The Watchers

The Watchers

Saturday, 31 December 2016

In Memoriam 2016

As 2016 mercifully comes to a close, we reflect on the many losses that the film and entertainment world have suffered this year.

It's been a common refrain through this year that there seems to be a higher than usual percentage of famous people passing on. Whether that's true or not, I don't know. All I know is there's been a lot this year. We wrote full length obituaries of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Kenny Baker and Carrie Fisher throughout the year; however, there were a lot of deaths we were unable to pay tribute to at the time. 

Here then are tributes to just a few of the stars, from in front of and behind the camera, who sadly passed away this year.

Ken Adam was production designer for several Bond films, including Dr. No, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. He was also production designer for projects as diverse as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sleuth and Addams Family Values. He won two Oscars for his art direction (for Barry Lyndon and The Madness Of King George), along with two BAFTAs (for Dr. Strangelove and The Ipcress File). 

Actress and transgender activist Alexis Arquette made her film debut in 1989 in Last Exit To Brooklyn and then went on to appear in Pulp Fiction, The Wedding Singer and Bride Of Chucky. She also has an uncredited role in the 1992 movie of Buffy The Vampire Slayer as a vampire DJ and also appeared in Spun, Lords Of Dogtown and Blended. Her transition was covered in the 2007 documentary Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother.

Michael Cimino made his directorial debut in 1974 with Thunderbolt And Lightfoot, then followed it up with The Deer Hunter, for which he won both the Golden Globe and the Best Director Oscar (and was also nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar). His following film- Heaven's Gate- had quite a different reception; it is widely considered to be one of the most notorious screen disasters in film history (largely due to Cimino's insistence on perfection, rivalling that of Stanley Kubrick) and Cimino 'won' the Razzie Award for Worst Director.

Patty Duke won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1963 for playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, also winning the Golden Globe for Most Promising Female Newcomer for the same role. She then went on to star in The Patty Duke Show for three years on TV before appearing in Valley Of The Dolls, The Swarm and Prelude To A Kiss. In 1979, she appeared in a TV version of The Miracle Worker, but this time in the role of Annie Sullivan (played by Anne Bancroft in the 1962 film)

Frank Finlay was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor for his performance of Iago in Othello (opposite Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith), he also played Porthos in The Three Musketeers and several of its sequels, a chilling Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol, Father in The Pianist, Peter Manson in the controversial TV drama Bouquet Of Barbed Wire and gave a brilliant comedic turn as the Witchsmeller Pursuivant in the Blackadder episode of the same name.

Zsa Zsa Gabor was known as much for her personal life as her film career. She got her big breakthrough in John Huston's Moulin Rouge (1952) before taking supporting roles in Lili and Touch Of Evil and appearing in the sci-fi B-movie Queen Of Outer Space (1958), a film she later described as 'awful'. She was the last 'guest villain' in the 1960s series of Batman and then went on to play heightened versions of herself in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear and The Beverly Hillbillies. She was married nine times, including one to hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and one to actor George Sanders.

Whilst Guy Hamilton will be best remembered for directing Goldfinger (one of, if not the best Bond films), he also had an illustrious career outside the spy genre. He worked as assistant director on The Fallen Idol, The Third Man and The African Queen before directing his first full feature The Ringer in 1952. He directed three further Bond films: Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun. He also directed Funeral In Berlin, Force 10 From Navarone and two all-star adaptations of Agatha Christie novels: The Mirror Crack'd and Evil Under The Sun.

The name David Huddleston might not ring many bells to most people, but if you name some of his roles, you'll soon get a different response. Not only does he play the titular character in The Big Lebowski and Olson Johnson in Blazing Saddles, but- rather poignantly at this time of the year- he also played Santa Claus in Santa Claus: The Movie (opposite Dudley Moore and John Lithgow). 

George Kennedy's film career is incredibly varied- from The Sons Of Katie Elder and The Dirty Dozen to The Eiger Sanction and The Delta Force. He played airline troubleshooter Joe Patroni in Airport and its three sequels, appeared in the all-star Agatha Christie adaptation Death On The Nile and played opposite Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun films. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1968 for his role in Cool Hand Luke

Marni Nixon's name and face may not be recognisable, but her voice certainly would be: she provided the singing voice for several major Hollywood stars, including Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King & I and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. She also sang for Disney in Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland and Mulan and actually appeared onscreen as Sister Sophia in The Sound Of Music.

A singer-songwriter, actor, producer, multi-instrumentalist, Prince was a Renaissance man. Songs like 'Little Red Corvette', '1999', 'When Doves Cry', 'Raspberry Beret' and 'Kiss' have been used in countless TV shows and films. He provided the whole soundtrack to the 1989 Batman film and the soundtrack to Girl 6. As an actor, he appeared as The Kid in the semi-autobiographical Purple Rain (1984) and its sequel Graffiti Bridge (1990) and as Christopher Tracy in Under The Cherry Moon (1986). He won an Oscar for the score of Purple Rain, won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for 'The Song of The Heart' from Happy Feet and 'won' three Razzies for Under The Cherry Moon (Worst Director, Actor and Original Song)

Star of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Debbie Reynolds, sadly passed away just a day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher. Reynolds became famous for her role as Kathy Selden in Singin' In The Rain (1952). She then went on to appear in Tammy, How The West Was Won and Divorce American Style and was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). Later in her career, she appeared in Mother, In & Out, Connie & Carla, the Halloweentown TV movies and as Grace's boisterous mother Bobbi in Will & Grace. She also provided voice work for Kim Possible, Rugrats and for the English version of Kiki's Delivery Service. Her final screen role was playing Liberace's mother in Behind The Candelabra. A collector of cinema memorabilia, Reynolds was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award earlier in 2016 and won the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe worked as director of photography on many of the Ealing comedies of the 1940s and 1950s including Kind Hearts And Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt. He also worked on Dead Of Night, The Lion In Winter and The Italian Job. He was also director of photography for the original Indiana Jones trilogy, gaining his third Best Cinematography Oscar nomination for Raiders Of The Lost Ark (the other two nods were for Julia and Travels With My Aunt

