Sunday, November 5, 2023

Burt Young, Joan Evans, and Matthew Perry Pass On

October saw the deaths of several beloved actors, so many that it has been difficult to keep up. Each one of these performers deserves their own eulogy, but I really do not want my blog to be dominated by posts on celebrity deaths. For that reason, I am addressing each one of these actors in a single post.

Burt Young died on October 8 2023 at the age of 83. He was perhaps best known for playing Rocky's best friend and brother-in-law Paulie in the "Rocky" movies. He also appeared in the movies Chinatown (1974)  and Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

Burt Young was born Gerald DeLouise on April 30 1940 in New York City. He grew up in Queens. From 1957 to 1959 he served in the United States Marine Corps. While in the Marine Corps he boxed, winning 32 out of 34 bouts. After his service continued as a boxer. He worked as a  carpet cleaner, salesman, and installer while studying acting at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg.

Burt Young made his television debut in an episode of the soap opera The Doctors in 1969. He made his movie debut in Carnival of Blood in 1970. During his career he appeared in such films as The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971), Cinderella Liberty (1973), Chinatown (1974), Rocky (1976), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), and Betsy's Wedding (1990). His last appearance in a film during his lifetime was The Final Code (2021). On television she starred on the sitcom Roomies and the mini-series Vendetta: Secrets of a Mafia Bride and The Last Don. He guest starred on such shows as M*A*S*H, Little House on the Prairie, Baretta, The Rockford Files, Miami Vice, The Equalizer, Tales from the Crypt, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Sopranos, and Kevin Can Wait.

Burt Young may always be remembered best for playing tough guys, but he could play other sorts of roles as well. In Roomies he played a former Marine drill sergeant who becomes friends with his 14 year old boy genius room mate, the two helping each other navigate college. In the M*A*S*H episode "L.I.P." he played Lt. Willis, a by-the-book C.I.D. officer investigating the application of the unit's corporals to marry a Korean woman. Of course, he did play many tough guy roles. In Chinatown he played Curly, who does not take his wife's infidelity at all well. Of course, in the "Rocky" movies Paulie is both an alcoholic and a cynic who nonetheless cares for Rocky and Rocky's sister. Burt Young was a very talented actor who consistently gave good performances.

Joan Evans died on October 21 2023 at the age of 89. She appeared in such movies as On the Loose (1951) and It Grows on Trees (1952).

Joan Evans was born Joan Eunson on July 18 1934 in New York City. Her father was author Dale Eunson. Her mother was screenwriter Katharine Albert. She was named for actress Joan Crawford, who was her godmother.

Joan Evans was only 14 when she appeared in her first film, playing the title role in Roseanna McCoy. She appeared in such movies as On the Loose (1951), Skirts Ahoy! (1952), It Grows on Trees (1952), A Strange Adventure (1956), and The Walking Target (1960). On television she guest starred on the shows General Electric Theatre, Climax!, The Millionaire, Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train, Zorro, Tales of Wells Fargo and Laramie. In the early Sixties she retired from acting to care for her family. She was later an editor at Hollywood Studio Magazine and taught at  the Carden Academy in Van Nuys.

Joan Evans played a variety of roles in her career. In her movie debut as Roseanna McCoy she played a young member of the McCoy clan involved in a forbidden romance with a Hatfield. In Skirts Ahoy! she played a Midwestern girl-next-door who had been dumped by her boyfriend and, as a result, joined the WAVES. In the Laramie episode "The Killer Legend" she played the wife of an ex-convict who maintained his innocence. Joan Evans's acting career was not terribly long, but she left behind several good performances.

Matthew Perry, best known for playing Chandler Bing on all ten seasons of Friends, died on October 28 2023 at the age of 54.

Matthew Perry was born on August 19 1969 in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His father was John Bennett Perry who starred in the TV shows 240-Robert and Falcon Crest. His mother was Canadian journalist Suzanne Marie. His parents divorced not long after he was born, and he was raised by his mother in Ottawa, Ontario. He was 15 years old when he moved to Los Angeles to live with his father.

Matthew Perry made his television debut in 1979 when he had a guest appearance on 240-Robert. He studied acting at  The Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California. While in high school he studied improv at L.A. Connection. Prior to Friends, he starred in the short-lived shows Second ChanceSydney and.Home Free. He guest starred on such shows as Charles in Charge, Silver Spoons, The Tracy Ullman Show, Highway to Heaven. Growing Pains and Beverly Hills 90120. It was in 1994 that he began a ten year stint playing Chandler Bing on the sitcom Friends. He would be nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy in 2002 for the role.

Following Friends, Matthew Perry starred on the shows Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine, Go On, and The Odd Couple. He guest starred on such shows as The Simpsons, Ally McBeal, The West Wing, Scrubs, and The Good Wife. He also appeared in movies, including She's Out of Control (1989), Fools Rush In (1997), The Whole Nine Yards (2000), and 17 Again (2009). Matthew Perry created the show Mr. Sunshine and developed the show The Odd Couple for television.

I think it is safe to say Matthew Perry will always be best remembered as the sardonic Chandler Bing on Friends, and it is with good reason. While I think Friends declined in quality in its later seasons, Matthew Perry was always good as Chandler. Of course, it must be kept in mind he also played many other roles. On Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip he played Matt Able, a former writer who takes over the production of the fictional sketch comedy show Studio 60. On The West Wing he played Joe Quincy, a Republican lawyer who became Associate White House Counsel for President Bartlett (Martin Sheen). In The Whole Nine Yards, Matthew Perry played Oz Oseransky, a dentist who realizes his neighbour is a contract killer. Matthew Perry could play drama and comedy equally well, although he had a real gift comedy. His timing was perfect and he could deliver a line better than anyone else. He made any show or movie better with his performances.

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