Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Pause to Remember....2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: sniffle......(get out your hankies).

A humble pause to remember
The entertainment industry bade farewell to some luminous names and storied careers in 2006.

Time once again to "awake remembrance of these valiant dead," as the Bishop of Ely advised the young king in Shakespeare's "Henry V."

We wouldn't want to forget such valiant departed artists as Reuven Frank, who brought visuals into television news, or Peter Benchley, who swam with the sharks in "Jaws."

As the 21st century progresses, such acclaimed 20th century figures as Frank Stanton, the longtime president of CBS; two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters; Ed Bradley, the noted TV newsman; Gordon Parks, the pioneering black filmmaker; and the "Godfather of Soul" James Brown will not be allowed to fade into the dusty annals.

We want the valiant voices of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Lou Rawls, Anna Moffo and June Pointer to resound in memory; the masterful keyboard output of Bill Miller, Frank Sinatra's music director, and Billy Preston, the Fifth Beatle, must stay alive in the mind.

Many have left us reasonably immortal entertainment productions, people like television's Aaron Spelling and music's Arif Mardin and Ahmet Ertegun or Broadway's Betty Comden and Cy Feuer.

And of course the blues will keep right on going, despite the departure of pianist Jay McShann, psychedelic rock pioneer Arthur Lee, singer Ruth Brown and, yes, Anita O'Day, balladeer though she became.

Nor will we soon forget such actresses as Alida Valli of "The Third Man," virtuoso Maureen Stapleton, ingenue June Allyson and the maternal Jane Wyatt or such actors as the versatile Glenn Ford, handsome Anthony Franciosa and sturdy Jack Warden.

The light hearts of Jack Palance, Peter Boyle, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver and Red Buttons stopped beating this year, it is true. But to their grateful audiences, the beat goes on.

Shelley Winters, 85, a colorful, outspoken two-time Oscar winner who charted her career's course through six decades, evolving from a blond sex symbol to serious dramatic actress and character parts to a recurring role on ABC's "Roseanne" in the mid-1990s.

Born in East St. Louis, Ill., Winters signed a studio contract with Columbia and eventually earned national attention with George Cukor's 1947 hit "A Double Life." Winters' reputation was cemented with her Oscar-nominated performance in 1951's "A Place in the Sun." She won best supporting actress Academy Awards for 1959's "The Diary of Anne Frank" and 1965's "A Patch of Blue." She was nominated again for 1972's "The Poseidon Adventure."

Offscreen, Winters had a tempestuous love life that included three marriages -- to businessman Paul Mayer (1942-48), actor Vittorio Gassman (1952-54), with whom she had a daughter, Vittoria; and actor Anthony Franciosa (1957-60). Winters penned two best-selling memoirs, "Shelley, Also Known as Shirley" (1980) and "Shelley II: The Middle of My Century" (1989), in which she wrote openly of her romances with Burt Lancaster, William Holden, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable, among others.

Lou Rawls, 72, a silky-voiced singer whose five-decade career ran the gamut of musical styles. The Chicago-born Rawls got his start with gospel groups before rising to prominence with R&B and soul hits in the 1960s and '70s, including "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing" and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." In 1980, Rawls initiated the annual Lou Rawls Parade of Stars that raised $200 million for the United Negro College Fund.

Anthony Franciosa, 77, a fiery method actor known for moody, charged performances in 1950s and '60s films including "A Hatful of Rain," "This Could Be the Night," "A Face in the Crowd," "The Long Hot Summer," "The Naked Maja" and "The Pleasure Seekers." His TV work in the '60s and '70s included the series "The Name of the Game" and "Matt Helm."

Arthur Bloom, 63, a CBS News director who used his own stopwatch to create "60 Minutes' " iconic opening credit sequence.

Fayard Nicholas, 91, half of the famed Nicholas Brothers tap-dancing duo along with his older brother Harold.

Chris Penn, 40, actor and brother of Sean Penn and musician Michael Penn. Known for character roles in such films as "Reservoir Dogs," "Short Cuts" and "True Romance."

