Saturday, July 10, 2021

Godspeed William Smith

Prolific actor William Smith, who was a regular on such TV shows as The Asphalt Jungle, Laredo, Hawaii Five-O, and others, died on July 5 2021 at the age of 88.

William Smith was born on March 24 1933 in Columbia, Missouri. Following the Dust Bowl his family moved to California. As a child he worked as an extra on several movies, including The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis (1945), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Gilda (1946), and The Boy With Green Hair (1948), among others. In 1951 he enlisted in the United States Air Force. He served in the Korean War. As he was fluent in Russian, German, French, and Serbo-Croatian, he was hired by the CIA and NSA to teach classes at those agencies. He was working on his doctorate when he received an acting contract from MGM.

William Smith made his television debut in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre in 1954. He also appeared on The Ed Wynn Show, The Edge of Night, and Mr. Lucky. In 1959 he appeared in his first credited role in the movie The Mating Game (1959). In the Fifties he had uncredited roles in the movies Saturday's Hero (1951), High School Confidential (1958), Ask Any Girl (1959), Girl's Town (1959), Never So Few (1959), and The Gazebo (1959).

In the Sixties William was a regular on multiple television shows, playing Danny Keller on The Asphalt Jungle, Jimmy Delaney on the British TV show Zero One, and Texas Ranger Joe Riley on Laredo. He guest starred on the shows Stoney Burke; The Farmer's Daughter; Combat!; Kraft Television Theatre; Perry Mason; Tom, Dick and Mary; Broadside; The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Wagon Train; Custer; The Second Hundred Years; Batman; I Dream of Jeannie; The Virginian (on one episode of which he originated the role of Joe Riley from Laredo); The Guns of Will Sonnett; Lassie; Here Come the Brides; The Felony Squad; Daniel Boone; Death Valley Days; and The Most Deadly Game. He appeared in the TV movies The Over-the-Hill Gang and Crowhaven Farm. He appeared in the movies Go Naked in the World (1961), Atlantis: The Lost Continent (1961), Mail Order Bride (1965), 36 Hours (1964), Gavilan (1968), Run, Angel, Run! (1969), The Losers (1970), Angels Die Hard (1970), Darker Than Amber (1970), and C.C. & Comany (1970).

In the Seventies William Smith appeared in the television mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man and Rich Man, Poor Man Book II. He was a regular on Hawaii Five-O in its final season. He guest starred on the TV shows Julia, Dan August, Longstreet, The Mod Squad, Bearcats!, Columbo, Alias Smith and Jones, Mission Impossible, Search, Kung Fu, Ironside, The Streets of San Francisco, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Rockford Files, Planet of the Apes, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Gunsmoke, Bronk, S.W.A.T., Movin' On, Police Story, Barnaby Jones, The Blue Knight, City of Angels, Bert D'Angelo/Superstar, Police Woman, Logan's Run, The Oregon's Trail, The Eddie Capra Mysteries, Vega$, The Rebels, Trapper John M.D., Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Hagen. He appeared in the movies Summertime (1971), Chrome and Hot Leather (1971), Runaway, Runaway (1972), The Thing With Two Heads (1972), Grave of the Vampire (1972), Hammer  (1972), Piranha (1972), Camper John (1973), Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973), Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), The Last American Hero (1973), A Taste of Hell (1973), Policewoman (1974), Black Samson (1974), Win, Place or Steal (1974), The Boss (1974), Tiger Cage (1974), The Swinging Barmaids (1975), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), Dr. Minx (1975), Scorchy (1976), Hollywood Man (1976), Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977), Blood & Guts (1978), Blackjack (1978), Fast Company (1979), The Frisco Kid (1979), Seven (1979), and Any Which Way You Can (1980).

