Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THE PASSING SCENE OF 2014

This is the fifth year now that I have written a story on some of the entertainment personalities that have died during the year. Every year there are great losses on the list as well as forgotten entertainers that deserve to be remembered more than they were. This year is no different, and here are just some of the talented people who left us in 2014…


Legendary comedian Robin Williams died on August 11th at the age of 63. Williams gained recognition firstly on the television sitcom "Mork And Mindy", which aired from 1978 to 1982. He made his film debut in 1980's musical Popeye. he starred or co-starred in widely acclaimed films including The World According to Garp (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), Aladdin (1992), Good Will Hunting (1997), and One Hour Photo (2002), as well as financial successes such as Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), and Night at the Museum (2006). On a personal note, this death has hit me harder than all the other deaths in 2014. Williams death, of a suicide, is also especially sad because he made millions of people laugh through the years, but Williams could not find the happiness in his own life.

Actor and director Richard Attenborough died on August 24th at the age of 90. As an actor, he is perhaps best known for his roles in Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, 10 Rillington Place, Miracle on 34th Street and Jurassic Park.He won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Director and as the film's producer, the Academy Award for Best Picture for his historical epic Gandhi. Attenborough also directed the screen version of the musical A Chorus Line (1985) and the anti-apartheid drama Cry Freedom (1987). He also directed Robert Downey Jr in the acclaimed biography Chaplin (1992).

Screen legend Mickey Rooney died on April 6th at the age of 93. He began his film career in silent movies as a child actor. In the 1930s, he was signed to MGM Studios where he became the most popular movies star from 1939 to 1940. He made a series of movie musicals with Judy Garland as well as some beloved classics like Boy’s Town (1938), The Human Comedy (1943), and National Velvet (1944). Rooney left MGM in 1948, but he continued to make movies and television appearances until his death. Weeks before his death he shot scenes for Night And The Museum III, which was just released. My personal favorite role he played was as songwriter Lorenz Hart in the 1948 musical Words And Music. He died after choking on food.

Comedian Jan Hooks died on October 9th at the age of 57. She best known for her work on NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL), where she was a repertory player from 1986 to 1991 and continued making cameo appearances until 1994. Her subsequent work has included a regular role on the final two seasons of Designing Women, a recurring role on 3rd Rock From the Sun, and a number of roles in film and television.

Voice actor Dick Jones died at the age of 87 on July 7th. He worked for Disney Studios and was the voice of Pinocchio in the 1940 movie.

Actress Sheila MacRae died at the age of 92 on March 6th. She appeared in such films as Caged (1950), Backfire (1950) and Sex and the Single Girl (1964). Sheila also played Alice Kramden on 52 episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show from 1966 to 1970. She also was married to singer Gordon MacRae from 1941 to 1967. She had been suffering from dementia.

Singer and actor Herb Jeffries died on May 25th at the age of 100. He began his career working with Erskine Tate and his Vendome Orchestra when he moved to Chicago from Detroit at the urging of Louis Armstrong. His widest fame as a singer came when he sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1940 to 1942. Herb also played a cowboy in a number of movies of the 1940s and 1950s. Even though he retired in 1995, he remained active and performed occasionally up until 2010.

Child star Shirley Temple died on February 10th at the age of 85. Temple began her film career in 1932 at the age of three. In 1934, she found international fame in Bright Eyes, a feature film designed specifically for her talents. She received a special Juvenile Academy Award in February 1935 for her outstanding contribution as a juvenile performer to motion pictures during 1934, and film hits such as Curly Top and Heidi followed year after year during the mid-to-late 1930s. Licensed merchandise that capitalized on her wholesome image included dolls, dishes and clothing. Her box office popularity waned as she reached adolescence. She appeared in a few films of varying quality in her mid-to-late teens, and retired completely from films in 1950 at the age of 22. She was the top box-office draw in Hollywood for four years in a row (1935–38) in a Motion Picture Herald poll

Television actress Ann B Davis died at the age of 88 on June 1st. She gained worldwide fame for playing Alice on the TV comedy “The Brady Bunch”, but she won her two Emmys for her role of the secretary on “The Bob Cummings Show” in the 1950s. She died after a fall.

