Monday, July 15, 2019

RIP Crawford Hawkins

Crawford Hawkins, Canadian Producer and Editor, Dies at 85

The Hollywood Reporter
By Etan Vlessing

The Brooklyn-born Hawkins worked in Hollywood before heading north in 1979 and eventually serving as head of the Directors Guild of Canada in Vancouver.

Crawford Hawkins, a director, producer and editor in Los Angeles before heading to Canada in 1979 and eventually becoming head of the Directors Guild of Canada on the West Coast, has died. He was 85.

Hawkins died June 25 due to unspecified causes, the DGC confirmed. "What Crawford gave our community is stunning in its breadth as in its depth and matched by the memories of the countless individuals and lives he touched along the way. He will be remembered and he will be missed," Tim Southam, national president of the Directors Guild of Canada, said in a statement.

Born in Brooklyn on Sept. 21, 1933, Hawkins enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at age 18 years and fought during the Korean War. He entered the entertainment industry in 1957 after getting a job in the mailroom at CBS for $22.50 a week.

That led to a gig as an assistant film editor in a film production company, which paid him $65 a week. From there, Hawkins went on to become a veteran film editor, director, postproduction supervisor and TV production executive.

He worked early on with Hollywood players like 20th Century Fox, The Jim Henson Company, Mandalay Television and Hallmark Entertainment. While based in Los Angeles, Hawkins in 1979 executive produced a Western, Up River, which was shot in British Columbia.

While on that shoot, Hawkins met his future wife, Lid Hawkins, a veteran costume designer. That union led Hawkins to move to Vancouver and begin a four-decade association with the British Columbia film and TV industry, which included a stint as executive director of the DGC on the West Coast from 2002-2016.

On the creative front, Hawkins produced 25 episodes of The X-Files, which was shot in Vancouver, and Eli Craig's 2010 horror pic Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and the 2005 action-thriller Caught in the Headlights. In 1997, Hawkins won an Emmy for his work on The X-Files.

He also served as the production manager or postproduction supervisor on another 30 projects, including Christopher Nolan's 2002 thriller Insomnia, which starred Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank and was shot in northern British Columbia doubling as Alaska.

Hawkins also directed one episode of the Neon Rider TV series in 1994. Away from the production front, he played a key leadership role in the British Columbia film and TV industry.

Hawkins chaired the British Columbia Motion Picture Association from 1996-1997 and served as a board member of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association. Today, Vancouver is bursting with Hollywood production, in part because of the earlier efforts of Hawkins and other industry builders to lure Los Angeles producers north to shoot their projects.

In 2009, Hawkins told Playback magazine that British Columbia had the advantage of familiarity for Hollywood producers, even if he couldn't control fluctuations in the Canadian dollar, compared to the value of the American greenback, and competition from rival American states.

"I have been around a long time and have a lot of experience, familiarity and friendships with the people we deal with on an ongoing basis. In this business, people buy from their friends. Everything is too time-sensitive to take chances on new suppliers," Hawkins, then-head of the DGC B.C. District Council, said.

He also lent his name and time to the Vancouver International Film Festival, the then-Banff Television Festival, the British Columbia Film Society, the B.C. Film Center, the B.C. Film Commission and the Film and New Media Competition Council B.C.

"Crawford Hawkins’ contribution to the Directors Guild is immeasurable. He leaves a massive hole in B.C.’s film and television family, and we expect to honor his memory by living up to the example he set for multiple generations of our industry," DGC B.C. chair Allan Harmon said in his own statement.

HAWKIN, Crawford
Born: 9/21/1923, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 6/25/2019,  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Crawford Hwkins’ western – executive producer:
Up River - 1979

Friday, July 12, 2019

RIP Valentina Cortese

Valentina Cortese, screen diva who earned Oscar nomination for ‘Day for Night,’ dead at 96

Associated Press
July 11, 2019

Valentina Cortese, an Italian postwar actress who was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as a fading diva in Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night” but lost to Ingrid Bergman, died at her home in Rome on Wednesday. She was 96.

