Category: RIP

RIP: William Smith

William Smith died on Monday, July 5th at the age of 88.  No cause of death was reported.

William Smith had an amazing life, and a career that spanned 78 years!  His first role was an uncredited part in The Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942.  William Smith was eight years old at the time.  Mr. Smith continued to get small parts in films until he went into the US Air Force.

William Smith served as a pilot where he flew secret missions over Russia.  His work earned him CIA and NSA clearance.  While in the service, William Smith’s love of fitness and sports continued.  He won arm wrestling and weight lifting championships.  He compiled a 31-1 record as an amateur boxer.  Around this same time, William Smith attracted the attention of MGM and was offered a contract. 

In 1961, William Smith landed a starring role on the tv series, The Asphalt Jungle.  When the series ended William Smith never hurt for roles.  He would go on to work in both television and film throughout the rest of his career, amassing an astounding 274 acting credits. 

William Smith starred in the following television series: Zero One; Laredo; Rich Man, Poor Man (Books I and II); Hawaii 5-0 (the last season) and Wildside

When he wasn’t appearing on his own series, William Smith kept busy guest starring on others.  This is just a taste of some apearances: Combat; Perry Mason; Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Batman; I Dream of Jeannie; The Guns of Will Sonnett; Lassie; Here Come the BridesDaniel Boone; Dan August; The Mod Squad; Columbo; Mission Impossible; The Six Million Dollar Man; The Rockford Files and Gunsmoke.

William Smith was no stranger to feature films.  He might be best known for Every Which Way But Loose with Clint Eastwood.  Some of my favorite William Smith film appearances include: CC & Company; The Ultimate Warrior; Scorchy; Conan the Barbarian; Rumble Fish and Red Dawn.

When I was a kid I loved when William Smith showed up in a tv show or movie.  I knew that the hero was in for a rough time or else he was lucky to meet the character Smith was playing.  As I moved into my teen years I continued to enjoy William Smith’s appearances, but also started to wonder why he wasn’t get the big push as an action star.  Perhaps he just stayed too busy and liked the variety of parts he was offered.  If he enjoyed them half as much as we did, he was a very happy man.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to William Smith’s family, friends and fans.   

RIP: Richard Donner

Richard Donner died today at the age of 91.  This one hurts worse than most.

Richard Donner wanted a career as an actor.  It was director Martin Ritt who encouraged Donner to consider directing instead.  Ritt gave Donner a job as his assistant.  Later Donner graduated to a staff position at Desilu Productions where he directed commercials. 

In 1960, Mr. Donner began directing television episodes with the occasional feature film.  For the next 15 years Richard Donner directed well over 100 episodes of the best television had to offer.   Shows that I regularly watched that Mr. Donner directed episodes of include: The Rifleman; Combat; The Twilight Zone; The Man from UNCLE; Gilligan’s Island; Get Smart; The FBI; The Fugitive; It’s About Time; Jericho; The Wild, Wild West; The Banana Splits Adventure Hour / Danger Island; the Bearcats; Ironside and Cannon.

Richard Donner directed his first feature film in 1961.  Titled  X-15, it starred Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore.  In 1976, Mr. Donner directed one of the biggest box office hits of the year with The Omen.  His next film was also a hit with fans and the box office: Superman.  The success of Superman allowed Richard Donner to add producer to his resume.  He would go on to produce 37 projects as he continued to direct feature films.  Following Superman, some of my favorite Richard Donner directed features include: Inside Moves; Ladyhawke; Lethal Weapon 1 -4; Maverick and Assassins.

Had Richard Donner only directed the Twilight Zone episode: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, he would have warranted a post about his passing.  Same could be said for Superman, the Lethal Weapon films and a personal favorite of mine, Assassins staring Sly Stallone.  I didn’t realize until I was a young adult how many television shows I loved as a child were directed by Richard Donner.  Any time you see Richard Donner in the credits, now you are in for a good time. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to Richard Donner’s family, friends and fans.         

