Today: February 28, 2024

Each year the fickle and fast-evolving world of cinema welcomes swathes of exciting new acting, directing and film industry talent into its fold. But sadly, each year we must also salute a number of cinematic talents who have left us. They may be gone, but they’re not forgotten. We pay tribute to just some of them who departed us in 2011…

Each year
the fickle and fast-evolving world of cinema welcomes swathes of exciting new
acting, directing and film industry talent into its fold. But sadly, each year
we must also salute a number of cinematic talents who have left us. They may be
gone, but they’re not forgotten. We pay tribute to just some of them who
departed us in 2011…

Elizabeth
Taylor February 27, 1932 –
March 23, 2011

Possibly
2011’s biggest loss in terms of superstar quality, Liz Taylor, who died in
March of congenitive heart failure aged 79, was one of a kind. She was a
luminous talent and a notorious diva. A child star that became a Hollywood icon
and later a staunch AIDs activist. MGM’s dark-haired beauty, born in Hampstead,
North London to American parents, tied the knot eight times, and became as
famous for her personal life as her on-screen performances. “It would be
very glamorous to be reincarnated as a big ring on Elizabeth Taylor’s
finger,” Andy Warhol once reflected about the woman who owned a 33-carat
Krupp diamond ring — a gift from the greatest love of her life, Richard Burton.

Best
moment:
Hard to
say, but probably Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) when Taylor teamed up
with Burton to play Marth and George, a boozy, frustrated couple in Mike
Nichols’ harrowing film version of Edward Albee’s play about a drunken
university professor and his equally drunken wife as they play hosts to another
young couple in a very confrontational social engagement.

Pete
Postlethwaite February
7, 1946 – January 2, 2011

This
Warrington-born actor, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer aged 64, was
one of cinema’s great character actors.
A quirky-looking chap with very prominent cheekbones, Postlethwaite was
one of the most recognisable faces in cinema. He began his career as a drama
teacher before turning to acting, putting in impressive performances with
companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company before moving into film and
TV in the 80s. He had made the move into Hollywood roles by the early 90s, but
generally shunned the limelight.

Best
moment:
His
incredible turn as Giuseppe Conlon, the father of Daniel Day Lewis’ character
in Jim Sheridan’s film In the Name of the Father, which earned him his first
Oscar nomination.

Peter
Falk
Septembe 16, 1927 – June 24, 2011

‘Colombo’
died at his Beverly Hills home aged 83.
He had been suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s for some time.
Director William Friedkin, talking about Falk’s role in his 1978 film The
Brink’s Job said that “Peter has a great range from comedy to drama. He
could break your heart or he could make you laugh.” But it was as the
dishevelled detective that the public knew and loved him for. Variety columnist
Howard Prouty wrote, “The joy of all this is watching Columbo dissemble
[sic] the fiendishly clever cover stories of the loathsome rats who consider
themselves his better.”

Best
moment:
Though he
appeared in a few films (Murder, Inc., The Princess Bride, The Great Race),
Falk will forever be remembered as the inimitable Lieutenant Colombo.

Jeff
Conaway October 5,
1950 – May 27, 2011

Grease
icon-turned-reality show star Jeff Conaway fell into a coma and passed away
aged 60. He had become more famous in recent years for his struggles with drugs
and alcohol on “Celebrity Rehab” than for playing the slick Kanicky
in Grease. The Manhattan resident had his first taste of success when he was
chosen aged 10 for director Arthur Penn’s Broadway play All The Way Home, which
was nominated for a Tony Award. Despite some great moments, however, Conoway’s
struggle for recognition and against various addictions dogged his whole
career.

Best
moment:
Aside
from playing Travolta’s side-kick, Conoway played narcissistic actor Bobby
Wheeler in Taxi, one of the best American sitcoms of the late 70s and early
80s.

Dolores
Fuller
March 10, 1953 – May 9th, 2011

Hollywood
actress Dolores Fuller died of complications of a stroke at the age of 88. She
was best known for being the muse, lover and leading lady of director Ed Wood
Jr, whose films were famously so bad they were good! Watch her films and you’ll
see the real definition of ‘wooden’ acting.

