Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Marvin Hamlisch, R. G. Armstrong, & Norman Alden R.I.P.

Marvin Hamlisch

Composer Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the scores for several movies and Broadway shows, died 6 August 2012 at the age of 68.

Marvin Hamlisch was born in New York City on 2 June 1944. His father was both an accordionist and a band leader. Marvin Hamlisch was a child prodigy, picking up music at a very early age. He was not quite seven years old when he was accepted into what is now called the Juilliard School Pre-College Division. He attended Queens College.

Mr. Hamlisch was only a teenager when he began selling songs he had written. It was in 1965, when he was 21, that he had his first hit--"Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows," performed by Leslie Gore. It was in 1967 that he first worked on Broadway, handling the vocal arrangements for the musical Funny Girl. Marvin Hamlisch would work frequently on Broadway. Over the years he composed music for such productions as Golden Rainbow (1968), Minnie's Boys (1970), They're Playing Our Song (1979), Smile (1986), Blithe Spirit (1987), The Goodbye Girl (1993), and Imaginary Friends (2002). By far the most successful Broadway production on which he worked was A Chorus Line. The original production debuted on Broadway in 1975 and ran for 6,137 performances. It has since seen several revivals as well as a motion picture adaptation.

Marvin Hamlisch also worked in motion pictures. In 1968 Mr. Hamlsich received credit for The Swimmer. He would go onto compose music for such movies as Take the Money and Run (1969), Bananas (1971), The World's Greatest Athlete (1973), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Starting Over (1979), Chapter Two (1979), I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982), 3 Men and a Baby (1987), The January Man (1989), Frankie and Johnny (1991), The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), and The Informant (2009). He adapted period music for The Sting (1973). He also worked in television, composing music for Calucci's Department, Doc Elliot, Beacon Hill, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

I have to say that with regards to Marvin Hamlisch's songs, there have been those I love and those I loathe. "Nobody Does It Better" is one of my favourite James Bond themes (it was used in The Spy Who Loved Me) and I liked the songs he wrote for Leslie Gore and the songs he wrote for A Chorus Line. On the other hand, I can not listen to anything he did with Barbara Streisand at all. That having been said, I do think he was a great composer of instrumental music. He composed some of my favourite film scores, including Starting Over. He was also a great arranger and I thought the work he did on The Sting with existing music was quite good. There can be no doubt that he was one of the most prolific and best composers of the late 20th Century and it is certainly sad that he died relatively young.

R. G. Armstrong

Character actor R. G. Amstrong died on 27 July 2012 at the age of 95. He was perhaps best known for his many roles in Westerns.

R. G. Armstrong was born on 7 April 1917 in Birmingham, Alabama. He enrolled at Howard College (now Samford University) in Homewood, Alabama, but later switched to the University of North Carolina. It was there that he became interested in acting. One of his classmates was the late Andy Griffith. He later moved to New York City where he studied acting at Actor's Studio. He made his Broadway debut in the original production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. He would go onto appear in on Broadway in Orpheus Descending (1957), The Miracle Worker (1959), and The Long Dream (1960).

Mr. Armstrong made his film debut in 1954 in Garden of Eden. He made his television debut in an episode of West Point in 1956. In the late Fifties he would go onto appear in such TV shows as Jefferson Drum, Have Gun--Will Travel, The Californians, Bronco, The Rifleman, Black Saddle, Sugarfoot, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Maverick, and Cheyenne. He appeared in the films A Face in the Crowd (1957), From Hell to Texas (1958), Never Love a Stranger (1958), No Name on the Bullet (1959), and The Fugitive Kind (1959).

In the Sixties R. G. Armstrong was a regular on the short lived series T.H.E Cat. He appeared on such shows as The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, The Andy Griffith Show, Frontier Circus, Tales of Wells Fargo, 87th Precinct, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, Perry Mason, Laramie, Death Valley Days, The Twilight ZoneRawhide, The Big Valley, Run for Your Life, Bonanza, The Virginian, Daniel BooneGunsmoke, The Invaders, and The Doris Day Show. He appeared in the films Ride the High Country (1962), He Rides Tall (1964), Major Dundee (1965), El Dorado (1966), 80 Steps to Jonah (1969), Tiger by the Tail (1970), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), Angels Die Hard (1970), The McMasters (1970), and The Great White Hope (1970). 

In the Seventies R. G. Armstrong appeared in the films J.W. Coop (1971), The Final Comedown (1972), The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972), Cotter (1973), Gentle Savage (1973), Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), White Lightning (1973), Running Wild (1973), My Name is Nobody (1973), The Legend of Hillbilly John (1974), Race with the Devil (1975), Stay Hungry (1976), Dixie Dynamite (1976), Mr. Billion (1977), The Car (1977), The Pack (1977), Heaven Can Wait (1978), Texas Detour (1978), Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1979), Fast Charlie... the Moonbeam Rider (1979), and Steel (1979). He appeared on such shows as Hawaii Five-O, Alias Smith and Jones, Hec Ramsey, The Sixth SenseCannon, Marcus Welby M.D., The Manhunter, Police Story, Ellery Queen, Switch, Baretta, Salvage 1, and Charlie's Angels.

