Monday, February 27, 2017

RIP Bill Paxton

Actor Bill Paxton, 61, dies after complications from surgery

Los Angeles Times
By Randall Roberts
February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton, who earned success through roles in movies including “Apollo 13,” “Titanic,” “A Simple Plan,” “Weird Science,” “Twister” and “True Lies,” as well as that of a polygamist Mormon businessman in the hit HBO series “Big Love,” has died.

The actor, who was 61, died due to complications from surgery, according to a statement from a representative of Paxton’s family.

“A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker,” read the statement, in part. “Bill's passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable.”

That warmth earned Paxton a career that began in B-movies, experimental film and music videos, moved through bit parts in big pictures and, ultimately, leading roles. The epitome of a working actor, he described to The Times his on-screen presence as that of “a very straight-looking guy, very old-fashioned.”

"I consider myself an everyman, and there will always be an underdog quality to my stuff," Paxton told Cosmopolitan magazine in a 1995 interview.

Paxton often found a way to make these roles his own. One memorable moment? As Pvt. Hudson in James Cameron’s film “Aliens,” Paxton’s desperate, defeated whine after a spaceship crash became a catch-phrase: “Game over, man! Game over!”

Born William Paxton in Fort Worth, Texas, the actor was the son of a hardwood salesman and, he told “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross in a 2009 interview, expected that he’d follow the same path. But after taking theater classes in high school, Paxton made a decision to become an actor.

He relocated to Los Angeles when he was in his late teens. One of his first gigs was at New World Pictures as a set designer for famed B-movie producer and director Roger Corman on the Angie Dickenson movie “Big Bad Mama.” A year later, he acted in “Crazy Mama,” a New World production directed by a young Jonathan Demme.

The actor continued with set design gigs while making inroads in front of the camera. Early appearances included a starring role in “Fish Heads” (1980), a cult-classic novelty video for the music duo Barnes & Barnes, which Paxton directed and that aired on “Saturday Night Live.”

As the jerky brother Chet in “Weird Science” (1985), a young Paxton reveled in the character’s over-the-top antipathy. In one memorable scene, blowing cigar smoke into his younger brother’s face, he said, “How about a nice, greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?”

Paxton played a blue-haired punk rocker in an opening scene of “The Terminator,” a role that led to a friendship with director Cameron and jobs in “Aliens,” “True Lies” and “Titanic.” Paxton’s acclaimed turn in “Apollo 13,” where he was cast alongside Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon, further confirmed the actor’s abilities. 

"Every day you're taking a final exam as an actor,” Paxton told the late film critic Roger Ebert in 1998, while discussing his work in “A Simple Plan.”

As Hank in “A Simple Plan,” Paxton harnessed his average-Joe demeanor in service of a career-defining role alongside Billy Bob Thornton. After their two characters find millions of dollars in the woods, Paxton’s Hank endures hardships that reveal the ways in which good men can do bad things.

“I don’t play my characters with any judgment,” he told Gross. “I don’t think it’s possible to play any character with judgment.”

The actor carried that philosophy into one of his most notable performances, as Bill Henrickson in “Big Love.” As the polygamist patriarch, Paxton played a husband juggling family, work and spirituality — with three wives, a half-dozen children and a sect-wide family feud.

When “Big Love” concluded, Paxton told The Times’ Mary McNamara that he faced a hurdle. “It was the only steady job I've ever had as an adult,” he said. “But then nobody knew really what to do with me.”

As was always the case, though, Paxton found work. He earned an Emmy nomination in 2012 for the miniseries “Hatfields and McCoys,” and had a recurrent role in the TV series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Paxton was starring as Det. Frank Rourke in the first season of the CBS series “Training Day.” The 13 episodes finished shooting in December, with nine still set to air.

CBS and Warner Bros. Television praised Paxton’s work in a statement issued Sunday morning.

It read, in part: “Bill was, of course, a gifted and popular actor with so many memorable roles on film and television. His colleagues at CBS and Warner Bros. Television will also remember a guy who lit up every room with infectious charm, energy and warmth, and as a great storyteller who loved to share entertaining anecdotes and stories about his work.”

Paxton is survived by his wife, Louise, and two children, James and Lydia.

PAXTON, Bill (William Paxton)
Born: 5/17/1955, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Died: 2/25/2017, U.S.A.

