her arms and yelled, "We did it!" She played the housekeeper to a family headed by a widower who was the town police chief, played by Dolph Sweet. After Sweet died in May 1985, his character "died" too and the show went through a series of plot and cast changes. Carter also played the cruel orphanage operator Miss Hannigan in the 20th anniversary revival of "Annie" in 1997, and had roles in the films "The Grass Harp" (1995), "Modern Problems" (1981) and "Hair" (1979). Growing up in Birmingham, Ala., Carter listened to her mother's recordings of Dinah Washington and B.B. King, and her brother's Elvis Presley records. She liked Doris Day, the Andrews Sisters, Johnny Mathis, and admired the work of Cleo Laine and Barbra Streisand. Carter said she would have preferred to be an opera singer. "When I was growing up, (performing) was not something you aspired to," she said in 1988. "I was a weirdo to want to be in show business. Most kids wanted to be teachers or nurses." Blessed with a big voice and strong stage presence despite her 4-foot-11 height, the heavyset Carter prided herself on her range as a performer, doing musicals and drama as well as comedy . Early in her career, she performed as a singer on the gospel circuit. She moved on to coffeehouses and nightclubs in her native Birmingham, before going on to New York. Carter, who had performed in the choir of her Presbyterian church, converted to Judaism in the early 1980s after marrying a Jewish businessman from Austria, Georg Krynicki. "I needed to know where God was, and I went back to the basics," she said of her conversion. Carter aspired to be a belter: a singer who gave her all. "You're afraid you might hyperventilate or crack, but you do it for the excitement of it," she said. "Head singers have to hold everything tight to get the note. I like belters, people who have that non-control but control." From early in her career until the mid-1980s, Carter struggled to overcome alcoholism and drug addiction, eventually shaking her addictions through a 12-step program. "I was hanging out with the wrong crowd, participating in things I wouldn't choose to do now," she said. "I'm not saying I was a loose woman. I did have my episode with drugs. ... I was able to have a good career while I was doing terrible things to myself." She filed for divorce from Krynicki in 1989 and was briefly married to Canadian record producer Roger Larocque in 1992. Carter is survived by an adult daughter, Tracy, from her marriage to Krynicki, and two adopted sons, Joshua and Daniel, both 13.
Note from the Underground: Nell Carter will be buried at Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, CA on Monday. Thanks to Steve Goldstein at Beneath Los Angeles for the information!
1/18/03 Richard Crenna - LOS ANGELES - Actor Richard Crenna, who broke into the entertainment business as a squeaky-voiced adolescent on a radio comedy and inspired tough guys as an adult, playing Sylvester Stallone's former commander in the "Rambo" movies, died Friday, his family said. He was 76. Crenna, whose six-decade career spanned drama and comedy in radio, television and the movies, died of heart failure that was a complication of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center near Beverly Hills. The Los Angeles native made a name for himself playing adolescent Walter Denton on the radio series "Our Miss Brooks". When the radio show moved to television, Crenna moved with it. "He loved the camaraderie of a crew. He loved the creative process. He's been working in it pretty much from the beginning," said his son, actor Richard Anthony Crenna. In the middle of his career, Crenna started playing dramatic roles. He won an Emmy Award in 1985 for his role as a macho cop who is sexually assaulted in the TV movie "The Rape of Richard Beck." He was also nominated once for his supporting role in the 1950s situation comedy "The Real McCoys," about a West Virginia family that moved to a farm in southern California, and twice for his lead role in the 1960s drama "Slattery's People," about a state legislator crusading against injustice. Action movie fans probably know him best for his role as Col. Trautman in the three Rambo movies, "First Blood," (1982) "Rambo: First Blood II" (1985) and "Rambo III" (1988). He brought his comic sense to bear by parodying his tough-guy "Rambo" role in the 1993 spoof "Hot Shots! Part Deux." Crenna kept busy in his later years with a succession of television movies, including the 2001 Showtime cable project "The Day Reagan Was Shot," and regular guest appearances on the television drama "Judging Amy." MIXING FAMILY AND ACTING Crenna strove to balance work and family, bringing his wife and children with him on film shoots, including a year-long adventure in Hong Kong and Taiwan to film the 1966 naval epic "The Sand Pebbles." Crenna played a courageous gunboat captain in the movie, which starred Steve McQueen. Crenna's son remembers arriving at a Taiwanese hotel for Christmas to find his father had imported and set up a Christmas tree. The actor had beat cancer once. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about five years ago. The fatal pancreatic cancer struck late in 2002. Crenna, who is survived by his wife, Penni, daughters Seana and Maria, son Richard and three granddaughters, was often described as a down-to-earth man who loved to act. "There was no grump. I grew up seeing a man love to go to work," said his daughter, Seana. She remembered her father pitching in on a family gardening project with workers who were never told they were working with a star. "I would not be surprised if he took a lunch pail to work," said Crenna's son
Note from the Underground: Richard Crenna was cremated and returned to residence. Thanks to Underground member Jesuit Jim for the information!
1/12/03 Maurice Gibb - MIAMI BEACH, Fla.
— Maurice Gibb, a member of the famed disco band the Bee Gees died Sunday
at a Miami Beach hospital, his family said. He was 53. Gibb, who joined with
his older brother and his twin to harmonize their way to becoming one of the
best selling musical groups ever, suffered cardiac arrest before undergoing
emergency surgery for a blocked intestine. He was admitted to Mount Sinai
Medical Center Wednesday and underwent surgery Thursday. “To our extended
family friends and fans, with great sadness and sorrow we regretfully announce
the passing of Maurice Gibb this morning,” Gibb’s family said
in a statement. “His love, enthusiasm and energy for life remain an
inspiration to all of us. We will all deeply miss him.” Gibb played
bass and keyboard for the group, whose name is short for the Brothers Gibb.The
Bee Gees — twins Maurice and Robin, and their older brother Barry —
have lived in South Florida since the late 1970s. Their younger brother, Andy,
who had a successful solo career, died in 1988 at age 30 from a heart ailment.
Known for their close harmonies and original sound, the Bee Gees are members
of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and their 1977 contributions to the “Saturday
Night Fever.” album made it the best selling movie soundtrack ever with
more than 40 million copies sold. Among their disco hits on that album are
“Stayin’ Alive,” “More Than a Woman” and “How
Deep Is Your Love,” and “Night Fever.” The group won seven
Grammy Awards. The Bee Gees last album was in 2001, entitled “This Is
Where I Came In. The family emigrated from England to Australia in 1958, and
the brothers soon gained fame as a teen pop group. They returned to England
in the 1960s, and their first four albums contained hits such as “1941
New York Mining Disaster,” “To Love Somebody,” and their
first U.S. number one song, 1971’s “How Can You Mend A Broken
Heart.” The Bee Gees followed “Saturday Night Fever” with
the 1978 album “Spirits Having Flown” which sold 20 million copies.
The brothers wrote and produced songs for Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross and
Dionne Warwick in the 1980s. They also wrote the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
hit “Islands in the Stream.”
The Bee Gees released three studio albums and went on a world tour in the 1990s. The live album from the tour “One Night Only,” sold more than 1 million albums in the United States. The Bee Gees run a music production company in Miami called Middle Ear Studios.