Friday, 30 December 2016

Godspeed Alan Thicke, Michèle Morgan, Coral Atkins, Rick Parfitt, and Liz Smith

Among the many things for which 2016 will be remembered is the sheer number of celebrities who died this year. What is more, some very big names died during the year. Indeed, December alone  has seen so many famous people die that there is little way that I can write the sort of in-depth eulogies I usually would for each of them, not unless I want to continue doing so well into the new year. I have then decided to do several short eulogies for some of my favourites who died this month. I feel as if I must apologise for having to do so, as each of these people truly deserve their own in-depth eulogy of the sort I usually write on the blog.

Alan Thicke died on December 13 2016 at the age of 69 after having collapsed while playing hockey with his son. The cause was an aortic dissection. Among Americans he may be best remembered as the father, Jason Seaver, on the hit show Growing Pains. That having been said, his career extended well beyond that popular sitcom. He was a successful composer who composed the themes to several game shows (including The Joker's Wild, Celebrity Sweepstakes, and Wheel of Fortune, among others), as well as the sitcoms Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. In his native Canada Alan Thicke may be best remembered for his success as a talk show host. He hosted the daytime talk show The Alan Thicke Show from 1980 to 1982, and then the night-time talk show Thicke of the Night. Over the years he also guest starred on a number of shows, including Murder, She Wrote; Burke's Law; Married...With Children; The Outer Limits; How I Met Your Mother; and Scream Queens.

Michèle Morgan, the French actress whose career literally spanned decades, died on December 20 2016 at the age of 96. Michèle Morgan saw success both in her native France and in Hollywood. She appeared opposite such leading men as Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher (1943), Humphrey Bogart in Passage to Marseille (1944), and Sir Ralph Richardson in The Fallen Idol (1948). In her native France she appeared in several notable films including Le Château de verre (1950), Obsession  (1954),  Les Grandes Manœuvres (1955), and Le Miroir à deux faces (1958).  She won the first ever Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in La Symphonie pastorale (1946).

Coral Atkins died on December 2 2016 at the age of 80.  She may be best known for her stint as Sheila Ashton on the British series A Family at War. Coral Atkins also had recurring roles on the shows Flesh and Blood and Emmerdale. She made frequent guest appearances on British television shows, including Emergency-Ward 10, Z Cars, The Avengers, Dixon of Dock Green, Callan, and Anne of Avonlea. In the Seventies she opened a home for disadvantaged children and a second one in the Eighties. Over a span of 26 years she cared for 37 children.

Rick Parfitt, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and founding member of Status Quo, died on December 24 2016 at the age of 68. The cause was a severe infection following a shoulder injury. Rick Parfitt learned to play guitar when he was only eleven years old. By 1963 he was playing with a band called The Feathers in a pub in Camden, London. In 1966 Rick Parfitt met Francis Rossi of The Spectres and joined that band. The Spectres eventually renamed themselves Traffic Jam and then The Status Quo. They soon dropped the definite article to become simply Status Quo.

Status Quo would have an international hit with "Pictures of Matchstick Men" in 1967, which peaked at no. 7 in the UK and no. 12 in the U.S. Status Quo never again saw such success in the United States, but had a long string of hits in Britain, including such songs as "Paper Plane", "Caroline", "Down Down", "Rockin' All Over The World", "What You're Proposing", and  "In The Army Now". They ultimately had over 60 hits in the United Kingdom, more than any other rock band.  In the New Year Honours 2010 both Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi were appointed Officers of the Order of the British Empire.

Rick Parfitt did have a few projects outside of Status Quo. He appeared on Band Aid's charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in 1984. On Roger Taylor's album 1984 Strange Frontier he played on the song "It's an Illusion". In 1985 he recorded a solo album, Recorded Delivery, that was never released. Prior to his death he had been planning a solo album as well as publishing his autobiography. Along with Francis Rossi he was the last original member of Status Quo who was still with the band.

Liz Smith was an actress well known for many roles in British shows, including  Annie Brandon in I Didn't Know You Cared, Letitia on The Vicar of Dibley, Norma on The Royle Family, and Zillah on Lark Rise to Candleford. She died on December 24 2016 at the age of 96. Liz Smith served in the Women's Royal Naval Service of the Royal Navy during World War II. She made her film  debut in an uncredited role in Leo the Last in 1970, when she was 49 years old. During the Seventies she was a frequent guest star on British shows, including Last of the Summer Wine, Emmerdale, and Crown Court. She appeared in films during the decade as well, including It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet (1976) and Agatha (1979). From 1975 to 1979 she was a regular on I Didn't Know You Cared.

In the Eighties she was a regular on One by One, Now and Then, and Valentine Park. She appeared in such films as Little Dorrit (1987), Apartment Zero (1988), High Spirits (1988), and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989). The Nineties saw her stints on The Vicar of Dibley and 2point4 Children, as well as Cluedo. She guest starred on shows such as Young Indiana Jones, Lovejoy, and Casualty. She began her stint on The Royle Family in 1998. Liz Smith's last appearance was in the series The Tunnel in 2013.

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