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2015-2016 TV Memoriam Thread (Gene Wilder, Jon Polito, Hugh O’Brian)

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    Chris Beachum
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    #1201904147

    Garry Marshall, who created some of the 1970s’ most iconic sitcoms including “Happy Days,” “The Odd Couple,” “Laverne and Shirley” and “Mork and Mindy” and went on to direct hit movies including “Pretty Woman” and “The Princess Diaries,” died Tuesday in Burbank, Calif. of complications from pneumonia following a stroke. He was 81.

    Marshall went from being a TV writer to creating sitcoms that touched the funny bones of the 1970s generation and directing films that were watched over and over: “Happy Days” helped start a nostalgia craze that has arguably never abated, while “Mork and Mindy” had a psychedelically goofy quality that catapulted Robin Williams to fame and made rainbow suspenders an icon of their era. “Pretty Woman” likewise cemented Julia Roberts’ stardom, while “The Princess Diaries” made Anne Hathaway a teen favorite.

    “Happy Days” star Henry Winkler credited him for launching his career, tweeting “Thank you for my professional life.”

    Richard Gere, who starred in “Pretty Woman,” issued a statement about Marshall late on Tuesday: “Garry of course was one of those truly important people one is blessed to meet in one’s lifetime. Besides being the pulse and life force of ‘Pretty Woman’… a steady helmsman on a ship that could have easily capsized… he was a super fine and decent man, husband and father who brought real joy and love and infectious good spirits to every thing and everyone he crossed paths with. Everyone loved Garry. He was a mentor and a cheerleader and one of the funniest men who ever lived. He had a heart of the purest gold and a soul full of mischief. He was Garry.”

    Marshall had one of his first substantial hits when he developed and exec produced an adaptation of Neil Simon’s play “The Odd Couple” in 1970 for ABC. The show drew several Emmy nominations for outstanding comedy series and wins for stars Jack Klugman and Tony Randall over the course of its five-season run. (In 2015 Marshall served as a consultant on a CBS remake of the series that starred Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.)

    Marshall penned the 1971 pilot for “Happy Days,” which was recycled in 1972 as a segment of ABC’s comedy anthology series “Love, American Style” called “Love and the Happy Days.” George Lucas asked to view the pilot before deciding to cast Ron Howard, who starred in it, in “American Graffiti,” released in 1973. “Happy Days” debuted as a series on the network in 1974, riding high on the wave of 1950s nostalgia generated in part by the success of “American Graffiti.”

    During its peak, “Happy Days” was the No. 1 show on television during the 1976-77 season, No. 2 in 1977-78 and No. 4 the following year, and Winkler’s the Fonz became a cultural touchstone, with his leather jacket eventually landing in the Smithsonian. Years later Marshall acknowledged being the one behind the idea, for a 1977 episode, of putting Fonzie on water skis — an idea so outlandish that it spawned the phrase “jumped the shark,” said in reference to a show that is clearly past its prime.

    Nevertheless, “Happy Days” spawned “Laverne and Shirley,” which Marshall created with Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman, and “Mork and Mindy,” which Marshall created with Dale McRaven and Joe Glauberg. Both were as successful in the ratings as “Happy Days,” with “Laverne and Shirley” No. 1 for two seasons and “Mork and Mindy” peaking at No. 3. “Laverne and Shirley” starred Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall, Garry’s sister, who would go on to her own successful career as a director of feature films, while “Mork and Mindy” began the career of star Williams. Garry Marshall shared an Emmy nomination, his fifth, in 1979 as “Mork and Mindy” drew a mention for comedy series.

    His first bigscreen blockbuster was 1990’s “Pretty Woman,” starring Julia Roberts as an idealized prostitute and Gere as her client-cum-Prince Charming. The romantic comedy grossed $463 million worldwide. Roberts was Oscar nominated for best actress, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best comedy/musical — and Marshall scored a Cesar nomination as “Pretty Woman” drew a mention in the French awards’ foreign-film category.

    Marshall told the New York Times that he wanted to make Roberts’ character somewhat less experienced.  “I knew if we lowered the age and made her a new girl in the business, then people would say, ‘Oh, please don’t do that, honey.’”

    Marshall also created the ABC sitcom “Angie” and exec produced other shows including “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi,” “The New Odd Couple,” “Blansky’s Beauties” and “Who’s Watching the Kids.”

    He made his directorial debut in 1967 on his series “Hey, Landlord” and also helmed some episodes of “The Odd Couple,” “Happy Days,” “Mork and Mindy” and “Laverne and Shirley.” The first feature Marshall directed was the 1982 comedy “Young Doctors in Love,” essentially a spoof of “General Hospital,” starring Sean Young and Michael McKean.

    His second feature effort, “The Flamingo Kid,” which Marshall scripted from a story by Neal Marshall, drew critical raves. Matt Dillon starred in the social comedy as a working-class kid who learns life lessons during a summer spent as a cabana boy.

