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.

Baby, You Knock Me Out

18-Jun-08 3:45 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; 1 comment.

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?)

Far Beyond the Stars

02-Jun-08 5:49 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black, Star Trek; 1 comment.

For the third time this year, I bring you news of several talented artists who have passed on.

Composer and Emmy winner Alexander Courage passed away last month at age 88. His works include the theme to the original Star Trek television series. Yet he received little of his dues from that famous piece. To cut costs, Gene Roddenberry wrote lyrics to accompany Mr. Courage's music. Despite no intention of using the (awful) lyrics, Mr. Roddenberry was then able to claim half the royalties that would've otherwise gone to the song's rightful creator. Whether or not any reparations were ever made between the two, I am unsure. Snopes states that "After scoring a couple of first-season episodes, Courage declined to perform any further musical work for the series." But his influence on what eventually became the Star Trek franchise is noted in his filmography, which gives him attribution on practically every Star Trek movie, show, and game of the last half-century.

Shortly thereafter, the musical world also suffered the loss of Earle Hagen, also aged 88. Mr. Hagen was responsible for such memorable theme songs as those of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Andy Griffith. These are the shows I grew up on, and though these comedies played out in a different situation every week, we were always introduced to them with the familiar opening sequences and tunes. Thank you, Mr. Hagen, for leaving that mark.

I'd intended for these two passings to be the extent of this post, but I unfortunately recently learned of two others. Unlike the musicians above, Robert Justman's talent was in directing and producing for both TOS and TNG. Though he worked on only one season of TNG, his decision to cast Patrick Stewart over Gene Roddenberry's objections was a decision with an indelible mark on Trek lore. Mr. Justman died last month at age 82.

Also a directorial veteran of TOS was Joseph Pevney, who gave us such episodes as The City on the Edge of Forever and The Trouble with Tribbles. Possibly more than any episodes in TOS's short run, these two have spawned numerous plots, threads, and novels throughout the Trek timeline. Mr. Pevney was 96 when he passed.

How fortunate we are to have had the musical and directing talents of these men, both within Star Trek and without; how fortunate they were to have lived such long and notable lives.

(Hat tips to TrekToday and Dayton Ward)

Stars of Sea and Space

11-Feb-08 9:59 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; 2 comments.

Sadly, I am again reporting a pair of notable passings.

Roy Scheider, star of such aquatic hits as Jaws and SeaQuest DSV, passed away this Sunday at the age of 75. The news struck me by surprise, as though I had a vague recollection of his being treated for multiple myeloma, when it came to his health, I took the lack of recent news to be good news. Though I'd never seen him in either of the roles he was most famous for, he was nonetheless instantly identifiable in any other work to which he applied himself. I saw him last year in Marathon Man and Blue Thunder, and I regret that these weren't bigger and better roles, respectively. I'll rectify that soon — better late than never.

The second passing has not been so well marked, though artist John Alvin, a native of my own state, did not long remain bound by that terrestrial origin. His many Star Wars posters over the last decade have captured the wonder and legacy of this awesome galactic series, with his portfolio including the posters of other significant and eclectic works: The Lion King, Blazing Saddles, E.T., Blade Runner, and The Lord of the Rings, among others. One rarely considers the talent behind these posters — but observe how beautiful and memorable these paintings are and how rare and collectible they become, and it's a wonder names like John Alvin aren't better associated with such art. He passed away from a heart attack last Wednesday at age 59.

Thank you, sirs, for your creativity and craftmanship: you took us to new heights and depths and piqued our imaginations in the process. You are fondly remembered.

Hart of the Bunch

21-Jan-08 5:37 PM by
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The spotlight has dimmed on two staples of early Seventies sitcoms.

Suzanne Pleshette, co-star of The Bob Newhart Show, passed away on Saturday at the age of 70 from respiratory failure. It's been more than a decade since I last saw the show for which Ms. Pleshette was most famous, but I grew up on The Bob Newhart Show and loved the balance she gave to the zany and dry characters she found herself surrounded by. Knowing she was in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds gives me renewed reason to finally seek it out.

Overshadowed by this passing is the loss of Allan Melvin, whose roles are better known than he was. Mr. Melvin played Alice the housekeeper's butcher boyfriend Sam on The Brady Bunch, which wasn't a stretch from his former role as another kind-hearted lug — Magilla Gorilla. He passed away Wednesday at 85 after a long fight with cancer.

Thank you, both. Though you never worked together, you shared the hearts of many fans.

Worth Every Penny

30-Sep-07 4:52 PM by
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LONDON (Reuters) — Lois Maxwell, the Canadian-born actress who was to many fans the definitive Miss Moneypenny in James Bond films, has died in Western Australia aged 80, the BBC reported on Sunday.

It said Maxwell, the demur foil to Bond's suave rake in 14 films from 1962's Dr. No to 1985's A View to a Kill, had died in Fremantle Hospital. She had been suffering from cancer. [Story continues]

In viewing the recent Casino Royale, I was disappointed to see so many staples of the franchise gone from this installment — but not as sorry as I am to see go the people who played them. Desmond Llewelyn gallantly handed over the reins of Q to a slightly younger generation, just as Caroline Bliss and then Samantha Bond (no relation) kept alive the role of Miss Moneypenny. I hope the legacy Ms. Maxwell founded will be honored by her character living on in future installments.

A Man Went Looking For America

31-Jul-07 5:18 PM by
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Cinematographer László Kovács, born in 1933 in Budapest, died this past July 21st. Excerpted from This Is True's Honorary Unsubscribe:

… in 1969, he filmed his breakout movie: Easy Rider, putting his own stamp on the motorcycle trip film based on his own bus ride from New Jersey to the west coast. Other seminal films included Five Easy Pieces, What's Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Ghost Busters, Shattered, My Best Friend's Wedding — more than 70 in all. "He was one of the great wave of cinematographers in the 1970s who basically changed the way movies had looked up until that time," said Richard Crudo, a former president of the American Society of Cinematographers.

Actors are well-known, and some directors and producers achieve similar fame. It's a shame talent such as Mr. Kovács' does not also earn the popular recognition it deserves.

UPDATE: I may need to take back that statement… Mr. Kovács credits also include The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!

A Very Human President

27-Apr-07 12:08 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; 1 comment.

Jack Valenti, MPAA president from 1966 to 1998, has passed away.

Mr. Valenti always seemed like a good guy, though I confess I didn't follow the politics of the Motion Picture Association of America or its industry very closely. He left a legacy by establishing such institutions as the movie rating system; OTOH, he was certainly off-base when he issued this 1982 warning:

"I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

A former White House assistant, Mr. Valenti left his MPAA presidency to Dan Glickman in 2004. Nonetheless, Mr. Valenti will be missed.

Above and Beyond

12-Apr-07 10:22 AM by
Filed under Fade to Black, Star Trek; 4 comments.

Tonight, 119 parties in 32 countries will celebrate "Yuri's Night" — the 46th anniversary of mankind's first escape from Earth's atmosphere.

It seems a timely opportunity to ensure that those of you in or around New Mexico know of the upcoming opportunity to attend James Doohan's send-off. On April 27th, a memorial will be held for the actor who played Scotty on Star Trek: The Original Series, followed the next day by the liftoff of the Legacy Flight module and its payload of Mr. Doohan's ashes into outer space. Mr. Doohan's widow, Wende, has extended an invitation to any and all Star Trek fans to attend these special events.

This launch has been delayed many times since Doohan's passing on July 20th, 2005 — the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's creator, died in 1991 and entered space in 1997. Finally, with Scotty beaming up to where he belongs, they will be in good company.

The Trek Life