Friday, December 28, 2012

RIP Harry Carey, Jr.

Harry Carey Jr. dies at 91; character actor in John Ford films

The son of a silent film star, Harry Carey Jr. was thought to be the last surviving member of director Ford's legendary acting company and appeared in several classic westerns.

By Dennis McLellan, Special to The Los Angeles Times

Harry Carey Jr., a venerable character actor who was believed to be the last surviving member of director John Ford's legendary western stock company, died Thursday. He was 91.

Carey, whose career spanned more than 50 years and included such Ford classics as "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "The Searchers," died of natural causes in Santa Barbara, said Melinda Carey, a daughter.

"In recent years, he became kind of the living historian of the modern era," film critic Leonard Maltin told The Times on Friday. "He wrote a very good book, 'Company of Heroes,' and kept working into his 80s.

"He would get hired on films by young directors who just wanted to work with him, to be one step away from the legends," Maltin said. "Some hired him to just hear his stories between takes."

Director Joe Dante, who used Carey in his 1984 comic-fantasy "Gremlins," told The Times in 2003: "You got a lot of free movie history when you cast him."

The son of silent-film western star Harry Carey Sr. and his actress wife, Olive, Carey made more than 100 films. They included "Red River," "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef," "Big Jake," "Cahill U.S. Marshal," "Nickelodeon," "The Long Riders," "Mask" and "The Whales of August". In one of his final films, 1993's "Tombstone," he played a marshal who gets shot down.

The red-haired, boyishly handsome Carey lacked the screen-dominating star quality of his longtime pal, John Wayne, with whom he appeared in nearly a dozen films. Instead, Carey made his mark as a character actor whose work in westerns bore an authenticity unmatched by most actors: He was considered one of Hollywood's best horsemen.

That was amply illustrated in 1950's "Rio Grande," for which he and cowboy-turned-character actor Ben Johnson learned to ride two horses while standing up, with one foot on the back of each horse.

His other Ford film credits include "3 Godfathers," "Wagon Master," "The Long Gray Line," "Mister Roberts," "Two Rode Together" and "Cheyenne Autumn."

Carey also appeared in dozens of television shows, most of them westerns such as "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "Have Gun-Will Travel," "The Rifleman" and "Branded." He also portrayed the boys' ranch counselor in the popular "Spin and Marty" serials on "The Mickey Mouse Club" in the 1950s.

According to Dante, Carey's best role was in Ford's 1950 western "Wagon Master," in which Carey and Johnson co-starred as horse traders who join a Mormon wagon train.

"Harry was a straight-arrow, realistic person on the screen," said Dante. "It didn't seem like he was acting. He really had an aw-shucks quality."

He was born Henry George Carey on May 16, 1921, on his father's ranch north of Saugus and a 45-minute drive to Universal Studios, where Harry Sr. made westerns in the 1910s and 1920s. More than two dozen were directed by John Ford, who became a close family friend.

When Carey was born, his father, Ford and then-New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker awaited the baby's arrival by drinking a whiskey named Melwood.

From then on, as Carey wrote in his 1994 memoir, "Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company": "Every time Ford saw me with my father he'd say, 'Mellllwood…li'llll Mellllwood,' alluding to how drunk he and my dad were that night at the ranch."

The young Carey graduated from the Black-Foxe Military Institute in Hollywood in the late 1930s, studied voice and made his stage debut, with his father, in summer stock in Maine.

During World War II he served in the Navy in the Pacific theater but ended up working in Washington on Navy training and propaganda films for Ford, then a naval officer.

In 1944, Carey married Marilyn Fix, daughter of character actor Paul Fix.

After the war, Carey tried but failed to launch a singing career and followed his father into the movies with a small role as a cowboy in the B-movie "Rolling Home" (1946).

"When he went into the movies, everybody suggested he go by Harry Carey Jr., but I think he regretted that forever," his daughter said. "He just wanted to be Dobe, the nickname he always went by," and one that his father gave him because his red hair was the color of the ranch house's adobe bricks.

