News, notes and follow-ups

Category: actors

Irene Gilbert: Acting school co-founder 'tried to lift students up to a higher plane,' recalls Holland Taylor

Gilbert Adler The statement that actress Holland Taylor gave to The Times on the death of Irene Gilbert was a tribute to both Gilbert and her mentor, acclaimed New York acting teacher Stella Adler, who was a devotee of the Method school of acting. Gilbert talked Adler into opening an acting school in Los Angeles in 1985.

Taylor's remembrance:

Irene's devotion to this technique was based on a profound understanding of the cultural breadth Stella Adler wished for her students -- that they be freed from the cliché notion of self focus popular since the sixties, that navel gazing waste of time certain actors have. She wanted actors to understand the world, and to be IN the world, and to reflect the world. She wanted them to hold a mirror up to nature, not to look into the mirror they used to shave with. Irene tried to lift students up to a higher plane, where they would, like Stella, make a contribution of their own, to this world. Stella was not about celebrity and had no interest in it. She had other values in mind and Irene put this understanding forward.

Adler "was my teacher, my mentor, my friend; very close to being my mother," Gilbert told The Times in 1999. Her mother and father were killed by a drunk driver when she was 5.

Adler was 91 when she died in 1992. Gilbert died May 21 at 76.

A memorial for Gilbert will be held at 7:30 p.m. June 21 the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre-Los Angeles, 6773 Hollywood Blvd. 


Irene Gilbert dies at 76; cofounder of Stella Adler's Los Angeles acting academy

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Caption: In 1999, Irene Gilbert poses before a portrait of Stella Adler at the Los Angeles acting school. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Former child actor Jackie Cooper dies at 88

Cooper Jackie Cooper, whose tousled blond hair, pouty lower lip and ability to cry on camera helped make him one of the top child stars of the 1930s in films including "Skippy" and "The Champ," died Tuesday, his agent Ron Leif confirmed.

 Cooper grew up to become a successful TV star in the 1950s, a top television studio executive in the '60s and an Emmy Award-winning director in the '70s. He was 88.

A former "Our Gang" cast member who began his  Hollywood career as an extra in silent movies at age 3, Cooper shot to stardom at 8 playing the title role in "Skippy," the 1931 film based on a popular comic strip about a health inspector's son and his ragamuffin pal, Sooky.

The film, in which Cooper had three signature crying scenes, earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor in a leading role. Lionel Barrymore won the Oscar that year.

Read the complete Jackie Cooper obituary here.

-- Dennis McLellan



Walk of Fame: Share a memory about Jackie Cooper


Photo: Jackie Cooper. Credit: Associated Press

Hitchcock star Farley Granger dies at 85


Farley Granger, the 1950s screen idol who starred in the Alfred Hitchcock classics “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train,” has died. He was 85.

Granger died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Manhattan, according to Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner's office.

Granger was a 16-year-old student at North Hollywood High School when he got the notion that he wanted to act and joined a little theater group.

Photos: The films of Farley Granger

Talent scouts for movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn saw the handsome youngster and signed him to a contract. His first movie was “The North Star” in 1943.

Granger was born on July 1, 1925, in San Jose, where his father was a car dealer. The business went bust during the Depression, and in 1933 the family moved to Los Angeles, where he was subsequently spotted.

His career halted for U.S. Navy service during World War II.  

He made “Rope” in 1948 and “Strangers on a Train” in 1951. In the latter, he plays a tennis star who meets a man on a train. The other man, played by Robert Walker, turns out to be a psychotic who proposes that each of them murder the other's troublesome relative. He tells Granger's character, “Some people are better off dead -- like your wife and my father, for instance.”

Walker's character proceeds to carry out his part of the bargain, killing the tennis star's estranged wife and trapping the Granger character in an ever-tightening circle of suspicion.

Granger also appeared in “They Live by Night,” “Roseanna McCoy,” “Side Street,” “The Story of Three Loves,” “Edge of Doom” and “Hans Christian Andersen.”

He made his Broadway debut in 1960 in “First Impressions,” a musical version of Jane Austen's “Pride and Prejudice.” He later did two years with Eva Le Gallienne's repertory troupe and a considerable stint as the lead in the long-running thriller “Deathtrap.”

Granger continued to make films over the years: “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing,” “The Serpent,” “The Man Called Noon,” “The Imagemaker” and “The Whoopee Boys.” He made several movies in Italy, including Luchino Visconti's “Senso.”

He also appeared in several daytime soaps, including “As the World Turns,” “Edge of Night” and “One Life to Live,” for which he received a Daytime Emmy nomination.

Above is a look at “Strangers on a Train.”  Our news obituary by Times staff writer Dennis McLellan can be found here.

Tell us your favorite Granger role.


Photos: The films of Farley Granger

Hollywood Star Walk: Farley Granger

-- Associated Press

Elizabeth Taylor: donations and memorial

Publicists for Elizabeth Taylor, who died Wednesday at 79, said a memorial service will be announced later, after a private family funeral this week.