    “Nothing in Common” (1986) offered good moments from stars Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks, playing father and son. Another modest success for Marshall came in the form of screwball comedy “Overboard,” starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

    Tear-jerking chick flick “Beaches” (1988), starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, scored with audiences, if not with critics, racking up a domestic gross of $57 million and a healthy afterlife on video.

    Marshall reunited with his “Pretty Woman” stars Roberts and Gere for the 1999 box office success “Runaway Bride,” about a woman who keeps leaving her fiances at the altar. The New York Times said, “Garry Marshall smoothly turns Maggie’s little kink into bigscreen sitcom fodder.” The worldwide gross was $309 million.

    “The Princess Diaries” and its sequel were also big hits for Marshall. The films, which made a star of Anne Hathaway, saw global grosses of $165 million and $135 million, respectively.

    Marshall took on a smaller film, “Georgia Rule,” and while the critics were generally unimpressed, the New York Times lauded the film, starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman, for some surprising qualities: “Working against its maudlin impulses with lively humor, and at the same time undercutting its laughs with some hard, ugly themes, this movie is neither a standard weepie nor a comforting dramedy.”

    The star-packed “Valentine’s Day” and sequel “New Year’s Day” were more commercially successful enterprises. Another sequel, “Mother’s Day,” following the same formula of lining up a large cast of top names for small parts, in this case Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis, was released in April 2016.

    Marshall kept it in perspective: Speaking of the critical reception to “New Year’s Eve,” he told the New York Times, “I got killed on the last one, but it made $146 million worldwide.”

    Garry Kent Maschiarelli was born in the Bronx, the son of a dance and a director of industrial films who would later become a producer on some of his son’s TV programs. He graduated from Northwestern U.’s Medill School of Journalism and began his career as a joke writer for comedians including Joey Bishop, then worked on the writing staff of “The Tonight Show With Jack Paar.”

    Marshall also had a long acting career that began in the early 1960s. He played a hoodlum in the James Bond film “Goldfinger” and made appearances, most uncredited, in many of his film and TV projects. He had a recurring role on “Murphy Brown” as the head of the network and guested on shows ranging form “Monk” and “The Sarah Silverman Show” to “ER.” His many small film roles included a part in sister Penny’s “A League of Their Own” as a cheapskate baseball team owner, which he reprised in the brief TV series based on the movie. In his son Scott Marshall’s 2006 comedy “Keeping Up With the Steins,” Marshall had a small but notable role as the grandfather of the bar mitzvah boy who has adopted Native American customs.

    Marshall also found the time for stage efforts. “Wrong Turn at Lungfish,” co-written with Lowell Ganz, played L.A., Chicago and Off Broadway, and “The Roast,” co-penned with Jerry Belson, played Broadway in a production helmed by Carl Reiner in 1980. Marshall also wrote the play “Shelves,” and in 1997, he and his daughter Kathleen founded the Falcon Theater in Burbank. Marshall also occasionally directed opera, including stagings of Jacques Offenbach’s “The Grand Duchess,” which opened the Los Angeles Opera’s 2005-06 season, and Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love” for the San Antonio Opera in January 2008.

    Marshall received the American Comedy Awards’ Creative Achievement Award in 1990, the Writers Guild of America’s Valentine Davies Award in 1995, the PGA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award and Lifetime Achievement Award in Television in 1998 and the American Cinema Editors’ Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award in 2004. In 1997 he was inducted into the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame.

    Marshall’s memoir “Wake Me When It’s Funny,” co-written with his daughter Lori and published in 1995, recounted his first 35 years in Hollywood. He wrote an additional memoir, “My Happy Days in Hollywood,” in 2012.

    “The loss today of Garry Marshall is deeply sad – for our industry, and for our Guild,” Directors Guild of America president Paris Barclay said in a statement late on Tuesday. “Garry’s gift for storytelling brought joy, laughter and an enormous, beating heart to every screen, large and small. When describing the type of stories he chose to tell, Garry once said: ‘I try to find scripts of stories that kinda celebrate the human condition… let’s talk about the tough world out there and the human spirit overcoming adversity.’ And that indefatigable optimism came through in everything he touched. As the architect of some of the longest-running situation comedies in television history – from The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show, to Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, to Mork & Mindy and The Odd Couple – he’s left an unforgettable mark on the medium, a blueprint that many have tried to replicate throughout the decades. That mark continued at the movies with Pretty Woman, Beaches, The Princess Diaries and New Year’s Day to name just a few of his many, many hits. The winner of too many industry awards to count, his legacy lingers in the echoing laughter in so many living rooms and theaters.”

    “But the vision, joy and camaraderie Garry brought to life didn’t stop behind the camera,” the statement goes on. “He channeled his love for the craft of directing into serving our Guild – dedicating himself to protecting the creative rights of directors, as well as teaching newer generations of directors how hard-fought the DGA’s journey has been, and the importance of carrying it forward. All the while, he kept us all smiling – no mean feat. It was an honor, and a delight, for all of us who had the pleasure of serving alongside of him.”