John Wayne recommended the fledgling actor for the role of a cowboy who is killed in a cattle stampede in the 1948 Howard Hawks' classic "Red River." Shot in 1947, it also featured the elder Carey in his final role. He died the same year at 69.

When Ford made "3 Godfathers," he cast Harry Jr. as one of the leads, the Abilene Kid, and dedicated the film to the Harry Sr. The film tells the story of three desperadoes — played by Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Carey — who come upon a dying mother in the desert and risk their lives to bring her newborn baby to safety.

Before leaving for filming in Death Valley, Ford told Carey, "You're going to hate me when this picture is over, but you're going to give a great performance."

Ford, who was well-known for his sadistic behavior toward actors in his films, showed Carey no mercy. "I don't remember the Old Man being nice to me for one whole day during location shooting in Death Valley," Carey wrote in his book. "He was bearable or unbearable — never nice."

Once, when Carey looked in the wrong direction during a scene, Ford threw a jagged, cantaloupe-sized rock at his face. Carey ducked. "If it had hit me in the head it would have killed me," he said in an interview years later.

Carey's death scene, filmed when it was 126 degrees in the shade, proved particularly rough. Displeased with Carey's performance, Ford cussed him out and left Carey to bake in the sun for 30 minutes.

When Ford returned, a near-delirious Carey delivered his death speech, his mouth so dry he couldn't swallow and his voice resembling that of a dying man as he croaked out his lines.

"Why didn't you do that the first time?" a grinning Ford told Carey. "See how easy it was? You done good! That's a wrap!"

Carey is survived by his wife, Marilyn; daughters Melinda and Lily; son Tom; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

CAREY, Jr., Harry (Henry George Carey, Jr.)
Born: 5/16/1921, Saugus, California, U.S.A.
Died: 12/27/2012, Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A.

