Reel Important People is a monthly column that highlights those individuals in or related to the movies who have left us in recent weeks. 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.
Gerry Anderson (1929-2012) - Writer/producer best known for creating marionette-based animation shows for TV, such as Thunderbirds, which spawned movies in 1966, 1968 and 2004, the last of which was live action. He also cowrote and produced the sci-fi film Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (aka Doppelganger) and had been tapped to script and direct the James Bond installment Moonraker, though ultimately he only provided an original treatment. He died on December 26, six months after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (Deadline)
Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) - Composer who received Oscar nominations for scoring Murder on the Orient Express, Far from the Maddening Crowd and Nicholas and Alexandra. He also scored Four Weddings and a Funeral, Equus, Enchanted April and Billy Liar. He died on December 24. (Variety)
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) - Jazz composer and pianist who scored the film Ordeal by Innocence. He also appears and performs as himself in the drama All Night Long (see below). He died of heart failure on December 5. (NYT)
Ed Cassidy (1923-2012) - Drummer for the band Spirit. He can be seen along with other founding members in Jacques Demy's Model Shop, for which they also composed the soundtrack. He died of cancer on December 8. (THR)
Spencer Cox (1968-2012) - AIDS activist who was a member of leading organizations ACT UP and TAG, which he cofounded, and appears in the new documentary How to Survive a Plague (see a deleted scene from the film released at the time of his death below). He died on December 18. Read my obituary for Cox at the Documentary Channel blog.
Charles Durning (1923-2012) - Character actor who received back-to-back Oscar nominations for supporting roles in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and To Be or Not to Be. He's remembered for many other supporting roles, appearing prominently as the detective in Dog Day Afternoon (see below), for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and as the villiain Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie. Other notable films include The Sting, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Tootsie, The Final Countdown, Scarface, Sisters, When a Stranger Calls, Home for the Holidays and Billy Wilder's remake of The Front Page. In his later years he portrayed Santa Claus for at least six different movies (most made for TV), which made it particularly sad that he died on Christmas Eve, December 24. See Peter Martin's earlier report on his death for Movies.com here.
Gil Friesen (1937-2012) - A&M Records executive who also produced the films The Breakfast Club, Better Off Dead... and One Crazy Summer. He died of leukemia on December 13. (THR)
Jack Hanlon (1916-2012) - Former child actor who appears in Buster Keaton's The General (pictured left with the star), William Wyler's The Shakedown and a few Our Gang shorts. He died on December 13. (Variety)
Daniel Inouye (1924-2012) - Longtime U.S. Senator from Hawaii, who appears as himself in the documentary Broken Rainbow, the Ken Burns doc miniseries The War and the fiction film The Next Karate Kid. He can also be seen in archive footage in docs The Panama Deception, UFO: The Greatest Story Ever Denied and GasHole. He's set to appear in an upcoming untitled doc on George Takei. He died of respiratory complications on December 17. (NYT)
Larry L. King (1929-2012) - Writer of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which he coadapted into the feature film version. He died on December 20. (Variety)
Jack Klugman (1922-2012) - Actor best known for playing the TV version of Oscar Madison on The Odd Couple and the title role on the series Quincy, M.E. His films include 12 Angry Men, Days of Wine and Roses and Goodbye, Columbus. He died on December 24. See Peter Martin's earlier report on his death for Movies.com here.
Susan Luckey (1938-2012) - Actress whose short film career included memorable performances in the musicals Carousel and The Music Man. She died on November 29. (THR)
David McKenna (1979-2012) - Producer of the 2012 film Renee, which stars Kat Dennings and Chad Michael Murray. Based on a true story, McKenna is portrayed in the film by Rupert Friend. He died in an automobile accident on December 14. (THR)
Eileen Moran (1952-2012) - Visual effects producer for Digital Domain and later Weta Digital. Major movies she worked on include Avatar, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Prometheus, Fight Club, District 9, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Peter Jackson's King Kong, which she also coproduced. She died on December 3. (THR)
Pat Renella (1929-2012) - Character actor who appears in supporting roles in Bullitt (pictured right), In Like Flint, The Silencers and A Piece of the Action. He died on November 9. (Hollywood.com)
Don Rhymer (1961-2012) - Screenwriter who worked on Rio, Surf's Up, Big Momma's House (and its two sequels), The Santa Clause 2, Deck the Halls and The Honeymooners. He died of cancer on November 29. (Deadline)
Jenni Rivera (1969-2012) - Mexican-American singer and reality TV star who made her acting debut in Filly Brown, which screened in the dramatic competition at Sundance earlier this year. She died in a plane crash on December 9. See Elisa Osegueda's earlier obituary for Movies.com here.
Norman Schwarzkopf (1934-2012) - U.S. Army general who appears in the documentaries Brats: Our Journey Home, A Call to Arms and The Hidden Wars of Desert Storm. Archive footage of him can be seen in documentaries such as The Strange History of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the war drama Courage Under Fire. In the movie J. Edgar, he was portrayed by Dermot Mulroney. He died due to complications from pneumonia on December 27. (CNN)
Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) - Composer and sitar player who received an Oscar nomination for scoring Gandhi. He also scored Charly and all three films in Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy (Pather Panchali, The World of Apu and Aparajito), music which was reused prominently in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited. He can be seen performing in the documentaries Monterey Pop (see below) and The Concert for Bangladesh and also appears in George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Glass: A Portrait of Philip Glass and Raga, which was about him. He died on December 11. (CNN)
Alvy West (1915-2012) - Jazz saxophonist and bandleader who appears in Desperately Seeking Susan. He died on November 30. (Variety)