Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Obit watch: July 11, 2016.

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Sydney H. Schanberg, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, passed away on Saturday.

Mr. Schanberg was a correspondent for the NYT who covered the fall of Cambodia.

In the spring of 1975, as Pol Pot’s Communist guerrillas closed in on the capital, Phnom Penh, after five years of civil war in Cambodia, Mr. Schanberg and his assistant, Dith Pran, refused to heed directives from Times editors in New York to evacuate the city and remained behind as nearly all Western reporters, diplomats and senior officials of Cambodia’s American-backed Lon Nol government fled for their lives.
“Our decision to stay,” Mr. Schanberg wrote later, “was founded on our belief — perhaps, looking back, it was more a devout wish or hope — that when the Khmer Rouge won their victory, they would have what they wanted and would end the terrorism and brutal behavior we had written so often about.”

That didn’t quite work out the way Mr. Schanberg hoped. He was eventually thrown out of Cambodia and returned to the United States, but he never forgot Mr. Dith.

Overwhelmed with guilt over having to leave Mr. Dith behind, he asked for time off to write about his experiences, to help Mr. Dith’s refugee wife and four children establish a new life in San Francisco and to begin the seemingly hopeless task of finding his friend.

Dith Pran escaped Cambodia in 1979 and made his way to the United States. He and Mr. Schanberg got back together, Mr. Schanberg got him a job as a photographer with the NYT, and wrote an article for the NYT magazine, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran”. That became a book, and eventually the movie “The Killing Fields”.

“I’m a very lucky man to have had Pran as my reporting partner and even luckier that we came to call each other brother,” Mr. Schanberg said after Mr. Dith died in 2008. “His mission with me in Cambodia was to tell the world what suffering his people were going through in a war that was never necessary. It became my mission too. My reporting could not have been done without him.”

Obit watch: July 3, 2016.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

I’ve been running flat out for the better part of the past two days, and haven’t been near a real computer, so I want to get these up before I crash.

I really don’t have anything profound to add to the flood of Elie Wiesel appreciations. I haven’t read Night, though I know I probably should at some point.

Michael Cimino. I also haven’t watched a single Cimino movie, though I do have the Criterion director’s cut edition of “Heaven’s Gate”. I do plan to watch that at some point, but we watched “Spartacus” (also the Criterion edition) recently and thought that was long: “Heaven’s Gate” in the director’s cut is about 30 minutes longer. A/V Club.

Finally, Robin Hardy, director of the “good” (or maybe just “not batshit insane”) version of “The Wicker Man”.

Obit watch: June 25, 2016.

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Michael Herr, author of Dispatches. This is supposed to be one of the great Vietnam War books: I personally haven’t gotten around to reading it.

Things I did not know:

He contributed the narration to “Apocalypse Now,” Francis Ford Coppola’s epic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” and with the director Stanley Kubrick and Gustav Hasford wrote the screenplay for “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), adapted from Mr. Hasford’s novel (“The Short-Timers”).

Bernie Worrell, legendary keyboard player.

His stint in the 1970s as keyboardist and music director in groups led by George Clinton — Parliament, Funkadelic and their eventual merged identity of Parliament-Funkadelic, or P-Funk — taught generations of musicians and listeners that synthetic sounds could be earthy and untamed.

Later on, of course, he played with the Talking Heads. I think this clip has some good shots of Mr. Worrell in action with the Heads:

He played, and played with, whatever technology was available to him at the time: piano, electric piano, clavinet, Hammond organ, as well as Moog, ARP, Yamaha and Prophet synthesizers. What he brought to every piece of technology was a human element: quirks and syncopations, complex structures and outbursts of anarchy. His oft-repeated advice to young musicians was “hands on” — to keep the human touch in music rather than depending on machines.

A/V Club.

Obit watch: June 19, 2016.

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Anton Yelchin, Chekov in the new Star Trek movies. LAT. A/V Club. He was only 27.

Lois Duncan. YA author, perhaps most famous for I Know What You Did Last Summer. A/V Club.

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the reasons I like linking to A/V Club obits is that they’re very good at putting people’s lives in context – explaining who this person was, and why they mattered – without snark or meanness. They’re also quicker and better about acknowledging popular culture figures than, say, the NYT.

