JoBlo.com's tribute to the people from film & TV we lost in 2016
"The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, the far green country, under a swift sunrise.” ~ The Return of the King
As 2016 draws to a close, we here at JoBlo.com would like to take a moment to honor some of the people who sadly passed away this year. Our deepest respect goes out to everyone in the industry we have lost, and our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of those who died in 2016. These talented people will always be remembered for their impact on the world of film and television.
In Memory Of...
For close to forty years Angus Scrimm terrified and disturbed audiences with his role as The Tall Man in Don Coscarelli's PHANTASM franchise. The actor appeared in 1979's PHANTASM, 1988's PHANTASM II, 1994's PHANTASM III: LORD OF THE DEAD, 1998's PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION, and finally, 2016's PHANTASM: RAVAGER, which was released after Scrimm had passed away and serves as his final acting role. Although best known for The Tall Man, Scrimm appeared in many other films, mostly in the horror genre, including SUBSPECIES, WISHMASTER, I SELL THE DEAD and JOHN DIES AT THE END. According to Don Coscarelli, his longtime friend and collaborator, Angus Scrimm died of natural causes at the age of 89 on January 9th.
Although David Bowie is obviously more well known for his contributions to the world of music, he certainly wasn't a stranger in the realm of cinema. His first starring role in THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH had Bowie playing a humanoid alien who came to Earth from a distant world on a mission to take water back to his home planet. Although mostly dismissed upon release, the film went on to develop a sizeable cult following and Bowie himself carried its influence with him in a variety of projects throughout the remainder of his life. Several of Bowie's other notable roles include Jareth the Goblin King with the painted on pants in LABYRINTH, Phillip Jeffries in TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, Pontius Pilate in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and Nikola Tesla in THE PRESTIGE. On January 10th, David Bowie passed away from liver cancer at the age of 69.
David Margulies appeared in many films over his long career, including 9½ WEEKS, RUNNING ON EMPTY, ISHTAR, ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE and A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, but he will likely forever be known as Lenny Clotch, the Mayor of New York City in both GHOSTBUSTERS and GHOSTBUSTERS II. Margulies had the distinction of speaking one of my favourite lines of the GHOSTBUSTERS sequel when he questioned the Ghostbusters' plan about how to deal with the psychomagnotheric slime flow beneath the city. "What am I supposed to do? Go on television and tell 10 million people they have to be nice to each other? Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker's God-given right." One of David Margulies' other notable roles was on the small-screen, when he appeared on The Sopranos as Tony Soprano's sleazy lawyer Neil Mink. David Margulies died on January 11th at the age of 78 after a long battle with cancer.
One of the many great actors on this list who was taken from us far too soon, Alan Rickman passed away on January 14th at the age of 69 after battling pancreatic cancer, but he leaves behind an incredible body of work. In his later years Rickman was probably best known for his work as Professor Severus Snape in the HARRY POTTER franchise, but in the decades preceding that mega franchise, Alan Rickman frequently stole the show with with roles like Hans Gruber in DIE HARD, the Sheriff of Nottingham in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES and, my personal favourite, Alexander Dane/Dr Lazarus in GALAXY QUEST.
Abe Vigoda passed away in his sleep on January 26th at the age of 94, but for over three decades, Vigoda took the frequently reported news of his mistaken death with good humour and it became the subject of many running gags. Over his long career, Abe Vigoda appeared in a wide variety of roles, but is perhaps best known for his role of Salvatore Tessio in THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER PART II, as well as Phil Fish on both Barney Miller and its spinoff series, Fish. Vigoda would earn three consecutive Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor for his role on Barney Miller.
One of only a few actors who appeared in each of the first six ROCKY movies, Tony Burton played Tony "Duke" Evers, the trainer/manager of Apollo Creed who later filled that same role for Rocky Balboa after Creed had retired. Much like his ROCKY character, Burton was active in boxing as a young man, even winning the Michigan Golden Gloves Light Heavyweight Championship in 1957. With few marketable skills outside of boxing and no high-school diploma, Burton found difficulty finding work and unfortunately wound up in prison serving three and a half years for robbery. While serving his time, Burton was able to get his high school diploma as well as a degree from the University of California. It was also in prison that Tony Burton discovered his love of acting which led to appearances in a variety of movies including Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING. Although his role on the film was brief, Kubrick kept Burton on the set for many weeks longer than his contract called for in order to play Chess. Burton was one of the few who provided Kubrick with a strong challenge and Burton even beat him during one of their first games. Tony Burton died on February 25 due to complications from pneumonia at the age of 78.