Harry Carey’s westerns – producer, screenwriter, actor:
Pursued – 1947 (Prentice)
Red River – 1948 (Dan Latimer)
Blood on the Moon – 1948 (cowboy)
3 Godfathers – 1948 (William Kearney 'The Abilene Kid')
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon – 1949 (2nd Lt. Ross Pennell)
Wagon Master – 1950 (Sandy)
Copper Canyon – 1950 (Lieutenant Ord)
Rio Grande – 1950 (Trooper Daniel 'Sandy' Boone)
Cattle Drive – 1951 (train passenger)
Warpath – 1951 (Captain Gregson)
San Antone – 1953 (Dobe Frakus)
Silver Lode – 1954 (Johnson)
The Outcast – 1954 (Bert)
Spin and Marty: The Movie – 1955 (Bill Burnett)
The Lone Ranger (TV) – 1955 (Dice Dawson, alias Jay Thomasson)
The Adventures of Spin and Marty (TV) – 1955 (Bill Burnett)
The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty (TV) – 1956 (Bill Burnett)
The Searchers – 1956 (Brad Jorgensen)
The Great Locomotive Chase – 1956 (William Bensinger)
Gun the Man Down – 1956 (Deputy Lee)
7th Cavalry 1956 (Corporal Morrison)
The New Adventures of Spin and Marty (TV) – 1957 (Bill Burnett)
Broken Arrow (TV) – 1958 (Captain Ward)
From Hell to Texas – 1958 (Trueblood)
Escort West – 1958 (Trooper Travis)
Have Gun – Will Travel (TV) – 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 (Bud Sorenson, Sheriff Jack Goodfellow, Sheriff, Sheriff Stander, Frank Gulley, Banker Burton, Jess Turner, Sheriff Conlon, Jonah Quincy, Thad Taylor, Ben Murdock, Earl Tibner, Jonas Quincy
Rio Bravo – 1959 (Harold)
Rawhide (TV) – 1959, 1962 (Tanner, Walsh)
Wagon Train (TV) – 1959, 1962, 1963 (Wilkins, Tim Hogan, Jeb, Charlie Hankins, John Jay Burroughs)
Bonanza (TV) – 1959, 1960, 1965, 1967 (Zack Morgan, Corporal Burton, Phil Shelton, Mapes)
Gunsmoke (TV) – 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1974 (Deesha, Bill Turloe, Grant, Jake, Colridge, Fisher,  Will Roniger, Nathan Cade, Kelliher, Amos Brody)
Shotgun Slade (TV) – 1960 (Deputy McCafrey)
Tombstone Territory (TV) – 1960 (Vern Fawcett)
Hotel de Paree (TV) – 1960 (Deputy Sheriff Will Masters)
Noose for a Gunman – 1960 (Jim Ferguson)
The Tall Man (TV) – 1960 (Dusty)
Tales of Wells Fargo (TV) – 1960 (Pete Carter)
The Rifleman (TV) – 1960, 1961 (Lieutenant Paul Rolfe, Lieutenant Vaughn)
Whispering Smith (TV) – 1961 (Sergeant Curt Stringer)
Two Rode Together – 1961 (Ortho Clegg)
Laramie (TV) – 1961, 1962 (Harry Markle, Dan Emery, Whitey Banister, Hobey)
Lawman (TV) – 1962 (Mitch Evers)
Frontier Circus (TV) – 1962 (Anderson)
Stoney Burke (TV) – 1963 (Jack Rollins)
Redigo (TV) – 1963 (Harry)
The Raiders – 1963 (Jellicoe)
Cheyenne Autumn – 1964 (Trooper Smith)
Taggart – 1964 (Lieutenant Hudson)
Branded (TV) – 1965 (Lieutenant John Pritchett)
Shenandoah (TV) – 1965 (Jenkins)
The Legend of Jesse James (TV) – 1965 (Ellie’s father)
The Rare Breed – 1966 (Ed Mabry)
Billy the Kid vs. Dracula – 1966 (Ben Dooley)
The Rounders (TV) – 1966 (MacKenzie)
Alvarez Kelly – 1966 (Corporal Peterson)
The Ballad of Josie – 1967 (Mooney)
The Way West – 1967 (Mr. McBee)
The Virginian (TV) – 1967, 1970 (Bob Archer, Thad Miley)
Cimarron Strip (TV) – 1968 (Riley)
Bandolero! – 1968 (Cort Hayjack)
The Outcasts (TV) – 1969 (Sheriff)
Death of a Gunfighter – 1969 (Reverend Rork)
The Undefeated – 1969 (Webster)
Dirty Dingus Magee – 1970 (Charles Stuart)
One More Train to Rob – 1971 (Red)
Big Jake – 1971 (Pop Dawson)
Trinity is STILL My Name - 1971 (father)
Something Big – 1971 (Joe Pickins)
Man of the East - 1972 (Holy Joe/John)
Cahill U.S. Marshal – 1973 (Hank)
Challenge to White Fang - 1974 (John Tarwater)
Hec Ramsey (TV) – 1974 (Prospector)
Take a Hard Ride – 1975 (Dumper)
Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (TV) – 1978 (Deputy Luke)
Wild Times (TV) – 1980 (Fitz Bragg)
The Long Riders – 1980 (George Arthur)
Little House on the Prairie (TV) 1980 (Sheriff Pike)
The Shadow Riders (TV) – 1982 (Pa Traven)
Once Upon a Texas Train (TV) – 1988 (Herald Fitch)
Bad Jim – 1990 (J.C. Lee)
Back to the Future Part III – 1990 (Saloon Old Timer)
Tombstone – 1994 (Marshal Fred White)
Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone – 1994 (Digger Phelps)
Last Stand at Saber Riber (TV) – 1997 (James Sanforrd)
Dobe and a Company of Heroes (TV) – 1997 [Himself]
Horse Tales (TV) – 2007 [Himself] [screenwriter]
Harry Carey Jr. Hosts Tales from the Set – 2010 [Himself] [producer, screenwriter]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

RIP Cliff Osmond

Cliff Osmond passed away on the afternoon of December 22nd, 2012 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was at home, surrounded by his loving family: wife Gretchen, daughter Mishi, her husband Jorge and their daughter, Sophia, and Cliff's son, Eric. Gretchen told me that he was at peace, quoting Walt Whitman as he departed.