    Marshall is survived by his wife, Barbara, to whom he was married since 1963; son Scott, a film director; and daughters Lori, an actress and casting director, and Kathleen, an actress; six grandchildren; and sisters Penny Marshall, an actress and film director, and Ronny Hallin, a TV producer.

    A memorial is being planned for his birthday on November 13. Donations in the name of Garry Marshall may be made to The Saban Community Clinic, formerly known as the Los Angeles Free Clinic, The Intensive Care Unit at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, and Northwestern University Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.

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    #1201904153

    David Huddleston, a noted character actor who was most famously known for the titular role in “The Big Lebowski” died Tuesday at 85. His wife, Sarah Koeppe, told the Los Angeles Times that he died of heart and kidney disease in Santa Fe, N.M.

    Huddleston’s character in the 1998 “The Big Lebowski” epitomized the types of characters he was known for — big dons or capos and tempestuous men. Although he is in only a few scenes in the film, he crosses paths with Jeff Bridges’ Lebowski character, aka “The Dude,” after a group of gang members attack “The Dude” mistaking him for Huddleston’s millionaire Lebowski. Though the film was not a hit when it first premiered, it has since become a huge cult sensation with a devoted fan base.

    Before he was cast as the Big Lebowski, he guest starred on several TV shows, including “Walker Texas Ranger,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Gilmore Girls” and “The West Wing” and had a recurring role as the grandfather on “The Wonder Years,” for which he was Emmy nominated. His film credits include the title role in 1985’s “Santa Claus: The Movie,” “Rio Lobo,” “Billy Two Hats,” “Capricorn One,” “Blazing Saddles” and “The Producers.”

    His wife told the L.A. Times that he considered his “crowning achievement” to be the role of Benajmin Franklin in the 1998 Broadway production of “1776” and in Washington, D.C. in 2003.

    Huddleston served more than 10 years on the Screen Actors Guild’s national board. He was elected to multi-year terms in 1976, 1982, 2000, and 2004. He was also a member of the SAG Hollywood division’s board.

    “David Huddleston was a uniquely gifted actor and a proud unionist,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “He will be forever remembered for his service to our union and the countless characters he brought to life on screen. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”

    Born in Vinton, Va., he served in the Air Force and then studied acting in New York on the G.I. Bill. He started out in the theater, touring with productions including “The Music Man” and “Mame.”

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    Chris Beachum
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    #1201904921

    Sagan Lewis, co-star of NBC’s ’80s medical drama “St. Elsewhere” and wife of Emmy-winning television creator Tom Fontana, died Sunday at home in New York City, after a six-year battle with cancer. She was 63.

    Lewis co-starred for seven seasons on “St. Elsewhere” as Dr. Jacqueline Wade. She went on to appear in television movies such as “Full Ride” and “Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction.” In the late ’90s, she had a recurring as role Judge Susan Aandahl on “Homicide: Life on the Street.” She appeared in the final half hour of the “M*A*S*H” TV series as well.

    The Omaha, Neb. native attended the U. of California at San Diego, where she received a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting.

    In 1978, Lewis met Fontana, then an aspiring writer, while auditioning for the acting company at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. In 1980, Lewis and Fontana went to Los Angeles where he became a writer on the NBC drama “St. Elsewhere.”  The series’ showrunner, Bruce Paltrow, created a regular role for Lewis.

    Lewis married Fontana at the Santa Monica home of Paltrow and his wife, actress Blythe Danner. The couple divorced in 1993 but later reconnected and remarried in July 2015.

    Lewis is survived by her husband, her son Jade Scott Lewis, and sisters Robin Schultz and Laurie Rittenbach as well as brothers James Paul Lewis, John Mickey and Joseph Mickey.

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    Chris Beachum
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    #1201905245

    John Saunders, the veteran ESPN broadcaster of over 30 years, has died. He was 61.

    His cause of death is unknown.

    The broadcaster joined ESPN in 1986. In addition anchoring “SportsCenter,” he was also the host of “The Sports Reporters.” Throughout his career he would go on to become the voice of college basketball and the WNBA, as well as the MLB All-Star game and World Series. He hosted the Stanley Cup playoffs between 1993 and 2004 on ESPN.

    “John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” said ESPN president John Skipper in a statement.

    “He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”

    Saunders was born in Canada where he grew up playing hockey, which eventually earned him a scholarship to play at Western Michigan University.

    In the late 70’s he was a news director and sports anchor for several Canadian stations. Then, in the early 80’s he moved back to the U.S. to work as a sports anchor at WMAR-TV in Baltimore.

    Outside of his broadcasting career, Saunders was a founding member of the V Foundation for Cancer Research and also served on the board of directors.

    Saunders is survived by wife Wanda and daughters Aleah and Jenna.

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    #1201907562

    Fyvush Finkel, best known to audiences for his role as Douglas Wambaugh on the David E. Kelley drama Picket Fences, passed away on Sunday at 93. A cause of death has not yet been disclosed.

    The stage and screen star won an Emmy for his work as Picket Fences‘ small-town lawyer, whom he played from 1992-96. He later re-teamed with Kelley on Boston Public in the recurring role of history teacher Harvey Lipschultz, appearing in 66 of 81 episodes.

