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.
Wiliam Asher (1921-2012) - Best known as the producer of TV's Bewitched, he also directed many beach movies, including Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, Muscle Beach and Bikini Beach, some of which I can't help loving because they feature Buster Keaton. He died July 16 of Alzheimer's disease. (THR)
Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012) - Oscar-winning star of Marty and an actor in numerous classics, including The Wild Bunch, The Poseidon Adventure, From Here to Eternity, Johnny Guitar, McHale's Navy, The Dirty Dozen and Escape from New York. He also starred in the short documentary Ernest Borgnine on the Bus, which you can watch here. He died July 8. See our full tribute and list of favorite films.
Tom Davis (1952-2012) - Longtime comedy partner of Al Franken and writer for Saturday Night Live. He cowrote the screenplay for Coneheads, which was based on the SNL sketch he helped create, and made minor appearances in movies starring SNL pal Dan Aykroyd, including Trading Places (pictured, right), Evolution and Blues Brothers 2000. He died July 19 of head and neck cancer. (NYT)
Stephen Dwoskin (1939-2012) - Experimental and documentary filmmaker whose work included Dyn Amo, Central Bazaar and Pain Is.... He died June 28 of heart failure. (Guardian)
Nora Ephron (1941-2012) - Nominated for three Oscars as a screenwriter (for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally... and Sleepless in Seattle), she eventually graduated to directing with This Is My Life, at which time she also began mostly cowriting and producing with her sister, Delia. Celebrated for writing films focused on female characters, she most recently helmed the Bewitched movie and the adaptation Julie & Julia. She died June 26 of complications from the blood disorder myelodysplasia. Also see our full obituary, a post highlighting her best scene and a Girls on Film column honoring her work.
Chad Everett (1936-2012) - Actor best known for TV's Medical Center. He also appears in the films Airplane II: The Sequel, Mulholland Drive (watch below) and Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake. He died July 24 of lung cancer. (NYT)
Bud Friedgen (1937-2012) - Documentary producer and editor who worked on Imagine: John Lennon, Let the Good Times Roll and the That's Entertainment! trilogy, the third installment of which he also directed. He died of cancer on June 24. (THR)
Conrad Gamble II (1967-2012) - Stuntman and coordinator who worked on Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Evan Almighty and Mission: Impossible III, the last in usual capacity as a double for Ving Rhames. He died July 12. (THR)
Don Grady (1944-2012) - Actor best known for starring on TV's My Three Sons and the original Mickey Mouse Club who later costarred in The Wild McCulloughs and composed film music for Blake Edwards. He died of cancer on June 27. (LAT)
Andy Griffith (1926-2012) - Actor best known for TV's The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock who also starred early on in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd and later on in Adrienne Shelly's Waitress. He died July 3 from a heart attack. See our list of his five essential movies.
Sherman Hemsley (1938-2012) - Actor best known for TV's The Jeffersons and Amen. He also was typecast as preachers and pastors for the films Love at First Bite (see below), Club Fed, The Misery Brothers and American Pie Presents: The Book of Love. He died July 24. (LAT)
Celeste Holm (1917-2012) - An Oscar winner for her supporting role in Gentleman's Agreement, the actress and singer also received nominations for her performances in All About Eve and Come to the Stable. While signed to Fox, she costarred in The Snake Pit and Road House and later appeared alongside Frank Sinatra in the MGM musicals The Tender Trap and High Society. She then moved to television for the most part, but she can be seen as Ted Danson's mother in Three Men and a Baby and worked in movies right up to the end. She died July 15 following a heart attack two days earlier. See our earlier in memoriam post.