In the Eighties Mr. Armstrong appeared in such movies as Evilspeak (1981), Raggedy Man (1981), The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981), Reds (1981), The Beast Within (1982), Hammett (1982), Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Children of the Corn (1984), Red Headed Stranger (1986), Predator (1987), Bulletproof (1988), Trapper County War (1989), and Dick Tracy (1990). He appeared on such shows as Trapper John M.D., Dynasty, Matt Houston, Friday the 13th, Beauty and the Beast, and Matlock.

In the Nineties R. G. Armstrong appeared on such shows as Silk Stalkings, Quantum Leap, L. A. Law, Walker Texas Ranger, Cybill, and Millennium. He appeared in the films Dead Centre (1993), Warlock: The Armageddon (1993), Payback (1995), Invasion of Privacy (1996), and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998). His final appearance on film was in the 2001 movie The Waking

R. G. Armstrong was a prolific and versatile actor. While he is best known for his work in Western movies and TV shows, he played a wide array of roles within the genre. In the films he made with Sam Pekcinpah he appeared as everything from a minister in Major Dundee to a vicious sheriff in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. In the many hours of television Westerns in which he appeared Mr. Armstrong played everything from town mayors to outlaws to marshals to military officers. Of course, Mr. Armstrong had a career outside Westerns, everything from horror movies to dramas, in which he also  played a wide array of roles. There can be no doubt that Mr. Armstrong's versatility was much of the reason he was so prolific. He was an actor who could play nearly anything, and as a result he was very much in demand. 

Norman Alden

Character actor and voice artist Norman Alden passed on 27 July 2012 at the age of 87. 

He was born in Fort Worth, Texas on 13 September 1924. During World War II he served in Europe. Following the war he attended Texas Christian University.  Later he began performing stand up comedy and appearing on such radio shows as Suspense and Gunsmoke. He also a DJ for KXOL (now KMNY) in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. He made his first of many guest appearances on television in 1957 in an episode of The Bob Cummings Show. For the remainder of the Fifties he guest starred on such programmes as The 20th Century Fox Hour, Leave It To Beaver, Circus Boy, Goodyear Theatre, Panic, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Yancy Derringer, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Perry Mason, and The Untouchables. From 1959 to 1960 he was a regular on the short lived series Not For Hire. He appeared in the films Hear Me Good (1957), The Power of the Resurrection (1958), and The Walking Target (1960).

In the Sixties Mr. Alden was a regular on both the short lived sitcom Rango and the long running series My Three Sons. He guest starred on such shows as Bronco, The Jack Benny Programme, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (on which he had the recurring role of Johnny Ringo), The Lawless Years, Lawman, Bonanza, Pete and Gladys, 77 Sunset Strip, Cheyenne, Dr.Kildare, The Rifleman, The Dakotas, Combat, My Favourite Martian, The Smothers Brothers Show, Honey West, Batman, The Andy Griffith Show, The Big Valley, Lassie, The Doris Day Show, and Hogan's Heroes. It was in the Sixties that he began providing his voice in animated features and TV shows. In The Sword in the Stone (1963) he provided the voice for Sir Kay. He also appeared in such movies as The Nutty Professor (1963), Bedtime Story (1964), The Patsy (1964), Andy (1965), Red Line 7000 (1965), The Wild Angels (1966), First to Fight (1967), Good Times (1967), The Devil's Brigade (1968), Killers Three (1968), The Great Bank Robbery (1969), and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).

In the Seventies Norman Alden was a regular on both the Saturday morning show Electra Woman and Dyna Girl and the night time soap parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. He also provided the voice of Aquaman on Super Friends. He guest starred on such shows as The Mod Squad, Ironside, Kung Fu, Love American Style, Gunsmoke, Planet of the Apes, Mannix, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, McMillan & Wife, Quincy M.E., Alice, Welcome Back Kotter, The Rockford Files, and Charlie's Angels. He appeared in such films as Ben (1972), Kansas City Bomber (1972), Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), The Hindenburg (1975), I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), Semi-Tough (1977), and Borderline (1980).

In the Eighties Mr. Alden guest starred on such shows as Nero Wolfe, Trapper John M.D., The A-Team, Hardcastle and McCormick, Matt Houston, Hill Street Blues, Hunter, Cagney & Lacey, Sledge Hammer!, and Murder She Wrote. He appeared in such films as Victor Victoria (1982), Back to the Future (1985), They Live (1988), and  Cutting Class (1989).  In the Nineties He provided a guest voice for the TV show Rugrats. He appeared in the films Ed Wood (1994) and Patch Adams (1998). In the Naughts he guest starred on the TV shows JAG and Like Family. He appeared in the film K-PAX (2001).

Norman Alden played more than his share of tough guys ranging from cowboys to gangsters to detectives, but  in his long career he proved he was an actor of some range. He played diner owner Lou in Back to the Future and cameraman to the notorious director Ed Wood in the film of the same name. In his one leading role in a major motion picture, Andy, he portrayed the title character, a mentally disabled man who sets out on one last night of fun before his parents commit him to a mental hospital. Not only could Norman Alden play a good number of roles, but he also gave a good performance whether it was the voice of a Saturday morning cartoon, a bit part in a movie, or a major role in a film. He was as convincing as Professor Helfin on Electra Woman and Dyna Girl as he was in Tora! Tora! Tora!  Quite simply, Norman Alden was a consummate professional who never gave less than his all. 

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