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Patrick Wymark

Patrick Wymark
Patrick Wymark

IMDB Entry:

Patrick Wymark was born on July 11, 1920 in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England as Patrick Carl Cheeseman. He was an actor, known for Where Eagles Dare (1968), Repulsion (1965) and The Power Game (1965). He was married to Olwen Wymark. He died on October 20, 1970 in Melbourne, Australia

Children: Jane Wymark (b. 31 October 1952), Rowan Wymark ( b. 1954), Dominic Wymark (b. 1960), Tristram Wymark (b. 1962).   He died just as the film he was currently appearing in, Cromwell (1970), was about to be released in the U.S.   Was offered the part of “Theodore Maxible” (played by Marius Goring) in Doctor Who (1963): Evil Of The Daleks” but illness prevented him from taking the role.   Born and raised in the Grimsby area. Wymark View is named after him.
Died of a heart attack three days before opening in an Australian run of Anthony Shaffer‘s “Sleuth”, in which he was to play author Andrew Wyke, at Melbourne’s Playbox Theatre in October 1970. His body was discovered by the actor John Fraser.   Collapsed onstage at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne in October 1969, due to a severe nasal hemorrhage.
British character actor with radio and stage experience from 1951. Studied at University College in London and learned acting at the Old Vic Theatre School. Toured South Africa in 1952 and subsequently appeared in many Shakespearean roles in Stratford-upon-Avon. Busy television actor from the late 1950’s, popular as ruthless tycoon John Wilder in The Plane Makers (1963). Also noted for his voice-overs for Winston Churchill in two documentary features.
Was asked to play The Second Doctor in Doctor Who (Source Ice Warriors DVD Production Notes).
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Irish Actors – Signatures

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Georgia Engel

Georgia Engal
Georgia Engal

 

“Wikipedia” entry:

Engel was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Ruth Caroline (née Hendron) and Benjamin Franklin Engel, who was a Coast Guard admiral.[3] Engel attended Walter Johnson High School and the Academy of the Washington Ballet.

Engel appeared as Georgette Franklin Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1972 until the show ended in 1977. The role won her two Emmy nominations. After that series ended, she teamed up with former Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star Betty White for The Betty White Show during its first and only (1977–1978) season. She later co-starred in two short-lived 1980 sitcoms, Goodtime Girls, as Loretta Smoot,[8] and in Jennifer Slept Here featuring Ann Jillian.

Engel had a recurring role on Coach as Shirley Burleigh and starred as the voice of Love-a-Lot Bear in The Care Bears Movie (1985). She played a good witch in a 2007 recurring role[10][11] of Esmeralda[12][13] on the now-defunct NBC soap opera Passions. Engel received consecutive Emmy nominations as outstanding guest actress in a comedy series in 2003, 2004, and 2005 for her role on Everybody Loves Raymond as Robert Barone‘s mother-in-law, Pat MacDougall.[14]

While her movie appearances have been sporadic, Engel made her film debut in Miloš Forman’s first English language movie Taking Off[15] for which she was nominated for a British Academy Award for best supporting actress. Other film appearances include The Outside Man (1973),[16] Signs of Life (1989), [17] Papa Was a Preacher (1987),[18] The Sweetest Thing (2002)[19] and the made-for-TV movies The Day the Women Got Even (1980)[20] and A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story (1978).

She lent her voice to the animated films Open Season (2006),[22] Open Season 2 (2009),[23] Dr. Dolittle 2, and Open Season 3 (2011).

Engel returned to her stage roots in 2006, appearing on Broadway in the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, with Sutton Foster and Edward Hibbert. She created the role of Mrs. Tottendale, which she continued to perform, leaving the Broadway production as of April 1, 2007.[25] She was featured in the North American tour, performing in Toronto in September 2007,[26] through engagements at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco, in August 2008,[and at the Denver Performing Arts Complex in October 2008.