French actor Jacques Bergerac died at the age of 87 on June 15th. He appeared in films like Les Girls (1957) and Gigi (1958) or MGM Studios, but he was more famous for his ex-wives. He was married to actress Ginger Rogers from 1953-1957 and to actress Dorothy Malone from 1959-1964. He left show business to run the Paris office of Revlon Make-up in 1969.


Actors James Garner died on July 19th at the age of 86. On television Garner starred on the popular shows "Maverick" from 1957 to 1962 and "The Rockford Files" from 1974 to 1980. Garner's acting ability and good looks made him a natural in movies as well. Garner also starred in more than fifty films, including The Great Escape (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Blake Edwards' Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy's Romance (1985), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, Space Cowboys (2000), and The Notebook (2004).

British character actor Bob Hoskins died on April 29th at the age of 71 of pneumonia. He was a popular actor in films for decades and appeared in such beloved classics as Mona Lisa (1986), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1989), and Hook (1991). He also appeared as Bobby Darin’s uncle in the movie biography Beyond The Sea (2004). He made his last movie in 2012.

Buddy DeFranco, who played the great clarinet solo on "Opus One" with Tommy Dorsey -- and was one of the finest clarinetists in modern jazz -- died on December 24th at the age of 91. He was bandleader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1966 to 1974, under the name, "The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, Directed By Buddy DeFranco". He made his last record in 2006.

Director and actor Harold Ramis died on February 24th at the age of 69 of vasculitis. He was a legendary writer and director who made his best films in the 1980s and 1990s. His best-known film acting roles are as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (1984) and Russell Ziskey in Stripes (1981); he also co-wrote both films. As a writer-director, his films include the comedies Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day (1993) and Analyze This (1999). Ramis was the original head writer of the television series SCTV, on which he also performed, and one of three screenwriters of the film National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).

Songwriter Mary Rodgers died at the age of 83 on June 26th. She was a composer who wrote the score for the Broadway musical Once Upon A Time On A Mattress. She also was a children’s author, and she wrote “Freaky Friday”. Mary was the daughter of famed songwriter Richard Rodgers (1902-1979).

German born actress Luise Rainer died at the age of 104 on December 30th.  She was the first actor to win multiple Academy Awards and the first person to win them consecutively. She was discovered by American studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer talent scouts while acting on stage in Austria and Germany and after appearing in Austrian films. She is as of yet the longest-lived person ever to have received an Academy Award

Actress Mona Freeman died at the age of 87 on May 23rd. She started out as a child actress in the 1940s, but soon moved on to adult roles. Some of her famous movies included Mother Wore Tights (1947), Dear Wife (1949), and Jumping Jacks (1952). She dated Bing Crosby briefly in 1954, and she left Hollywood in 1961 to raise a family and become a painter.


Singer Jerry Vale died on May 18th at the age of 83 after a lengthy illness. He specialized in Italian songs, and some of his greatest hits included: “Have You Looked Into Your Heart”, “Two Purple Shadows”, and “Pretend You Don’t See Her”. Vale had to retire from singing after suffering a stroke in 2002. He also appeared as himself in the movies Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995).

Actress Lauren Bacall died on August 12th at the age of 89. A popular actress that was married to Humphrey Bogart from 1945 to 1957, she had a distinctive husky voice and sultry looks. She first appeared as a leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film To Have and Have Not (1944) and continued on in the film noir genre, with appearances in Bogart movies The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948). Her performance in the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.

Actress Patrice Wymore died on March 22nd at the age of 87. Wymore's first film appearance was in the 1950 film Tea for Two, opposite Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, where she made an impression with the Latin flavoured rendition of “Crazy Rhythm”. She was signed to Warner Brothers, but never really appeared in a huge role. She played Frank Sinatra’s girlfriend in the 1960 film Ocean’s 11. She left Hollywood in 1967. She also was the last wife of actor Errol Flynn. They were married from 1950 until his death in 1959.

The last of the original von Trapp children, Maria Franziska von Trapp, died at the age of 99 on February 18th. She was a member of the Trapp Family Singers, whose lives inspired the musical and film The Sound of Music (1964). She was portrayed as the character "Louisa".

