It’s that time of the year again, when we look forwards, backwards, and under (the tree). We are thankful for who and what we have, and remember those we’ve lost. In the last twelve months or so, I’ve lost a Grandmother to old age, an Aunt to Cancer, a friend to depression and addiction, and a friend’s kid to murder. I set up this blog primarily to post my old movie reviews from IMDB but as I just can’t help myself, it grew into other movie posts, music reviews, lists, and assorted crap, though I have always kept it as a secret space away from my personal life. With this yearly post I take a look at those famous faces who died in the year and who meant something to me – whether it be a movie they were involved in, because of a ball they kicked well, or because they played a mean guitar. I’m writing this on 11/28/2018 – these posts usually take a few weeks to write, so between now and then the Reaper’s Scythe will likely fall again. I will update as I go along, but I plan to post as close to the end of the year as possible – I’m sure I’ve missed some, but feel free to add anyone important to you in the comments.
John Morris (October 18, 1926 – January 25, 2018)
John Morris was one of the many composers in the movie industry whose name is not instantly recognizable, yet whose music will be familiar to many. Starting out composing successfully for Broadway, Morris wrote and produced his own musical before meeting Mel Brooks and heading to Hollywood. There he would write the scores for The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, The Elephant Man (Oscar Nominated), Clue, Spaceballs, Dirty Dancing, and more.
Jack Ketchum (November 10, 1946 – January 24, 2018)
As a life long horror fan, I somehow only made my way to Jack Ketchum in my late twenties. Like many writers of genre fiction, Ketchum was an anti-social imaginative child but it was his meeting with Robert Bloch which cemented his path. Ketchum would be known for his highly controversial and bloody tales such as Off Season, The Girl Next Door, and many short stories such as The Box many of which have been adapted to film.
Moya O’Sullivan (8 June 1926 – 16 January 2018)
Unless you’re Australian or a fan of Neighbours you probably won’t recognise the name. Moya appeared on TV for over 60 years but I know her as Marlene Kratz from Neighbours – a character I admit I never liked but hand the credit for that to O’Sullivan’s acting.
Dolores O’Riordan (6 September 1971 – 15 January 2018)
Although I was never a fan of The Cranberries, there’s no doubting the impact and influence Dolores and her band had on other artists and my friends, and for a number of my teenage years you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing her voice.
Hugh Wilson (August 21, 1943 – January 14, 2018)
If you know me or follow the blog you’ll know that The Police Academy series is one of my favourites – completely brilliant in its juvenile silliness. Hugh Wilson co-wrote and directed the first and best movie in the series as well as working on The Bob Newhart Show, Rough Riders, The First Wives Club and others.
Eddie Clarke (5 October 1950 – 10 January 2018)
The last surviving member of the original Motorhead lineup passed this year, guitarist Fast Eddie following bandmates Lemmy and Phil Philthy Animal Taylor. Clarke started out as a Blues guitarist but provided much of the pace and venom for Motorhead’s early hits.
Tommy Lawrence (14 May 1940 – 10 January 2018)
Lawrence was the goalkeeper for Liverpool FC at the start of their first Golden Age, playing for the club over 300 times in a twenty year period, winning the league twice and the FA Cup once before handing over to the young Ray Clemence.
Lewis Gilbert CBE (6 March 1920 – 23 February 2018)
Gilbert was one of the key icons of the Swinging Sixties, though many people today would not recognise his name. Directing Alfie in 1966 may have been his commercial and critical peak, though beforehand he had directed many successful films including HMS Defiant and Sink The Bismark, and afterwards he continued this trend with hits such as Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita. I will remember him most fondly for directing three James Bond films, including my favourite from the Connery era – You Only Live Twice.
Johan Johannsson (19 September 1969 – 9 February 2018)
Johannsson was always interested in music from an early age and experimented with a wide array of genres, working with different artists and having a notable solo career. Most people known him from his film work as he was nominated for an Academy Award on Sicario along with composing on Mandy, Arrival, and Prisoners.
John Gavin (April 8, 1931 – February 9, 2018)
Bond fans may know him as the man who was going to take over from George Lazenby, but a huge offer encouraged Connery to return and that was that. Nevertheless, Gavin maintained a success appearing in films as varied and successful as Psycho (Loomis), Spartacus (Caesar), and Thoroughly Modern Millie while also acting as the US Ambassador to Mexico for a number of years.
John Mahoney (June 20, 1940 – February 4, 2018)
A former Vet and English teacher, Mahoney didn’t begin acting until his late thirties before appearing, usually as authority figures, in TV and movies. His most widespread role was as the sardonic sports fan ex-cop father in Fraiser, but also had an extensive career on screen and as a voice performer in works including The Iron Giant, Tin Men, Barton Fink, and The Simpsons.
Stephane Audran (8 November 1932 – 27 March 2018)
Though she primarily starred in French Productions, Audran was known to international audiences due to her performances in critically acclaimed films and every so often popped up in a US piece – Babette’s Feast, The Big Red One, The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie, and the recently released The Other Side Of The Wind are some of her more notable appearances.
Debbie Lee Carrington (December 14, 1959 – March 23, 2018)
Suffering from dwarfism, Carrington became one of the most famous and popular actresses and stuntwoman with the illness, appearing regularly in a string of hits including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Return Of The Jedi, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Total Recall, Titanic, and Dexter.
Jim Bowen (20 August 1937 – 14 March 2018)
Bowen always seemed to me to be one age – old. I don’t mean that as an insult – growing up on in the 80s and seeing him on TV every week, he always looked old and yet never seemed to age. A natural comedian, it wasn’t until his late twenties that he began stand-up routines which led to friendships with established comedians (such as the next guy on the list) who recommended him for TV roles. Most will know him as the long-serving host of the hit game-show Bullseye, but he also appeared in Phoenix Nights, Last Of The Summer Wine, and continued his stand-up shows.
Sir Ken Dodd (8 November 1927 – 11 March 2018))
Dodd began delivering stand-up shows in the 1950s, merging traditional music hall stylings with more surreal and rapid-fire delivery, becoming on of the most popular entertainers on the circuit. This popularity saw him transition to radio and television where his popularity soared, gaining him many spots on The Royal Variety Performance. One of his many specialties was introducing songs into his comedy routines and these were so successful that he had a music career too – his cover song Tears remains one of the biggest selling singles of all time. Aside from his own shows, which ran for seven decades, he also appeared in Branagh’s Hamlet, and Doctor Who.
Michael Gershman (June 17, 1944 – March 10, 2018)
Not a name familiar to most, Gershman was a TV Director and Cinematographer known mainly for Crossing Jordan and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He was DP on over 80 episodes of BTVS including most season openers and finales and many visually memorable episodes such as Hush. His finest moment was as a Director on the show, directing my favourite episode Passion, along with taking the lead on Seeing Red, This Year’s Girl, and others.
David Ogden Stiers (October 31, 1942 – March 3, 2018)
A prominent voice actor, Stiers was also known for his on screen work in shows such as MASH, Perry Mason, Stargate Atlantis, North And South, The Majestic, but it was his relationship with Disney which he is likely most popular for – voicing in films such as Beauty And The Beast, Lilo And Stitch, Pocahontas, and many more.
Frank Doubleday (January 28, 1945 – March 3, 2018)
Again, not a name most will know, Doubleday is one of those people you’ll recognise from a host of cult films. Often appearing as a bad guy, Doubleday is recognisable in Assault On Precinct 13 the ice cream killer), Escape From New York, Broadcast News, and Nomads.