Saturday, July 25, 2015

George Coe Passes On

Actor George Coe died on July 18 2015 at the age of 86. He was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live and provided the voice of Woodhouse on Archer. He also appeared in films from The Stepford Wives (1975) to The Mighty Ducks (1992).

George Coe was born George Cohen on May 10 1929 in New York City. He attended Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York for four years before serving aboard a submarine in the United States Navy during the Korean War. He was involved with radio broadcasting while in the Navy, and after once discharged he studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Starting in 1957 he appeared on stage in various productions. He made his television debut in 1963 in various episodes of the soap opera The Doctors. In the Sixties he also appeared in an episode of For the People. Mr. Coe made his Broadway debut in What Makes Sammy Run? in 1964. He also appeared in the productions Mame and Company. In 1968 he made his film debut in the short "De Düva: The Dove", a parody of Ingmar Bergman films in which he starred and that he also directed and produced.  It was nominated for the Oscar for best live action short.

In the Seventies George Coe was a semi-regular on Saturday Night Live. He was also a regular on the soap opera Somerset from 1971 to 1972. He appeared in the films The Stepford Wives (1975), French Postcards (1979), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and The First Deadly Sin (1980). He appeared on Broadway in On the Twentieth Century.

In the Eighties George Coe appeared in such films as Bustin' Loose (1981), The Amateur (1981), The Entity (1982), The House of God (1984), Micki + Maude (1984), Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), Blind Date (1987), Cousins (1989), and The End of Innocence (1990). He was a regular on Goodnight Beantown and the short lived American version of Max Headroom. He guest starred on such shows as Hill Street Blues, Moonlighting, Family Ties, Simon & Simon, The Paper Chase, Dallas, The Scarecrow & Mrs. King, The Golden Girls, The Tracy Ullman Show, Columbo, Matlock, and Murphy Brown.

In the Nineties George Coe was a regular on the TV shows Equal Justice and Working, and had a recurring role on L.A. Law. He guest starred on such shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Night Court, Nurses, Murder She Wrote, Law & Order, Home Improvement, The Pretender, The Practice, The Nanny, and Two Guys and a Girl. He appeared in such films as The Mighty Ducks (1992), Nick and Jane (1997), and Diamond Men (2000). He appeared on Broadway in a revival of Company.

 In the Naughts Mr. Coe had a recurring role on The West Wing. He guest starred on such shows as The Lone Gunmen, Becker, Smallville, Crossing Jordan, Gilmore Girls, The King of Queens, Supernatural, Nip/Tuck, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He appeared in such films as Corporate Affairs (2008), Slice of Water (2009), and Funny People (2009).  In the Teens George Coe provided the voice of Woodhouse on Archer. He guest starred on Two and a Half Men and Wilfred.

George Coe was a remarkable actor with a good range. He could play a wide variety of roles, from the advertising agency head in Kramer vs. Kramer to Uncle Phil in Cousins. He also had a remarkable voice. He was much more than the voice of Woodhouse on Archer. He provided voices for several video games in the Star Wars franchise and was the voice on Toyota commercials for years. If George Coe was particularly prolific, it was because he had the sort of talent that made him very much in demand.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Late Great Theodore Bikel

Legendary actor and folk singer Theodore Bikel died on July 20 at the age of 91.

Theodore Bikel was born Theodor Meir Bikel in Vienna on May 2 1924. The family fled to Mandatory Palestine following Nazi Germany's forced annexation of Austria in 1938. In 1943 he began studying acting at  the Habimah theatre in Tel Aviv. In 1946 he left Palestine to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He made his television debut in a production of The Cherry Orchard in 1947. After graduating from RADA in 1948 Lord Laurence Olivier cast him in a small role in the London production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He was eventually cast in the role of the secondary male lead, Mitch.

Theodore Bikel made his film debut in Appointment with Venus in 1951. He appeared in such films as The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), Never Let Me Go (1953), Melba (1953), and The Kidnappers (1953). He migrated to the United States in 1954 and would become a naturalised citizen in 1961. For the remainder of the Fifties he appeared in such films as The Love Lottery (1954), The Young Lovers (1954), The Colditz Story (1955), Above Us the Waves (1955), Flight from Vienna (1956), The Pride and the Passion (1957), The Enemy Below (1957), The Defiant Ones (1958), and A Dog of Flanders (1959). For his role in The Defiant Ones he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He appeared on Broadway in Tonight in Samarkand, The Lark, The Rope Dancers, and The Sound of Music.

