Iconic cinematographer Gordon Willis died early Sunday at age 82 after a battle with cancer, surrounded by family at his Cape Cod home. Most famous for his distinctive cinematography work on Francis Ford Coppola‘s Godfather series, Willis’s also worked with Woody Allen on some of his great New York-based movies, including Manhattan, Annie Hall, Zelig, Stardust Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, and The Purple Rose Of Cairo. He was a fixture with New York-based directors, also working with the late Alan J. Pakula on the classic All The President’s Men, Klute, and The Parallax View, and worked with Herbert Ross’s Pennies From Heaven; and Malice, The Devil’s Own. Official cause of death has not been disclosed, but expect Monday morning to be Gordon Willis appreciation day around the cinephile set. Phone calls and social media posts about Willis’s passing began trickling in Sunday evening. “This is a momentous loss,” confirmed ASC President Richard Crudo late Sunday night. “He was one of the giants who absolutely changed the way movies looked. Up until the time of The Godfather 1 and 2, nothing previously shot looked that way. He changed the way films looked and the way people looked at films.”
Queens, NY-born Willis cultivated a background in photography and served in the Korean War as an Air Force Photographic and Charting Serviceman before starting his film career as an assistant cameraman, working his way up with commercials and documentaries. He made his debut as a cinematographer with four features in 1970: comedy End of the Road, Irvin Kershner’s Loving, drama The People Next Door, and Hal Ashby’s The Landlord. His deft use of shadows and light for Coppola’s 1972 mafia classic The Godfather was a career-maker for Willis, who came to be known as one of the most influential cinematographers in the field. Despite his landmark contributions, Willis didn’t win either of the Oscar nods earned for films with two of his most frequent collaborators – Woody Allen’s Zelig and Coppola’s The Godfather Part III. He also shot 1986′s The Money Pit, 1988′s Bright Lights, Big City, 1990′s Presumed Innocent, and his own lone directorial effort, the 1980 thriller Windows. In 2009 the Academy awarded him an Honorary Academy Award “for unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, color and motion.” Read More »
UPDATED, 2:58 PM: Malik Bendjelloul‘s older brother Johan told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet today that the filmmaker’s death was a suicide.
PREVIOUSLY, May 13: The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Searching For Sugar Man was found dead today in Stockholm. Malik Bendjelloul was 36. No cause of death was reported, but local police told the newspaper Expressen that it was not being treated as suspicious. Bendjelloul won the Academy Award for Best Documentary last year for Sugar Man, about a personal search for the reclusive musician Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. He recorded a pair of LPs in the early 1970s as Rodriguez that went nowhere in the U.S. but were huge and influential in South Africa. But Rodriguez was unaware of the albums’ overseas success, and he faded completely from public view for decades. Searching For Sugar Man is about fans’ personal search to find him. Bendjelloul directed, produced, edited and co-wrote the pic, which opened Sundance in 2012 and went on to win the Audience Award. The film also would score documentary honors from the DGA, PGA, WGA, BAFTA, NBR and many other groups and festivals.
Related: Cannes: ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ Director’s Suicide Hits Hard
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Actor Leslie “Les” M. Carlson, who starred in four David Cronenberg films including Videodrome during his 38-year career in film, television, and the stage, died May 3 after a battle with cancer at his Toronto home, under hospice care. He was 81. South Dakota-born Carlson began his screen career in the 1970s, with turns in films including 1974′s Deranged and the sorority slasher classic Black Christmas. Cronenberg cast him as Spectacular Optical Corporation head Barry Convex in 1983 sci-fi horror Videodrome, for which Carlson earned a Genie Award nomination. He’d go on to act in three more Cronenberg films: The Dead Zone, The Fly, and 2000′s Toronto Film Festival short Camera. Carlson’s credits also include films High-Ballin’, A Christmas Story, Rolling Vengeance, and K2, as well as TV appearances on 21 Jump Street, The X-Files, Highlander, Babar and the Adventures of Badou, Rookie Blue, and a recurring run on Disney’s Road To Avonlea.
