Thursday, March 3, 2016

3 Master Cinematographers, And Others We've Lost

GEORGE KENNEDY (L), Leslie Nielsen (R)



ROBERT LOGGIA attended the 2007 AFI-Dallas Film Festival




Dallas-schooled YVONNE "BATGIRL" CRAIG




 Well Producers, this started out as my annual informative article on some industry-at-large giants we lost in the last year, up through last month, starting with the three Master Cinematographers who died in quick succession starting December 27.  Well, just as I was finishing it, I tried to remove one photo and all my text vanished, and I couldn't undo.   Not a clue why, suggestions welcome. Anyway, at least here's the pics of these distinguished actors, directors and DP's, two of whom were involved with classic Dallas cult movies.  If you don't know them, look them up!  You'll be glad you did, they were all fascinating.

--  by Gordon K. Smith

Wednesday, February 18, 2015



Give up on this one?  See #4.

The long-awaited return of "IT CAME FROM DALLAS!" is just around the corner, in fact our ninth edition, "THE SHOW WITH 9 LIVES!" is Thursday Feb. 19th at The Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson at 7:30pm (get there early!)  Get your industry juices flowing by taking one last look at some of the greats from TV and film we lost in 2014 (we'll pay tribute to those from our metroplex and state at the show).  I think you have to go back to 1977, the year we lost Elvis, Groucho, Chaplin, Bing Crosby and Joan Crawford to find a comparable year in which so many greats passed, and this is just a selection.  For more on Thursday's show, go to

Be there or be square!

1. JUANITA MOORE (1/1, age 99)
Moore was the third African American actress to be nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, for 1959's cult fave IMITATION OF LIFE (contrary to popular belief, Susan Kohner, not Natalie Wood, played her daughter. Both were white). She was a very familiar face in movies and TV for decades, started as a dancer and in early black cast films. Moore hosted screenings of IMITATION nearly to the end of her life, including at Dallas and the Turner Classic Film Festival.

2. MAXIMILLIAN SCHELL (2/1, age 83)
Austrian-born actor beat out Paul Newman and Spencer Tracy for the Best Actor Oscar for JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG ('61), in a role he first played on television 2 years before (a first). Also nominated for MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH and JULIA; you might remember him as the villain in Disney's THE BLACK HOLE. One of the most successful foreign actors.

The extraordinary actor/director made his major feature debut in LEAP OF FAITH ('92, filmed in Dallas and Panhandle locations), the next year in Austin for MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK (aka JOHNNY ZOMBIE). Best Actor Oscar for the title role of CAPOTE ('05); also nominated for DOUBT, CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR, and THE MASTER. Other films include THE BIG LEBOWSKI, TWISTER, NOBODY'S FOOL, MONEYBALL, MAGNOLIA, ALMOST FAMOUS and THE HUNGER GAMES series (there's one left). Never married, he had 3 children from a longtime companion. Heroin overdose.

4. SHIRLEY TEMPLE (2/10, age 85)
The most famous child star ever made her film debut at age 3 in 1932 (Honorary Juvenile Oscar at 6) and left Hollywood in 1949 (even though she was by then quite a knockout, as you can see). She was the #1 box office star from 1935-38 and the first to be a superstar of merchandising. A TV host into the '60s, then became US Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslavakia. At 17 married her first husband, WWII hero/actor John Agar, lasted 5 years. They costarred in FORT APACHE. Later Agar appeared in the Dallas “B” classics ZONTAR THING FROM VENUS, CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE, NIGHT FRIGHT and HELL RAIDERS.

5. SID CAESAR (2/12, age 91)
Comedy genius actor/writer/musician who was huge on '50s TV (1982's MY FAVORITE YEAR is based on his “Your Show of Shows”). Movies: IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, SILENT MOVIE, GREASE. Hosted SNL in '83.

6. HAROLD RAMIS (2/24, age 69)
Comedy director, writer and actor. “Spengler” in (and writer of) GHOSTBUSTERS. Director/writer of GROUNDHOG DAY, ANALYZE THIS, STRIPES, and CADDYSHACK. Writer of ANIMAL HOUSE, many others..

7. MICKEY ROONEY (4/6, age 93)
Rooney's career started in the silents at age 4 and lasted until NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (2014), which also featured the last major-release appearance of Robin Williams. That's a span of 89 years, a record matched only by Carla Laemmle (see below), and Rooney's was nonstop. Famous first for the MICKEY MCGUIRE comedy shorts (that spanned the silent and sound eras), then the musical teamings with Judy Garland (BABES IN ARMS, etc), then as awkward teen Andy Hardy in the ANDY HARDY series, name it, in every genre and onstage. Along the way, a special Juvenile Oscar in 1939, four nominations for acting (the last being THE BLACK STALLION, '79) and an Honorary Oscar in '83. Rooney was here for the 2008 AFI-Dallas Film Festival. Films include IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, NATIONAL VELVET, THE HUMAN COMEDY. The WWII vet had 4 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The first of his 8 wives was Ava Gardner.

8. BOB HOSKINS (4/29, age 71)
British actor Oscar-nominated for MONA LISA ('86), and had a huge US hit with WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBITT ('88). Thanks to his resemblance to Al Capone, Hoskins played many gangsters, and was going to play Capone himself in THE UNTOUCHABLES until Robert De Niro became available (Hoskins took a generous payoff and joked about more roles he could get paid off not to take). Last seen in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN ('12).

