Saturday, December 14, 2019

TCM Remembers 2019

Today Turner Classic Movies released its annual TCM Remembers, their memorial for the various film-related personages who died in the past year.  This year saw a large number of actors, directors, and writers die, including such legends as Carol Channing, Albert Finney, Julie Adams, Tim Conway, and, the biggest of them all, Doris Day. The only omission I can see in this year's edition is Peter Tork. While he was better known as one of The Monkees and a music star, he did appear in The Monkees' Head (1968) as well as a few other films. By the way, the song is "Waiting" by Alice Boman.

Anyhow, without further ado, here is this year's TCM Remembers.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Godspeed René Auberjonois

René Auberjonois, who played Father Mulcahy in the motion picture M*A*S*H (1970), Clayton Runnymede Endicott III on Benson, and Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, died on December 8 2019 at the age of 79.  The cause was metastatic lung cancer.

René Auberjonois was born on June 1 1940 in New York City. His father was Swiss-born Fernand Auberjonois, who was a foreign correspondent of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade. He was nominated multiple times for the Pulitzer Prize. His mother was Princess Laure Louise Napoléone Eugénie Caroline Murat, a great-great granddaughter of Joachim Murat, the 1st Prince Murat, Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808, and King of Naples from 1808 to 1815. Following World War II, his family moved to Paris and they spent several years in France. It was while in Paris that he decided to become an actor. The family later returned to the United States and joined the South Mountain Road artists' colony in Rockland County, New York. With the The Rockland Foundation Players he appeared in a production of All My Sons. The family later moved to London, where René Auberjonois completed his high school education. He attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology.  Following his graduation he worked with various theatrical companies. He helped found the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

René Auberjonois made his debut on Broadway in a production of King Lear in 1968. In the late Sixties he appeared on Broadway in the productions A Cry of Players, Fire!, and Coco. In the Seventies he appeared on Broadway in the productions Twelfth Night, Tricks, The Good Doctor, and Break a Leg. After a gap of several years, he returned to Broadway in Big River. In the late Eighties he appeared in Metamorphosis and City of Angels. He was off the Broadway stage for several years before appearing in Dance of the Vampires in 2002. His last appearance on Broadway was in Sly Fox in 2004.

René Auberjonois made his film debut in an uncredited role in Lilith in 1964. In the Sixties he appeared in the films Petulia (1968), M*A*S*H (1970), and Brewster McCloud (1970). In the Seventies he appeared in the films McCable and Mrs. Miller (1971), Images (1972), Pete 'n' Tillie (1972), The Hindenburg (1975), The Big Bus (1975), King Kong (1976), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), and Where the Buffalo Roam (1980).

In the Eighties René Auberjonois provided voices for the animated films The Last Unicorn (1982), Little Nemo (1989), and The Little Mermaid (1989). He appeared in the films 3:15 (1986), The Christmas Star (1986), My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987), Walker (1987), Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach (1988), and The Feud (1989).  In the Nineties he appeared in The Lost Language of Cranes (1991), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), The Player (1992), The Ballad of Little Joe (1993), Batman Forever (1995), Snide and Prejudice (1997), Los Locos (1997), Inspector Gadget (1999), The Patriot (2000), and We All Fall Down (2000). He provided a voice in the animated film Cats Don't Dance (1997).

In the Naughts Mr. Auberjonois appeared in the films Burning Down the House (2001) and Eulogy (2006). In the Teens he appeared in the films This is Happening (2015), Certain Women (2016), Blood Stripe (2016), The Circuit (2019), Windows on the World (2019), and Raising Buchanan (2019).

René Auberjonois made his television debut in an episode of The Mod Squad in 1971. In the Seventies he guest starred on the TV shows McMillan & Wife; Night Gallery; NET Playhouse; Love, American Style; Great Performances; Harry O; The Jeffersons; Ellery Queen; The Bob Newhart Show; Saturday Night Live; The Rookies; Baa Baa Black Sheep; Delvecchio; Rhoda; The Bionic Woman; Rosetti & Ryan; Man from Atlantis; Richie Brockelman, Private Eye; Starsky and Hutch; The Rockford Files; Wonder Woman; Hart to Hart; Charlie's Angels; Mrs. Columbo; Beyond Westworld; and The Righteous Apples. He appeared in the mini-series The Rhinemann Exchange, The Lives of Benjamin Franklin; and The Dark Secret of Harvest Home. Mr. Auberjonois appeared in several television movies in the decade, including the reunion movie The Wild Wild West Revisited. Beginning in 1980, he played Clayton Runnymede Endicott III on Benson.

For much of the Eighties René Auberjonois continued to appear on Benson. In the Eighties he guest starred on Faerie Tale Theatre; Murder, She Wrote; Blacke's Magic; and L.A. Law. Either as a voice or a regular he provided voices for several television cartoon series, among them Challenge of the GoBots, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, Wildfire, Johnny Quest, Superman, Snorks, The Further Adventures of SuperTed, and Darkwing Duck.