The star of TV’s The F.B.I. and 77 Sunset Strip had scores of big- and small-screen credits in a career that spanned more than 60 years. Efrem Zimbalist Jr died today at his ranch in Solvang, CA. He was 95. “We are heartbroken to announce the passing into peace of our beloved father,” his family said in a statement. “A devout Christian, he actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf, and visiting with close friends. We will miss him dearly.” He also was the embodiment of cool. He had numerous roles before and after, but Zimbalist is best remembered for the ABC dramas 77 Sunset Strip, which ran from 1958-64, and The F.B.I., which spanned 1965-74. On the latter he played Inspector Lewis Erskine, the Bureau’s calm but persistent agent who always got his man. He toplined Sunset Strip as Stuart Bailey, a judo-chopping private eye whose work took him to some of the planet’s most glamorous spots. The New York native started his career on the stage after World War II, in which he earned a Purple Heart with the Army. He had supporting roles in a number of Broadway shows before he started to land TV work in the mid-’50s. The exposure led Zimbalist to roles in a handful of films during through the late ’50s, along with a recurring gig as a suave con man on Maverick with James Garner and Jack Kelly. During his nearly uninterrupted ensuing run as one of ABC’s leading men, he starred in such feature films as The Chapman Report and Harlow and played the husband of a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) tormented by thugs in her apartment in Wait Until Dark. Read More »
Oscar-nominated, and BAFTA- and Golden Globe-winning English actor Bob Hoskins has died. The star of such films as The Long Good Friday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Mona Lisa passed away Tuesday night following a bout of pneumonia. He was 71. Hoskins was last seen in 2012′s Snow White And The Huntsman and that same year announced his retirement from acting after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The versatile Hoskins hailed from West Suffolk but was brought up in London. He began acting on the stage in the late 1960s, and throughout the 1970s, he appeared in several UK television series including the 1978 BBC mini Pennies From Heaven. Early in his feature career, he had roles in such films as Zulu Dawn, Pink Floyd The Wall, The Cotton Club and Brazil. But it was 1980 crime drama The Long Good Friday that gave him his breakout starring part. The now-classic gangster movie, which co-starred Helen Mirren, earned Hoskins his first BAFTA Film Award nomination for Lead Actor. In 1986, he starred in Neil Jordan’s noir mystery Mona Lisa opposite Michael Caine, Cathy Tyson and Robbie Coltrane. Read More »
The sitcom and feature writer, who was married to Hal Kanter for 70 years, has died. Doris Kanter died last month in Encino after a brief illness, the WGA said today. She was 95. Her writing credits include Chico And The Man, Night Court and the 1980 Beau Bridges sitcom United States. She also designed the colorful opening title credits for her husband groundbreaking 1968-71 series Julia, starring Diahann Carroll. A native of NYC, Doris Kanter started out working at Parents magazine in the 1930s. She married Hal Kanter in 1941 after he had been drafted into the Army. She also helped her husband in writing and editing – mainly comedy– for television and film. He died in 2011. Doris Kanter is survived by her three daughters, Lisa Shafer, Donna Kanter — a writer-director-producer who owns the Kanter Company — and Abigail Jaye; her granddaughter Kaleigh Shafer; and sons–in-law Anthony Shafer and Michael Jaye.