9. GORDON WILLIS (5/18, age 82)
Master cinematographer Willis was nicknamed “The Prince of Darkness” for his groundbreaking low lighting for THE GODFATHER I-III and Woody Allen's films. In fact, that nearly got him fired from THE GODFATHER when Paramount execs thought he didn't know what he was doing. Despite revolutionizing the field in the '70s and '80s, Willis only got two Oscar nominations, for ZELIG ('83) and THE GODFATHER III ('90). Other films included THE PARALLAX VIEW, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN and lastly, THE DEVIL'S OWN ('97). Son Gordon Willis Jr. worked in Dallas for several years.

10. HERB JEFFRIES (5/25, age 100)
Part Irish, part Ethiopean, Jeffries was an actor, singer, and calypso singer famous as “The Bronze Buckaroo” in a series of all-black westerns in the '30s and '40s. His comic sidekick in those films was Spencer Williams, later to become the first man in Dallas to make narrative feature films and a future (posthumous) DPA Pioneer Filmmaker.

11. MARTHA HYER (5/31, age 89)
The Fort Worth native was a Hollywood star of the '50s, getting an Oscar nomination for SOME CAME RUNNING (1958). Also in SABRINA ('54 version) and such cult films as FIRST MEN IN THE MOON and THE CHASE ('66), plus many TV shows.

12. RUBY DEE (6/11, age 91)
One of the greatest stars of African-American theatre, TV, and film, Dee was married to actor Ossie Davis for 57 years and costarred with him 9 times, from 1950's NO WAY OUT to 1994's miniseries THE STAND.  Also appeared 4 times with Sidney Poitier.  She got a long-overdue Oscar nomination in 2007 for AMERICAN GANGSTER as Denzel Washington's mother.  She was the second oldest acting nominee ever, at 83.

13. CARLA LAEMMLE (6/12, age 104)
She said the first line of dialog in Universal's original 1931 DRACULA -- making it the first line of dialog spoken in an American horror film, period.  Getting cast was a cinch considering she was the niece of Universal founder Carl Laemmle.  She also appeared in another Universal horror classic - the silent 1925 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  Carla left movies after 1939, but came back to do some cameos in just the last 5 years -- starting at age 99.  That 89-year span matches Mickey Rooney's as the longest in movie history.

14.  ELI WALLACH (6/24, age 98)
Despite his Polish-Jewish background, New York-born Wallach played the two most famous Mexican bandits in movie history: Calvera in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), and, the role for which he was known around the world, Tuco in 1967's THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY ("Hey blondie!  Tu madre es un gran puta!").  Wallach went way down south to graduate in 1936 from the University of Texas at Austin, because he couldn't afford New York City colleges (UTA cost $40 then). His classmates included Ann Sheridan, John Connally and Walter Cronkite, a lifelong friend. Eli made his debut in 1956's BABY DOLL (as an Italian), a movie that caused such a scandal that it was condemned by the Catholic Church.  He costarred with everyone from Gable to Monroe to Pacino, and played many gangsters in his later years (Don Altobello in GODFATHER III).  And, one of the 3 "Mr. Freeze's" on "Batman".  At the age of 96 finally got a LONG overdue Honorary Oscar.  His wife of 66 years was actress Anne Jackson.

15.  PAUL MAZURSKY (6/30, age 84)
Started as an actor in the '50s (BLACKBOARD JUNGLE), co-created "The Monkees" TV hit in 1966.  As director/writer/producer, he became a favorite of critics and five-time Oscar nominee for BOB&CAROL&TED&ALICE, HARRY & TONTO, DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, NEXT STOP GREENWICH VILLAGE, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN and (perhaps his most underrated) MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, and many others.

16.  JAMES GARNER (7/19, 86)
The much-loved TV and movie star (and Korean vet) from Norman, Oklahoma made his film debut in TOWARD THE UNKNOWN ('56), then superstardom as TV's "Maverick" ('57-'62).  An even bigger hit was "The Rockford Files" ('74-'80); Garner continued to play both characters in numerous revivals, cameos,  and reboots. Best Actor Oscar nominee for MURPHY'S ROMANCE.  Last major film was the cult weeper THE NOTEBOOK ('04), but THE GREAT ESCAPE ('63) remains many people's favorite Garner flick.

17. DICK SMITH (7/30, age 92)
All you who make horror flicks - thanks to makeup genius Smith we know what demonic possession looks like  - Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST.  Smith did all kinds of makeup but he pioneered a lot of the violence/gore/horror effects that have dominated movies ever since.  You saw them in THE GODFATHER, TAXI DRIVER, THE SENTINEL, STARMAN. 
Oscar winner for AMADEUS,  Honorary Oscar in 2012.

18. ROBIN WILLIAMS (8/11, age 63)
It was producer/actor John Houseman who told Williams at Julliard to forget being a serious actor and get into standup comedy.  That dramatic training certainly helped his Oscar-nominated performances in GOOD MORNING VIETNAM, DEAD POETS SOCIETY,  THE FISHER KING, and GOOD WILL HUNTING (Best Supporting Actor winner).  He really did make his debut in a grindhouse comedy called CAN I DO IT UNTIL I NEED GLASSES? ('77);  lucky for us all, "Mork & Mindy" came along ('78 - '82).  After several bigscreen flops in recent years he tried another series with "The Crazy Ones" ('13-'14) but it was canceled. Both he and Mickey Rooney made their final major feature appearance in NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB last Christmas.  His intended last lead role, A MERRY FRIGGIN' CHRISTMAS, was judged so bad it mercifully went straight to video. You haven't seen all of his great performances until you see his most underrated one, in MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON.   A true comic genius who battled depression while making us laugh.   Thanks, Robin.