In the Eighties William Smith was a regular on the television shows Emerald Point N.A.S. and Wildside. He guest starred on the shows B.J. and the Bear, Fantasy Island, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Wonderful World of Disney, Code Red, Matt Houston, Seven Brides for Sven Brothers, The Fall Guy, CHiPs, Knight Rider, Benson, Masquerade, Riptide, The Master, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The Yellow Rose. Hardcastle and McCormick, T. J. Hooker, Simon & Simon, The A-Team, Airwolf, The Twlightt Zone, Murder She Wrote, Downtown, Houston Knights, O'Hara, Supercarrier, Paradise, Danger Bay, and Hunter. He appeared in the movies Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Outsiders (1983), Rumble Fish (1983), Red Dawn (1984), The Mean Season (1985), When Nature Calls (1985), Fever Pitch (1985), Eye of the Tiger (1986), Commando Squad (1987), Bulletproof (1987), Moon in Scorpio (1987), The Badd One (1987), Hell Come to Frogtown (1988), Maniac Cop (1988), Platoon Leader (1988), Hell on the Battlefield (1988), Evil Altar (1988), The Kill Machine (1988), Jungle Assault (1989), Action U.S.A. (1989), Empire of Ash III (1989), Deadly Breed (1989), Terror in Beverly Hills (1989), Memorial Valley Massacre (1989), L.A. Vice (1989), East L..A. Warriors (1989), B.O.R.N. (1989), Instant Karma (1990), Emperor of the Bronx (1990), Cartel (1990), Chance (1990), The Final Sanction (1990), and Forgotten Heroes (1990). 

In the Nineties Mr. Smith guest starred on the television shows Shades of L.A., The Young Riders, Vinnie & Bobby, Due South, Walker Texas Ranger, The Colony, Nash Bridges, and Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. He appeared in the movies Spirit of the Eagle (1991), The Roller Blade Seven (1991), Cybernator (1991), Feast (1992), The Last Riders (1992), American Me (1992), Shadow of the Dragon (1992), Legend of the Roller Blade Seven (1992), Dark Secrets (1992), A Mission to Kill (1992), Kiss and Be Killed (1993), Merchant of Evil (1993), Road to Revenge (1993), Return of the Roller Blade Seven (1993), Maverick (1994), Taken Alive (1994), Manosaurus (1994), Raw Energy (1995), Judee Strange (1995), Big Sister 2000 (1995), Neon Signs (1996), The Shooter (1997), Interview with a Zombie (1997), Hollywood Cops (1997), Doublecross on Costa's Island (1997), Warriors of the Apocalypse (1998), No Rest for the Wicked (1998), Wasteland Justice (1999), Vice (2000), Plastic Boys and the Jokers (2000).

In the Naughts William Smith was a guest voice on the animated TV series Justice League. He appeared in the movies The Elite (2001), Body Shop (2002), God Has a Rap Sheet (2003), Grave Tales (2004), Y.M.I. (2004), Hell to Pay (2005), Voices from the Graves (2006), Inner Rage (2006), Rapturious (2007), and The Boneyard Collection (2008). In the Teens he appeared in the movies Tiger Cage (2012), Island of the Witches (2014), and Irresistible (2020).

If William Smith was extremely prolific, it was perhaps because he was such a good actor. Highly educated and fluent in multiple languages, he could play nearly anything. Over the years he played both heroes and villains. On Laredo he played the good natured Texas Ranger Joe Riley. On both The Asphalt Jungle and Hawaii Five-O he played law enforcement officers. In contrast, on both Rich Man, Poor Man and Rich Man, Poor Man: Book II he played the hired thug Anthony Falconetti. In Darker Than Amber he was the rather sadistic bodybuilder Terry. He played both police officers and outlaw bikers several times in his career. What is more, he worked in genres ranging from Westerns to Blaxploitation to science fiction. William Smith was extremely prolific. He was also very good at what he did.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Godspeed Chick Vennera

Chick Venerra, who appeared in films such as Yanks (1979) and The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) and did a good deal of voice work in animated television shows, died on July 7 2021 at the age of 74. The cause was lung cancer.

Chick Venerra was born Francis Venerra on March 27 1947 in Herkimer, New York. He served in the United States Army Signal Corps. He moved from New York to California to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. For two years he worked as a dancer, acrobat, and clown in Disney on Parade and appeared in Grease both on Broadway and on tour.