Wilson Pickett, 64, a fiery R&B singer whose 1960s hits included "In the Midnight Hour" and "Mustang Sally." He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Franz Seitz, 85, a German writer-producer of more than 40 features, including 1979's "The Tin Drum," an Oscar and Palme d'Or winner.

Moira Shearer, 80, a Scottish ballerina remembered for playing the suicidal heroine of 1948's "The Red Shoes."

Wendy Wasserstein, 55, a playwright known for such earthy female-centric works as "Uncommon Women and Others," "Isn't It Romantic" and "The Heidi Chronicles."

Dennis Weaver, 81, a rangy, prolific film and TV actor who was a fixture in primetime from the 1950s-'70s with his roles in "Gunsmoke" and "McCloud," among other series. His notable film credits include Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" and Steven Spielberg's telefilm "Duel."

Weaver served a stint as SAG president from 1973-75 and was known in the industry for his dedication to philanthropy and environmentalism. Weaver and his wife of 60 years, Gerry, built a home in Colorado, dubbed "Earthship," made entirely of used tires and aluminum cans. Editor's Note: Yay! Ahead of his time. (Wonder if his house smelled like old cars and stale beer when the sun was hot).

Don Knotts, 81, a wiry comedian and five-time Emmy winner for his role as the hapless sheriff's deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show." Knotts gained national fame as a member of Steve Allen's primetime troupe in the late 1950s, then segued from "Andy Griffith" to a string of G-rated comedy features from the mid-1960s through the early '70s, including "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," "The Reluctant Astronaut" and "The Shakiest Gun in the West."

He worked steadily in later years as a regular on "Three's Company" and "Matlock" and as a voice artist for dozens of animated series and films.

Reuven Frank, 85, a pioneering producer of NBC News' "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" who refined the concept of the modern network newscast with his innovative two-anchor format. Frank served two stints as NBC News president, from 1968-73 and from 1982-84.

Ray Barretto, 76, a pioneering Latin jazz percussionist and bandleader.

Peter Benchley, 65, author and grandson of humorist Robert Benchley, whose 1974 novel "Jaws" became the basis of Steven Spielberg's first blockbuster.

William Cowsill, 58, lead singer and guitarist for family group the Cowsills, who scored three top 10 singles including "Hair."

Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, 80, a high-spirited character actor and comic who appeared in dozens of movies, often with John Wayne.

Curt Gowdy, 86, a veteran sportscaster who called 13 World Series, 16 baseball All-Star Games and the first Super Bowl and was a fixture on the "American Sportsman" series.

Al Lewis, 82, a one-time circus roustabout who become a TV icon as Grandpa Munster on the 1960s comedy "The Munsters."

Gordon Parks, 93, a pioneering photographer, writer and director who broke barriers in Hollywood as the first black person to direct a major studio film, the autobiographical 1969 release "The Learning Tree."

The youngest of 15 children, Parks began his career as a fashion photographer. He became the first black photographer to work for Vogue, and he chronicled the lives of black Americans, among other subjects, for Life magazine from 1948-68.

Parks' 1971 hit "Shaft" and its sequel, "Shaft's Big Score!" helped establish the blaxploitation film genre. He was the subject of a 2000 HBO documentary, "Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks."

Buck Owens, 76, the influential father of the modern California country music sound and the longtime host of the popular country variety show "Hee Haw." Owens' country hits in the 1960s included "Love's Gonna Live Here," "Act Naturally" and "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail."

The TV show -- which originated on CBS and later ran in syndication -- was a mix of hillbilly hokum and "pickin' and grinnin' " that proved lucrative for Owens. He plowed his earnings into radio and TV stations, venues and other assets in and around his adopted hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. Owens performed at his Crystal Palace nightclub in Bakersfield hours before he died.

Dan Curtis, 78, a producer of the "Dark Shadows" and "Night Stalker" fantasy/horror TV franchises and the mega-budget ABC minieries "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" in the 1980s.

Richard Fleischer, 89, a director of such major studio pictures as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Dr. Dolittle," "Fantastic Voyage" and "Soylent Green."

Jackie McClean, 73, an influential jazz saxophonist.

Gloria Monty, 84, a producer who turned the ailing daytime serial "General Hospital" into a hit for ABC in the 1970s and '80s.

Dana Reeve, 44, actress and wife of actor Christopher Reeve who advocated for better treatment and possible cures for paralysis and spinal chord injuries following her husband's equestrian accident in 1995.

Maureen Stapleton, 80, an Oscar-winning actress who had breakthrough roles in film, television and stage.

Peter Tomarken, 63, host of the 1980s hit game show "Press Your Luck."

Jack Wild, 53, a child film and TV star remembered for his Oscar-nominated role in "Oliver!" and on TV's "H.R. Pufnstuf." Editor's NOte: I had COMPLETELY forgotten this. Awww.....a touchstone of my (long ago) youth. (and how weird that he wasn't all that much older than I. How is it that I caught up?)

Jay Bernstein, 69, a publicist and manager who helped turn actress Farrah Fawcett into a household name.

Scott Brazil, 50, an Emmy-winning TV director and producer whose credits range from "Hill Street Blues" to "The Shield."

Elma Farnsworth, 98, the wife of cathode ray tube inventor Philo T. Farnsworth who handled the technical drawings for his experiments and was known as "the mother of television."

William P. Gottlieb, 89, whose pioneering photographs of such jazz greats as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong are recognizable worldwide. Gottlieb's 1947 photo of a luminous Holiday -- eyes closed, head thrown back in song -- is among the most reproduced jazz photographs of all time.

Gene Pitney, 66, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who had a string of hits in the 1960s including "Town Without Pity," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "Only Love Can Break a Heart." He also wrote such hits as "He's a Rebel" and "Hello Mary Lou."

June Pointer, 52, the youngest member of the hit-making R&B vocal group the Pointer Sisters.

Donald Sipes, 77, a former president of Universal Television who also held executive posts at CBS, MGM and United Artists.

Vilgot Sjoman, 81, a Swedish director of "I Am Curious (Yellow)."

Muriel Spark, 88, a British novelist whose titles included "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."

Alida Valli, 84, an Italian actress who starred opposite Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in the 1949 classic "The Third Man."

John Voland, 47, a freelance writer who was senior film reporter at The Hollywood Reporter from 1990-92.

Phil Walden, 66, a colorful and oft-controversial founder of the path-finding Southern rock label Capricorn Records and manager of Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers.

Miguel Zacarias, 101, one of Mexico's most prolific and influential filmmakers who directed, produced and wrote more than 110 films. Editor's Note: Almost a movie a year....if he'd started at BIRTH!

Cy Feuer, who with the late Ernest H. Martin produced some of Broadway's biggest hits, including "Guys and Dolls" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," as well as the movie version of "Cabaret." Martin and Feuer, known as the King and Cy, had five hit musicals in a row, starting in 1948 with "Where's Charley?" starring Ray Bolger and followed by 1950's "Guys and Dolls," 1953's "Can-Can," 1954's "The Boy Friend" and 1955's "Silk Stockings." Feuer was nominated for nine Tonys, winning three.

Jay Presson Allen, 84, who adapted novels for stage and screen including "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." Allen's film adaptation of the musical "Cabaret" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

Lew Anderson, 84, who played Clarabell the Clown on TV's "The Howdy Doody Show" from 1954 until the show ended in 1960.

Henry Bumstead, 91, an Oscar-winning production designer and art director whose credits include "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Sting," "Vertigo" and "Unforgiven."

Desmond Dekker, 64, a vocalist who gave reggae, and Jamaican music, an international toehold with his 1969 hit "Israelites."

Katherine Dunham, 96, a pioneering dancer and choreographer, author and civil rights activist. Dunham, remembered for bringing African and Caribbean influences to the European-dominated dance world, established America's first self-supporting all-black modern dance group in the late 1930s, touring with it for more than 30 years.

Freddie Garrity, 69, lead singer of the British Invasion-era band Freddie and the Dreamers, who hit No. 1 in the U.S. with "I'm Telling You Now."

Shohei Imamura, 79, a Japanese director who won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for "The Ballad of Narayama (1983) and "The Eel" (2001).

Steven C. Marshall, 58, a sound engineer and inventor who restored the soundtracks of classic films including "Gone With the Wind" using his own process dubbed "revectorization."

Grant McLennan, 48, a co-founder of Australia's the Go-Betweens, one of the defining indie bands of the 1980s.

Duane Roland, 53, one of the original guitarists for Southern rock band Molly Hatchet.

Louis Rukeyser, 73, a public TV host known for common sense commentary on business on his long-running program "Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser."

Sidney Seidenberg, 81, a longtime manager for B.B. King and such other musicians as Gladys Knight and the Temptations.

Robert Sterling, 88, an actor who appeared with wife Anne Jeffreys as the fun couple who return as ghosts in the 1950s comedy series "Topper."

Billy Walker, 77, a country singer who was a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry.

Arthur Widmer, 91, a special effects pioneer who received a lifetime achievementAcademy Award for his work in developing Ultra Violet Travelling matte and bluescreen processes. Editor's NOte: Here's the test of whether or not God is an FX fan. If God likes Star Wars, Mr. Widmer goes to Heaven. If God hates prefers hand puppets and scale models.......

Aaron Spelling, 83, one of the most prolific and successful producers in TV history, whose career defined the concept of the superproducer.

In 1984, his seven series on ABC accounted for one-third of the network's primetime schedule, causing some to refer to ABC as "Aaron's Broadcasting Company." While he won two Emmys -- one for outstanding drama in 1989 for "Day One," a telefilm about the Manhattan Project, and the other for outstanding telefilm in 1993 for "And the Band Played On," an account of the early years of the AIDS epidemic -- Spelling was best known for his glossy, escapist TV series that ranged from "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" to "Dynasty" and "Melrose Place," with occasional forays into more reality-based shows like "Family."

The Spelling touch also was seen in such popular series as "Charlie's Angels," which featured three sexy female detectives, propelling Farrah Fawcett to stardom; "Starsky and Hutch," which paired Paul Michael Glazer and David Soul as two streetwise cops; "Hart to Hart," which focused on a glamorous married couple (Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers) who also solved mysteries; and "Beverly Hills, 90210," which famously featured his daughter, Tori, as one of a group of privileged high school students.

In later years, he scored two of the WB Network's biggest hits: "7th Heaven" and "Charmed."

Arif Mardin, 74, a producer whose career stretched from classic productions for Atlantic Records to a late-career triumph with Norah Jones.

George Page, 71, a creator and host of the PBS series "Nature."

Billy Preston, 59, a keyboardist, singer and songwriter who attained fame in the late '60s and early '70s as an R&B and pop hitmaker and a sideman for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and scored a pair of No. 1 singles as a solo artist.

Lloyd Richards, 87, a theater director whose credits include "A Raisin in the Sun."

Hilton Ruiz, 54, a jazz pianist and composer.

Lyle Stuart, 83, a maverick publisher of offbeat books that were radical and otherwise.

Vince Welnick, 55, the Grateful Dead's keyboard player in the 1990s; also a founding member of the Tubes.

Red Buttons, 97, a carrot-topped comedian whose versatility as a performer made him a popular TV star in the 1950s and an Oscar winner for his dramatic work in 1957's "Sayonara." An entertainer who excelled in every realm of show business, from the Borscht Belt to primetime series, Buttons logged dozens of movie roles and steady TV work for more than 50 years. He also was a prolific composer of popular songs, including "The Ho-Ho Song" and "Strange Things Are Happening," which he often performed in his nightclub act.

June Allyson, 88, who epitomized the girl next door in movies and on TV during the 1940s and '50s. Allyson was a triple threat, best known for movies she did while under contract at MGM, including "Two Girls and a Sailor," "Good News" and, opposite James Stewart, "The Glenn Miller Story."

Her bouncy athleticism and husky singing voice made her a star during World War II, when she came to represent the kind of girl Gls hoped to return home to marry. Allyson was married to her frequent co-star Dick Powell for nearly 20 years until his death in 1963.

