Remembering Stuart Freeborn, Robin Sachs and More Reel-Important People We Lost This Month

Remembering Stuart Freeborn, Robin Sachs and More Reel-Important People We Lost This Month

Feb 27, 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.

John Brascia (1932-2013) - Actor and dancer whose moves delighted in White Christmas (see below) and Meet Me in Las Vegas. He also appears in the original Walking Tall and The Wrecking Crew and wrote and produced The Baltimore Bullet. He died of Parkinson's disease in Santa Monica on February 19. (THR)


Richard Briers (1934-2013) - English actor who starred in many Kenneth Branagh films, including Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet (see him as Polonius below), Henry V, Frankenstein, Peter's Friends, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midwinter's Tale and As You Like It. He also played Smee in the 2003 Peter Pan, voiced "Fiver" in Watership Down and appears in Spice World. He died in London on February 17. (BBC)


Chris Brinker (1970-2013) - Producer of The Boondock Saints and its sequel. He also appears in the documentary Overnight, which is about the making of the first film. His directorial debut, Whiskey Bay, is due out this year. He died of an aortic aneurysm while doing reshoots for that film in L.A. on February 8. (THR)


Donald Byrd (1932-2013) - Jazz trumpeter who composed original music for Cornbread, Earl and Me, which he performed with the Blackbyrds. He died in Delaware on February 4. (Pitchfork)


Richard Collins (1914-2013) - Blacklisted screenwriter and later TV producer who was one of the "Hollywood 19," eventually becoming a friendly witness for the House Un-American Activities Committee. His initial "crime" was scripting the pro-Soviet drama Song of Russia. Other screenplays he worked on include the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Journey into Fear, Riot in Cell Block 11 and the Abbott and Costello picture Little Giant. His marriage to and divorce from Citizen Kane star Dorothy Comingore, whom he ratted out to the HUAC, is depicted in the 1991 film Guilty by Suspicion, in which he's portrayed with a changed name by Robert De Niro. He died on February 14. (AV Club)


Raymond Cusick (1928-2013) - Production designer best known for creating the look of the Daleks for the Doctor Who franchise. He has no film credits, but he's included here because there will eventually be a major theatrical Doctor Who feature film (there has to be). He died in West Sussex on February 21. (Deadline)

Lavonne "Pepper" Paire Davis (1924-2013) - Baseball player for the All-American Girls league. After appearing in the short documentary A League of Their Own, she served as a technical advisor for Penny Marshall's movie of the same name. Geena Davis plays a character modeled after her in the film, which also featured a rendition of the "Victory Song" she co-penned (see/hear below). She died in L.A. on February 2. (Cinema Blend)


Candide Franklyn (1967-2013) - Steadicam operator who worked on Adam Sandler movies That's My Boy, Jack and Jill, Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2 and Ron Howard's Cinderella Man and The Da Vinci Code. He died on February 12. (Variety)


Stuart Freeborn (1914-2013) - Makeup artist who created parts of Yoda (whose face he modeled after his own), Chewbacca, Jabba the Hutt and other characters in the Star Wars films. He also developed the look of the ape men in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the different characters played by Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove and the look of Fagin in David Lean's Oliver Twist. Other films he worked on include The Omen, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The Great Muppet Caper and the Christopher Reeve Superman series. He died in London on February 5. (


Alexei German (1938-2013) - Russian filmmaker who directed the anti-Soviet movies My Friend Ivan Lapshin, Trial of the Road and Khrustalyov, My Car!. He died of heart failure in St. Petersburg on February 21. (NYT)

Gerry Hambling (1926-2013) - Editor who worked on nearly all of Alan Parker's films and was a six-time Oscar nominee with no wins. He was recognized for Midnight Express (see below), Mississippi Burning, The Commitments, Fame, In the Name of the Father and Evita. He did win the BAFTA for the former three (all directed by Parker). Other films he edited include Parker's Bugsy Malone, Pink Floyd The Wall, Angela's Ashes and The Life of David Gale. He also worked as a sound editor on Foxes, the 1970 Wuthering Heights and the 1956 Alexander the Great. He died in Cambridgeshire, U.K., on February 5. (The Wrap)