Cliff's funeral will be a private affair for the family. In the coming weeks there will be a public memorial and celebration of Cliff's life and career. Announcements about the memorial will be made here and on Cliff's Facebook page.

Cliff's family asks that instead of sending flowers you kindly consider making a donation to a charity that provides funding to those seeking a cure for pancreatic cancer.

OSMOND, Cliff (Clifford O. Ebrahim)
Born: 2/26/1937, Jersey City, New Jersey U.S.A.
Died: 12/22/2012, Santa Monica, California, U.S.A.

Cliff Osmond’s westerns – actor:
The Rifleman (TV) – 1962 (Lafayette Blye)
How the West Was Won – 1962 (bartender)
Wagon Train (TV) – 1962, 1963 (Simmons, Ben Gill, Chester Cole)
The Dakotas (TV) – 1963 (Telford)
Have Gun – Will Travel (TV) – 1963 (Koro)
The Raiders – 1963 (Private Jean Duchamps)
Laredo (TV) – 1965, 1966 (Running Antelope, Midas Mantee)
Shane (TV) – 1966 (Joshua)
Three Guns for Texas – 1968 (Running Antelope)
Gunsmoke (TV) – 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 (Bo Remick, Chunk, Daniel Sadler, Ben Sommars, Macomb)
Guardian of the Wilderness (TV) – 1976 (McCollough)
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again – 1979 (Wes Hardin)
California Gold Rush (TV) – 1981 (Harry Love)
Guns of Paradise (TV) – 1989 (Keel)

RIP Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson, creator of the Thunderbirds and Joe 90 puppet superhero TV shows, has died at the age of 83, his son has announced.

Anderson had been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease since early 2010, and his condition had worsened in the past six months, Jamie Anderson said.

Gerry Anderson also created Stingray and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

Thunderbirds was filmed on Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire and was first broadcast in 1965.

Jamie Anderson announced the news on his website, saying his father had died peacefully in his sleep at noon on Wednesday.

"Gerry was diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago and his condition worsened quite dramatically over the past six months.

"Having already decided with his family on a care home for himself earlier this year, he moved in there in October," Jamie Anderson said.

Gerry Anderson spoke publicly about his disease in June 2012.

Speaking on BBC Berkshire he said: "I don't think I realized at all. It was my wife Mary who began to notice that I would do something quite daft like putting the kettle in the sink and waiting for it to boil."

He was a celebrity ambassador for The Alzheimer's Society.

His other creations included UFO, Space: 1999, Supercar and Fireball XL5.

Anderson, who lived in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, began his career studying fibrous plastering, but had to give it up when it gave him dermatitis.

Speaking in January 2011, Gerry Anderson said he felt "humbled" by his success
After a spell in photographic portrait work, a job in Gainsborough films and time spent in air traffic control, he set up AP Films with some friends.

Commissions were few however, so he responded eagerly to the opportunity to make a puppet series called The Adventures of Twizzle in 1956. It was eight years before Thunderbirds came into being on ITV.

Thunderbirds marked the career apex for Gerry and his wife Sylvia, who had honed their supermarionation technique on Fireball XL5 and Stingray.

The story revolves around International Rescue, a futuristic emergency service manned by the Tracy family, often assisted by Lady Penelope - voiced by Mrs Anderson - and her butler, Parker.

It inspired the catchphrase of "Thunderbirds are go!"

ANDERSON, Gerry (Gerald Alexander Abrahams)
Born: 4/14/1929, West Hampstead, London, England, U.K.
Died: 12/26/2012, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshite, England, U.K.

Gerry Anderson’s western – director, screenwriter:
Four Feather Falls (TV) - 1958-1959

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

RIP Charles Durning

Charles Durning, the two-time Oscar nominee who was dubbed the king of the character actors for his skill in playing everything from a Nazi colonel to the pope, died Monday at his home in New York City. He was 89.

Durning's longtime agent and friend Judith Moss told The Associated Press that he died Monday of natural causes in his home in the borough of Manhattan.