Beginning in 1993, Mr. Auberjonois played security chief Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He guest starred on the shows Civil Wars; Lucky Luke; Eerie, Indiana; Matlock; The Outer Limits; Poltergeist: The Legacy; Chicago Hope; Stargate SG-1; and The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne. Either as a guest or a regular, he provided voices for several animated series, including Batman: The Animated Series; The Pirates of Dark Water; Aladdin; The Savage Dragon; Richie Rich; Men in Black: The Series; and The Wild Thornberrys.

In the Naughts René Auberjonois had a regular role on Boston Legal and earlier a recurring role on Judging Amy. He guest starred on the shows Nash Bridges, Frasier, The Practice, Star Trek: Enterprise, Saving Grace, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Dan Vs. He provided voices for several animated shows, including The Legend of Tarzan, Justice League, Xiaolin Showdown, Xyber 9: New Dawn, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Young Justice.

In the Teens he guest starred on Bored to Death, Criminal Minds, Grey's Anatomy, NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, The Good Wife, 1600 Penn, Warehouse 13; and Madam Secretary. He provided voices for such animated series as The Looney Tunes Show, Archer, Pound Puppies, and Ben 10: Omniverse.

René Auberjonois was an extraordinarily talented and versatile actor. This can be seen in that the characters in television shows for which he was best known were often very different. On Benson Clayton Runnymede Endicott III was a snob with a long streak of arrogance. On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Odo was taciturn, a cynic, and a curmudgeon, but one with a very warm heart. On Boston Legal Paul Lewiston was strictly by the book. The three characters were each very different, but all were played excellently by Mr. Auberjonois. His versatility was seen in his work as a voice actor as well. He played everything from supervillains such as DeSaad and Blockbuster to amorous skunk Pepe LePew. René Auberjonois was extremely versatile and very talented. It is little wonder he was also very prolific.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Godspeed Ron Leibman

Ron Leibman, who appeared in such films as The Super Cops (1974) and Norma Rae (1979) and starred in the short-lived television show Kaz, died on December 6 2019 at the age of 82. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

Ron Leibman was born on October 11 1937 in Manhattan, New York City. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. In the late Fifties he was a member of the Compass Players. He studied acting at the Actors Studio. He made his debut on Broadway in Dear Me, the Sky is Falling. That same year he appeared on Broadway in Bicycle Ride to Nevada. In the Sixties he also appeared in the productions We Bombed in New Haven and Cop-Out. He returned to Broadway in 1980 in I Ought to Be in Pictures. In the Eighties he appeared in the productions Doubles and Rumors. In the Nineties he appeared in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Angels in America: Perestroika. He won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play and the Tony Award for Best Actor for the former.

Ron Leibman made his television debut in a guest appearance on The Edge of Night in 1956. In the Sixties he guest starred on The DuPont Show of the Week and Hawk. In the Seventies he starred on the short-lived drama Kaz. He guest starred on Police Story. He appeared in the TV movies The Art of Crime and A Question of Guilt.  In the Eighties he guest starred on the shows Comedy Factory, Aaron's Way, and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in the TV movies Many Happy Returns and Christmas Movie.

In the Nineties Mr. Leibman starred on the TV show Pacific Station, Central Park West, and Holding the Baby. He appeared in a recurring role in four episode of Friends into the Naughts. He was a guest voice on the animated shows Fish Police; Duckman, Private Dick; and Rugrats. He guest starred on Law & Order. In the Naughts he continued to appear on Holding the Baby. He guest starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Practice, and The Sopranos. He was the voice of Ron Cadillac on the animated series Archer.

Ron Leibman made his movie debut in Where's Poppa? in 1970. In the Seventies he appeared in the films The Hot Rock (1972), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), Your Three Minutes Are Up (1973), The Super Cops (1974), Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), Norma Rae (1979), and Up the Academy (1980). In the Eighties, Mr. Leibman appeared in the films Zorro: The Gay Blade (1981), Phar Lap (1983), Romantic Comedy (1983), Door to Door (1984), Rhinestone (1984), and Seven Hours to Judgement (1988). In the Nineties he appeared in the films Night Falls on Manhattan (1996) and Just the Ticket (1998). In the Naughts he appeared in the films Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (2002), Dummy (2002), Auto Focus (2002), and Garden State (2004). His final film was A Little Help in 2010.

If Ron Leibman had success on Broadway, television, and in film, it was because he was an extremely talented actor. He could play in a variety of genres, and during his career his roles ranged from comedy to drama. He gave a stand out performance as union organizer Reuben Warshowsky in the drama Norma Rae, as well as driver Murch in the comedy caper movie The Hot Rock. He did so well as former convict turned defence attorney Martin "Kaz" Kazinsky on the TV show Kaz that he won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama. Few actors see success on the stage, television, and in the movies. Ron Leibman had the talent to do so.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Robert Walker Jr. Passes On

Robert Walker Jr, who appeared in the movies The War Wagon (1967) and Easy Rider (1969) and made notable guest appearances on television, particularly the Star Trek episode "Charlie X," died on December 5 2019 at the age of 79.