RIP: Ned Beatty

Ned Beatty, 83, passed away in sleep this morning from natural causes.  Mr. Beatty who was equally adept in both comedic and dramatic roles, alternated between feature films and television roles making whatever production he was in better.

Ned Beatty began his career in John Boorman’s highly regarded adaptation of James Dickey’s novel Deliverance starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ronny Cox.  Mr. Beatty then went on to have a career in feature films and television that lasted over 40 years and packed his resume with 166 acting credits.  He was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Network. 

Ned Beatty was one of this character actors who was good in any role he took on and that kept him in demand.  Mr. Beatty’s feature film highlights include six films with Burt Reynolds, Superman and Superman II with Christopher Reeve, as well as Nashville, Network, 1941 and Back to School.  His television credits include: Gunsmoke. The Execution of Private Slovik, MASH, Hawaii 5-0, The Rockford Files and so many more.

Ned Beatty was always a welcome addition whenever he appeared on screen.  The enormity of his resume would make any actor proud.  What a career!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ned Beatty’s family, friends and fans.

 

RIP: Clarence Williams III

Clarence Williams III, the actor best known for his role as Linc Hayes on The Mod Squad, died on Friday, June 4th from colon cancer.

Mr. Williams began his acting career in 1959 with an uncredited role in Pork Chop Hill. The following year he appeared on Broadway in The Long Dream. Clarence Williams III then alternated between stage and television roles until he was cast in his signature role, as Linc Hayes on The Mod Squad.  When the series ended after five seasons, Mr. Williams alternated between movie and television roles.  

Some of his best known television appearances were in The Return of Mod Squad, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice and Twin Peaks.  Clarence Williams III’s feature films include Purple Rain, I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka,  The Genreral’s Daughter and Reindeer Games.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Mod Squad, but when I did watch I always thought Clarence Williams III was the best part of the show.  It was always nice to see him show up in other television and movie roles.  

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Clarence Williams III’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: BJ Thomas

 

Billy Joe aka B.J. Thomas died yesterday at the age of 70 from lung cancer. 

B.J. first came into the public eye with his million-selling cover of the Hank Williams’ classic I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.  His second gold record came two years later with the pop hit, Hooked on a Feeling

The following year, Mr. Thomas was chosen to sing Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head which was featured in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  The song earned the Academy Award as Best Original Song and and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with sales of over one million copies.  This earned BJ Thomas his third gold record. 

BJ Thomas had another top ten hit that year with I Just Can’t Help Believing.  In 1975, BJ Thomas earned his fourth gold record with  (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.  From the very start of his career, Mr. Thomas dealt with alcohol and drug dependence.  In 1976, BJ Thomas became a Christian and released his first (of several) gospel albums.  It became the first gospel album to go platinum.

Unless you were alive in 1970, you cannot imagine how popular Keep Fallin’ on My Head was.  It was all over the radio and tv.  That song along with I Just Can’t Help Believing are my favorite songs by BJ Thomas.  As impressive as his career was, it is equally as impressive that he was able to kick his dependency on drugs/alcohol and spoke freely about it.  I’m sure he gave hope to others caught up in the same out of control spiral.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to BJ Thomas’ family, friends and fans.

 

RIP: Gavin MacLeod

 

Gavin MacLeod, best known to fans as either the the loveable Captain Stubing of The Love Boat, or the witty Murray Slaughter from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died yesterday at the age of 90.  MacLeod, who was born Allan George See, but changed his name for show biz.

Gavin MacLeod began his acting career in 1957 and he alternated with smaller roles in television and movies.  In 1962, he became a regular on McHale’s Navy.  After two seasons he left the series and took a role in The Sand Pebbles staring Steve McQueen.  MacLeod followed that role with guest appearance on many popular television shows including (but not limited to): The Munsters, Rawhide, Gomer Pyle, The Man from UNCLE, The Andy Griffith Show, The Rat Patrol, Ironside, Hawaii 5-0, Hogan’s Heroes, Love American Style.   Along the way Mr. McLeod also appeared in feature films including his role in Kelly’s Heroes with Clint Eastwood.