Although he portrayed everyone from blustery public officials to comic foils to put-upon everymen, Durning may be best remembered by movie audiences for his Oscar-nominated, over-the-top role as a comically corrupt governor in 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Many critics marveled that such a heavyset man could be so nimble in the film's show-stopping song-and-dance number, not realizing Durning had been a dance instructor early in his career. Indeed, he had met his first wife, Carol, when both worked at a dance studio.

The year after "Best Little Whorehouse," Durning received another Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of a bumbling Nazi officer in Mel Brooks' "To Be or Not to Be." He was also nominated for a Golden Globe as the harried police lieutenant in 1975's "Dog Day Afternoon."

He won a Golden Globe as best supporting TV actor in 1991 for his portrayal of John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald in the TV film "The Kennedys of Massachusetts" and a Tony in 1990 as Big Daddy in the Broadway revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

Durning had begun his career on stage, getting his first big break when theatrical producer Joseph Papp hired him for the New York Shakespeare Festival.

He went on to work regularly, if fairly anonymously, through the 1960s until his breakout role as a small town mayor in the Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play "That Championship Season" in 1972.

He quickly made an impression on movie audiences the following year as the crooked cop stalking con men Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the Oscar-winning comedy "The Sting."

Dozens of notable portrayals followed. He was the would-be suitor of Dustin Hoffman, posing as a female soap opera star in "Tootsie;" the infamous seller of frog legs in "The Muppet Movie;" and Chief Brandon in Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy." He played Santa Claus in four different movies made for television and was the pope in the TV film "I Would be Called John: Pope John XXIII."

"I never turned down anything and never argued with any producer or director," Durning told The Associated Press in 2008, when he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Other films included "The Front Page," ''The Hindenburg," ''Breakheart Pass," ''North Dallas Forty," ''Starting Over," ''Tough Guys," ''Home for the Holidays," ''Spy Hard" and 'O Brother Where Art Thou?"

Durning also did well in television as a featured performer as well as a guest star. He appeared in the short-lived series "The Cop and the Kid" (1975), "Eye to Eye" (1985) and "First Monday" (2002) as well as the four-season "Evening Shade" in the 1990s.
"If I'm not in a part, I drive my wife crazy," he acknowledged during a 1997 interview. "I'll go downstairs to get the mail, and when I come back I'll say, 'Any calls for me?'"

Durning's rugged early life provided ample material on which to base his later portrayals. He was born into an Irish family of 10 children in 1923, in Highland Falls, New York, a town near West Point. His father was unable to work, having lost a leg and been gassed during World War I, so his mother supported the family by washing the uniforms of West Point cadets.

The younger Durning himself would barely survive World War II.

He was among the first wave of U.S. soldiers to land at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the only member of his Army unit to survive. He killed several Germans and was wounded in the leg. Later he was bayoneted by a young German soldier whom he killed with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners.

In later years, he refused to discuss the military service for which he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

"Too many bad memories," he told an interviewer in 1997. "I don't want you to see me crying."

Tragedy also stalked other members of his family. Durning was 12 when his father died, and five of his sisters lost their lives to smallpox and scarlet fever.

A high school counselor told him he had no talent for art, languages or math and should learn office skills. But after seeing "King Kong" and some of James Cagney's films, Durning knew what he wanted to do.

Leaving home at 16, he worked in a munitions factory, on a slag heap and in a barbed-wire factory. When he finally found work as a burlesque theater usher in Buffalo, New York, he studied the comedians' routines, and when one of them showed up too drunk to go on one night, he took his place.

He would recall years later that he was hooked as soon as heard the audience laughing. He told the AP in 2008 that he had no plans to stop working.

"They're going to carry me out, if I go," he said.

Durning and his first wife had three children before divorcing in 1972. In 1974, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Ann Amelio.

He is survived by his children, Michele, Douglas and Jeannine. The family planned to have a private family service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

DURNING, Charles
Born: 2/28/1923, Highland Falls, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 12/24/2012, Manhattan, New York, U.S.A.

Charles Durning’s westerns – actor:
The High Chaparral (TV) – 1970 (Hewett)
Breakheart Pass – 1975 (O’Brien)
Kenny Rogers as the Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (TV) – 1987 (Senator Henryt Colton)