Remembering Karen Black, Elmore Leonard and Other Reel-Important People We Lost This Month

Remembering Karen Black, Elmore Leonard and Other Reel-Important People We Lost This Month

Aug 29, 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.

Richard Aidala (c.1950-2013) - Chief projectionist for NYC's Museum of the Moving Image since its opening in 1988. He died after a brief illness on August 20. (MoMI's Facebook page)

David C. Anderson (c.1941-2013) - First assistant director for the Bond films From Russia with Love, Dr. No and Thunderball, as well as on Tequila Sunrise and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. As a production manager, he also worked on The Deer Hunter, Flash Gordon, 200 Motels and The Man Who Would Be King. He died on August 4. (THR)

Michael Ansara (1946-2013) - Syrian-American actor best known for playing Klingon Commander Kang in multiple Star Trek TV series. His films include religious epics such as The Ten Commandments, The Robe, The Message and The Greatest Story Ever Told and other depictions of ancient history like The Egyptian and Julius Caesar. Other films include The Comancheros, Road to Bali, Guns of the Magnificent Seven (see below), Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy and Batman Beyond: The Movie, in which he continued his regular vocal role as Mr. Freeze. He died on July 31. (THR)

Sid Bernstein (1918-2013) - Music producer and promoter credited with bringing the Beatles to America. He appears in the documentaries The Beatles: The Lost Concert and Sid Bernstein Presents... and the musical Good to Go. He died on August 21. (NYT)

Karen Black (1939-2013) - Actress who received an Oscar nomination for her supporting turn in Five Easy Pieces. She also costarred in Easy Rider, Capricorn One, House of 1000 Corpses, Altman's Nashville and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (plus a cameo in The Player), Hitchcock's Family Plot, The Day of the Locust and the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby (see below). She naturally appears in the documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. She died of ampullary cancer on August 8. See Alison's earlier obituary for here.


Valentin de Vargas (1935-2013) - Actor who played supporting roles in Hatari!Touch of Evil (as one of the gang members in the motel, see below), Blackboard JungleTo Live and Die in L.A. and The Magnificent Seven. He died of myelodysplastic syndrome on June 10. (THR)

George Duke (1946-2013) - Jazz keyboardist who appears in 200 Motels as a member of Mothers of Invention. He also scored the DMX movie Never Die Alone and was a music producer for Leap of Faith, The Five Heartbeats and The Heavenly Kid. He died on August 5. (Variety)

Murray Gershenz (1922-2013) - Actor and singer best known for playing the elderly patient in The Hangover (see below). He also appears in I Love You, Man, Smashed, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and multiple episodes of the TV show Parks and Recreation. He died of a heart attack on August 28. (Film Drunk)

Eydie Gorme (1931-2013) - Singer and actress who appears in Ocean's Eleven and the 1985 TV adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Her song "Blame It on the Bossa Nova" can be heard on many soundtracks, too. She died on August 10. (Deadline)

Dezso Gyarmati (1927-2013) - Hungarian three-time Olympic gold medalist in water polo who appears in the documentaries Freedom's Fury, about his 1956 semifinalist match (see the trailer below), and Puskas Hungary. He died on August 18. (FINA)

Haiji (1946-2013) - Actress who costars in the Russ Meyer films Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Good Morning... and Good Night!, Motor Psycho (see a slightly NSFW scene below) and Supervixens. She also appears in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. She died on August 9. (

Julie Harris (1925-2013) - Tony, Emmy and Grammy-winning actress who also received an Oscar nomination for her lead performance in the 1952 film The Member of the Wedding (she could have been an EGOT). She was even better known for costarring in East of Eden (see below), The Haunting, Harper, Reflections in a Golden Eye, Requiem for a Heavyweight and later Gorillas in the Mist and HouseSitter. She died of congestive heart failure on August 24. (LAT)

Lisa Robin Kelly (1970-2013) - Actress best known for playing Topher Grace's older sister on TV's That '70s Show (pictured, right). She also appears in the films Jawbreaker and Amityville: Dollhouse. She died on August 14. (Deadline)

Gail Kobe (1929-2013) - Producer and actress who appears in The Ten Commandments and East of Eden. She died on August 1. (Deadline)

Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) - Author of classic Western and crime novels whose work has been adapted into the films Jackie Brown, 3:10 to Yuma, Out of Sight, The Big Bounce, Killshot and Get Shorty and its sequel, Be Cool. He wrote the screenplays to some of the films of his books, including 52 Pick Up and Stick and was a producer on others, including the upcoming latest adaptation Life of Crime. He died on August 20. See my earlier tribute to his best films here.