Chick Venerra made his television debut in an episode of Lucas Tanner in 1975. He appeared in the mini-series Arthur Hailey's the Moneychangers and Once an Eagle. He guest starred on the shows Baretta, The Blue Knight, The Bastard, and Vega$. He appeared in the TV movies Billy: Portrait of a Street Kid and G.I.'s. He made his film debut in Thank God It's Friday (1978) and Yanks (1979).

In the Eighties Mr. Venerra appeared in the movies High Risk (1981), Free Ride (1986), Kidnapped (1987), The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), Last Rites (1988), Night Eyes (1990), and The Terror Within II (1990). On television he was the voice of Sam on the animated series Foofur. He guest starred on the shows T. J. Hooker, Hail to the Chief, Hollywood Beat, Diff'rent Strokes, Night Court, and The Golden Girls. He was a guest voice on The Jetsons. He appeared in the movies A Bunny's Tale and A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story.

In the Nineties Chick Venerra was a voice on the animated television shows Animaniacs and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. He was a guest voice on the animated television shows Capitol Critters, Batman: The Animated Series, Darkwing Duck, Bonkers, Cow and Chicken, Pinky and the Brain, and Batman Beyond. He guest starred on the shows The Untouchables, Pig Sty, Mad About You, Air America, JAG, L.A. Heat, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and That's Life. He appeared in the TV movies Runaway Father, Kissing Miranda, and Night Eyes Four: Fatal Passion. He appeared in the movies  McBain (1991), Double Threat (1992), Alone in the Woods (1996), Time Under Fire (1997), Evasive Action (1998), Final Voyage (1999), and Intrepid (2000).

In the Naughts Chick Venerra was a guest voice on the animated series Static Shock and he appeared in the movie Glass Trap (2005).

Chick Vennera was a very talented actor. He played a wide variety of roles from the carefree Marv Gomez in Thank God It's Friday to struggling bean farmer Joe Mondragon in The Milagro Beanfield War to American soldier Sergeant Danny Ruffelo in Yanks. In two guest appearances on The Golden Girls he played consumer reporter Enrique Mas. Mr. Vennera was also the voice of several different characters on animated TV shows, from the leader of the rat brothers, Sam, on Foofur to the supervillain Ferret on Static Shock. He was a gifted actor who could play nearly anything.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Deezer D Passes On

Deezer D, who played Nurse Malik McGrath for the entire run of the TV show ER, died on January 7 2021 at the age of 55. The cause was a heart attack. He was also a rapper.

Deezer D was born Dearon Thompson in March 12 1965 in Los Angeles, California. As a teen he dropped out of high school and eventually became an alcoholic. It was a friend who introduced him to working as an extra. Deezer D decided he wanted to become an actor and at the same time pursued a career as a a rapper. It was following an anti-smoking commercial that featured him rapping that he he got an agent. He also began stopped drinking and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

Deezer D made his film debut in the movie Cool as Ice in 1991. He made his television debut in an episode of Out of Sight. He was cast as Nurse Malik McGrath on ER, appearing in its pilot episode "24 Hours." In the Nineties he guest starred on the television shows The John Laroquette Show and Hope & Gloria. He appeared in the TV movie Angel Street. He also released an album, Livin' Up in a Down World, in 1997. He appeared in the movies Fear of a Black Hat (1993), CB4 (1993), The Great White Hype (1996), and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997). 

Deezer D continued to appear as Malik on ER for most the Naughts, appearing in its final episode, "And In the End." He guest starred in the TV show Starv-Ving. He appeared in the movies Bones (2001), Bringing Down the House (2003), In the Mix (2005), and The Way Back Home (2006). His album Unpredictable was released in 2002 and his album Delayed, But Not Denied was released in 2007. In the Teens he appeared in the movies Crowning Jules (2017) and this year he appeared in the movie Courting Mom and Dad (2021).

Before anything else I want to apologize for the fact that I am just now eulogizing Deezer D. His death in January entirely slipped past me. At any rate, I am saddened to hear that he died. Malik was one of my favourite characters on ER and Deezer D did a wonderful job of playing him. I know from Vanessa (who played Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER) that he was a very nice person on top of being a talented actor. Deezer D was always a delight to see on television and in movies. His passing is a cause for sorrow.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Godspeed Richard Donner

Richard Donner, who directed episodes of such classic TV shows as Wanted: Dead or Alive, Have Gun--Will Travel, and The Twilight Zone, as well as such movies as The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), and Ladyhawke (1985), died yesterday, June 5 2021, at the age of 91.

