Obituaries

FAREWELL TO FILM GREAT: JULY 2004

By • Jul 30th, 2004 •

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Albert Nozaki, 91 (11/16/03) Born in Tokyo, his family moved to the US when he was 3. A BA and Masters in Architecture took him to Paramount as a draftsman in the set design department in 1934, where his career was interrupted by the attack on Pearl Harbor, after which he and his wife were deposited in the Manzanar internment camp. He returned to Paramount after the war, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1954. Although he art directed many important films including THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE BIG CLOCK, and HOUDINI, it isn’t surprising that he considered his supreme achievement 1953’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, for which his miniature of downtown Los Angeles was remarkably detailed, and the sinister Martian War Machines were among the most memorable and original Art Department Effects ever created (he also storyboarded the entire movie himself.) In 1963, Nozaki was stricken with retinitis pigmentosa leading within a decade to blindness. Nonetheless Paramount appointed him Supervising Art Director for Features, a job he held until his retirement in ’69. He is survived by wife Lorna, a daughter and a brother.

Jeanne Crain, 79 (12/14/03), of a heart attack.

Alan Bates, 69 (12/27/03)
, in London, of pancreatic cancer. Charming and gifted, boyish in his earliest films, crafty as he aged. So many of his films are memorable, including THE ENTERTAINER (MGM), THE FIXER (Academy Award nomination – ’68), WOMEN IN LOVE (’69 – the classic nude wrestling scene with Oliver Reed – MGM), NOTHING BUT THE BEST, ZORBA THE GREEK (Fox Home Entertainment), GEORGY GIRL, BUTLY (Kino), GOSFORD PARK (’01 – Universal), THE MOTHMAN PROPHCIES (’02 – Columbia Tri-Star). Bates was knighted in ’03.

Ingrid Thulin, 77 (1/7/04) Of cancer. Swedish actress who excelled with Ingmar Bergman: WILD STRAWBERRIES (’57 – Criterion), THE MAGICIAN, WINTER LIGHT (’62 – Criterion), THE SILENCE (’63 – Criterion), HOUR OF THE WOLF (’68 – MGM), CRIES AND WHISPERS (’72 – Criterion). BB (Before Bergman) FOREIGN INTRIGUE (’56) with Robert Mitchum. Others of interest: Vincente Minnelli’s monumentally misguided THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (’62), RETURN FROM THE ASHES (’65) with Maximilian Schell, NIGHT GAMES (’66), Visconti’s THE DAMNED (’69 – Warner Bros), George P. Cosmatos’ THE CASSANDRA CROSSING (’76), and Tinto Brass’ SALON KITTY (’77 – Blue Underground).

Ray Stark, 90 (1/17/04). Stage and film producer, whose FUNNY GIRL project bridged both mediums. Son-in-law of Fanny Brice. Helped get Cliff Robertson black-listed in Hollywood after the actor exposed Columbia exec Ed Begelman as a forger, leading to Begelman’s suicide.

Dan H B Haggerty, 78. (1/27/04) Professional wrestler, later actor in numerous feature films and TV series, and BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY.

Bernard McEveety, 79 (2/2/04) Veteran TV director, who did great work on the ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Rockford Files’ series. Also a few bizarre feature films: RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE and THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN.

Carole Eastman, 69 (2/13/04) in L.A. Wrote the script for Monte Hellman’s THE SHOOTING (’66 – VCI Entertainment) under the name Adrien Joyce. She was instrumental in the brief youth intrusion into Hollywood from ’68-’72, detailed with salacious delight in the book ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’ by Peter Biskind.

John Randolph, 88 (2/24/04) One of the founding members of the Actors Studio, later blacklisted, and later still a Tony and Drama Desk Award winner (1987, for Broadway Bound). Randolph refused to name names before the HUAC, and after a period of cinematic inactivity was brought back into the industry via John Frankenheimer’s SECONDS (’66 – Paramount). Also in THE BORGIA STICK (’67), EARTHQUAKE, SERPICO (Paramount), PRIZZI’S HONOR (Anchor Bay), and YOU’VE GOT MAIL.

Ralph Winters, 94. (2/26/04) Academy Award winning editor for KING SOLOMON’S MINES (’50) for which he seamlessly blended African footage of wild animal charges with in-studio matched shots using harmless barnyard animals, and William Wyler’s BEN-HUR (MGM Home Entertainment) (’59). Other notable films: JAILHOUSE ROCK, THE GREAT RACE, the original version of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (MGM Home Entertainment). When I interviewed him in ’96, he was chafing at the bit to get out of retirement and back into editing. He successfully did so a year later, at age 87. I’d like to think the exposure in The Perfect Vision magazine helped. In 2001 he completed his autobiography: ‘Some Cutting Remarks’.

Francis Dee, 96. (3/6/04) Norwalk, Connecticut, of a stroke. Married Joel McCrea in ’33. Notable films: IF I WERE KING, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (’43), THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI (’47). Married to McCrea until his death in ’90. Three sons, including Jody McCrea.

Russ Reiley, 44 (3/8/04), of kidney failure due to diabetes. A member of the Performance Art Group ‘The Poster Boys’, Reiley was a seminal figure in off-mainstream comedy. The group, including Paul Parducci and Jim Giordano, stopped performing in ’94. Reiley was also a gifted illustrator, and at one time created cartoons for Bazooka Bubble Gum.

Spalding Gray, 62 (1/10-3/8/04) Gifted monologist, who appeared in THE KILLING FIELDS and later successfully recounted his on-location stories in Jonathan Demme’s film SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA.

Paul Winfield, 62 (3/17), actor/dog breeder, of a heart attack.