Stephenie McMillan (1942-2013) - Set director who won an Oscar for her work with art director Stuart Craig on The English Patient. The duo was also nominated for the Harry Potter films Sorcerer's Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2. She worked on the whole Harry Potter series as well as on Chaplin, Patriot Games, Notting Hill, A Fish Called Wanda, Chocolat, Shadowlands and Mary Reilly. She died of cancer on August 19. (NYT)

Marian McPartland (1918-2013) - Jazz pianist who appears in the documentaries A Great Day in Harlem and The Girls in the Band. She died on August 20. (Variety)

Ron Motley (1944-2013) - Attorney best known for leading lawsuits against Big Tobacco, for which he's portrayed in The Insider and played by actor Bruce McGill (see below). He also appears as himself in the documentary Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. He died on August 22. (NYT)

Margaret Pellegrini (1923-2013) - Actress who played one of the Munchkins (a Sleepyhead, specifically) in The Wizard of Oz and appears in Johnny Get Your Gun. She died after suffering a stroke on August 7. (THR)

Henry Polic II (1945-2013) - Character and voice actor who appears in Scavenger Hunt, The Last Remake of Beau Gest, Rabbit Test and Oh God! Book II. He died of cancer on August 11. (Variety)

Ted Post (1918-2013) - Director of the sequels Magnum Force (see the trailer below), Beneath the Planet of the Apes as well as another Clint Eastwood film, Hang 'Em High, and the Burt Lancaster vehicle Go Tell the Spartans. He died on August 20. (Slate)

John Reilly (1939-2013) - Documentarian who was a major figure in the underground video scene in NYC, founding the Global Village theater and its annual documentary video festival. His most famous work is 1993's Waiting for Becket (see below), and he is also credited as being a huge inspiration for Barbara Kopple. He died on July 28. (NYT)

August Schellenberg (1936-2013) - Canadian actor who played Chief Powatan in Malick's The New World (see below) and costarred in Free Willy and its first two sequels. He also appears in Black Robe, Iron Will, Eight Below and Tremors 4. He also voiced characters in Heavy Metal and narrated the IMAX film Mission to Mir. He died from lung cancer on August 15. (THR)

Allan Sekula (1951-2013) - Artist and theorist whose primary medium was photography. He also made the documentaries The Forgotten Space and The Lottery of the Sea. He died of cancer on August 10. (Examiner)

Gilbert Taylor (1914-2013) - British cinematographer who shot Star Wars (see him discuss the filming below), Dr. Strangelove, The Omen, A Hard Days Night, Hitchcock's Frenzy and Polanski's Repulsion, Cul-de-sac and Macbeth. He also shot parts of 2001 and Damien: Omen II. He died on August 23. (Slate)

Barbara Trentham (1945-2013) - Actress (and former wife of John Cleese) who appears in the original Rollerball (see below), The Possession of Joel Delaney and Sky Riders. She died on August 2. (THR)

Jacques Vergès (1925-2013) - Lawyer famous for defending terrorists and war criminals, including Gestapo leader Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal. He is the subject of Barbet Schroeder's documentary Terror's Advocate (see the trailer below) and appears in Marcel Ophuls' Oscar-winning documentary Hotel Terminus and Kevin Macdonald's documentary My Enemy's Enemy. In Olivier Assayas' film Carlos, he is played by Nicolas Briançon. He died of a heart attack August 15. (THR)

Lee Thompson Young (1984-2013) - Actor best known for starring roles on the Disney Channel TV series The Famous Jett Jackson and TNT's Rizzoli & Isles. He also appears in the films Friday Night Lights, Akeelah and the Bee (see below) and The Hills Have Eyes II. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on August 19. (Vulture)



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Categories: Features, Obituaries
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