Archive for the 'Fade to Black' Category

Some actors we forget about after retirement; others work until their last day. We remember them upon their passing in this obituary category.

Art Clokey of Gumby, Davey & Goliath, Passes Away

11-Jan-10 3:47 PM by
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Art Clokey, creator of the stop-motion clay animation shows Gumby and Davey and Goliath, passed away this Friday. He was 88. The New York Times has the full obituary.

Though Davey and Goliath and its Lutheran values predate my childhood, I was a religious follower of Gumby, making the show a part of my morning ritual. Gumby's friendship with Pokey took them on the most fantastic adventures, though later characters Prickle, Goo, and Denali were sometimes a bit disturbing. Mr. Clokey's obituary taught me things even I didn't know about the character, such as the origin of his design — "Gumby’s asymmetrical head, resembling a rakish pompadour, was a tribute to [Art Clokey's] biological father's prominent cowlick" — and his popularity: more violent cartoons swayed viewers away from Gumby until Eddie Murphy's bawdy interpretation of the character on Saturday Night Live brought the fans back to the original. Who knew that a seemingly disparaging parody could have such a positive effect?

If parody can then be a tribute, then I offer the following MST3K as my contribution to Mr. Clokey's memorial. "Robot Rumpus" was Gumby's third episode, having debuted on The Howdy Doody Show in August 1956:

Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas

24-Dec-09 9:30 AM by
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We are about to close what has been a difficult year for the acting community — not in terms of low box office sales or a lack of acting jobs, but due to the loss of many storied performers. Ed McMahon, Karl Malden, Dom DeLuise, Bea Arthur, Majel Roddenberry are among those who we lost.

As always, we here at Showbits send holiday greetings in a musical style perfected by the inhabitants of the Satellite of Love. I'd like to use that tradition to honor one of the great actors we lost this year, Patrick Swayze:

Captain Lou and Mario, Too

15-Oct-09 3:15 PM by
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"Captain" Lou Albano — best known as a professional wrestler in the World Wide Wrestling Foundation, appearing as Cyndi Lauper's father in her "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" music video, and for playing the title role in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! — passed away yesterday at the age of 76.

As noted when Showbits observed the passing of Bam Bam Bigelow, wrestlers rarely live a long and mellow life; the rigorous demands their profession places on their bodies leaves too little opportunity for such convalescence. For Mr. Albano to have lived to 76 is quite an achievement, and a well-deserved one. No matter his role on-screen or off, he always seemed like a genuinely nice guy — often imitated, never duplicated — as evidenced in this personable interview:

Best wishes, Captain Lou. May many angels join you in doing the Mario.

When You Die at the Palace, You Really DIE at the Palace!

07-May-09 1:03 PM by
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Earlier this week, Hollywood lost one of its great comedic actors: Dom DeLuise. This jovial actor was best known for his work with Mel Brooks, dating as far back as The Twelve Chairs and continuing into more (in)famous films such as History of the World, Robin Hood, and Spaceballs. His first film was in 1964's Fail-Safe, which to this day I consider one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen. He grew portlier with each role, which just shows his dedication to the art: "I'm actually a thin serious person but I play fat and funny, but only for the movies."

Though rarely the leading man, Mr. DeLuise always lent a memorable flair to any movie in which he appeared. Take, for example, this scene from Blazing Saddles:

Or this scene from History of the World, Part I:

Mr. DeLuise passed away in his sleep on May 4th, 2009, following battles with cancer, kidney failure, and respiratory problems. Farewell, Captain Chaos. May you win that great big cannonball run in the sky.

First Lady of Star Trek

19-Dec-08 8:43 PM by
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LOS ANGELES, CA (December 18, 2008) — Actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry, beloved star of sci-fi phenomenon Star Trek, passed away early this morning surrounded by family and friends. Roddenberry was 76 years old. [Story continues on her son's Web site]

Majel Barrett and Gene RoddenberryWith the exception of her late husband, Gene Roddenberry, there may be no one who did more to promote the world of Star Trek than Mrs. Roddenberry, who kept "The Great Bird of the Galaxy"'s vision alive after he died in 1991. Television shows Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda, both inspired by the works of Gene Roddenberry, were produced under her guidance. More visibly, she was the only actor to have performed on all six Star Trek series: as Number One in the rejected pilot for The Original Series, then as Nurse Chapel once it was picked up; as a voice actor on The Animated Series; as Deanna's mother, Lwaxana Troi, on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine; and as the voice of the computer in TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise ("In a Mirror, Darkly"). Her final work before passing away from leukemia was to continue providing this continuity as the voice of the computer in the upcoming Star Trek film, originally set for release on December 25th, 2008, and now scheduled for May 8th, 2009.

