Remembering Dennis Farina, Mel Smith, Eileen Brennan and Other Reel-Important People We Lost This Month

Remembering Dennis Farina, Mel Smith, Eileen Brennan and Other Reel-Important People We Lost This Month

Jul 30, 2013

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 his or her own way.


Rona Anderson (1926-2013) - Scottish actress who appears in the 1951 film of A Christmas Carol as well as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Devils of Darkness. She died on July 23. (Telegraph)

Paul Bhattacharjee (1960-2013) - British Indian actor who appears in Casino Royale (he's the guy who says "Do It Now" in the poisoning scene below), Dirty Pretty Things and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. He was found dead on July 12 after going missing two days prior. (Guardian)

Eileen Brennan (1932-2013) - Actress who earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Captain Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin, a role she continued in the TV spin-off. She's also known for the roles of Mrs. Peacock in Clue (watch her below), Tess Skeffington in Murder by Death, the madam Billie in The Sting and cafe waitress Genevieve in The Last Picture Show and its sequel Texasville. Her other films include Jeepers Creepers, Scarecrow, Cheaper by the Dozen and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. She died from bladder cancer on July 28. (THR)

Dennis Burkley (1945-2013) - Actor who played Dog, a member of Jim Morrison's entourage, in The Doors and had similar tough guy biker roles in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Beyond the Law (see below), Mask and TV's Hill Street Blues. Other films he appears in include Con Air, Tin Cup, Suburban Commando, Who's That Girl and two Pauly Shore vehicles, Son in Law and Pauly Shore Is Dead. He was also the voice of Principal Moss on TV's King of the Hill and cowrote and directed the 2005 indie comedy Repitition. He died of a heart attack on July 14. (THR)

J.J. Cale (1938-2013) - Singer-songwriter known for the songs "After Midnight" and "Cocaine," both of which are often heard in films. He also scored the the 1983 French romantic comedy My Best Friend's Girl and is the subject of the documentary To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J.J. Cale (see below). He died of a heart attack on July 26. (THR)

Vincenzo Cerami (1940-2013) - Screenwriter who received an Oscar nomination for cowriting Life Is Beautiful. His other script collaborations with Roberto Benigni include Pinocchio, Johnny Stecchino, The Monster and The Tiger and the Snow. He died on July 17. (Guardian)

Joe Conley (1928-2013) - Actor best known for being a supporting regular on TV's The Waltons. His big-screen credits include Cast Away and the 1950s films noir Crime of Passion, The Sound of Fury and House of Numbers. He died on July 7. (THR)

Camille De Mave (1928/1929-2013) - Assistant to Paul Newman and later to director George Roy Hill. Her movie credits for the former include Fort Apache the Bronx and for the latter include The World According to Garp and Funny Farm. She died on July 5. (THR)

Kimati Dinizulu (1956-2013) - Percussionist who can be seen performing in the comedy Get Him to the Greek and the documentary Lightning in a Bottle. He died on July 7. (Alex Gibney's Twitter)

Dennis Farina (1944-2013) - Character actor who costarred in Get Shorty, Snatch, Manhunter, Big Trouble (see below), Out of Sight and Midnight Run, among many others he's recognized for. He also starred on the TV series Law & Order and Crime Story. He died from a blood clot in his lung on July 22. See our earlier obituary for the actor.

Evelyn Gordon (1938-2013) - Longtime executive at 20th Century Fox, where she had been in charge of in-flight edits of movies and TV shows for airlines. She died following a battle with Lou Gehrig's disease on June 30. (THR)

Mikki Jamison-Olsen (1942-2013) - Actress best known for television work who also appears in the films The Chapman Report, Ski Party and The Sea Gypsies. She died on July 15 (or June 10, according to IMDb). (THR)

Paul Jenkins (1939-2013) - Actor who appears in Network, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, Sneakers and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. He died following a brief illness on July 1. (Deadline)

Jim Kelly (1946-2013) -Actor and karate champion who starred in Enter the Dragon, Black Belt Jones (see below), Black Samurai, Three the Hard Way and Death Dimension. He died on July 29. (AV Club)

Ric Klass (1946-2013) - Former NASA scientist during the Apollo era who became an author and filmmaker. He directed last year's indie romantic comedy Excuse Me for Living based on his own novel. He died after a brief illness on July 9. (THR)