Bill Paxton’s westerns – actor:
Tombstone – 1993 (Morgan Earp)
Frank & Jesse – 1995 (Frank James)
Hatfields & McCoys (TV) 2012 (Randall McCoy)
Red Wing – 2013 (Jim Verret)
Texas Rising (TV) – 2015 (Sam Houston)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

RIP Babs Bram

The Arizona Republic
February 26, 2017

Bram, Babette "Babs" 92, of Phoenix, Arizona passed away on February 7, 2017. Babette Bram went quietly to sleep in her home in Phoenix, Arizona, 7 February, 2017 at the age of 92. It was a peaceful finale for the dynamic, vivacious, fiercely intelligent force of nature that everyone knew as Babs. Her friends and colleagues, whether in the theatre or in real estate, all agreed that she was an unforgettable character.

Babette Flora Blum Bram was born 18 January 1925 in New York City, daughter of Solomon Blum and Frances Jacobs Blum. Babs grew up in New York City and Forest Hills, Queens. Her life-long love of music, theater and voice took her to the University of Michigan to major in the Dramatic Arts, graduating with the Class of 1945. After university, she soon relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, where in 1948 Babs met the love of her life, Robert H. Bram. They were married the following summer in 1949. Bob and Babs remained utterly devoted to each other for 60 years. Their early years together were marked by a lot of moves necessitated by Bob's career as a manufacturer's representative in the clothing industry. Along the way, their sons Richard and Robert came along in 1952 and 1956. Their eight years in Salt Lake City in the 1960s instilled in Babs an abiding love of the great outdoors of the Mountain West.

Every summer she would pack up the boys and head off on a journey to see the wonders of nature in the National Parks, especially Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. While her favorite athletic activity was swimming, she was proud of having learned to ski at the age of 37 so she could keep up with her boys. While in Salt Lake City, Babs began to develop her theatre career, performing on stages both amateur and professional. She also became active in the American Association of University Women chapter there and later in Phoenix. After their final relocation to Phoenix in 1969, her professional acting career blossomed. She became well known as a commercial and character actress, performing on stage, television and ultimately on the big screen.

Babs was a proud member of the Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Babs appeared in made-for-TV movies as well as several episodes of the TV series "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy." At the age of 68 she had her first big screen role in the thriller "Red Rock West" with Nicolas Cage and Dennis Hopper. Babs embarked upon a second career in residential real estate in 1979, joining Russ Lyon Realty in 1984 where she remained for over 20 years. There she earned the love, admiration, and respect of her colleagues by her thorough knowledge of the ins and outs of the business. She was a member of Russ Lyon Realty's President's Club, Million-Dollar Roundtable, and the Scottsdale Association of Realtors. In their later years Babs and Bob discovered cruising and traveled extensively from Alaska to Antarctica, the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. Their happiest moments were at sea, exploring the world from the ships they sailed upon. Even after Bob's passing in early 2009, she continued to take cruises as long as she was able.

Babs was proud of her family and would often say that she "managed to raise two fine sons who married two fine women," Richard Bram, photographer, of London, England and wife Monika; and Robert Bram, landman in the oil and gas industry, of Littleton, Colorado and wife Laura.

Memorial donations may be made to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation , the Alzheimer's Foundation of America , or the Tanenbaum Center for Inter-religious Understanding,

BRAM, Babs (Babette Flora Blum Bram)
Born: 1/8/1925, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 2/7/2017, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.

Babs Bram’s westerns – actress:
Little House on the Prairie (TV) – 1979 (dowager)
Father Murphy (TV) – 1981, 1982 (Lady, Consumer)

