Blog Archives

Actor Michael Clark Duncan dead at age 54.


Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, and David Morse in “The Green Mile.”

Michael Clarke Duncan, the tall and massively built actor with the shaved head and deep voice who received an Academy Award nomination for his moving portrayal of a gentle death row inmate in the 1999 prison drama “The Green Mile,” died today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He had suffered a heart attack in July and did not recover.

Duncan began his Hollywood employment history as a celebrity bodyguard in the mid-1990s. He received his first big acting break playing a member of the drilling team sent into space to blow up an asteroid heading to Earth in the big-budget 1998 movie “Armageddon,” starring Bruce Willis.

But it was “The Green Mile,” starring Tom Hanks as a death row prison guard in a Louisiana penitentiary during the Depression, that thrust the 6-foot-5, 300-plus-pound Duncan into the limelight. He portrayed John Coffey, a gentle giant with supernatural powers who has been sentenced to death for the murder of two young white girls.

Duncan credited acting coach Larry Moss with teaching him “how to dig within myself” for the heavily emotional crying scenes in the movie.

“I’m an emotional person, a very emotional person,” Duncan told the Chicago Tribune in 2000. “All those tears you see in the movie were mine.”

In 2002, two years after the Academy Awards ceremony, Duncan told the Orange County Register:

“Realistically, I didn’t think I would win the Oscar, but the nomination was a personal validation for me. It proved to me that I was a good actor. More important, it showed other people that I was a serious actor.”

Duncan later appeared in films such as “The Whole Nine Yards” (2000), “Planet of the Apes” (2001), “The Scorpion King” (2002) and “The Island” (2005). He also did voice work in films and television, including “Brother Bear” (2003) and “Kung Fu Panda” (2008).

(source:the LA Times)


Lyricist Hal David has died at 91…


He was probably best known as the lyricist to the songs of Bert Bacharach. Harold Lane “Hal” David grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He received an Academy Award for the lyrics to “Raindrops Keep Falling on Your Head” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

David died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles due to complications from a stroke.

David once outlined how he wrote with Bacharach on “What The World Needs Now Is Love” (proclaimed “The Towering Song” by the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004):

Al Hirshfeld’s portrait of Hal David

Years ago Burt Bacharach and I wrote a song that we thought we liked. After looking it over we decided that our original instinct was wrong. We put it away in our desk drawer and kept it hidden there for ten months-a flop, we thought.

This was particularly disappointing to me. I had thought of the idea at least two years before showing it to Burt. The chorus section beginning with, ‘What the world needs now” came quickly. However, after I finished with, “No, not just for some but for everyone,” I was stuck. I kept thinking of lines like, “Lord, we don’t need planes that fly higher or faster…” and they all seemed wrong. Why, I didn’t know. But the idea stayed with me.

Then, one day, I thought of, “Lord, we don’t need another mountain,” and all at once I knew how the lyric should be written. Things like planes and trains and cars are man-made, and things like mountains and rivers and valleys are created by someone or something we call God. There was now a oneness of idea and language instead of a conflict. It had taken me two years to put my finger on it.

When the idea came the lyric flowed with ease. As soon as Burt saw the lyric, the music seemed to flow as naturally.

What’s New Pussycat,” “Alfie,” and “The Look of Love” received Oscar nominations. Amongst Hal David’s million-sellers are such standards as “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “Walk on By,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” “One Less Bell To Answer,” and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.” Earlier this year, David and Bacharach received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress, during a White House musical tribute (which David could not attend due to a previous stroke.)


Composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68


Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the scores for dozens of movies including “The Sting” and won a Tony for “A Chorus Line,” has died in Los Angeles at 68.

The composer won every major award in his career, including three Academy Awards, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes. He composed more than 40 film scores, including “Sophie’s Choice,” `’Ordinary People” and “Take the Money and Run.” He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of Scott Joplin‘s music for “The Sting.” On Broadway, Hamlisch received the Pulitzer Prize for long-running favorite “The Chorus Line” and wrote “The Goodbye Girl” and “Sweet Smell of Success.”