Jack Warden, 85, Editor's Note: Again? I could have SWORN he died a couple of years ago.....whose gruff, sour but lovable demeanor made him a highly sought-after character actor for more than five decades. Warden earned two supporting Oscar noms, for 1975's "Shampoo" and 1978's "Heaven Can Wait," and he won an Emmy for his portrayal of Chicago Bears coach George Halas in the 1971 ABC telefilm "Brian's Song."

Syd Barrett, 60, an enigmatic, troubled co-founder of Pink Floyd whose legend only grew after he left the group in 1968.

Irving Green, 90, a co-founder of Mercury Records who helped break racial barriers in music by promoting the careers of jazz greats including singers Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington.

Barnard Hughes, 90, a prolific, film, TV and Tony-winning stage actor whose 65-year career included a stint as a regular on NBC's "Blossom."

Mako, 72, a Japanese actor who used his Oscar nomination for 1966's "The Sand Pebbles" to push for better roles for Asian actors.

Bill Miller, 91, Frank Sinatra's pianist for nearly five decades until the singer's final performance in 1995.

Jan Murray, 89, a one-time Borscht Belt comedian known for hosting game shows including "Treasure Hunt."

Carrie Nye, 69, an accomplished stage, film and TV actress who was the wife of talk show host Dick Cavett.

Kasey Rogers, 80, a regular on the TV series "Bewitched" and known for playing (as Laura Elliott) a victim in Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train."

Mickey Spillane, 88, a tough-guy mystery writer who created the enduring Mike Hammer detective character. He starred as Hammer in a 1963 film and appeared in a series of memorable Miller Lite commercials.

Glenn Ford, 90, whose calm manner and kind face earned him the trust of moviegoers in features as varied as the film noir "Gilda" and the social drama "Blackboard Jungle."

During a career that spanned 53 years -- he was voted No. 1 at the boxoffice in 1958 -- he appeared in more than 80 films, including "Pocketful of Miracles," "The Big Heat," "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and "Teahouse of the August Moon."

Ford excelled in playing everyday men who showed courage and grace under pressure. He burst to stardom playing the gambler lover of a seductress in 1946's "Gilda" opposite Rita Hayworth.

Mike Douglas, 81, an affable talk show host who was a staple of daytime television for nearly 20 years. "The Mike Douglas Show" was a pioneering first-run syndication program that originated from CBS affiliate KWY-TV in Philadelphia for most of its 1963-82 run. The one-time band singer was known for his easy, conversational manner with guests, who ranged from Mother Teresa to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Arthur Lee, 61, lead singer and principal songwriter for the influential 1960s Los Angeles rock band Love, whose landmark 1967 album "Forever Changes" encapsulated the Summer of Love zeitgeist. The band encompassed many genres, and Lee was one of the few black performers on the psychedelic rock scene with a swaggering approach that prefigured Jimi Hendrix.

Bruno Kirby, 57, a prolific character actor whose credits included "The Godfather: Part II," "This Is Spinal Tap," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "When Harry Met Sally ...," "City Slickers" and "Donnie Brasco."

Maynard Ferguson, 78, a jazz trumpeter known for high, soaring notes who came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton's orchestra.

Bruce Gary, 54, a drummer who worked with George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Stephen Stills but is best known as a member of the Knack, who spent six weeks at No. 1 with "My Sharona" in 1979. Editor's Note: Great. Now I will have that song stuck in my head for the rest of 2006!

Ken Richmond, 80, the 6-foot-5, ripple-armed wrestler seen striking the gong in the opening credits for films produced by Britain's J. Arthur Rank Studio.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, 90, a German soprano regarded as one of the greatest opera voices of the 20th century.

Sig Shore, 87, an independent producer whose low-budget 1972 film "Superfly" helped establish the blaxploitation genre.

Joseph Stefano, 84, a screenwriter whose credits included Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic "Psycho" and the 1960s anthology drama "The Outer Limits."

Elizabeth Allen, 77, an actress known to early TV viewers as the "Away We Go" girl on "The Jackie Gleason Show." She also starred in the memorable 1960 "Twilight Zone" episode in which department store mannequins come to life. Editor's Note: No doubt part of tonight's annual "Twilight Zone" marathon?

