LATEST OBITUARIES

CHARLTON HESTON (84, 5 April 2008). Born Charles Carter (he subsequently adopted the family name of his stepfather), Charlton Heston was a monument - with his grand physique, his Mount Rushmore face, his tight-lipped enunciation and his proudly hirsute chest. He was inevitable casting for the sterner figures of history, myth and religion - Ben-Hur, El Cid, a President or two, Moses and God (twice). His films were very much of their moment - the costume spectacles of the 50s, the more intellectual period biographies of the next decade, disaster movies in the seventies. He worked mostly with reliable commercial directors rather than artists, and not many of his films are now remembered, except as titles. Among his more interesting pictures were King Vidor's RUBY GENTRY (1952), Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL (1955), Franklin J.Schaffner's PLANET OF THE APES (1968)and Tom Gries' WILL PENNY (1968). Two attempts at direction, ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1972) and MOTHER LODE (1982) were not successful. In private he valued his family life and his 64-year marriage. Disconcertingly his politics shifted from the liberalism and championing of civil rights of his younger years to the hard-line Republicanism of his age, with his notorious support of the gun lobby and a sexism which must have made him retrospectivaly anxious about having played Michaelangelo. In 2002, understanding the start of a decline into Alzheimer's Disease, he made a graceful and noble valedictory statement on internet.

JULES DASSIN (96, 31 March 2008). Jules Dassin was born in Connecticut and started his career as an actor in New York, with the Yiddish Theatre and the left-wing Group Theatre. Having written for radio he joined RKO as an assistant director, went on to direct a handful of films, including THE CANTERVILLE GHOST (1944), starring Charles Laughton, at MGM, but found his form, and his keen sensitivity to milieu and location at Universal. Here he made the noir thrillers BRUTE FORCE (1947) and NAKED CITY (1948). For Fox he made a drama about racketeering in the trucking industry, THIEVES HIGHWAY (1949). His left-wing sympathies made him a marked man for the McCarthyist witch-hunts, and in 1950 he went to Europe where he made his last Hollywood-financed production, THE NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) in Britain. He returned to work in France, with the virtuoso thriller and major commercial success RIFIFI (1955). In Italy he directed a stellar cast (Lollobrigida, Montand, Mastroianni, Melina Mercouri) in LA LEGGE (1959), and in Greece made CELUI QUI DOIT MOURIR. From 1964 until her death in 1994 he was married to Melina Mercouri. The couple enjoyed a big commercial hit with the modest NEVER ON SUNDAY (1960) and Dassin had a final box-office success with a bright caper film TOPKAPI (1964). A return to Hollywood for a version of "The Informer" set in the black ghetto of Cleveland, UP TIGHT (1968), was less successful, as were Dassin's more pretentious explorations of classical myth, PHAEDRA (1962) and A DREAM OF PASSION (1978). His last film was a Canadian production, CIRCLE OF TWO (1980).

DITH PRAN (65, 30 March 2008). The experiences of the Cambodian-born photographer, Dith Pran, under the terror of the Khmer Rouge inspired Roland Joffé's 1984 film THE KILLING FIELDS. Having moved to the United States, Dith Pran continued to work to raise awareness of the horror of the Khmer Rouge era, and to bring the movement's leaders to justice.

TONY CHURCH (77, 25 March 2008). London-born Tony Church was part of a talented Cambridge theatrical generation, that included Peter Hall, John Barton and David King. A reliable rather than stirrring actor, much of his energies were dedicated to fighting the cause of state-subsidised theatre. He was a founder associate member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960. Although he worked intermittently in television drama, he appeared only twice in films, filling supporting roles in Peter Hall's WORK IS A 4-LETTER WORD (1968) and in Roman Polanski's TESS (1979)

ABBY MANN (80, 25 March 2008). Born Abraham Goodman, in Pittsburg, Abby Mann won an Oscar for his first Hollywood screenplay, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) and went on to write A CHILD IS WAITING (1963), SHIP OF FOOLS (1965), THE DETECTIVE (1968), REPORT TO THE COMMANDER (1975) and WAR AND LOVE (1985), as well as an adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre's THE CONDEMNED OF ALTONA (1962), directed by Vittorio de Sica. His best screenplays were based on their television originals, and Mann seemed more at ease working for television, which gave him broader scope for the liberal social and political subjects which were dear to him. One of these, THE MARCUS-NELSON MURDERS, ironically inspired the KOJAK detective series, which was sternly disowned by Mann himself.

