Tuesday, January 03, 2006

In Memoriam - (The Legends Who Passed On in 2005)

In Memoriam

As we enter our new year filled with promise and hopes for a great time at the movies, we must pause and get out our hankies and sniffle a tad at the loss of several film greats who passed away in 2005. We doff our hats at such grand entertainers, legends and Oscar worthy folks as: Johnny Carson, Ossie Davis, Arthur Miller, Dan O’Herlihy, John Raitt, Onna White, Sir John Mills, Maria Schell, Ismail Merchant, Brock Peters, Pat Morita and the great comic Richard Pryor. We applaud your work and treasure your memories. But we ain’t gonna get into a recap for just anybody!! No, no. Here at The Bloody Red Carpet, we love the ladies and gents that featured prominently in some of our favorite films or delivered the goods with legendary performances. So we would like to pause for a moment and remember some of our favorites. Get out your tissues and put on some appropriately elegiac music, we recommend Charles Ives’The Unanswered Question” – it’s always come in handy for a good cry.

(Side note: They are placed in chronological order of when they kicked the bucket – so don’t go reading any favoritism into the list, you bitches.)

Ruth Warrick
June 29, 1915 – January 15, 2005

Missouri born actress Ruth Warrick will always be remembered for two performances. Her supporting turn as the classic politician’s wife in the greatest of the great – Orson Welles’Citizen Kane” and her decades long turn as Phoebe English Tyler Wallingford in “All My Children”. Although she never made it to the big time as a film actress, her work on the soaps from the early years: “The Guiding Light”, “As the World Turns”, “Peyton Place” and “Loving” made her a household name. Many a talented actress ended up playing a recurring role on the soaps, but few had the film pedigree that Ruth Warrick had. If she had done nothing else, “Citizen Kane” would have ensured her place in film history. Also of note, her roles in “Journey Into Fear”, the divisive “lost” Disney classic “Song of the South”, her supporting work opposite the diva herself – Joan Crawford in “Daisy Kenyon” and the much misaligned “Arch of Triumph” with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.

Virginia Mayo
November 30, 1920 – January 17, 2005

What a dish! And what an underrated actress! Anybody who can more than hold their own whilst playing opposite a hyped up Danny Kaye, earns our respect. Fortunately for us, this terrific broad also appeared in a handful of classics. From “The Best Years of Our Lives”, “White Heat” to “Colorado Territory” she was the sexpot with a brain who could cut you down with one stare and seduce you with another. One of the most charming leading ladies of the 40s and 50s. Drop what you’re doing and go rent: “The Best Years of Our Lives”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, “Colorado Territory”, “White Heat and Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.

Sandra Dee
April 23, 1942 – February 20, 2005

Yes, yes. Gidget. Bobby Darin’s wife. Teeny bopper pinup girl nonpareil. But for her wide eyed turn in the classic family soaper from the master – Douglas Sirk’s remake of the four hankie weeper “Imitation of Life”, she might not even rate on our list. But we always had a soft spot for Sandy. Her life turns may not have been the luckiest in starlet history, but at least she has earned her spot in Hollywood lore. To witness her particular ersatz charms, go rent: “The Reluctant Debutante”, “Gidget”, “A Summer Place” and the immortal "Imitation of Life”.

Simone Simon
April 23, 1910 – February 22, 2005

Three perfect performances. That is what we will remember this Gallic seductress for. “La Bête humaine” by Jean Renoir, her deliciously evil seductress in the sublime “The Devil & Daniel Webster and perhaps her most well known turn, the feline heroine of “The Cat People and her brief cameo in the moody sequel The Curse of the Cat People.” While the last two may have guffaw inducing titles, they belong to that monstrous and magical oeuvre of the talented Val Lewton who brought terror, mystery and atmosphere to an art form in his “B” list thrillers. And hey, three perfect performances is about as good as any actor or actress could possibly hope for in their entire career.

