Friday, July 29, 2011

Actor G. D. Spralin Passes On

Character actor G. D. Spralin passed on 24 July 2011 at the age of 90.

He was born Gervase Duan Spradlin on 31 April 1920 in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in education. Afterwards he taught history. During World War II he served in the Army Air Force as an air traffic controller in China. Following the war he earned a degree in law from the University of Oklahoma. He became the head of the legal department in Caracas, Venezuela for the Phillips Petroleum Company, then later joined forces with a geologist to drill their own wells. Making a good deal of money, he retired in 1960.

Mr. Spralin developed an interest in acting while watching his daughter perform in local plays. He soon began to act in plays himself and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. He made his television debut in an episode of The Iron Horse in 1966. During the Sixties he appeared in such shows as Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., Pistols 'n' Petticoats, Run For Your Life, I Spy, The Big Valley, Mannix, Bonanza, and The Virginian. He made his movie debut in Will Penny in 1968. He also appeared in Tora, Tora, Tora (1970) and Monte Walsh (1970).

In the Seventies he appeared on such shows as Alias Smith and Jones, Kung Fu, Hec Ramsey, Search, Adam 12, and Columbo. He appeared in the movies The Hunting Party (1971), The Only Way Home (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979), North Dallas Forty (1979), and The Formula (1980). From the Eighties into the Nineties he appeared in such movies as Wrong is Right (1982), The Lords of Discipline (1983), Tank (1984), The War of the Roses (1989), , Ed Wood (1994), Canadian Bacon (1995), and Dick (1999). He appeared on such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame and Dark Skies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

America Co-Founder Dan Peek Passes On

Dan Peek, who co-founded the rock group America with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, passed on 24 July 2011 at the age of 60. The cause has yet to be determined.

Dan Peek was born 1 November 1950 in Panama City, Florida. Mr. Peek's father was a United States Air Force officer, so that he spent his childhood in such places as Japan and Pakistan. It was when Mr. Peek was a teenager that his father was stationed in England. There he met fellow Americans Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell at London Central High School. Their fathers were also in the military. The three sang together until Mr. Peek returned to the United States to attend Old Dominion University in Virginia. He returned to England a year later and the three began performing together again. To insure that everyone realised they were an American band, they simply called themselves "America."

In March 1971 America was signed to the UK Warner Brothers label. Their first album, released in 1971, did only moderately well.  The single "Horse With No Name" would prove to be very successful, however, so that the album was re-released with the the single added to it, and went platinum. The trio would release six over the next several years:  Homecoming, Hat Trick, Holiday, Hearts, Hideaway, and Harbour. Their albums sold very well, with all but Hat Trick  and Harbour hitting the top twenty. In addition to "Horse with No Name" their hit songs would include "I Need You," "Ventura Highway," ""Tin Man," and "Sister Golden Hair." While Dan Peek wrote some of America's singles, including "Don't Cross The River,", "Lonely People (which went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100)," "Woman Tonight,", and "Today's the Day," and "Today's the Day."

In 1977, not long after the release of Harbour, Dan Peek left America, having become a "born again" Christian. He would go onto become a pioneer in the genre of Christian Contemporary music. He released his fist solo album, All Things Are Possible, in 1979. Over the next many years he would release fifteen albums.

As to America, despite rumours to the contrary, there was never a true reunion of the original band, although the split was amicable. Messrs. Beckley and Bunnell provided backing vocals on the song  "Love Was Just Another Word" on Mr. Peek's first album, While Mr. Beckley provided backing vocals on the title track on the album Doer of the Word. That having been said, the original America never did reunite.

I must admit that I was always a fan of America, and I always enjoyed Dan Peek's contributions to the band. He was a very good musician and also a fairly good songwriter. In my opinion, "Lonely People" was one of America's best songs. I must confess I know very little of his Christian Contemporary career. In fact, I rather doubt I have heard of any of his Christian Contemporary songs. That having been said, he was very successful as a solo artist in the genre, and I suspect his songs were quite good given his work with America. It is sad that he passed at a rather young age, having contributed to one of the best known soft rock bands of the Seventies and having been a pioneer in Christian Contemporary music.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Actress Linda Christian Passes On

Actress Linda Christian, who appeared in such films as Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) and memorably in the TV series Climax adaptation of Casino Royale, passed on 22 July at the age of 87. She was also well known as Tyrone Power''s second wife.

Linda Christian was born Blanca Rosa Henrietta Stella Welter Vorhauer, the daughter of a Dutch oil executive and his Mexican wife, in Tampico, Mexico on 13 November 1923. Her parents travelled a good deal abroad, so that she learned several languages while still young. She had wanted to become a physician, but as a teenager met Errol Flynn, who persuaded her to take up acting. 

Miss Christian made her film début as "Linda Welter" in El peñón de las Ánimas (1943).  Her first American film would also be Danny Kaye's film début, Up in Arms (1943).  She appeared in Club Havana (1945) before being signed to MGM. For the next several years Miss Christian would be cast in roles for which her looks were of great benefit. She appeared in such films as Holiday in Mexico (1946), Green Dolphin Street (1947), Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948), Show Boat (1951), Battle Zone (1952), The Happy Time (1952), and Slaves of Babylon (1953). It was in 1949 that she married Tyrone Power. The marriage lasted six years.

 It was in 1954 that Linda Christian made her television début, and it would be an impressive one. She appeared in an adaptation of Casino Royale, the first Bond novel, on the TV series Climax. Miss Christian was in very good company, playing opposite Barry Nelson as James Bond and Peter Lorre as the villain Le Chiffre. Miss Christian played Valerie Mathis, who was more or less the Vesper Lynd of the novel simply by another name. Miss Christian then had the most singular honour of being the world's very first Bond Girl.

Miss Christian's career would slow somewhat following her divorce from Tyrone Power. She appeared in  such films as Athena (1954), Thunderstorm (1956), Meet Peter Voss (1959), The Devil's Hand (1962), Passport for a Corpse (1962),  The V.I.P.s (1963), 10:32 in the Morning (1966), How to Seduce a Playboy (1966), The World's Gold (1967), and Delitti (1987).  On television she appeared on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Dick Powell Theatre.

Even today Linda Christian is best known for two things. The first was her incredible appearance. With a beautiful face and a curvaceous body, she was nicknamed "The Anatomic Bomb." The second, of course, was her marriage to Tyrone Power. In some ways Miss Christian could be described, much as the Gabor Sisters, as being "famous for being famous." That having been said, in the proper role Miss Christian could be a good actress. She actually did quite well as Valerie Mathis in the Climax adaptation of Casino Royale. She was also convincing as the snobbish Beth Hanson in Athena and in her role on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "An Out  for Oscar." While I doubt Miss Christian could have ever been a great actress, she was certainly good at her craft. As to her beauty, there can be no doubt about that.