Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 22 December 2014

RIP, continued ....

A last batch of the year? 2 popular actresses, a singer, 2 musicians, a photographer, and 2 Sixties Scandal-makers - and 1 more: actor and comedy writer, and a cinema legend ! 

Billie Whitelaw (1932-2014). Acclaimed British actress Billie Whitelaw, famous for her roles on stage and screen, has died at the age of 82. The Coventry-born star, who was made a CBE in 1991, worked in close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, who described her as a perfect actress. As I said on IMDB: 
I am really sad to hear of the death of actress Billie Whitelaw. Billie seemed to have been rather neglected in recent years, or maybe she was just retired. She will probably be best known now for her role as the demonic nanny in THE OMEN in 1976 (pushing Lee Remick out the window and sinking her teeth into Gregory Peck's leg...), but she was one of England's premier actresses, starting out in comedy films like MAKE MINE MINK in 1960, thrillers like 1960's HELL IS A CITY and PAYROLL in 1961 and Hammer films like THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS. Among her odder films was Boorman's LEO THE LAST opposite Marcello Mastroianni in 1970. 
I saw her on the stage several times and literally bumped into her exiting from Sloane Square Station in Chelsea, when she was appearing at the nearby Royal Court Theatre in 1973. She specialised in Samuel Beckett plays, most famously in NOT I, which I saw at the time, where all we see of her is her mouth reciting the 15 minute play, on a black stage, it was a totally fantastic unforgettable production. I had been meaning to write on it.
She is one English actress (like Kathleen Byron) who deserved more recognition. She and Maggie Smith alternated the role of Desdemona in Olivier's acclaimed OTHELLO at the Old Vic in the mid-60s, though it was Smith who appeared in the film version. Billie was also effective in Albert Finney's 1967 CHARLEY BUBBLES and GUMSHOE. She was also a very attractive woman who had a great career on film, stage and television. 
She would actually have been a marvellous McGonagall in the HARRY POTTER films (I can just picture her in that pointed hat), better even than Dame Maggie, but it seems her career wound down in the last decade or so as those other dames went from strength to strength . RIP indeed.
The obituary in today's "Daily Telegaph" calls her "one of the most intelligent and versatile actresses of her generation. She came to prominence in the post-war fashion for social realism, though she made her name in the surrealistic drama of Samuel Beckett, for whom she was the “perfect actress”. 
Yet the bulk of Billie Whitelaw’s time in later years was spent with family and in charitable endeavours. In spare moments she would tend her garden in Suffolk, often digging with her bare hands. “I’m not really interested in acting any more”, she confessed. “I always thought it was a bit of a flibbertigibbety occupation.”

Virna Lisi (1936-1978), aged 78. Glamorous Italian actress who maintained her looks and kept working, she appeared in some American films in the 1960s: HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE with Jack Lemmon was popular, and lesser films with Sinatra, Curtis and the like. Like Loren, she returned to Italy and continued her career, winning great acclaim for her Catherine de Medici in QUEEN MARGOT in 1994. I also liked her as one of the 4 stars of LE BAMBOLE in 1964. Perhaps in the hierarchy of Italian actresses she followed on from Magnani, Valli, Mangano, Lollobrigida, Loren, Vitti and Cardinale .... 
Joe Cocker (1944-2014), aged 70. Another legendary hardman of rock departs too soon, we loved his rock and roll circus MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN with Leon Russell, which toured in the early 70s,and made a fun movie. He also performed at Woodstock in '69. Joe was a gas-fitter from Sheffield, his gritty vocals of course like on his version of The Beatles "With a Little Help From My Friends" and that "You Are So Beautiful" will endure. He was still touring this year and performed in London in June. Like those other guys Jack Bruce and Ian McLagan who died recently (see above and RIP label) they crammed a lot into their three score years and ten! He was also, like Jack Bruce and Stevie Winwood, one of the great rock voices.

Ian McLagan (1945-2014), aged 69. His distinctive and evocative playing on the Hammond B3 organ and Wurlitzer piano – much influenced, as he admitted, by the R&B veteran Booker T Jones – became part of the fabric of rock’n’roll through his work with two classic British bands, the Small Faces and the Faces. We loved The Small Faces with their 'mod' look and distinctive sound n the 1960s, they were as good as The Yardbirds or The Kinks or The Who. McLagan also played on those early seminal Rod Stewart albums like EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY, and he played on several Rollings Stones hits, like that marvelous "Miss You". He later toured with Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, after he moved to Austin, Texas. The Small Faces were one of those groups endlesssly ripped off by their record company, but McLagan flourished as a great rock player, like the equally marvellous Jack Bruce of Cream, who also departed this year (RIP label). 

Bobby Keyes (1943-2014), aged 70. Like Ian McLagan, above, Keys is another rock & roll legend, who also worked a lot with the Rolling Stones, and even began with Buddy Holly and Bobby Vee. Keyes was an American saxophone player who performed with other musicians as a member of several horn sections of the 1970s. He appears on albums by The Rolling Stones, The Who, Harry Nilsson, Delaney & Bonnie, George Harrison, Eric Clapton's first solo album which I like a lot, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and other prominent musicians, plus working with Elvis and John Lennon.. Keyes played on hundreds of recordings and was a touring musician from 1956 until his death. He also appears in the film of MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN – those crazy 1970s rock & roll years! – and played on the Stones “Brown Sugar” among others. A legendary wild man of rock! 