Malcolm Arnold, 84, a British film composer who earned an Oscar for 1957's "The Bridge on the River Kwai."

Remy Belvaux, 38, a Belgian auteur whose only film, "Man Bites Dog" (1993), became a cult hit.

Ed Benedict, 94, an animator who designed Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and other characters for Hanna-Barbera Studios.

John Conte, 90, an actor known for his role in 1955's "The Man With the Golden Arm."

Pat Corley, 76, a longtime film and TV character actor who played bar owner Phil on "Murphy Brown" and Chief Coroner Wally Nydorf on "Hill Street Blues."

Mickey Hargitay, 80, an actor and bodybuilder who was married to actress Jayne Mansfield and was the father of actress Mariska Hargitay.

Steve Irwin, 44, Australia's "Crocodile Hunter" and wildlife park owner who became a worldwide TV star through programs on Discovery Networks and Animal Planet.

Robert Earl Jones, 96, an actor and the father of actor James Earl Jones.

Sven Nykvist, 83, a Swedish cinematographer who worked with Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen and Norman Jewison, among others.

Patrick Quinn, 56, an actor and former president and executive director of the Actors' Equity Assn.

Dewey Redman, 75, an influential jazz tenor saxophonist and bandleader.

Ralph Story, 86, a veteran Los Angeles newscaster and host of 1950s quiz shows including "The $64,000 Challenge."

Jane Wyatt, 96, the sweet-faced actress who played the prototypical 1950s TV mom opposite Robert Young on "Father Knows Best." Wyatt continued to work into her 70s with memorable character roles on shows ranging from "Star Trek" to "St. Elsewhere."

The New Jersey native began her career on the stage in Massachusetts and then signed as a Universal contract player. She hit her film stride in the late 1930s and '40s as a supporting player in such A-features as "Lost Horizon," "None but the Lonely Heart" and "Gentleman's Agreement."

Wyatt logged guest shots on dozens of early TV shows, including "Studio One," "Your Show of Shows" and "The Virginian" before "Father" began its six-year run in 1954.

Jerry Belson, 68, a comedy writer who shepherded the successful TV adaptation of "The Odd Couple" with his longtime writing partner Garry Marshall. Belson was well-liked by other writers and comedians in Hollywood for his offbeat sensibilities and deft touch with a script and for his role in mentoring young comedy writers like James L. Brooks. In the 1980s and '90s, Belson earned three Emmys for his work with Brooks and Tracey Ullman on Fox's "The Tracey Ullman Show" and HBO's "Tracey Takes On. ..."

Frances Bergen, 84, a model and actress who married ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and was the mother of actress Candice Bergen.

Stanley Z. Cherry, 74, a busy TV director whose credits included "Gilligan's Island," "Flipper," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."

Tamara Dobson, 59, a 6-foot-2 model and actress who starred as kung-fu fighting government agent Cleopatra Jones in two 1970s "Cleopatra Jones" blaxploitation movies. Editor's Note: This was a tough year for a lot of those former blaxploitation folks, huh?

Freddy Fender, 69, the Tex-Mex balladeer who racked up a string of '70s country hits, including his signature "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," and who later performed with the all-star group Texas Tornados.

Christopher Glenn, 68, a longtime CBS News correspondent and announcer.

Sally Gray, 90, a spirited, husky-voiced British star of the 1930s and '40s who turned down a lucrative Hollywood contract when she married into the aristocracy. Editor's Note: Well wouldn't YOU?

Arthur Hill, 84, a prolific character actor seen in dozens of movies and TV shows including "Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law"

Phyllis Kirk, 79, an actress remembered for her role in 1953's "House of Wax."

Herbert B. Leonard, 84, a prolific TV producer of such varied shows as "Naked City," "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" and "Route 66."

Gillo Pontecorvo, 86, the Italian director of the 1966 epic "The Battle of Algiers."

Sandy West, 47, drummer for influential all-girl 1970s rock band the Runaways.

Robert Altman, 81, Editor's Note: SniFFLE! one of cinema's great democratic spirits whose wry appreciation of the idiosyncrasies of human nature suffused more than 30 films including "MASH," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "Nashville" and "The Player."

