Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell to the Year of Death

There can be no doubt that the year 2009 will be remembered for many things, but most of it all may well be remembered as the Year of Death. While many, many celebrities die every year, it seemed as if more celebrities died in 2009 than most years. What is more, it was not simply any celebrities who died in 2009, but some very big names.

Indeed, perhaps the most famous television news anchorman of all time passed in 2009. Walter Cronkite died on July 17 of this year. The year also saw the passing of his producer and the man who created 60 Minutes. Don Hewitt may have been the most influential news producer ever to work in television. He died only about a month after Walter Cronkite did. Of course, it was not simply the world of television news that saw the loss of giants. It seems as if every medium lost some very big names. Some very of the most famous television actors of all time passed in 2009, including Patrick McGoohan, Ricardo Montalban, Harry Endo, Don Galloway, Wendy Richard, Ron Silver, Frank Aletter, Gale Storm, Beatrice Arthur, Farrah Fawcett, Mollie Sudgen, Dallas McKennon, Ed Reimers, John Hart, Henry Gibson, Edward Woodward, and several others. The medium of motion pictures also saw the loss of some fairly well known actors, including Pat Hingle, James Whitmore, Jean Martin, Monte Hale, Natasha Richardson, Betsy Blair, Sydney Earle Chaplin, Maxine Cooper, Jody McCrea, Dom DeLuise, Harve Presnell, David Carradine, Brenda Joyce, Karl Malden, John Quade, Patrick Swayze, Frank Coghlan Jr., Lou Jacobi, Collin Wilcox, Jennifer Jones, Brittany Murphy, and yet others. Of course, actors were not the only celebrities to die in 2009. Several directors also passed during the year, including François Villiers, Claude Berri, Ken Annakin, Peter Zadek, John Hughes, Paul Naschy, and others.

While television and movies saw several deaths in 2009, the world of music was not spared either. Dave Dee (of (Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich), Dewey Martin (of Buffalo Springfield), Lux Interior (of The Cramps), Kelly Groucutt (of The Electric Light Orchestra), Jimmy Boyd, "England" Dan Seals, Randy Cain (of The Delfonics), Jay Bennett (of Wilco), Bob Bogle (of The Ventures), Sky Saxon of The Seeds, Michael Jackson, Drake Levin (of Paul Revere and The Raiders), Gordon Waller (of Peter and Gordon), Les Paul, Dickie Peterson, Al Martino, Eric Woolfson, The Rev, and yet others. The year also saw the passing of several well know authors, including John Updike, Christopher Nolan, Philip Jose Farmer, J. G. Ballard, David Eddings, Frank McCourt, Tim Guest, Keith Waterhouse, and yet others.

Of course, while death filled the headlines in 2009, there were other things which happened this year. With regards to movies, it seemed to be another year of sequels. The top three highest grossing films for the year worldwide  as of December were all three sequels: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Of course, with some films released in 2009 still playing in theatres, this is subject to change. It would seem that Avatar is poised to become the highest grossing film released in 2009. When it comes to movies one thing for which 2009 may be remembered is the independent films which saw mainstream success. With a budget of only $5 million, (500) Days of Summer made a total of around $46 million at the box office. Completed in 2007, the independent horror film Paranormal Activity became a phenomenon in 2009. It made a total of around $141 million at the box office.

Sadly, the 2009 fall television season may well have been the worst in some time. Many of the shows which debuted in the season were, very sadly, derivative. There were medical dramas (Mercy, Three Rivers), a legal drama (The Good Wife) , and new takes on old favourites (Melrose Place). This is not to say there was no originality among the broadcast networks this season. NBC would make one very innovative, if risky move, by scheduling The Jay Leno Show every weeknight at 9:00 PM Central/10:00 PM Eastern. So far NBC's gamble does not appear to pay off. So far The Jay Leno Show has been routinely beaten in the ratings by the dramas on ABC and CBS. Alongside NBC, ABC would also show some originality.Their show, Flash Forward, based on the novel of the same name, began with a global event takes place in which people experience what their lives will be like in the future for two minutes and seventeen seconds an proceeded from there. With regards to television news (and the news media in general), it sadly displayed an obsession with scandal this year. When David Letterman allegedly became victim of a blackmail plot, it was treated as an important news story. When it was discovered that golfer Tiger Woods had cheated on his wife, the television news outlets gave the scandal more coverage than other stories that were much more important.

With regards to music, the big news of the year may well have centred upon an old band. On September 9, the entire catalogue of The Beatles was re-released in digitally remastered format. The year would also see new albums from some of the biggest names in music. Bruce Springsteen's album Working on a Dream came out in January. Green Day released 21st Century Breakdown in May. Cheap Trick released The Latest in July. The year also saw new releases from Franz Ferdinand, Cannibal Corpse, Lily Allen, Morrissey, Van Morrison, U2, Pet Shop Boys, Neil Young, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Tori Amos, Marilyn Manson, Placebo, Spinal Tap, Bowling for Soup, and others.

Sadly, for everything else that happened, 2009 will perhaps be remembered as the Year of Death. It was the year that giants in every medium passed, and in unusually large numbers. It was the year that saw the passing of Walter Cronkite, Patrick McGoohan, Jennifer Jones, Sky Saxon, John Updike, and Philip Jose Farmer If there is one thing to be hoped for in 2010, it is that we do not lose quite so many legends.


Holte Ender said...

You are right, it certainly seems we have lost someone of significance every week, not just the bigness of their name, but meaningful contribution they made in their chosen profession.

Hope 2010 is a healthy and happy one you and yours.

Terence Towles Canote said...

Thank you, Holte! I hope 2010 is a good one for you!

VP81955 said...

We lost a lot of good people during 2009...let us hope our losses in 2010 -- both among notables and those in our own lives -- are comparatively few.

I saw your comments about Carole Lombard at "Silents & Talkies," and thus cordially invite you to visit (and join) my blog, "Carole & Co.", which has more than 1,050 entries and all sorts of rare photos. Find it at