Friday, February 24, 2017

RIP Olive Dunbar

Ithaca Journal
February 25, 2017

Olive Joann Dunbar (known privately as Jo Keene) was a stage, film and TV actress, born on March 30, 1925 to lawyer Harry C. Dunbar and Geneva Teague Dunbar in Wellesley Hills, Mass. At an early age, Jo (who identified herself with the heroine of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) decided she wanted to be an actress. (Not surprisingly, her favorite performer was Katherine Hepburn, who memorably created the Alcott character on film). After finishing high school, with lessons in elocution, Olive was accepted at the Yale Drama School as an acting major, one of the youngest in the class of '46. She left after completing two of the three-year program because she had won a role in Philip Barry's Broadway play, The Joyous Season, making her debut in the company of Ethel Barrymore. Several stage performances followed, including the leading role in John van Druten's I Remember Mamma. Later, she went on tour with Gertrude Lawrence in several plays written and directed by Noel Coward. When a cross-country tour of an Archibald MacLeish play starring Raymond Massey ended in Los Angeles, she decided to remain there and soon found work in films (The First Monday in October, The Carey Treatment, The Lottery) and in many television shows, including a series with Fred MacMurray and another with Carroll O'Connor. She married William Keene, a New York radio actor who had migrated to Hollywood and the couple lived and worked there until his death. She returned to New York briefly and was persuaded by Richard Burdick, the son of her roommate at Yale, to move to a retirement community (Kendal at Ithaca) where she resumed her acting career at the Kitchen Theatre and helped to form another dramatic group, Icarus, with which she appeared for several seasons. Failing health forced her permanent retirement and she died on February 8, 2017, a month before her 92d birthday, mourned by all her friends.

DUNBAR, Olive (Olive Joann Dunbar)
Born: 3/30/1925, Wellsbury, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Died: 2/8/2017, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A.

Olive Dunbar’s westerns – actress:
Invitation to a Gunfighter – 1964 (towns woman)
Death Valley Days (TV) – 1967 (Gita Schieffelin)
Laredo (TV) – 1967 (Mrs. Morton)
The Big Valley (TV) – 1969 (Eliza Grant)
Little House on the Prairie (TV) - 1974 (sales lady)

RIP Antonio Casale

RIP Antonio Casale
Italian director, assistant director and actor Antonio Casale died February 4th. He was 84 years-old. Casale was best known as an Italian character and supporting actor, who appeared in eight Italian spaghetti westerns-between 1965 and 1976, sometimes credited as Anthony Vernon. Casale is probably most famous throughout the world for his brief appearance in the role of the dying Bill Carson in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. He also appeared as the bounty hunter Hoak in the opening scene of “The Grand Duel” and in the role of one of the passengers on the coach that humiliates the protagonist Juan naively considering him only as an insignificant peon in “Duck You Sucker”. When the Euro-westerns were finished his face was often seen in police and crime films.

CASALE, Antonio
Born: 5/17/1932, Italy
Died: 2/4/2017, Italy

Antonio Casale’s westerns – actor:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – 1966 (Jackson/Bill Carson)
Ramon the Mexican – 1966 [assistant director]
Born to Kill - 1967 [assistant director]
Buckaroo – 1967 [assistant director]
Revenge for Revenge - 1968
Duck You Sucker – 1971 (Notary on Stagecoach) [as Anthony Vernon]
The Grand Duel – 1972 (Hoak) [as Antony Vernon]
A Man Called Blade - 1977 (Dahlman) [as Nino Casale]

RIP Chris Wiggins

Toronto Star
February 24, 2017

CHRISTOPHER JOHN WIGGINS Passed away peacefully at the Wellington Terrace in Elora, Ontario, on Sunday, February 19, 2017 in his 87th year. Predeceased by his wife Sandra Crysler-Wiggins. Chris is survived by 2 nephews and 1 niece. Chris started out as a banker in his home country of England before he began his acting career in Canada, where he moved in 1952. Wiggins is probably best recognized for his role as Jack Marshak, the benevolent, resourceful expert on the occult in the syndicated television horror show Friday the 13th: The Series, which ran from 1987 to 1990. Another well known role was Johann Robinson (Father) on Swiss Family Robinson. In addition to his television and film work, Wiggins was also a very popular radio actor, making over 1,200 appearances in various series over the years, particularly on CBC Radio. Wiggins also made numerous guest appearances on such CBC Radio programs as CBC Playhouse, Nightfall, Vanishing Point and dozens of others. Chris was also well known for his role as Cornelius in the animated series Babar which was appeared in 1989 on CBC and HBO. He won a Canadian Film Award in 1969 for best Actor for his role in The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar. Memorial Service for Chris will be held at the Graham A. Giddy Funeral Home & Chapel, 280 St. David St. South in Fergus, Ontario, on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 3:00 p.m., with visitation 1 hour prior. Reception to follow the Service at the Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be directed to the Alzheimer Society.