Family spokesman Jason Lee said Hamlisch died Monday after a brief illness. Other details weren’t being released.

Hamlisch had been scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tennessee, this week to see a production of his hit musical “The Nutty Professor.”


Actress Celeste Holm, 95, Dies…

Celeste Holm, the versatile actress who achieved fame on Broadway in the original production of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s hit musical “Oklahoma!” in 1943 and five years later won an Oscar for best supporting actress, died today.

In a career of over 70 years, Holm did other Broadway shows such as “Bloomer Girl” and as the replacement for Gertrude Lawrence in “The King and I.” She made films like “Three Little Girls In Blue,” “The Snake Pit” and “All About Eve.”

Celeste Holm won an Academy Award for supporting actress in the 1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement” and was nominated two other times. She also had frequent roles on television, including in the 1990s series ‘Promised Land.’

Holm died in her apartment on Central Park West in New York City.

The Memorials the Oscars Left Out…

My pal Joe Bratcher turned me on to this in Facebook. As I looked at the list, I realized that there were some great… and important to our cultural historyactors and actresses left out of the Academy Award‘s “In Memoriam” segment.

Nicole Williamson? How could they?

Oscars 2012: the full list

In case you are like me and went to bed last night instead of staying awake to see that The Artist (as I predicted) won Best Picture, here’s the complete list of Oscar winners:

An Oscar statue

Best cinematography

Robert Richardson, Hugo

Best art direction


Best costume design

The Artist

Best make up

The Iron Lady

Best foreign language film

A Separation

Best actress in a supporting role

Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best film editing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best sound editing


Best sound mixing


Best documentary feature


Best animated film


Best visual effects


Best actor in a supporting role

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best original score

Ludovic Bource, The Artist

Best song

Man or Muppet, The Muppets

Best adapted screenplay

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, The Descendants

Best original screenplay

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Best live action short

The Shore

Best documentary short

Saving Face

Best animated short

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore

Best director

Michel Hazavanicius, The Artist

Best actor in a leading role

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best actress in a leading role

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best picture

The Artist

Take a break…

A wonderful film for a Wednesday Night:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

This has been nominated for a short film Academy Award and I think it is surely worth it. Make sure to watch it at full screen.

Have a great time… more fun than watching politicians.
For those of you who are my radio listeners I’ll be on WSHC (89.7 FM) tomorrow morning from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM substituting for John Case(on the web at

I’ve only seen 5 of the Oscar nominees so far…

… but I knew two of them were clearly going to end up on the list when I saw them. Unfortunately they are competing against each other. I enjoyed them both with equal enthusiasm.

Hugo was a salute to the early film industry in France (the fantastic films of Georges Melies) with chase and mystery in the Paris railroad station. I brought two of my grandsons to see it and I don’t know who liked it more, them or me. Martin Scorsese made a real winner here… and it was in 3D!

The Artist, which Elly and I saw last week, was a tribute to silent movies… black and white, some sound added for effect… and funny. One of the few movies I’ve seen lately that I would have watched again on the same day.

Both of these are worth winning the Oscar. I hope one of them comes through.

Jackie Cooper dies at 88…

Goodbye to Jackie Cooper, one of the favorite actors of my childhood and early adult years. From the “Our Gang” comedies, through years of motion pictures, early television comedy and up through films like “Superman” where he was seen as Perry White, Cooper gaver us decades of talent.

One particular memory I have was being in the live studio audience at age 12 for a TV comedy he was doing from NYC… yes those were the days without videotape… the days of “live television.”

Cooper was also known for the fact that at age 9 he became the youngest Oscar nominee for best actor (a record that he still holds), in “Skippy” (1931).

Here’s Jackie in the 50s TV serial “The People’s Choice”:

Goodbye, Jackie Cooper… I remember you fondly.