Actress and activist Ruby Dee died at the age of 91 on June 11th. Her first major Hollywood movie was The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), and she received wide acclaim for her film version of the play A Raisin In The Sun (1961). Dee was married to actor Ossie Davis from 1948 until his death in 2005. She was nominated for an Oscar for playing Denzel Washington’s mother in American Gangster in 2007. Dee was also an Emmy and Grammy winner.

Actress Elaine Stritch died at the age of 89 on July 17th. She was mostly known for her Broadway and live performance work. The actress's notable Broadway credits include her Tony Award nominated roles in the original production of William Inge's 1955 play Bus Stop, and musicals by Noël Coward (Sail Away, 1961) and Stephen Sondheim (Company, 1970), the latter included her performance of the song "The Ladies Who Lunch", plus the 1996 revival of the Edward Albee play A Delicate Balance and her 2001 Tony Award winning one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty. She won an Emmy Award in 1993 for her guest role on "Law & Order" and another in 2004 for the television documentary of her one woman show. From 2007 to 2012, she had a recurring role as Alec Baldwin's mother  on NBC's "30 Rock", a role that won her a third Emmy in 2007.

Silent film star Carla Laemmle died on June 12th at the age of 104. Her first movie was in 1925’s Phantom Of The Opera. She also starred in The Broadway Melody (1929) and Dracula (1931). She is one of the last surviving silent screen actresses and Carla was a favorite at classic movie convention shows throughout the country.


Legendary comedian Sid Caesar died at the age of 91 on February 12th. He was one of the last surviving pioneers of early television which also included Bob Hope, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen.  He starred on Your Show of Shows from 1950 to 1954. The show gave such writers as Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen their first breaks. Sid also appeared in such popular movies as It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World (1963), Grease (1978), and History of the World Part 1 (1981). Sid was also married to his wife for 66 years. They met and married in 1943 and remained married until Florence Caesar died on March 3, 2010.

Troubled actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died on February 2nd at the age of 46 of a drug overdose. He won an Oscar for his role as author Truman Capote in Capote (2005). His three other Oscar nominations came for his supporting work playing a brutally frank CIA officer in Charlie Wilson's War (2007), a priest accused of pedophilia in Doubt (2008), and the charismatic leader of a nascent Scientology-type movement in The Master (2012).  

Actress Polly Bergen died on September 20th at the age 84. She won an Emmy Award in 1958 for her performance as Helen Morgan in The Helen Morgan Story. Her film work included 1962's Cape Fear and 1963's The Caretakers, for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. 

Character actor Eli Wallach died at the age of 98 on June 24th. He was a prolific actor that worked well into his 90s. Wallach’s debut film was a huge role for him in 1956’s Baby Doll. He also starred in The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Misfits (1961), and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966). Wallach was married to actress Anne Jackson from 1948 until his death. His last movie was the 2010 film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Actress Juanita Moore died on January 1st at the age of 99. She was the fifth African American to be nominated for an Academy Award in any category, and the third in the Supporting Actress category at a time when only a single African American had won an Oscar. Her most famous role was as Annie Johnson in the movie Imitation of Life (1959).

Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. died on May 2nd, 2014 at the age of 95. He was known for his starring roles in the television series 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I.  He is also known as recurring character "Dandy Jim Buckley" in the series  Maverick. He was the father of actress Stephanie Zimbalist and the son of Efrem Zimbalist Sr (1890-1985), who was a famous violinist.



Female trumpeter and jazz pioneer Billie Rogers died at the age of 96 on January 18th. She was one of the first female musicians to play in an all-male band. She was with the Woody Herman Orchestra from 1941 to 1944. She led her own band briefly in 1944, and then she played with the Jerry Wald Orchestra from 1945 to 1947. She retired in 1948 to raise a family.

These entertainment legends, pioneers, and personalities are gone now, but hopefully the fans will see to it that they are never really forgotten…


2 comments:

  1. No mention of Shirley Temple?!?! What a terrible omission in an otherwise fine article.

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  2. Hi Larry! I can not believe I made that mistake! I corrected it. She was one my Grandfather's favorites! Thanks for catching that!

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