Categotry Archives: Actors

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Victor Argo

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Categories: Actors

vargo.jpgVictor Argo, a veteran character actor, died on April 7 of lung cancer. He was 69.
Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents as Víctor Jiménez, he changed his last name in the mid-1960s to gain access to more acting opportunities. As he auditioned for parts, Argo sold jewelry, drove a cab and worked as a printer.
Argo began his dramatic career on stage, taking roles in regional theater and off-Broadway productions. He moved to Nashville and briefly attempted to launch a career as a guitarist and country singer, but acting proved more lucrative.
Over the next four decades, Argo played a wide array of small parts in more than 70 films. He worked with director Martin Scorsese in “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver” and “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Woody Allen directed him in “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Shadows and Fog.” He also made guest appearances on the TV shows “Kojak,” “Miami Vice” and “Law & Order.”
Last year, Argo returned to the stage as the owner of a cigar factory in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Anna in the Tropics.” The Broadway show ended its run in February. His final film, “Luster,” will be released in Aug. 2005.

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Peter Ustinov

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Categories: Actors, Education, Hollywood, Military, Writers/Editors

pustinov.jpgSir Peter Alexander Ustinov, an Academy Award-winning British actor and author, died on March 28 from heart failure. He was 82.
Ustinov left the Westminster School at 16, and trained at the London Theatre Studio. He appeared in local revues and wrote his first stage play, “Fishing for Shadows,” when he was only 19. During World War II, he wrote and acted in films for the British Army Cinema Unit.
Ustinov’s six-decade film career launched in 1942, when he appeared in the film, “One of Our Aircraft Is Missing.” More than 80 TV and movie roles followed, including parts in “The Great Muppet Caper,” “Lorenzo’s Oil,” “Luther” and in several movies as Hercule Poirot. He directed eight feature films, but was most proud of his work on “Billy Budd,” which he also wrote and produced.
Ustinov received his first Oscar nomination in 1951 for “Quo Vadis.” He won the best supporting actor prize a decade later for playing Lentulus Batiatus, the proprietor of a school for gladiators, in “Spartacus.” In 1964, he won again for his humorous portrayal of Arthur Simon Simpson in the comedic caper, “Topkapi.”
Fluent in French, German, English, Italian, Russian and Spanish, Ustinov starred in, produced and directed his own plays on stages all over the world. In his “spare time,” Ustinov served as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, president of the World Federalist Movement and chancellor of Durham University in England. He also wrote several books, including the 1977 autobiography “Dear Me.” Ustinov was awarded the Companion of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975, and knighted in 1990.
When asked what he wanted his epitaph to say, Ustinov replied: “Keep off the grass.”

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Ludmilla Tchérina

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Categories: Actors, Artists, Hollywood, Writers/Editors

Ludmila Tchérina, a French ballerina, actress and artist, died on March 21. Cause of death was not released. She was 79.
The daughter of a Russian aristocrat father and French mother, Tchérina became a prima ballerina with the Grands Ballets of Monte Carlo when she was only 15 years old. That accomplishment made her the youngest prima ballerina in the history of dance.
Under the pseudonym of Tcherzina, she danced in New York, Milan, Paris and at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. She married her main dancing partner, Edmond Audran, who died in a car accident in 1951. Tchérina stopped dancing for two full years, but was persuaded to return to the stage by her new husband, Raymond Roi, who survives her.
Upon retiring from professional dancing, Tchérina became a true Renaissance woman. Her paintings and sculptures appeared in exhibitions around the world. She opened her own ballet company, choreographed routines, then turned her attention to acting.
From 1946 to 1975, Tchérina appeared in 22 movies, including “The Red Shoes,” “Sign of the Pagan” and “The Tales of Hoffmann.” She also penned two novels and a screenplay.

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Chuck Niles

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Categories: Actors, Media, Military, Musicians

Chuck Niles, the velvety voice of jazz in Los Angeles, died on March 15 from complications of a stroke. He was 76.

Born Charles Neidel, Niles learned the clarinet when he was seven years old, and was playing the saxophone professionally by the time he was 14. He joined the Navy in 1945 and served briefly in the South Pacific. After returning to the states, he played alto sax in the jazz band, the Emanon Quartet, earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from American International University and landed a job playing music on WTXL in Springfield, Mass.

In 1956, Niles moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. He appeared in a few films (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Teenage Zombies”) and stage productions until his friend Sleepy Stein recruited him to be an announcer on KNOB.

He would remain on the air for more than 40 years.

Niles hosted shows on several L.A. stations. Known as “Be-Bop Charlie,” “Mr. Jazz” and the “Minister of Cool,” he spent the past 14 years making the afternoon drive time a pleasant and informative experience for listeners of KKJZ. His love of the genre also endeared him to jazz artists, who wrote songs like “Niles Blues,” “Nilesology” and “Bebop Charlie” in his honor. Niles is the only jazz disc jockey to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Mercedes McCambridge

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Media, Writers/Editors

mmccambridge.jpgCarlotta Mercedes Agnes McCambridge, who Orson Welles once called “the world’s greatest living radio actress,” died on March 2 from natural causes. She was 87.
Born in Joliet, Ill., McCambridge graduated from Mundelein College and signed an acting contract with NBC Radio in Chicago. In her 20s, she moved to New York, where she appeared in several Broadway plays before landing the title role in the radio adaptation of “Abie’s Irish Rose.” She spent several years working with Welles before focusing on her film career.
McCambridge’s radio-trained voice served her well in Hollywood. She acquired a reputation as an outspoken woman with a talent for playing strong-willed characters. She made her screen debut in the 1949 film “All the King’s Men,” a role that earned her an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Broderick Crawford, who played the lead in the film, won the best actor Oscar; the drama also won for best picture. That same year, McCambridge won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and another for Most Promising Newcomer-Female.
Despite such critical acclaim, McCambridge had trouble finding good roles because her severe appearance didn’t fit the glamour girl image that was popular in many postwar films. However, she chose her future projects wisely, acting in “Giant, (for which she earned a second Oscar nomination for best supporting actress), “A Farewell to Arms” and “Touch of Evil.”
In 1973, McCambridge put her talents to the test by taking on the voice-over role of The Demon in the classic horror flick, “The Exorcist.” Although she didn’t receive credit in the first printing of the movie, The Screen Actors Guild intervened on her behalf and had her name inserted into future printings of the film. She also did numerous guest appearances on TV shows, such as “Bewitched,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Magnum P.I.” She returned to New York in the 1990s to play the grandmother in Neil Simon’s Broadway hit, “Lost in Yonkers.”
Her personal life, which included bouts with alcoholism, two divorces and a son who later killed his wife and children before committing suicide, were chronicled in the autobiographies “The Two of Us” and “The Quality of Mercy.”

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