In Remembrance: The Entertainers We Lost in February
A lot of film icons passed away in 2016 and that inspired me to do a month-by-month series of remembrance articles for these beautiful and talented people. Each article will include a variety of people, not just actors. There are producers, actors, directors, founders, and even a few authors. This is February.
February 2, 2014 - Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip's interest in acing started at a young age, getting involved in theater in high school. He attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts from which he graduated with a BFA degree in drama. His film debut came with the indie Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole. His first role in a major release, however, was in My New Gun. For a while, Philip was given supporting roles in films such as Scent of a Woman and Twister. He shot to fame after his breakthrough performance in Boogie Nights.
Philip dominated indie films like Happiness and Magnolia for a long time, but he still co-starred in some major films such as Red Dragon, Cold Mountain, and Mission: Impossible III. But he wasn't only a film actor. Philip was actually well-known on Broadway, earning two Tony nominations - one as Best Actor for True West and the other as Best Actor in Long Day's Journey Into Night. He even tried his hand at directing a few plays.
Philip's acting career made history when he became one of the finest actors under 40 after winning an Oscar for Best Actor for the film Capote.
Behind the scenes, though, Philip had been having problems with drug and alcohol abuse. He had admitted in 2006 that he gave up drugs when he was 22 but 7 years later he checked himself into a rehab program for only 10 days. The very next year, on February 2, 2014, Hoffman was found dead in a Greenwich Village apartment with a syringe in his arm and two open bags of heroin next to him.
Philip Seymour Hoffman will always be remembered for his intensity, his passion, and his love for the arts.
February 7, 2017 - Richard Hatch
Richard Hatch had huge goals as a youngster, studying classical piano at the age of 8. After attending Harbor College in San Pedro, he joined a Los Angeles repertory company with which he moved to New York City. He performed in plays and even directed one.
His television career began when he was cast in All My Children and later The Streets of San Francisco. It wasn't until 1978 though when he would reach true fame with the short-lived TV show Battlestar Galactica. Hatch even guest starred in the reboot series of the same name.
Richard Hatch died in 2017 of pancreatic cancer.
February 10, 2008 - Roy Scheider
Roy Scheider was a sportsman in his younger years, competing in baseball and boxing. It wasn't until he reached college that his interests morphed from sports to theater. He studied drama at Rutgers & Franklin & Marshall. After a tour in the military, he appeared in the stage play Stephen D during the New York Shakespeare Festival for which he won an Obie Award.
His film career didn't have as magnificent of a start as his first role was The Curse of the Living Corpse. He had a few minor parts in a handful of following films but it was in the thriller Klute that grabbed people's attention. He costarred alongside Gene Hackman in The French Connection and the underrated The Seven-Ups. His most well-known role, however, came in 1975 when he starred in the Spielberg thriller Jaws.
Scheider had a long and successful career following Jaws' magnificent success until 1993 when, for some unknown reason, the world deemed him no longer favorable. He stayed busy regardless. In 2005, Roy had a bone marrow transplant to treat multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of the plasma cells. Sadly, the disease took his life in 2008.
February 10, 2014 - Shirley Temple
Most actors work half their lives to reach stardom, but for Shirley Temple that was the exact opposite. She started in movies at age three, her cute sweetness being the number one selling factor that shot her to fame. Even at the young age of five, she could do everything from acting, singing, and dancing. Her fans loved her for her smiling cheerfulness. Her popularity led to her likeness being used for millions of dollars worth of products ranging from hats to dresses to dolls.
Shirley was the box-office champ throughout most of the 30s, surpassing greats such as Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. Once she grew up, however, her popularity declined. She starred in some very good movies, but people seemed to have lost interest in her. later on in life, she served as an ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. She sadly passed away in 2014 due to pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
February 11, 2012 - Whitney Houston
Looking at her family history, it's no wonder Whitney Houston was such a remarkable singer. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and goddaughter of legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin. Whitney started singing in church and by 15 was singing professionally alongside her mother on the 1978 hit 'I'm Every Woman'. Whitney went on to provide backing vocals until finally becoming a featured vocalist for the band Material. Her work attracted major record labels and she signed on with Arista for her whole career.
Whitney beat The Beatles seven consecutive times with her hit singles which included 'Saving All My Love for You' and 'The Greatest Love of All'. The singles compiled her first album titled Whitney Houston and sold 3 million copies its first year then went on to sell 25 million worldwide, winning her her first Grammy award.
