Remembering Tony Scott, Chris Marker and More Reel Important People We Lost This Month

Remembering Tony Scott, Chris Marker and More Reel Important People We Lost This Month

Aug 31, 2012

Reel Important People is a monthly column that highlights those individuals in or related to the movies who have left us in recent weeks. It is unfortunate that we lose so many great film contributors, on-screen and off, that it's impossible to pay extensive tribute to every one. But I think it's important to recognize them at least in this monthly digest, not to mourn but to remember their work. Below you'll find names big and small and from all areas of the industry, though each was significant to the movies in their own way.

Norman Alden (1924-2012) - Character actor best known to my generation as the namesake owner (pictured above) of Lou's Cafe in Back to the Future ("Tab? I can't give you a tab unless you order something."). He is also memorable as the color-blind cameraman in Ed Wood, Johnny Ringo in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and McPherson in I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Other big films he appears in include Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to AskTora! Tora! Tora! and They Live. Meanwhile, he voiced animated characters in The Sword and the StoneTransformers: The Movie and TV's Super Friends, for which he portrayed Aquaman. He died July 27. (THR)

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) - Astronaut who famously became the first man to walk on the moon. He appears in the documentaries Moonwalk OneThe Other Side of the Moon and the upcoming Flying the Feathered Edge: The Bob Hoover Project. He also appears in the animated film Fly Me to the Moon 3D and voiced a character in the animated film Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey. Additionally he has been portrayed by actors in the films Apollo 13Men in Black 3Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the documentary Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D. He died due to complications from blocked coronary arteries August 25. (NYT

R.G. Armstrong (1917-2012) - Character actor best known in the Western genre, his credits including roles in El DoradoMy Name is NobodyNo Name on the Bullet and Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the KidMajor DundeeThe Ballad of Cable Hogue and Ride the High Country. He also appears in Predator (pictured right), Lone Wolf McQuadeA Face in the Crowd and Warren Beatty's Reds, Heaven Can Wait and Dick Tracy, as "Pruneface." He died July 27. (THR)

Jacques Bensimon (1943-2012) - Canadian documentary filmmaker whose work for the National Film Board of Canada includes the 1973 music film Rock-a-bye and Once: Agadir (watch this one on the NFB website here). He also served as the NFB's commissioner in the first half of the last decade. He died August 26. (The Star

Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012) - Author and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Her best-selling advice book Sex and the Single Girl was adapted into a popular film of the same name, in which she was portrayed by Natalie Wood. She also appears in the documentaries Inside Deep Throat and The Last Mogul. She died August 13. (NYT)

Judith Crist (1922-2012) - Film critic who worked for the New York Herald Tribune, New York magazine, TV Guide and the Today show. She also appears in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. She died August 7. (NYT)

Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) - Pioneering comedienne who acted in the films Splendor in the GrassThe Silence of the HamsThe Fat Spy and The Sunshine Boys, in which she played herself. Animated films she provided her voice to include A Bug's LifeHappily Ever AfterMad Monster Party? and The Nutcracker Prince. Documentaries she contributed amusing interviews to include The AristocratsWho Killed the Electric Car?How to Live ForeverI Am Comic and this year's Carol Channing: Larger Than Life and Sunset Strip. She died August 20. Read our earlier obituary and spotlight of her greatest stand-up

Biff Elliot (1923-2012) - Actor who played the first film version of detective "Mike Hammer" in the 3D adaptation of I, the Jury. He also appears in Pork Chop HillThe Enemy Below, Kotch, Sam Fuller's House of Bamboo, Nicholas Ray's The True Story of Jesse James and Billy Wilder's remake of The Front Page. He died August 15. (THR)

John Finnegan (1926-2012) - Character actor who appears in a number of John Cassavetes films, including The Killing of a Chinese BookieA Woman Under the InfluenceGloria and Big Trouble. He also worked with Cassavetes regular Peter Falk on Columbo and in films such as The In-Laws. Other movie credits include Mars Attacks!JFKThe NaturalLast Action HeroVegas Vacation and An American Tail, for which he voiced the villain, "Warren T. Rat" (pictured left). He died July 29. (THR)

James Fogle (1936-2012) - Author of the autobiographical novel Drugstore Cowboy, which was adapted into a film of the same name. He also wrote the novel Doing It All, which is presently being turned into a movie. He died of lung cancer August 23. (NYT)

