Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Voice Bllie Mae Richards Passes On

Canadian voice artist Billie Mae Richards, best known as the voice of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the famous Rankin/Bass special of the same name, passed at the age of 88 on September 10, 2010.

Billie Mae Richards was born in Toronto on 21 November 1921. Her father was a silverware salesman who wanted to be an actor. During World War II she joined the Canadian Navy. She performed for troops in both Canada and Europe. Following the war she studied at the the Lorne Greene School of Broadcasting in Toronto and afterwards worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. For a quarter of a century she acted on various Canadian radio shows.

Her most lasting claim to fame would come when Rankin/Bass looked to Canada to cast their Yuletide special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Deer. Quite capable of imitating the voice of a young boy, Billie Mae Richards was cast as Rudolph. Sadly, she would see little money from her role, as the only member of the cast to get long lasting residuals was Burl Ives. Regardless, she would reprise the voice of Rudolph in Rudolph's Shiny New Year and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July.  Miss Richards would also work for Rankin/Bass in providing the voice of Willy McBean in the feature film Willy McBean and His Magic Machine (1965),  the voice of Billy on the animated series King Kong, and one of the voices on the series The Smokey Bear Show.

Billie Mae Richards would provide incidental voices for the Sixties Spider-Man cartoon and the voices of Chris and  Robbie on The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo. She was very much a part of the Eighties Care Bears franchise, providing the voice of Tender Heart Bear in The Care Bears Movie (1985) and Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (!986), and Brightheart Raccoon on the series The Care Bears Family..

Miss Richards also appeared in live action films and TV shows as as well. She appeared in the movies Jailbait Babysitter (1977), The Big Slice (1991), Shadow Builder (1998) , and Bluehair (2001). She guest starred on the series War of the Worlds, My Secret Identity, and Maniac Mansion.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

NBC Newsman Edwin Newman Passes On

Edwin Newman, long time newsman for NBC and self appointed champion of the English language, passed August 13 at the age of 91. The cause was pneumonia. Mr. Newman's family delayed announcement of his death so the they could grieve privately.

Edwin Newman was born in New York City on January 25, 1919 He graduated from Washington High School in Manhattan and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in political science.He attended Louisiana State University for a brief period before he decided to enter journalism. His first position was as a "dictation boy" for the International News Service.

Mr. Newman left the International News Service to join United Press. In 1942 he joined the United States Navy. He served as a signal officer in Trinidad and later at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Following World War II he returned to United Press. Afterwards he worked in the Washington Bureau of the New York City newspaper PM, then went to work for the Tufty News Service. It was in 1947 that he joined CBS News where he assisted Eric Sevareid in preparing his nightly commentary. It was in 1949 that he went to work for NBC News as a freelance journalist. It was in 1952 that Edwin Newman joined NBC News full time.

At NBC News Mr. Newman served as the bureau chief of London, Rome, and then Paris before he was based in New York in 1961. Among the stories he covered during this period were the funeral of King George VI to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II to the Suez Crisis to the Algerian War. From 1961 to 1984 he was one of the correspondents to cover the Democratic and Republican national conventions. He also covered the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. On his programme Speaking Freely he intereviewed everyone from Muhammed Ali to Ingmar Bergman. He also moderated the first Carter-Mondale presidential debate and the second Reagan-Mondale presidential debate. From 1952 to 1984 he regularly appeared on The Today Show. He also appeared regularly on Meet the Press.

Edwin Newman was also a self-appointed champion of the English language. He wrote two books defending the correct usage of the language, Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English? (1974) and A Civil Tongue (1976). He was well known for his droll wit and his seemingly limitless number of puns.

Mr. Newman retired from NBC News in 1984. Afterwards he appeared frequently as a narrator, interviewer, and moderator on many programmes, particularly on PBS. Over the years he appeared as himself on several television shows and movies. He appeared on such shows as Newhart, Saturday Night Live, The Golden Girls, Wings, and Murphy Brown. He appeared in the films Spies Like Us (1985) and The Pelican Brief (1993).

Edwin Newman was one of the last great television newsman. While he was always genteel and his grammar was always perfect, he always seemed as if he was simply another one of us. As the current anchor of The NBC Evening News, Brian Williams, said of Mr. Newman, "To those of us watching at home, he made us feel like we had a very smart, classy friend in the broadcast news business." Indeed, Mr  Newman never took himself too seriously, even serving once as the anchor on "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live after he had retired. He defence of the correct usage of the English language is also to be admired. Indeed, if I tend to nitpick at time at the ill use of the language, it is largely because of Edwin Newman. More than any teacher I had in school, my desire for correct grammar stems from Mr. Newman. One of the last great television newsman and a champion of the English language, we will not see the like of Edwin Newman again any time soon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Late, Great Harold Gould

Actor Harold Gould Ph.D. passed on September 11, 2010 at the age of 86. The cause was prostate cancer.

