End Credits #6: Cinema's 2012 Lost Treasures Richard Dawson, Jonathan Frid, Michael Clarke Duncan, Alex Karras, Celeste Holm
Character and Supporting Actors Lost to Us in 2012 Part 2
There are a large number of films with important contributions from often overlooked supporting and character actors, some of whom were sadly lost to us in 2012.
Aside from some early television appearances Richard Dawson who died on June 2, 2012 at age 79 was in some prominent war films starting with The Longest Day (1962) continuing with King Rat as Weaver (1965) and The Devil's Brigade (1968). It was in 1965-1971's hit TV series Hogan's Heroes in which he enjoyed his most famous role as Corporal Peter Newkirk. Later in his career another TV series which he hosted, Family Feud (1978-1985) cemented his notoriety. He cleverly riffed on his game show host persona by appearing in The Running Man (1987) as Damon Killian (pictured) which was his last theatrical motion picture appearance.
Another actor known almost exclusively for his appearance on television (in this case Dark Shadows (1967-1971)) was actor Jonathan Frid who passed away April 14, 2012 at age 87. He even appeared as the vampire Barnabas Collins in a movie which ran concurrently with the above mentioned series called House of Dark Shadows (1970), directed by the TV show's executive producer Dan Curtis. Frid had attended London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Under the direction of John Houseman, he performed with Katharine Hepburn in Much Ado About Nothing for the American Shakespeare Festival and appeared in major roles on-and-off Broadway. He also starred in Oliver Stone's feature length directorial debut: The little known horror film The Seizure (1974). Frid enjoyed a supporting role in The Devil's Daughter a TV movie as Mr. Howard (1978), and made a cameo appearance as a guest (pictured) in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012).
After appearing in Armageddon (1998), the film's star Bruce Willis strongly recommended his supporting actor Michael Clarke Duncan for a far more substantial part as John Coffey (pictured) in The Green Mile (1999). This would turn out to be the actor's breakthrough role. He was nominated for a best supporting actor Academy Award. He appeared as a bouncer in two other films released in 1998, Bulworth and A Night at the Roxbury and as a bodyguard in the same year's The Players Club, suggesting he might have been further typecast if not for Willis' support. The contrast between the Coffey role, and the following year's Franklin 'Frankie Figs' Figueroa in The Whole Nine Yards (with Willis again) couldn't be greater, allowing Duncan to demonstrate his amazing range of talent. Duncan would go on to lend his distinctive vocal support to various video games and animated films, as well as appearing as Attar in Tim Burton's re-make of Planet of the Apes (2001) and Balthazar in The Scorpion King (2002). Other notable projects to which he lent his valuable support include Sin City (2005) as Manute, the voice of Atlas in The God of War II Video Game (an incredible "movie like" game series) and the Saints Row video games as Benjamin King in 2006 plus a sequel released in 2013. It's sad that his final appearance as Duane in The Challenger has yet to be released. Duncan died far too young at age 54 on September 3, 2012.
In 1968 Alex Karras made his film debut playing himself in Paper Lion a little movie gem about real life sports journalist George Plimpton (portrayed by Alan Alda) who finds The Detroit Lions are willing to let him find out what it's like to be a quarterback on a professional football team. Karras was a defensive lineman at the time and showed a natural acting talent. Also making an appearance as himself in the film was Frank Gifford whom Karras would join along with Howard Cosell to form perhaps the most charismatic sportscasting trio ever for 41 episodes of the TV Series NFL Monday Night Football (1974-1976). Karras' most memorable film role by far was as Mongo (pictured) in Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles (1974) a truly inspired bit of casting not to mention performance. Karras appeared in various other television and movie roles, notably as Hans Brumbaugh in Centennial a TV Mini-Series (1978-1979), as 'Squash' Bernstein in 1982's Victor Victoria and as Hank Sully in Against All Odds (1984). His most widespread recognition came as George Papadapolis in the hit TV series Webster (1983-1989). His last film role was as a TV sportscaster in 1998's Buffalo '66. Karras died on October 10, 2012 age 77.
Her debut film was 1946's Three Little Girls in Blue but it took only 1 more year for Celeste Holm to win a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance as Anne Dettrey in Gentleman's Agreement. Holm graced some other excellent motion pictures such as Road House, The Snake Pit (both 1948), and A Letter To Three Wives (1949) as Addie Ross (voice only) whose letter announces that she has run off with one of the three wive's husbands. Previous to being signed by 20th Century Fox for all of the aforementioned films she made a strong stage presence in plays such as Oklahoma! and The Women. It was in 1950 she made probably her most famous film appearance again for Fox in All About Eve as Karen (pictured). She went on to make many TV appearances before playing Liz Imbrie in 1956's High Society. Holm would go on to appear in numerous other TV series such as Falcon Crest (1987) and played the same character Hattie Green in both Touched by an Angel (1996-1998) and Promised Land (1996-1999). She worked right up until her death at age 95 on July 15, 2012, appearing in 2012's film Driving Me Crazy and the just completed motion picture College Debts.
Next time: 5 more important actors lost to us in Part 3