She continued building on to her success with her next album, but it was the 1992 film The Bodyguard that truly made her one of the best-selling artists of all time. The film itself may not have done well, but the soundtrack, featuring her most well-known song 'I Will Always Love You', sold 44 million copies around the world.
Whitney began dabbling in drugs, soon developing a addiction that affected her reputation and career. She was supposed to perform at the 2000 Academy Awards but was too drugged out during rehearsals that she lost the job.
Whitney Houston was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2012.
February 12, 2014 - Sid Caesar
Sid Caesar was born to Jewish immigrants living in New York. Because of helping at the diner where his father worked, Sid learned how to imitate the dialects and accents of the widely diverse customers. He was still barely as tall as a table when he was able to perfectly talk with Italians in their accent. They loved it so much that they had him imitate the Polish, then Russians, and so on.
After graduating high school, Sid left home to pursue a music career. Being ineligible to join the musicians' union, he found work as a saxophonist at the Vacationland Hotel in the Catskill Mountains. Sid played in the dance band and learned to perform comedy, doing three shows a week. He was such an accomplished musician that he completed audit courses in clarinet and saxophone at the Julliard School of Music.
In 1939, Sid enlisted in the Coast Guard. He was stationed in Brooklyn, New York where he played in military shows. He was still in the service years later when he not only met his future wife Florence Levy, but married her and joined the musicians' union. He was ordered to Palm Beach, Florida where he not only performed music in the show Tars and Spars but also did comedy bits in between each song.
After World War II ended and Sid had left the service, he and his wife and children moved to Hollywood. Columbia Pictures made a film version of Tars and Spars in which Sid claimed the same role he had played in the stage version in Palm Springs. He took small roles in both film and television all the while still performing in nightclubs.
His career remained strong throughout the rest of his life. He died in 2014 after a short illness.
February 21, 1965 - Malcolm X
Malcolm X wasn't an entertainer, but he was an important figure in our history which is why I included him in this list.
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little, the son of a Baptist preacher who was also the local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. After multiple KKK threats, the Littles moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and then to Lansing, Michigan. It seemed racism followed them everywhere. In Lansing, the Littles were frequently harassed by the white racist group Black Legion. Malcolm's father was killed in what police called a streetcar accident, however, Malcolm's mother believed the Black Legion murdered him. She wasn't the only one who believed it either.
When Malcolm's mother had a breakdown and was sent to Kalamazoo State Hospital, Malcolm and his brothers were separated into the foster home system. 24 years later, Malcolm and his brothers secured her release.
In 1943, Malcolm moved to Harlem where he made money by dealing drugs, gambling, and pimping. Malcolm applied for the military, stating he wanted to "organize them [black] soldiers, steal us some guns and kill us some crackers." The military declared him "mentally disqualified" and unfit for service.
In 1945, Malcolm moved to Boston where he and four friends burgled wealthy white families. He was caught and arrested in 1946 and would serve an 8 to 10 year sentence in Charlestown State Prison.
Malcolm, with the influence of John Bembry, began reading while in prison. He found the Islam faith, renouncing his past and humbly bowed in prayer to Allah, promising to never again participate in destructive behavior. In 1950, Malcolm changed his name to Malcolm X.
After he was released from parole in 1952, Malcolm visited Elijah Muhammad in Chicago. By June of 1953, Malcolm was named assistant minister of the Nation's Temple Number One in Detroit. In May of 1954, he led Temple Number 7 in Harlem. After one of his lectures a year later, Malcolm met Betty Sanders whom he married in 1958.
Malcolm's powerful lectures and speaking ability made him one of the most prominent leaders in the black community. So much happened to Malcolm in his life that multitudes of books could be written about him. He inspired many and changed thousands of lives. In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated as he was preparing to speak at the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He had 21 gunshot wounds all over his body but mainly in his chest. He was not forgotten, however, as 14,000 to 30,000 mourners showed at his funeral.
February 24, 2006 - Don Knotts
Don Knotts got his start as a ventriloquist for parties. He wanted to try show business and decided to take a chance. Don moved to New York City but only lasted a few weeks. When World War II broke out, Don enlisted in the Army. He was only 19 when he was assigned to the Special Services Branch to entertain the troops. It was actually here in the Army when Don quit ventriloquism and took up comedy.