19.  LAUREN BACALL (8/12, age 89)
Betty Joan Perske was born in New York City to a Polish-Jewish family and as a teenager started a successful modeling career.  A Harper's Magazine cover got her cast in Warner Bros.' TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT.  She was 19, Humphrey Bogart was 44, and they hit it off, despite the fact he was still married to his third wife at the time.  "Bogie and Bacall" married a year later and made a total of 6 films together (THE BIG SLEEP, KEY LARGO, DARK PASSAGE, etc.)   After his death in 1957, she did theatre work and was married to Jason Robards (who resembled Bogie then) from '61 to '69.   After winning Tonys for "Applause" and "Woman of the Year", she returned onscreen in the '70s.  Her only Oscar nomination was for 1996's THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES as Barbra Streisand's mother, which she surprisingly lost to Juliette Binoche for THE ENGLISH PATIENT.  She did get an Honorary Oscar (alongside Roger Corman!) in 2010. She was a guest at the 2007 AFI-Dallas Film Festival and returned 3 years later at the Nasher. Bacall redefined sex in American Cinema in her time; if you think old movies are strictly puritan, go now and rent TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and THE BIG SLEEP.  "You know how to whistle, don't you Steve?  You just pucker up and blow."

A well-regarded British character actor (THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE SAND PEBBLES), Attenborough switched to directing in 1969.  His GANDHI ('82) beat out E.T. for Best Picture and Director Oscars; yet Spielberg revived his acting career by casting him as the head honcho of JURASSIC PARK ('93).   You probably never even heard of Attenborough's last attempt at an epic biopic, GREY OWL (2000), starring Pierce Brosnan - because it was considered so dull it couldn't find a single American distributor and went straight to video here - the biggest-budget film at the time to do so (that was a big deal in the home vid biz).  Other films he directed included A CHORUS LINE, CHAPLIN and SHADOWLANDS. 

21. JOAN RIVERS (9/4, age 81)
Another comic legend we lost in 2014, Joan Molinsky started as a comedy writer for TV, broke into standup, was made first permanent guest host on "The Tonight Show", and eventually into all media.  She even got a Tony nomination for a Broadway play.  She usually played herself in her film and TV appearances, but she'll be remembered as the voice of Dot Matrix in Mel Brooks' SPACEBALLS ('87).  And, like most great comics, she tried at least one straight drama role, in THE SWIMMER ('68).  She died from complications during a routine endoscopy.

22. RICHARD KIEL (9/10, age 74)
The world discovered 7'2" Kiel as giant hitman Jaws in THE SPY WHO LOVE ME ('77) and MOONRAKER ('79), but he'd been around since 1961, in such drive-in faves as THE PHANTOM PLANET, THE MAGIC SWORD, THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS and the one-star classic EEGAH!  I loved him as Voltaire, the towering sidekick to Michael Dunn's Dr. Loveless on "The Wild Wild West".  In addition to appearing on just about every '60s series (memorable "Twilight Zone" episode "To Serve Man", though oddly never on "Star Trek") he faced off with Clint Eastwood in PALE RIDER and did a lot of voice work when his health issues kept him off the big screen.  Kiel was here for the Alamo Drafthouse screening of MOONRAKER in 2012.

23. MIKE NICHOLS (11/19, 83)
The Oscar-winning director of THE GRADUATE started his career as a comedian, one of the founders of Second City.  His rep as a stage director got him hired to direct WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? ('66), first of four director nominations.  The others were for WORKING GIRL and the essential Dallas production SILKWOOD ('83).  Nichols' other works include CATCH-22, CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, WOLF, CLOSER, THE BIRDCAGE, CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR (his final feature) and the miniseries "Angels in America".

24. LUISE RAINER (12/30, age 104)
Rainer began making movies in her native Germany in the early '30s, then accepted a 7-year contract with MGM and moved to Hollywood, just in time to escape Hitler's escalating persecution of Jews.  She became the first actor/actress to win back-to-back Oscars, for THE GREAT ZIEGFELD ('36) and THE GOOD EARTH ('37), a trick most recently earned by Tom Hanks in the '90s.  She was married to leftist playwright Clifford Odets for 3 years, during which she was finally kicked out of MGM for her rebelliousness.  Made her last Hollywood film in '43,  then did theatre, finally turning up on American TV for one episode of "Combat" in the '60s and a "Love Boat" (!) in the '70s.  For years she wore the title of oldest-living Oscar winner, making recent appearances on the telecast and at the Turner Classic Film Festival.

--by Gordon K. Smith

Friday, February 14, 2014


SEE #8


SEE #7, #11, & #16.



Okay, we know that you're consumed with two burning questions right now:

1.  Why did I bet the rent on Denver? 
2.  What's happening with the It Came From Dallas show this month?

We can't help you with #1, but the answer to #2 is:  nothing.  The annual show you can't live without is taking a break in '14 (it's in turnaround, back in development, getting retooled,  etc.) Look for it to return, like James Bond, in the first quarter of 2015.   We will keep you updated, and in the meantime, we'll feature some highlights from previous shows on upcoming blogs (keep checking back).

Meanwhile, not too late to take our annual look back at some of those entertainment professionals we lost in 2013 -- the famous and not-so-famous-but-notable. The list includes two Hitchcock blondes, a special effects pioneer, a WWII icon, a '60s cult icon, a '70s cult icon, the mack daddy of film critics, and more.

