Considering I had just reviewed his most famous role, as Ezra Cobb in the low-budget horror classic DERANGED (1974), a few weeks ago, it’s particularly sad to report that actor ROBERTS BLOSSOM has died at the age of 87. Mr. Blossom also had roles in such films as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979) and the Stephen King adaptation CHRISTINE (1983). He also played the elderly neighbor in HOME ALONE (1990). But for me, he’ll always be Ezra Cobb.
ANNA MASSEY also died earlier this month at the age of 73. She was best known as Helen in the 1960 horror classic by Michael Powell, PEEPING TOM. She was also quite memorable in Alfred Hitchock’s criminally underrated serial killer flick, FRENZY (1972). Other memorable films include BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) and EC Comics adaptation, THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973), but she acted right up until her death.
Since our last Obituary column (ELIZABETH TAYLOR back in March), several other talented people have died who you might know. Here’s a brief rundown.
FARLEY GRANGER played tennis player Guy Haines in Alfred Hitchock’s classic STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951). He was also one of the stars of Hitchock’s ROPE (1948). He died at the age of 85/ He was also in THE GIRL ON THE RED VELVET SWING (1955) and in the 80s and 90s he was a regular on the soap opera AS THE WORLD TURNS.
SIDNEY LUMET was the great director of such films as 12 ANGRY MEN (1957) FAIL-SAFE (1964) (the serious adaptation of the book that Stanley Kubrick turned into DR. STRANGELOVE), SERPICO (1973), DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975), and perhaps his greatest film, NETWORK (1976). He died at the age of 86. His last films were the mob trial drama FIND ME GUILTY (2006) starring Vin Diesel and 2007’s BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney.
ELIZABETH SLADEN died of cancer at age 63 on April 21st. She acted in lots of British TV comedies and dramas, but she will be most remembered as the “companion” Sarah Jane Smith on the British sci-fi series DR. WHO, a role she originated in 1973 and went on to reprise several times, including in the series THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES (2007 – 2011).
YVETTE VICKERS was one of the stars of the low-budget cult classic ATTACK OF THE 5O FOOT WOMAN (1957), a movie that continues to be discovered by audiences of bad films. Ms. Vickers died at age 82, but her body was not discovered until a year later, in May. She was also in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (1959), the Paul Newman film HUD (1963) and Curtis Harrington’s WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN (1971), a riff on Robert Aldrich’s WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, starring Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds (!). Ms. Vickers was also a pin-up in PLAYBOY at the height of her career.
WILLIAM CAMPBELL died at age 87. He was the Klingon captain Koloth, in one of the most famous episodes of the original STAR TREK, “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967). He was also well-known for his resemblance to the flamboyant pianist Liberace. His genre films include Francis Ford Coppola’s early film, DEMENTIA 13 (1963), Robert Aldrich’s HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964) and Jack Hill’s BLOOD BATH (1966).
LEONARD KASTLE directed and wrote the low-budget crime thriller THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (1969), starring Tony LoBianco and Shirley Stoler as unlikely lovers who kill lonely women for their money. Despite the fact that this film is considered a classic, it was Kastle’s only directing (and writing) credit. He was 82. He should have made a lot more movies!
GENE “THE DEAN” COLAN was one of the best (and most distinctive) artists in the history of comic books. His career included a famous run as the artist for Marvel’s DAREDEVIL in the late 1960s to early 70s (working with writers from Stan Lee to Steve Gerber). He also drew the classic series TOMB OF DRACULA for its complete run, working with writer Marv Wolfman. TOMB was critically acclaimed and some consider it his best work. It was also the comic that first introduced the world to the vampire hunter, Blade (whom Wolfman and Colan c0-created). Colan also drew a lot of issues of Steve Gerber’s classic satire, HOWARD THE DUCK. Mr. Colan died at the age of 84. I for one was a fan and used collect comics specifically for his terrific artwork.
PETER FALK was best known for playing the television detective, COLUMBO, who, despite his disheveled appearance (including a trademark trench coat) was a genius at solving crimes. Falk first played Lt. Columbo in 1968 in the TV-movie PRESCRIPTION: MURDER. The character proved to have incredible longevity and Falk played him throughout the 70s in a COLUMBO series, and then, when the series ended, continued to play him in over two dozen Columbo TV-movies. The last one, COLUMBO LIKES THE NIGHTLIFE, aired in 2003. He also starred in several movies by John Cassavetes, whom many consider the father of independent film, including HUSBANDS (1970) with Ben Gazarra and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) with Gena Rowlands.
Other memorable films Falk appeared in include MURDER INC. (1960), THE IN-LAWS (1979), THE WINGS OF DESIRE and THE PRINCESS BRIDE (both 1987). He was 83.
© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares