Categotry Archives: Hollywood

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Joe Grant

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Categories: Artists, Hollywood, Writers/Editors

jgrant.jpgJoe Grant, a pioneering Disney animator and writer, died on May 6 at the age of 96. He suffered a heart attack while working at his drawing board.
Grant was born in New York and raised in Los Angeles. He trained at the Chouinard Art Institute, then landed a job drawing caricatures for The Los Angeles Record. Walt Disney spotted Grant’s work in the newspaper and hired him to freelance on the animated short “Mickey’s Gala Premiere.”
Grant was brought on staff full-time a few years later. Over the next decade, he worked on “Alice in Wonderland” and designed the queen-witch character in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Disney eventually promoted Grant to head of the Character Model Department, which served as a think tank for future animated projects.
During World War II, Grant and animator Dick Huemer created gags and designs for many of Disney’s patriotic-themed cartoons, such as “Reason and Emotion,” “Education for Death” and the Academy Award-winning “Der Fuehrer’s Face.” Grant also co-wrote “Dumbo” with Huemer, and conceived “Lady and the Tramp” with his wife, Jennie. She died in 1991.
When the Character Model Department disbanded in 1949, Grant opened a ceramics studio (Opechee Designs) and a greeting card company (Castle Ltd.). He returned to Disney in 1989 to work on “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Pocahontas” and “Mulan.” The only Disney artist and story creator to work on the original “Fantasia” in 1940, and its sequel, “Fantasia 2000,” he also contributed to the 2004 Oscar-nominated short “Lorenzo.”
Grant was named an official Disney Legend in 1992. Four years later, his work was honored with a Ruben Award from the National Cartoonists Society. More than 70 of his caricatures appear in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institute.

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Ismail Merchant

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Categories: Hollywood

imerchant.jpgIsmail Noormohamed Abdul Rehman Merchant, a Hollywood producer and director whose period films won six Academy Awards, died on May 25. Cause of death was not released. He was 68.
Born in Bombay, India, Merchant moved to the United States in 1958 and became a messenger for the United Nations. After earning a master’s degree in business administration at New York University, he directed and co-produced the 14-minute short, “The Creation of Woman.” The film was nominated for an Oscar in 1961 and accepted into the Cannes Film Festival. That same year, Merchant met American painter/filmmaker James Ivory. A romantic and professional relationship quickly blossomed, one that led to the formation of Merchant Ivory Productions.
Their collaboration began with the feature length film, “The Householder,” which was based on a novel and screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Over the next four decades, they made more than 40 movies, including “A Room With a View,” “The Remains of the Day,” “Howards End,” “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” and “Jefferson in Paris.” Merchant usually worked as a producer while Ivory directed, however, it was not uncommon for them to switch duties. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, theirs is the longest partnership in independent cinema.
In recent years, Merchant and Ivory departed from the costume dramas that made them famous and began developing more contemporary pictures. They produced the 2003 farce “Le Divorce,” starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts, and recently wrapped “The Goddess,” a musical about the Hindu goddess Shakti starring Tina Turner. Their final period piece, “The White Countess,” which stars Ralph Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson, is currently in production.
Merchant also had a passion for fine cuisine. An accomplished chef, he opened a restaurant in 1993 and wrote several cookbooks (“Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters,” “Ismail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine,” “Ismail Merchant’s Florence: Filming and Feasting in Tuscany,” “Ismail Merchant’s Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters” and “Ismail Merchant’s Paris: Filming and Feasting in France With 40 Recipes”). His autobiography, “My Passage From India: A Filmmaker’s Journey From Bombay to Hollywood,” was published in 2002.
Listen to an Interview With NPR

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Frank Gorshin

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Military

fgorshin.jpgFrank Gorshin, a veteran actor and impressionist who was best known for playing the Riddler on the 1960s TV series “Batman,” died on May 17 of cancer. He was 72.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Gorshin was the son of Yugoslavian immigrants. One of three children, he worked as an usher at a local theatre in his teens and won his first talent contest singing Al Jolson songs. The prize: Opening for Alan King at Jackie Heller’s Carousel nightclub. Two days before he was meant to go on, Gorshin’s brother died in a car accident. His parents insisted he honor his performance commitment, however, and in between shows Gorshin spent time with his family at the funeral parlor. The gig gave him his start in show business.
Gorshin attended the Carnegie Tech School of Drama and performed in area nightclubs. After serving in the U.S. Army as an entertainer during the Korean War, he moved to Hollywood and found steady work as a comedian and bit player in films. Gorshin’s big break came in 1956 when he landed a job impersonating stars like James Cagney, Jackie Gleason, Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Karloff and Burt Lancaster on “The Steve Allen Show.” In 1964, he performed on the same “Ed Sullivan Show” that featured the American television debut of The Beatles.
Over the next three decades, Gorshin appeared in more than 80 films, including “That Darn Cat!” “The Great Imposter” and “12 Monkeys.” He acted in two soap operas (“The Edge of Night,” “General Hospital”), and did voice work for cartoons (Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck) and video games (“Diablo II”).
Although he was known as “the man with 100 faces,” Gorshin found enduring fame playing the Riddler on the hit TV show, “Batman.” Wearing an emerald green skin-tight costume covered in question marks, he turned the character into a favorite arch nemesis for Gotham City’s Caped Crusader. In his spare time, Gorshin headlined shows at the MGM Grand, The Sahara and The Aladdin in Las Vegas.
He made his Broadway debut in 1969 as the star of the musical “Jimmy.” Then in 2002, Gorshin portrayed George Burns in the acclaimed, one-man production of “Say Goodnight Gracie.” He used no prosthetics, and only a small amount of make-up, to play the late comedian.
Gorshin received two Emmy nominations during his career for playing Adam West’s foil on “Batman,” and Commissioner Bele on the original “Star Trek” series. Ironically, one of his final performances was playing himself in a guest appearance on the CBS drama, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
Listen to a Sound Clip From “Batman”

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John K. Marshall

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Categories: Education, Hollywood

John Kennedy Marshall, a documentary filmmaker who produced and directed numerous movies about the lives of the Ju/’hoansi people, died on April 22 of lung cancer. He was 72.
The Cambridge, Mass., native always had an interest in Africa. He longed to visit the Dark Continent and read many books about its nations and people. In 1950, Marshall and his father went on a research expedition, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the Harvard Peabody Museum, to find a lost city in the Kalahari Desert of South West Africa (now Namibia). They didn’t discover the missing metropolis, but encountered a group of “wild” bushmen known as the Ju/’hoansi. Upon returning to the region, Marshall and his entire family learned the tribe’s language and culture. The Ju/’hoansi called him “/Toma !osi,” or ”long face.”
Using a 16mm camera, Marshall recorded hundreds of interviews with the men and women of this unique society and studied their use of ancient hunting and gathering techniques. “The Hunters,” his first documentary about the Ju/’hoansi, was released in 1957. Two decades later, he took a PBS crew to South Africa and filmed the television movie “N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman,” which detailed the disintegration of the Ju/’hoansi after they were interned in a government camp and used as a tourist attraction. Marshall’s masterpiece, the five-part, six-hour documentary “A Kalahari Family,” was compiled from more than 1 million feet of film shot over 50 years.
Back in America, Marshall earned degrees in anthropology from Harvard and Yale universities. He worked for NBC, shot the civil war in Cyprus and served as the cameraman for the 1967 documentary, “Titicut Follies,” which exposed the poor conditions at the state psychiatric hospital in Bridgewater, Mass. Marshall cofounded Documentary Educational Resources with Timothy Asch in 1968, and contributed to the Human Studies Film Archives at the Smithsonian Institution.
For his efforts in documentary filmmaking, Marshall received a lifetime achievement award in 2003 from the Society for Visual Anthropology. His career was also chronicled in the 1993 book, “The Cinema of John Marshall” by Jay Ruby.

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Debralee Scott

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood

dscott.jpgDebralee Scott, an actress who appeared in sitcoms, movies and on game shows, died on April 5 of natural causes. She was 52.

The New Jersey native hailed from a show business family. Her sister, Scott Bushnell, produced many of director Robert Altman’s films; her other sister, Jeri Scott, became a talent manager. Debralee broke into Hollywood by playing an abducted girl in the 1971 film “Dirty Harry.”

At 22, Scott landed her first major role as Cathy Shumway on the 1970s sitcom “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” She next tackled the character Rosalie “Hotsy Totsy” Totzie in the TV comedy “Welcome Back, Kotter.” In the 1980s, Scott acted in “Police Academy” (1984) and “Police Academy 3: Back in Training” (1986), and found steady work appearing as a celebrity guest on the game shows “Match Game,” “Get Rich Quick,” “Riddlers,” “Hollywood Squares,” “The $20,000 Pyramid,” “The Family Feud,” “Chain Reaction” and “Password Plus.”

In recent years, Scott lived in New York City and worked as an agent with Empowered Artists. She was engaged to John D. Levi, a police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, when he was killed in the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.

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