Theodore Bikel had a regular role on the show Johnny, You're Wanted.  He appeared frequently on television in the Fifties, making guest appearances on such shows as The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Producers' Showcase, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Alcoa Hour, Goodyear Playhouse, The United States Steel Hour, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Climax, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Studio One, and Playhouse 90. In 1955 Theodore Bikel began a career as a folk singer, releasing the album Folk Songs of Israel. For the remainder of the Fifties Mr. Bikel would release several more albums. In 1959 Theodore Bikel co-founded the Newport Folk Festival with Oscar Brand,  Harold Leventhal,  Pete Seeger, and George Wein.

In the Sixties Mr. Bikel continued to appear frequently on television. He guest starred on such shows as Naked City, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Powell Theatre, General Electric Theatre, Dr. Kildare, Route 66, East Side/West Side, Combat!, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Burke's Law, Mission: Impossible, and Hawaii Five-O. He appeared in the movies My Fair Lady (1964), Sands of the Kalahari (1965), The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966), The Desperate Ones (1967), Sweet November (1968), My Side of the Mountain (1969), and Darker Than Amber (1970).  Mr. Bikel appeared on Broadway in Cafe Crown and Pousse-Café. He toured as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, a role for which he would become well known. He continued to be active as a folk singer, recording several more albums. He continued to appear at the Newport Folk Festival and was the first person besides Bob Dylan to perform Mr.Dylans's song "Blowin' in the Wind" in public. His 1964 album A Folksinger's Choice included Roger McGuinn (then known as "Jim McGuinn" and soon to be famous as one of The Byrds) on banjo.

In the Seventies Theodore Bikel appeared on the TV shows Ironside, Cannon, Mod Squad, Medical Centre, Ellery Queen, Little House on the Prairie, Charlie's Angels, Columbo, Fantasy Island, and All in the Family. He appeared in the films 200 Motels (1971) and The Little Ark (1972). He provided the voice of Aragorn in the animated adaptation of The Return of the King (1980). He released three record albums throughout the decade.

In the Eighties Mr. Bikel appeared on the TV shows Trapper John M.D., Knight Rider, Hotel, Cover Up, The Fall Guy, Hell Town, Dynasty, The Paper Chase, Mike Hammer, Falcon Crest, Beauty and the Beast, The Equaliser, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He appeared in the films Prince Jack (1985), Very Close Quarters (1986), Dark Tower (1989), and See You in the Morning (1989).

From the Nineties into the Naughts Mr. Bikel appeared in the films Shattered (1991),  Benefit of the Doubt (1993), My Family Treasure (1993), Crisis in the Kremlin (1992), Shadow Conspiracy (1997), Second Chances (1998), Trickle (1998), Crime and Punishment (2002), and The Little Traitor (2007). He appeared on such TV shows as L.A. Law; Law & Order; Babylon 5; Murder, She Wrote; Brooklyn South; The Pretender; and JAG. He released over ten more record albums.

Theodore Bikel was a co-founder of the Actors Federal Credit Union. From 1977 to 1982 he served as president of Actors' Equity. He was president of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America since 1988.

If one word could be used to describe Theodore Bikel, it would perhaps be "chameleon". He was capable of playing an enormous variety of roles. Indeed, he played a number of characters of different nationalities throughout his film, TV, and stage careers. He was a German First Officer in The African Queen and the original Captain Von Trapp on Broadway in The Sound of Music. He played a temperamental Hungarian phoneticist in My Fair Lady. He was a Russian captain in The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming. Not only did he play a number of different nationalities over the years, but a number of different professions as well. He played medical doctors, university professors, military officers, rabbis, politicians, and much more. While many characters have a specific type to which they stick for years, Theodore Bikel had no specific type. He played everything. What is more, he could play everything and do it well.

