End Credits #70: Cinema's 2017 Lost Treasures Sam Shepard, Jeanne Moreau, John Heard, Martin Landau, George A. Romero
These are some of Cinema's sad departures of 2017 taken from my personal notes soon after the events took place:
Still another profound loss to the world of cinema, not to mention theatre and literature: Sam Shepard has died at only 73 years of age. He spent his early professional years in New York writing plays and winning OBIE (Off-Broadway, Best Distinguished Play) awards (his first of many in 1966 alone for Chicago, Icarus's Mother, and Red Cross). By age 30, he had written 30 produced plays in the big apple. Among Shepard's other theatrical writing accomplishments were the 1979 Pulitzer Prize winning Buried Child (also a Tony-nominated 1996 production) and the nominated Pulitzer Prize Dramas True West (1983, and a 2000 Tony-nominated play) and Fool for Love (1984). His motion picture career began with his written collaborative work on Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (1970) and Bob Dylan's epic amalgamation of filmic styles Renaldo and Clara (1978), the latter in which Shepard appeared as an actor. Also in 1978, he notably portrayed "The Farmer" in Terrence Malick's critically acclaimed Days of Heaven. Shepard gave impressive performances in Resurrection (1980), Raggedy Man (1981), and Frances (1982) before garnering one of his most publicly identifiable, and critically acclaimed roles as Chuck Yeager in 1983's The Right Stuff, for which he was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The following year Shepard, along with L.M. Kit Carson, collaborated on the screenplay for Wim Wenders' cult favourite Paris Texas (1984). Other notable writing efforts included Robert Altman's Fool for Love (1985, taken from Shepard's play), Far North (1988, one of two films he also directed), Silent Tongue (1993, Shepard's other directorial effort), True West (2002, a TV movie taken from his play), Don't Come Knocking (2005, another for director Wim Wenders), and Buried Child (2016, also a play adaptation). Besides the acting credits previously mentioned, Shepard's indelible performances graced the films Country (1984), Fool for Love (1985), Crimes of the Heart (1986), Steel Magnolias (1989), The Pelican Brief (1993), Hamlet (2000), All the Pretty Horses (2000), The Pledge (2001), Black Hawk Down (2001), The Notebook (2004), Don't Come Knocking (2005), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Mud (2012), and August: Osage County (2013), amongst others. Sam Shepard (November 5, 1943 - July 27, 2017) R.I.P.
Sadly, the iconic French actress Jeanne Moreau has died at age 89. The great director Louis Malle gave Moreau her first major cinematic role in 1958's Elevator to the Gallows but she was already a widely recognised stage actress, and had appeared in numerous "B" films by that time. Malle also cast her in his follow-up film, The Lovers (1958), a bold display of feminine independence and infidelity, but lyrical, sincere and heartfelt, immensely aided by Moreau's natural performance. She worked with the best of world class directors besides Louis Malle, including Jacques Becker (Touchez Pas au Grisbi 1954), Michelangelo Antonioni (La Notte 1961, Beyond the Clouds 1995), Jean-Luc Godard (A Woman is a Woman 1961), Orson Welles (The Trial 1962, The Immortal Story 1968), Joseph Losey (Eva 1962), Luis Bunuel (Diary of a Chambermaid 1964), Elia Kazan (The Last Tycoon 1976), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Querelle 1982), Wim Wenders (Until the End of the World 1991), and perhaps most famously for Francois Truffaut (Jules and Jim 1962, The Bride Wore Black 1968). She additionally lent her pronounced sincerity to Louis Malle's masterpiece Le Feu Follet (The Fire Within 1962), and provided gravitas to John Frankenheimer's The Train (1964), Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight a.k.a. Falstaff (1965), and Joseph Losey's Mr. Klein (1976). Moreau was also an accomplished filmmaker having written and directed Lumiere (1976), The Adolescent (L'adolescente 1979), directing the 1983 documentary Lillian Gish, (whereby she interviewed the famous actress herself), and writing 2003's The Birch-Tree Meadow (La petite prairie aux bouleaux) about a French holocaust survivor who returns to Auschwitz to confront her past. She was also head of the jury at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival and presided over the 1995 Cannes Film Festival jury. Jeanne Moreau (January 23, 1928 - July 31, 2017) R.I.P.
Sadly, we must say farewell to the talented actor John Heard, who passed away at the age of only 72. His performances were typically distinguishable by their thoughtful, inquisitive nature whether they were in box office hits (he played the father in the Home Alone movies) or smaller, obscure favourites such as Between the Lines (1977), Chilly Scenes of Winter (a.k.a. Head Over Heels 1979), or Heart Beat (1981). Also in 1981 he starred alongside Jeff Bridges in perhaps his most distinguished outing, that of a wounded Vietnam veteran in the lauded art-house film Cutter’s Way (a.k.a. Cutter and Bone). He went on to enhance both notable, and some not so critically acclaimed films, including The Trip to Bountiful (1985), Cat People (1982), After Hours (1985), Big (1988), Awakenings (1990), and In the Line of Fire (1993). Although stardom alluded him, his presence in a motion picture or TV series (especially his first season Emmy nominated role as The Sopranos’ corrupt police detective) always made a significant contribution. He will be sorely missed. John Heard (March 7, 1945 - July 21, 2017) R.I.P.
News has just come in regarding the extremely sad passing of Martin Landau, one of Hollywood's greatest actors. He was 89. Landau was one of 2000 applicants who auditioned for Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio in 1955: Only he and one other were accepted, (Steve McQueen). His proficient stage capability became known after he replaced star Franchot Tone in the 1956 off-Broadway revival of Anton Chekov's Uncle Vanya. His television career began with appearances in Maverick, Lawman, and Rawhide, amongst others, before making his impressive film debut in Pork Chop Hill (1959). Immediately following, he brought to life a most memorable villain, Leonard, in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959)... a part, years later I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to this very gracious gentleman about. His distinctive, menacing gaze in Hitchcock's masterpiece burned through the screen and was all it took to realise his character's monstrous capability. More television appearances followed including Playhouse 90, The Rifleman, and The Untouchables, before another most effective performance as Rufio in the motion picture Cleopatra (1963). Other notable television roles included two The Twilight Zone episodes, Mister Denton on Doomsday (1959) and The Jeopardy Room (1963), and two The Outer Limits shows: The Man Who Was Never Born (1963) and The Bellero Shield (1964). Landau also performed in an Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Second Verdict (1964). Supporting film roles followed in The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Hallelujah Trail, and Nevada Smith, before enlivening two of his most famous recurring roles, as Rollin Hand in the TV series Mission Impossible (1966 -1969), and Commander John Koenig in Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977). His career had a late resurgence when Francis Ford Coppola cast him in an important supporting role in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) for which Landau was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. Next year he gave one of the most heartfelt, emotionally deepest performances ever witnessed, in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). In the following decade he won an Academy Award Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's highly accomplished Ed Wood (1994). Landau made subsequent strong impressions in films such as City Hall, The Adventures of Pinocchio, The X Files, Rounders, Edtv, The Majestic, Entourage, (as Bob Ryan, a character he played on the TV series) and Remember. He worked right up to his death, as there were several films planned with his participation. A huge devastating loss: Martin Landau (June 20, 1928 - July 16, 2017) R.I.P.
Ground breaking filmmaker George A. Romero has died at age 77. His debut feature-length film, Night of the Living Dead (1968), extremely low budgeted, shot in black and white, became one of the most virtuoso horror films of all time, launching the modern-day zombie sub-genre still thriving to this day. Not as well known were some of his films that followed including There's Always Vanilla (1971), Season of the Witch (1972), The Crazies (1973), and Martin (1978), although these films carried his signature social commentary as well. In 1978, Romero would exceed his original debut film's notoriety and financial success with Dawn of the Dead. Shot in a Pennsylvania Mall during late-night hours, Romero, working alongside the incredible make-up and effects artist Tom Savini, made another all-time horror classic with highly relevant social implications. The film Knightriders (1981) with Ed Harris followed, and then what was perhaps Romero's most commercial production, Creepshow (1982), adapted from a work by famed literary giant Stephen King. Day of the Dead (1985) was his next "Dead" film but it was not the critical or financial success hoped for. In 1990 Romero wrote, and Savini directed, a remake of the original Night of the Living Dead. Following The Dark Half (1993) and Bruiser (2000), Romero, with major-studio distribution, returned to his most famous series with Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (his last film as a director in 2009). George A. Romero, a horror icon, gone forever (February 4, 1940 - July 16, 2017) R.I.P.