1. PATTY ANDREWS (1/30, age 94)
Last surviving member of The Andrews Sisters, who kept our spirits high during WWII on radio, records, USO appearances, and movies like Abbott & Costello's BUCK PRIVATES and Hope & Crosby's ROAD TO RIO.
"He was the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B!!!"

2. DALE ROBERTSON (2/27, age 90) 
Oklahoman WWII vet, in movies from '48, who starred in SON OF SINBAD ('55), and countless westerns, including TV series Tales of Wells Fargo (1957-59), Iron Horse ('66-68), and the 1982 season of Dallas.

3. VAN CLIBURN (2/27, age 78)
Time magazine called him "The Texan Who Conquered Russia" when he beat'em at their own game by winning the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at age 23. New York gave him the only ticker-tape parade ever for a classical musician.  He played for many foreign countries and every president from Harry Truman to Obama. Awards included the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  His Van Cliburn Foundation in Ft. Worth holds the Quadrennial Competition.  Cliburn had bone cancer.  For another DFW notable see #19.

4. ROGER EBERT (4/4, age 70)
Before hosting Sneak Previews with Gene Siskels on PBS and its later incarnations ('78-'06) and winning the first Pulitzer Prize for Film Criticism, Chicago-based Ebert wrote X-rated screenplays for Russ Meyer-- BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS ('70), UP! ('76) and BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRAVIXENS ('79).  He bridged the gap between high-brow film analysis and the populist kind with his upraised thumb, which he actually trademarked.  He kept writing even after losing his jaw to cancer; his last reviews were of MUD and TO THE WONDER.  Ebert did a lot to create the cults for such films as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, INFRA-MAN and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (which was odd considering his later rants against movie misogyny).  One of his trips to Dallas was the 1981 USA Film Festival.

5. ANNETTE FUNICELLO (4/8, age 70)
Before Britney, Justin, and Ryan, there was the first Mousketeer superstar, who went from Disney Tv shows and movies starting in the late '50s to American International Pictures' BEACH PARTY series, with Frankie Avalon and guest stars like Buster Keaton and Vincent Price.  Walt insisted to AIP boss Sam Arkoff that Annette always wear a one-piece (note the compromise).  After shows like Fantasy Island and 1988's reunion flick BACK TO THE BEACH with Avalon (and a Stevie Ray Vaughn cameo) Annette retired, later announcing her struggle with MS.  She lost it last year. Thanks, Annette.

6. JONATHAN WINTERS (4/11, age 87)
Hugely influential comedian who did his best work on TV but still fondly remembered for IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD and THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING... in the '60s.
Robin Williams considered him a mentor and got him cast in Mork & Mindy as his dad.  Winters did commercials in Dallas;  his 1956-58 TV variety show was the first series shown via videotape.

7. DEANNA DURBIN (4/20, age 91)
Universal Studio's answer to MGM's Judy Garland.  Durbin was immensely popular as America's favorite singing daughter from 1937's THREE SMART GIRLS.   She grew tired of Hollywood and walked away from a smashing career in 1948 to settle in France.  In the years since she only granted one interview.

8. RAY HARRYHAUSEN (5/7, age 92)
Almost impossible to overestimate this genius'  vast influence on the cinematic special effects that dominate modern movies. Ray didn't invent stop-motion animation, but what an art he took it to! He called his complex and painstaking integration of live and animated footage "Dynamation". He started animating WWII propaganda films, then George Pal's Puppetoon series, then teamed with his mentor Willis O'Brien on 1949's still-impressive MIGHTY JOE YOUNG.  He shared an FX Oscar with O'Brien for that (although he did most of the work), and amazingly was never nominated again, finally winning an overdue Honorary Oscar in 1992 for his body of work.  That body includes BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (the first in color), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (arguably his masterpiece), ONE MILLION YEARS BC, GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD and more, ending with the original CLASH OF THE TITANS ('81).  References and in-jokes to his films, many of which he also produced/wrote, still abound, especially in Pixar films.  Harryhausen did a Dallas showcase/booksigning in 2006.  Thanks, Ray.

9. JEAN STAPLETON (5/31, age 90)
Famous as Edith Bunker on All In The Family ('71-'78, multiple awards), Stapleton was a serious New York stage actress who made her film debut in 1958's DAMN YANKEES!  Norman Lear saw her repeat the role in a 1970 TV redo, and the rest was history.  Her other film appearances included KLUTE ('71), and MICHAEL ('96, Austin).

10. ESTHER WILLIAMS (6/6, age 91)
Swimming champion turned stunning queen of MGM's water-ballet musicals -- ZEIGFELD FOLLIES, NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER, MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID, ON AN ISLAND WITH YOU,  She made her debut messing with Mickey Rooney's head in ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE ('42). Best of her "dry" roles was '56's THE UNGUARDED MOMENT.  Quit movies in the '60s to sell her swimsuit line and support the Republican Party. Husband #2 was Fernando Lamas,  famously parodied by Billy Crystal.

11. JAMES GANDOLFINI (6/19, age 51)
You might have first noticed this New Jersey actor beating up Patricia Arquette in TRUE ROMANCE ('93) or getting thrown down a flight of stars by John Travolta in GET SHORTY ('95).  But everybody noticed him as wiseguy-with-a-heart Tony in The Sopranos ('99-'07).  He won 3 Emmys and a Golden Globe for the role, but wanted to expand afterward, as Leon Panetti in ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) and the romantic comedy ENOUGH SAID (2013).  That last was released posthumously, as will be his final appearance in THE DROP this year.  Died of a heart attack in Italy.  Film debut: THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991).