Robert Walker Jr. was the son of Hollywood royalty, actors Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones. He was born on April 15 1940 in Queens, New York. His parents divorced when he was only five years old. He attended Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. He trained in acting at the Actors Studio. He made his television debut in an episode of First Performance in 1957. He also appeared on the television show The Unforeseen in 1959.

In the Sixties Robert Walker Jr. guest starred on the shows Route 66, Naked City, The Dupont Show of the Week, The Eleventh Hour, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Defenders, Mr. Novak, The Big Valley, Days of Our Lives, The Trials of O'Brien, Star Trek, Combat!, The Road West, 12 O'Clock High, The Monroes, The Time Tunnel, The Invaders, Bonanza, and The F.B.I. He made his film debut in 1963 in The Hook. He appeared in the movies Ensign Pulver (1964), The Happening (1967), The War Wagon (1967), The Savage Seven (1968), The Face of Eve (1968), Killers Three (1968), Agilok & Blubbo (1969), Easy Rider (1969), Young Billy Young (1969), The Man from O.R.G.Y. (1970), and La route de Salina (1970).

In the Seventies, Mr. Walker guest starred on the shows Marucs Welby, M.D.; Columbo; Cannon; The Streets of San Francisco; Police Woman; Quincy, M.E.; The Next Step Beyond; and Charlie's Angels. He appeared in the mini-series Beulah Land. He appeared in the movies Beware! The Blob (1972), Don Juan ou Si Don Juan était une femme... (1973), Hex (1973), The Spectre of Edgar Allan Poe (1974), Gone with the West (1974), The Passover Plot (1976), and Evil Town (1977).

In the Eighties Robert Walker Jr. guest starred on CHiPs, Matt Houston, Simon & Simon, Riptide, Dallas, The Fall Guy, Dragnet, and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in the movies Angkor: Cambodia Express (1982), Olivia (1983), The Devonshire Terror (1983), and Hambone and Hillie (1983). In the Nineties he guest starred on the TV shows In the Heat of the Night, L.A. Law, The New Adam-12, The New Lassie, Santa Barbara, and F.B.I.: The Untold Stories. His final appearance was a small part in the movie Heaven's War in 2018.

In addition to his acting Robert Walker Jr. was also a talented photographer. He also operated the TOPS Gallery in Malibu, California.

Robert Walker Jr. was a talented actor who could play a diverse number of roles. For many he may be most familiar as Charlie Evans, the 17 year old with incredible power, in the Star Trek episode "Charlie X." At the time Mr. Walker was 26 years old, but he convincingly played a mentally unstable 17 year old. In The War Wagon he played Billy Hyatt, the young, alcoholic explosives expert. In the Columbo episode "Mind Over Mayhem" he played scientist Neil Cahill. Robert Walker Jr. was a very talented actor capable of playing a large number of roles.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Late, Great Caroll Spinney

Caroll Spinney, who played both Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird on long-running children's show Sesame Street, died today at the age of 85.

Carroll Spinney was born on December 26 1933 in Waltham, Massachusetts. He had an interest in drawing, painting, and puppetry from a young age. By age twelve he had a collection of 70 puppets, many made by his mother. He graduated from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and then attended the Art Institute of Boston before dropping out to join the United States Air Force. While serving in Las Vegas he had his own professional puppet television show, playing Rascal Rabbit. Following his service he returned to Boston where he was a puppeteer for Bozo's Big Top for many years.

It was in 1969 that he met Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, at a puppeteer's festival in Las Vegas. From the very beginning he was a part of Sesame Street, from its debut in 1969. He played both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from the start. In 2015 he ceased puppeteering Big Bird as the role had become too physically demanding, but continued providing his voice and continued puppeteering Oscar. He retired entirely in 2018. Over the years he would sometimes voice other characters, including Bruno the Trashman and Bennett Snerf.  He also made appearances as either Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, or both on such shows as The Electric Company, Flip, The Muppet Show, Soul Man, Scrubs, The Bonnie Hunt Show, Portlandia, and Saturday Night Live. He also appeared in various movies as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, or both in such films as The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), and Follow That Bird (1985), among others. Caroll Spinney also appeared as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, or both in numerous TV specials and video releases, as well as making live appearances as the characters.

In addition to his work with Sesame Street, he voiced a dog in a pound in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993). Before Sesame Street he had built the puppets Picklepuss and Pop for Bozo's Big Top. Picklepuss and Pop were later rebuilt and used in the Jim Henson Play-Along video, Wow, You're a Cartoonist! in 1988.

Caroll Spinney voiced two of the most famous characters in a children's show ever. What makes that even more remarkable is that Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch not only had dramatically different voices, but they also had dramatically different personalities. Despite his size, Big Bird was perpetually six years old, naive and filled with wonder. Oscar was persistently grumpy and inclined to even be slightly rude at times, but ultimately had a soft heart under all that fur. The two characters were a large part of the success of Sesame Street from its very beginnings.