Bernadette Lafont (1938-2013) - Actress considered "the face of the French New Wave." She starred in numerous film by Claude Chabrol, including The Good Time Girls, Le Beau Serge, Violette and Masks. She can also be seen in Francois Truffaut's A Gorgeous Girl Like Me and the short The Mischief Makers (see below), Louis Malle's The Thief of Paris, Jacques Rivette's Out 1 and Noroit and Jean Eustache's The Mother and the Whore. More recently she starred in Zoe Cassavetes' Broken English and Julie Delpy's Skylab and voiced one of the main characters in the Oscar-nominated animated feature A Cat in Paris. He died on July 25. (Guardian)

Victor Lundin (1930-2013) - Actor known as the first Klingon on TV's Star Trek. He also played an alien version of Friday in Robinson Crusoe on Mars (see below) and a gigolo in Promises... Promises!. He died after a long illness on June 29. (THR)

Cory Montieth (1982-2013) - Actor best known for playing Finn on the TV series Glee. He also appears in the films Monte Carlo (see below), Final Destination 3, Deck the Halls and of course Glee: The 3D Concert Movie. He died from a mix of heroin and alcohol on July 13. (CNN)

Frank Morriss (1927-2013) - Editor nominated for an Oscar for both Romancing the Stone and Blue Thunder. Other films he edited include Duel, Short Circuit, Charley Varrick, The Earthling and Point of No Return. He died on July 3. (THR)

Poncie Ponce (1933-2013) - Hawaiian actor who costarred on TV's Hawaiian Eye and appears in the Elvis film Speedway and Gene Wilder's The World's Greatest Lover. He also voiced Red Dog in G.I. Joe: The Movie. He died on July 19. (THR)

Pran (1920-2013) - Legendary and iconic Indian actor known particularly for playing villains in Bollywood films. Some of his most notable roles can be found in Don (see below), Amar Ackbar Anthony, Madhumati and Zanjeer. He died on July 12. (Variety)

Jagdish Raj (1928-2013) - Indian actor who holds the Guinness World Record for being the most typecast actor ever for nearly always playing a police officer. His films include Don, Deewar and Silsila. He died following a respiratory ailment on July 28. (THR)

Mel Smith (1952-2013) - English comedian, actor and filmmaker who is best known in the U.S. for playing the albino in The Princess Bride (see below) and a hotel clerk in National Lampoon's European Vacation. He is also Sir Toby Belch in the 1996 film of Twelfth Night and appears in Brain Donors and The Tall Guy, which he directed. He also helmed the first Bean movie and George Lucas's Radioland Murders. He died from a heart attack on July 19. (THR)

David Spenser (1934-2013) - British actor who started as a child in radio and was later known for playing Thonmi, the monk companion to TV's Doctor Who in the 1960s. His film credits include Carry On... Up the Khyber, In Search of the Castaways and The Earth Dies Screaming. He died on July 20. (BBC)

Donald Symington (1925-2013) - Actor who played Annie Hall's father in Annie Hall (see below) and Amanda's father in Mighty Aphrodite. He also worked with Woody Allen in the film The Front and appears in Wolfen, Spring Break, Hanky Panky and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. He died on July 24. (Baltimore Sun)

Helen Thomas (1920-2013) - Author and groundbreaking journalist (the first woman member of the National Press Club and the White House press corps) who was a longtime White House correspondent beginning with the Kennedy presidency. She appears as herself in Dave and The American President. She died on July 20. (NYT)

P.J. Torokvei (1951-2013) - Screenwriter who cowrote Real Genius, Back to School, Guarding Tess, Caddyshack II and Armed and Dangerous, all under the credit of Peter Torokvei. She also appears in Stuart Saves His Family as a minister, back before she had sex-reassignment surgery. She died from bronchial pneumonia on July 12. (THR)

Alan Whicker (1925-2013) - British broadcaster and journalist best known for the documentary series Whicker's World. He appears as himself in the films The Magic Christian, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith? and The Angry Silence. He died from bronchial pneumonia on July 12. (ITV)

John Wilson (1919-2013) - Animator best known for the opening credits of Grease. He also worked on the Disney features Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp and shorts Pigs Is Pigs and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, as well as FernGully: The Last Rainforest and Shibone Alley, which he cowrote and codirected. Before animating, he worked in the art department for films like David Lean's Great Expectations and the 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad. He died following years of suffering from Alzheimer's disease on June 20. (THR)

Snoo Wilson (1948-2013) - British playwright and novelist who scripted the films Eichmann and Shadey. He died of a heart attack on July 3. (Guardian)

Anna Wing (1914-2013) - Actress best known for her role as the matriarch Lou Beale on TV's EastEnders. She's also the grandma in Son of Rambow and appears in The Hound of the Baskervilles, John Schlesinger's Billy Liar and Alain Resnais's Providence. She died on July 7. (BBC)

Categories: Features, Obituaries
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