November 15: Remembering John Le Mesurier

Celebrity-04-05-19121983: English actor John Le Mesurier (born John Elton Le Mesurier Halliley) died today in 1983. Born 5 April 1912, he is perhaps best remembered for his comedic role as Sergeant Wilson in the BBC television situation comedy Dad’s Army (1968–77). A self-confessed “jobbing actor”, Le Mesurier appeared in more than 120 films across a range of genres, normally in smaller supporting parts.

Initially acting on the stage in the 1930s, he accepted an offer to work with Alec Guinness in a John Gielgud production of Hamlet.  During the Second World War, Le Mesurier was posted to British India, as a captain with the Royal Tank Regiment. He returned to acting and made his film debut in 1948, starring in the second feature comedy short Death in the Hand. He undertook a number of roles on television in 1951 including Educating Archie alongside Tony Hancock.

Le Mesurier had a prolific film career, appearing mostly in comedies, usually in roles portraying figures of authority such as army officers, policemen and judges. In 1971 Le Mesurier received his only award: a British Academy of Film and Television Arts “Best Television Actor” award for his lead performance in Dennis Potter‘s television play Traitor; it was one of the few lead roles he played during the course of his career.

He took a relaxed approach to acting and felt that his parts were those of “a decent chap all at sea in a chaotic world not of his own making”. Le Mesurier was married three times, most notably to the actress Hattie Jacques. He died, aged 71, from a stomach haemorrhage, brought about by a complication of cirrhosis of the liver.

Advertisements

September 23: Remembering Psycho writer Robert Bloch

1994: Robert Bloch (born 5 April 1917), American fiction writer primarily of crime, horror, fantasy andCelebrity-04-05-1917 science fiction, died of cancer, aged 77. Best known as the writer of Psycho, the basis for the film of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock he had a fondness for puns as evidenced in the titles of his story collections such as Tales in a Jugular Vein, Such Stuff as Screams Are Made Of and Out of the Mouths of Graves.

Bloch wrote hundreds of short stories and over 30 novels. H. P. Lovecraft was Bloch’s mentor and one of the first to seriously encourage his talent. However, while Bloch started his career by emulating Lovecraft and his brand of “cosmic horror”, he later specialized in crime and horror stories dealing with a more psychological approach.

He won the Hugo Award (for his story “That Hell-Bound Train“), the Bram Stoker Award, and the World Fantasy Award.

His favorites among his own novels were The Kidnapper, The Star Stalker, Psycho, Night-World, and Strange Eons. His work has been extensively adapted for the movies and television, comics and audio books.

September 12: Remembering Psycho star Anthony Perkins

American actor Anthony Perkins, born April 4, 1932 died this day in 1992).

He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his second film, Friendly Persuasion but is best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho and its three sequels.

His other films include The Trial, Phaedra, Fear Strikes Out, Tall Story, The Matchmaker, Pretty Poison, North Sea Hijack, Five Miles to Midnight, The Black Hole, Murder on the Orient Express, Mahogany, and Crimes of Passion.

While young, Perkins was a very shy person, especially in the company of women. According to the posthumous biography Split Image by Charles Winecoff, he had exclusively same-sex relationships until his late 30s, including with actors Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter; dancer Rudolf Nureyev; and composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

Perkins reportedly had his first heterosexual experience at age 39 with actress Victoria Principal on location filming The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean in 1971. He met photographer Berinthia “Berry” Berenson the following year at a party in New York City. They married when he was age 41, on August 9, 1973 and had two sons: actor Oz Perkins (b. February 2, 1974), and musician Elvis Perkins (b. February 9, 1976).

Diagnosed with HIV during the filming of Psycho IV, Perkins died at his Los Angeles home from AIDS-related pneumonia at age 60. His wife died nine years later, in the September 11 attacks.

August 18: Remembering Elmer Bernstein

Celebrity-04-04-1922Born in New York City on April 4 1922 to Ukrainian and Austro-Hungarian parents, Elmer Bernstein [http://elmerbernstein.com/], died of cancer in his sleep this day in 2004.  He was an American composer and conductor best known for his many film scores. In a career which spanned fifty years, he composed music for hundreds of film and television productions. His most popular works include the scores to The Magnificent Seven, The Ten Commandments, The Great Escape, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ghostbusters, The Black Cauldron, Airplane!, Cape Fear, and Animal House.