    Finkel began his career more than 80 years ago doing local theater in New York City. His first big break came at 43 when he joined the Fiddler On the Roof touring company. He later made the leap to television, where his other credits include the ill-fated ’90s revival of Fantasy Island and guest spots on Harry’s Law and Blue Bloods; his film credits include Nixon and A Serious Man.

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    #1201910740

    Jack Riley, a regular actor on “The Bob Newhart Show” and the voice of Stu Pickles on the popular animated show “Rugrats,” has died. He was 80.

    He died of pneumonia at a hospital in Los Angeles and is survived by his wife Ginger Lawrence, two children and two grandchildren, according to Paul Doherty at Cunningham Escott Slevin & Doherty.

    Riley gained recognition for his role as the selfish and neurotic patient Elliot Carlin, who is credited in 49 episodes of “The Bob Newhart Show.”

    He was also a voice actor for the iconic Nickelodeon character in “Rugrats” for over a decade starting in 1991. He voiced 143 episodes of the original series through 2005, and 18 episodes of the “Rugrats” spin-off “All Grown Up” until 2007.

    His voice also appeared in multiple “Rugrats” movies including “A Rugrats Vacation” (1997), “The Rugrats Movie” (1998), “Rugrats in Paris: The Movie” (2000), as well as several video games based on the Nicktoon.

    Riley’s career spanned close to 50 years and he has amassed 157 credits over that duration.

    He was also a regular in “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Night Court” and “Son of the Beach.”

    In addition to his career on television, Riley was a part of several Mel Brooks films including “Silent Movie,” “High Anxiety,” “History of the World: Part I” and “Spaceballs.”

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    Chris Beachum
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    #1201912388

    Steven Hill, who starred for years as District Attorney Adam Schiff on “Law & Order” and decades earlier played the leader of the Impossible Missions Force before Peter Graves on TV’s “Mission: Impossible,” died Tuesday in Monsey, N.Y., his daughter Sarah Gobioff told The New York Times.

    He was also a top character actor in films of the 1980s and early ’90s including “Rich and Famous,” “Yentl,” “Garbo Talks” and Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle “Raw Deal”; “Legal Eagles,” in which he would, as in “Law & Order” a few years later, play the New York district attorney; “Heartburn”; “Brighton Beach Memoirs”; “Running on Empty”; “White Palace”; “Billy Bathgate”; and “The Firm.”

    Hill played Schiff from the show’s first season in 1990 until 2000, when Hill resigned; within the show Schiff was said to have accepted a position coordinating commemorations of the Holocaust Project and goes on to work with Simon Wiesenthal. Replacing Schiff as D.A. was Dianne Wiest’s Nora Lewin.

    The Schiff character was reportedly based in part on the former real-life, long-serving New York D.A., Robert Morgenthau. Schiff was formerly quite liberal in his youth, mostly replaced now with a political pragmatism that sees him fear angering one political constituency or another and thus frequently suggesting a plea bargain to appease all sides.

    While Hill was often said to be the last remaining member of the original cast of “Law & Order” to leave the show, this was not quite true by a technicality, as another actor, Roy Thinnes, had played the D.A. in the very first episode of the series; Hill’s Schiff came on in episode two.

    Hill was twice nominated for Emmys for playing Adam Schiff on “Law & Order,” in 1998 and 1999.

    In a 1996 profile of the actor, the New York Times said: “Legal vagaries aside, Mr. Hill is a law-and-order man. ‘There’s a certain positive statement in this show,’ he says (of ‘Law & Order’). ‘So much is negative today. The positive must be stated to rescue us form pandemonium. To me it lies in that principle: law and order.’ Personally, Mr. Hill says, he is no plea bargainer. ‘But our stories are about real life, and that’s how life is today,’ he says. ‘We plea bargain all over the place.’”

    On the first season of “Mission: Impossible” in 1966, Hill played Dan Briggs, who initially led the IMF force; while most viewers remember fondly the tape that plays at the onset of each episode and begins by saying “Good Morning Mr. Phelps” — the character later played by Peter Graves — and details the assignment that must be accomplished, the device was used from the beginning of the series, only the recording said, “Good morning, Mr. Briggs.”

    Steven Hill was an Orthodox Jew whose faith required that he depart the set on Friday by 4 p.m. in order to ensure that he make it home by sundown and the onset of the Sabbath; he was unavailable until the end of the Sabbath at sundown on Saturdays. The producers of “Mission: Impossible” were fully aware of these requirements, which were explicitly spelled out in the actor’s contract, but the pause in the production schedule each week proved unworkable in practice, generating increasing resentment on both sides. Thus, as the first season progressed, the producers simply utilized Hill less and less. This conflict over religious observance was not the only source of tension. After the actor climbed through dirt tunnels and climbed rope ladders for the episode “Snowball in Hell,” Hill balked at performing similar duties in the next episode, and the producers shot around him. Briggs’ presence in the five remaining episodes of the season was kept to a minimum. Line producer Joseph Gantman later told Patrick J. White, author of the 1991 book “The Complete ‘Mission: Impossible’ Dossier,” that he simply had not understood what had been agreed to with regard to Hill’s religious requirements: “If someone understands your problems and says he understands them, you feel better about it. But if he doesn’t care about your problems, then you begin to really resent him. Steven Hill may have felt exactly the same way.”