What is all the more remarkable is that Theodore Bikel was not just a movie actor or television actor. He appeared on stage as well as in films and on television, and was a folk singer on top of all that. He released over thirty albums in his career as a folk singer. In an extraordinarily long career Theodore Bikel seemed to do a bit of everything and do it well. He was one of those few men with enormous talent in multiple media.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Nova Pilbeam R.I.P.

Nova Pilbeam, who appeared in such films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Tudor Rose (1936), and Young and Innocent (1937), died on July 17 2015 at the age of 95.

Nova Pilbeam was born in Wimbledon, London on November 15 1919. Her father,  Arnold Pilbeam, was a theatre manager and actor. It was quite natural, then, that Miss Pilbeam should begin acting while very young. She made her professional debut on stage when she was only twelve years old. It was not long before she made her film debut in Little Friend in 1934. That same year she appeared in her most famous role, that of young kidnap victim  Betty Lawrence in The Man Who Knew Too Much. In 1936 she starred as Lady Jane Grey in Tudor Rose. For the remainder of the Thirties she appeared in the films Young and Innocent (1936), Cheer Boys Cheer (1939), and Pastor Hall (1940).  She had been considered for the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca (1940), but the part ultimately went to Joan Fontaine.  She made her television debut in the production Prison Without Bars in 1939. Nova Pilbeam also appeared on stage. When she was sixteen years old she played Peter Pan at the London Palladium.

During the Forties Miss Pilbeam appeared in the films Spring Meeting (1941), Banana Ridge (1942), The Next of Kin (1942), Yellow Canary (1943), This Man Is Mine (1946), Green Fingers (1947), and Counterblast (1948).  In the Forties she continued to appear on stage, appearing at the Old Vic in such plays as The Seagull and Ah, Wilderness!.  Her final appearance on screen was in the 1951 television production The Shining Hour

In 1950 Miss Pilbeam married radio journalist Alexander Whyte. She retired from acting to concentrate on her family.

Although her career was brief, there can be no doubt that Nova Pilbeam was a talented actress. This was in evidence even when she was very young. She gave an fine performance as Jane Grey in Tudor Rose. She was also impressive in Young and Innocent. playing Erica Burgoyne, the daughter of a police officer who falls in love with a man falsely accused of murder. Even playing the kidnapped daughter in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Miss Pilbeam showed a great deal of talent. I rather suspect that if her career had been longer, Nova Pilbeam would be very well known today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Alex Rocco Passes On

Alex Rocco, who played Moe Greene in The Godfather (1972), died on July 18 2015 at the age of 79. The cause was cancer.

Alex Rocco was born Alessandro Petricone, Jr. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but spent most of his childhood in the town of  Somerville, Massachusetts. He dropped out of high school and moved to Boston for a time before moving to California where he took acting classes. He made his film debut in Motorpsycho! in 1965. He made his television debut in an episode of Run for Your Life in 1927. In the late Sixties Mr. Rocco appeared on the shows Batman, Get Smart, and That Girl. He appeared in the films The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), The Boston Strangler (1968), and Blood Mania (1970).

In the Seventies Alex Rocco was a regular on the short-lived series Three for the Road. He appeared on such TV shows as The F.B.I., Mission: Impossible, The Rookies, Get Christie Love!, Barnaby Jones, Kojak, Cannon, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Rockford Files, Baretta, Starsky & Hutch, and CHiPs. He appeared in such films as Wild Riders (1971), The Godfather (1972), Stanley (1972), Slither (1973), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), Detroit 9000 (1973), Three the Hard Way (1974), Freebie and the Bean (1974). Hearts of the West (1975), Rabbit Test (1978), and Herbie Goes Bananas (1980).

In the Eighties Alex Rocco had a regular role on the TV show The Famous Teddy Z and a recurring role on The Facts of Life. He appeared on such TV shows as Matt Houston, Hardcastle and McCormick, St. Elsewhere, The Love Boat, The A-Team The Golden Girls, T.J. Hooker, Hunter, Murphy Brown, and Carol & Company. He appeared in the films Nobody's Perfekt (1981), The Entity (1982), Scenes from the Goldmine (1987), Dream a Little Dream (1989), and Wired (1989).