Harold Gould was born Harold V. Goldstein on December 10, 1923 in Schenectady, New York. He grew up in Albany, New York. After graduation he enrolled at Albany Teachers College to study to be a social studies teacher. During World War II, after two years of college, Dr. Gould enlisted in the United States Army and served in France. Following the war he returned to Albany Teachers College and earned a bachelor of arts degree.

After graduating from Albany Teachers College, Harold Gould enrolled at Cornell University. There he earned a master of arts degree in 1948 and Ph.D. in 1953. Dr. Gould then taught at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia for three years. It was in 1955 that he made his professional acting debut, as Thomas Jefferson in The Common Glory in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1956 he took a position at the University of California, Riverside. He stayed there until 1960, when he decided to take up acting full time. He made his television debut in a guest appearance on Cain's Hundred in 1961.

Dr. Gould appeared on television frequently in the Sixties. He guest starred on such shows as Shannon, Follow the Sun, National Velvet, The Donna Reed Show, Empire, The Untouchables, Dennis the Menace, Route 66, The Lieutenant, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, Mister Ed, The Jack Benny Programme, The Man From U.N.L.C.E., The Virginian, The Farmer's Daughter, That Girl, Get Smart, The Green Hornet, The Invaders, Daniel Boone, The Wild Wild West, The Big Valley, Hogan's Heroes, The High Chaparral. He made his movie debut in a bit part in The Couch (1962). Throughout the Sixties he appeared in such films as Two for the Seesaw (1962), The Yellow Canary (1963), The Satan Bug (1965), Inside Daisy Cover (1965), Harper (1966), An American Dream (1966), Project X (1968), The Arrangement (1969), and The Lawyer (1970).

In the Seventies Harold Gould was a regular on the short lived Bob Crane Show and Rhoda, . He was one of the two leads, along with Stefanie Powers, on The Feather and Father Gang. He guest starred on such shows as The F.B.I., Love American Style, The Partidge Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Streets of San Francisco, Dirty Sally, Gunsmoke, Cannon, Hawaii Five-O, and The Rockford Files. He appeared in such films as Mrs. Pollifax-Spy (1971), Where Does It Hurt (1972), The Sting (1973), The Front Page (1974), The Strongest Man in the World (1975), Love and Death (1975), Silent Movie (1976), The Big Bus (1976), Gus (1976), and The One and Only (1978).

In the Eighties Dr. Gould was the lead on the series Foot in the Door and Singer & Sons, and a regular on Spencer. He guest starred on such shows as St. Elsewhere, Trapper John M.D., L. A. Law, Night Court, and Midnight Caller. He appeared in such movies as The Dream Chasers (1982), Playing For Keeps (1986), and Romero (1989). In the Nineties he was a a regular on The Golden Girls. From the Nineties into the Naughts he appeared on such shows as Dinosaurs, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, The Outer Limits, Felicity, and Nip/Tuck. He appeared in such movies as Flesh Suitcase (1995), Lover's Knot (1996), Killer: Journal of a Killer (1996), My Giant (1998), Patch Adams (1998), Stuart Little (1999), and Nobody's Perfect.

Harold Gould also appeared on Broadway in the plays Fools (1981), Grown Ups (1981-1982), Artist Descending a Staircase (1989), and Mixed Emotions (1993).

Dr. Harold Gould was an extremely versatile actor who could play a wide variety of roles. He often played authority figures, such as the Mayor in The Front Page and Louis B. Mayer in the telefilms The Scarlet O'Hara War and The Silent Lovers. He played a wide variety of father figures, including Rhoda's father on the sitcom Rhoda and Grandpa Little in the movie Stuart Little.Of course, one of his most famous roles was that of con man Kid Twist in The Sting. In many ways he played all of these roles on the TV show from which I remember him best, The Father and Feather Gang, on which he played Harry Danton, who at once an authority figure, a father, and a con man. If Dr. Gould appeared so frequently on film and on television, it was perhaps because his talent allowed to play nearly any role.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Late, Great Kevin McCarthy

Actor Kevin McCarthy passed yesterday at the age of 96. Although best known for his role in the film version of Death of a Saleman (1951) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), his career spanned over seventy years.

Kevin McCarthy was born on February 15, 1914 in Seattle, Washington. His mother and father died during the flu epidemic of 1918 and Mr. McCarthy, his brothers, and his sister Mary (who became famous in her own right as a novelist) were sent to be raised by relatives. He began acting while at the University of Minnesota, his first role being a bit part in Henry IV, Part 1.

