September 24, 1936 — May 16, 1990
Richard Griffiths, OBE
31 July 1947 - 29th March 2013
News is coming out that the wonderful Richard Griffiths has passed away, aged 65 from complications following heart surgery.
I’m heartbroken by this news. He was an incredible talent who appeared in more than one of my favourite films. He was magnificent as Uncle Monty in Withnail and I and Hector in The History Boys, and that’s not even mentioning his appearances in Harry Potter, The Naked Gun 2½, Sleepy Hollow, Pie in the Sky, Bleak House, Ghandi, Venus or his countless stage roles.
No doubt more tributes will be paid during the day, but I had to mourn his passing myself. His was a startlingly wonderful on-screen presence who brought an amazing gravitas to any role he played. The acting profession is poorer today now he’s gone.
Rest in peace, you fabulous man.
Richard Griffiths, OBE
31 July 1947 - 29th March 2013
R.I.P. the magnificent Herbert Lom, who has passed away peacefully in his sleep, aged 95. In my view, one of the funniest actors who ever lived, but also a fine serious actor.
He was born in Prague into an impoverished aristocratic family and studied philosophy at Prague University, where he organised student theatre. In 1939, on the eve of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, he arrived in Britain with his Jewish girlfriend, Didi, but she was sent back at Dover because she did not have the correct papers. Her subsequent death in a concentration camp haunted him all his life.
Because of his linguistic abilities, Lom worked for the BBC European Service during the second world war, while building an acting career in British films. He soon gained a carved a niche for himself as an accomplished character actor, but the refusal of the US to grant him a visa because of his Czech birth may have killed his chances of a Hollywood career. Nonetheless, he appeared in more than 100 films through his career, including Spartacus, Night and the City, The Human Jungle, Mysterious Island, The Phantom of the Opera, War and Peace, The Dead Zone and El Cid, working with directors from Stanley Kubrick to David Cronenberg.
For many, his most memorable role will be as Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies, managing the near impossible task of stealing entire movies from under Peter Sellers’ nose, but I’ll never forget forget him in one of my favourite films, The Ladykillers, in which he starred alongside Sellers and the late, great Alec Guinness.
He had a fantastic career and leaves behind a body of work that most actors could only dream of achieving.
Happy 76th birthday Jim Henson. Your talent and creativity continues to live on and thrive in the lives your art touched.
RIP Michael Clarke Duncan: December 10, 1957 – September 3, 2012
Oscar-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan is reported to have died nearly eight weeks after being hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. The Green Mile star was 54.
Duncan’s publicist, Joy Fehily, released a statement on behalf of his fiancée, Rev. Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, saying that Duncan had passed away on Monday in Los Angeles.
Duncan “never fully recovered” from his July 13 heart attack, the statement said. “Manigault is grateful for all of your prayers and asks for privacy at this time.”
Rest in peace, Michael Clarke Duncan, who appears to have been a giant in every sense of the word, according to those that worked with him and loved him. Hollywood is a poorer place for his passing.
Statement from the family of Neil Armstrong, full statement here (via jtotheizzoe)
RIP Jerry Nelson: July 10, 1934 - August 23, 2012
Jerry Nelson, long time Muppeteer, who played a number of favourite characters, including Count von Count on Sesame Street and Gobo Fraggle on Fraggle Rock, has died. He was 78.
Nelson’s most famous puppet character was, perhaps, Count Von Count, the Sesame Street citizen who teaches children how to count. As well, he gave life to Mr. Snuffleupagus, Herbert Birdsfoot, Sherlock Hemlock, Herry Monster and a wide array of supporting one-shot characters. He also played Gobo Fraggle, the leader of the colourful band of creatures featured on the live-action TV series Fraggle Rock.
Nelson also performed many characters on The Muppet Show, including Sgt. Floyd Pepper (the bassist of the Electric Mayhem band), Pigs in Space star Dr. Julius Strangepork, boomerang fish flinging Lew Zealand, Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin and Gonzo’s girlfriend Camilla the Chicken.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Washington, D.C., Nelson first began working with American puppeteer Bil Baird, who created the marionette sequence for The Sound of Music.
