Saturday, December 6, 2008

In threes

I once asked my mother who her favorite movie actress was. She replied without hesitation: “Beverly Garland.”

Now, I was relatively young and naïve, movie-wise, when I posed this query and so I wasn’t familiar with Garland’s performances in later-to-be-favorite films like D.O.A. (1950) and Pretty Poison (1968)—or even drive-in classics (directed by Roger Corman, natch) like It Conquered the World (1956) and Not of This Earth (1957). No, my only exposure to Bev was her three-year-stint as Steve Douglas’ (Fred MacMurray) new wife Barbara on the infinitesimally running sitcom My Three Sons from 1969-72. Therefore, I didn’t say much at the time, because I was hard-pressed to figure out just what it was Ms. G possessed that endeared her to Mom so.

Of course, in later years, I would catch the aforementioned movies and more…plus Garland’s lengthy resume of guest-star appearances on practically every television series under the sun. She starred in the short-lived syndicated series Decoy as Casey Jones, one of the tube’s first female undercover cops. She appeared as Stephanie Zimbalist’s ma on Remington Steele, Kate Jackson’s mater on Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and Teri Hatcher’s mum on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

While still actively engaged in acting, Beverly Garland became a mini-hotel magnate, opening up her own Holiday Inn franchise in North Hollywood in 1972. (She later started a second hotel in Sacramento but sold it in the 1980s.) Sadly, after so many years of providing a solid female role model (in her many of her films, she was a gutsy, take-no-guff dame) in her acting career, Ms. Garland has gone on to her greater reward at the age of 82.

Another actress who has made her final curtsey at the curtain is Nina Foch, who passed on Friday at the age of 84. Foch, who made many appearances in both starring and character roles in films and television during her 40-plus career in acting, was perhaps best-known as an acting coach and teacher of aspiring directors (which included Amy Heckerling and Ed Zwick).

I’ve caught Foch in quite a few notable movies, including Shadows in the Night (1944; one of the better Crime Doctor entries), I Love a Mystery (1945), The Dark Past (1948), The Undercover Man (1949), An American in Paris (1951), Scaramouche (1952) and You’re Never Too Young (1955)—but my all-time favorite remains My Name is Julia Ross (1945), a classic B-picture in which she plays a young woman used by villainous George Macready and his doting mother Dame May Whitty in a plot to cover up Macready’s wife’s murder. (I saw Ross not too long ago on TCM and although the ending of the film is a bit hard to swallow, it’s still an example of a great programmer rising above its station to become something important, if only for an hour and five minutes.)

And then there’s Forrest J Ackerman…a.k.a. “Uncle Forry.”

I held off on posting the news of his death at the age of 92 only because I had read at Mark Evanier’s newsfromme that several mentions of his passing had hit weblogs within the past year, causing mini Mark Twain snafus in their wake. There have already been a number of well-written tributes to “Dr. Acula,” beginning with Mark—but you might also want to check out these contributions from C. Jerry Kutner at Bright Lights After Dark, Craig Zablo at the Zone, Lloyd at, Bill Sherman at Pop Culture Gadabout, Nelhydrea Paupér at Flickhead and Tom Sutpen at Illusion Travels by Streetcar.

A fond farewell and R.I.P. to three incredible talents—Beverly Garland, Nina Foch and Forrest J Ackerman. You will be missed.


Flickhead said...

Wow -- sad news all around, but Beverly Garland's passing came out of left field. I was a member of Carl Del Vecchio's authorized Beverly Garland Club back in the 70s. I always liked her...Beverly and Marie Windsor were probably my two favorite actresses from the 50s. Thanks for these thoughtful obits.

Scott C. said...

Ouch. Both Beverly Garland and Uncle Forry?! That's it, Death, you've gotten greedy. Take a holiday!