Best
moment:
Or should
that be worst?! The camp classic Glen or Glenda (aka I Led Two Lives, 1953). A
laugh-out-loud (though unintentionally so) well-meaning film, presented
documentary-style about transvestism – Wood himself was, of course, famously, a
transvestite himself.

Michael
Gough November
23, 1916 – March 17, 2011

Stylish
character actor Michael Gough, better known as Batman’s butler Alfred
Pennyworth in the Batman films, died aged 94. Gough appeared in four Batman
movies, as well as several TV series throughout the 60s. He achieved cult
status with his Hammer Horror films. In later years, he was often cast as the
archetypal frosty English gent.

Best
moment:

Gough’s
meaty role in a 1946 play But For the Grace of God, which catapulted him to
fame. He played a blackmailer furious by an American’s love affair with an
Englishwoman while her husband was on active service. In one scene, there is a
violent encounter between blackmailer and victim, at the end of which Gough
supposedly dies from a broken neck. During the run Gough suffered three broken
ribs and a spinal injury – two professional boxers were drafted in to teach him
how to avoid mishaps.

Dennis
Hall 1957
– October 20, 2011

Cinematographer
Dennis Hall died before his time, and in dramatic fashion. Aged 54, he died of
a heart attack in his hotel while shooting on the set of new USA Network
series, Common Law in New Orleans. His roommate, a camera operator, called the
paramedics but it was too late.”He could walk into a room that was deathly
quiet or filled with negative energy and immediately liven everything up,”
cinematographer John C. Flinn III, who took Hall with him as his assistant on
the 1980s TV shows Magnum, P.I. and Jake and the Fatman, told the Hollywood
Reporter: “He was a great first assistant, a great cameraman and a great
cinematographer. I’m so proud of him.” Hall is survived by his wife,
Julie, and son Noah.

Best
moment:
Hall
served as director of photography on Burn Notice, Franklin & Bash, The
Cleaner, and was a camera operator in the early 1990s on shows including,
‘Beverly Hills, 90210′ and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.’

Ryan
Dunn June
11, 1977 – June 20, 2011

One of
the most shocking celebrity deaths of the year was that of Ohio-born Jackass
star Ryan Dunn, who died in the Porsche he was driving in an early morning
single-car crash near Philadelphia. He was 34. The US reality TV star and
stalwart of the MTV family for over ten years, shot to fame as a member of the stunt
crew for Jackass. Chillingly, he tweeted a picture
of himself drinking with friends just hours before the fiery accident. Dunn was in Bam Margera’s Viva La Bam from 2003 to 2006, as
well as the three Jackass movies and reality show Homewrecker. He met fellow
daredevil Johnny Knoxville through the skate circuit.

Best
moment:
There are many, but The Poo Dive
rates highly. Ryan was famous for doing the stunts that no one else would. In
Jackass’ first season this became apparent when he jumped in a wastewater
treatment plant’s collection vat wearing only a snorkel, swimming goggles and
underwear wrapped in duct tape.

Jane
Russell June
21, 1921 – February 28, 2011

The
lovely Jane Russell, pin-up par excellence, was one of the sexy symbols of
Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s, enjoying her first film role in The Outlaw.
She moved between music and films throughout her career, marrying three times
and adopting three kids. In 1955, she founded the World Adoption International
Fund. She died
aged 89 of respiratory difficulties from a bad cold.

Best
moment:
Russell
co-starred with Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes – need we say more?

Leslie
Brooks July
13, 1922 – July 1, 2011

US
actress Leslie Brooks appeared at the start of her career as “Lorraine
Gettman”, appearing in bit parts in 1941. She started landing more
substantial roles in movies like Nine Girls , Cover Girl and the lead in the
film noir classic Blonde Ice.

Best
moment:
As the
seductive society reporter in Blonde Ice who keeps herself in the headlines by
marrying a series of wealthy men, all of whom die under mysterious
circumstances.

Susannah
Yorke January
9, 1939 – January 15, 2011

Susannah
York, who died aged 72, was one of the faces alongside Julie Christie and Sarah Miles that defined the 1960s – though
she was never quite comfortable with her image as screen icon and always seemed
a little restless. Her blonde locks and deep blue eyes won her many a male fan.
Fine performances include as Thomas More’s daughter in A Man For All Seasons,
with Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (which she won a Bafta and an
Oscar nomination for), and won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film
Festival for her portrayal of Cathryn in 1972 film Images.