WIGGINS, Chris (Christopher John Wiggins)
Born: 1/13/1931, Blackpool, Lancashire, England, U.K.
Died: 2/19/1917, Elora, Ontario, Canada

Chris Wiggin’s westerns – actor:
Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans (TV) – 1957 (Jess Adams)
R.C.M.P. (TV) – 1959 (Bush Pilot Watt)
Adventures in Rainbow Country (TV) – 1969 (Fred Vincent)
Tom Sawyer (TV) – 1977 (lawyer)
Welcome to Blood City – 1977 (Gellor)
Fish Hawk – 1979 (Marcos Biggs)
Tales of the Klondike (1979 (TV) – 1981
By Way of the Stars (TV) – 1992-1993 (Captain Harris)
Black Fox (TV) – 1995 (Ralph Holtz)
Black Fox: The Price of Peace (TV) – 1995 (Ralph Holtz)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

RIP John Gay

John Gay, Screenwriter on 'Run Silent Run Deep,' Dies at 92

The Hollywood Reporter
By Mike Barnes

John Gay, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter best known for his work on Run Silent Run Deep, Separate Tables and The Courtship of Eddie's Father, has died. He was 92.

Gay, who began his six-decade career as an actor and writer during the Golden Age of Television, died Feb. 4 in Santa Monica, the WGA announced. He often was in demand by the top directors of the day, scripting projects for the likes of Robert Wise, John Huston, Vincente Minnelli and John Sturges.

Gay also earned an Emmy nomination for scripting Fatal Vision, a controversial NBC 1984 docudrama about the 1970 Jeffrey MacDonald murders that starred Gary Cole as the killer of his pregnant wife and two children.

After actor Burt Lancaster happened to catch one of his television shows, Gay was called to Hollywood and soon found himself on a soundstage watching Lancaster and Clark Gable as submarine commanders in his first screenplay, Run Silent Run Deep (1958), directed by Wise at United Artists.

Gay earned his Oscar nomination for co-writing, with playwright Terence Rattigan, the adapted screenplay for Separate Tables, the Delbert Mann drama that starred Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, Wendy Hiller, David Niven and Lancaster. (Hiller and Niven won Oscars for their performances.)

Gay also penned the romantic comedy The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), which starred Glenn Ford as a widowed father and Ron Howard as his son.

His other feature credits include The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), The Hallelujah Trail (1965), No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), The Power (1968), Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), Soldier Blue (1970), Pocket Money (1972), Hennessy (1975) and A Matter of Time (1976).
Born on April 1, 1924, in Whittier, Calif., Gay and his wife, Barbara, starred on Mr. and Mrs. Mystery, a series for WOR in New York for which he "wrote every episode and performed every beer commercial." That led to writing gigs on such network dramas as Playhouse 90, The Alcoa Hour, General Electric Theater, Lux Video Theatre and Goodyear Playhouse.

His TV résumé also includes the series Shadow of the Cloak and Espionage; the telefilms All My Darling Daughters, The Red Badge of Courage, The Amazing Howard Hughes, The Court Martial of George Armstrong Custer, Captains Courageous, Dial M for Murder and Inherit the Wind; and the miniseries Windmills of the Gods, Around the World in 80 Days, Blind Faith and Burden of Proof.
The Writers Guild of America West honored Gay — a guild member since 1958 — with its highest honor for television writing, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award, in 1984; the Morgan Cox Award, for guild service, in 1992; and the Edmund H. North Award, for his "courageous leadership, strength of purpose and continuing selfless activity on behalf of the guild through the years," in 2003.

He also served on the WGAW's board of directors (1971-75, 1977-79), was a guild vice president (1985-87) and helped lead writers through several difficult negotiations.
During one WGA strike, he wrote Diversions and Delights, a one-man play that imagined Oscar Wilde delivering a talk to a Paris theater just before his death. It opened in 1978 on Broadway, starring Vincent Price, and went on to play around the world.

In 2008, Gay published his autobiography, Any Way I Can — 50 Years in Show Business, co-written with his daughter, Jennifer Gay Summers.

She survives him, as does another daughter, Elizabeth; son Lawrence; and three grandchildren. The family asks that donations be made to the Writers Guild Foundation in honor of him.

GAY, John
Born: 4/1/1924, Whittier, California, U.S.A.
Died: 2/4/2017, Santa Monica, California, U.S.A.

John Gay’s westerns – screenwriter:
How the West Was Won – 1962
The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters – 1962-1963
The Hallelujah Trail – 1965
Texas Across the River - 1966
Soldier Blue – 1970
The Red Badge of Courage (TV) - 1974