RICHARD WIDMARK (93, 24 March 2008). Richard Widmark was nominated for an Oscar for his first film role, the supporting character Tommy Udo in Henry Hathaway's KISS OF DEATH (1947). Though this initial success was to type him for several years as sinister psychopathic characters, he developed into an actor of great range, able at will as easily to invite sympathy or detestation. The son of a Swedish-born general store keeper in rural Minnesota, he studied law; but as a result of his work with the college amateur dramatic society went on to become an instructor in speech and drama. Moving to New York, he was directed on stage by Elia Kazan, who introduced him to 20th Century Fox. Later memorable roles included Jules Dassin's NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), Kazan's PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950), Lewis Milestone's HALLS OF MONTEZUMA (1950), Sam Fuller's PICK-UP ON SOUTH STREET (1953),Edward Dmytryk's BROKEN LANCE (1954), Otto Preminger's ST JOAN (1957) John Ford's TWO RODE TOGETHER (1961)and CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1974). Don Siegel's MADIGAN (1968) led to the six-episode 1970s television series MADIGAN. Widmark's last screen appearance was in Herbert Ross's TRUE COLORS (1991).

RAFAEL AZCONA (81, 24 March 2008). Rafael Azcona (Fernández) was Spain's most prolific screenwriter, with almost one hundred scripts to his credit during his 50-year career. He began work as a satirical writer and novelist, with a taste for excess and anti-Catholicism which led to his being vaguely regarded as an heir to the surrealism of the Bunuel-Dali era. One of his novels attracted the attention of Marco Ferreri, then an assistant director working in Spain; and with EL PISITO (1959) they embarked on regular collaboration which lasted until 1988 and included such excessas as THE APE WOMAN (1964) and LA GRANDE BOUFFE (1973). Azcona also worked with Berlanga and Saura, though not, it must be said, in their best days. Three films with Fernando Trueba included BELLE EPOQUE (1992). In the last two decades of his career Azcona had most constantly collaborated with José Luis Garcia Sánchez, for whom he wrote sixteen scripts.

PAUL SCOFIELD (86, 19 March 2008). Paul Scofield was born David Paul Scofield in Hurstpierpoint, where his father was the village school headmaster. Scofield's academic achievements were not impressive, and at 17 he decided to work as an actor. Physically unfit for military service, by his early 20s and the end of the Second World War he had extensive experience in the theatre, and had already made his mark with the nobility of his bearing and craggy face and his inimitable rich voice. At the Birmingham Rep and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre he encountered his contemporary Peter Brook. The influence was mutual, and in later years Brook directed Scofield in the films TELL ME LIES (1968) and KING LEAR (1971), a somewhat disappointing record of one of Scofield's great theatrical creations.
Though he was not greatly attracted by films, he made almost a score of features, as well as many distinguished appearances in television drama. In his first film, Terence Young's THAT LADY (1955), at 33 he played the elderly King Philip II of Spain. Later films included Lewis Gilbert's CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE (1958), John Frankenheimer's THE TRAIN (1964). Tony Richardson's A DELICATE BALANCE (1973), Kenneth Branagh's HENRY V, Franco Zeffirelli's HAMLET (1990-91) and Robert Redford's QUIZ SHOW (1994). His last screen appearance was in Nicholas Hytner's THE CRUCIBLE (1996), though his voice was heard as narrator of the TV ANIMAL FARM (1998). His most famous screen appearance however was his Oscar-winning performance as Sir Thomas More - a part he had created on stage - in Fred Zinnemann's adaptation of Robert Bolt's A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966).

ANTHONY MINGELLA (54, 18 March 2008). Anthony Mingella was an intelligent and cultivated, yet perhaps finally unfulfilled director. He achieved international reputation when his 1996 film THE ENGLISH PATIENT won nine Academy Awards. His other films as director were TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY (1990), MR WONDERFUL (1993), THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (1999), PLAY (2000), COLD MOUNTAIN (2003), BREAKING AND ENTERING (2006) and THE NO 1, LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY (2008).
He was also a dramatist, and directed for radio, television, theatre and opera. As Chairman of the British Film Institute he oversaw a period in which, in many views, the BFI abdicated its archival and scholarly responsibilities in favour of more visible activities like the "red-carpet"-aspiring London Film Festival.

SIR ARTHUR C.CLARKE (90, 18 March 2008). Born in Minehead, Somerset, Arthur Charles Clarke established a place in film history as the original author of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Yet his unique genius for juxtaposing high science, fantasy, philosophy and what he himself designated as magic, made little other direct impsct on the cinema. He wrote or inspired a few television science fiction episodes, but the only other feature films based on his work, 2010 (1984, directed by Peter Hyams) and TRAPPED IN SPACE(1994, directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman) caused little stir. At the time of Clarke's death in Sri Lanka, David Fincher was preparing a film of RENDEZ-VOUS WITH RAMA, which had inspired a short animation film in 2003. In addition Clarke himself presented the documentary COLOURS OF INFINITY (1995).

JOHN HEWER (86, 16 March 2008). John Hewer's career was for the most part modest. He had a couple of musical successes, in supporting roles in the Broadway production of THE BOY FRIEND (1954) and the London production of SAIL AWAY (1962). He was popular in old-time music hall (which he loved) at the Players' Theatre. He appeared in minor roles in nine long-forgotten second features between 1951 and 1979. In the late 60s he had a period of success as host of a Canadian musical variety television show, THE PIG AND WHISTLE.
Yet he became a household face as Captain Birdseye, in one of the most successful advertising campaigns in the history of television. He first adopted the role in 1967 and continued to play it until 1998. In 1971 Birdseye's advertising agency decided to scrap the campaign, but after three years the Captain was reinstated in order to revive the sale of fish fingers.