Teresa Wright
October 27, 1918 – March 6, 2005

The second person to earn double Oscar nominations in the same year, she lost the Best Actress Oscar of 1942 for her solid performance in The Pride of the Yankees” to her co-star in her Best Supporting Actress winning Mrs. Miniver”. So, Greer Garson got the Lead statuette, and Teresa brought home the plaque. (Yes, they were plaques given to Supporting Players for many years – can you imagine?) She also brought a quiet dignity to every role she played in her lengthy and successful career on the Silver Screen and the famed stages of Broadway. To see her at her best, rent the two above and her Oscar nominated debut in the wonderful family bitch-a-thon The Little Foxes”, her solid supporting turn in the Post-WWII Oscar champ The Best Years of Our Lives”, and her best film role courtesy of Hitchcock in the suspense classic Shadow of a Doubt.” A real lady, a great actress and a lovely gal!

Kay Walsh
August 27, 1911 – April 16, 2005

This ever reliable British actress, one time wife of maestro David Lean graced many a great film over the years. From her solid turn as the prostitute Nancy in Lean’s brilliant adaptation of Oliver Twist to her hilarious role as Mrs. Piggot-Jones in the black comedy gem “The Ruling Class” she always gave a polished performance. Other stand outs in her lengthy career include: the war-time classics by Lean and Noel Coward – “In Which We Serve” and “This Happy Breed”, Hitchcock’s underrated “Stage Fright”, the Elizabethan period drama “Young Bess”, the solid thriller “Cast a Dark Shadow” and her award winning part in “The Horse’s Mouth.”

Ruth Hussey
October 30, 1911 – April 19, 2005

We’re not even going there with her last name. A charming presence in everything from comedies to dramas to thrillers, she earned her sole Oscar nomination in the deliciously funny and urbane film adaptation of “The Philadelphia Story.” Her subsequent film roles never truly flattered this talented gal, and we regret that younger generations of film goers might not instantly recognize her name. But for every Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis grabbing the gold and lead roles, there was always room for the great supporting players that made the stars look great. Ruth Hussey was one of them. In addition to her Oscar nominated turn, her lead role in the richly atmospheric horror classic “The Uninvited” should not be missed. Other films of note: “Madame X” (1937), “The Women”, “Another Thin Man”, “Northwest Passage”, “H.M. Pulham, Esq.”, “Tender Comrade”, “The Great Gatsby”, and The Facts of Life.

Eddie Albert
April 22, 1906 – May 26, 2005

The epitome of an actor’s actor. Supporting many stars over the years, he found his lasting stardom on TV’s perennial hokum classic, “Green Acres.” But before “farm living” called, he was a constant and powerful character actor since his debut in 1938. His two Best Supporting Oscar nominations perfectly demonstrate his boundless skill as an actor. Portraying the Bohemian wise-cracking photographer pal to Gregory Peck’s Princess besotted journalist in Roman Holiday and the unyieldingly bigoted father in the hilarious The Heartbreak KidEddie Albert made it all look easy. He deserved at least one additional Oscar nomination in our opinion – as the career soldier who plummets into madness in Captain Newman, M.D. Go rent them all! Other films of note include: Brother Rat”, “Four Wives”, “Four Mothers”, “Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman”, “Oklahoma!”, “The Teahouse of the August Moon”, “The Joker Is Wild”, “The Longest Day”, and the superior original version of The Longest Yard.”

Anne Bancroft
September 17, 1931 – June 6, 2005

Born Anna Maria Italiano in the Bronx, this bona fide screen legend took her time finding her niche – only to discover she could play it all. Oscar winnerfive time nominee, two time Tony Award winner, and an Emmy winning actress - there was literally nothing she could not play. From the beginning to the end of her film career: Don't Bother to Knock”, “The Miracle Worker”, “The Pumpkin Eater”, “7 Women”, “The Graduate”, “Young Winston”, “The Prisoner of Second Avenue”, “The Turning Point”, “The Elephant Man”, “To Be or Not to Be”, “Garbo Talks”, “Agnes of God”, “'Night, Mother”, “84 Charing Cross Road”, “Torch Song Trilogy”, “How to Make an American Quilt”, “Great Expectations”, and Up at the Villa.” She deserved her Oscar for “The Miracle Worker”, and a couple of others too. Her marriage to Mel Brooks lasted over four decades, shattering most Hollywood marital myths. A great lady and an even better actress. Here’s to you, Anne Bancroft!

