Monday, November 16, 2009

Notable passings

Greg Ferrara at Cinema Styles has written an exceptionally well-done tribute to actor Edward Woodward, who has rung down the final curtain at the age of 79. The British actor is perhaps best-known on these shores for films like The Wicker Man (1973—one of my favorite horror films) and 'Breaker' Morant (1980), as well as the popular television series The Equalizer, which ran on CBS from 1985 to 1989.

I have to confess that save Wicker Man and an episode of The Saint (“The Persistent Patriots”) I really haven’t seen much of Woodward’s work—which is surprising, since you’d think at the very least I would have bumped into at least one episode of Equalizer. The cult TV series was very similar to an earlier program Woodward had appeared on in the 1970s entitled Callan, which was popular enough to produce a feature film of the same name in 1974. His c.v. at the IMDb is quite impressive—speaking only for myself, I’m kind of curious to see Common as Muck, a comedy-drama about trash collectors on which the actor had a recurring role.

Peter Nellhaus at Coffee coffee and more coffee gave a Facebook heads-up to the passing of director Paul Wendkos, who died last Thursday at the age of 87 (though some have reported he was 84) at his home in Malibu. Wendkos was a journeyman best remembered for his contributions to the Gidget film series, holding the reins on Gidget (1959), Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963). He directed scores of episodes for series television: among the most notable were Naked City, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, The Untouchables, Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, Mr. Novak, I Spy, The Invaders and Hawaii Five-O (he directed the two-hour pilot, “Cocoon”).

Later in his career, Wendkos made directing made-for-TV movies his specialty (among his better-known projects were The Legend of Lizzie Borden [1975] and A Woman Called Moses [1978])—though it should be pointed out that he did do some interesting theatrical forays including Because They're Young (1960; with Dick Clark as a high school teacher attempting to straighten out some juvenile delinquents) and Angel Baby (1961), which stars George Hamilton as a junior-league Elmer Gantry exploiting the hell out of evangelist Mercedes McCambridge (this film also features appearances from Burt Reynolds, Joan Blondell and Henry Jones). I’ve always had a soft spot for a creepy chiller entitled The Mephisto Waltz (1971), which stars Curt Jurgens as a dying pianist who takes an interest in musician Alan Alda (again, interesting cast in this pic—Jacqueline Bisset, Barbara Parkins, Bradford Dillman, William Windom, Kathleen Widdoes and animal-protection terrorist Pamelyn Ferdin).

I’m also going to add scribe David Lloyd to this list, only because I overlooked his passing last week (Lloyd was the Emmy Award-winning writer who penned the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show episode “Chuckles Bites the Dust”); he has left us at the age of 75 after a long bout with prostate cancer. But he also left us a legacy of great comedy, having written for some of TV’s best sitcoms: The Tony Randall Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Associates, Best of the West, Taxi, Amen…and the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance of comedic half-hours: Cheers, Wings and Frasier. He also penned several episodes of the comedy-drama Lou Grant…as well as sitcom stinkers Mr. Smith (you remember this one, about the super-intelligent monkey) and Mr. Sunshine. (I think the Great Beyond will overlook these last two indiscretions—hell, I’d let him in if the only thing he had ever written was “Chuckles.”)

R.I.P. Messrs. Woodward, Wendkos and Lloyd. You will be sorely missed.

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1 comment:

Scott C. said...

Usually these obits serve to remind me of just how movies I haven't seen, but remarkably, we did Because They're Young for Better Living Through Bad Movies,, in the "Teenage Wasteland" chapter (along with Teenage Devil Doll, Disturbing Behavior and Attack of the Clones).