ERWIN GESCHONNECK (101, 12 March 2008). Erwin Geschonneck was to the end of his life an incorrigible Communist idealist, despite unhappy experiences with the NKVD when he sought refuge in the Ukraine after fleeing from Nazism in the 1930s. The son of a cobbler, he grew up in great poverty in 20s Berlin, worked as a delivery boy, and in his teens joined agitprop theatre groups. He was an extra in Slatan Dudow's 1932 KUHLE WAMPE, scripted by Bertolt Brecht. Having spent six years in Nazi concentration camps, in 1949 he was recruited to Brecht's Berliner Ensemble, where he created several classic roles. He left the company to dedicate himself to his film career which began in 1951 with DAS BEIL VON WANDSBECK. With his genial presence and feeling for comedy, he was to play in almost a hundred films produced by DEFA and now mostly forgotten. He did however appear in two of East Germany's comparatively rare international successes, Frank Beyer's NAKED AMONG WOLVES (1963) and JACOB THE LIAR (1975). He retained his personal popularity in the re-united Germany, though his last screen appearance was in 1985, in a a television film, MATULLA AUND BUSCH, directed by his son Matti Geschonneck (born 1951).

LEONARD ROSENMAN (83, 4 March 2008). Leonard Rosenman brought an unprecedented modernism to Hollywood music. Influenced by Schoenberg (with whom he had studied briefly at the end of the composer's life) and Berg, he attracted James Dean, who had heard him play at a party, and who introduced him to Elia Kazan. Rosenman composed the innovatory scores for REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and EAST OF EDEN, but the conservative George Stevens preferred Dmitri Tiomkin for Dean's last film, GIANT. After this Rosenman worked frequently in Hollywood, bringing an avant-garde touch to the sound design of such films as John Frankenheimer's THE YOUNG STRANGER (1957) and Lewis Milestone's PORK CHOP HILL (1959). He received Oscars however for films in which he was responsible for arranging and re-orchestrating the music of other composers, BARRY LYNDON (1975) and BOUND FOR GLORY (1976), Hal Ashby's bio-pic of Woody Guthrie.

SERGIO CORRIERI (68, 29 February 2008). The Cuban Sergio Corrieri was primarily a stage actor and director, whose career was fired by revolutionary fervour. An excellent and handsome actor, he appeared in a number of Cuban films, most notably the Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov's I AM CUBA (1964) and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea's MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT (1968). After 1989 he dedicated himself mostly to cultural politics. notably as Chairman of the Cuban Friendship Institute, a role which he filled until his death

FRANK CAPRA JR (73, 19 December 2007). Son of the great Frank Capra, Junior became an executive producer (associated with PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM and the PLOANET OF THE APES sequels) and filom teacher.

STUART ROSENBERG (79, 15 March 2007). Graduating from television via a directorial debut with the West German oddity, FRAGE SIEBEN (1961), Stuart Rosenberg had his major success with COOL HAND LUKE (1967). He directed Paul Newman again in three further though uneven films, WUSA (1970), POCKET MONEY (1972) and THE DROWNING POOL (1976). His best films after this were BRUBAKER (1980) and THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE (1984), though his bigget commercial success was THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979). His last film was the pleasant MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS (1991).

VILMA EBSEN (96, 12 March 2007). The stage partner of Buddy Ebsen in vaudeville, cabaret and on Broadway, Vilma Ebsen did not follow her brother into his successful film career, but devoted herself to her family and later, until her mid-8os, the dance school she established with her sister Helga in Pacific Palisades. Her only film appearance was with Buddy in BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936.

BARBARA KELLY (82, 14 January 2007). Born in Canada, Barbara Kelly moved to Britain with her husband Bernard Braden in 1949. The couple achieved great popularity on radio and early television, and Kelly became a fixture of the quiz show WHAT'S MY LINE: an attempt to supplant her in 1953 was overturned by a vote of viewers. She had a brief film career in the early fifties, appearing usefully in American roles in A TALE OF FIVE CITIES (1951), CASTLES IN THE AIR (1952) GLAD TIDINGS (1953), LOVE IN PAWN (1953) and Cy Enfield's JET STORM (1959). In 1977 she appeared in fellow-Canadian Atom Egoyan's LUST OF A EUNUCH. She continued to make occasional appearances in television drama until 1981.