There have been hundreds of people to contribute to the Star Trek legacy over the years, and I mean no disrespect to the likes of William Shatner, Alexander Courage, and Rick Berman. But without Majel Roddenberry, I suspect Gene Roddenberry's universe would've become something far different than it did. Thank you, madam, for the hope you gave us; may we prove worthy of you and your husband's work.

Paul Newman's Own Way

30-Sep-08 5:06 PM by
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By now, we've all heard that Paul Newman passed away this weekend at age 83. Everyone has their own memories of this great actor; these are mine.

Paul NewmanMy own exposure to Mr. Newman's work is limited. The first I'd heard of him was when the pilot episode of Cheers dubbed Cool Hand Luke the "Sweatiest Movie Ever". Elsewhere, I'd hear that some men just get better with age — like Paul Newman. It wasn't until the 1994 film Nobody's Fool that I actually saw the 70-year-old actor, though I found this particular film forgettable.

Far more memorable were the classics for which he was best known, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. For the past few years, I've heard reports that Mr. Newman wanted to collaborate one last time with Robert Redford, his sidekick from those films, but the timing and script never seemed right. I'm sorry he didn't get that chance to work again with his old friend.

Just as important as Mr. Newman's acting resume was his humanitarianism. His philanthropy involved more than donating a portion of proceeds from his salad dressing sales. He was also a political activist who donated generously of both his time and money. TIME, in commemorating the recently departed, put right in their headline that he was a "humanitarian and actor". The order of those titles is no accident.

I'll close this brief remembrance with the words of Bill Corbett: "It’s not a tragedy when an 83-year-old man dies, but it’s a mournful occasion for family, friends, and — where applicable — admirers. And it’s certainly an appropriate time to remember the life lived."

The Voice of God

10-Sep-08 2:59 PM by
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Screen actors often lend their voices to various productions, from Morgan Freeman's narration of March of the Penguins to Orson Welles and Leonard Nimoy playing shapeshifting robots in Transformers: The Movie. Famed for their on-screen appearances, these actors often lend a voice that is difficult, if not impossible, to separate from their role; the audience hears not the animated character, but a well-known actor's voice.

More ubiquitous yet less recognized are actors who specialize in vocal media, whose tone, resonance, delivery, and diversity earn them a variety of roles. The late Richard Kiley, famous for his work with National Geographic, was written into the novel of Jurassic Park long before he took the actual role in the film adaptation. Frank Welker, though his work tends to lighter fare, has been more versatile by mimicking every sort of person, animal, and robot imaginable, often playing multiple roles in shows such as Animaniacs.

Don LaFontaine, on the other hand, almost always plays himself — and yet, after recording nearly 350,000 commercials and 5,000 film trailers, his name and face have remained generally unknown. For over four decades we have recognized and appreciated his work, including in satires such as the recent trailer for The Love Guru or this Geico commercial. Sadly, it is only post-humously that his name is now gaining widespread recognition, as Mr. LaFontaine passed away on September 1st from complications from a collapsed lung. The following video offers a glimpse into the life and times of the man behind the screen.

Baby, You Knock Me Out

18-Jun-08 3:45 PM by
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It's proving a rather devastating year for Hollywood's roster. Yesterday, we lost the many talents of dancer and actress Cyd Charisse.

Brigadoon DVD coverIn an unexpected synchronicity, it's been in just these past six months that I became familiar with Ms. Charisse's work beyond her non-speaking role in Singin' in the Rain. When I was offered a part in a community theater production of Brigadoon, I quickly consumed the movie version to see what I was getting myself into. Though I now suspect the women's dance numbers did not showcase Ms. Charisse's full range of talent as the female lead, I was enamored of the film's colors and her chemistry with Singin' partner Gene Kelly.

A few months later, I finally saw them again reunited in It's Always Fair Weather, a musical I'd seen a clip of a decade past. Though a surprisingly unremarkable film for a performer of his caliber, the scene that drew me to it — a Gene Kelly dance number performed on roller skates — was worth the price of admission, while Ms. Charisse's sassy number in the boxing ring got her the screen time she deserved.

Though not all musicals translate well to film, the medium is infinitely capable of grand tales of song and dance. Hats off to Cyd Charisse for cementing the genre's place in Hollywood's history.

(Hat tip to Dead or Alive?)