Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones of The Monkees.
Singer/actor Davy Jones of the 1960s pop group The Monkees has died in Florida at age 66. Jones began his career as young actor in British TV series including Coronation Street and Z Cars. He flirted with the notion of becoming a jockey but ended up playing with Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and Mike Nesmith as the group The Monkees, which took the world by storm in 1966 through their popular TV series. The group broke up in 1971 but has successfully reunited for tours several times since then, though Nesmith was generally not involved. Jones also continued to perform his solo act and was scheduled to hold a concert at the end of March. For more click here
Howard Kissel, the respected chief theater critic for the New York Daily News, has died from complications with a liver transplant at age 69. Kissel did not have the acerbic personality of some other legendary theater critics such as Frank Rich and John Simon but his influence carried considerable weight. He reviewed the Broadway scene for the Daily News for two decades. He also served as Chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. His books included a scathing biography of the legendary show producer David Merrick, witty titled by Kissel as 'The Abominable Showman'. Kissel also appeared as Woody Allen's manager in the 1980 film Stardust Memories.Click here for more
Dory Previn, who scored Oscar nominations for writing songs from the motion pictures Pepe and Two for the Seesaw, has died at age 86. She once enjoyed a prolific writing partnership with her husband, Andre Previn, with whom she wrote the hit title song from Valley of the Dolls. However, when she learned of Andre's affair with Mia Farrow, the two divorced. She had other failed marriages and bouts of mental illness but continued to write acclaimed music that included the theme song to the 1973 film Last Tango in Paris. For more click here
The beloved and acclaimed Irish character actor David Kelly has died at age 82. Among his memorable screen roles were appearances in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Waking Ned Devine, in which he rode s9ymdb:5579 through the Irish countryside naked on a motorcycle. He also appeared in countless British TV series beginning in the 1950s. For more click here
Whitney Houston, who once seemed to have an unstoppable career as a chart-topping singer and popular actress, has died at age 48. Houston's career plummeted after a destructive marriage to singer Bobby Brown characterized by the couple's high profile battles and reports of spousal abuse. Houston also found it impossible to stay away from dangerous drugs that may have contributed to her death. For more click here
Zalman King, who left a successful acting career to become a triple threat director, producer and writer, has died from cancer at age 70. King is best known for specializing in high end soft-core erotica. He produced the successful 1990s cable TV series Red Shoe Diaries and also wrote and produced the kinky theatrical hit film 9 1/2 Weeks in 1986 starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger. Other controversial hit films include Wild Orchid and New Moon Junction. For more click here
John Rich (right) with producer Norman Lear, 1973.
This almost escaped us but reader Bill Parisho alerted us that Emmy winning director John Rich died on January 30 at age 86. Rich was lauded for his work on The Dick Van Dyke Show, All in the Family, Gunsmoke, Gilligan's Island, Barney Miller and other beloved programs. Rich also directed Elvis Presley in the feature films Easy Come, Easy Go. For more click here
Ben Gazzara at Cinema Retro's dinner for Robert Vaughn at New York's Players club, 2009. (Photo by Tom Stroud)
By Lee Pfeiffer
Ben Gazzara, who was born in poverty in a New York slum and rose to be a major star of stage and screen, has succumbed to cancer at age 81. Gazzara was part of a new generation of method actors that emerged in the 1950s and he studied at the fabled Actors Studio under the direction of Lee Strasberg in the company of other up-and-coming stars as Marlon Brando, James Dean and Paul Newman. The competitiveness of that talented group often meant that roles created by one actor later proved to be star-making vehicles for another actor. For example, it was Gazzara who originated the role of Brick, the hunk who is confused about his own sexuality in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, earning one of three Tony nominations Gazzara would achieve in his career. However, it was Newman who was cast in the hit big screen version of the play. Nevertheless, Gazzara did find stardom in Hollywood through acclaimed performances in films such as The Strange One and Anatomy of a Murder. In the mid-1960s he earned two Emmy nominations for his lead role in the series Run For Your Life in which he played a terminally ill rich man determined to live his life's dreams before the end comes.
Gazzara also became part of John Cassavetes' group of friends and actors who appeared in his off-beat art house movies such as Husbands, Opening Night and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. He also had the starring role in Peter Bogdanovich's acclaimed film Saint Jack. Gazzara also appeared in major entertainment productions such as The Bridge at Remagen, Convicts 4, They All Laughed, The Neptune Factor and the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. He also starred in the infamous Korean War epic Inchon, a major flop that caused controversy when it was revealed that it had been financed by the scandal-plagued Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
On a personal level, I would sometimes run into Gazzara at New York's Players club, where we were both members. Several years ago, the club hosted a black tie event in his honor and Gazzara came to the podium holding his beloved dog that he took literally everywhere he went. Suffering from cancer of the mouth, he nonetheless spoke eloquently and displayed his characteristic wit. A couple of years later, we invited him to speak at a similar dinner that Cinema Retro hosted in honor of his old friend Robert Vaughn. Gazzara told some fascinating stories about how he and Vaughn had to literally use cloak and dagger methods to escape from Czechoslovakia during the filming of The Bridge at Remagen when the Soviets invaded Prague in 1968.
Ben Gazzara was a "actor's actor"- the kind of talent that is not easy to replicate and we join the members of his profession in mourning his passing.