YVONNE DE CARLO (84, 8 January 2007). Yvonne de Carlo’s career had several phases, though few of the films in which she appeared are much remembered. Born Peggy Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver on 1 September 1922, she studied dancing and drama, and made a few local appearances before landing a job at the Florentine Gardens in Hollywood. There she was spotted and put under contract by Paramount. Only after that contract lapsed did her career began to prosper, when Walter Wanger engaged her for Salome Where She Danced. She was thereafter typed in roles as exotic sirens – who nevertheless always boasted the strictly Hollywood style of shape and beauty that De Carlo exemplified. She was the wife of Moses (Charlton Heston) in Cecil B.DeMilles’ 1959 THE TEN COMMMANDMENTS.
Hollywood never appreciated her intelligent talent for comedy, which was best exploited in Britain: Hotel Sahara (1950), Captain’s Paradise (1954) and Happy Ever After (1954) showed her at her bright and charming best. Her comic talents were eventually to be employed in US television when she played Lily Munster in THE MUNSTERS (1964-66), the poor man’s ADDAMS FAMILY. After this she was in demand for horror movies. Her last big-screen appearance was in a cameo in OSCAR (1991) and on television in THE BAREFOOOT EXECUTIVE (1995)
She had a successful career on Broadway and in touring productions, and Stephen Sondheim wrote for her the part of Carlotta Campion in Follies, with the song “I’m Still Here”. Her autobiography, Yvonne, was published in 1987.

JOHNNY HUTCH (93, 27 December 2006). Johnny Hutch described himself simply as "Britain's finest tumbler". Born in Middlesborough, he was too small for the manual work of the area so was apprenticed to a troupe of acrobats who became the Seven Royal Hundustans. Over the next half century and more he appeared in circus and music hall with a succession of acrobatic acts whose routines he devised and directed. Retiring from active tumbling at 70, he became a successful comic actor and a fixture in Benny Hill's television shows. In later years he continued to train artists - including classical actors playing Marlowe and Shakespeare - in stunt work. Most notably he coached Robert Downey inslapstick routines for his performance as CHarles Chaplin in Richard Attenborough'S CHAPLIN (1992)

ANDI ENGEL (64, 26 December 2006). Andi Engel, the London-based film distributor, exhibitor and (once-only) director, was born in Wolfsberg, Germany, on 11 November 1942. His father, a designer at Wolfsberg’s Volkswagen factory, must have had some courage, at the height of the war, to give his son German, French and Russian names: he was baptised Wolf André Oleg. After a conventional education, during which he ran the college film club, Engel arrived in Berlin in 1963 and attached himself to Ulrich and Erika Gregor, founders of the Arsenal cinema, and the undoubted leaders of Germany’s film cultureal movements in that era. In collaboration with the Gregors he established and ran the magazine Kino.
He arrived in London in the late 1960s and married Pamela Engel, then working for the British Film Institute, in 1967. Although they separated in 1977 they continued to work cordially as partners until their retirement, six months before Engel’s death. Together they set up their first company, Politkino, to distribute their friend Jean-Marie Straub’s CRONIK DER ANNA MAGDALENA BACH. In 1976 they founded Artificial Eye, and the following year moved into exhibition, acquiring in turn the Camden Plaza (1977), the prestigious West-End Lumière (1982), the Chelsea (1983) and the Renoir (1986). For more than a decade these cinema’s shaped cultural appreciation of film in Britain. But Artificial Eye had always depended economically on television sales, and with the 1990s, as both the BBC and ITV ceased to show foreign-language films, distribution on Engel’s lines became difficult. The rise of the DVD distribution was some consolation. but the days of Engel’s uncompromisingly principled style and dedication to art were over.
He wrote and directed one film, MELANCHOLIA (1989) – a political thriller that was critically but not commercially successful - and also made an appearance as actor as the Head Porter in Straub and Huillet’s 1984 adaptation from Kafka, KLASSENVERHÄLTNISSE.
Engel was a vivid figure. From his youth he was unrepentantly fat and gargantuanly alcoholic. Drunk he was all the more alarming because, however loud and aggressive he became, the sharpness of the mind and wit remained. His constution survived the abuse much longer than might have been anticipated. In 2003 however his health began to fail and he spent much time in hospital. He died on 26 December 2006 in Lübeck, where he enjoyed a long and familial relationship with Gudrun Hartmann. A few months before his death Artificial Eye was sold to Act Entertainment and Knatchbull Communications.

JOE BARBERA (95, 18 December 2006). Joe Barnera, with his partner Bill Hanna, created among other durable cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and the Flintstoines. Born in New York's Little Italy to Sicilian parents, he showed an aptitude for drawing from childhood, and even while working in a bank, sketched and eventually sold joke cartoons. After several abortive attempts to enter the animation business, with short stints at the Fleischer, Van Bueren and Terry-Toons studios, he finally found a home with the unit established at MGM under Fred Quimby. Here he met Bill Hanna (1910-2001) with whom he conceived PUSS GETS THE BOOT, the prototype of the long-running Tom and Jerry series. Credit and a succession of Oscars always went to Quimby; and after MGM closed the unit in 1956, Hanna and Barbera formed their own company, whose creations included Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. In 1960 came THE FLINTSTONES. Criticised for the violence of his cartoons, Barbera retorted "It's like saying Charlie Chaplin films are pornographic"

PETER BOYLE (71, 12 December 2006). Peter Boyle’s liberal political views (he was a friend of Jane Fonda) were belied by the red-nock, bigoted hero of JOE (1970), the part which first brought the actor to prominence. At that time he had not long abandoned his work as a monk in the order of the Christian Brothers: he retained the hair (or hairless) style permanently. Continuing his career as a striking and often scene-stealing supporting actor, his best-remembered roles were in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), as the Monster, SLITHER (1972), THE CANDIDATE (1972), TAXI DRIVER (1974) and HARDCORE (1979). Film parts became less rewarding but he continued to act in television up to his death, despite suffering a stroke in 1990 and emergency heart surgery in 1999. For the big screen he had most recently played Father Time in THE SANTA CLAUSE 3 THE ESCAPE CLAUSE (2006) and a major role in Dennis Fallon’s SHADOWS OF ATTICUS (2007), still unreleased at the time of his death.

