Tuesday, September 25, 2018

RIP Frank Parker

The Reporter
September 25, 2018

Frank Russell Parker passed away on Sunday, Sept. 16, at the age of 79 in Vacaville, from complications of Parkinson's and dementia. He was born July 1, 1939 in Darby, PA to Dorothy Ada Platner and Edward Wallace Parker. He was raised in Lansdowne, PA by his mother and step father Maurice Gordon. He spent many happy summers with his grandmother Mabel Green in upstate New York. He earned his BA in Acting from Carnegie Tech in 1962 and moved to Culver City. He married Nola Donelle Rajcok in 1981 and had three daughters, Candace Donelle and fraternal twins Danielle Dallas and Lindsay Kyle. In 2005, he married Mary Jean Dunning Garofalo and resided in Vacaville, until his death. His acting career spanned many years. He was in numerous films and television series throughout the 60's and 70's. He played roles on several soap operas during the 80's, most notably as Grandpa Shawn Brady on Days of Our Lives from 1983 until he retired in 2008. Frank was a people person; he touched many lives and was loved by everyone. He could light up a room with his singing voice and was known to burst into song at any moment. He was a ham and loved the spotlight. Above all, he was the most supportive, generous, kind man and father. Frank loved his family. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Candi; mother-in-law, Dorothy Jean Wachsman Dunning, and former father-in-law, Robert Rajcok. He is survived by his wife, Mary; daughters, Danielle (Matthew) Buckles, Lindsay Parker (Travis Burbank) and their mother, Nola; his grandson, Jaxson Dale; sisters-in-law, Jo Dunning, Patricia Dunning; brother-in-law, Bob Dunning; former mother-in-law, Sharon Rajcok; sisters-in-law, Mary Rajcok, Andi Jurich; brothers-in-law, Robert Rajcok, Dale Espina, Kevin Fox; also, numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. In loving memory of Frank, a rosary will be held on Wednesday Sept. 26, at 7 p.m., at Saint Mary's Catholic Church, 350 Stinson Ave., Vacaville, CA 95688. Funeral service will be held in Los Angeles, CA at a later date. In Frank's honor, donations may be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary's Catholic Church at the above address. "It's never goodbye...it's always, 'I'll see ya later.'" Frank Parker.

PARKER, Frank (Frank Russell Parker)
Born: 7/1/1939, Danby, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Died: 9/16/2018, Vacaville, California, U.S.A.

Frank Parker’s westerns – actor:
Stay Away Joe – 1968 (Deputy Sheriff Hank Matson)
The Cowboys (TV) – 1974 (Herbert Mackey)
Little House on the Prairie (TV) – 1974 (Sean Hern)

Monday, September 24, 2018

RIP Gary Kurtz

Fantha Tracks
September24, 2018
Star Wars Producer – Gary Kurtz

Gary Kurtz, Star Wars producer passed away on Sunday the 23rd of September at 4.47pm after living with Cancer for the last year.

In the 70s and 80s Gary Kurtz was a young film maker that revolutionized the Hollywood film industry at its core with his films like Star Wars, American Graffiti and The Empire Strikes Back. The agreements he closed altered the balance of power from the film studio to the directors and producers so they could, for the first time, make the films how they wanted to make them and control the process of the art of filmmaking.

In the mid 1960s Gary Kurtz was assistant director on a Monte Hellman western, Ride in the Whirlwind, starring Jack Nicholson, and went on to work on Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet with Basil Rathbone and Queen of Blood, with John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, and Dennis Hopper, and then on to another Monte Hellman western, The Shooting, starring Warren Oates and Jack Nicholson, and finally wore multiple hats as production manager, assistant director, and editor on the Harry Dean Stanton film The Hostage.

Then in 1966 Gary Kurtz joined the U.S. Marine Corps where he served his country in Vietnam. This led him to experiences in his life that would later directly influence his film making skills and story telling ethos.