In the Nineties Alex Rocco was a regular on the TV shows Sibs and The George Carlin Show. He appeared on such TV shows as Midnight Caller, Daddy Dearest, Hope & Gloria, The Simpsons, Home Improvement, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, The Practice, and Walker, Texas Ranger. He appeared in such films as The Pope Must Diet (1991), The Flight of the Dove (1994), Get Shorty (1995), Dead of Night (1996), That Thing You Do! (1996), A Bug's Life (1998), Dudley Do-Right (1999), and The Last Producer (2000).

In the Naughts and the Teens Alex Rocco was a regular on the shows The Division and Magic City. He appeared in such shows as Touched by an Angel, ER, Private Practice, and Maron. He appeared in such films as The Wedding Planner (2001), The Country Bears (2002), The Job (2003), Crazylove (2005), Smokin' Aces (2006), Blackbird (2011), and The House Across the Street (2013).

Alex Rocco was a very talented actor. He is perhaps best known for playing various gangsters, convicts, and other tough guys over the years. That having been said, that wasn't the limit of his ability and he did play other sorts of parts. In fact, he did play parts on the other side of law, appearing as police officers and F.B.I. agents. Mr. Rocco occasionally played other roles as well, including lawyers and doctors. Alex Rocco may have played many gangsters over the years, but his talent allowed him to play much more.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Twitter's Death Wish

If you are on Twitter then you might already know this. Sometime yesterday Twitter did away with background images on their web interface. On my computer it has been replaced by a sickly looking blue-green (it reminds me of a hospital), although others have said their backgrounds have been replaced by a blindingly bright white colour. For now, at least, one can temporarily restore his or her background image by going into the design section of "settings" and hitting "save". Unfortunately that is only a temporary fix. If one leaves Twitter, one will find his or her background image gone again.

Needless to say, Twitter users are not happy. A search on Twitter for "Twitter background" will reveal tweet after tweet of users who are unhappy that their backgrounds are gone. Some are complaining about the background Twitter chose to replace background images ("blinding" seems to be a recurring word in these tweets), while others simply complain about Twitter being boring without the Twitter images. Regardless, I have yet to see any Twitter users happy about the change.

Indeed, a Chrome developer has even gone so far as to create a Chrome extension that will restore one's Twitter background. Unfortunately, this fix only works on Chrome. As far as other browsers go, for now at least many Twitter users can go into the "Design" section of "Settings" and hit "Save" to restore their backgrounds, but the fix only seems to be temporary. If one leaves Twitter, he or she will return to find his or her background image gone again and will have to go through the whole process again.

As for myself, I have to count myself as one of the many people who are unhappy that Twitter has done away with backgrounds. Indeed, I am particularly unhappy that they chose to replace it with a rather hideous background colour (blue-green--really, Twitter?). Of course, to me this is only one of a number of missteps Twitter has made in the past many years to actively discourage users from using the Twitter web interface. Among the first of these missteps was combining "retweets" and "mentions" under one tab currently labelled "Notifications". Previously "retweets" and "mentions" had their own tab each. Another misstep occurred in the fall of 2013 when Twitter changed the way it handles conversations, making them harder to follow. Around the same time Twitter made another misstep in displaying inline images in the feed, giving web users no way to disable them. Yet another misstep occurred when Twitter changed user profiles. Not only did they rob user profiles of most of their individuality, but they started varying the size of the fonts of tweets so that one's profile feed is now harder to read.

Indeed, it is almost as if Twitter has a death wish where its web interface is concerned. None of these changes have made Twitter easier to use. In fact, they have done quite the opposite. They have made Twitter more difficult to use They have made Twitter so much more difficult to use that it almost seems as if they were designed to drive Twitter users away from the Twitter web interface and to such Twitter clients as HootSuite and Tweetdeck. If they don't have a death wish for their web interface, then they certainly don't be seem to be trying to keep it alive!