LEON NIEMCZYK (82, 29 November 2006). Leon Niemczyk was a familiar face in Polish films of the classic period - among them Jerzy Kawalierowyc's CELLULOSE (1952) and NIGHT TRAIN (1959), Andrzej Munk's EROICA (1958), Aleksander Ford's KNIGHTS OF THE TEUTONIC ORDER (1960), Wojciech Has's THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT (1964) and most memorably ROman Polanski's KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962). In the early 70s Nienczyk was jailed for political reasons (he had attempted to emigrate) and afterwards felt he was denied leading roles - despite his declared belief that, despite his disdain for communism, it provided the beswt era for Polish cinema. His most recent performance was in David LOynch's INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

PHILIPPE NOIRET (76, 23 November 2006). Philippe Noiret’s career spanned more than 50 years and included some 150 films. Paradoxically, after an industrious and distinguished career in French films and a few excursions into Hollywood productions, it was an Italian film, Giuseppe Tornatore’s NUOVO CINEMA PARDISO (1988) that ensured his major international recognition and affection.

The son of a middle-class trader in Lille, the young Noiret was a notable academic failure at his Paris college. He found his niche however at the Centre Dramatique de l'Ouest, where he made his acting debut in 1950 under the director Robert Blin, with Gérard Philipe as a colleague. In 1953 he joined the Théâtre National Populaire under Jean Vilar, and during the next seven years appeared in more than forty roles - betimes moonlighting as a stand-up comedian and night-club entertainer.

After bit parts in GIGI (1949, uncredited), OLIVIA (1951, uncredited) and AGENCE MATRIMONIALE (1952) he found a leading role in Agnès Varda’s LA POINTE COURTE (1956), a seminal film of the French “Nouvelle Vague”. He went on to star in some of the most successful French films of the 60s, including Louis Malle’s ZAZIE DANS LE MÉTRO (1960), Yves Robert’s ALEXANDRE LE BIENHEUREUX (1968) and Marco Ferreri’s succès de scandae LA GRANDE BOUFFE (1973). He formed a particularly fruitful collaboration with Bertrand Tavernier: the dozen films they made together include L’HOROOGER DE ST PAUL (1974), COUP DE TORCHON (1981) and LA VIE ET RIEN D’AUTRE (1989). A later success was as the poet Pablo Naruda in Michael Radford’s IL POSTINO (1994). At the time of his death he had just completed his role in 3 AMIS, directed by the Tunisian-born Michel Boujenah.

Noiret won five nominations, and earned two Césars, for his roles in LE VIEUX FUSIL (1975) and LA VIE ET RIEN D’AUTRE (1989). A notable bon vivant, Noiret enjoyed life in his country residence in the wine country near Carcassone. He was married for 44 years to the actress Monique Chaumette, by whom he had a daughter.

BETTY COMDEN (91, 23 November 2006). Betty Comden and her (professional) partner Adolph Green (1914-2002) will always be best remembered as writers of ON THE TOWN (1949). Comden was born in New York of Russian-Jewish parents, and while a student at New York University met Green, Leonard Bernstein and Judy Holliday; and the four experimented and enjoyed their first theatrical successes together. In the same year as ON THE TOWN, Comden and Green had written THE BARKLAYS OF BROADWAY; and later notable screenplays were SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952), THE BAND WAGON (1953), IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955), AUNTIE MAME (1958) and BELLS ARE RINGING (from their own play, 1960). A number of their songs became standards. Comden was married to Siegfried Schutzman (died 1979) by whom she had a son, who predeceased her, and daughter.