The maverick director learned his craft by turning out such industrial films as "How to Run a Filling Station" before moving on to such episodic TV fare as "The Millionaire," "Bonanza" and "Combat."

His trademark inventive touches included overlapping dialogue, conversations seemingly overheard on the fly and a constantly prowling camera. Altman was nominated five times for a best director Academy Award but never prevailed. He received an honorary Oscar this year in a nod to the balance of his career.

Ed Bradley, 65, the one-time sixth-grade teacher who became a hard-charging CBS News reporter and a 26-year correspondent for "60 Minutes." He became a role model for a generation of black journalists who saw him smash the color barrier in TV news with his daring wartime reporting in Vietnam and Cambodia in the early 1970s. A jazz and blues aficionado, Bradley was dubbed "the fifth Neville brother" because of his many appearances with them onstage.

Jack Palance, 87,Editor's Note: I'm kinda expecting him to pop back up again, aren't you? the raspy-voiced actor who made his name playing 1950s movie villains but won an Oscar at age 73 for his work as a grizzled cowboy in the 1991 Billy Crystal comedy "City Slickers." Palance made a memorable heavy in such dramas as "Shane" and "Panic in the Streets," and he earned an Emmy for his powerful portrayal of a slow-witted boxer in Rod Serling's landmark 1956 "Playhouse 90" teleplay "Requiem for a Heavyweight." In later years, he hosted ABC's 1980s revival of "Ripley's Believe It or Not."

Ruth Brown, 78, the vivacious R&B singer known as "Miss Rhythm" whose early hits including "Teardrops From My Eyes" and "5-10-15 Hours" established Atlantic Records. Decades later, Brown became an advocate for her generation of performers by pushing Atlantic to its 1988 settlement of back royalties with 1950s and '60s hitmakers, which included an endowment for the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

Betty Comden, 89, who teamed with collaborator Adolph Green to write the book and lyrics for acclaimed film and stage musicals including "Singin' in the Rain" and "On the Town." Working under producer Arthur Freed at MGM, Comden and Green penned the screenplays for "The Band Wagon," "It's Always Fair Weather," "Good News," "The Barkleys of Broadway" and "Wonderful Town."

Sid Davis, 90, who produced more than 180 short educational films in the 1950s and '60s warning teenagers of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, vandalism, stealing and other social ills. He had worked as a stand-in for John Wayne, who loaned Davis $5,000 to launch his production company.

Gary Graver, 68, a cinematographer who worked with Orson Welles in the final years of the director's life and fought unsuccessfully for decades to see Welles' final film finished and released.

Marian Marsh Henderson, 93, a popular 1930s actress who made more than 40 films, notably "Svengali" opposite John Barrymore.

Perry Henzell, 70, a filmmaker whose 1972 hit "The Harder They Come" starring musician Jimmy Cliff helped introduce reggae and Jamaican pop culture to the world.

John Higgins, 45, a veteran cable TV reporter and editor for Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News.

Buddy Killen, 73, a Nashville songwriter who helped launch Dolly Parton's career.

Gerald Levert, 40, a 1980s R&B hitmaker and son of O'Jays vocalist Eddie Levert. He performed with LeVert (with his brother Sean) and LSG (with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill.)

Robert Lockwood Jr., 91, a Mississippi Delta blues guitarist who was taught to play by his stepfather, Robert Johnson.

Paul Mauriat, 81, a conductor whose "Love Is Blue" topped U.S. charts in 1968. Editor's Note: a song now battling inside my head for dominance (with "My Sharona).

Philippe Noiret, 76, a French actor known for roles in "Il Postino" and "Cinema Paradiso."

Tom Noonan, 78, the creator of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and longtime steward of the publication's charts department.

Anita O'Day, 87, a jazz vocalist renowned for her hard-living ways and respected for her unique singing style.

Basil Poledouris, 61, a film composer who won an Emmy for the 1989 miniseries "Lonesome Dove." Editor's Note: Do not forsake me, oh my darlin.....Great. The music in my head is really getting LOUD, now. (Drowning out the VOICES, I guess?)