It certainly couldn't have been easy to act alongside the hilarious Leslie Nielsen in THE NAKED GUN franchise, but George Kennedy's dim-witted Police Captain more than managed to hold his own. Although he certainly had plenty of comedic chops, Kennedy was frequently cast as a tough guy throughout his career in movies like THE GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE DIRTY DOZEN, AIRPORT and COOL HAND LUKE, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Prior to beginning his acting career, Kennedy was a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army for fifteen years and was later heavily involved with the Armed Forces Radio and Television service; in fact, George Kennedy would serve as the U.S. Army technical adviser on The Phil Silvers Show, a position which he would later describe as a "great training ground for me." George Kennedy passed away on February 28th at the age of 91.
Best known for his role of Benny Stulwicz on L.A. Law, for which he won two consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Larry Drake also appeared in DARKMAN, BEAN and AMERICAN PIE 2 among others, but I'd be remiss if I didn't single out his delightfully over-the-top performance as Dr. Evan Rendell in DR. GIGGLES. On March 17th, Larry Drake was found dead in his Los Angeles home. It was later reported that the 67 year-old actor had been suffering from Polycythemia Vera, a disease which causes bone marrow to produce too many red blood cells and leads to a thickening of the blood.
Before a serious car accident led him down the path of stand-up comedy, Garry Shandling wrote scripts for both Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter, and, after several years of performing stand-up, would go on to create and star in two well-recieved sitcoms, It's Garry Shandling's Show on Showtime (1986-1990) and The Larry Sanders Show on HBO (1992-1998). In recent years Garry Shandling became a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing as Senator Stern in both IRON MAN 2 and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Shandling was just 66 years-old when he died of a massive heart attack on March 24th, but the work which he has left behind will continue to make millions laugh for years to come.
For nine seasons, Doris Roberts made audiences laugh as Ray Romano’s overbearing mother Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond, but that much-loved series was preceded by decades of appearances in both television and movies. Roberts' television career kicked off in the early 50's and later led to guest-spots on shows like Naked City, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Barney Miller, St. Elsewhere, as well as a starring role on Remington Steele opposite Pierce Brosnan. In between those TV roles she appeared in films like THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION, MY GIANT, GRANDMA'S BOY and MADEA'S WITNESS PROTECTION. Doris Roberts died in her sleep at the age of 90 on April 17th.
When Harry Saltzman and Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli were looking to kick off the James Bond franchise back in 1962, one of the people they approached to direct DR. NO was Guy Hamilton. At the time, Hamilton turned them down, but just two years later, he would return to direct one of the greatest Bond films of them all, GOLDFINGER. Hamilton went on to direct three more Bond films over the next decade, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, LIVE AND LET DIE and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. Hamilton, who is also known for BATTLE OF BRITAIN and FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE, passed away on April 20th at the age of 93.
Much like David Bowie, Prince's primary focus was his music, but that didn't stop the artist from experimenting with movies as well. PURPLE RAIN, his first feature-film as well as his acting debut, was undoubtedly the best. Accompanied by the studio-album of the same name, the release of PURPLE RAIN launched Prince into super-stardom and garnered him an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The films which followed, UNDER THE CHERRY MOON and GRAFFITI BRIDGE, were directed by Prince himself but weren't received nearly as well as PURPLE RAIN. Prince would take on very few acting roles in the decades which followed and his final acting appearance was on an episode of The New Girl, which was one of the few TV shows he watched. Prince's music has been used in many movies and TV shows, notably Tim Burton's BATMAN, and will likely continue to be heard for years to come. Prince died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl on April 21st at the age of 57.
With a steady stream of guest-roles on television for nearly thirty years, the chances are very good that you've seen Angela Paton in something at one point or another. The talented actress made memorable appearances on Quantum Leap, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D., Star Trek: Voyager, Home Improvement, The X-Files, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Grey's Anatomy, and that's just to name a few. As for the big-screen, Angela Paton co-starred alongside Bill Murray as the eternally cheerful Mrs. Lancaster in GROUNDHOG DOG and gave the cast of AMERICAN WEDDING a run for their money as Jim's Grandma. Angela Paton passed away on May 26th at the age of 86 due to a heart-attack.
Although some deaths are expected, either due to old age or from battling a long-illness, others come as a shock, much like the sudden death of Anton Yelchin on June 19th. Despite being just 27 years-old at the time of his death,Yelchin had appeared in more movies than many of his more seasoned peers. Yelchin had also dipped his toes in a wide variety of films, such as blockbusters like STAR TREK and TERMINATOR SALVATION, dramas like ALPHA DOG, THE BEAVER and CHARLIE BARTLETT, genre-fare like FRIGHT NIGHT, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE and ODD THOMAS, and even family movies like THE SMURFS and THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS. Simply put, no matter your taste, it's likely that you've seen and enjoyed a performance by Anton Yelchin.