After leaving military service, Gary Kurtz moved into studio pictures, and became associate producer on Chandler and Two-Lane Blacktop with Monte Hellman for Universal Pictures, both in 1971. Kurtz’s well-rounded skills in directing, editing, producing and storytelling made him the perfect partner for the young upcoming George Lucas when they first met through Francis Ford Coppola in 1971. This meeting led to a collaboration of these two film makers that lasted over a decade.

Gary Kurtz studied religion extensively in his early years. In the early stages of development on “Star Wars” he suggested to Lucas that he might give the film a sufficiently universal religion to help to give it more depth. That led to Kurtz working on the “Star Wars” screenplay and developing “The Force” which would go on to influence generations of fans. Lucasfilm was born under their banner, and went on to make some of Hollywood’s most successful films of all time.

Gary Kurtz developed a good relationship with Universal Pictures off the back of Two-Lane Blacktop in 1971. Following that, George Lucas and Gary Kurtz brought a two-film deal to Universal for American Graffiti and a sci-fi film that was to be Star Wars. American Graffiti was a low budget movie and cost only $777K which was less than Kurtz’s last movie Two-Lane Blacktop at $850K, but American Graffiti went on to take $140 Million world wide which made it the lowest cost to highest profit ratio film of all time and that record held until The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Kurtz now 33 years old went into re-negotiations with Universal Pictures to make the the second of the two film deal which was to be the Star Wars film. In the end Universal passed on the project because the script was not fully developed.

Gary Kurtz later closed a deal with 20th Century Fox to make Star Wars for $11 million, and off the back of this Kurtz and Lucas set up the Star Wars Corporation. Gary Kurtz became Vice President of the corporation looking after the development of the film and also the film’s other assets such as merchandising rights and products. Star Wars was to become a troublesome production which was complicated to finish. It pushed special effects technology and the art of filmmaking to the limit.

In order to finish the film on time, Kurtz set up a second unit and directed many pick up shots, most of the cockpit dog fighting scenes, and most of the Star Wars opening scene interior fight sequences on Princess Leia’s ship. He then went back to the US to work on the special effects miniature unit at ILM as they were struggling to complete many of the shots that were promised in England. At this point, George Lucas was not confident that they had a film to release, but in the end Star Wars was finally finished and unleashed to the world on May 25, 1977 and became one of the biggest films of all time bringing in over 1.1 Billion Dollars.

Kurtz and Lucas carried on their partnership but they both started to have desires to make different sequels to the successful films they had already released. So, it was decided that Gary Kurtz would make the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back and that Lucas would make the sequel to American Graffiti, More American Graffiti. Gary Kurtz would join up with long time friend Irvin Kershner to direct Empire, the film again pushed all limitations in filmmaking technology. The film had twice the number of sets that the first Star Wars film did and a budget match of $18,000,000.

Gary chose to film in icy Norway where he had served out his basic training in the U.S. Marine Corps. They filmed there during Norway’s coldest weather in over 25 years. The production then came back to its UK home in Elstree Studios, but disaster struck when the the large sound stage there caught fire during Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. Gary Kurtz again just got on with what was needed to make the film happen and negotiated with the studio to have a new soundstage built using Lucasfilm funding. The agreement allowed them to use the stage rent free and once the filming of Empire was completed the new soundstage was to be sold back to the studio. This saved on the production budget and only pushed the filming back by a few days. In the end, the film, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released on June 20th 1980.

At this time Gary Kurtz started to feel that Lucasfilm had become too corporate as he often said there were too many suits in the production office that was supposed to be full of artistic people. That started to damage the strength of the Lucas / Kurtz partnership. Gary Kurtz was asked to produce Revenge of the Jedi (Return of The Jedi) and turned it down as he felt the script was too limited and that most of what was in the script had already been seen in the first two films (i.e. Another Death Star and the sand planet). He had worked on the Star Wars films for many years now and wanted to continue with changing the direction of filmmaking.

Kurtz was living in the UK at this point and had made several interesting filmmaking friends there. He had been talking to Jim Henson about a big film featuring only puppets. This felt like a real challenge to him, which is exactly what he was searching for, so he joined up with Jim Henson to produce and second unit direct The Dark Crystal, a technical filmmaking masterpiece.