Stefan Kudelski (1929-2013) - Audio engineer who invented the NAGRA portable recorders used for film sound. The NAGRA III, released in 1958, wound up revolutionizing on-location shoots for documentarians like D.A. Pennebaker and others in the Drew Associates camp and French New Wave filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. For his innovations, Kudelsski received technical Academy Awards in 1965, 1977, 1978 and 1990. He died in Switzerland on January 26. (NYT)

Chris Kyle (1974-2013) - Former Navy SEAL sniper whose autobiography, American Sniper, is being turned into a movie produced by and potentially starring Bradley Cooper. He was killed at a shooting range in North Texas on February 2. (THR)

Garrett Lewis (1935-2013) - Set decorator nominated for the Oscar four times, for Beaches, Glory, Hook (see below) and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Other films he worked on include Panic Room, Wedding Crashers, Face/Off, Pretty Woman, Mrs. Doubtfire, Misery and Oh Heavenly Dog -- also, The Star Wars Holiday Special. Before his career change, he was an actor and singer, appearing in Funny Lady and Star!. He died in L.A. on January 29. (THR)


Matt Mattox (1922-2013) - Dancer and actor and choreographer who appears in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Guys and Dolls, The Band Wagon and Ziegfeld Follies. He died in France on February 18. (Variety)

Lou Myers (1935-2013) - Actor best known for his role on TV's A Different World. He also appears in the films The Wedding Planner, Volcano, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Bulworth, The Fighting Temptations (see below) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. He died of pneumonia in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 19. (TMZ)


Park Chul-soo (1948-2013) - South Korean filmmaker who directed Green Chair, B.E.D., Mother (aka Woman Requiem) and 301, 302. He died in a car accident in Yongin on February 19. (THR)

Donald Richie (1924-2013) - Author on Japanese cinema and experimental filmmaker. His books include The Japanese Film: Art and Industry and the travel-fiction classic The Inland Sea, which was turned into a documentary of the same name that he narrated. He wrote the English subtitles for Kurosawa's Dreams, Red Beard and Kagemusha and recorded commentary tracks for the Criterion editions of numerous films, including Kurosawa's Rashomon and Ozu's A Story of Floating Weeds and appears on other discs (see him talking about The Seven Samuraibelow). He appears in Alex Cox's documentary Kurosawa: The Last Emperor and another doc on Ozu from 1983. He died in Tokyo on February 19. (TOH!)


Christopher Robbins (1946-2012) - Author of the book Air America, which was turned into the 1990 film of the same name. He died of pancreatic cancer on December 26. (Variety)

Robin Sachs (1951-2013) - Actor best known for a role on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He also appears in the films Ocean's Eleven, Galaxy Quest and The Lost Word: Jurassic Park. He died in in L.A. on February 1. (Deadline)

Alan Sharp (1934-2013) - Screenwriter who wrote Rob Roy, The Osterman Weekend, Night Moves and Little Treasure, which he also directed. He died in L.A. on February 8. (THR)

Paul Tanner (1917-2012) - Trombonist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra. He appears on-screen with the group in Orchestra Wives, Sun Valley Serenade and the biopic about his bandleader, The Glenn Miller Story. He also developed the Electro-Theremin, playing on the Beach Boys song "Good Vibrations" and the scores for The Giant Gila Monster and William Castle's Straight-Jacket. He died in California on February 5. (Variety)


Petro Vlahos (1916-2013) - Special effects pioneer who perfected the blue screen process with motion-control cameras and received special Academy Awards for merit or technical achievements in 1961, 1965, 1993, 1994 and 1995. His one specific film credit was as technical advisor for Battle Beyond the Stars. He died on February 10. (THR)


Categories: Obituaries
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