For the summers of 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010, Engel appeared in various productions at The Muny Theater in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. She most recently appeared in Show Boat in August 2010 as “Parthy”. In July 2005 she appeared in Mame as “Agnes Gooch”, in June 2007 she appeared in Oklahoma! as “Aunt Eller”, and in July 2009 she appeared as “Mrs. Paroo” in The Music Man.

In June 2010, Engel appeared at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine production of The Drowsey Chaperone as Mrs. Tottendale. In October through December 2010, Engel was featured in the Vineyard Theatre‘s Off-Broadway production of Middletown, written by Will Eno.

In 2012, she appeared in episodes of The Office as an older lady being helped by Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) and in the episode called “Palmdale, Ech” of Two and a Half Men as the mother of Lyndsey MacElroy portrayed by Courtney Thorne-Smith. In March 2012, 35 years after the close of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Engel was reunited with Betty White in the third season of Hot in Cleveland as Mamie Sue Johnson, best friend of White’s character Elka, in a continuing, recurring role.

Engel appeared in the new Annie Baker play John, which opened Off-Broadway at the Signature Theatre on July 22, 2015 (previews), directed by Sam Gold. The play ran to September 6, 2015.[39] The cast also features Lois Smith.   Engel was nominated for the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play for her role in this play.

Engel stars in the new musical Gotta Dance, which premiered at the Bank of America Theatre, Chicago on December 13, 2015, running through January 2016. The cast also stars Stefanie Powers, Lillias White and Andre DeShields. The musical is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, with a book by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin, and the score by Matthew Sklar and Nell Benjamin.

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Barbara Eden

 

 

Barbara Eden
Barbara Eden

TCM Overview:

One of television’s most enduring icons, actress Barbara Eden unfortunately had great difficulty escaping her association with the character and show that made her a star, playing the 2,000-year-old Jeannie on the sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie” (NBC, 1965-1970). Prior to the beloved show, Eden appeared on a number of television shows like “Father Knows Best” (CBS, 1954-1960), “Gunsmoke” (CBS, 1955-1975) and “The Andy Griffith Show” (CBS, 1960-68), before starring on the small screen version of the hit movie, “How to Marry a Millionaire” (syndicated, 1957-59). She made the jump to features around this time and had an early co-starring role opposite Elvis Presley in “Flaming Star” (1960), before logging performances in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961) and “The Yellow Canary” (1963). But it was her performance as “Jeannie” that made her a household name, while bring a new level of sexuality to television, albeit with a nose-wiggling innocence. After the show was finished, Eden struggled to shake the image by starring in the horror movie “A Howling in the Woods” (1971) and in the comedy “Harper Valley PTA” (1978), but often to no avail. She later embraced the association with the naïve Jeannie and, though tame by modern standards, her brand of playful femininity was revolutionary for its time and helped open the doors for future television sex symbols.

Born Barbara Jean Moorhead on Aug. 23, 1934 (though some sources claim 1930), Eden’s parents divorced when the actress was three. Following her mother’s second marriage, Eden took the name Barbara Huffman after her stepfather, Harrison Connor Huffman. As a child, Eden suffered from a severe vision problem which required her to wear thick glasses and a sometimes eye patch. As a result, Eden grew up very shy. To help ease her daughter’s insecurities, her mother, Alice, arranged for young Barbara to take singing lessons which did indeed help alleviate her shyness. By the time she was a teenager, this “ugly duckling” had blossomed into an attractive young woman, graduating from San Francisco’s Abraham Lincoln High School in 1949. Moving to the Bay Area in the early 1950s, Eden made a living singing in nightclubs, but soon decided that a singing career was not in the cards for her. In 1951, Eden entered a local beauty pageant and won the title of Miss San Francisco â¿¿ the catalyst which propelled the actress to Hollywood.

