An ongoing list of film folk who have passed away in 2015 can be located here
Luise Rainer, the oldest living Oscar winner, has died aged 104.
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in consecutive years , the first actress to achieve that feat, and only since equalled by Katharine Hepburn.
Her first Oscar came for her performance as Anna Held in ‘The Great Ziegfeld’ (1936).
In the film she played the wife of William Powell’s Florenz Ziegfeld Jnr – the famed American Broadway impresario. It was a huge success for MGM in the 1930s and contained a stellar supporting cast of Myrna Loy, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Nat Pendleton and Reginald Owen. She was the only cast member to receive an Oscar nomination. The film won the Best Picture award.
In her acceptance speech before newsreel cameras she simply said: ‘Thank you very much, I’m very happy that I got it’
The following year she won again in the same category, as O-Lan the Chinese peasant farmer’s wife who struggles with her husband (Paul Muni) through drought and famine in ‘The Good Earth’ (1937). Again she was the only cast member to receive an Oscar nomination. The statuette was later used as a door stop, and bent, she gave it to removalists who helped her moved from Switzerland to London. The Academy later presented her with a replacement.
Her failure to rise to any stardom again, let alone another Oscar nomination, began what many called the ‘Oscar curse’. Those who careers never hit the high points after winning an Oscar. Her film career all but ended after, amongst many things, becoming disenchanted with the roles offered to her, along with personal decisions she made in her life. However she did continue to act on stage and television.
Despite only making one film in 54 years (‘The Gambler’ in 1997) , The Academy continued to embraces her for its heritage.
At the 70th and 75th Academy Award ceremonies, she appeared on stage with previous acting recipients in a retrospective tribute.
But her return to Hollywood on that night opened old wounds. “I resented myself very much; there were many things that I should have done. I feel it today, at nearly 100 years old: God, or whoever it is, gave so much into my cradle and I have not lived up to it.” she told a journalist shortly after.
Upon her death she was the last surviving Oscar winner from the 1930s.
Rosella Towne, the actress who appeared in numerous Warner Bros films opposite Ronald Reagan, has died aged 96 on August 29th 2014.
Her death was confirmed to me by her son, Anthony, via email:
“A message was forwarded to me from the Whitney Center in Hamden, Connecticut, where my mother Rosella Townsend (Kronman) resided until her death at the end of August of this year. She was 96, and had had a happy and healthy life. Thanks for your inquiry”
Rosella appeared opposite the future President of the United States in films such as Sergeant Murphy (1938), Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938), Secret Service of the Air (1939), Code of the Secret Service (1939).
Her most famous role is that of Jane Arden, in the 1939 Warner Bros film The Adventures of Jane Arden, where she investigates the smuggling of jewels.
The character of Jane Arden, a reporter seeking to expose criminal activity, was created by writer Monte Barrett and artist Frank Ellis for the Register and Tribune Syndicate. It became an international syndicated comic strip from 1927 to 1968.
In 1942 Rosella married Harry Kronman, a screenwriter who would pen episodes of The Rifleman (1959-1961), The Untouchables (1960-1963), The Fugitive (1963-1967), The Virginian (1963-1970) and Gunsmoke (1965-1973).
She retired from acting upon her marriage to Harry.
She is survived by two sons, Anthony and Michael, five grandchildren, Matthew, Cole, Emma, Hope and Alexander, and two great grandchildren, Sabine and Eleni.
– Rhett Bartlett
Arthur Gardner, the last surviving cast member of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (1930), has died aged 104.
His death was announced by son, Steven, who advised the Los Angeles Times.
In the Best Picture winning film he played, uncredited, a student (highlighted in the photo).
Mr Gardner’s acting career had began the year earlier in a series of two-reelers showcasing life in College, ‘The Rivals’ and ‘Cross Country Run’. The majority of his 22 known film roles were uncredited, although he did play the lead role, that of journalist Art Brighton, in the exploitation film about cannabis use – ‘Assassin of Youth’.
In 1939 he played opposite Ward Bond and Dennis Morgan in ‘Waterfront’, a 1939 Warner Brothers film about a dockland worker who tries to avenge the death of his brother.
After his acting career, Arthur Gardner became a successful producer. The production company of Levy-Gardner-Laven produced the Western series ‘The Rifleman’ (1958-1963), and ‘The Big Valley’ (1965-1969).
Gardner himself produced John Wayne’s crime drama ‘McQ’ (1974), the thriller ‘Brannigan’ (1975), as well as the prisoner of war film ‘The McKenzie Break’ (1970).
He was profiled in 2012 by the Los Angeles Times, where he was recognised as the oldest living voting member of the Oscars.
– by Rhett Bartlett.
J. E. Freeman – who portrayed hired mobster Marcello Santos in David Lynch’s crime thriller Wild at Heart (1990), and was the henchman Eddie Dane in the Coen Brothers gangster film Miller’s Crossing (1990), has died aged 68.
His death, in the evening of August 9th 2014, was confirmed to me by his agent Christopher Black.
As per Mr Freeman’s wishes, no memorial or official announcement of his passing was to be made at that time.
‘He was an extraordinary actor and person and I count myself fortunate to have known and represented him’, his agent told me in an email on November 3 2014.
J. E. Freeman also appeared in Alien: Resurrection (1997), the fourth instalment of the Alien film series.
He was Dr Mason Wren, the head of the scientific team that successfully clones Ellen Ripley.
In the black comedy Ruthless People (1986), he is the local serial killer ‘The Bedroom Killer’ whose death occurs after he falls down the basement stairs.
He also appeared in Patriot Games (1992) , Copycat (1995), and played Victor Snr, the owner of the strip club in Go (1999).
The cause of his passing was not disclosed.
– by Rhett Bartlett.