Following graduation Mr. McCarthy moved to New York to pursue a career in acting.His first role on Broadway would be a bit part in Abe Lincoln in Illinois in1938. Over the years he would appear in many Broadway productions, including Winged Victory (1943-1944), Joan of Lorraine (1946-1947), the revival of Anna Christie (1952), Love's Labour Lost (1953), Advise and Consent (1960-1961), a revival of The Three Sisters (1964), Cactus Flower (1967), Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1970-1971), and Alone Together (1984-1985). He appeared off Broadway in The Children (1972-1973).

Kevin McCarthy made his movie debut in 1944 in the film version of Winged Victory, recreating the role he played on Broadway. Much of his career in the late Forties and the Fifties would be spent on the small screen rather than the big screen. He made his television debut on a 1949 episode of The Ford Theatre Hour. From the late Forties into the Fifties he appeared on such series as Actor's Studio, The Prudential Family Playhouse, Lights Out, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Studio One, Danger, Inner Sanctum, The 20th Century Fox Hour, Kraft Theatre, G. E. True Theatre, Climax, Schlitz Playhouse, and The Twilight Zone.

Of course, Mr. McCarthy did make movies in the Fifties. He played Biff Loman in the 1951 adaptation of Death of a Salesman. He also appeared in the films Drive a Crooked Road (1954), The Gambler from Nachez (1954), Stranger on Horseback (1955), and An Annapolis Story (1955). His most famous role would come in 1956 in the film adaptation of Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Kevin McCarthy played Dr. Miles Bennell, the physician who soon realises all is not right in the small town in which he lives and works. He finished out the decade appearing in the film Nightmare (1956).

The Sixties saw Kevin McCarthy appear more frequently in films. He opened the decade playing Raymond Taber in The Misfits. Throughout the decade he appeared in such films as 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), A Gathering of Eagles (1963), The Prize (1963), The Best Man (1964), Mirage (1965), A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966), The Three Sisters (1966), Hotel (1967), and The Hell with Heroes (1968). He continued to appear on television frequently, guest starring on such shows as Way Out, The United States Steel Hour, The Rifleman, The Defenders, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Honey West, The Fugitive, Burke's Law, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, Felony Squad, The Wild Wild West, The High Chapparal, The F.B.I., and Julia.

The Seventies saw Mr. McCarthy's career shift more towards television. He guest starred on Bearcats, Mission: Impossible, Columbo, Cannon, The Manhunter, and Hawaii Five-O. He appeared in such films as Richard (1972), Kansas City Bomber (1972), Alien Thunder (1974), Order to Assassinate (1975), Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976), Piranha (1978), and Hero at Large  (1980). He recreated the role of Dr. Miles Bennell in the 1978 remake (or possibly sequel) of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

During the Eighties Mr. McCarthy also spent much of his career on television. In fact, it was during the decade that the would play his only regular roles on television series. He appeared as Claude Weldon on the nighttime soap opera Flamingo Road, as Zack on the short lived sitcom Amanda's, as George Hayward in the short lived Bay City Blues, and as Lucas Carter on The Colbys. He also guest starred on such series as Dynasty, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The A-Team, The Golden Girls, Fame, Head of the Class, In the Heat of the Night, and Matlock. He also appeared in such films as The Holwing (1981), My Tutor (1983), Innerspace (1987), Hostage (1987), UHF (1989). Love or Money (1990), and The Sleeping Car (1990).

Kevin McCarthy's career did not slow down in the Nineties. He continued to appear on television in such series as The Father Dowling Mysteries, Murder She Wrote, Human Target, Batman: The Animated Series, Tales From the Crypt, Boston Common, and The District. He appeared in such films as Final Approach (1991), The Distinguished Gentleman (1992), Matinee (1993), Judicial Consent (1994), Greedy (1994), Just Cause (1995), Sreal Big Steal Little (1995), and Mommy (1995).

Mr. McCarthy continued to act into the Naughts. He guest starred on the show Eyes. He appeared in the films Legend of the Razorback (2002), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003--playing a character curiously named Dr. Bennell....), Loving Annabelle (2006), Slipstream (2007--playing himself), Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007), and  I Do (2009. His last appearance on film was in the movie Drawback, just released this year.

There can be no doubt that Kevin McCarthy had a long and remarkable career. Indeed, there are not many actors who still perform nearly up until their death. There can be no doubt that Mr McCarthy was so prolific and had a career so long because he was such a versatile actor. He could play nearly any role. While best known as the heroic Dr. Bennell from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, he also played roles that were much less than heroic. In A Big Hand for the Little Lady he played Otto Habershaw, a lawyer who dressed finely but possessed somewhat questionable morals. In The Howling he played television station manager Fred Francis, who is willing to do anything to get ratings. In The Sleeping Car he once more played a good guy--eccentric children's book writer and exorcist Vincent Tuttle. Throughout his long career Kevin McCarthy played everything from military officers to doctors to attorneys to lawyers to mad men. He was a versatile actor and a thorough professional. It is no wonder that he had a long career.