In 1956, Eden made her screen debut in with a minor, uncredited role in “Back from Eternity.” Later that year, however, while performing in a local play, Eden was discovered “Hollywood style” by respected film director, Mark Robson. Impressed by Eden’s talent and beauty, Robson introduced her to casting directors at Twentieth Century Fox. Only a year after her debut, Eden landed the leading role on the television comedy “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1957-59), a show based on the 1953 film, in which Eden played Marilyn Monroe’s gold-digging character. Though this was her first sitcom, it would hardly be her last or her best known, for that matter. In the early 1960s, Eden branched out, appearing in a string of unremarkable films including “Flaming Star” (1960), “Five Weeks in a Balloon” (1962) and “The Yellow Canary” (1963). She also landed a co-starring role in Irwin Allen’s sci-fi outing, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961). At the same time, Eden maintained high visibility on the small screen with guest roles on such series as “The Andy Griffith Show” (CBS, 1960-68), “Route 66″(CBS, 1960-64), and “Gunsmoke” (CBS, 1955-1975).

In 1965, Eden finally landed the role that would define her career â¿¿ as the star and title character of the fantasy sitcom, “I Dream of Jeannie.” Created by prolific novelist Sidney Sheldon, the series was a direct response to rival the popular “Bewitched” (ABC, 1964-1972). Both shows shared a similar premise: the misadventures of a sexy sorceress who falls in love with a bumbling mortal and must adjust to life in suburbia. As hoped, “Jeannie” quickly proved to be a huge success. Over the show’s five year run, Eden was twice nominated for Golden Globe Awards, as was her co-star, Larry Hagman. Ironically, for a show that relied so heavily on its sex appeal, “Jeannie” had to play things remarkably coy in order to satisfy NBC’s prudish standards. The most famous example of this was the network’s “No Navel Edict,” which barred Eden from baring her belly button in any way. Appropriately enough, “Jeannie” ended just as the sexual revolution was redefining women’s roles. By the time it went off the air, the once risqué show was already considered a “quaint” remnant of a bygone era.

Post-“Jeanie,” Eden starred in the lightweight 1978 feature film comedy based on the 1968 Jeannie C. Riley country hit, “Harper Valley PTA.” The film’s success spawned a short-lived TV series of the same name, “Harper Valley PTA” (NBC, 1981-82), in which Eden reprised her role. Since then, the actress appeared on screen only intermittently. In 1991, Eden was signed to a five-episode guest-starring role on “Dallas” (CBS, 1978-1991), reuniting her with Hagman. In 1998, it was reported that Eden would make a cameo as Jeannie’s aunt in a feature remake of “I Dream of Jeannie” starring Alicia Silverstone. Though the film was never produced, Eden got to play a similar role in 2002 as Sabrina’s Great Aunt Irma on the hit comedy series, “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” (ABC, 1996-2003).

The above TCM Overview can also be accessed online here.

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Nancy Malone

Nancy Malone
Nancy Malone

 

“New York Times” obituary from 2014.

Nancy Malone, a child model in the 1940s who became a successful actress as an adult before moving to the other side of the camera as a television producer and director at a time when few women in Hollywood held those positions, died on May 8 in Duarte, Calif. She was 79.   The cause was pneumonia, a complication of leukemia, her publicist, Harlan Boll, said. A resident of Toluca Lake, Ms. Malone had been hospitalized nearby in Duarte, both in Los Angeles County.   “She did it all, but she had to fight for it all — all the way,” the actress Tyne Daly, a longtime friend, said in an interview on Thursday.

Ms. Malone was 11 when she appeared on the cover of Life magazine’s 10th-anniversary issue in November 1946, an anonymous girl-next-door in pigtails. At 17, she was praised for her role on Broadway in “Time Out for Ginger,” playing a girl who wants to try out for a football team. By the mid-1950s she was immersed in a two-decade run of appearances on television, including episodes of “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” “Route 66,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Partridge Family.”   At one point she juggled the role of Robin on the soap opera “The Guiding Light” with another on the police drama “Naked City,” in which she played Libby, an aspiring actress whose boyfriend was a detective. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actress for that role, but she wanted more complicated parts.