Bernstein won an Oscar for his score to Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) and was nominated for fourteen Oscars in total. He also won two Golden Globes, an Emmy, and was nominated for two Grammy Awards.

August 11, 1994: Actor Peter Cushing dies

Peter Cushing (26 May 1913 – 11 August 1994) was an English actor and a BAFTA TV Award Best Actor winner in 1956. He is mainly known for his prolific appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played strong character roles like the sinister scientist Baron Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and the vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing, among many other roles. He appeared frequently opposite Christopher Lee and, occasionally, Vincent Price. A familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic, Cushing is best known outside the Hammer productions for playing Dr. Who in Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks – Invasion Earth (1966), and for his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977).

Find out more at Wikipedia.

April 19: We remember…Elisabeth Sladen

Elisabeth_SladenElisabeth Sladen (1 February 1946 – 19 April 2011) played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who. She appeared as a regular with both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. She also appeared in the pilot for the spin-off series, K9 and Company. Most recently, she reprised her role as Sarah Jane on Doctor Who and in its spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Sladen was interested in ballet and theatre from childhood, and began to appear on stage in the mid-1960s, although more often as a stage manager at this time. She moved to London in 1970 and an appearance in the police drama Z-Cars led to her being selected for a part in Doctor Who. She subsequently starred in other roles on both television and radio, before semi-retiring to bring up a family in the mid-1980s.

She died of pancreatic cancer on 19 April 2011. Her death made national and international news headlines, and major television stations and newspapers paid her tribute. [Wikipedia]

Watch a tribute to Elisabeth Sladen on the Babelcolour YouTube Channel.

April 19, 1992: We remember…Frankie Howerd

Celebrity-03-06-1917Frankie Howerd (6 March 1917 – 19 April 1992) was an English comedian and comic actor whose career, described by fellow comedian Barry Cryer as “a series of comebacks”, spanned six decades.

His first stage appearance was at age 13 but his early hopes of becoming a serious actor were dashed when he failed an audition for RADA. He began to entertain during World War II service in the British Army. Despite suffering from stage fright, he continued to work after the war, beginning his professional career in the summer of 1946 in a touring show called For the Fun of It.

His act was soon heard on radio, when he made his debut, in early December 1946, on the BBC’s Variety Bandbox programme with a number of other ex-servicemen. His profile rose in the immediate postwar period (aided with material written by Eric Sykes, Galton and Simpson and Johnny Speight). In 1954, he made his screen debut opposite Petula Clark in The Runaway Bus, which had been written for his specific comic talent. The film was an immediate hit, even though Howerd never established a major film presence thereafter.

After suffering a nervous breakdown at the start of the 1960s, he began to recover his old popularity, initially with a season at Peter Cook‘s satirical Establishment Club in Soho, London. He was boosted further by success on That Was the Week That Was (TW3) in 1963 and on stage with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963–1965), which led into regular television work.

He was famous for his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks to the audience, especially in the show Up Pompeii!, which was a direct follow-up from Forum. His television work was characterised by direct addresses to camera and by his littering monologues with verbal tics such as “Oooh, no missus” and “Titter ye not”. A later sale of his scripts, however, showed that the seemingly off-the-cuff remarks had all been meticulously planned. Another feature of his humour was to feign innocence about his obvious and risqué double entendres, while mockingly censuring the audience for finding them funny.

Howerd appeared as Francis Bigger, one of the lead characters in 1967’s Carry On Doctor.

Throughout his career, Howerd hid his potentially career-destroying homosexuality from both his audience and his mother, Edith. In 1958, he met wine waiter Dennis Heymer at the Dorchester Hotel while dining with Sir John Mills; Heymer became his lover as well as manager, and stayed with him for more than thirty years, until Howerd’s death.

Having contracted a virus during a Christmas trip up the Amazon River in 1991, Howerd suffered respiratory problems at the beginning of April 1992 and was rushed to a clinic in London’s Harley Street, but was discharged at Easter to enjoy his last few days at home. He collapsed and died of heart failure two weeks afterwards, aged 75. Two hours before he died, he was speaking on the telephone to his TV producer about new ideas for his next show.  He died the day before fellow comedian Benny Hill. News of the two deaths broke almost simultaneously and some newspapers ran an obituary of Howerd in which Hill was quoted as regretting Howerd’s death, saying “We were great, great friends”. The quote was released by Hill’s agent, who was not aware that his client had died. [Wikipedia]

April 13: We remember Caron Keating

CARON KEATINGBritish television presenter Caron Keating, born 5 October 1962, died this day in 2004. Her parents were the television presenter Gloria Hunniford and the BBC producer Donald Keating. Keating studied at the University of Bristol where she graduated with a BA Honours Degree in English and Drama.