Tony-winning deaf actress Phyllis Frelich, who originated the lead role in Children of a Lesser God on Broadway, died Thursday of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). She was 70. Frelich’s husband Robert Steinberg told the AP of her passing. The two were married for 46 years, during which time their relationship inspired Mark Medoff to write Children of a Lesser God at New Mexico State University. When the play moved to Los Angeles and then Broadway Frelich played the lead role of Sarah Norman in the story of the relationship between a deaf woman and a hearing speech pathologist and won a Tony for the role in 1980. Marlee Matlin played the Sarah role in the 1986 film adaptation, for which she won the Oscar. Frelich, originally from Devils Lake, North Dakota, came from a family of deaf parents and siblings and began acting while studying at Gallaudet College. She met Steinberg in the National Theatre of the Deaf where he worked as a scene and lighting designer for playwright Medoff. Frelich also starred in Medoff’s In The Hands Of Its Enemy opposite Richard Dreyfuss and Jeffrey Tambor and was nominated for an Emmy for the 1985 TV movie Love Is Never Silent. She played Sister Sarah on soap opera Santa Barbara and had guest roles on CSI, ER, Gimme a Break, Diagnosis Murder, and more. “You paved so many roads for us, Phyllis. A leading light of our community has been … Read More »
Stand up comedian and actor John Pinette died Saturday in Pittsburgh after suffering a pulmonary embolism, his manager of 24 years Larry Schapiro confirms. He was 50. Pinette, a veteran of the comedy club circuit who underwent treatment for prescription drug addiction last year, was found dead in his hotel room yesterday afternoon. No autopsy was conducted. Pinette’s feature film credits include ’90s comedy films Reckless Kelly, Junior, and Simon Sez as well as Duets, The Punisher, Rio Sex Comedy, and Hyung-rae Shim’s The Last Godfather. On the small screen, Pinette was a regular on Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and appeared on Vinnie & Bobby, High Tide, and on the series finale of Seinfeld. His comedy special John Pinette: Still Hungry premiered on Comedy Central in 2011. At the time of his death the L.A.-based comedian was touring and developing his next stand-up special, titled John Pinette: They Call Me Slim.
The longtime DGA official and former NYC film commissioner died Wednesday. Richard Brick was 68. He worked on films including Sweet And Lowdown, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Henry and Hangin’ With The Homeboys — for which he earned a 1992 Indie Spirit nom — Silkwood and Places In The Heart. He was a member of the DGA’s Eastern AD/UPM Council for more than a decade, serving as its First Vice Chair for four years while also chairing several of the council’s subcommittees. Brick served on the DGA’s Negotiating Committee in 2011, was a National Board Convention Delegate for five election cycles and was a member of the PAC Leadership Council since 2006. Brick also served as the commissioner of New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting from 1992-94. He also was a film professor at Columbia University and created the Columbia University Film Festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012. Said DGA President Paris Barclay: “Richard spent years in service to his fellow members, advocating passionately on behalf of his assistant director and unit production manager colleagues. As a former New York City film commissioner, Richard had a unique perspective about the needs of our members within the broader entertainment community, giving him valuable experience that he called upon to better protect our creative and economic rights. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
The eight-time Sports Emmy winner was a regular in the truck during NFL games called by the popular announcing duo of Pat Summerall and John Madden. Sandy Grossman has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 78. He spent 21 seasons with Summerall and Madden, first at CBS and later at Fox. Said Fox Sports President: “Sandy was part of the original heart and soul of Fox Sports. He was a brilliant director and a thoughtful colleague. He mentored many of us here and throughout the sports TV industry, and we learned more from him than he could imagine.” The Newark, NJ, native’s credits include directing 10 Super Bowls — more than anyone else — along with 18 NBA Finals and five Stanley Cup Finals. He also was in the director’s chair for coverage of multiple Olympics.
British actress Kate O’Mara, who was known to many Americans during the 1980s as Joan Collins’ sister Cassandra Morell on ABC‘s Dynasty, died in Sussex, England this morning. She was 74. A TV vet since the 1960s with credits that included such cult British shows as The Saint and The Avengers, O’Mara was coveted for her portrayal of alluring, pungent personalities, such as The Rani in Doctor Who from 1985-86 and the ruthless businesswoman Laura Wilde in the BBC drama Howards’ Way. Born in Leicester, UK, O’Mara was the daughter of actress Hazel Bainbridge (The Family Way) and John Carroll. Originally, O’Mara pursued a career as a speech therapist, but she caught the acting bug and made her stage debut at 24 in a production of The Merchant of Venice. After breaking in TV, O’Mara caught the attention of Hammer Studios which cast her in the 1970 films The Horror of Frankenstein and The Vampire Lovers. She also made an appearance on Absolutely Fabulous as Jackie Stone. O’Mara founded The British Actor’s Theatre Company and wrote four books: two autobiographies Vamp Until Ready and Game Plan: A Woman’s Survival Kit as well as two fiction titles, When She Was Bad and Good Time Girl.