After the war ended, Don returned home to West Virginia and graduated with a degree in theater. he moved back to New York and broke into show business with his connections in the Special Services Branch of the Army. Don was a regular on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow before meeting future best friend Andy Griffith on Broadway in the stage play No Time for Sergeants. The two later did the film version of the play as well.
Don Knotts' big break was as a regular on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show. A few years later, Don moved to California and was cast in The Andy Griffith Show, making Don a legend. During the show's run, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor five times.
In 1964, Don had success in movies starting with The Incredible Mr. Limpet. He went on to star in some of the funniest movies of the 60s such as The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, and Shakiest Gun in the West.
His career began to decline throughout the 70s and 80s, making a few slapstick movies with Tim Conway but never really hitting the high mark like he used to. As he aged, he did voice over work for cartoons. He died in 2006 of pulmonary and respiratory complications.
February 24, 2014 - Harold Ramis
Harold Ramis had an unusual start in his career. Whereas most people start in a guest spot on TV or at a nightclub, Harold got his start as Playboy magazine's joke editor. In 1969, he joined Chicago's Second City's Improv Theatre Troupe before soon moving to New York to assist in writing and performing in The National Lampoon Show. It was there that he met future great Bill Murray and the gone-too-soon John Belushi.
By 1976, Harold was head writer and a regular performer on SCTV. After assisting with the script for National Lampoon's Animal House, he gained Hollywood respect and continued working on great comedies such as Meatballs, Stripes, and the two original Ghostbusters films.
Harold Ramis died in 2014 from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.
February 24, 2017 - Daryl Easton
Daryl Easton was fascinated by magic at the young age of 7 and thought up new kinds of tricks he could try and create. He did so successfully, beginning street magic performances in San Diego. When he was 18, he became a travelling magician. He met his magician wife Alison in 1999 and in 2000 toured the world with her, performing in over 250 cities in 25 different countries.
Daryl Easton gained fame as a magician, winning the gold medal at the World Congress of Magic in Switzerland. He was twice voted Close-Up Magician of the Year, twice Parlour Magician of the Year, and twice Lecturer of the Year. He has had many victories in almost every competition he has entered. More recently, he was voted one of the top 100 most influential magicians of the 20th Century by Magic Magazine.
For reasons unknown, Daryl hung himself in his dressing room at Hollywood's Magic Castle before a scheduled performance.
February 25, 2017 - Bill Paxton
Bill was born in Texas but moved to California when he was 18. he found work as a set dresser for Roger Corman's New World Pictures. He made his film debut in Crazy Mama. He moved to New York afterwards, studying acting under Stella Adler at NYU. He landed a small role in Stripes and continued working on low-budget films and television.
Bill was still determined to stick with it, though. He directed, wrote, and produced award-winning short films such as Fish Heads. He snagged a small role in James Cameron's The Terminator, which led to another Cameron flick Aliens. His big break, however, came when he was cast in the lead role of One False Move. That performance led to films such as Tombstone and Apollo 13. His career took off and he stayed strong for years.
Sadly, Bill passed away in 2017 due to complications from heart surgery which led to a stroke.
February 27, 2015 - Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy was born to Jewish immigrants and raised in an acting community from age 8. Leonard made his Hollywood debut at age 20 with a small part in Queen for a Day. After a short time in the Army, he would still only get small uncredited parts. It wasn't until his role as Spock on the TV series Star Trek that he found success. He won three Emmy nominations for his performance on the series and began writing and directing along with continuing acting. In fact, the fourth Star Trek film, The Voyage Home, was written and directed by him.
Leonard continued stage work and hosted two well-known TV series: In Search Of and Ancient Mysteries. He even wrote several volumes of poetry and made guest appearances on The Simpsons and Futurama. He returned to television in the groundbreaking series Fringe as a guest star.
Nimoy sadly died in 2015 due to end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Other Notable Passings
The following are lesser known people, but are still missed in the entertainment community. These people passed away in February of 2017 alone.
- Stig Grybe, a Swedish actor, died on February 1. He worked mostly on stage and in Disney animation.
- Desmond Carrington, a British actor, died on February 1. His most well-known role was the stage adaptation of Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
- Lars-Erik Berenett, a Swedish actor, died on February 1. He was most well-known for his films about Roland Hassel.
- Robert Dahlqvist, a Swedish guitarist and vocalist, died on February 1. He was best known for his time with the bands The Hellacopters and Thunder Express.
- Hassan Joharchi, an Iranian actor, died on February 3. He was most famous for his role in Collapse in 1991.