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala announced the death Wednesday of the Milan-born actress in a tweet, thanking Cortese for having “given us marvelous and unforgettable” performances on the screen and stage.

Cortese was a popular muse for leading Italian directors including Michelangelo Antonioni and Franco Zeffirelli.

She garnered an Oscar nomination in 1975 for her performance in “Day for Night,” a movie about making movies.

While Cortese didn’t win the Academy Award for best supporting actress, she was showered with praise by the actress who did clinch it that year, Bergman, for her performance in “Murder on the Orient Express.”

In an elegant acceptance speech devoted to Cortese, Bergman said the Italian actress had given “the most beautiful performance” in “Day for Night” as an aging actress who forgets her lines like “all we actresses” do sooner or later.

“I’m her rival, and I don’t like it at all,” Berman said and gestured toward a smiling Cortese in the audience. “Please forgive me, Valentina.”

In an odd twist, the Truffaut film had won in the best foreign-language film category a year earlier. But Cortese was only nominated the following year in the supporting actress category.

Cortese won acclaim too as a stage actress. Her performances at Milan's Piccolo Theater included roles in works by Brecht, Goldoni and Pirandello, directed by Giorgio Strehler, one of the theater's co-founders and a longtime companion.

The theater in a statement mourned the loss of a “splendid, elegant, iconic” actress.

Cortese's film career included roles in Federico Fellini’s “Juliet of the Spirits” and Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.”

Her film career began in the 1940s. She stood out in a field filled with other beautiful and talented Italian women on the screen, including Alida Valli, Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren.

But by the early 1950s, Cortese had returned to Italy from Hollywood. She appeared in “The Barefoot Contessa,” the 1954 Joseph L. Mankiewicz film, which starred Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart and was filmed in Italy.

In a 2012 interview with Rome daily La Repubblica, Cortese said, “I could have remained in Hollywood for who knows how long, but I never made compromises. Never was in a producer’s bed,” although she claimed, without naming names, that “because of a ‘no’ to one, I was destroyed.”

In the same interview, she called theater “my true passion.”

Cortese married actor Richard Basehart, with whom she starred in the thriller “The House of Telegraph Hill.” Both Basehart, and their son, Jackie Basehart, an Italian-American actor, predeceased her.

CORTESE, Valentina (Valentina Rossi-Coenzo)
Born: 1/1/1923, Milan, Lombardy, Italy
Died: 7/10/2019, Milan, Lombardy, Italy

Valentina Cortese’s western – actress:
The Girl of the Golden West – 1942 (Madge Curtiss)

RIP Stephanie Niznik

Stephanie Niznik, Actress in ‘Everwood’ and ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 52

July 12, 2019

Stephanie Niznik, an actress who appeared on “Everwood” and in “Star Trek: Insurrection,” died unexpectedly in Encino, Calif. on June 23. She was 52.

A native of Bangor, Maine, she originally intended to become a geneticist before graduating from Duke U. with majors in theater and Russian. She pursued a masters at Cal Arts, then began acting with roles in series including “”Vanishing Son” and “Murder She Wrote.”

She had additional parts on shows including “Nash Bridges” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” before landing a recurring role on “Diagnosis Murder.” On medical series “Everwood,” she played the neighbor Nina Feeney. She also had a recurring role on “Life is Wild” and guested on “Lost,” “NCIS” and “CSI: Miami.”

After playing Trill Starfleet Ensign Kell Perim in the feature “Star Trek: Insurrection,” Niznik returned to the “Star Trek” world to play the Wraith in the “Rogue Planet” episode of the series “Star Trek: Enterprise.”

Niznik was active in volunteering for hunger, children and animal rescue organizations, and also worked with Four Winds Heart-Centered Healing.

She is survived by her mother and stepfather; brother and sister-law; her niece and nephews; aunt and uncle; and her beloved dogs Nucleus and Jake.

NIZNIK, Stephanie
Born: 5/20/1967 Banger Maine, U.S.A.
Died: 6/23/2019, Encino, California, U.S.A.