    Without any explanation within the storyline of the series, Hill’s Dan Briggs was replaced by Peter Graves’ Jim Phelps at the beginning of the second season.

    Since Adam Schiff had only a couple of scenes in most episodes of “Law & Order,” hewing to Hill’s religious requirements did not pose much of a logistical problem in that series.

    Nevertheless in the wake of the conflict that arose over his role on “Mission: Impossible,” Hill left acting from 1967 until 1978. He moved to a Jewish community in Rockland County, New York, writing and working in real estate.

    In 1986, at a time when his career was revitalized, Hill told the New York Times: “I don’t think an actor should act every single day. I don’t think it’s good for the so-called creative process. You must have periods when you leave the land fallow, let it revitalize itself.” A decade later, in a profile in the Times, he painted a far less cheerful picture of his past: “‘What we have here is a story of profound instability and impermanence,’ he says of his own career.”

    In 1978 he ended the 11-year drought with a role in NBC’s Martin Luther King Jr. miniseries “King,” in which Hill played Stanley Levison, a close friend of King’s who was a leader of the Communist Party.

    He returned to features with supporting roles in Claudia Weill’s “It’s My Turn” (1980), starring Jill Clayburgh and Michael Douglas; Peter Yates’ “Eyewitness” (1981), starring William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer and James Woods; George Cukor’s “Rich and Famous” (1981), starring Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen; Barbra Streisand’s “Yentl” (1983), in which he played the rabbi; Arthur Hiller’s “Teachers” (1984); “Garbo Talks,” in which he played the estranged husband of Anne Bancroft’s character; 1986 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle “Raw Deal,” in which he played a Mafia boss for laughs; Ivan Reitman’s 1986 “Legal Eagles,” starring Robert Redford; Mike Nichols’ “Heartburn” (1986), in which he played the father-in-law of Meryl Streep’s character; and “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (also 1986).

    In 1986 family drama “On Valentine’s Day,” written by Hill’s friend Horton Foote, the actor played “an anguished, deranged man living in a small town in Texas in the early years of the century,” in the words of the New York Times.

    In Sidney Lumet’s “Running on Empty” (1988), Hill got lucky: — playing the father of a longtime fugitive portrayed by Christine Lahti, he was in the film’s key scene. Roger Ebert said: “Questioning the very foundations on which they have built their lives… leads to the movie’s emotional high point, when the Lahti character calls up her father (Steven Hill) and arranges to meet him for lunch. Long ago, she broke his heart. She disappeared from his life for years. Now she wants her parents to take Danny, so that he can go to music school. She will lose her son, just as her father lost her. It’s ironic, and it’s very sad, and by the end of the scene we have been through a wringer.”

    In its review of 1990’s “White Palace,” starring Susan Sarandon and James Spader as unlikely lovers, the New York Times said: “Steven Hill, once again pressed into service to play an all-purpose patriarch, this time presides over a large Thanksgiving dinner in a prosperous household and makes a speech about the needs of the working class, which presents (Sarandon’s) Nora with her only opportunity for a memorable line. ‘Mister,’ she says, ‘I am the working class.’ “

    In Robert Benton’s 1991 E.L. Doctorow adaptation “Billy Bathgate,” Hill memorably played a loyal henchman to Dustin Hoffman’s mobster Dutch Schultz, while in Sydney Pollack’s adaptation of John Grisham’s “The Firm,” he played FBI Director F. Denton Voyles.

    Presumably supporting roles allowed both Hill and his respective directors the logistical freedom to work around his Sabbath schedule.

    After a 1995 TV movie, Hill did not earn a screen credit for five years, until “Law & Order” came along.

    Solomon Krakovsky was born in Seattle, Washington, to Russian Jewish immigrants, but was interested in theater even while young. He served in the Navy Reserve from 1940-44.

    He was a founding member of Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio, joining Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Julie Harris among the 50 successful applicants (out of some 700 interviewed) to be accepted, and made his Broadway debut in 1946 in the Ben Hecht play “A Flag Is Born,” which counted Marlon Brando among its stars and advocated for the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people in the ancient land of Israel; a few years later he was in the original cast of the enormously successful “Mister Roberts,” starring Henry Fonda, with Hill playing Stefanowski. Also in 1948 he appeared in “Sundown,” staged by Elia Kazan; in 1950 he appeared in Ibsen’s “The Lady From the Sea.” Hill was also in the original cast of Clifford Odets’ “The Country Girl.”

    Hill started on television early in the history of the medium, appearing in several segments of the “Actors Studio” episodic anthology series in 1949. He soon appeared on other anthology series, such as “The Magnavox Theatre,” “Schlitz Playhouse,” “Lux Video Theatre,” “Goodyear Playhouse,” “Studio One in Hollywood” and “Playhouse 90.”