12. RICHARD MATHESON (6/23, age 87)
Pop quiz - what do THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, I AM LEGEND, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, REAL STEEL, DUEL, THE BOX,  and many classic episodes of Twilight Zone have in common?  They were all based on stories and/or screenplays by this prolific writer of novels, short stories and film/TV scripts.  If you're a baby boomer, you read or watched scores of them.  LEGEND was the third official version of Matheson's influential 1954 novel (Charlton Heston's OMEGA MAN is another); its countless rip-offs and derivatives include NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and much of today's vampire and zombie fiction.

13. JIM KELLY (6/29, age 67)
Martial arts star of 1973's ENTER THE DRAGON (with the huge Afro) and other '70s exploitation/blaxploitation flicks like THREE THE HARD WAY and BLACK BELT JONES.

14.  CORY MONTEITH (7/13, 31)
Finn Hudson on 88 episodes of TVs Glee (like the other "kids", a bit past 18), Monteith struggled with drug addiction for years and died, after mixing booze and heroin, in Vancouver (he was born in Alberta).  Films include FINAL DESTINATION 3 ('06) and MONTE CARLO. 

15. DENNIS FARINA (7/22, age 69)
Former New York cop who went from set security to on-screen actor with THIEF (1981), specializing in cops and wise guys.  He had his own series with Crime Story ('86-88) and replaced Jerry Orbach on Law & Order.  Memorable in MANHUNTER, MIDNIGHT RUN, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, SNATCH, THAT OLD FEELING, OUT OF SIGHT,
and especially GET SHORTY ("I.e., e.g., ____ you!).  Heart attack.

16. EILEEN BRENNAN (7/28, age 80)
Great character actress who started in Laugh-In ('68) and was memorable as Genevieve the waitress in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW ('71) and Oscar-nominated as Goldie Hawn's D.I. in PRIVATE BENJAMIN ('80), and the subsequent series. Also in TEXASVILLE, THE STING, CLUE, MURDER BY DEATH, many TV roles.

17. MICHAEL ANSARA (7/31, age 91)
Character actor of Syrian descent who was one of those all-purpose ethnics in Hollywood movies and TV from the early '50s, playing scores of American Indians, East Indians, Asians, Latinos and Middle Easterners. Known for playing Cochise in series Broken Arrow (56-58) and as the Vulcan leader Kang in Star Trek episode "Day of the Dove",  which he repeated many years later on ST: Deep Space 9 and ST: Voyager.  His wife from '58 - '74 was Barbara Eden.

18.  KAREN BLACK (8/8, age 74)
Cult actress since the '60s who was Oscar-nominated for FIVE EASY PIECES ('70).  Made her film debut in Coppola's YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW ('66), went on to EASY RIDER, AIRPORT '74, DRIVE HE SAID, NASHVILLE, DAY OF THE LOCUST, FAMILY PLOT ('76, as the final Hitchcock blonde), many others.  Since the '80s she appeared in countless low-budget horror, exploitation and indie films, including a cameo in Rob Zombie's HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES.

19. AUGUST SCHELLENBERG (8/15, age 77)
Canadian-born half-Mohawk actor who settled in Dallas for the last phase of his career.  Emmy-nominated as Sitting Bull in HBO's BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE (2007). Movies and TV from early '70s, including BLACK ROBE ('91), MISSIONARY MAN (Dallas) , THE NEW WORLD, FREE WILLY, Walker Texas Ranger, many more.  At our next ICFD show, we'll commemorate other local industry folks we lost since our last show.

20. ELMORE LEONARD (8/20, age 87)
OK, now what do JOE KIDD, 3:10 TO YUMA, JACKIE BROWN, OUT OF SIGHT, GET SHORTY,  and the current series Justified have in common?  All adapted from the works of prolific pulp writer Leonard, famous in the '50s for his westerns, and in recent decades, darkly funny crime/noir fiction, and that's just some of 'em.  Check out the 1957 original 3:10 TO YUMA sometime, with Glenn Ford.

21. JULIE HARRIS (8/24, age 87)
An acclaimed stage actress who made some notable film appearances, in MEMBER OF THE WEDDING ('52, Oscar nomination), as James Dean's girlfriend in EAST OF EDEN ('55), and the psychic in the original THE HAUNTING ('63).  Also was the cinema's first Sally Bowes in I AM A CAMERA ('55, remade 17 years later as the musical CABARET).   TV series:  Knots Landing ('79).

22. TOM CLANCY (10/1, age 66)
Although not a military veteran, Clancy's espionage novels were acclaimed bestsellers and became the Jack Ryan film series -- HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER ('90), PATRIOT GAMES, A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (also ex.producer), and current JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT. He also wrote and produced a successful video game series.

23. HAL NEEDHAM (10/25, age 82)
Hal started as a TV/movie stuntman/stunt director in the 1950's, then moved up to director in the '70s, scoring big with action comedies -- SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, THE VILLAIN, HOOPER, MEGAFORCE, et. al.

24. PAUL WALKER (11/30, age 40)
A star worldwide for the FAST & FURIOUS series, Walker started as a child actor and model.  Minutes after leaving an event for his charity Reach Out Worldwide, he and pal Roger Rodas hit a tree less than a mile away at about 120 mph in the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT Rodas was driving.  Both died instantly.  He first came to notice in such early hits as SHE'S ALL THAT,  PLEASANTVILLE and VARSITY BLUES (1999, Austin).  Walker was halfway through filming F&F #7 and has two other posthumous films coming out.  Expect some CGI work to "complete" his role, as it will for Phillip Seymour Hoffman's final HUNGER GAMES role.