Stephanie Niznik’s western – actress:

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (TV) – 1997 (Rose)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

RIP Rip Torn

Rip Torn, Artie the Producer on 'The Larry Sanders Show,' Dies at 88

The Hollywood Reporter
By Mike Barnes, Duane Byrge

The respected Emmy winner and Oscar and Tony nominee always aimed for authenticity but had a reputation as a trouble-maker.

Rip Torn, the tenacious, temperamental Texan whose much-admired career was highlighted by his brilliant turn as Artie the producer on HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, died Tuesday. He was 88.

Torn, who was nominated for an Oscar for portraying the hard-drinking father Marsh opposite Mary Steenburgen in the 1984 Martin Ritt drama Cross Creek, died peacefully at his home in Lakeville, Connecticut, his publicist announced.

His wife, Amy Wright — an actress known for Stardust Memories and The Accidental Tourist — and his daughters, Katie and Angelica, were by his side.

Torn wowed critics as the fiercely protective Artie (his last name was never mentioned during the series) on The Larry Sanders Show, which starred Garry Shandling as a neurotic late-night TV talk-show host.

The groundbreaking sitcom ran from 1992-98, and Torn received an Emmy nomination for every one of its six seasons, winning in 1996. His character was said to be based on Fred De Cordova, the longtime producer of Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show. 

The part "was written to be a straight man," he recalled in 2011, "but people were saying, 'God, Rip is getting all those laughs. Who ever thought that Rip could be funny? Just everybody that knows him.'"

"With Rip, he came in the first time, and his agent said he wouldn't read," Shandling, who died in March 2016, said in 2012. "Weeks later, it was just him and me in a room with no one else, and I said to Rip, 'Could we read half of this together?' And he said, 'I don't want to read.' I said, 'That's totally fine,' and I pushed it to the side of the table.

"We talked for less than another minute, and he reached over and took the page, and he starts the scene. It's like trying to describe a good date to a friend the next day. I had to say to HBO and everybody else, 'Honestly, this is the best sex I have had.'"

Torn said he took the job because he owed family members a lot of money. Producers thought Torn would be perfect as Artie after seeing him play a lawyer in the Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life (1991).

A few years after the end of Larry Sanders, Torn's unpredictability and intensity were smartly channeled on NBC's 30 Rock, where he played Don Geiss, the amped-up CEO of General Electric and Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) boss. He received another Emmy nom in 2008, the ninth of his career.

In other comedic turns, he portrayed Zed, the head of the top secret government organization, in the first two Men in Black films; had fun as Patches O'Houlihan, a legend of his sport, in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004); and played King Looney in the sword-and-sandals spoof The Legend of Awesomest Maximus (2011).

As good as he was in comedy, Torn was at his best in dark dramas. He earned a Tony nomination in 1960 for playing Thomas J. Finley Jr. in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth and was the shifty blackmailer William Jefferson Slade in The Cincinnati Kid (1965).

Onscreen debauchery was a specialty. He played a psychiatrist filming the women he sleeps with in the pornographic Coming Apart (1969); was a womanizing college professor who becomes David Bowie's confidant in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976); and stood out as an egomaniacal record producer who seduces a young blonde in Forty Shades of Blue (2005).

Torn was married from 1963-87 to the acclaimed actress Geraldine Page, whom he met at the Actors Studio in New York. One of the leading acting couples of their era, they founded the off-Broadway Sanctuary Theater Workshop in 1976. They were separated when she died of a heart attack in 1987 at age 62.

Torn also helped launch the Oscar-winning career of his cousin, actress Sissy Spacek, who was the daughter of his Uncle Ed.

Torn was an "actor's actor," but he had a reputation as a trouble-maker.

Legend has it that he was all set for Jack Nicholson's career-making role in Easy Rider (1969) before things went awry. Dennis Hopper, the film's director, said years later on The Tonight Show that Torn had pulled a knife on him in a diner, costing him the job. Torn said it was Hopper that pulled the knife on him and sued for libel, winning $475,000 in damages.