Steve Franken (1932-2012) - Character actor best known for his TV work. He also appears in the films Angels & DemonsWestworldThe PartyNurse Betty and The Americanization of Emily. He died of cancer August 24. (THR)

Lucy Gallardo (1929-2012) - Actress who starred in Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel and more recently in How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer. She died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease August 11. (THR)

Brian Gerber (1961/62-2012) - Producer who collaborated with Leonardo DiCaprio on the global warming documentary The 11th Hour. He also produced the D&D documentary The Dungeon Masters and the thriller Briar Patch. He died in a car wreck that was reportedly suicidal August 29. (THR)

Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012) - Oscar-winning composer of the adapted score for The Sting, the original dramatic score for The Way We Were and the title song from the latter. He was also nominated for the scores for Sophie's Choice and The Spy Who Loved Me as well as songs from The Spy Who Loved Me ("Nobody Does It Better," see below), A Chorus Line ("Surprise, Surprise"), Kotch ("Life is What You Make It"), The Mirror Has Two Faces ("I've Finally Found Someone"), Shirley Valentine ("The Girl Who Used to Be Me"), Same Time, Next Year ("The Last Time I Felt Like This") and Ice Castles ("Theme from Ice Castles (Through the Eyes of Love)"). Other notable scores include those for Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! and Woody Allen's Bananas. He died of lung failure August 6. See my earlier tribute listing his essential scores.  

Robert Hughes (1938-2012) - Art critic and documentary filmmaker who directed the BBC's Goya: Crazy Like a Genius. He also prominently appears in Terry Zwigoff's Crumb. He died August 6. (TIME)

Magnus Isacsson (1948-2012) - Documentary filmmaker whose environmentalist issue films include Uranium and Power, both directed for the National Film Board of Canada. His latest doc, on troubled Montreal youths, is called Ma vie réelle and comes out this fall. His final film, Granny Power, is being finished by his wife. He died of cancer August 2. (Real Screen)

Joe Kubert (1926-2012) - Legendary comic book artist who appears in and contributed artwork for the documentaries Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics and De Superman à Spider-Man: L'aventure des super-héros and appears in Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist. He died of multiple myeloma August 12. (NYT)

Robert Kuperberg (1944/45-2012) - French documentary filmmaker whose works include Dominick Dunne in Search of Justice and profiles of Martin Scorsese, James Ellroy and Frank Sinatra. He also produced the Alain Delon movie Mr. Klein. He died of cancer August 11. (THR)

Chris Marker (1921-2012) -  Filmmaker synonymous with the essay film and best known for his 1962 short La Jetee, which became more well-known after inspiring the plot of 12 Monkeys. Having come out of the Left Bank Cinema movement alongside Agnes Varda and Alain Resnais (whose Night and Fog credits Marker as assistant director), his most notable documentaries include Sans Soleil, Grin Without a Cat, The Case of the Grinning Cat, Le Joli Mai and films about filmmakers Akira Kurosawa (A.K.), Andrei Tarkovsky (One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich) and Aleksandr Medvedkin (The Last Bolshevik). He died one day after his 91st birthday, on July 30. (Guardian)

Tony Martin (1913-2012) - Singer and actor in musicals. He was featured in the Marx Brothers film The Big Store (see below) and starred in Till the Clouds Roll ByHit the DeckHere Come the GirlsZiegfield Girl and Two Tickets to Broadway. Songs he sung in Casbah ("For Every Man There's a Woman") and Music in My Heart ("It's a Blue World") were nominated for Oscars. He was married to actress/dancer Cyd Charisse for 60 years until her death in 2008. He died July 27. (LAT)

Scott McKenzie (1939-2012) - Singer and songwriter whose hit "San Francisco" can be heard in numerous movies, including sung by Sean Connery in The Rock. He performs in the documentary Monterey Pop and starred in the film The Great Lester Boggs. He died August 18. (THR)

Ashok Mehta (1947-2012) - Indian cinematographer who shot Bandit Queen, No Entry36 Chowringhee Lane and Chalte Chalte. He died of lung cancer August 15. (Daily News)

Jerry Nelson (1934-2012) - One of Jim Henson's original Muppeteers, he began as the right hand of Rolf the Dog during Henson's run on The Jimmy Dean Show and gave life through limb and voice for multiple characters on Sesame StreetThe Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and other series and related films. Some of these include Count von Count (pictured, right, from Follow That Bird), Mr. Snuffleupagus, Gobo Fraggle, Robin the Frog, Sherlock Hemlock, Statler, Camilla the chicken, Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Pa Gorg, Herry Monster, the High Priest from The Dark Crystal and the title role, among others, for Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas. He was also the announcer for The Muppet Show, a part he recently reprised on film for The Muppets. In a rare non-Henson onscreen role, he appears in RoboCop 2. He died August 23. (LAT)