25. ELEANOR PARKER (12/9, age 91)
When this beautiful actress, famous as The Baroness in THE SOUND OF MUSIC ('65) passed away, there were quips that she must have watched NBC's live TV version the week before. She was Oscar-nominated for CAGED ('50, the prototype women-in-prison flick), DETECTIVE STORY and INTERRUPTED MELODY, and was memorable in MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM and THE NAKED JUNGLE.

26. TOM LAUGHLIN (12/12, age 82)
Actor/director/producer/indie maverick Laughlin had small roles in such '50s films as SOUTH PACIFIC and TEA AND SYMPATHY, and starred in Robert Altman's first feature, THE DELINQUENTS ('57).  By the '60s, he was directing and starring in his own independent features.  One of those was 1967's BORN LOSERS, in which he debuted the character of Billy Jack.  It was the 1971 hit sequel, BILLY JACK, that made Laughlin a bona fide cult star of the '70s. He sued Warners to gain complete control over the film and won, re-releasing it himself in '73 and raking in $40 million -- making it one of the most successful indies ever.  1974's TRIAL OF BILLY JACK followed, then BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON (which really exists, although never released).  Laughlin dropped out of sight soon after, though he tried for a comeback in 1986 with RETURN OF BILLY JACK (never completed).  He distributed the JACK quadrilogy himself on home video, and was a published/web psychologist, Jungian philosopher and Montessori educator.  Delores Taylor, his costar in JACK, was his wife for 60 years.  BTW, his hapkido moves in JACK were doubled by Master Bong Soo Han.  "I...just...go...BERSERK!!!"

27. PETER O'TOOLE (12/14, age 81)
Irish-born O'Toole was an unknown when he was cast in the lead of 1962's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and had that not been the year of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, he would have won the Oscar hands down for his complex portrayal (try to imagine Brando in the role.  Nearly happened).  He was nominated seven more times (GOODBYE MR. CHIPS, THE RULING CLASS, MY FAVORITE YEAR,  etc.) and never won -- the most acting noms without a win -- but was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2003.  Here's another O'Toole trivia gem -- he was the only actor to date to be nominated twice for playing the same character in otherwise unrelated films -- as Henry II in BECKET ('64) and LION IN WINTER ('68).   He has two posthumous releases this year.   Dallas connection: one of his all-time best, 1980's THE STUNTMAN (required viewing for our industry), was "discovered" at that year's USA Film Festival (2 years after production) and went on to cult-movie glory and 3 Oscar noms.

28. JOAN FONTAINE (12/15, age 96)
When she won the Best Actress Oscar in 1942 for SUSPICION (the only acting Oscar awarded a Hitchcock film),  Fontaine's main competition was her sister Olivia de Havilland for HOLD BACK THE DAWN.  This cemented a lifelong and highly publicized feud between the two, who were born in Tokyo to British parents who later moved to California.   Fontaine had been nominated the year before for Hitch's REBECCA, and again 2 years later for THE CONSTANT NYMPH.  Her last feature was the 1966 horror THE DEVIL'S OWN (one of the '60s fad of casting older name actresses in horror--Olivia had a hit with HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE), but she continued in TV until 1994, including a soap opera stint on Ryan's Hope.   Olivia is still kickin' at 97, the last surviving major star of GONE WITH THE WIND.    Weird trivia fact:  Fontaine sued Blockbuster Inc. in 1996 because she didn't like the VHS box blurb written by yours truly for ORSON WELLES' OTHELLO.  Eventually dismissed.

--by Gordon K. Smith

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Some Folks We Lost Jan-June 2012



Okay, you who've been in your fallout shelter since December 21 (HA-ha),  time to get out and get ready for the next World Shaking Event, namely the Eighth Edition of IT CAME FROM DALLAS!, coming to The Studio Movie Grill in Dallas on Thursday February 21st.  We've found all-new long-unseen treasures from the vault of offbeat film and television made in DFW.  And, as a special feature this year, we'll take a tour of cinematic gems from Austin, Houston, and other Texas regions. Plus, more industry players and celebs on their favorite Dallas movies and production anecdotes, and our yearly tribute to local personalities we lost in 2012.  More on this year's show to come, in the meantime, a look back at various personalities of film, TV, music and media we lost in the first half of 2012 -- some famous, some not, some you never heard of but will find interesting.

1.  FREDERICA SAGOR MAAS (1/5, age 111)
Yes, age 111 (third oldest person in California at her death). Screenwriter and producer of the silent era who wrote screenplays and stories for Greta Garbo, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks,  Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and many others. One was Bow's big hit, THE PLASTIC AGE (1927).  Bow was a close friend, 5 years younger, and died 46 years before she did.  Maas' career faltered the sound era, her last credit being THE SHOCKING MISS PILRIM, a Betty Grable musical.  She left Hollywood in 1950, but wrote her autobiography in 1999 (in which she claimed others stole many of her writing credits) and made public appearances at silent film festivals. 

2. JAMES FARENTINO (1/24, age 73)
Actor who was all over TV in the '60s, '70s and '80s.  His many series included The Bold Ones and Dynasty, and occasional movies such as THE FINAL COUNTDOWN and BULLETPROOF.  His career suffered from booze and drug problems and being charged with stalking Tina Sinatra (daughter of Frank),  which led to many jokes about daddy Sinatra being a poor choice of people to piss off...

