Remembering Maya Angelou, Gordon Willis and Other Reel-Important People We Lost in May

Remembering Maya Angelou, Gordon Willis and Other Reel-Important People We Lost in May

Jun 02, 2014

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.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) - Author and poet. Her classic book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was adapted into a 1979 TV movie. She also scripted the film Georgia, Georgia and scripted Down in the Delta. She appears in Poetic Justice (see below), How to Make an American QuiltMadea's Family Reunion (pictured above), Porgy and Bess and the documentaries Under African Skies and Good Hair. She died on May 28. (CNN)  


Marilyn Beck (1928-2014) - Hollywood gossip columnist. Bridging the gap between early columnists like Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons and the current celebrity-focused media (and star system and the modern era), she was a major figure in entertainment journalism from the '60s onward, writing for the New York Times before going syndicated and later becoming a pioneer of Internet media. She appears as a reporter in The Man with Bogart's Face and is an interviewee for the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. She died of lung cancer on May 31. (NY Daily News)

Malik Bendjelloul (1977-2014) - Filmmaker. He won the Oscar for feature documentary for Searching for Sugar Man, which was his debut. He committed suicide on May 13. (THR)

Carl Bohm (1928-2014) - Actor. He starred as the main character in Peeping Tom and was a regular in the films of Rainier Werner Fassbender, their collaborations including Fox and His Friends and Effi Briest. His other movies include The Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseThe Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and the Sissi movies. He was the voice of the villain in Pixar's Up for German dubs. He died on May 29. (The Telegraph)


Henning Carlsen (1927-2014) - Filmmaker. He directed the Danish films Hunger (1966), Oviri and People Meet and Sweet Music Fills the Heart. He died on May 30. (Wikipedia)

Leslie Carlson (1933-2014) - Actor. He appears in David Cronenberg's The FlyThe Dead ZoneCamera and Videodrome, in which he plays the villain, as well as Bob Clark's Black Christmas and A Christmas Story (see below). He died on May 3. (THR)


Jay Carr (1936-2014) - Film critic for the Boston Globe. He appears in the documentary These Amazing Shadows. He died on May 15. (Boston Globe)

Lee Chamberlin (1938-2014) - Actress. She costarred in Uptown Saturday Night and the follow-up Let's Do It Again, as well as Beat Street. She died of cancer on May 25. (Broadway World)

Tony Genaro (1942-2014) - Character actor. He appears in Tremors (see below), La BambaWorld Trade CenterAnger Management and The Mask of Zorro. He died on May 7. (THR)



H.R. Giger (1940-2014) - Artist. Best known for his designs of the aliens and sets for Alien, he also worked on Species and Poltergeist II: The Other Side. He appears in the new documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. See our full obituary post here.   

Michael Gottlieb (1945-2014) - Filmmaker. He cowrote and directed Mannequin and Mr. Nanny and directed A Kid in King Arthur's Court. Though he also helmed The Shrimp on the Barbie, he removed his name so the movie is credited to Alan Smithee. He died in a motorcycle accident on May 23. (THR)

Sam Greenlee (1930-2014) - Author. His book The Spook Who Sat by the Door was made into a controversial 1973 movie with the same title, and he was recently the subject of the documentary Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door (see below). He died of heart failure on May 19. (NYT)

Hans Hillmann (1925-2014) - Graphic designer. He was a major figure in abstract movie-poster design in Germany. He died on May 4. (Fandor

Herb Jeffries (1913-2014) - Singer and actor. Considered the first black singing cowboy, he was a staple of Western genre race films of the 1930s, starring in Harlem on the PrairieHarlem Rides the RangeTwo-Gun Man from Harlem and The Bronze Buckaroo (see below). Later films include Calypso Joe and the music documentary Rhythm and Blues Revue. He also was the subject of the doc A Colored Life: The Herb Jeffries Story. He died on May 25. (THR)

Donald Levine (1928-2014) - Toy company executive. Creator of the G.I. Joe action figures, without which we wouldn't have G.I. Joe movies. He died of cancer on May 22. (THR)

Beverly Long (1933-2014) - Actress. She costarred in Rebel Without a Cause and The Green-Eyed Blonde. She died on May 8. (THR)

Joan Lorring (1926-2014) - Actress. Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in The Corn Is Green, she also starred in The Verdict (1946, see below), Three StrangersThe Lost Moment and The Big Night. She died on May 30. (THR)

Nancy Malone (1935-2014) - Actress and filmmaker. She is a pioneer in the industry, having cofounded the organization Women in Film and serving as the first female VP of television at 20th Century Fox. Her movie acting credits include Capricorn One. She died of pneumonia on May 8. (THR)

Hanna Maron (1923-2014) - Actress. After appearing in Fritz Lang's as a child, she starred in Israeli theater and films including Yom Yom. She died on May 30. (THR)

Barbara Murray (1929-2014) - Actress. Though best known for TV work, she also starred in the movies Up PompeiiPassport to Pimlico and Meet Mr. Lucifer and appears in Tales from the Crypt (1972), Another Man's Poison and the 1948 version of Anna Karenina. She died on May 20. (The Stage)

Tatyana Samoylova (1934-2014) - Actress. She starred in the Soviet classic The Cranes Are Flying, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1959. Her other films include Letter Never Sent and a 1967 version of Anna Karenina, in which she played the title character. She died on May 4. (Moscow Times)

Helma Sanders-Brahms (1940-2014) - Filmmaker. Her 1980 drama Germany, Pale Mother is a landmark of New German Cinema. She died on May 27. (Fandor)

Jackie Taylor (1925-2014) - Child actress. As a member of the Little Rascals called Jane, she appears in the Our Gang films Hi'-Neighbor! (watch below), For Pete's Sake!The First Round-UpWashee Ironee and Shrimps for a Day. She died on May 5. (THR)


Jerry Vale (1932-2014) - Singer. He appears as himself in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and Casino. He died on May 18. (THR)

Massimo Vignelli (1931-2014) - Designer. One of the most famous names in his field, he is particularly well known for creating the logo for American Airlines and desigining the NYC subway signs, as well as the iconic 1972 NYC subway map. He appears in the documentaries Helvetica and Design Is One: The Vignellis. He died on May 27. (NYT)

Gordon Willis (1931-2014) - Cinematographer. He was nominated for an Oscar twice, for Zelig and The Godfather Part III. Other classics he shot include The Godfather (see below), The Godfather Part IIAnnie HallManhattanAll the President's MenKluteThe Purple Rose of Cairo and The Money Pit. He directed one movie, Windows, and he appears in the documentaries Visions of LightWoody Allen: A Documentary and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. He died of complications from cancer on May 18. (THR)

Bunny Yeager (1929-2014) - Photographer. Best known for her pin-up shots of Bettie Page, she appears in the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All and was portrayed by Sarah Paulson in The Notorious Bettie Page and by Kirsi Sand in Bettie Page: Dark Angels. She also shot stills for movie productions, including famous pics of Ursula Andress for Dr. No, and acted opposite Frank Sinatra in Lady in Cement. She died of congestive heart failure on May 25. (NYT)

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (1918-2014) - Actor. Primarily a TV star known for the shows '77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I., he also costarred in Wait Until DarkAirport 1975Band of Angels and Hot Shots! and voiced Alfred in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (hear below). He died on May 2. (Variety)


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Categories: Obituaries, Features
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