He worked with Jim Henson on The Jimmy Dean Show in 1965, temporarily replacing Frank Oz, and worked with The Muppets off and on throughout the 1960s.
Beginning in the 1970s, he worked full-time on Sesame Street and became involved with productions such as 1979’s The Muppet Movie and 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper.
In 2004, Nelson announced he would no longer be operating puppets for The Muppets. However, he continued to do voice work on Sesame Street and portrayed the announcer on some Muppet productions. He continued to voice the Count up until his death.
In 2009 he wrote about his experiences, for Sesame Street’s 40th Anniversary:
“My grandparents used to give me a quarter to learn and sing songs when I was a sprout about five years old. “South of the Border” was maybe the first of a long list of tunes and I’m still learning them and singing them and will until the day I die. I don’t know if they knew the extent of what they were doing and how they were prepping me to have a way to get along in the world, but I like to think so.
I guess everything you observe and do and experience in life adds to that oneness that makes each of us so unique and at the same time makes us an everyman that shares the human condition in the most fundamental ways.
Working with The Henson Organization was like working with your family and when I started working on Sesame Street that was another extended family so now the family was immense. The idea behind this Sesame Street project was to use the tool of television to teach underprivileged preschool children, but what happened was that the show charmed, taught, and brought love and laughter into the hearts and minds of children and adults all over the world.
Chance, dumb luck or destiny? Who knows the controlling force that chooses where and how we find our lives manifest?
I can only say I have traveled through the breathtaking up and down melody of a lifetime that, I studied and trained for, wandered the paths of least resistance (following my water nature) to, and that I am either blessed and one of the luckiest bozos walking this planet or both.
Doctor Who actress Mary Tamm died this morning after a long battle against cancer, her agent said. She was 62.
Tamm, who played the Doctor’s companion Romana alongside Tom Baker, died at hospital in London. Her agent Barry Langford said she had a “zest for life”.
The actress was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, the daughter of Estonian refugees, and had a long career on stage and screen.
As well as Doctor Who, she starred in films The Odessa File and The Likely Lads and had recurring roles in soaps Brookside and EastEnders.
Tamm leaves husband Marcus Ringrose, daughter Lauren and seven-year-old son Max. She had been suffering from cancer for 18 months.
Mr Langford, her agent of 22 years, said: “She had a great zest for life. She was a fantastic actress - she played stage parts of such range, parts that would take your breath away. She could play any role, and do so wonderfully.”
Tamm, who lived in Battersea, south London, trained at Rada. Her first professional job was at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre where she worked alongside Derek Jacobi, Joan Sims and Ronnie Barker. From there she moved on to television work and film, her first feature film being Tales That Witness Madness with Kim Novak.
She recently starred in Wire In The Blood, Paradise Heights and Jonathan Creek, with stage work including Amanda in Private Lives and Beverley in Abigail’s Party. Her autobiography was published three years ago.
Mr Langford said Tamm had been saddened by the recent deaths of contemporaries Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who, and Angharad Rees, who died last weekend.
He added: “All of these people who she knew were going.”
RIP Ernest Borgnine - January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012
With his stocky build, bulging eyes and gap-toothed, pugnacious features, Ernest Borgnine, who has died aged 95, was one of Hollywood’s most distinctive character actors. The star died of renal failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with his wife and children at his side, a spokesman said.
Ernest Effron Borgnino was born on 24 January 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut, the son of Italian immigrants. His parents moved to New Haven in 1923 and changed the family name to Borgnine.
He had no early ambition to be an actor and, on leaving high school in 1935, he enlisted in the United States Navy. Discharged in 1941 he joined up again after Pearl Harbor and served until the end of the war.
On his return to civilian life he began working in a number of factory jobs until his mother suggested that his forceful personality might find more fulfilling expression on the stage.