Ludmila Tcherina, 79 (3/21/04) of undisclosed causes. The extraordinarily beautiful ballerina and choreographer appeared in THE RED SHOES (Criterion), THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (slated for Criterion, but having element difficulties), HONEYMOON, SINS OF ROME (coming out from VCI), and the surreal ballet drama THE LOVERS OF TERUEL, magnificently scored by Mikis Theodrakis, which she produced, starred in, and owned. Several years ago I flew to Paris to interview Ms. Tcherina in her flamboyant apartment looking out on the Eiffel Tower, and in preparation she had spread out a table full of TERUEL stills, hoping I could find an American company to preserve the film. I was unlucky in my endeavors. She looked as lovely then as she had twenty-five years earlier.

Peter Ustinov, 82 (3/28), in Switzerland. Renaissance man, born of many nationalities, including Russian and Ethopian, knighted in ’90, the Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF from ’68 until his death, Ustinov twice won the Academy Award for Supporting Actor, for SPARTACUS (Criterion) and TOPKAPI (MGM), but gave fine performances a many other films, including BILLY BUDD, THE SUNDOWNERS, THE COMEDIANS, LOLA MONTES and LE PLAISIR. He played Hercule Poirot a few times, was replaced by Peter Sellers in THE PINK PANTHER (MGM Home Entertainment), and essayed the role of Nero in QUO VADIS.

Alistair Cooke, 95 (3/30/04), in New York City.

Hubert Selby Jr., 75 (4/26/04), in Los Angeles, of chronic pulmonary disease. When I visited the extravagant Brooklyn location of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, Selby was proudly hanging around. He appeared in the film in a cameo. He also was involved in the film production of his book, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, and had a cameo.

Tony Randall, 84 (5/17/04) – Randall thrice emceed the NBR Awards ceremony, and I particularly remember the one I was producing at the Players’ Club when, after Paul Newman used the sound system hookup to the club’s telephone to reach an ailing John Huston, Randall reclaimed the stage but the phone started ringing during his next intro. He picked it up; it was the wife of one of the members, telling him to remind her husband to bring home the groceries. Randall relayed this to the audience, who were in utter hysterics. Newman, who I was escorting out, doubled over in laughter. Another time, when I’d been enlisted by a local PR company to organize the first Academy Award campaign for a porno film, Randall RSVP’d to the screening notice I’d sent out to all NYC members. He arrived that evening with his coat pulled up over his head.

Dutch director Rudolph Van Den Berg’s father (5/20/04).

Francis Brunn, 81 (5/28/04) one of the half dozen best jugglers of the last century. In Frankfurt. Bernard Burke, FIR editor’s grandfather, was Brunn’s booking agent and, long after vaudeville had faded, continued to get the act onto the Ed Sullivan show, and twice into the White House during the Eisenhower administration.

Meredith Blume (picture) Publicist at Dreamworks. Of Cancer. A sweet, personable woman who we all loved.

Ronald Reagan, 93 (6/5/04), of old age, despite the Alzheimer’s.

Ray Charles, 73 (6/10/04) Gifted Jazz/Blues/Rock icon, who provided an illuminating commentary track on one of his concert DVDs, RAY CHARLES LIVE AT THE MONTEREUX JAZZ FESTIVAL (Pioneer).

Max Rosenberg, 89 (6/14/04) Cantankerous producer/distributor, co-founder of Amicus Films. For many years Max held the rights to a film I co-produced, THE COMEBACK TRAIL, and did nothing with it. Not that it was a good film, but still…

Marlon Brando, 80 yrs, 380 lbs (7/1/04) As coincidence would have it, I was reading his so-called autobiography and had gotten about 3/4 of the way through when I heard that we’d lost him. In my careers I’ve met countless celebrities; Brando was one I never wanted to meet. Spectacularly talented, he was utterly out of synch with his fellow man, and cantankerous to boot. I guess one could call it Manifest Personality. But in behind-the-scenes footage I’ve seen (which has never surfaced publicly, and some of it is in my collection) from films as diverse as REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE and A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG (Universal), when everyone on set was intent, he was laughing, when everyone was in on a joke, he was confused. His life, as we somewhat know it, and as he tells it, is forlorn yet undeniably full. He rejected his profession as mere work, never art, and his causes, which he did take seriously, rejected him over time as a knee-jerk liberal, etc. Me, I’m possibly out of synch, too. Because the period most people deride as his least important – the ‘60’s into the pre-GODFATHER ‘70’s – contain his warmest and most watchable films for my taste. I know STREETCAR & WATERFRONT& GODFATHER are great achievements, but if I were stranded on an island (far from Tahiti), I’d much prefer MORITURI (Fox Home Entertainment), NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY (Universal), ONE EYED JACKS, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, and THE NIGHTCOMERS. And some of his utter throwaways are, in retrospect, bewilderingly autobiographical (THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU [New Line Home Video], with his self-deluded villain/innocent portrayal, its tragic cat-girl creation who ends up hung from the ceiling like his daughter Cheyenne, his doppleganger Val Kilmer doing an impression of the younger Brando that mercilessly holds his fat years up to ridicule). Brando felt BURN contained his best performance. I can’t agree. But it’s hardly surprising coming from him. Other important performances from the actor, which are probably available on tape and will sooner or later surface on DVD – his powerful court testimony at his son’s murder trial, wherein some of his Tahitian friends disowned him; appearances on Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, Connie Chung, Tom Snyder, and Larry King; and his late ‘90s teaching tapes, conducted partially in drag,(and opposite a combative audience). His book, like Chaplin’s, contains the truth, half the truth, and nothing but the truth. To get the rest of the truth, you have to check out Anna Kashfi’s book, Carlo Fiore’s, and the upcoming ‘Brando in Twilight’. (With Chaplin, incidentally, it’s useful to read Lita Gray’s, Jerry Epstein’s, and Georgia Hale’s).

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