The British director responsible for a number of well-known early stories in sci-fi series Doctor Who died Thursday. He was 82. Derek Martinus had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, his family told the BBC. Active at the Doctor Who helm between 1965 and 1970 during the tenures of three different Doctors, his credits on the long-running BBC show include the Mission to the Unknown, The Tenth Planet, The Evil of the Daleks, and The Ice Warriors episodes, as well as the show’s first serial to be filmed in color, The Spearhead From Space. During his career the Yale-educated Martinus helmed episodes of A Little Princess, Z Cars, Blakes 7, Penmarric, and Spearhead and also directed the 1968 version of Henry James’ What Maisie Knew and the miniseries The Black Tulip.
The veteran director who worked as an AD on dozens of TV and film projects ranging from Mixology, Rizzoli & Isles and ER to Running With Scissors and the Shaquille O’Neal starrer Steel died Monday after a long illness. Dirk Wallace Craft was 48. A 1991 grad of the DGA Trainee Program, he served as an assistant director on more than 50 productions and also directed episodes of Nip/Tuck and Burn Notice. The Pontiac, MI, native’s AD credits also include TV’s Detroit 1-8-7, Alien Nation, VIP and numerous telefilms as well as the 1996 feature The Crucible starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Survivors include his wife Sande Alessi Craft, who runs Sande Alessi Casting in Hollywood; their children Shaelyn and Kai; his mother Juanita Craft Hawisher; and sister Krista Craft Strongman.
A celebration of Craft’s life is set for March 28 in Agoura Hills. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mariposa School of Global Education: payable to CAPTNS, 6050 Calmfield Ave, Agoura Hills, CA 91301, or online here.
Actress Patrice Wymore, the widow of Errol Flynn, has died. She was 87. The Kansas-born Wymore started on Broadway in the late 1940s and appeared in her first film, Warner Bros’ Tea For Two, with Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in 1950. The same year, she played opposite Flynn in Rocky Mountain. The pair married in 1950, and she went on to star with him in 1955′s King’s Rhapsody. Her other roles include a small part in the 1960 Rat Pack classic Ocean’s Eleven. Flynn died in 1959, and Wymore never remarried. After guest appearances on Perry Mason and F Troop, among others, she retired to her cattle ranch in Portland, Jamaica, where she died Saturday, according to Reuters. A film about Flynn, The Last Of Robin Hood, recently premiered in Toronto.
2ND UPDATE, SUNDAY 4:30 PM: The late James Rebhorn is remembered in a statement from USA Network. The veteran character actor had a recurring role as recently as last season on White Collar: “USA Network is deeply saddened about the passing of James Rebhorn, who so brilliantly played Reese Hughes on White Collar. Our sympathies go out to his family, friends and loved ones.”
