Stars Who Died This Year

People who love old movies are by definition sentimentalists. That’s why those year-end wrap-ups of the people who died this year that TCM produces are invariably DEVASTATING. It’s like an Exquisite Torture, to hijack a title of one of Charles Ludlam’s plays, each new name and image of a star who’s passed peeling back one of the layers that protects your last nerve. This year, they climaxed with the K.O. punch of Olivia de Havilland. Mark you, for the most part we don’t cry because these people DIED (at least I don’t). After all, de Havilland was over 100 years old. I weep because they LIVED. I’m so ecstatically happy that they lived in this world.

At any rate, when I watched this year’s presentation I noticed that I’d done biographical posts and/or obits about nearly every star in the litany. So I decided to bundle them together into this handy little wrap-up of my own. Just follow the links below to the post about the artist. They include:

Olivia de Havilland, Kirk Douglas, Ian Holm, Max Von Sydow, Wilford Brimley, Brian Dennehy, Sue Lyon

Carl Reiner, Gene Reynolds, Buck Henry, Fred Willard, Terry Jones, Orson Bean, Jerry Stiller, Reni Santoni, Allen Garfield

Baby Peggy, Rhonda Fleming, Marge Champion, Shirley Knight, Diana Rigg, Paula Kelly, Ja’Net Dubois, Dawn Wells, and director Joan Micklin Silver

And, what the hell, I’ll throw in Kenny Rogers

I couldn’t think of anything original to say about Sean Connery, but here’s a closely related post about James Bond.

And there were a handful of people who passed away I’m not committed to doing a full post about, but would like to briefly salute:

Johnny Mandel (b. 1925), composer of the theme to M*A*S*H (“Suicide is Painless”) and the theme to The Sandpiper (“The Shadow of Your Smile”) and the soundtracks to I Want to Live (1958), The Americanization Emily (1964), The Sandpiper (1965), The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1966), Point Blank (1967), Robert Altman’s That Cold Day in the Park (1969) and M*A*S*H (1970), Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), Freaky Friday (1976), Agatha (1979), Being There (1979), Caddyshack (1980), Deathtrap (1982), and The Verdict (1982)

John Saxon (b.1936), ubiquitous character actor who looked remarkably like a Klingon for someone who never played one. He was a macho dude with martial arts skills; his metier was action movies, horror, sci fi and westerns. Despite his WASP sounding name, he was really Carmine Orrico and he never lost his Brooklyn accent. I undoubtedly first knew him through guest appearances on TV shows like The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, and Wonder Woman, though he was also in movies like Joe Kidd (1972), Enter the Dragon (1973), Black Christmas (1974), The Bees (1978), The Electric Horseman (1979), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

Stuart Whitman (b. 1928) was also familiar to me from ’70s cheese like Night of the Lepus (1972) and The Cat Creature (1973) although he was briefly tried as a star in major films like The Comancheros (1961) with John Wayne and the 1965 comedy Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. He was a very hairy dude, with a gravelly voice like David Janssen’s. Much as with Saxon, many TV appearances, along with action, westerns, sci fi and horror films.

Jack Kehoe (b. 1934) was a sad sack from Queens, with sort of a long face, drooping countenance and a nose not unlike Hoagy Carmichael’s from certain angles. He was a New York stage actor and mostly a bit player in films, although he usually had featured, memorable turns. You can see him in Serpico (1973), The Sting (1973), Car Wash (1976), Melvin and Howard (1980), Reds (1980), The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), The Untouchables (1987), Midnight Run (1988), Dick Tracy (1990), Falling Down (1993), Ron Howard’s The Paper (1994), and David Fincher’s The Game (1997), his last.

Peggy Pope (b. 1929) had a long list of Broadway credits, and was a very recognizable character actress in films and TV maybe best known from her turn as the drunken, loyal secretary Maragret in 9 to 5 (1980). She had a recurring role on Soap, made six guest appearances on Barney Miller, and was a regular on the short-lived 1973 sitcom Calucci’s Department starring James Coco. She also played a shoplifter in Oh, God! (1977).

Carol Arthur (b. 1935) was the wife of Dom Deluise, had small roles in most of Mel Brooks’s movies, as well as Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys (1975) and Gene Wilder’s The World’s Greatest Lover (1977). She did guest shots on shows like Sanford and Son, Rhoda, Alice, and St. Elsewhere.

Marc Blum (b. 1950) was a New York stage actor best known for his big part in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) as well as his roles in Crocodile Dundee (1986) and The Presidio (1988), and for a guest shots on shows like NYPD Blue and Frazier. His relatively young death at age 70 was due Covid-19, as were Allen Garfield’s and Dawn Wells’, mentioned above. Shirley Knight’s family also believe hospital staff, swamped by Covid cases, may not have given her the care she might have otherwise recieved, though she didn’t die from the ailment directly. It’s important to note that it was a factor this year.