Best
moment
: As
Childie, the young
lesbian in Robert Aldrich’s film adaptation of Frank Marcus’s hit play The
Killing of Sister George– now widely considered one of the director’s most
accomplished. It was famous, too, for behind the scenes cat fights between Beryl Reid and
Coral Browne – Susannah York’s alcoholic co-stars and an erotic scene with her
co-star Coral which was so explicit it caused the film to be banned in several
countries.

Sidney
Lumet June 25, 1924 – April 9,
2011

Sidney
Lumet died aged 86. One of the greatest directors to have come out of America,
one of the directors that emerged from the golden age of US TV in the late 50s,
made over 50
films including 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict. He
won an Academy award for directing each one. His last foray was Before the
Devil Knows Your Dead. He was a frenetic worker, so much so that actor Paul
Newman
once
called him “the only man who could double-park outside a whorehouse”.

Best
moment:
The jury
was often out on Lumet’s work right until the end, but his best and most
popular work were the two films which saw Al Pacino give the acting performances of
his life – in Serpico, a New York cop who goes undercover to expose corruption
in the force; and in Dog Day Afternoon as a New York homosexual who mounts a
bank robbery to pay for his lover’s sex-change operation.


Yvette
Vickers August 26,
1928 – April 27, 2011

Vickers,
daughter of jazz musician Charles Vedder, who died at 82, was an early Playboy
playmate and B-movie actress who had roles in cult classics like “Attack of the
50-Foot Woman” and, er, “Attack of
the Giant Leeches,”. Her body was found by a neighbour at her Benedict Canyon
home and, sadly, it seems had gone undiscovered for months given its mummified
state, police said.

Best
moment:
it has to
be Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, which concerns the plight of Nancy Archer, a
wealthy heiress whose close encounter with an enormous alien turns her into a
giantess. She uses her new size and power to seek revenge against her
unfaithful husband Harry and his mistress, Honey Parker. Now that’s revenge.

Peter
Yates July
24, 1929 – January 9, 2011

From
Aldershot, Hampshire, Yates died in London, aged 81. He was the director of
‘Bullitt’, ‘Breaking Away’, and ‘The Hot Rock’. The son of an army officer, his
first film as director was Summer Holiday with Cliff Richard in 1963. His first American film, Bullitt, was
his first American work and destined to become a classic. Yates produced and
directed Breaking Away– nominated for five Oscars, and more accolades would
follow.

Best
moment:
He will
forever be remembered as the mastermind behind that incredible chase scene in
Bullitt. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to anymore any more.

Ken
Russell
July 3, 1927 – November27, 2011

Southampton
born independent British filmmaker Ken Russell started his career directing at
the BBC, where he made creative
adaptations of composers’ lives which were unusual for the time. He was known
for his flamboyant style and preoccupation with sexuality and the church and
often courted controversy. He’s best known for films Woman in Love, for which
he won an Oscar, and The Devils, starring Vanessa Redgrave. In his personal life he married four
times and spawned eight children. He died peacefully in his sleep.

Best moment: Undoubtedly his film
Woman in Love which he directed in 1969 and became notorious for a nude male
wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed.

Sue
Mengers September
2, 1932 – October 15, 2011

Hollywood
talent agent Sue Mengers died in her Beverly Hills home following a long
illness. During her career she represented massive Hollywood names like Steve
McQueen
, Faye
Dunaway
, Barbra
Streisand
, Nick
Nolte
and Burt
Reynolds
to name
a few. She was 79.

Cliff
Robertson September
9, 1923 – September 10, 2011

Oscar-winning
actor Cliff Robertson was best known to modern audiences as Uncle Ben from the
“Spider-Man” films. He died just one day after his 88th birthday. In
actual fact, his career spanned half a century and included his portrayal of a
young JFK in the 1963 film PT 109. He won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actor
for his role in the movie Charly and in television, portrayed retired astronaut
Buzz Aldrin in the 1976 adaptation of Aldrin’s autobiographic Return to Earth.

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