This obit for Ron Lester is a good example of what I’m talking about. Mr. Lester was Billy Bob in “Varsity Blues” and had roles on “Freaks and Geeks” and “Popular”.

…for a time, he became the go-to actor for casting directors looking to cast large, funny young men.

But his weight was killing him, so he had gastric bypass surgery. The problem was, after he lost a whole bunch of weight, he was no longer distinctive as a large funny guy, and was just one of many interchangeable normal sized funny guys in Hollywood.

The A/V Club links to this Grantland profile of Mr. Lester from 2014, which I commend to your attention. Mr. Lester was 45.

Obit watch: June 8, 2016.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

The LAT is reporting the death of actress Theresa Saldana.

She was in “Raging Bull” (which, oddly enough, I have never gotten around to watching) and the 90’s TV series “The Commish”.

It makes me feel weird to say this, but: she was perhaps best known as the victim of a vicious attack by a deranged stalker in 1982. She was stabbed 10 times before a passerby pulled the guy off her. I don’t want to say this was the first celebrity stalking attack, because I’m sure someone will prove me wrong: but it was one of the earliest I can remember, and one of the first to draw public attention. (Ms. Saldana played herself in “Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story”, the movie based on her case.)

[Arthur R.] Jackson [the deranged stalker – DB] was convicted of attempted murder and held in California state prison until being released in 1996 and deported to the U.K., where he was committed in 1997 to a psychiatric institution after pleading guilty to killing a man 30 years earlier. Jackson died in 2004.

Obit watch: May 27, 2016.

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Angela Paton, character actress who played Mrs. Lancaster (the innkeepr) in “Groundhog Day”.

Obit watch: May 27, 2016.

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Angela Paton, character actress who played Mrs. Lancaster (the innkeepr) in “Groundhog Day”.

Obit watch: May 27, 2016.

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Angela Paton, character actress who played Mrs. Lancaster (the innkeepr) in “Groundhog Day”.

Obit watch: May 25, 2016.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Beth Howland passed away December 31st of last year, but her death was not announced until yesterday, in keeping with the wishes of her family.

She played Amy in the original Broadway production of Sondheim’s “Company”, and had a slew of other roles. Ms. Howland was perhaps most famous as Vera on “Alice”.

Unlike many actors, Ms. Howland had never worked as a waitress. “But I just kept sitting around coffee shops and watching how it’s done, and now I can carry four dinners,” she told Knight Newspapers.

I kind of wonder if she was typecast after “Alice”: the obit says she worked “sporadically”.

She had small guest roles on “Eight Is Enough,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “The Tick.”

Also:

She and the actress Jennifer Warren were the executive producers of the documentary “You Don’t Have to Die,” about a 6-year-old boy’s successful battle against cancer. It won an Academy Award in 1989 for best short-subject documentary.

(Wouldn’t “After Alice” be a great idea for a new TV series? Linda Lavin is still alive: she could have taken over the diner from Mel. Polly Holliday is still alive, too: she could be working the counter, and then you cast someone to play Vera’s daughter, who works as a waitress…Hollywood types, you know where to reach me.)

The AV Club is reporting the passing of Burt Kwouk, who sounds like a very cool and interesting guy. He was in three Bond films, but is perhaps best known as Cato in the Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” movies. (Edited to add: NYT obit.)

“They were always a lot of fun because after a while I got to know Cato quite well and I liked Cato because he never argued with me and he never borrowed money from me. I liked playing Cato quite a lot,” he said of the role in a 2011 interview with the BBC.

Not exactly obits, but worth noting in my opnion: both Bubba Smith and Dave Mirra have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Aux armes, citoyens, Formez vos bataillons, Marchons, marchons!

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

I could claim that I wanted to split this out into a separate obit for reasons. Which is true, but I also didn’t find this one until after the previous post.

The WP is reporting the death of Madeleine LeBeau at the age of 92.

Ms. LeBeau (sometimes credited as Lebeau) was the last surviving credited cast member of “Casablanca” (1942), which the American Film Institute lists as the second greatest movie of all time. “Citizen Kane” is No. 1, according to the film preservation group.