The gloriously eccentric Liz Smith started her film career in 1970 at the age of 50. She appeared in The French Lieutenant's Woman, Curse Of The Pink Panther and A Private Function (winning the Best Supporting Actress BAFTA award for her performance as Maggie Smith's domineering mother). She also took roles in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Son Of The Pink Panther, Keep The Aspidistra Flying and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. On television, she is known for her roles as Lettie Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley, Nanna in The Royle Family and as a wonderfully deranged Mrs. White in the final series of Cluedo.

Despite being best known for television roles as the menacing 'Genial' Harry Grout in Porridge and the wise Maester Aemon in Game Of Thrones, Peter Vaughan had an illustrious film, television and stage career, taking in everything from costume drama to high fantasy. After playing the role of Denethor in the BBC's 1981 radio adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, Terry Gilliam cast him as Winston the Ogre in Time Bandits and then as Mr. Helpmann in Brazil. He also appeared in Straw Dogs, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Haunted Honeymoon, The Remains Of The Day and the UK version of Death At A Funeral.

Robert Vaughn will forever be remembered as the suave spy Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (and its various spin-offs and film versions) and for his role in the BBC series Hustle. He also appeared in several episodes of British soap opera Coronation Street. Nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in The Young Philadelphians (1959), Vaughn's other film credits include The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt, The Towering Inferno and Superman III

Starting his film career with a small but memorable role as a nervy undertaker in Bonnie And Clyde (1967), Gene Wilder then went on to appear as the neurotic accountant Leo Bloom in The Producers (1967), a role for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In 1971, he played what might well be considered his best-known role: Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. A frequent collaborator with Mel Brooks, Wilder was nominated for a second Oscar in 1975 for writing the screenplay to Young Frankenstein. He also appeared in several films- including Stir Crazy and See No Evil, Hear No Evil- with Richard Pryor, and won an Emmy for his performance as Mr. Stein in Will & Grace.

Stand-up comedienne, actress, screenwriter, singer-songwriter... there really wasn't anything Victoria Wood couldn't turn her hand to with immense success. From her TV collaborations with Julie Walters to her own As Seen On TV show and the workplace comedy Dinnerladies, Wood captured the foibles and the absurdity of class and modern culture with pinpoint accuracy. Roles in dramas such as Pat And Margaret and Housewife, 49 (for which she won the Best Actress BAFTA) showed she could excel in more serious roles as well as comedy. 

Anton Yelchin began his career with roles in Along Came A Spider (opposite Morgan Freeman) and Hearts In Atlantis (opposite Anthony Hopkins). He is best known for his role as Pavel Chekhov in the rebooted Star Trek movie franchise. Aside from Star Trek, he played the title role in Charlie Bartlett, Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, Charley Brewster in the 2011 remake of Fright Night and Pat in Green Room. He also did voice work on The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2 and the English version of Studio Ghibli's From Up On Poppy Hill.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond worked on many iconic films, including The Deer Hunter, The Rose, Heaven's Gate, The Witches Of Eastwick and The Black Dahlia. He is only credited as director for one film- 1992's The Long Shadow, starring Liv Ullmann and Michael York and made a rare acting appearance as Albert Bierstadt in Maverick (a film he was also director of photography for). He was nominated for four Best Cinematography Oscars, winning on his first nomination for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Others who passed away this year include:

- British author Richard Adams (Watership Down)

- British actress, writer and comedienne Caroline Aherne

- American playwright Edward Albee (Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance)

- British actress Jean Alexander (Coronation Street, Last Of The Summer Wine)

- Oscar-nominated director Hector Babenco (Kiss Of The Spider Woman)

- American actress Charmian Carr (Liesl in The Sound Of Music)

- Canadian singer and writer Leonard Cohen

- British comedian and actor Ronnie Corbett

- British magician Paul Daniels

- Welsh actress Deddie Davies (Stella, The Railway Children)

- Italian author Umberto Eco (The Name Of The Rose)

- Italian writer and Nobel Laureate Dario Fo (Accidental Death Of An Anarchist)

- Finnish-American actor George Gaynes (Police Academy)

- American screenwriter Daniel Gerson (Monsters Inc., Monsters University, Big Hero 6)

- American actor Ron Glass (Shepherd Book in Firefly and Serenity)

- Oscar-nominated writer and director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential)

- British director Robin Hardy (The Wicker Man)

- Oscar-nominated director Arthur Hiller (Love Story)

- Irish actor Frank Kelly (Father Ted)

- British actor Burt Kwouk (The Pink Panther, Goldfinger)

- British writer Carla Lane (Bread, Butterflies, The Liver Birds)

- American writer Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird)

- American director Herschell Gordon Lewis (The Godfather Of Gore)

- American producer and director Garry Marshall (Beaches, Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries)

- British singer George Michael

- American actress Noel Neill (the first woman to play Lois Lane on film)

- American actor Bill Nunn (Sister Act, the Spider-Man trilogy, Do The Right Thing)

- British actor Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers)

- American actor Angus Scrimm (Phantasm)

- British writer Peter Shaffer (Equus, Amadeus, The Royal Hunt Of The Sun)

- American comedian and actor Garry Shandling

- British actor Gareth Thomas (Blake's 7)

- Scottish producer Michael White (Monty Python And The Holy Grail, The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

- Irish broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan

- Studio Ghibli colourist Michiyo Yasuda

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