    Hill received the Sylvania Television Award for dramatic actor of the year in 1954.

    A bit later he appeared on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Untouchables” and “Dr. Kildare.”

    The actor made his movie debut in the 1950 film noir “A Lady Without Passport,” starring Hedy Lamarr and John Hodiak, and appeared in film noir “Storm Fear,” directed by Cornel Wilde and written by Horton Foote; John Cromwell’s “The Actress” (1958), starring Kim Stanley; and “Kiss Her Goodbye” (1959) with Elaine Stritch.

    In 1960 he starred in the CBS TV movie “Dillinger” as Melvin Purvis.

    Everything changed with Hill’s 1961 starring role on Broadway as the older Sigmund Freud in the Henry Denker play “A Far Country.”

    Appearing in the play — in which a patient screams at Freud, “You are a Jew!” — profoundly affected Hill. “In the pause that followed I would think, ‘What about this?’ I slowly became aware that there was something more profound going on in the world than just plays and movies and TV shows. I was provoked to explore my religion,” he told John Sobiski for the online essay “Steven Hill: Hollywood’s Most Talented Curmudgeon.”

    A rabbi inspired him to adhere to strict Orthodox Judaism, which included observing the Sabbath without fail. This stricture effectively ended the actor’s stage career, as he would be unavailable for Friday night or Saturday matinee performances, and also made most potential film roles unlikely or impossible, most notably “The Sand Pebbles,” according to Sobiski.

    There were some film roles in the years after Hill became observant, including John Cassavetes’ 1963 “A Child Is Waiting,” in which he starred with Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland and Gena Rowlands, and 1965’s Sydney Pollack-directed “The Slender Thread,” starring Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft.

    Hill was twice married, the first time to Selma Stern, to whom he was married from 1951 until their divorce in 1964.

    He is survived by his second wife, Rachel, whom he married in 1967; five children by her; and four by Stern.

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    Sam K
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    #1201912934

    did you forget adding John McLaughin to the memoriam thread?

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    Chris Beachum
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    #1201913636

    Marvin Kaplan, a character actor known for the sitcom “Alice” and his voice-over work as Choo-Choo on the animated series “Top Cat,” has died. He was 89.

    He died of natural causes on Wednesday in his home in Burbank, Calif., according to a statement released by Theatre West.

    “It is with a sad and heavy heart to inform you our very own Marvin Kaplan passed away today at 5 a.m. in his sleep,” the statement reads. “We loved Marvin. He will truly be missed.”

    Born in Brooklyn, New York, Kaplan’s made his film debut in 1949’s “Adam’s Rib” starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Known for his sarcastic and deadpan delivery, Kaplan was featured in a variety of films, TV shows and animated series throughout his 60+ year career.

    Apart from “Top Cat,” Kaplan was well-known for his recurring role on the CBS series “Alice” as Henry Beesmeyer, a phone company employee named who often visited Mel’s Diner. He also appeared in small roles in films such as “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “The Great Race” and “A New Kind of Love.”

    In addition to acting, Kaplan served as AFTRA Los Angeles local president for eight years and Performers’ Governor on the Television Academy. He was also a member of the California Artists Radio Theatre, Motion Picture Academy and the Academy of New Musical Theatre.

    A memorial service has been planned at Theatre West in Los Angeles. A date and time has yet to be announced.

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    Gene Wilder, who regularly stole the show in such comedic gems as “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stir Crazy,” died Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn. His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

    He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

    The comic actor, who was twice Oscar nominated, for his role in “The Producers” and for co-penning “Young Frankenstein” with Mel Brooks, usually portrayed a neurotic who veered between total hysteria and dewy-eyed tenderness. “My quiet exterior used to be a mask for hysteria,” he told Time magazine in 1970. “After seven years of analysis, it just became a habit.”

    Habit or not, he got a great deal of mileage out of his persona in the 1970s for directors like Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, leading to a few less successful stints behind the camera, the best of which was “The Woman in Red,” co-starring then-wife Gilda Radner. Wilder was devastated by Radner’s death from ovarian cancer in 1989 and worked only intermittently after that. He tried his hand briefly at a sitcom in 1994, “Something Wilder,” and won an Emmy in 2003 for a guest role on “Will & Grace.”

    His professional debut came in Off Broadway’s “Roots” in 1961, followed by a stint on Broadway in Graham Greene’s comedy “The Complaisant Lover,” which won him a Clarence Derwent Award as promising newcomer. His performance in the 1963 production of Brecht’s “Mother Courage” was seen by Mel Brooks, whose future wife, Anne Bancroft, was starring in the production; a friendship with Brooks would lead to some of Wilder’s most successful film work. For the time being, however, Wilder continued to work onstage, in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1963 and “Dynamite Tonight” and “The White House” the following year. He then understudied Alan Arkin and Gabriel Dell in “Luv,” eventually taking over the role.