“I watch the show regularly when it’s on the air, and I’m terribly dissatisfied with what I’m doing,” she said of “Naked City” in an interview with The New York Times in 1962. “I seem to repeat myself; it seems to be in the same area all the time. I’ve told the producers how I feel, but I realize that there isn’t very much they can do. It is, after all, a show about detectives, and I’m not one of the detectives.”

By the early 1970s, even as her acting career was thriving, she had grown more frustrated by its limitations.   “I just can’t wrap my mouth around ‘How do you want your coffee, darling?’ once more,” she told Tom Moore, then the president of ABC, according to the 2002 book “Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed Hollywood,” by Mollie Gregory.   Mr. Moore, who was starting his own production company, Tomorrow Entertainment, invited her to join it, and she eventually did. Within a few years she had formed a company of her own, Lilac Productions, and begun producing television movies, including “Winner Take All,” starring Shirley Jones as a woman with a gambling addiction. By 1975 she had moved to 20th Century Fox, where she became its first female vice president, helping oversee new television shows. By the end of the decade she had moved again — into directing.   As was the case with her acting career, her projects as a director ranged widely over the next two decades. They included episodes of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place” and “Dynasty.”She shared a producing Emmy in 1993 for the special “Bob Hope: The First 90 Years” with Don Mischer and Hope’s daughter Linda, a longtime friend.

She was born Nancy Josefa Maloney on March 19, 1935, in Queens. She began acting professionally at about 10, appearing on radio and television, and became so busy that she left a Roman Catholic school she was attending to enroll at Professional Children’s School, which allowed her to do schoolwork on a schedule that accommodated her career.

In a review of “Time Out for Ginger,” staged when Ms. Malone was 17, Brooks Atkinson of The Times wrote that her performance “becomes more sensitive as the evening progresses and finishes as something shyly triumphant.”

No immediate family members survive. In the early 1970s Ms. Malone helped found Women in Film, a support and advocacy group. In 1977, she was among the first to receive the organization’s Crystal Award, for increasing opportunities for women in the entertainment industry.

In the 1980s Ms. Malone was one of the directors of “Cagney & Lacey,” the long-running series about two female detectives that starred Ms. Daly and Sharon Gless. When Ms. Daly was later cast on “Judging Amy,” she suggested to a producer that he hire Ms. Malone as a director.   “He said, ‘Oh, not in the first season,’ ” Ms. Daly recalled on Thursday. “That translates to ‘the men have to establish what the thing is before letting the women get involved.’ ”

The above “New York Times” obituary  can also be accessed online here.

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John Neville

 

 

John Neville
John Neville

 

“Guardian” obituary by Michael Coveney:

John Neville, who has died aged 86, was a leading light of the Old Vic, the charismatic artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse in the early 1960s and, after emigrating to Canada in 1972, a renowned leader of that country’s theatre, notably at Stratford, Ontario. Tall, handsome and authoritative on the stage, and best known today, perhaps, for his sinister role as the Well-Manicured Man in The X-Files on television – was he on the side of good or evil? – he was often thought of as the natural successor to John Gielgud.