Ms. LeBeau played Yvonne, the girlfriend Rick throws over. She’s also in my favorite scene from what is one of my favorite movies ever:

I believe Ms. LeBeau is the teary eyed woman about 1:30 in, the one who isn’t Bergman and isn’t holding the guitar. Interestingly, Ms. LeBeau’s then-husband, Marcel Dalio, was Emil the croupier (“Your winnings, sir.”)

Ms. LeBeau made her screen debut in a 1939 drama, “Young Girls in Trouble.”

One of her last film roles was in “8 1/2”.

Edited to add 5/17: NYT obit.

Obit watch: April 14, 2016.

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Two! Two! Two themes in one!

Theme 1: people who had interesting lives and careers.

Anne Jackson, noted actress.

Ms. Jackson, who had endured a difficult life growing up in Brooklyn, carved out an impressive stage career of her own. Critics hailed her range and the subtlety of her characterizations — including all the women, from a middle-aged matron to a grandmother, in David V. Robison’s “Promenade, All!” (1972) — and a housewife verging on hysteria in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Absent Friends” (1977).

She was also married to Eli Wallach from 1948 until he died in 2014. And they were good together:

They both won Obie Awards for their work in Mr. Schisgal’s 1963 Off Broadway double bill, “The Typists” and “The Tiger.” They also starred in his hit 1964 Broadway comedy, “Luv,” directed by Mike Nichols, which ran 901 performances and won three Tony Awards, and in another pair of Schisgal one-acts, “Twice Around the Park,” on Broadway in 1982.

Arthur Anderson. He was perhaps most famous as the voice of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. But he did a lot of other stuff, including working with Orson Welles:

After acting in “The Mercury Theater on the Air,” Mr. Anderson was cast in 1937 as Lucius, the herald to the 22-year-old Welles’s Brutus, in a Broadway production of “Julius Caesar” set in Fascist Italy. Arthur sang, accompanying himself on a ukulele camouflaged as a lute.
His most memorable moment during the show occurred offstage. After heeding an order to stop hurling light bulbs at a brick wall, he decided to light matches to test the melting point of the sprinkler heads. Besides setting off a fire alarm, he triggered a deluge just as Brutus ascended the pulpit above the body of Caesar on the stage below.

Remember, folks, the sprinkler is not a toy, nor is it a load-bearing device.

Theme 2: the death penalty.

Jack H. Smith passed away a few days ago.

Mr. Smith had convictions for robbery-assault and theft in 1955 and another robbery-assault conviction in 1959 that earned him a life prison term. He also had a prison escape attempt in 1963.
He was paroled from his life sentence on Jan. 8, 1977, after serving 17 years. One day short of a year later, on Jan. 7, 1978, Mr. Smith and an accomplice were arrested in the killing of Roy A. Deputter, who was shot to death while trying to stop a holdup at a Houston convenience store known as Corky’s Corner.

Mr. Smith’s accomplice testified against him and was sentenced to life. Mr. Smith was sentenced to death:

Mr. Smith, a former welder who completed only six years of school, arrived on death row on Oct. 9, 1978, and remained there until his death.

Joe Freeman Britt also passed away a few days ago. He was a prosecutor in North Carolina:

As the district attorney for Robeson and Scotland Counties from 1974 to 1988, Mr. Britt oversaw cases that led to more than 40 death sentences. Only two of the defendants were executed — appeals court rulings led to many altered sentences, and some suspects were later exonerated [Emphasis added: -DB] — but his courtroom record ranked him at one point among the country’s most prolific advocates for capital punishment.

After his time as a prosecutor, he became a judge:

Mr. Britt’s candidacy for the court seat was not without controversy. His opponent, a Native American, died in what the authorities concluded was a domestic dispute. The death essentially guaranteed a victory for Mr. Britt, and it prompted a period of unease and suspicion. Investigators, however, never accused Mr. Britt or his supporters of wrongdoing.

Obit watch: April 8, 2016.

Friday, April 8th, 2016

E.M. Nathanson.

Nathanson was perhaps most famous as the author of The Dirty Dozen, based on a story told to him by Russ Meyer (!) and adapted into a movie that I’ve never actually seen. I wonder if Lawrence has a copy…