- Zoya Fyodorovna Bulgakova, a Russian stage actress, died on February 3. She was the oldest actress in Russia at the time of her death and was most well-known for Honor and Dignity, for which she won the regional award for her performance.
- Noel Bartholomew Simms, a Jamaican reggae percussionist, died on February 3. He was a member of several bands including The Aggrovators and The Revolutionaries.
- Georgi Georgievich Taratorkin, a Russian theatrical and cinema actor, died on February 4. He was most well-known for his roles in Crime and Punishment and A Very English Murder.
- Marc Spitz, an American author and playwright, died on February 4. his most notable work is Todo Con Nada.
- Bano Qudsia, a pakistani novelist and playwright, died on February 4. She wrote Hindu novels, dramas and short stories. She was most well-known for her novel Raja Gidh.
- Steve Lang, a Canadian musician, died on February 4. He was best known for his role as a bassist in the band April Wine.
- John Gay, an American screenwriter, died on February 4. He adapted several classics to television such as The Red Badge of Courage and Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- Gopalkrishna Parameshwar Nayak, a Kannada language drama writer from Torke village, died on February 5. He was best known for Nata Nayak.
- Thomas Lux, an American poet, died on February 5. He wrote notable works such as Child Made of Sand and The Blind Swimmer. He also ran Georgia Tech's Poetry at Tech program.
- Bjorn Gosta Tryggve Granath, a Swedish actor, died on February 5. His most notable works include Eye of the Eagle and the 2009 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- Gila Goldstein, an Israeli actress and singer, dies on February 5. She was born a male but had sex reassignment surgery in 1960, the first Israeli to do so. She was one of the first LGBT activists of the Aguda, the oldest and largest LGBT organization in Israel.
- Sonny Geraci, an American musician and singer, dies February 5. He was best known as the lead singer of the musical groups The Outsiders and Climax.
- David Axelrod, an American composer, died on February 5. His most notable albums include Rock Messiah and Seriously Deep.
- Alexander Duncan McCowen, an English actor, died in February 6. He worked in numerous film and stage productions including Caesar and Cleopatra, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and Romeo and Juliet.
- Inge Keller, a German stage and film actress, died on February 6. Her massive career spanned 70 years and was best known for her Golden Globe nominated performance in Aimee & Jaguar.
- Loukianos Kilaidonis, a Greek composer and singer, died on February 7. His first work was Our City in 1970 and later made the album Red Thread.
- Alan Francois Simpson, an English scriptwriter, died on February 8. He was best known for writing the BBC sitcom Hancock's Half Hour.
- Gianfranco Plenizio, an Italion composer, died on February 10. His most notable works include Mark of Zorro, Django 2, and Treasure Island in Outer Space.
- Edward Winslow Bryant Jr, an American sci-fi writer, died on February 10. He was best known for his works Particle Theory and Darker Passions.
- Jiro Taniguchi, a Japanese manga artist, died on February 11. His most notable works include Samurai Legend and The Summit of the Gods.
- Alwin Lopez Jarreau, an American singer, died on February 12. He won 7 Grammy Awards and was nominated for over a dozen more. He's best known for his album Breakin' Away and also sang the theme to the TV show Moonlighting.
- Seijun Suzuki, a Japanese filmmaker, died on February 13. He is best known for his Taisho Trilogy for which he won a Japanese Academy Award.
- Gerald Hirschfeld, an American cinematographer, died on February 13. His notable works include Young Frankenstein, Doc, and Coma.
- Jose Sole, a Mexican stage actor and director, died on February 15. His career expanded over 60 years and he received high recognition from international film festivals.
- Warren Frost, an American actor, died on February 17. He's most well-known for his roles on Matlock and Seinfeld.
- Danuta Szaflarska, a Polish actress, died on February 19. She was awarded the Zlota Kaczka for Best Polish Actress of the Century.
- Brunella Bovo, an Italian actress, died on February 21. She was most well-known for Miracle in Milan and The White Sheik.
- Aleksei Petrenko, a Russian film and stage actor, died om February 22. His most notable works include King Lear, A Cruel Romance, and Musketeers Twenty Years After.
- Katalin Berek, a Hungarian actress, died on February 26, 2017. She appeared in more than 40 films and TV shows, her most well-known work being Adoption in which she won the Golden Bear Award at the International Film Festival.
It doesn't seem fair that so many great people are taken from us so soon, but we can remember them for their accomplishments and spirited personalities. They will all certainly be missed.
© 2017 Alec Zander