Richard Donner was born Richard Schwartzberg on April 24 1930 in New York City. He grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. He studied business an theatre arts at New York University. After a stint in the United States Navy, Mr. Donner appeared in small roles on Broadway. He also had small parts on television. It was director Martin Ritt who offered Richard Donner a job as an assistant director.

Richard Donner directed commercials, industrial films, and documentaries before breaking into television with an episode of Zane Grey Theatre in 1960. In the Sixties he would go onto direct several episodes of the shows Have Gun--Will Travel, The Loretta Young Show, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, Sam Benedict, The Twilight Zone, Mr. Novak, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., 12 O'Clock High, and The Banana Splits Hour. He also directed episodes of The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Route 66, The Tall Man, Wagon Train, The Detectives, The Eleventh Hour, Combat!, The Lieutenant, The Nurses, The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, Gilligan's Island, Perry Mason, Get Smart, The F.B.I., The Fugitive, It's About Time, Jericho, The Wild Wild West, and The Felony Squad. In 1961 he broke into movies with the feature film X-15. In the Sixties he also directed the films Salt and Pepper (1968), and Twinky (1970).

It was in the Seventies that Richard Donner became established as a movie director with the horror classic The Omen (1976). He followed it with another hit, Superman (1978). He directed a portion of Superman II, but was ultimately replaced by Richard Lester. He also directed the movie Inside Moves (1980). He continued to work in television, directing episodes of The Interns, Sarge, Bearcats!, The Sixth Sense, Cade County, Ghost Story, Banyon, Ironside, The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Lucas Tanner, Sons and Daughters, Petrocelli, Kojak, and Bronk. He also directed the TV movies Hernandez, Nightside, Stat!, The Shadow in the Streets, and Sarah T.--Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic.

In the Eighties Mr. Donner directed the dark fantasy movie Ladyhawke (1985), Lethal Weapon (1987) and Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), and the parody of A Christmas Carol, Scrooged (1988). He also directed the films The Toy (1982) and The Goonies (1985). On television he directed episodes of the show Tales from the Crypt. In the Nineties he directed the movies Radio Flyer (1992), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), Maverick (1994), Assassins (1995), Conspiracy Theory (1997), and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). He directed an episode of Tales from the Crypt and the segment "Showdown" for the TV pilot movie Two-Fisted Tales (based on the EC comic book of the same name).

In the Naughts Richard Donner directed the movies Timeline (2003) and 16 Blocks (2006). He also served as a producer on many of the films he directed and as well as such diverse movies as Bordello of Blood (1996) and X-Men (2000). On television he served as a producer on the shows Tales from the Crypt and Perversions of Science.

Richard Donner was a remarkable director. With regards to television, he directed some of the best remembered episodes ever. He directed the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," in which William Shatner watched a gremlin on the wing of a plane. He also directed the second episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., "The Iowa-Scuba Affair," in which Napoleon Solo must travel to Iowa to stop a saboteur at a secret U.S. Air Force base. He directed episodes of such classic shows as Wanted: Dead or Alive, Have Gun--Will Travel, and The Twilight Zone. Beyond classic television show episodes, Mr. Donner also directed classic movies, including The Omen, Superman, Ladyhawke, Lethal Weapon, and Scrooged. What makes his work in both television and film remarkable is that Richard Donner worked in a variety of genres. He directed works of horror, comedy, science fiction, fantasy, and straight forward drama. He was very versatile as a director.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy 4th of July 2021

Happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans! Here at A Shroud of Thoughts it is the custom to post appropriately themed classic pinups for certain holidays. Here then are the pinups for July 4th 2021.

Here is Lillian Bond with a lot of fireworks for her fireworks display!
Adele Mara is also planning a big fireworks display

Gloria Grahame prefers something with a bigger bang.
Melody Patterson and the American flag.
And it wouldn't be the 4th of July without Ann Miller!

Happy 4th of July!