After getting his start as a joke writer for comedians like Joey Bishop and Phil Foster, Garry Marshall would go on to wear many show-business hats during the course of his lengthy career, including writer, producer, creator, director and actor. Many of the TV shows which Marshall developed are still remembered fondly today, such as The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork & Mindy. Marshall's success on the small-screen would translate to features as well with hits like PRETTY WOMAN, RUNAWAY BRIDE and THE PRINCESS DIARIES, all of which also included his good friend and collaborator Héctor Elizondo. While juggling all these projects, Garry Marshall also somehow found the time to do a little acting as well on shows like The Simpsons, Murphy Brown, Louie and BoJack Horseman. Garry Marshall passed away following complications with pneumonia on July 19th at the age of 81.
Although he resembled little more than a garbage can on wheels, audiences quickly fell in love with R2-D2 as well as the man who was credited for bringing the adorable little droid to life, Kenny Baker. Although he was initially hesitant to take the part, Baker later agreed to portray R2-D2 in George Lucas' little space opera and would continue to play the plucky droid in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RETURN OF THE JEDI, THE PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES, REVENGE OF THE SITH and was credited as the R2-D2 consultant on THE FORCE AWAKENS. Baker's work wasn't just limited to STAR WARS as he also appeared in THE ELEPHANT MAN, TIME BANDITS, WILLOW and LABYRINTH. Kenny Baker passed away on August 13th at the age of 81.
Much like Willy Wonka himself, Gene Wilder sadly couldn't go on forever, but he's left us with an incredible gift, some of the most gut-bustingly hilarious movies ever to grace the silver screen. Not every film of Wilder's was a success, but when they hit, boy did they hit. THE PRODUCERS, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, BLAZING SADDLES and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN stand out as not just as the gems of Gene Wilder's filmography, but also as some of the greatest comedies of all-time. Wilder went into semi-retirement during the 1990's following the release of ANOTHER YOU, his final feature-film appearance as well as his final pairing with Richard Pryor. Wilder used the time to appear in several television projects and pen a few novels as well as promoting cancer awareness and treatment in honour of his late wife Gilda Radner. Wilder passed away due to complications from Alzheimer's disease on August 29th at the age of 83.
With his distinctively raspy voice, Jon Polito was always instantly identifiable in whichever role he took on, and, more often than not, he typically wound up as the most memorable character of the movie. Polito frequently collaborated with the Coen brothers and appeared in five of their films including MILLER'S CROSSING, BARTON FINK, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, THE BIG LEBOWSKI and THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE. Other notable Polito features include THE ROCKETEER, THE CROW and GANGSTER SQUAD. In addition to feature-films, Jon Polito also appeared frequently on television with roles on Homicide: Life on the Street, Seinfeld, The Drew Carey Show and Raising the Bar. Jon Polito passed away on September 1st at the age of 65 after being treated for multiple myeloma.
Curtis Hanson's adaption of the James Ellroy's "L.A. Confidential" garnered him an Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as nominations for producing and directing, but the film was also extremely personal for Hanson. In a 2001 interview the The A.V. Club, Hanson said that had "always wanted to tell a story that was set in Los Angeles in the ’50s, because that’s where I grew up, and it was the city of my childhood memories.” He also wanted to pursue the difference between "illusion and reality, the way people and things appear to be versus how they really are. And Hollywood, of course, is the city of illusion." Curtis Hanson fell in love with that city of illusion at an early age, even dropping out of high-school to work for Cinema magazine, which he later became the editor of. His time with the magazine served as his version of film school as he was able to interview major directors like John Ford and Vincente Minnelli. In addition to L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, Hanson also directed THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, THE RIVER WILD, WONDER BOYS and 8 MILE. Curtis Hanson passed away on September 20th at the age of 71.
Herschell Gordon Lewis
Also known as the "Godfather of Gore", Herschell Gordon Lewis was one of the originators of the splatter sub-genre of horror in the early 1960's. While mainstream horror was producing classics such as PSYCHO, THE HAUNTING and ROSEMARY'S BABY, Lewis was throwing buckets of blood at the screen and going further than anyone else had dared. 1963's BLOOD FEAST is considered to be the first American splatter film and Lewis followed it up with TWO THOUSAND MANIACS!, COLOR ME BLOOD RED, THE WIZARD OF GORE and more. Although he went into semi-retirement from the film industry in the early 70's, the works of Hershall Gordon Lewis have continued to be appreciated by fans of the genre; in fact, Arrow Video released a massive 17-disc Blu-ray box-set titled The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast just this year. Lewis passed away in Florida at the age of 90 on September 26th.