Gary Kurtz’s next big film was again not going to be easy. A long time friend, Walter Murch, had written the screenplay and was to Direct Return to Oz. Gary Kurtz Executive Produced it and it was critically acclaimed for its technical achievements with the room of mirrors. It was a very dark twist on the world of Oz and was released June 21st of 1985.

Gary Kurtz went on to produce more films such as Slipstream (1989) with Mark Hamill, The Steal (1995), 5-25-77 (2007) and stayed working in the industry developing projects around the world including the far east and China up until his death, at the age of 78.

Gary Kurtz was considered by many as a pioneer in the film industry and a master of the art of filmmaking. He found any opportunity to share his expansive knowledge of the film industry with budding filmmakers and those seeking knowledge. He was a real humanitarian and a gentleman; some have said that he is one of the gentlest souls in the film profession, modest and humble, and a very unique man.

Gary Kurtz’s art left lasting impressions on generations of adults and children across the world. We have him to thank for these wonderful memories that he made for us all. Gary Kurtz helped to create the force and it is with us always.

Gary Kurtz left behind Clare Gabriel ,Tiffany Kurtz, Melissa Kurtz, and Dylan Kurtz. Our thoughts are with his family.
Born: 7/27/1940, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Died: 9/23/2018, London, England, U.K.
Gary Kurtz’s westerns – assistant director, cameraman:
Ride in the Whirlwind – 1966 [assistant director]
The Shooting – 1966 [camerman]

RIP Laurie Mitchell

Laurie Mitchell, Villainess in 'Queen of Outer Space,' Dies at 90

The Hollywood Reporter
By Mike Barnes

She appeared in two other low-budget sci-fi films in 1958: 'Attack of the Puppet People' and 'Missile to the Moon.'

Laurie Mitchell, who portrayed the villainess who faces off against Zsa Zsa Gabor on the planet Venus in the campy 1958 sci-fi classic Queen of Outer Space, has died. She was 90.

Mitchell died Thursday of natural causes at a long-term care facility in Perris, California, author and horror/sci-fi movie aficionado Tom Weaver reported.

In Allied Artists Pictures' low-budget Queen of Outer Space, based on an idea from two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Ben Hecht, four men from Earth on the way to a space station crash on Venus in the year 1985, when the "age of space travel begins."

The crew are captured by armed, mini-skirted women who are led by a man-hating queen (Mitchell) whose face is hidden by a glittery mask. Queen Yllana is out to destroy the Earth, but the space travelers, aided by the Venusian scientist Talleah (Gabor), aim to thwart her evil plan.

The role made Mitchell a fan favorite at film festivals and autograph shows for the rest of her life.

The actress appeared in two other low-budget films in 1958, Attack of the Puppet People and Missile to the Moon, then worked alongside Marilyn Monroe as a member of Sweet Sue's band in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959), which, she told Weaver, was "the most thrilling experience of my show business career."

Mitchell, whose birth name was Mickey Koren, was raised in New York City. She and her family moved to California when she was a teenager, and she studied acting with Ben Bard.

In 1954, she made her movie debut when she appeared as one of the two hookers flanking Kirk Douglas near the beginning of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and appeared on TV for the first time in an installment of Ford Television Theatre.

Mitchell also showed up in films including Calypso Joe (1957) and That Touch of Mink (1962) and on TV in Adventures of Superman, 77 Sunset Strip, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Hawaiian Eye, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Bonanza, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Addams Family and The Virginian.

Survivors include her husband, Ron; a son and daughter from her first marriage; two stepsons; and five grandchildren. A memorial service is set for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries at Forest Lawn.