In 1970, Gavin MacLeod began playing Murray Slaughter when The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered  After the show ended, he accepted the lead as Captain Merrill Stubing in The Love Boat.  That series ran for ten years as well as a tv movie and a spin-off series: The Love Boat: The Next Wave.  Gavin MacLeod continued to act until 2014. 

I was a huge fan of Gavin MacLeod’s Murray Slaughter.  Often he was the funniest on a show full of talented comedians.  I always love when he turns up in any show or movie that I’m watching and perhaps my favorite surprise appearance is in Compulsion (an under-rated movie) where he plays an assistant to the DA.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gavin MacLeod’s family, friends and fans. 

RIP: David Anthony Kraft

David Anthony Kraft, author and publisher, died yesterday from COVID pneumonia.  Mr, Kraft was 68 or 69 (depending on the source).  

David Kraft began his career as a rock and roll journalist.  In 1974, Kraft founded Fictioneer Books which would go on to publish works by Robert E. Howard, Otis Adelbert Kline. and Jack London among others.  In 1975, he began working for Marvel Comics as editor of FOOM and later a writer on many of Marvel’s most popular characters.  Mr. Kraft also worked as a writer for DC Comics in 1976 and again in 1983/84. 

In 1983, he began publishing David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview.  The magazine ran for 150 issues with each issue focused on in-depth interviews with comic creators.  The magazine was a favorite with fans and pros alike.  It was a great source of background information, previews of new stories and art in those days before the internet.

My first exposure to David Anthony Kraft was through his Fictioneer Books publishing.  Dragonflame was written by Don McGregor with several illustrations by Paul Gulacy.  My favorite David Anthony Kraft comics were his Captain America stories with Mike Zeck and John Beatty.  And like so many comic fans, I was a regular reader of his Comics Interview magazine.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to David Anthony Kraft’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Charles Grodin

Charles Grodin, the multitalented actor and author, died today at the age of 86 from bone cancer.  Mr. Grodin, whose acting career spanned over 60 years worked in feature films, television and on Broadway. 

His first role was an uncredited part in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  He then transitioned to television making guest appearances until his role in the feature film Rosemary’s Baby.  For the rest of his career Charles Grodin alternated between feature films, television movies and tv series.  Along the way, Mr. Grodin wrote plays, books, hosted his own talk show and was a political commentator for 60 Minutes.

Before researching Charles Grodin’s acting resume, I would have said that the first time I saw him was in Rosemary’s Baby.  I would have been wrong.  Prior to that film, Mr. Grodin had made appearances on television programs for well over a decade.  I must have seen him in The F.B.I., Captain Nice, or The Guns of Will Sonnet first. 

My favorite Charles Grodin movie role was in Midnight Run with Robert DeNiro.  I’m surprised there never was a sequel since Midnight Run was so well received by critics and fans.  Other memorable Charles Grodin movie appearances included roles in King Kong, Heaven Can Wait, Seems Like Old Times, and Beethoven

Charles Grodin was able to stay active over the length of his acting career (on stage and screen), had the talent to write plays, memoirs, screenplays, an award-winning television special as well as host his own show — all of this is evidence of his many talents. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Charles Grodin’s family, friends and fans.     

RIP: Norman Lloyd


Norman Lloyd, actor, director and producer with a career that spanned over 70 years, died yesterday in his sleep at the age of 106.  

Mr, Lloyd began his career as a spy in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur.  He acted in Charlie Chaplin’s classic Limelight.  Throughout his career Norman Lloyd alternated between acting in feature films and television, directing and producing.

In addition to Saboteur and Limelight, some of my other favorite Norman Lloyd roles could be found on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, St. Elsewhere, and Wiseguy.  In addition Mr. Lloyd could be found acting in Night Gallery, Audrey Rose, Kojak, Dead Poets Society, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Modern Family just to give you an idea of the range he played.  What a career.  What a life!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Norman Lloyd’s family, friends and fans.  