He found huge matinee-idol success early on, in the Gielgud roles of Hamlet and Richard II, though his patrician veneer and noble bearing could be easily discarded, as he showed to devastating effect in 1963, when he played Bill Naughton’s Alfie at the Mermaid theatre, the role that became Michael Caine’s calling card on film. This performance, in which Neville graduated from juvenile lead to juvenile leading delinquent – a totem of the swinging 60s, in pursuit of “money and birds” – was described by the critic Harold Hobson as the highlight of his career; and he had already alternated as Othello and Iago with Richard Burton at the Old Vic (though Kenneth Tynan said that both actors were “born Cassios”), and played an acclaimed Hamlet opposite Judi Dench (making her professional debut) as Ophelia.   But the comic side of his talent never really bloomed – not, at least, until he resuscitated his career as the star of Terry Gilliam’s film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in 1988 – and even his classical credits at the Old Vic, where he acted from 1954 to 1957, were often seen in inadequate, old-fashioned productions. Tynan made that point to continue his campaign for a fully subsidised National Theatre, and was fairly picky anyway, in 1955, about Neville’s talent: “As Henry V, he gave a compelling version of Richard II; now, as Chorus [in Henry V] he is giving a princely and effusive performance of Henry V, old-style. How the plumbing stands out on his neck! And how romantically he snatches each word from the air!”  The new Nottingham Playhouse opened in 1963 under the triumvirate of Neville, Frank Dunlop and Peter Ustinov, though Neville soon assumed sole charge. The opening production was Coriolanus, directed by Tyrone Guthrie, with Neville in the title role and Ian McKellen as his ultimate opponent Aufidius, “this boy of tears”. It was a huge success, a beacon in the National’s regional theatre, to which Neville was utterly devoted. He stayed for five years. When he returned there in 1999, to give his final performance in Britain, in Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, he regretted that the old system of plays in repertory had vanished and that his beloved Pringle’s Picture Palace, the first home of the Nottingham Playhouse, where he played Macbeth, was now a Firkin pub

 

The son of a lorry driver, Neville was born in Willesden, north-west London, and educated at Chiswick and Willesden county schools. He worked as a stores clerk before being called up to serve as signalman in the Royal Navy in 1942. He trained for the stage at Rada, making his debut as a walk-on in Alec Guinness’s Richard II at the New theatre (now the Noël Coward) in 1947. He played Lysander at the Open Air, Regent’s Park, in 1948, then spent three years at the Bristol Old Vic (1950-53), embarking on his astonishing roster of leading classical roles: Gregers Werle in Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, Marlow in Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, Dunois in Shaw’s Saint Joan, the Duke in Measure for Measure …   The progress continued at the Old Vic, where he and Burton attracted rival crowds of fans at the stage door, stretching along the Waterloo Road, at every performance: Fortinbras, Bertram in All’s Well, Ferdinand (with Burton as a grotesque Caliban) in The Tempest, Troilus, Romeo (which he played on Broadway in 1956) and a riotous Pistol in Henry IV, which even Tynan raved about. After Alfie and his golden period at Nottingham, it is hard not to see the rest of his career as something of a retread and a withdrawal. He did some television, but nothing major except for Robert Browning in a TV film of The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1961) and Marlborough in a 1969 BBC2 serial, The First Churchills.   He resigned from Nottingham when the Arts Council froze the grant for a second year in succession (“they are penalising us for our success,” he complained) and he signed off with Shaw’s King Magnus in The Apple Cart at the Mermaid in 1970, and at the Chichester Festival theatre in 1972 as both Macheath in The Beggar’s Opera and Sir Colenso Ridgeon in Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma, contrasting studies in roguishness and respectability.

 

He had married Caroline Hooper in 1949, and they had six children; in 1973 they all embarked to Canada, where eventually Neville took citizenship. Over the next 16 years he was artistic director at the Citadel in Edmonton, Alberta (1973-78), the Neptune theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1978-83), and the Festival theatre, Stratford, Ontario, (1985-89), where he eased a £3m deficit with a populist programme.  The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, in which he played the legendary liar to something like perfection, led to much more television work and a string of movies, though none of them notable. He never regretted having once rejected a seven-year Hollywood contract, and he loved the “can-do” mentality of the Canadian theatre: “One is supposed to stage things not to guarantee good box office,” he said, “but to challenge the audience.”

There was a surprise return to Britain in the 1990s with three major performances, but none of them really restored the old magic suggested by his reputation, and it was hard to see what the fuss was once all about. In Peter Wood’s revival of Sheridan’s The School for Scandal at the National in 1990, he was sourly affable as Sir Peter Teazle, hardly the inflammable cuckold you would expect in the role. Looking back, the eye was taken more by the pristine presentation of the piece, and the young turks in the cast: Jeremy Northam, Hugh Bonneville, Guy Henry and Tom Hollander. Jack Tinker described Neville’s Sir Peter as “a sad old hawk perpetually disappointed in its prey”.   There was something underpowered, too, about his defiant Captain in Strindberg’s Dance of Death at the Almeida theatre, Islington, in 1995, though his playing opposite Gemma Jones was highly skilled. Michael Billington went further, claiming that Neville fully conveyed the terror of existential emptiness in his performance of an “absurd martinet on the verge of decay”.