Soon he was appearing on Broadway and broke into movies after a screen test in which he competed with 140 other actors.
He made a big impression in 1953 in his first major role, as the sadistic sergeant, Fatso, in From Here to Eternity, who terrorises Frank Sinatra’s character Angelo Maggio.
It led to numerous supporting roles as “baddies” in dramas and Westerns, including Bad Day at Black Rock with Spencer Tracy.
But in 1955, he broke free from typecasting with his most memorable role, the shy, sensitive butcher, in Marty.
When he auditioned for the role and saw tears rolling down the cheeks of the writer, Paddy Chayefsky, he knew he had won the part.
Against strong competition from Spencer Tracy, Frank Sinatra, James Dean and James Cagney, Borgnine’s performance won him the Oscar for best actor, as well as a BAFTA.
Among Ernest Borgnine’s other notable films were The Wild Bunch, The Vikings, The Dirty Dozen and The Poseidon Adventure. And, although he purported to dislike television, his series, McHale’s Navy, was a major success in the United States. Another well-remembered TV role came in the 1980s, in the action series Airwolf.
He was still acting into his nineties, including big-screen outings alongside stars such as Bruce Willis in Red and even providing voices for SpongeBob SquarePants. In 2009 he guest starred in the final series of the hospital drama, ER, winning an Emmy nomination for his role.
His final role was in The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, which saw its premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival earlier this year.
RIP Eric Sykes (4 May 1928 - 4 July 2012)
Comic actor Eric Sykes has died at the age of 89.
His manager, Norma Farnes, stated: ‘Eric Sykes, star of TV, stage and films, died peacefully this morning after a short illness.
‘His family were with him.’
Sykes was one of the most endearing and popular comic actors of his generation and was still appearing on the West End stage into his 80s, even though he became almost totally deaf and nearly blind.
But he was much more than an actor. He was also a hugely successful comedy scriptwriter of enormous talent, energy and imagination, a novelist, a film director and a producer.
Whenever he was asked when he was going to retire from work, he invariably replied that he enjoyed doing what he did so much that he did not regard it as work at all.
Eric Sykes was born in Oldham on May 4 1923. He served as a wireless operator in the Mobile Signals Unit, Royal Air Force, from 1941 until after the end of the Second World War. Like many comics of his generation, he was introduced to showbusiness during his wartime service.
He started out as a scriptwriter for his former comrade Bill Fraser, who was acting in a comedy at the Playhouse theatre in London. He then moved into comedy writing, putting together scripts for the BBC including the hugely popular iconic comedy The Goon Show alongside Spike Milligan. He also wrote and perfomed in The Tony Hancock Show, amongst numerous projects for stars such as Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd and Stanley Unwin.
After working many times with Hattie Jacques, the two went on to star together in a hit BBC TV sitcom Sykes and A …, which was so successful that it launched the pair’s partnership, dubbed Eric and the Hat, into comedy history.
He then embarked on a film career alongside his television work, starring with the very best of the era’s comic stars including Tony Curtis, Peter Sellers, Terry Thomas, Trevor Howard, Roy Castle, Benny Hill, Vincent Price and Tony Hancock. His numerous films included roles in Monte Carlo or Bust, Theatre of Blood, Absolute Beginners, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, Son of Rambow, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Others.
He also enjoyed acclaim on stage, appearing in plays by the likes of Ray Cooney, Moliere and Alan Bennett.
Sykes gained dozens of comedy awards over the years, including the Golden Rose of Montreux (now known as the Rose D’or) for directing The Plank, in which he also starred alongside Tommy Cooper, and an OBE in 1986, before being elevated to a CBE in 2004.
Sykes and wife Edith celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this Valentine’s Day. The couple had one son and three daughters.
As well as a fine comedian and writer, he was said by people in the entertainment world to be a decent man. Sykes himself reflected late in life: “I tend to live in the wonderful world of my head, where every day the sun shines.”