ROBERT ALTMAN (81, 20 November 2006). Robert Altman stands as one of cinema’s great originals, despising and defying the Hollywood system to make films that were sometimes disastrously unsuccessful at the box office, but which were original, personal, intelligent, fascinating and more durable than the work of most of his contemporaries. He came to films the hard way, through early experiment with sound and work in television, writing, marketing dog tattooing, directing some sixty made-to-order documentaries, and even an uncredited acting role in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (1947). From 1957 to 1968 he directed numerous tv drama segments, including two in the ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS series – an assignment he received after Hitchcock himself was impressed by Altman’s first film as director, the low-budget youth film THE DELINQUENTS (1957). .Also in 1957 Altman directed the notable documentary THE JAMES DEAN STORY, but it was more than ten years before he directed again, with the science-fiction COUNTDOWN (1968) and the adaptation of Peter Miles’ THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (1969) which marked out Altman as a director of exceptional intelligence. It was however M.A.S.H. – a project that had been turned down by more than a dozen directors – which earned him an international reputation (it won the Cannes Palme d’or, the screenplay Oscar and a pile of nominations). From this time onwards his career was to be, in Hollywood terms, a roller-coaster ride between box-office hit and box-office disaster. Everything he touched, though, had the distinctive intelligence, scepticism and affectionate derision of contemporary America. Such films as BREWSTER McCLOUD (1970), McCABE AND MRS MILLER (1971), IMAGES (1972) and THIEVES LIKE US (1974) were critical successes but performed indifferently at the box office.
NASHVILLE (1975) restored him to box-office favour, and established his unique gift for panoramic ensemble pieces – later exemplified by A WEDDING (1978), SHORT CUTS (1993) and A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006). The commercial failures of BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS (1976), WELCOME TO L.A. (1976), THREE WOMAN (1977), QUINTET (1979) and POPEYE (1980), added to a reputation for being difficult and alcoholic, made it hard to finance big pictures: nevertheless he turned with great success to low-budget productions generally based on stage pieces – COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (1982), STREAMERS (1983) ad SECRET HONOUR (1984). He also worked for television and in France (VINCENT AND THEO, 1990). With a characteristic turn of fortune he hit a big new success with THE PLAYER (1992), ironically a scathing satire on the movie business which he scorned. After SHORT CUTS he had a further series of at best middlingly successful films, but in the year of his death completed an elegiac, valedictory masterpiece, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006), chronicling the final day of the well-loved radio programme and its studio, haunted by a mystical angel of death.

GILLO (GILBERTO) PONTECORVO (86, 19 November 2006). Gillo Pontecorvo made comparatively few films, but his reputation is permanently secured by one film, LA BATTAGLIA DI ALGERI (1966) alone. This unsparing account of the Algerian revolution against the French occupiers was powerful enough to be banned in France for more than a decade. It was the central declaration of Pontecorvo’s life-long political beliefs. Born to a rich Jewish family in Pisa, he studied science at the University of Pisa, like two of his brothers (one of whom, Bruno became a famous defector to the Soviet Union in 1950). As a Jew and a Communist, Pontecorvo left Mussolini’s Italy for France, but returned to work in the clandestine Communist resistance later in the war. He passed from journalism to cinema after 1946 when Rosselini’s PAISA won him to neo-realism. He made documentaries, first on 16mm and then on 35mm, was assistant to Yves Allegret, Giancarlo Menotti (on THE MEDIUM) and Mario Monicelli, and made his own first feature LA GRANDE STRADA AZZURA in 1957. His next film KAPO (1959), about the Nazi concentration camps, was nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar, after which he began his long struggle to make LA BATTAGLIA DI ALGERI. This was followed by QUEIMADA (1969), about the English adventurer Sir William Walker, who instigated a slave rebellion in the Spanish Caribbean. Pontecorvo was one of many directors to experience problems with his star, Marlon Brando. After this Pontecorvo was to complete only one more feature OGRO (1979) about the assassination of the Spanish prime minister in 1973. After this he completed a couple of shorts, and contributed segments to a number of omnibus documentaris. From 1992 to 1994 he was director of the Venice Film Festival, and cheerfully accepted to play a part with various European film organisations.

JACK PALANCE (87, 10 November 2006). Born Vladimir Palahniuk, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, Palance began his working life as a miner. He progressed to being a lifeguard before joining the US Army Air Corps during the war. A crash during training led to the plastic surgery which defined his well-known features. The GI bill enabled him to study drama at Stanford University, after which he quickly found good parts on Broadway. He succeeded Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, attracting the attention of Elia Kazan, who gave him his first significant film role in PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950). This was followed by Lewis Milestone’s HALLS OF MONTEZUMA (1950), but his breakthrough success was in George Stevens' SHANE (1953). Later notable films included Robert Aldrich’s THE BIG KNIFE (1955) and ATTACK (1956), but from the end of the fifties he chose mainly to work in Europe, finding good roles in spaghetti westerns and war epics. He occasionally returned for Hollywood parts until the late seventies, after which he worked only in the USA, where the European connection was maintained by his role in Austrian Percy Adlon’s BAGDAD CAFÉ. For television he played Scrooge in EBENEZER (1997, A Christmas Carol translated to the Wild West) and Long John Silver in TREASURE ISLAND (1999). In the 21st century and his own sixth decade in pictures, he made half a dozen television or video films.
In private life he had his own Californian cattle ranch and was an amateur artist. He was twice married and divorced.

DIANA COUPLAND (74, 10 November 2006). Having begun her career as a teenage band singer, Diana Coupland dedicated her adult life mainly to acting for television, with leading roles in numerous dramatic productions and series. A handful of film appearances began with a supporting role in Anthony Aswquith's THE MILLIONAIRESS (1960)and included big-screen versions of her tv series, notably BLESS THIS HOUSE (1972). More memorable films in which she had supporting roles were Roy Boulting's THE FAMILY WAY (1966) and Albert Finney's only work as director, CHARLIE BUBBLES (1967). Her last big-screen appearance was in ANOTHER LIFE (2001).