MITCHELL, Laurie (Mickey Koren)
Born: 7/14/1928, Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 9/20/2018, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Laurie Mitchell’s westerns – actress:
The Rawhide Years – 1956
The Oklahoman – 1957 (girl)
Colt .45 – 1957 (Adele)
Death Valley Days (TV) – 1957, 1964 (Mary, Mary Edwards Beale, Sheila)
26 Men (TV) – 1959 (Addie Hardie)
Wanted: Dead or Alive (TV) – 1959 (Belle Colter)
Two Faces West – 1960 (Myrna)
The Deputy (TV) – 1960 (Lorrie)
Hell Bent for Leather – 1960 (girlfriend)
Bonanza (TV) – 1960, 1964 (Harriett, Julie Martingale)
The Man from Blackhawk (TV) – 1960 (Carol)
Wagon Train (TV) – 1960, 1964 (Pricess Fatime, Jane, Annie Tolleson)
Maverick (TV) – 1961 (Ellen)
Rawhide (TV) – 1961 (Rosette)
Bronco (TV) – 1962 (Bess)
Gunfight at Comanche Creek – 1963 (Tina Neville)
The Sheriff of Cochise (TV) – 1966 (girl clerk)
The Virginian (TV) – 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 (Susie, Ellen, waitress, Louise)
Laredo (TV) – 1966 (waitress)

RIP Al Matthews

Aliens actor Al Matthews dies aged 75

The Independent
By Clarisse Loughrey
September 24, 2018

Al Matthews, best known for playing Gunnery Sergeant Apone in Aliens (1986), has died aged 75.

El Pais reports that the actor was found dead in his home, in Orihuela Costa, in the Spanish Mediterranean province of Alicante, on Sunday, after a neighbor called the emergency services.

Born in Brooklyn in 1942, Matthews had served as a Marine in the Vietnam War. His website states: "I hold thirteen combat awards and decorations, including two purple hearts. I was the first black Marine in the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam to be meritoriously promoted to the rank of sergeant".

Alongside his role in Aliens, Matthews also played the fire chief in Superman III (1983), a workman in Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), and General Tudor in The Fifth Element (1997). He returned to the role of Sgt Apone nearly 30 years later, when he voiced the character in the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013).

He also had a strong career in the UK, where he appeared on Grange Hill as the father of Benny Green and had his song "Fool" reach number 16 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975. He retired in Spain in 2005, although his last film was this year's The Price of Death, which is currently in post-production.

Born: 11/21/1942, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 9/23/2018, Orihuela Costa, Alicante, Spain

Al Matthews’ western – actor:
The Price of Death – 2018 (Williamson)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

RIP Vilma Valera

By Henni Espinosa
September 22, 2018

Vilma Valera, a popular Filipino actress in the 1960s, passed away in Roseville, California on Friday. She was 73.

Donnie Quintero Pestrana, a friend and neighbor of Valera, told ABS-CBN News that Valera died in her sleep due to complications from diabetes around 6:50 a.m. on September 21.

She was reportedly staying at a care facility.

Valera was known for her roles in Salambao (1964), Duelo sa Sapang Bato (1963) and Nag-uumpugang Bato (1961).

She also recorded several albums before she retired from show business in the early 1970s.

VALERA, Vilma (Judy Johnson)
Born: 7/2/1945, Bicol, Philippines
Died: 9/21/2018, Roseville, California, U.S.A.

Vilma Valera’s westerns – actress:
Ulilang Cowboy - 1963
Cimarron – 1964

Friday, September 21, 2018

RIP Ben Rawnsley

Tampa Bay Time
September 21, 2018

Ben C. Rawnsley, 85, of Plant City, passed away Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 at St. Joseph's Hospital. Ben was born in Cincinnati, OH. He graduated from Ft Thomas High School and went on to University of Kentucky. He worked as an actor in Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA and Plant City, FL theaters and enjoyed many roles in commercials, TV and film. He was a member of Screen Actors Guild. Ben was preceded in death by his parents, Ben and Kathleen; first wife, Janet; and son, Michael. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Jayne; children, Terry, Diane (Marting) and James; grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, and friends. The family will receive guests from 5:30-6 pm at Wells Memorial, Plant City and a memorial service will take place immediately afterwards at 6 pm on Sunday, Sept 23.

RAWNSLEY, Ben (Ben C. Rawnsley)
Born: 8/5/1933, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Died: 9/18/2018, Plant City, Florida, U.S.A.

Ben Rawnsley’s westerns – actor:
Timestalkers (TV) – 1987
Guns of Paradise (TV) – 1990 (judge)