Related: Actor James Rebhorn Pens His Final Curtain Call; Read The Obit He Wrote For Himself
UPDATE, 12:35 PM: James Rebhorn died Friday afternoon from melanoma. The actor was diagnosed with melanoma in 1992 and died at home in South Orange, N.J. peacefully around his family. He had been receiving hospice care after being released from NYU Hospital. “He was a wonderful, wonderful man. I represented him since 1990, and I represented him for my entire career,” said his Leading Artist rep Dianne Busch. “He was an absolute joy to work with. He was very funny and was warm. He was drawn to projects with a social conscience. One of his favorite movies that he did was Lorenzo’s Oil because it made a difference. He had a very strong faith and loved his family. His family was extremely important to him and I saw him make career sacrifices for them.” His is survived by wife Becky, and two daughters Hannah and Emma. His family is planning a religious service arrangement to take place in New Jersey. Read More »
The Peabody- and Emmy-winning producer of CBS’ 60 Minutes died today of complications from pancreatic cancer at Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, NJ. Adrian “Clem” Taylor was 60. He won the Peabody Award last year for his uplifting 60 Minutes segment about an improbable orchestra in the heart of the Congo, broadcast on Easter Sunday 2012. It also won an Emmy, one of eight he earned during his career. Born in in Doylestown, PA, Taylor spent nearly 20 years at CBS News, the last four at 60 Minutes. He held a variety of producing jobs in the news division, rising to Senior Producer for The Early Show in the late 1990s. Before that, he was a producer in Washington, Dallas, and New York, and traveled to more than 20 countries for the network. His years assigned to the White House during the Reagan administration had Taylor covering many of the most important news stories of the 1980s, including the summit of Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland. He also worked for a decade at ABC News, where he produced reports for Primetime Live, 20/20, and the broadcast What Would You Do? He also produced for Fox News, CNBC and ESPN.
R.I.P. Bill McLaughlin
R.I.P. Newsman Bruce Dunning
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The British DP’s half-century career included an Academy Award for 1971′s Fiddler On The Roof and Oscar noms for two other musicals. Oswald Morris died yesterday at his home in Dorset, England. He was 98. He served as director of photography on nearly five dozen films, working alongside such top directors as Stanley Kubrick (Lolita), Sidney Lumet (The Wiz), Franco Zeffirelli (The Taming Of The Shrew), Herbert Ross (the helmer’s first feature Goodbye, Mr. Chips) and eight films for John Huston including Beat The Devil, Moby Dick and the Toulouse-Lautrec biopic Moulin Rouge. His credits also include Beau Brummell, Look Back In Anger, The Guns Of Navarone, Of Human Bondage, Bond pic The Man With The Golden Gun, Equus and The Great Muppet Caper. Morris earned his other Oscar noms for Oliver! and The Wiz. He also won BAFTA Awards for his camerawork on The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Hill and The Pumpkin Eater and received its Academy Fellowship in 1997. Read More »
Comedian David Brenner died today at his home in New York, NY. He was 78. A favorite of Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson, Brenner made over 150 appearances as a guest and substitute host on the NBC latenight show, starting in the ’70s. A contemporary of such stand-up legends as Andy Kaufman, Freddie Prinze and Gabe Kaplan, Brenner made a name for his observational comedic styling accentuated by his toothy grin, wavy hair and lanky demeanor. Brenner was born on Feb. 4, 1936 in Philadelphia, the son of a vaudeville singer and comedian who went under the stage name “Lou Murphy”. Read More »
The first man to play Captain Video — the Guardian of the Safety of the World! — in the early days of television died today in Los Angeles. Richard Coogan was 99. He starred on the first two seasons of Captain Video And His Video Rangers, the popular low-budget space opera that premiered in 1949 on the DuMont Network. The future-set series aired for a half-hour Monday through Friday, also on Saturdays in 1950, with a reported prop budget of 25 bucks a week. The jut-jawed Coogan played a scientific genius who invented radical weapons and led a vast network of defenders of good. The program was a favorite of The Honeymooners‘ Ralph Cramden and Ed Norton, who were card-carrying members of the Captain Video Space Rangers fan club. After leaving Captain Video, the New Jersey native starred on the CBS soap Love Of Life and toplined late-’50s Gold Rush drama The Californians. He also appeared in 1950s features including Girl On The Run and Three Hours To Kill and went on to guest on TV series including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Perry Mason and Laramie. He began his acting career on Broadway, appearing in about a half-dozen productions from 1945-55.