Leonard Schrader, 62, a screenwriter Oscar-nominated for 1985's "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and the brother of filmmaker Paul Schrader.

Jeremy Slate, 80, an actor who co-wrote and starred in the cult film "Hell's Angels '69," appeared on the daytime drama "One Life to Live" for eight seasons and guest starred on nearly 100 TV shows.

Adrienne Shelly, 40, an actress, writer and director known for dark comedies, including 1989's "The Unbelievable Truth" and 1990's "Trust."

Raul Velasco, 73, former host of "Siempre en Domingo," one of Mexico's most popular and enduring TV programs, which has been compared to "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Shirley Walker, 61, a prolific film and TV music composer and one of the few women to make a mark in the competitive music scoring arena. Her credits include the "Final Destination" horror film series and animated "Batman" and "Superman" series.

Frank Stanton, 98, the pioneering audience researcher and broadcasting executive whose nearly 30-year tenure as CBS president included the milestones of pushing for the first televised presidential debates in 1960 and staring down a congressional hearing into a CBS News documentary on the Pentagon in 1971.

Stanton served as the right-hand man to legendary CBS founder William S. Paley, and the two shepherded CBS' growth from a radio broadcaster into a multiplatform media concern worth $1 billion by the end of the 1960s.

Stanton, who held the job of CBS president longer than anyone in the company's history, was revered within CBS as a man of great intellect and principal. He fiercely defended the First Amendment and was cited for contempt by a congressional committee when he refused to turn over CBS News' notes on the 1971 "CBS Reports: The Selling of the Pentagon" expose of the propaganda campaign mounted by the Pentagon to foster support for the Vietnam war. Editor's Note: My how times have changed...sigh....

Ahmet Ertegun, 83, co-founder of Atlantic Records and an influential force in contemporary music in helping develop the careers of acts as diverse as Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Ertegun began his lifelong love affair with jazz when his father was serving as an ambassador in London and his older brother, Atlantic co-founder Nesuhi Ertegun, took him to see concerts by Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.

Formed in 1947, Atlantic enjoyed a string of hits in the late 1940s and early '50s thanks to a potent talent roster that included Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, Big Joe Turner, the Drifters and the Coasters. Ertegun maintained his hands-on role at the label into the 1970s and '80s, when he helped guide the careers of Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, ABBA, Foreigner and Genesis, among others.

James Brown, 73, the undeniable "Godfather of Soul," whose classic singles include "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Living in America." One of the major musical influences of the past 50 years, Brown was to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan was to lyrics.

From Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, David Bowie to Public Enemy, his rapid-footed dancing, hard-charging beats and heartfelt yet often unintelligible vocals changed the musical landscape.

He was one of the first artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers. "He was an innovator, he was an emancipator, he was an originator. Rap music, all that stuff came from James Brown," Little Richard, a longtime friend of Brown's, told MSNBC.

Joe Barbera, 95, half of the Hanna-Barbera animation team that produced such beloved cartoon characters as Tom & Jerry, Yogi Bear, the Flintstones and the Jetsons.

With partner Bill Hanna, Barbera first found success in the late 1930s creating the fussin' and fightin' Tom & Jerry cartoons at MGM. In the '50s, as founders and partners in Hanna-Barbera Studios, they discovered a whole new realm of success starting with animated TV comedies.

Hanna-Barbera Studios would rake in eight Emmys, including the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1988, and Barbera and Hanna were elected to the ATAS Hall of Fame in 1994.

Peter Boyle, 71, whose versatility as a character actor took him from the Vietnam-era angst of "Joe" to a tap-dancing monster in "Young Frankenstein" to the cranky paterfamilias of the Barone clan on the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond."

With his bald pate, wide forehead, dark eyebrows and eyes that could jut from side to side, Boyle flashed a manic glint that could be scary or endearing. A one-time monastery student, he turned to acting after he felt the "normal pull of the world and the flesh." Boyle earned 10 Emmy nominations in his long career, seven of them for his role as Frank Barone on "Raymond."

Editor's Note: Rest in Peace to all. And to all the dweebpals, have a festive and safe New Year's Eve!


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