He was reunited with his old Nottingham colleague, Peter Ustinov, in a revival of Ustinov’s flabby 1983 piece about a time-travelling musical genius, Beethoven’s Tenth, at the Chichester Festival in 1996. Neville played the know-all, urbane critic who answers the door to the rat-a-tat-tat of the opening bars of the Fifth Symphony. “You are a great man, and I am merely important,” he told Ustinov, but both assessments could have been justly applied to himself.   He was appointed OBE in 1965 and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2006. Neville had suffered lately with Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his wife, their three sons, three daughters, and six grandchildren.

John Neville, actor and director, born 2 May 1925; died 19 November 2011

The above “Guardian” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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Brad Harris

Brad Harris
Brad Harris

 

“Wikipedia” entry:

Brad Harris (born July 16, 1933) is an American actor, stuntman, and executive producer. He appeared in a variety of roles in over 50 films, mostly in European productions. He is a member of the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame.  Born in St. Anthony, Idaho, his family moved to California where he attended Burbank High School,[1] then received an athletic scholarship to UCLA where he studied economics. When he injured his knee playing football he was advised to take up weightlifting to strengthen the injury that developed his interest in bodybuilding.[2]   Harris entered films as a stand-in, stuntman, and later an actor. His first roles were in André de Toth‘s Monkey on My Back and Li’l Abner. With his athletic physique, Harris travelled to Rome to watch the 1960 Summer Olympics and perform stunts in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus. He stayed in Europe for the boom in European sword and sandal, Eurospy, and spaghetti western genres.[3] Harris discovered, when working in Germany, that stunt coordinators were nonexistent in that country and he often did extra duties as a stuntman, stunt coordinator, and second unit director as well as an actor.

Harris made his debut as a leading man in 1961 in the title role of Gianfranco Parolini‘s Goliath Against the Giants and Samson. He would have a long, continuing relationship in several films written and directed by Parolini. Harris also began to be teamed with Tony Kendall starting with the Western Black Eagle of Santa Fe, and he later married his co-star in that film, Czech actress Olga Schoberová. They were married on November 16, 1967 and divorced in 1969. They had a daughter named Babrinka (Sabrina).   Harris teamed again with Kendall and Parolini in the Kommissar X series,[4] and The Three Fantastic Supermen/I Fantastici Tre Supermen (1967) series.   He also served as executive producer on several of his films including King of Kong Island (which he also starred in) and Jack Cardiff‘s The Mutations. He later made seven appearances on the American soap opera Falcon Crest as “Deputy Duffy”. His most recent film was the Andrea Zaccariello‘s comedy Boom, released in 1999,

Harris invented and markets exercise products called “AB-OrigOnals.” He owns a company called Modern Body Design. In 2015 he was awarded the University of Arizona College of Humanities’ Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in the Humanities.[5]

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Keith Buckley

Keith Buckley
Keith Buckley

Keith Buckley (born 7 April 1941 in Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England) is a British actor who has mostly appeared on television and films since 1958. Showed his talent for acting in school plays at Huddersfield College Grammar School. Buckley has made many appearances in film and television appearing in The Avengers and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) in the 1960s and The New Avengers in the 1970s.

 

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Actor Biographies & Autobiographies

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Elisha Cook Jnr

Elisha Cook Jnr
Elisha Cook Jnr

 

“Independent” obituary by Tom Vallance from 1995:

One of the finest and most familiar of screen character actors, the short and shifty-eyed Elisha Cook Jnr was the eternal loser.He could play anything, from farce (riddled with bullets in Hellzappoppin’, he drinks a glass of water which spurts through a dozen holes) to tragedy (as the luckless homesteader gunned down by Jack Palance in Shane – one of his rare good guy roles), but his memory will be treasured most for his gallery of petty hoodlums whose aspirations and bravado rarely equalled their abilities. ”Keep on riding me,” he tells Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, ”and they’re gonna be picking iron out of your liver”, but his quavering voice and outsize overcoat make the threat derisory.