In an improvised fight seen in Maidstone (1970), Torn attacked actor-director Norman Mailer with a tack hammer; Mailer then bit into Torn's ear during the ensuing scrum. The Criterion Collection described the movie as being "shot over the course of five drug-fueled days in East Hampton, New York."

"What do they say about all the guys that are tremendous actors?" he told The New York Times in a 2006 interview. "Don't they say they have a volatile temper and emotions? Yeah, sure they do! They're not saying they like a nice mild guy. Look at Sean Penn."

In January 2010, Torn, intoxicated and armed with a loaded revolver, was arrested after he broke into a Connecticut bank after closing hours. He pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence.

He was born Elmore Rual Torn Jr. on Feb. 6, 1931, in Temple, Texas. All the men in his family nicknamed themselves "Rip." He enrolled at Texas A&M to study agriculture but transferred to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue architecture. Soon, he “defected,” as he put it, to the drama department, where he was taught by Shakespearean scholar B. Iden Payne.

Torn then apprenticed at the Dallas Institute of Performing Arts, studying under Baruch Lumet, the father of director Sidney Lumet.

After a two-year stint in the Army, Torn moved to New York and trained under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, where he met Page during a speech class (he was separated from his first wife, Ann Wedgeworth, at the time). He drew the attention of director Elia Kazan, who regarded him as the next James Dean or Marlon Brando.

Kazan gave Torn his first big opportunity — as the understudy to Ben Gazzara as the booze-swilling Brick in the original 1955 production of Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Kazan later gave him small roles in Baby Doll (1956) and A Face in the Crowd (1957) and then cast him opposite Paul Newman and Page in Sweet Bird of Youth. (All three reprised their roles for the 1963 film.)

In these years, some producers objected to his “Rip” nickname and wanted him to use a more conventional stage name. He was billed as “Eric” for one production but vowed to head back to Texas if he were forced to use that name permanently.

Torn landed his first major movie role with Time Limit (1957), a court-martial drama in which he played a prisoner-of-war survivor who cracks on the witness stand. He went on to appear in another military-set drama, Pork Chop Hill (1959), and appeared as Judas in King of Kings (1961).

Also in the 1960s, Torn portrayed Ingrid Bergman's young lover in the CBS prestige project Twenty-Four Hours in a Woman's Life and guest-starred on many top TV shows of the era, including The Untouchables, Route 66 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., exuding what one reviewer described as an “air of menace.”

After Torn met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in an attempt to start an integrated national theater in 1963, he was targeted by the FBI and found trouble finding work in major motion pictures. "I began to see things in gossip columns, stories about me," he once said.

In 1970, on the day after Torn spoke out against the Vietnam War on The Dick Cavett Show, a bullet was fired through the window of his Manhattan home.

He soldiered on, appearing on stage and in such films as Payday (1973), playing a mean, manipulative country singer, and the Italian import Crazy Joe (1974), as a gangster. Much later, he portrayed Louis XV for Sofia Coppola in Marie Antoinette (2006).

Torn is also survived by his sister, Patricia, and his grandchildren Elijah, Tana, Emeris and Hannah.

TORN, Rip (Elmore Rual Torn Jr.)
Born: 2/6/1931, Temple, Texas, U.S.A.
Died: 7/9/2019, Lakeville, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Rip Torn’s westerns – actor, narrator:
The Restless Gun (TV) – 1957 (Jody Gillman)
Frontier Circus (TV) – 1961 (Jess Evans)
Rawhide (TV) – 1965 (Jacob Yellow-Sun)
The Long Hunt of April Savage (TV) – 1966 (Noah Delahunty)
Bonanza (TV) – 1971 (Will Hewett)
Cotter – 1973 (Roy)
Heartland – 1979 (Clyde Stewrt)
The Blue and the Gray (TV) – 1982 (General Ulysses S. Grant)
Dream West – (TV) – 1986 (Kit Carson)
Extreme Prejudice – 1987 (Sheriff Hank Pearson)
Ghost Towns of the West – 1989 [narrator]