3. DON CORNELIUS (2/1, age 75)
Former Chicago cop who created and produced Soul Train in 1971, which he hosted for 22 years, and the Soul Train Awards shows.  He came to Texas in 1980 to act in ROADIE, one of his 3 film roles.  Cornelius committed suicide with a shotgun.  "We're wishing you Love, Peace, and SOULLLL!!!!!"

4.  BEN GAZZARA (2/3, age 81)
Actor's Studio grad who made a big impression in ANATOMY OF A MURDER ('59) but had his biggest success on Broadway, TV and niche films.  Known for 3 films with Peter Bogdanovich (SAINT JACK etc.), 5 with pal John Cassavetes (KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE etc.) and for playing a lot of gangsters, especially in THE BIG LEBOWSKI and ROADHOUSE.  Series:  Arrest and Trail, Run For Your Life.

5. WHITNEY HOUSTON (2/11, age 48)
In addition to her record seven consecutive #1 records and her multiple Grammys and other entertainment awards, Houston could have had a long career in movies if her personal problems hadn't gotten in the way.  She made five films, the last being 2012's remake of SPARKLE, released after her death and 15 years after her previous film (WAITING TO EXHALE).

6. DAVY JONES (2/29, age 66)
From Manchester, England, he was a child star on Broadway in "Oliver!", as The Artful Dodger,  in the early '60s.  On 2/9/64, he performed a musical number from "Oliver!" live on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Later in the same episode, a British rock group called The Beatles made their first live American TV appearance.  Two years later he was cast in NBC's answer to The Beatles, The Monkees (1966-'68), with Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and Dallasite Michael Nesmith.  Jones was the breakout star of the surprise hit, and surprise again, these guys really could make music and turn out some hit records for RCA.  The novelty had worn off by the time of the 1968 Monkees feature film HEAD (co-written by the boys and Jack Nicholson), but it, and the series, later gained a huge worldwide cult following through endless TV showings.  Jones appeared in many Monkees live and TV reunions, and died in Stuart, Florida.

7. ROBERT B. SHERMAN (3/5, age 86)
The man you want to thank for all those Disney songs that stuck in your head as a kid, which he cowrote with brother Richard.  They won Oscars for the score, and the song "Chim Chim Cheree", from MARY POPPINS, plus numerous nominations for songs for other Disney (and Disney-ish) flicks.

8. MIKE WALLACE (4/7, age 93)
The co-host of 75 episodes of 60 Minutes was an announcer in the earliest days of television for such shows as Sky King, did scores of commercials, and even acted a few times.   He was sued by General William Westmoreland in 1982 and settled out of  court.   He greatly disliked Christopher Plummer's portrayal of him in THE INSIDER (1999).

9. JONATHAN FRID (4/13, age 87)
The Canadian actor who became a TV icon as Barnabas Collins on the TV horror soap Dark Shadows from '67 to '71,  made his final appearance in a cameo in Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas.  Also appeared in the first DS film, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970) and Oliver Stone's directing debut, SEIZURE ('74).

10. DICK CLARK (4/18, age 82)
Did anyone do more for the American pop music industry?    In addition to creating and hosting American Bandstand for 20 years, he produced game shows, award shows, TV movies, feature films, hosted the New Year's Eve show...and acted.  Yep, from time to time he tried some serious acting, in BECAUSE THEY'RE YOUNG, THE YOUNG DOCTORS, KILLERS THREE, and the final episode of Perry Mason among others.   He did spots for Dr. Pepper in our fair city, and no doubt much more.

11.  DONNA SUMMER (5/17, AGE 63)
THE disco diva of the '70s, Summer won an Oscar for Best Song for 1979's THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY!, 2 years after the Academy failed to nominate the Bee Gees for anything for SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.  She made her performing debut in Germany in "Hair", where she hooked up  with Giorgio Moroder.  Her music, like Houston's, was heard on many film soundtracks.  Summer had cancer.  See below.

12.  ROBIN GIBBS (5/20, age 62)
Twin brother of fellow Bee Gee Maurice, and writer of "Stayin' Alive", both a great movie song and probably the most over-used song in movie history.  He lost a long battle with cancer.

13. RICHARD DAWSON (6/2, age 79)
British actor and comedian who hosted Family Feud from 1976 to 1985. and again in 1994.  Before that he was a regular on Laugh-In ('70 - '73) and Hogan's Heroes ('65-'71).    He made his film debut in THE LONGEST DAY ('62) and was quite effective in KING RAT ('65), THE RUNNING MAN ('87), and a memorable episode of the original Outer Limits ("The Invisibles", 1964).

14.  RAY BRADBURY (6/5, age 91)
Wonderful writer of fantastic fiction in stories, screenplays, novels, stage plays, and he wrote other genres as well.  His stories and screenplays became IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, FAHRENHEIT 451, THE SOUND OF THUNDER, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, The Ray Bradbury Theater, The Martian Chronicles and episodes of The Twilight Zone.  John Huston was so impressed with his writing that he hired him to script MOBY DICK in 1956.  After witnessing a gruesome car crash as a teenager, Bradbury never learned to drive.  Remakes of ILLUSTRATED MAN and 451 are in the works.