WILLIAM STYRON (81, 1 November 2006). The American novelist William Styron was famous for his controversial 1967 novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” which created vicious divisions between and among black activists and white liberals (like Styron himself), won a Pulitzer Prize, and made its author rich. In the cinema he is principally known as the author of the original novel SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982), though in 1998 his film director daughter Susanna made a feature film from his short story SHADRACH.

JANE WYATT (95, 20 October 2006). Jane Wyatt was born to an old and distinguished New York family, but her name was expunged from the social register when, having given up college for drama, she worked as an understudy in the play “Trade Winds” Her first film appearance was in James Whale’s ONE MORE RIVER (1934) after which she was put under contract to Universal, though she continued to alternate Broadway assignments with films. In 1937 she was loaned out to Columbia to play Sondra in Frank Capra’s LOST HORIZON. Her friends included many liberals, and her roles in Clifford Odets’ NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART (1944) and Elia Kazan’s BOOMERANG (1947) and GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT (1947) clearly weighed against her in McCarthyist times. "I was never a member of the Communist Party, but they brought up all sorts of charges that I had been to the Lab Theater, which was considered subversive. All we did there were the classics, 'Volpone,' 'The Cherry Orchard.' I still don't know how they managed to find a Marxist subtext in Feydeau." Wyatt was part of the famous delegation, including Bogart and Bacall, who went to Washington to protest at HUAC activities in Hollywood.
The result was that from the beginning of the 1950s she was blacklisted by official Hollywood. Instead she worked diligently on television, earning her biggest success in the long-running sitcom FATHER KNOWS BEST (1954-1960). She continued to appear on the small screen into her late eighties: her rare later films included STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986), playing Amanda, the role that she had created on television two decades earlier.

DEREK BOND (87, 15 October 2006). Derek Bond could never disguise an urbane, upper-class demeanour and accent that were already outdated and unfashionable by the 1950s: his brief moment of stardom was at 40s Ealing, Born in Glasgow, he had done a stint in rep before volunteering for war service in the Grenadier Guards, and suffering wounds and a period as a Prisoner of War. Ealing brought major roles in THE CAPTIVE HEART (1946) NICHOLAS NICKELBY (1947; title role) and SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC (1948) The leading roles dwindled, however, and by the sixties he was mainly working in radio and television, with occasional supporting roles in insignificant feature films. In 1984 he was elected President of the actors' trade union Equity, but soon found himself opposed to a large part of the membership on account of his conciliatory attitudes to South African apartheid; and resigned in 1986.

FRANK BEYER (74, 1 October 2006). Frank Beyer was a talented director whose work was largely crippled by East German political pressures. Trained in the Prague film school FAMU, between 1952 and 1957, the greater part of his career was under Socialism. The banning of his 1966 film SPUR SER STEINE forced him to seek work in television; and it was nine years before he was able to complete another feature film, JAKOB DER LUGNER (1975), which was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. This, NACKT UNTER WOLFEN (1963) and DER HAFTENHAFT (1985) remain Beyer's best-known films abroad. Following the collapse of Communism, he made a television film NIKOLAIKIRCHE (1995), a perceptive recollection of the mass demonstrations in Leipzig which led to the political revolutions of the late 80s.

SALLY GRAY (90, 24 September 2006). Sally Gray, born Constance Vera Stevens, in North London, was a beautiful, vivacious and charming actress who would be better remembered if she had been able to work in more memorable films than Britain offered her. Pushed early into performing by her ballerina mother, she was trained at the Fay Compton School of Dramatic Art. Along with Anna Neagle and Rex Harrison, she had an uncredited bit part in Maurce Elvey and Thorold Dickinson’s adaptation of SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL (1930), but was seriously taken up by the British studios after 1935. The parts that brought he to greater prominence were THE SAINT IN LONDON (1939), THE LAMBETH WALK (1940), THE SAINT’S VACATION (1941) and above all DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT (1941) in which she played opposite Anton Walbrook. After this however, a major nervous collapse took her from the screen for five years. She returned in 1946 to play six more leading roles, the best in Sidney Gilliatt’s GREEN FOR DANGER(1946), Alberto Cavalcanti’s THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE (1947) and Edward Dmytryk’s OBSESSION (1949). She retired from the screen after marrying the 4th Baron Oranmore, who died in 2002 at 100, having established the record of 72 years’ service in the House of Lords.