Barbara Bel Geddes
October 31, 1922 – August 8, 2005

We know. Miss Ellie from “Dallas.” Well, let’s say you know – we know her best for her lovely film work. Daughter to the legendary designer Norman Bel Geddes, she was seduced by the acting muse at an early age. Yes, she was a great Broadway star and talent, and yes she appeared in precious few films over the years. But from her film debut in Anatole Litvak’s thriller The Long Night”, to her Oscar nominated turn in the beautiful I Remember Mama”, to her work in Elia Kazan’sPanic in the Streets” to the suspenseful suicide drama “Fourteen Hours” to her zenith – Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Vertigo” – we will remember this great acting legend.

Sheree North
January 17, 1932 – November 4, 2005

The ultimate rarity in Silver Screen Starlets – one who conquered the odds and survived! Hired by Twentieth Century Fox as a threat and bargaining chip against their recalcitrant star player, Marilyn Monroe Sheree North was given the whole build up and pitch and sank quickly in a series of lightweight comedies and second rate musicals. Her career seemed to be over before it began. And then, the unimaginable happened. The girl had real acting talent, and courtesy of a few directors who noticed, coupled with a desire to work she began to reemerge as a damn good character actress. Of particular note is her work with director Don Siegel, himself an underappreciated gem (we look forward to his Film Forum revival this spring – if you live in New York – don’t miss it!). She would go on to steady work in television, earning two Emmy nominations and eventually playing the role of Marilyn Monroe’s mother in the great 1980 biopic ”Marilyn: The Untold Story”! How’s that for irony! A trouper, a talent, and that rarest of the rare – a survivor.

Constance Cummings
May 15, 1910 – November 23, 2005

Constance Cummings, ah Constance Cummings! What can we say. Precious little it turns out considering her film career. She started out as a lovely and very talented pretty young thing in the early 1930s, and sadly her career in Hollywood went nowhere. Oh, there were good reviews and the star build up, but nada. Zilch. Her lasting fame from the cinema came with her performance in the otherworldly and lively Noel Coward romp “Blithe Spirit” in 1945. Made in England, where she would become a star for her film work and most notably her stage work. She was seen to great effect late in her career opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in the revered National Theatre revival of Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and for her Tony Award winning role in Arthur Kopit’s “Wings.” We had of late managed to catch a few of Connie’s earlier performances courtesy of our favorite television station – Turner Classic Movies – and she was a truly talented actress. So, we are raising a glass in honor of Miss Cummings, one that Hollywood missed. She could have been one of the greats!

Jean Parker
August 11, 1915 – November 30, 2005

This lovely young lady is best remembered for her portrayal of Beth March in the timeless 1933 version of “Little Women.” Despite a career that lasted for over thirty years, she never really found her place amongst Hollywood’s elite. But for her work in “Little Women”, as well as Frank Capra’s Oscar nominatedLady for a Day”, René Clair’s delightful “The Ghost Goes West”, her support of that legendary comic duo Laurel & Hardy in one of their best films “The Flying Deuces” and finally for her work in Henry King’s brilliant western featuring perhaps Gregory Peck’s finest hour “The Gunfighter”, we will remember Jean Parker. We also adore this quote attributed to her, and find it a fitting way to close out our moment of remembrance: "Acting is truly a glorious and noble profession. When anyone can give other people a few hours of escape or enchantment away from the ills of the world and their own personal lives, that's a very worthwhile occupation."

Bless them all! (Now, please pardon us - we have to have a cocktail and an ambien to help calm our shattered nerves, sniffle!)