15.  ANN RUTHERFORD (6/11, age 94)
MGM contract star who played Scarlett O'Hara's sister Carreen in GONE WITH THE WIND.    Her other films included PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN, the ANDY HARDY series, and many TV roles.  Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie in GWTW, is still kickin' at 96, the last living leading cast member.

16.  NORA EPHRON (6/26, age 71)
The screenwriter of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, the Dallas-filmed SILKWOOD, the Austin-filmed MICHAEL, YOU'VE GOT MAIL JULIA AND JULIA, and many more, she reinvented the rom-com.   She also directed SLEEPLESS, MICHAEL, MAIL, and JULIA.   And she said one of my favorite showbiz quotes.   When asked how she would feel if SLEEPLESS was not nominated for a Screenplay Oscar, she answered, "On the list of the world's great injustices, it doesn't make the top million".   Turned out it was anyway, as was SILKWOOD and WHMS.   Meryl Streep played her in HEARTBURN ('86).  

Stay tuned for Part II, covering July-December 2012, and see you on the 21st!

---Gordon K. Smith


Sunday, October 14, 2012

DPA Member News: Cynthia Salzman-Mondell honored at Lois Weber Film Festival Oct 19

Grand Prairie Public Library System

Dallas independent filmmaker Cynthia Salzman-Mondell will be honored for her body of work at the 2nd Annual Lois Weber Film Festival. The Film Festival, which screens movies and documentaries by female directors, is hosted by the Grand Prairie Public Library and held at Grand Prairie’s historic Uptown Theater.
At 7:30 pm on Friday, October 19, the Library will award Salzman-Mondell the Lois Weber Award, for her impact on the Texas motion picture industry. Her movie The Ladies Room will be screened.

The Ladies Room takes you where no man has gone before … a hilarious 42-minute documentary about what really goes on behind closed doors. Women share stories of love, sex, marriage and divorce, and comment on everything from body image to their mothers … all the while fixing their hair and makeup.
Cynthia believes that films do make a difference in people's lives. This motivates her to marry her love for film and commitment to social change. She is now working on a film Sole Sisters, a fascinating exploration of women's identity told and seen through the intimate relationship between a woman and her shoes. Learn more at

She is co-founder with her husband Allen Mondell of award-winning film production and distribution company Media Projects, Inc.

The festival continues on Saturday, October 20.
11 am: Kung Fu Panda 2, by director Jennifer Yuh. 90 min. Rated PG. A murderous villain with a secret weapon that could end kung fu threatens Po, now the Dragon Warrior.

1:30 pm: Louie Louie, by director Cynthia Salzman Mondell. 29 min. Unrated. From the director: this portrait of a man living with Parkinson's disease provides an extremely insightful look into the physical and psychosocial challenges of this illness and the human will to survive.

2 pm: Christopher Strong, by director Dorothy Arzner. 79 min. Stars Katharine Hepburn as Lady Cynthia Darrington, a record-setting aviatrix who falls in love with a married Member of Parliament.

3:15 pm: The Sari Soldiers, by director Julie Bridgham. 92 minutes. Unrated.
From the studio: Filmed over three years during the most historic and pivotal time in Nepal’s modern history, The Sari Soldiers is an extraordinary story of six women’s courageous efforts to shape Nepal’s future in the midst of an escalating civil war against Maoist insurgents, and the King’s crackdown on civil liberties. When Devi, mother of a 15-year-old girl, witnesses her niece being tortured and murdered by the Royal Nepal Army, she speaks publicly about the atrocity. The army abducts her daughter in retaliation, and Devi embarks on a three-year struggle to uncover her daughter’s fate and see justice done.

The Sari Soldiers intimately delves into the extraordinary journey of women on opposing sides of the conflict, through the democratic revolution that reshapes the country’s future.

5 pm: The Savages, by director Tamara Jenkins. 114 min. Rated R.
Stars Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Two siblings still recovering from the abuse inflicted by their estranged father are forced into caring for him as his dementia increases.

Tickets each day for the festival are $5, or $3 with a Grand Prairie Library card. They are available at the Theater Box Office. The Theater and box office are located at 120 E. Main Street.

The Grand Prairie Main Library is the site of the Lois Weber Collection, a circulating collection of more than 300 films directed by women, from all time periods and many countries. Library cards are free, even to non-residents. The Main Library is located at 901 Conover Drive, in Grand Prairie. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

DPA Member News: WEEKEND RAILROADERS documentary screenings

DPA member Scott Peterson's documentary film "Weekend Railroaders" will be featured during the 7th Annual Cotton Belt Railroad Symposium held at Texas A&M University-Commerce. The film will screen on Friday, October 5, at 6:30pm at the Sam Rayburn Student Center and again on Saturday, October 6, at 1:45pm followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker.

About the Film:
A unique documentary film about railroad motor car excursions and the people participating in them, Weekend Railroaders explores the excitement, satisfaction and camaraderie of railroad enthusiasts through personal interviews and action footage from rail cars during speeder runs. Featuring author and historian Leon Sapp, relive the history of railroad motor cars through their restoration and rebirth in the hands of hobbyists. A must for all rail fans, experience a weekend ride on working freight railroads with a colorful cast of riders.

Filmed at various locations in Texas, including Rockwall, Llano, Dallas, Carrollton, Greenville, Commerce, and Sulpher Springs. Additional footage was shot in Wilburton, OK.

About the Filmmaker:
Scott Peterson is a commercial producer and director specializing in corporate video and animation through his company, CREW Media. He is a member of the Dallas Producers Association and serves on the Board of Directors of the Rockwall County Alliance for the Arts.