Born in San Francisco in 1906, Cook studied at the Chicago Academy of Dramatic Art before making his stage debut in vaudeville at 14. Joining the Theatre Guild, he appeared on the Broadway stage with Ethel Barrymore, and came to London in Coquette (1929). After an isolated film role in The Unborn Child (1929), repeating the romantic lead he had on stage, he returned to the theatre until 1936, when he settled in Hollywood.

Roles ranged from a brainy collegiate in Pigskin Parade (1936) to an ingenuous song-writer in Tin Pan Alley (1940), but it is to the genre of film noir that he made his most memorable contributions. In Boris Ingster’s The Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) which, with its moody lighting is often credited as the first true film noir, Cook was an innocent taxi- driver convicted of murder. He followed this with perhaps his best known role as Wilmer, Sydney Greenstreet’s twitchy henchman, in Huston’s classic The Maltese Falcon (1940).

Often vulnerable to and exploited by women, he had a lethal passion for Carole Landis in I Wake Up Screaming (1941), was a disc jockey who kills for love of the venal Jane Greer in The Falcon’s Alibi (1945) and a small- time hoodlum who dies to protect Sonia Darrin in The Big Sleep (1946), a role which gave him some rare, if pathetic, integrity. After he has witnessed Bogart being beaten up and Bogart asks why he did not come to his aid, he replies, ”Listen, when a guy’s doing a job, I don’t kibbitz.” (The line, cited by Cook as his favourite piece of dialogue, was written by the director Howard Hawks.)

Robert Siodmak’s Phantom Lady (1944) includes one of the most famous sequences in cinema history in which Cook, as the trap-drummer Cliff March, works himself to an orgiastic frenzy drumming in a jazz-club while sensuously encouraged by Ella Raines garbed in clinging black silk. It is both a prime example of how film-makers would circumvent the Production Code and a quintessential piece of noir cinema, its extreme angles, harsh lighting and staccato editing influenced by German Expressionism. In Kubrick’s The Killing (1956), Cook and the splendid Marie Windsor give the most indelible performances of a fine cast as the passive race-track cashier involved in a doomed caper, and his disdainful wife. Rising to her baiting, Cook tells Windsor that he is going to get half a million dollars. “Of course you are darling,” she replies. ”Did you put the right address on the envelope when you sent it to the North Pole?”

Andre DeToth’s Dark Waters (1944), in which Cook perishes in quicksand, Robert Wise’s Born to Kill (1947), in which he dies amid sand dunes, and Jules Dassin’s under-rated Two Smart People (1946), where he meets a macabre death during a Mardi Gras, were among other noirs where he was the perennial loser. Even when well-meaning, as in Roy Baker’s Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), he gets bashed with an ash-tray after arranging a baby-sitting job for his neurotic niece (Marilyn Monroe).

Cook later did a lot of work in television, including a continuing role as a crime baron in Magnum P.I.; and he was still making films until his eighties. In a 54 year career, Elisha Cook Jnr was always a welcome presence on the screen.

Tom Vallance

Elisha Cook Jnr, actor: born San Francisco 26 December 1906; died Big Pine, California 18 May 1995.

The above “Independent” obituary can also be accessed online here.

TCM Overview:

Diminutive, wiry character player memorable for his numerous roles as cowardly villians and neurotics. Originally from vaudeville and the Broadway stage, Cook, who briefly entered films in 1929 before returning to the stage, made a strong impression with his definitive sniveling gunsel in “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), and followed with similar roles as weaklings or sadistic loser-hoods: Harry Jones in “The Big Sleep” (1946) and George Peatty in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” (1956) over a more than sixty-year care