Sydney Lumet Dead at 86

Sidney Lumet, four-time Oscar-nominated director of films such as “12 Angry Men,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Network,” died Today. He was 86. He died of lymphoma in his New York home.

The quintessential New York filmmaker, Lumet shot a large number of his films in his hometown, including “The Pawnbroker,” “Serpico” and many others. He said in a 1968 interview:

Hollywood is a company town. There is no real world there outside of filming. I don’t feel organic life there, and I need that around me when I work.”

Although he had four nominations, he never won the Oscar. In 2005 he was given an honorary Oscar in recognition of his career.

Elizabeth Taylor Dies at Age 79…

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor has died in Los Angeles of heart complications.  Born in Hampstead, a wealthy district of North West London, the second child of Francis Lenn Taylor (1897–1968) and Sara Viola Warmbrodt (1895–1994), who were Americans residing in England.

Her parents were originally from Arkansas City, Kansas. Her father was an art dealer and her mother a former actress whose stage name was ‘Sara Sothern’. Sothern retired from the stage when she and Francis Taylor married in 1926 in New York City.

A dual citizen of the UK and the U.S., she was born a British subject through her birth on British soil and an American citizen through her parents.

Taylor was famous for her films (many, such as National Velvet, Cleopatra, A Place In The Sun and others), for eight marriages (two to Richard Burton) and for her campaigning against HIV and AIDS.

She won her 2 Best Actress Academy Awards for Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

In her long career from child actress to Hollywood Icon, Taylor passed away at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in LA.

John Barry, Composer, Dies at 77

John Barry at the Royal Albert Hall (2006).

John Barry

John Barry, well known film composer, died yesterday of a heart attack in Glen Cove, N.Y.
Barry, who wrote scores for more than 100 feature films, TV films, and TV series went on to win five Oscars (the scores for “Born Free,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Out of Africa,” and “Dances with Wolves”; and best song for “Born Free”), and he was noted for composing the James Bond films. He also won four Grammys. Maybe Barry’s most memorable non-Bond score was “Midnight Cowboy.” Other credits include “Body Heat,” “The Cotton Club,” and “Chaplin.” Musically, the man was nothing if not eclectic.

Here he is in England being interviewed by Jools Holland in 2001:

Top Academy Award Nominees Are Out…

Here’s biggies list:

Best Picture
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right ”
“The King’s Speech”
127 Hours
The Social Network
“Toy Story 3″
True Grit
“Winter’s Bone”

Best Direction
Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”
David Fincher for “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”
David O. Russell for “The Fighter”

Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
James Franco in “127 Hours”
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“The Illusionist”
“Toy Story 3″

This idea started last year of having ten competitors for Best Picture is one that I continue to disagree with. Surely we can elevate the best 4 or 5 pictures and have a rel competition. This just spreads the voters’ picks around and caters to commercial needs for ticket sales.

And, btw, my favorite across the board, is still The King’s Speech and it’s performers (and Director).

Pete Postlethwaite dead at 64

I’m sorry to bring the news that Pete Postlethwaite, the great British actor, has succumbed to Cancer at the much too early age of 64.

This from OK Magazine:

Pete Postlethwaite

The Oscar-nominated thespian has starred in Alien 3, The Usual Suspects, Amistad, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, as well as countless movies dating back to 1975, was nominated for an Academy Award for The Name of The Father in 1993.Steven Spielberg, the director for Amistad and Jurassic Park called Pete “the best actor in the world.” To which point, Pete responded, “I’m sure what Spielberg actually said was, ‘The thing about Pete is that he thinks he’s actually the best actor in the world.’ ”

My favorite Postlethwaite film is Brassed Off where, as Danny the band leader, he saves the brass band affiliated with a closing coal mine in Wales. It is a funny, sad, and inspiring film. More recently he appeared in Ben Affleck’s film The Town.

Postlethwaite is one of those actors that will be truly missed.