SVEN NYKVIST (83, 20 September 2006). The career of Sven Nykvist, unarguably one of cinema's greatest cinematographers, was a constant search for greater and greater simplicity.
He was the child of stern Christian missionaries, and was left to the care of others while they were abroad in Africa. He sudied photography and spent a year at Cinecitta, Rome, before joining the Sandrews Company, where his work included Alf Sjoberg's BARABBAS (1953). In 1960 he replaced Gunnar Fischer as Ingmar Bergman's cameraman. The two together developed their feeling for natural light and the importance of lighting in establishing mood. After WINTER LIGHT (1963) Nykvist almost invariably used "bounced" rather than direct light - a preference which was often incomprehensible to Hollywood producers. At first resisting colour, Nykvist was to become one of the great masters of colour cinematography. In the 1970s and 1980s he worked, in the USA, with Woody Allen, Louis Malle, Bob Refelson, Phil Kaufman, Richard Attneborough and Lasse Hallstrom (WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE). He was happier, however, shooting in Europe, where union regulations permitted him to work as his own camera operator, giving him the autonomy he sought to create his own world of images. He retired in 1997 after being diagnosed with prgressive aphasia while shooting Woody Allen's CELEBRITY.

JANE WYATT (96, 20 September 2006). Jane Wyatt was born to an old and distinguished New York family, but her name was expunged from the social register when, having given up college for drama, she worked as an understudy in the play “Trade Winds” Her first film appearance was in James Whale’s ONE MORE RIVER (1934) after which she was put under contract to Universal, though she continued to alternate Broadway assignments with films. In 1937 she was loaned out to Columbia to play Sondra in Frank Capra’s LOST HORIZON. Her friends included many liberals, and her roles in Clifford Odets’ NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART (1944) and Elia Kazan’s BOOMERANG (1947) and GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT (1947) clearly weighed against her in McCarthyist times. "I was never a member of the Communist Party, but they brought up all sorts of charges that I had been to the Lab Theater, which was considered subversive. All we did there were the classics, 'Volpone,' 'The Cherry Orchard.' I still don't know how they managed to find a Marxist subtext in Feydeau." Wyatt was part of the famous delegation, including Bogart and Bacall, who went to Washington to protest at HUAC activities in Hollywood.
The result was that from the beginning of the 1950s she was blacklisted by official Hollywood. Instead she worked diligently on television, earning her biggest success in the long-running sitcom FATHER KNOWS BEST (1954-1960). She continued to appear on the small screen into her late eighties: her rare later films included STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986), playing Amanda, the role that she had created on television two decades earlier.

FRANK SPEED (87, 16 September 2006). Francis Edwin Speed was a photgrapher and cinematographer who progressed from the role of medical photography at Ibadan University to become an invaluable ethnographical recorder of vanishing cultures in Nigeria - particularly related to music and dance. His 28 documentary films were rewarded with a number of iunternational prizes

GLENN FORD (90, 30 August 2006). Glenn Ford made his official debut at Fox in 1939 (HEAVEN WITH A BARBED WIRE FENCE) though, under his original name of Gwillym Ford, he had appeared in a musical short, NIGHT IN MANHATTAN, two years earlier. He was born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford in Quebec, Canada, where his father was a railroad executive. The family moved to Santa Monica, California when he was 8; and he appeared in school dramatic productions and repertory theatre in California before starting a film career and signing a 14-year contract with Columbia.
His career progressed modestly over the next four years and a dozen pictures (including a BLONDIE film), before he went off to war service in the Marines, serving in Europe. On his return to Hollywood in 1946 Bette Davis chose him to be her leading man in A STOLEN LIFE (1948), though it was rather GILDA, the same year, which rocketed him and his co-star Rita Hayworth to major stardom. Subsequent memorable roles, over four decades and in a variety of genres, came in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT (1953) and OF HUMAN DESIRE (1954), THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955), THE TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON (1957), DON'T GO NEAR THE WATER (1957), POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (1961), THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER (1963), and SUPERMAN (1978), as the father of Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve). He is particularly remembered as a Western hero in such films as 3:10 TO YUMA (1957), SHEEPMAN (1958) and THE ROUNDERS (1965). He continued to work until 1991, his last screen appearances were in the awful RAW NERVE and a television drama, FINAL VERDICT.
Ford’s 1943 marriage to the actress Eleanor Powell lasted until 1959. He was to marry and divorce three more times. In recent years he had suffered severa; strokes, and was unable to attend a birthday celebration arranged in May 2006 by his son by Eleanor Powell, Peter, who appeared as a baby in GILDA and subsequently had a brief acting career.

ED BENEDICT (94, 28 August 2006). Under-sung but richly-gifted animation designer, mainly responsible for the look of THE FLINTSTONES. From 1930-33 he was employed at the Disney Studio, working on Silly Symphonies. He went on to animate Oswald the Rabbit for Walter Lantz. An attempt to establish an iundependent studio with Jerry Brewer collapsed and he returned to Disney. In 1952 Tex Avery took him to MGM, where he was spotted by Hanna and Barbera, for whom he was to work until his retirement in the 1970s. A perfectionist, Benedict was always frustrated at seeing his work carried to the screen by animators whose talents he did not admire: "There's an assumption that that's my stuff they're complimenting, but it isn't my work" (quoted by Steve Holland in THE GUARDIAN).