Keating’s television career began in Northern Ireland where she presented The Video Picture Show, Channel One and the music programme Greenrock, but her big break undoubtedly came when she was selected to join the team of Blue Peter late in 1986. She brought a new trendy image to the programme, and was popular with viewers because of her looks and fashion-conscious image, appearing on the programme with Peter Duncan, Janet Ellis, Mark Curry, Yvette Fielding, and John Leslie. Highlights of her Blue Peter career included a trip to Moscow in 1987 during the perestroika period, swimming with sharks, abseiling down skyscrapers and standing strapped to the top of a light aircraft whilst it performed aerial acrobatics. She also interviewed serving Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the programme in 1988.

After four years, Keating left Blue Peter and joined BBC Radio 5 where, amongst other programmes, she co-hosted an early 90’s afternoon show with film critic Mark Kermode, the show was named “A game of two halves” and, in his autobiography, Kermode described Keating as “The very dictionary definition of Lovely”. She presented several other TV programmes including This Morning, before breast cancer was diagnosed in 1997.

After various conventional and alternative treatments, including a period away from her family on the Gold Coast, Australia, and at a hospice in Switzerland, she died at the age of 41, at her mother’s house in Sevenoaks, Kent.

Set up in Keating’s memory, The Caron Keating Foundation ( http://www.caronkeating.org/) is a fund-raising partnership set up to raise money to offer financial support to professional carers, complementary healing practitioners, and support groups dealing with cancer patients, as well as individuals and families who are affected by the disease. It will also financially help a number of cancer charities with their ongoing quest for prevention, early detection and hopefully an ultimate cure. It was set up by her mother, TV presenter Gloria Hunniford, and her two brothers Michael and Paul Keating. [Wikipedia]

April 12, 2009: We remember Marilyn Chambers

Celebrity-04-22-1952Known more for being an American pornographic film actress, especially for her 1972 hardcore film debut Behind the Green Door and her 1980 film .Insatiable, Marilyn Chambers (April 22, 1952 – April 12, 2009) was also an exotic dancer, model, actress, and vice-presidential candidate (Personal Choice Party, 2004 & 2008).

Chambers sought work in theatre and dance groups in San Francisco to no avail. In 1972 she saw an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle for a casting call for what was billed as a “major motion picture”. She rushed to the audition only to find it was for a pornographic film, which was to be called Behind the Green Door. She was about to leave when producers Artie and Jim Mitchell noticed her resemblance to Cybill Shepherd. They invited her upstairs to their offices and told her the film’s plot. Chambers was highly dubious about accepting a role in a pornographic film, fearing it might ruin her chances at breaking into the mainstream. But she was turned on by the fantasy of the story and decided to take a chance, under the condition that she receive a hefty salary and 10 percent of the film’s gross. She also insisted that each actor get tested for venereal disease. The Mitchell Brothers balked at her request for a percentage of the film’s profits, but finally agreed, realizing the film needed a wholesome blonde actress.

Chambers won the starring role in film director David Cronenberg‘s low-budget Canadian movie Rabid, which was released in 1977. Cronenberg stated that he wanted to cast Sissy Spacek in the film lead, but the studio vetoed his choice because of her accent.  The director says that the idea of casting Chambers came from producer Ivan Reitman, who had heard that Chambers was looking for a mainstream role. Reitman felt that it would be easier to market the film in different territories if the well-known porn star portrayed the main character. Cronenberg stated that Chambers put in a lot of hard work on the film and that he was impressed with her.

Rabid-1977-movie-Chambers-cronenberg-7

Chambers was found dead in her home in California. She was discovered by her 17-year-old daughter. The autopsy revealed Chambers died of a cerebral hemorrhage and an aneurysm related to heart disease. The painkiller hydrocodone and the antidepressant citalopram were found in her bloodstream, but not enough to cause death. [Wikipedia]