RIP: Tawny Kitaen


Tawny Kitaen, the model and actress, died yesterday at the age of 59.  No cause of death has been released.

Born Julie Kitaen, she began using the nickname Tawny while still in junior high.  Kitaen, who was dating Ratt band member Robbin Crosby while she was still in high school, appeared on Ratt’s first two album covers.  In 1984, she earned a part in the Tom Hanks’ comedy, Bachelor Party.  In 1987, Kitaen rocketed to fame after appearing in three Whitesnake music videos.

Tawny Kitaen’s career spanned 36 years with 45 acting credits.  She was a regular on The New WKRP in Cincinnati which ran for 2 seasons.  Other notable roles included characters on Seinfeld, Married with Children, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  

Tawny Kitaen’s private life got as much press as her professional career.  In 1989, she married Whitesnake lead singer,  David Coverdale.  They divorced in 1991.  She had an affair with O.J. Simpson while he was married to Nicole Brown Simpson.  In 1997, she married professional baseball player, Chuck Finley.  They had two daughters during their five year marriage which ended in 2002.

I’ll always remember Tawny Kitaen from her appearances in the Whitesnake videos.  I was teaching junior high at the time and 9 out of 10 boys had pictures of her on their notebooks and in their lockers.  According to Marty Callner, who directed the famous Whitesnake videos:  “She (Tawny Kitaen) had so much magic, so much charisma, so sexy, so sweet, I loved her immediately, and I knew, and was right that she would be not only the first, but the ultimate video vixen.”  Who can argue with that?

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tawny Kitaen’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Frank McRae


It is just being reported today that Frank McRae died on April 29th, from a heart attack.  Mr. McRae was 77.  

Frank McRae was a gifted athlete who played college football at the University of Tennessee and upon graduation went into the NFL where he was a Defensive Tackle for the Chicago Bears.  When his playing days were over, McRae’s focus turned to acting.

Frank McRae’s career spanned 34 years with over 60 acting credits on his resume.  Mr. McRae held his on own screen with many of the greats: Charles Bronson, James Garner, Sally Field, Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Peter Falk and Arnold Schwarzenegger to name just a few.  Stanley Kramer, Steven Spielberg, John Milius, Robert Zemeckis and John McTiernan were some of the directors who wanted Frank McRae in their films.  Frank McRae appeared in four films starring Sylvester Stallone: FIST, Paradise Alley, Lock Up and Rocky II.  Mr. McRae’s best known role may be Sharkey, James Bond’s friend, in Licence to Kill

I was (and remain) a huge fan of Frank McRae.  He made every film he was in at least a little bit better.  My favorite Frank McRae role was when he played Big Glory in Paradise Alley.  Big Glory was a professional wrestler whose better days were long past.  It’s a funny, yet sad supporting role that Frank McRae completely owned.  Another memorable role was his brief but impactful part in Red Dawn… and Lock Up… and well, you get the idea.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Frank McRae’s family, friends and fans. 

RIP: Billie Hayes

Billie Hayes who performed on Broadway, in movies and on television died on April 29th at the age of 96.  Her death from natural causes was announced today by her family.

Mrs. Hayes first Broadway appearance was in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces in 1956. She was then cast as Mammy Yokum in the Broadway version of Li’l Abner.  When Li’l Abner was turned into a feature film, Hayes reprised her role as Mammy Yokum.

Billy Hayes first television role was on The Monkees.  Her next television role was the one she became best known for, as Witchiepoo on HR Pufnstuff (tv series) and in the Pufnstuff movie.  After that series ended Hayes appeared once again as Mammy Yokum in the Li’l Abner tv movie.  Hayes went on to make guest appearances on Bewitched, Lidsville (as a series co-star), Donny and Marie, Murder She Wrote, General Hospital and many other shows.  In 1981, Hayes also began doing voice work (on shows such as The Flintstone Comedy Show, The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, Darkwing Duck, Talespin to name just a few).  She continued doing voice work until she retired in 2016.