For over twenty years, Michael Massee unfairly bore the blame for the death of Brandon Lee on the set of THE CROW after firing an improperly prepared prop gun during a scene. The event left Massee traumatized and he took a year off of acting and refused to ever view the film. Even years later, Massee claimed that he still had nightmares about the incident, saying "I don't think you ever get over something like that." When Michael Massee went back to work, it was for roles in movies like SEVEN, THE GAME, AMISTAD and memorable guest-spots on TV shows such as The X-Files, Millennium, 24, Carnivàle, Alias and Supernatural. Michael Massee passed away after battling stomach cancer on October 20th at the age of 64.
After battling leukemia for a year, Robert Vaughn, the final member of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, died on November 11th at the age of 83. John Sturges' Western classic was my first exposure to the genre as a child and I watched it repeatedly, each time focusing on different member of the Seven. Vaughn played Lee, a slick yet quiet gunman who struggled with a crisis of confidence. Naturally, Lee was able to overcome those difficulties and go out a hero, but Robert Vaughn was still near the beginning of a very long career and had plenty of memorable roles ahead of him, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s Napoleon Solo. From there, Vaughn reunited with Steve McQueen on BULLITT, braved THE TOWERING INFERNO, menaced the Man of Steel in SUPERMAN III and much more.
In the early days of sound film, it was common for studios to produce foreign-language versions of their films which used the same costumes and sets as their English-language counterparts. Very few of these movies have survived to the present day but the Spanish-language version of Universal's DRACULA is one which has. Considered by many to be superior to the English version, DRÁCULA starred Carlos Villarías as Dracula and Lupita Tovar as Eva Seward. The next year she would star in SANTA, which is credited as the first Mexican narrative sound film. Her career continued throughout the 30's and 40's before winding down, but her family is still active in the film industry. Her grandsons, Paul and Chris Weitz, are writer/directors who are best known for their work on AMERICAN PIE, ABOUT A BOY and THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Lupita Tovar passed away on November 12th at the age of 106.
Although his career spanned many decades and included over a hundred credited roles, Andrew Sachs will likely always be remembered for one single character, that of the bumbling Spanish waiter Manuel on Fawlty Towers. Together with John Cleese, Prunella Scales and Connie Booth, Sachs was a key ingredient in the British sitcom which, even though it spanned just twelve episodes, can safely be called one of the funniest programs ever to have aired. In his later years, Sachs would appear in recurring roles on British soap-opera's Coronation Street and Eastenders. Andrew Sachs passed away on November 23rd at the age of 86.
As Carol Brady, the matriarch of The Brady Bunch clan, Florence Henderson brought upbeat and incredibly wholesome entertainment to Americans who, at the time, were experiencing the horrors of the Vietnam War. Henderson would remain a staunch supporter of The Brady Bunch over the years, and would go on to appear in many of the reunion specials, spin-offs and feature-films which followed. Along with the various Brady Bunch projects, Florence Henderson made guest-appearances on many TV series including The Love Boat, Roseanne, Ellen, The King of Queens, The Cleveland Show and 30 Rock. Later in life Henderson even hosted her own talk-show, The Florence Henderson Show, as well as a cooking show, Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson, on RLTV. Florence Henderson unexpectedly passed away due to heart failure at the age of 82 on November 24th.
Most of the time, a television series requires more than a single season to truly connect with an audience and enter pop-culture, but sometimes, as in the case of Firefly, that's all you need. Over the course of just fourteen-episodes (and a sequel film), Joss Whedon's creation only grew more popular as time went on, largely thanks to its talented ensemble cast of which the late Ron Glass was a part of. Glass played Derrial Book on Firefly, a kindly Shepherd with a mysterious past who knew much more than he let on. The 71 year-old actor also had a starring role in Barney Miller as Sgt. Ron Nathan Harris and in The New Odd Couple as Felix Unger. Over the years Glass would also appear in guest-roles on Murder, She Wrote, The Practice, Friends, Star Trek: Voyager and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ron Glass died of respiratory failure on November 25th.
Other notables we lost this year include INDIANA JONES Trilogy cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, THE MIRACLE WORKER actor Patty Duke, MY BLOODY VALENTINE actor Don Francks, wife of the late Eli Wallach and actress of stage and screen Anne Jackson (THE SHINING), CASABLANCA actress Madeleine Lebeau, AMADEUS screenwriter Peter Shaffer, Disney animator Willis Pyle, THE WICKER MAN director Robin Hardy, DO THE RIGHT THING and SPIDER-MAN actor Bill Nunn, Game of Thrones actor Peter Vaughan, Growing Pains' Alan Thicke, Bernard Fox of Bewitched and actress/socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor.