Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The passings parade and some gratuitous back-patting

Because I’ve been working on a few projects both blog and non-blog related, I overlooked the announcement of musician/producer Mitch Miller’s death at the age of 99 Saturday (July 31). The former head of Columbia Records’ pop music division and one-time television star (Sing Along With Mitch, which was televised on NBC from 1961-64) succumbed to a short illness while hospitalized in New York City. I wrote a bit about Sing Along when I did a two-part post on East Side/West Side in February, but other than knowing that Miller was one of the biggest opponents of rock ‘n’ roll I can’t say too much about the man…fortunately, Mark Evanier, Jaime Weinman, RGJ (Television Obscurities), Mercurie (A Shroud of Thoughts) and hobbyfan (The Land of Whatever) can fill in some of the gaps.

Other show business notables who have left this world for a better one within the two past weeks:

Robert F. Boyle, a four-time Academy Award nominee for production design died Sunday (August 1) of natural causes at Los Angeles’ Cedar-Sinai Medical Center at the age of 100. Among the films Boyle worked on during his lengthy career were North by Northwest (1959), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), The Landlord (1970), Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and The Shootist (1976).

Singer-songwriter Bobby Hebb, who took a song about a smiling young girl named “Sunny” (which was actually written in response to the deaths of both President John F. Kennedy and Hebb’s brother Harold, slain outside a nightclub in Nashville in 1963) to #2 on the pop charts in 1966, has died at the age of 72. Hebb succumbed to lung cancer at a Nashville hospital on Tuesday, just days after celebrating his 72nd birthday.

Television writer-producer Bernie West passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease July 29th at his Beverly Hills home at the age of 92. His show-business career was extremely prolific, working on classic sitcoms such as All in the Family, The Jeffersons and Three’s Company (and its short-lived spin-off, The Ropers).

Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz died Saturday at his Los Angeles home at the age of 68. The son of writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (and nephew of Herman J.) established himself as a talented scribe and script doctor through his contributions to films like Diamonds are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man With the Golden Arm (1974), Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976), The Eagle Has Landed (1977) and Ladyhawke (1985). His work on the 1978 Superman film and its 1980 sequel was mired in a smidge of controversy; his credit for script doctoring on the two movies was ignored by the Writers Guild despite the objections of director Richard Donner. (Mankiewicz also co-wrote the pilot for the execrable TV detective series Hart to Hart…the less said about that the better.)

Television writer-producer John Aylesworth’s idea of a show that would blend Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In with The Beverly Hillbillies took root in 1969 with Hee Haw, a show that lasted on network television and in syndication until 1993…and at one time was on every freakin’ station on Saturday nights in the South, even on PBS. Aylesworth, who along with partner Frank Peppiatt wrote for the Perry Como, Judy Garland and Sonny and Cher variety shows, passed away July 28th from complications due to pneumonia at the age of 81 at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

Maurice Hines, Sir, the father of tap dancers extraordinaire Gregory and Maurice, Jr., died on July 27th at a Las Vegas hospice-care facility. He was 88 years old.

TV’s Ty-D-Bol spokesman, Dan Resin, died on July 31st at the age of 79 from complications due to Parkinson’s disease. Resin might be recognizable to fans of the 1980 slob comedy Caddyshack as Dr. Beeper, but he also had a lengthy career on stage with roles in Broadway productions such as My Fair Lady and Once Upon a Mattress.

Suso Cecchi D’Amico, a screenwriter whose best-known works include Bicycle Thieves (1948), Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) and The Leopard (1963) died on July 31st at the age of 96. D’Amico enjoyed a long collaboration with directors Federico Fellini, Franco Zeffirelli and Mario Moncelli.

And Morrie Yohai, whose invention of Cheez Doodles has made both of my snack-happy sisters deliriously happy for many years, has gone to meet his maker at the age of 96. Yohai succumbed to cancer on July 27th at his home on New York’s Long Island.

I’ll close out the proceedings with a couple of toots from the TDOY horn: I have an essay on Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) up at Edward Copeland on Film that commemorates that film’s seventy-fifth anniversary today. Though I love pretty much anything W.C. Fields ever touched in all matters celluloid, Flying Trapeze is my favorite vehicle of them all.

Finally, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is currently in the spotlight at the Classic Movie Blog Association’s blog this week. A doff of the chapeau to Rick29 and the usual suspects for singling me out; it is a most worthy honor.

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