    Wilder also worked in television in 1962’s “The Sound of Hunting,” “The Interrogators,” “Windfall” and in the 1966 TV production of “Death of a Salesman” with Lee J. Cobb. He later starred in TV movies including “Thursday’s Game” and the comedy-variety special “Annie and the Hoods,” both in 1974.

    In 1967 Wilder essayed his first memorable bigscreen neurotic, Eugene Grizzard, a kidnapped undertaker in Arthur Penn’s classic “Bonnie and Clyde.”

    Then came “The Producers,” in which he played the hysterical Leo Bloom, an accountant lured into a money bilking scheme by a theatrical producer played by Zero Mostel. Directed and written by Brooks, the film brought Wilder an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. With that, his film career was born.

    He next starred in a dual role with Donald Sutherland in “Start the Revolution Without Me,” in which he displayed his fencing abilities. It was followed by another middling comedy, “Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx,” also in 1970.

    In 1971 he stepped into the shoes of Willie Wonka, one of his most beloved and gentle characters. Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was not an immediate hit but became a children’s favorite over the years. The same cannot be said for the 1974 Stanley Donen-directed musical version of “The Little Prince,” in which Wilder appeared as the fox. He had somewhat better luck in Woody Allen’s spoof “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex,” appearing in a hilarious segment in which he played a doctor who falls in love with a sheep named Daisy.

    Full-fledged film stardom came with two other Brooks comedies, both in 1974: Western spoof “Blazing Saddles” and a wacko adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous book entitled “Young Frankenstein,” in which Wilder portrayed the mad scientist with his signature mixture of hysteria and sweetness.

    Working with Brooks spurred Wilder to write and direct his own comedies, though none reached the heights of his collaborations with Brooks. The first of these was “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Younger Brother” (1975), in which he included such Brooks regulars as Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. It was followed by 1977’s “The World’s Greatest Lover,” which he also produced.

    Wilder fared better, however, when he was working solely in front of the camera, particularly in a number of films in which he co-starred with Richard Pryor.

    The first of these was 1978’s “Silver Streak,” a spoof of film thrillers set on trains; 1980’s “Stir Crazy” was an even bigger hit, grossing more than $100 million. Wilder and Pryor’s two other pairings, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” and “Another You,” provided diminishing returns, however.

    While filming “Hanky Panky” in 1982, Wilder met “Saturday Night Live” comedienne Radner. She became his third wife shortly thereafter. Wilder and Radner co-starred in his most successful directing stint, “The Woman in Red” in 1984, and then “Haunted Honeymoon.” But Radner grew ill with cancer, and he devoted himself to her care, working sporadically after that and hardly at all after her death in 1989.

    In the early ’90s he appeared in his last film with Pryor and another comedy, “Funny About Love.” In addition to the failed TV series “Something Wilder” in 1994, he wrote and starred in the A&E mystery telepics “The Lady in Question” and “Murder in a Small Town” in 1999. He also appeared as the Mock Turtle in a 1999 NBC adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.”

    He last acted in a couple of episodes of “Will and Grace” in 2002-03 as Mr. Stein, winning an Emmy.

    He was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee and began studying acting at the age of 12. After getting his B.A. from the U. of Iowa in 1955, Wilder enrolled in the Old Vic Theater school in Bristol, where he learned acting technique and fencing. When he returned to the U.S. he taught fencing and did other odd jobs while studying with Herbert Berghof’s HB Studio and at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg.

    Wilder’s memoir “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art” was published in 2005. After that he wrote fiction: the 2007 novel “My French Whore”; 2008’s “The Woman Who Wouldn’t”; a collection of stories, “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” in 2010; and the novella “Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance” in 2013.

    Wilder was interviewed by Alec Baldwin for the one-hour TCM documentary “Role Model: Gene Wilder” in 2008. The actor was active in raising cancer awareness in the wake of Radner’s death.

    Before Radner, Wilder was married to the actress-playwright Mary Mercier and Mary Joan Schutz (aka Jo Ayers). He is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991, and his nephew.

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    Jon Polito, a veteran character actor who had roles in The Big Lebowski and other Coen brothers films and was an original cast member in the acclaimed NBC crime drama Homicide: Life on the Street, died today. Director John McNaughton shared the news in a Facebook post.

    Polito had more than 200 film and TV credits dating to 1981 miniseries The Gangster Chronicles. He worked steadily for 35 years, including a appearances on Modern Family and Major Crimes last season. But the Philadelphia native probably is best known for his work in films by Joel and Ethan Coen, including Miller’s Crossing (1990) and Barton Fink (1986). He played a memorable role in their 1998’s cult classic The Big Lebowski as a quirky private eye who initially pesters and then helps Jeff Bridges’ the Dude.

    Fans of the exceptional and influential NBC drama Homicide recognize Polito as Detective Steve Crosetti, who spoke the first lines of the series. Partnered with Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson), he was a conspiracy theorist who liked waxing on about the Lincoln assassination. He would appear on in the first season of the Friday night show, having been written out of the series in Season 2 as the character was on an unexplained leave of absence. A public tiff with producer led to Crosetti’s being written out permanently by committing suicide. His fellow detectives took the death hard, but it led to one of the most enduring scenes in the series’ seven-year run. Baltimore Police brass refuse to have an honor guard for Crosetti’s funeral, but Detective Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) shows up in his dress uniform, complete with white gloves, and gives a solo salute from the princint steps as the procession went by.