Phil Stern (1919-2014), aged 95!  Phil Stern, a renowned photographer for LIFE, LOOK and other magazines who honed his skills as a World War II combat photographer but was best known for capturing Hollywood icons and jazz legends in unguarded moments, died Saturday in Los Angeles.
Among Stern's memorable Hollywood images during the heyday of his six-decade career:  Marlon Brando on the set of THE WILD ONE, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr, Judy Garland during A STAR IS BORN, John Wayne, James Dean wearing that polo-neck pullover - right,
For several decades, Stern also shot album covers for the Verve, Pablo and Reprise record labels; he and his camera were fixtures at recording sessions with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz greats. He was another legendary photographer like Bob Willoughby, Eve Arnold, Bert Stern or George Barris. 

Mandy Rice-Davies (1944-1970), aged 70.   Respectful notices for Mandy, one of the '60s good-time girls. She was, like Christine Keeler, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair which rocked the British government. The former model was central to the furore which erupted after John Profumo, then Minister for War, lied in the Commons about his affair with her friend Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a suspected Russian spy.
The scandal contributed to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in October 1963 and the toppling of his Conservative government the following year. Mandy caused a sensation at court when being told that Lord Astor of Cliveden had denied sleeping with her, she retorted "Well, he would, wouldn't he?". Unlike Keeler, Mandy married well, several times, as she descended from notoriety to affluent respectability, even going on holiday with Mr and Mrs Thatcher and later working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on his musical about Stephen Ward, another victim of the Profumo scandal. 

Jeremy Thorpe (1929 – 2014), aged 85,  was a British politician who served as leader of the Liberal Party from 1967 to 1976 and as Member of Parliament from 1959 to 1979. Few political careers ended in such scandal .... 
His political career collapsed when an acquaintance, Norman Scott, claimed to have had an affair with him in the early 1960s, when homosexual acts were illegal in Britain  - Thorpe though had been leading a double life for a long time. In 1976, the scandal forced him to resign as Liberal leader. He denied any affair with Scott, whom he was charged with conspiring to murder. He was acquitted in 1979, shortly after losing his parliamentary seat in the general election. It was a farcical situation with attempts to have Scott silenced or killed, resulting in the shooting of Scott's dog Rinka but the gun jammed before the hitman could silence Scott. Thorpe survived the scandal and had two successful marriages, both his wives pre-deceasing him. 
Jeremy Lloyd (1930-2014), aged 84. Popular comedy actor and later scriptwriter of classic BBC comedy series like ARE YOU BEING SERVED? and 'ALLO 'ALLO which poked fun at the French resistance during WWII. ARE YOU BEING SERVED? is a particular favourite and just as funny now: Mrs Slocombe's pussy, Mr Humpries and "I'm Free" Captain Peacock, Miss Brahms and all those funny characters, which he co-wrote with David Croft; it ran from 1972-1985 Audiences also enjoyed the antics of Herr Flick, Helga, Gruber and the others in 'ALLO 'ALLO: "I shall say zis only once"!, As an actor he specialised is upper crust toffs, popping up in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, HELP!, as the pop mogul exploiting silly Yvonne (Lynn Redgrave) in SMASHING TIME, he was also a regular on ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH IN. He caught that late 60s/early 70s vibe perfectly - he was even married to Joanna Lumley (right: Lumley & Croft) for a while, and they remained friends. We would like to see his 1971 sitcom ITS AWFULLY BAD FOR YOUR EYES, DARLING (below) which featured Lumley, Jane Carr and Croft, but it has not been seen for decades, perhaps a comic version of TAKE THREE GIRLS or THE PLEASURE GIRLS ? Bottom: ARE YOU BEING SERVED?
And finally, at the end of the year, 1930s star Luise Rainer (1910-2014), a few weeks short of her 105th birthday! She famously won the Best Actress Oscar two years in a row, in 1936 for THE GREAT ZIEGFELD and in 1937 THE GOOD EARTH. 


  1. I hadn't heard about Billie Whitelaw yet! I've seen her in several other things besides The Omen and always found her a fine actress. Sad.

    I also just saw that Joe Cocker passed away today. It's been a brutal year for losing entertainers of all stripes.

    Virna Lisi was a surprise as well. A stunning woman who was also a good actress. She was breathtaking in her youth and aged into a lovely patrician woman. It makes you treasure those who are still with us, Miss de Havilland, Catherine Deneuve etc. all the more.

  2. Yes, its hard to believe all those Sixties sirens who are still here are now in or approaching their 80s.

    Cocker is the latest of those rock hard men, like the recently departed Jack Bruce of Cream, and Ian McLagan of the Small Faces and sax player Bobby Keyes who all departed about their 70th year. Rock takes it toll .... I hope that other great voice, the enternally young Stevie Winwood is in good health !

  3. Winwood seems pretty active still and robust. The one I worry about is my beloved Linda Ronstadt. Parkinson's robbed her of her voice, a devastating blow to music as well as her, but last I read it also seems to be taking her mobility. A very sorry state of affairs.

  4. The same with my icon Joni Mitchell, who cannot sing or tour any more, and now lives alone, at 71. Joni now repackaged her formidable backcatalogue, as per her current "Love Has Many Faces" - I had to get it of course, as per my comments. At least I got to meet her, purely by chance, back in that glorious 1972 when we were in our twenties.

    Linda was fabulous too, along with Carly and Laura Nyro, Tom Rush and The Eagles - all that 70s soft rock so popular then.

  5. Joni still smokes non-stop, as does David Hockney - the two great smokers of our time !