Rajesh Khanna (1942-2012) - Bollywood actor and producer who was one of the first major superstars in Indian cinema, particulalry during the 1970s, when he had a record streak of hits. He's been the leading man in 128 features and has won his country's equivalent of the Best Actor Oscar three times and received 14 nominations, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. His notable movies include Anand, Kati Patang, Aradhana, Amar Prem and Roti, which is one of a number he also produced. He died July 18. (BBC)
Jon Lord (1941-2012) - Keyboard player for Deep Purple, with whom he appears in the concert film Deep Purple: Come Hell or High Water, and Whitesnake. He also composed the original music for The Last Rebel and Overdose. He died July 16 from a pulmonary embolism following a year of suffering pancreatic cancer. (Washington Post)
Susanne Lothar (1960-2012) - German actress who regularly worked for Michael Haneke, namely appearing in the films The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher and the original Funny Games, in which she played the matriarch of the terrorized family. She also appears in The Reader, Eisenhans and the upcoming adaptation of Anna Karenina. She died July 25. (THR)
Lupe Ontiveros (1942-2012) – Actress best known as a trailblazer and activist for Latino actors whose career began on the stage with Zoot Suit, the first ever Mexican-American Broadway production. She was a founding member of The Latino Theater Company in Los Angeles and had memorable roles in a number of films such as El Norte, The Goonies, As Good As It Gets and Selena, playing the singer's killer. She also had recurring roles on the TV series Desperate Housewives, Greetings From Tucson and Rob. (Washington Post)
Morgan Paull (1944-2012) - Actor best known for playing the investigator in the opening scene of Blade Runner (watch below). He also appears in Patton, Norma Rae, The Swarm and The Last Hard Men. He died July 17 from stomach cancer. (THR)
Frank Pierson (1925-2012) - Oscar-winning screenwriter of Dog Day Afternoon. He received two other nominations for cowriting Cat Ballou and Cool Hand Luke. He worked on the adaptations for The Anderson Tapes, Presumed Innocent and King of the Gypsies, which he also directed. Other projects he helmed include the 1976 A Star Is Born, which he scripted, and the TV films Citizen Cohn and Truman. Years earlier he was portrayed by Robert Arthur as a teenager in Roughly Speaking, which was based on his mother's autobiographical book. More recently he served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and won an Emmy for his writing work on the series Mad Men, of which he was a consulting producer. He died July 22. (NYT)
Sally Ride (1951-2012) - Astronaut famous for being the first woman in space. She appears in the IMAX movie The Dream Is Alive and the competition documentary Some Assembly Required, which she also produced as a showcase of the toy-inventing event she cofounded. She died July 23 of pancreatic cancer. (NYT)
Sage Stallone (1976-2012) - Actor and filmmaker who appears alongside his father, Sylvester Stallone, in Daylight and Rocky V, the latter playing his son. He also appears in Vincent Gallo's Promises Written in Water and The Agent and directed the acclaimed short Vic. As cofounder of Grindhouse Releasing, he was devoted to restoring, preserving and rereleasing old exploitation films, such as Cannibal Holocaust. He died around July 13. See our earlier in memoriam post.
George Stoney (1916-2012) - Documentary filmmaker, NYU professor and cofounder of public access television whose 1953 midwife training film, All My Babies, is part of the National Film Registry. Other notable works, which can be viewed online, include Palmour Street and Booked for Safekeeping. He died July 12. (NYT)
Eric Sykes (1923-2012) - Comedic actor and writer who played Frank Bryce in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (pictured, right). Other films he appears in include The Others, Son of Rambow, Theatre of Blood, and his own famed shorts The Plank, Rhubarb and It's Your Move. He died July 4 after a short illness. (BBC)
Ginny Tyler (1925-2012) - Voice actress and singer who worked on Disney's The Sword and the Stone, Mary Poppins and Son of Flubber. Her talents are best heard as Polynesia the parrot in the original Doctor Dolittle. She was also one of the original Mousketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club. She died July 13. (LAT)
Herbert Vogel (1922-2012) - Half of the art-collecting couple profiled in the hit documentary Herb & Dorothy. He died July 22. (Washington Post)
Isuzu Yamada (1917-2012) - Japanese actress who debuted as a child in the 1930s and whose prominence two decades later peaked when, in 1957 alone, she starred in Ozu's Tokyo Twilight and Kurosawa's The Lower Depths and Throne of Blood, playing the Lady Macbeth role in the latter (watch below). She also starred in Kurosawa's Yojimbo, Kinji Fukasaku's The Shogun's Samurai and, as a teen, many works of Kenji Mizoguchi, including The Downfall of Osen, Oyuki the Virgin, Sisters of the Gion and Osaka Elegy. She died July 9. (NYT)
Richard D. Zanuck (1934-2012) - Oscar-winning producer of Driving Miss Daisy. He was also nominated for Best Picture contenders Jaws and The Verdict and also received the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1991. The son of 20th Century Fox cofounder and studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, he became a major player in the 1970s producing the early works of Steven Spielberg and later hooked up with Tim Burton starting with the 2001 Planet of the Apes remake through this year's Dark Shadows adaptation. He died July 13 from a heart attack. See our earlier in memoriam post.