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    Hugh O’Brian, who starred in the long-running series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp,” died Monday. He was 91.

    The actor died peacefully in his Beverly Hills home, according to a statement from Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership.

    ABC Western “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp,” in which the exceedingly handsome, muscular O’Brian starred as the title character, ran for 221 episodes from 1955-61. At the time he was one of television’s great male sex symbols.

    In 1957 he was nominated for an Emmy for best continuing performance by an actor in a dramatic series for his work on “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.”

    So popular and so much a part of popular culture was O’Brian that he showed up as Earp, uncredited, in the 1959 Bob Hope Western comedy “Alias Jesse James,” as well as in the 1960 TV movie “The Secret World of Eddie Hodges”; when the actor guested on “Make Room for Daddy” in 1956, the episode was entitled “Wyatt Earp Visits the Williamses.”

    The actor had appeared in many feature Westerns by the time ABC cast him in its series as Wyatt Earp, a lawman who was one of the legends of the Old West.

    Later he appeared in features including the 1963 comedy “Come Fly With Me”; in 1965, he starred in the feature “Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians” along with Shirley Eaton and Fabian and had an uncredited role in Otto Preminger’s World War II drama “In Harm’s Way,” starring John Wayne, Patricia Neal and Kirk Douglas.

    In 1972-73 he starred with Doug McClure, Anthony Franciosa and Burgess Meredith in the NBC series “Search.”

    O’Brian had a small role in John Wayne’s last film, Don Siegel’s “The Shootist” (1976), as the last character ever killed by Wayne on screen — O’Brian, a good friend of Wayne’s, considered it a great honor.

    The actor reprised the role of Wyatt Earp for two episodes of the CBS series “Guns of Paradise” in 1989, and in the TV movies “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw” (1991), starring Kenny Rogers, and CBS’ “Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone” (1994).

    O’Brian did plenty of work outside the Western genre, appearing in the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Danny DeVito comedy “Twins” (1988) as one of several men who donated DNA that produced the “twins” and guesting on “Charlie’s Angels,” “Fantasy Island,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “L.A. Law.” He appeared in an Animal Planet adaptation of Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” in 2000.

    Hugh Charles Krampe was born in Rochester, New York. Hugh lettered in a variety of sports.

    He spent a semester at the University of Cincinnati but during World War II he dropped out to enlist in the Marine Corps — where his father had been an officer. At 17 he became the youngest Marine drill instructor, according to the TCM website.

    After the war, O’Brian moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA. He had started doing stage work, and was discovered by Ida Lupino, who signed him to appear as the second male lead in the polio drama “Never Fear,” which she had co-scripted and was directing; for O’Brian that film led to a contract with Universal Pictures.

    He had a brief, uncredited role in the classic noir film “D.O.A.,” starring Edmond O’Brien, but he was soon — almost inevitably — doing Westerns, appearing in the Gene Autry vehicle “Beyond the Purple Hills” (1950); “Vengeance Valley,” starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Walker; Budd Boetticher’s “The Cimarron Kid” (1952), starring Audie Murphy; Raoul Walsh’s “The Lawless Breed” (1953), starring Rock Hudson and Julie Adams; Boetticher’s “Seminole,” also starring Hudson; Boetticher’s “The Man From the Alamo,” starring Glenn Ford; “Back to God’s Country,” also starring Hudson; Walsh’s “Saskatchewan” (1954), starring Alan Ladd and Shelley Winters; “Drums Across the River,” starring Murphy; Edward Dmytryk’s “Broken Lance,” starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner and Richard Widmark; and “White Feather,” starring Wagner and Debra Paget.

    Occasionally he worked outside the Western genre, as in WWII actioner “Fighting Coast Guard” (1951); “On the Loose” (1951),  in which he had a supporting role as a doctor; “Son of Ali Baba,” starring Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie; the Douglas Sirk-directed musical “Meet Me at the Fair” (1953); the bizarre comedy “Fireman Save My Child” (1954), originally intended for Abbott and Costello; and the Ethel Merman musical “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which also starred Donald O’Connor and Marilyn Monroe.

    O’Brian dedicated a great deal of his life to a charitable effort he created himself in 1958, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation, a nonprofit youth leadership development program for high schoolers. The organization sponsors 10,000 high school sophomores annually through leadership programs in all 50 states and 20 countries.

    The concept for the program was inspired by the nine days O’Brian spent visiting with humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa in 1958.

    At the Golden Globes in 1954, O’Brian won for most promising newcomer – male (tied with Steve Forrest and Richard Egan).

    O’Brian won a Golden Boot Award in 1991 (the awards, sponsored and presented by the Motion Picture & Television Fund, are bestowed upon those who have made significant contributions to the genre of Western television and movies).

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