If Twitter does not want users fleeing to Twitter clients or, at the very least, to the mobile version of Twitter (which can be accessed on the web), then I believe they will want to restore background images as soon as possible. It probably wouldn't hurt if they back-pedalled on some of their other poor choices as well. I rather suspect many users would be happy if they returned to the old profile, not to mention gave "retweets" and "mentions" their own tabs again. Most of all, they should give web users the ability to disable inline images, perhaps the biggest single complaint (until doing away with the background images, anyway) among Twitter users. If they did all of this, they might actually have a chance to keep the Twitter web interface from becoming an also-ran when it comes to Twitter clients.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Godspeed Aubrey Morris

Aubrey Morris, who appeared in such films as The Wicker Man (1973) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) as well as such TV shows as The Avengers and Danger Man, died on July 15 2015 at the age of 89. He had been ill for several weeks.

Aubrey Morris was born on June 1 1926 in Portsmouth, Hampshire. His older brother Wolfe Morris also went into acting, appearing in such films as The Abominable Snowman (1957), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), and The MacKintosh Man (1973). Both Aubrey and Wolfe Morris appeared in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975). Aubrey Morris attended Portsmouth Municipal College before studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his stage debut  at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park in The Winter's Tale in 1944. He made his television debut in 1948 in the production Fly Away Peter.

From 1954 to 1956 he acted at The Old Vic in London. He made his debut on Broadway in 1956 in a revival of King Richard II. For the remainder of the Fifties he appeared again on Broadway in such productions as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Troilus and Cressida, and The Hostage. He appeared on television on the shows BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Ivanhoe, The Moonstone, The Terrible Choice, and The Herries Chronicle.

In 1962 Mr. Morris made his film debut in The Quare Fellow. In the Sixties he also appeared in the films The Night Caller (1963), The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (1966), The Sandwich Man (1966), The Magnificent Two (1967), and If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969). He appeared on such TV shows as Out of This World, Armchair Theatre, The Sentimental Agent, Espionage, Z Cars, The Saint, Thorndyke, The Avengers, Danger Man, Man in a Suitcase, The Prisoner, The Champions, Catweezle, and From a Bird's Eye View.

In the Seventies Aubrey Morris had regular roles on several shows, including Jamie, The Molly Wopsies, Rooms, and Touch and Go. He appeared on such TV shows as On the Buses, Bowler, Whodunnit?, The Sweeney, Space: 1999, Return of the Saint, and BBC2 Playhouse. He appeared in such films as Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Double Take (1972), The Wicker Man (1973), Man About the House (1974), Love and Death (1975), Lisztomania (1975), and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975).

In the Eighties Mr. Morris appeared on such shows as The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy; Metal Mickey; Reilly: Ace of Spies; Sledge Hammer!; Beauty and the Beast; Murder, She Wrote; Alien Nation; and Tales from the Crypt. He appeared in the films Oxford Blues (1984), Lifeforce (1985), and The Rachel Papers (1989).

In the Nineties Aubrey Morris appeared on such shows as Lovejoy, Babylon 5, Boy Meets World, Columbo, and The Others. He appeared in the films My Girl 2 (1994), The White Gorilla (1995), Bordello of Blood (1996), and Legend of the Mummy (1998). In the Naughts and the Teens he appeared on such shows as Deadwood and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He appeared in the films Visioneers (2008) and Necessary Evil (2008).

Aubrey Morris was a remarkable actor. Of course, with his distinctive voice he often played characters that could best be described as "offbeat". Despite this he actually played a wide variety of roles. This can be seen his what might be his two most famous roles. As the gardener/cemetery caretaker in The Wicker Man he was good natured and slightly bemused at Sergeant Howie (played Edward Woodward). As probation officer P.R. Deltoid in A Clockwork Orange he was initially friendly towards Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell), but turned resentful when Alex continued to comit acts of violence. Of course, Aubrey Morris also appeared in a good number of TV shows where he also played a large variety of roles. On The Avengers episode "Silent Dust" he played Quince, a somewhat eccentric birdwatcher. In the Danger Man episode "The Paper Chase" he played the petty thief and lottery seller who steals a briefcase that, unknown to him, contains top secret papers. In a long career Mr. Morris played everything from scientists to con men, and historical figures from Nikita Khrushchev to  Isaac D'Israeli. What is more, he did all of them well. In the various movies and TV shows in which Aubrey Morris appeared the parts have sometimes been small, but he also left a lasting impression.