Mark O'Donnell (1954-2012) - Writer who, with Thomas Meehan, adapted John Waters' films Hairspray and Cry-Baby to the stage. The former was turned back into a movie, which was re-adapted by Leslie Dixon. He died August 6 after collapsing in the lobby of his apartment. (LAT

Lupe Ontiveros (1942-2012) - Character actress best known for playing housekeepers and maids, such as the Spanish-speaking Rosalita of The Goonies (see below). She even narrated the documentary Maid in America. She also appears memorably in Chuck and BuckAs Good as It GetsReal Women Have CurvesStorytellingBorn in East L.A. and Selena, in which she plays the singer's killer, Yolanda Saldivar. She died July 26 after suffering from liver cancer. (THR)


Ron Palillo
- Actor best known for playing "Arnold Horshack" on TV's Welcome Back Kotter. He also appears in the movies Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, Wind and Skatetown, U.S.A. He died of a heart attack August 14. (Variety)

Anna Piaggi (1931-2012) - Writer and fashion icon who appears in the recent documentary Bill Cunningham New York. She died August 7. (THR)

David Rakoff (1964-2012) - Humorist and journalist who co-scripted the Oscar-winning short The New Tenants. He appears in the films Capote, Strangers With Candy and others, though he is mostly known for his contributions to the radio program This American Life. He died of cancer August 9. (NYT)

Carlo Rambaldi (1925-2012) - Oscar-winning special effects artist who designed the iconic title character for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. His Academy Awards are for that film, Alien and the 1976 King Kong. Other films he worked on include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dune, Conan the Destroyer and King Kong Lives, for which he received a Razzie nomination. He died August 10. (NYT

Tony Scott (1944-2012) - Filmmaker who directed the popular movies Top Gun, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Unstoppable, Man on Fire, The Last Boy Scout, Enemy of the State, Days of Thunder, The Hunger, Beverly Hills Cop II and Spy Game, among others. With his older brother, Ridley Scott, he also ran Scott Free Productions, through which he worked on their own directorial efforts as well as Cyrus, Life in a Day, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Joe Carnahan's The A-Team and The Grey. He committed suicide by jumping from a bridge August 19. See our earlier obituary, a recent spotlight on his short films and my own list in tribute to his greatest moments

Mel Stuart (1928-2012) - Oscar-nominated filmmaker best known for directing the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. His Academy Award recognition was for helming the feature documentary Four Days in November. His other notable films include the comedy If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium and the doc Wattstax. He died of cancer August 9. (NYT)

Phyllis Thaxter (1921-2012) - Actress best known for playing "Ma Kent" in Superman (pictured left). In her younger days, she starred in Thirty Seconds Over TokyoThe World of Henry Orient, The Breaking PointAct of Violence and Jim Thorpe - All American. She died August 14. (THR)

Terry Tracy (1935-2012) - Surfer who inspired the Gidget books, films and TV series and specifically the character "The Big Kahuna." He died of complications from diabetes August 22. (NYT)

Keiko Tsushima (1926-2012) - Japanese actress best known for playing Shino, the farmer's daughter, in Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. She also co-stars in Ozu's The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice. She died August 1. (Wikipedia)

Chavela Vargas (1919-2012) - Mexican singer whose music can be heard on soundtracks of Pedro Almodovar films. She also stars in Werner Herzog's Cerro Torre and appears in Babel and Frida, a biopic of Frida Kahlo, with whom she's said to have had an affair. She died August 5. (THR)

William Windon (1923-2012) - Actor well-known for TV work who made his film debut in To Kill a Mockingbird as the District Attorney arguing opposite Atticus Finch in the trial of Tom Robinson (seen below with commentary from the actor). He also appears in the John Hughes movies Uncle Buck, She's Having a Baby and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, as well as Altman's Brewster McCloud, Eastwood's True Crime and Hiller's The Americanization of Emily. He played the president in Escape from the Planet of the Apes and voiced "Puppetino" in Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night. He died of congestive heart failure August 16. (NYT)


Categories: Obituaries, Features, News
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