Not many performers have a career as long as Billie Hayes.  She was able to successfully transition between stage, feature films and television.  I, like many of her fans, knew her best from her role as Witchiepoo.  I was ten when the series premiered.  My brother and I got into trouble for calling my youngest sister, Witchiepoo.  It’s funny the things you remember.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Billie Hayes’ family, friends and fans.

RIP: Johnny Crawford

Johnny Crawford, best known as one of the original Mouseketeers and for his role on The Rifleman, died yesterday at the age of 75.  Mr. Crawford had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, COVID-19 and pneumonia, but his cause of death was not specified.

Crawford first rose to fame as one of Walt Disney’s original Mouseketeers.  He would then go on to play roles on The Lone Ranger, The Frank Sinatra Show, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Danny Thomas Show, Wagon Train and many other popular television shows before getting his co-starring role on The Rifleman with Chuck Connors.  At the age of 13, Johnny Crawford was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy for his portrayal of Mark McCain, on The Rifleman.  Crawford and Connors developed a friendship that would continue throughout their lives.  When The Rifleman ended, Crawford appeared on an episode of Connor’s follow-up series, Branded.  Johnny Crawford even spoke at Chuck Connors’ funeral decades later.

Johnny Crawford had a brief career as a singing star.  He had four top forty Billboard hits on Del-FI records.  Throughout his life Crawford acted in television and feature film roles, and in 1992, he formed the JCO (Johnny Crawford Orchestra) which performed at festivals and special events.  Johnny Crawford was an extremely talented individual with a career that spanned over 60 years of performances on stage, television and silver screen.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Johnny Crawford’s family, fans and friends.

RIP: Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman, lyricist of million-selling hit records, died yesterday at the age of 73.  No cause of death was released.

Steinman is best known for his collaborations with Meat Loaf on the albums Bat Out of Hell (1977) and Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993).  Bat Out of Hell produced two top ten hits: “Two of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and became one of the best-selling albums ever.  Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell released one single: “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” that spent five weeks at No. 1.  Steinman also penned the music and book for Bat Out of Hell: The Musical which ran from February through April in Manchester, England.

Steinman may have been known best for his two collaborations with Meat Loaf, but he composed and produced hits with many other artists including…

  • “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” performed by Air Supply
  • “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (which he also produced) performed by Bonnie Tyler
  • “Nowhere Fast” performed by Fire, Inc. for the Streets of Fire Soundtrack
  • “Left in the Dark” performed by Barbara Streisand
  • “Hulk Hogan’s Theme” for the WWE
  • “Holding Out for a Hero” (which he also produced and co-wrote with Dean Pitchford) performed by Bonnie Tyler
  • “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” performed by Celine Dion
  • and many more.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim Steinman’s family, friends and fans.

RIP – Felix Silla


Felix Silla, whose acting career spanned 55 years, died yesterday after after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  While you may not instantly recognize Felix Silla’s name, you’ll be surprised at the number of roles you saw him play.

One of his most famous was as Cousin Itt in the tv series The Adams Family.  That wasn’t the only popular show that featured an appearance by Felix Silla.  He also had roles on: Bonanza, The Monkees, Petticoat Junction, The Girl from UNCLE and Star Trek.  Sila appeared in the movies Point Blank and Planet of the Apes.  He followed those roles as a regular cast member of HR Puffinstuff.

Other television highlights include: Bewitched, Night Gallery, Mary Hartman, Battlestar Gallactica, a regular role on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Mork & Mindy, and Married with Children.  Movie highlights include: The Black Bird, Demon Seed, Kentucky Fried Movie, Under the Rainbow, The Sting II, Meatballs II, Spaceballs and Batman Returns.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Felix Silla’s family, friends and fans.