Thursday, March 6, 2014

In Memoriam: film folks

Herein we pay tribute to some of the film stars who passed away in the last year (many of whom were remembered in the Academy Awards telecast), with links to DVDs we have that spotlight their work. Unlike famous actors of the past, like Edwin Booth and Sarah Bernhardt, their unique gifts will live on always in these filmed performances.
Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine found a niche playing naive wives in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca and Suspicion (above right), and was also featured in films by Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Nicholas Ray. She died at age 96, outlasting most of the stars and directors she worked with!
Philip Seymour Hoffman was a Best Actor Oscar winner for Capote in 2005, and was nominated three times as Best Supporting Actor. He would doubtless have had a bookcase full of awards had he lived out a normal life span. We currently have four of his films, including The Savages (left, with Laura Linney), Charlie Wilson's War, Capote, and The Ides of March.
We have two films by the late Sopranos star James Gandolfini. One of them, Lonely Hearts, stars recent Oscar winner Jared Leto, while the other, Welcome to the Rileys,  features Melissa Leo. Another Academy Award winner, she's a wonderful actress who just finished a superb run in HBO's Treme. (Below, Leo and Gandolfini  in Welcome to the Rileys; Kristen Stewart, Gandolfini, and Melissa Leo pose at the premiere.)
Who doesn't love a femme fatale? Audrey Totter played one in the 1940s film noir classic Lady in the Lake and also in The Postman Always Rings Twice. You can see her in our Bad Girls of Film Noir collection as well!The badder the better is our motto!
Singing actress Deanna Durbin made her first film appearance with Judy Garland in Every Sunday (1936). Her success as the ideal teenage daughter in musicals such as Three Smart Girls was credited with saving Universal Studios from bankruptcy. She fought to play more sophisticated roles—even appeared in one film noir picture—but retired relatively early from the Hollywood racket.
Durbin in more soigné mode.
Ray Harryhausen was a master of stop-motion animation. We currently have two films he worked on: She and It Came from Beneath the Sea. (Left, Harryhausen with one of his fantastical creations in 1965.)
Two irreplaceable comedians who were fortunately caught both on tape and film were Sid Caesar and Jonathan Winters. Each was a madly talented guru of improvisation—and they were really nice guys to boot. The late, great classical pianist Earl Wild provides some nifty musical accompaniment to this tour de force silent film parody featuring Caesar and Dorothy Lamour from the Bing Crosby Show. (If you're keen on piano virtuosity you'll adore Wild. We have Earl Wild Goes to the Movies, several concert discs, and more.)
Here is Caesar again in the hilarious skit "At The Movies" with Imogene Coca from Your Show of Shows.
This one is a boffo takeoff on the Cary Grant/Ros Russell classic His Girl Friday.
Winters does some movie spoofing as well in this stand-up routine on The Jack Paar Show.
Nothing like leaving them laughing! I'll close with this beautiful image from East of Eden starring James Dean and Julie Harris.


  1. People at the Oscars also mourned someone who wasn't a star – a young woman who died last month while working on a movie in Georgia.

    1. That Jonathan Winters could've been an entire special effects dept. for a chntzy film production!
      That would certainly be a better idea than saving money by filming on a railroad track without telling the railroad! That woman's death is unnecessary and maddening, especially since the deaths during the filming of The Twilight Zone should have added some protection.
      The director should be held responsible; people are not puppet-slaves made to act out the director's idiotic fantasies.
      Problem is, one may sue, but these outfits never have any money to compensate for the families' great loss. (Creative accounting is a secret Oscar category!)

    2. I'm with you on all points...

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