With the news of the passing of French New Wave director Claude Chabrol at the age of 80—an individual who became legendary in the film industry for suspense thrillers like Les biches (1968, aka Bad Girls), The Beast Must Die (1970), Le boucher (1970, aka The Butcher) and Wedding in Blood (1973)—I realize that I’ve been a tad recalcitrant in noting the passings of celebrity and show business folks of late. So let’s play catch-up.
David Dortort, a television writer-producer who created the classic boob tube oaters Bonanza and The High Chapparal, died September 5 at the age of 93. Dortort also produced TV's The Restless Gun and wrote the screenplay for the western film classic The Lusty Men (1952); Stephen Bowie has a nice essay on Dortort and why he never cared for Bonanza…and it deviates slightly from the theory set forth by Scott Clevenger that Ben Cartwright was the West’s most notorious Bluebeard.
Paul Conrad, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times who made enemies of then California Governors Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, died September 4 at the age of 86
Robert Schimmel, a stand-up comedian whom I’d catch every now and then on HBO, died on September 3 from injuries sustained in an August 26 car crash. He was 60.
Mike Edwards, cellist and founding member of the Electric Light Orchestra, died September 3 from injuries resulting in a freak accident involving a runaway bale of hay that slammed into his van. He was 62.
Cammie King Conlon, a child actress best known for her portrayal of the ill-fated Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939) and voicing the young fawn Faline in Walt Disney’s Bambi (1942), died September 1 at the age of 76.
Bill Phillips, a country music vocalist whose Top Ten hits included Words I’m Going to Have to Eat, The Company You Keep and Little Boy Sad died August 24 at the age of 72. Phillips’ biggest hit, Put it Off Until Tomorrow, was recorded in 1966 with a then-unknown Dolly Parton on harmony vocals. Parton had written the song with her uncle, Bill Owens, and it was Phillips’ selection of the song that jump-started her show business career.
George David Weiss, a pop music tunesmith whose enduring songs include Can’t Help Falling in Love, The Lion Sleeps Tonight and What a Wonderful World, died August 23 at the age of 89.
Jackson Gillis, a television writer-producer who served as executive producer for TV’s Perry Mason for many years, died August 19 at the age of 93. Charlie Summers reminded readers of the Old-Time Radio Digest that Gillis flexed his writing muscles on several radio programs early in his career, notably The Whistler and Let George Do It.
Ahna Capri, an actress who played the role of Tania, secretary to the villainous Han in the 1973 Bruce Lee actioner Enter the Dragon, died August 18 at the age of 65 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Her other vehicles include Payday (1972) and a supporting role in the short-lived sitcom Room for One More (1962), based on the 1952 film starring Cary Grant and then-wife Betsy Drake.
Gloria Winters—better known as “Penny” on TV’s Sky King and Pam’s personal role model—died August 14 at the age of 79. Winters also played Babs Riley in the Jackie Gleason version (1949-50) of the radio-to-TV transplant sitcom The Life of Riley.
Edward Kean, the major scribe of TV’s Howdy Doody, died August 13 at the age of 85 of complications from emphysema. (Mr. Kean is assured an indulgence merely for contributing the word “kowabunga” to the American lexicon.)
George DiCenzo, a film, television and stage character actor best known for playing real-life D.A. Vincent Bugliosi in the 1976 TV-movie Helter Skelter, died August 9 at the age of 70. His other television work includes appearances on
Paul Rudd, a film, stage and television actor remembered for his role as chauffeur Brian Mallory on the 1975 CBS Upstairs, Downstairs clone
John Louis Mansi, a veteran British film, television and stage character thesp best known here at TDOY as the staggeringly incompetent Gestapo agent Von Smallhausen in the Britcom ‘Allo ‘Allo! died August 6 at the age of 83.
Finally, Gwilym Hughes, who held the Guinness world record for movie-watching—28,000 flicks established in 2008—left the multiplex at the age of 65. (That’s the way I’d like to go.)
To all these extraordinary people…requiescat in pace.