Her family has requested that instead of flowers contributions can be made to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, c/o Derrick Lee, Reback Lee & Co., Inc., 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1275, Los Angeles, CA 90025, or online at

Personal messages can be posted on a Facebook tribute page.

--Elaine Woo


Elizabeth Taylor's obituary: outtakes from a 12-year work in progress

Elizabeth Taylor's death Wednesday moved me in an odd way. Although I never met or spoke to her, I had a "relationship" with her that spanned a dozen years: Hers was the first advance obituary I ever wrote for The Times. The assignment, which I received in 1999, probably was precipitated by one of Taylor's nearly annual brushes with death. I read a mountain of articles and books over a three-month period before writing a lengthy piece. And nearly every year since then I updated the article, adding a worthwhile quote or details about her latest illness. I felt I had come to know her and, unlike many of my subjects, I liked her.

ET More recently, I revisited the obit to shorten it. Some pithy quotes had to go, such as this one from writer Truman Capote, who once said: "Her legs are too short for the torso, the head too bulky for the figure in toto; but the face with those lilac eyes is a prisoner's dream, a secretary's self-fantasy."

And this one from Paul Newman, her co-star in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He called her "a functioning voluptuary."

Elizabeth Taylor: A life in pictures

One of my favorite anecdotes that didn't make the final cut concerned Howard Hughes, the nutty billionaire who tried to run a movie studio after making a fortune building planes. After Taylor separated from her first husband, Conrad Hilton Jr. of the Hilton hotel chain, she was lying by a pool in Palm Springs when Hughes landed a helicopter next to her. "Come on, get your clothes on, we are getting married," he told the raven-haired beauty. She told him he was mad, whereupon he dipped his hand into a coat pocket and scooped out a handful of diamonds, which he then proceeded to sprinkle on her. Taylor roared with laughter and ran into her friends' house, scattering the diamonds behind her.

The diamonds from Richard Burton, the Welsh actor who accounted for two of her eight marriages, were another matter: She kept most of those. I loved his recollection of his desire for a $1.1-million, 69-carat diamond ring from Cartier in New York, which he acquired for Taylor after outbidding Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. "I wanted that diamond because it is incomparably lovely," Burton said. "And it should be on the loveliest woman in the world. I would have had a fit if it went to Jackie Kennedy or Sophia Loren or Mrs. Huntingdon Misfit of Dallas, Texas." 

I noticed that when Taylor spoke about herself, she rarely took herself too seriously, a quality that made her appealing. "People have called me accident-prone," she told Life magazine in 1997. "That really pissed Richard Burton off. He'd say, no, you're incident-prone."

You can read the obituary here.


The Taylor-Burton Diamond

Paul Newman on Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor on "What's My Line"

 -- Elaine Woo

Photo: Elizabeth Taylor in 2009.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Fess Parker, TV's Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone

FesIf you grew up in the United States in the 1950s or '60s and watched television, you probably remember Fess Parker, the 6-foot-6 actor who first played Davy Crockett and then Daniel Boone for chief Imagineer Walt Disney. And you might have demanded your own own coonskin cap. Many kids did.

When Parker died one year ago at age 85, Times staff writer Dennis McLellan reminded readers in the obituary that Disney's Davy Crockett character became a marketer's dream:

[Ten] million coonskin caps reportedly were sold, along with toy 'Old Betsy' rifles, buckskin shirts, T-shirts, coloring books, guitars, bath towels, bedspreads, wallets -- anything with the Crockett name attached.Viewers also fell in love with the show's catchy theme song. Bill Hayes' version of 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett' soared to No. 1 on the hit parade and remained there for 13 weeks.

It was a pop-culture phenomenon. As essayist Neal Gabler put it in The Times: "Before Elvis Presley, Beatlemania, 'The Simpsons,' 'SpongeBob SquarePants,' there was Davy Crockett."

After his acting career, Parker became known for his upscale hotels and winery in Santa Barbara County. Although Parker is gone, you can still visit the winery, where you can not only sample wine but also purchase a coonskin cap.


Photos: Fess Parker, 1924-2010

Saddle up at Fess Parker Winery

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. Credit: Associated Press / Walt Disney Co.

Michael Gough, character actor who played butler to Bruce Wayne in 'Batman' films, dies at 94

British actor Michael Gough, best known to international audiences as Batman's butler Alfred in the movie franchise, has died, the BBC reported on Thursday. He was 94.

The broadcaster quoted Gough's agent as saying that the actor had been unwell for some time and passed away at home surrounded by family.

He appeared in more than 150 films and television shows during a career that began in the 1940s.

Gough starred in the popular British sci-fi series "Doctor Who" as the Celestial Toymaker, and was something of a cult figure among horror film fans for roles in movies including "Horror of Dracula" and "The Phantom of the Opera."

But it was U.S. director Tim Burton who thrust him into the international limelight, casting him as Alfred Pennyworth in "Batman" in 1989 alongside Michael Keaton in the title role.

He would reprise the part of Bruce Wayne's butler in three more installments, worked with Burton on "Sleepy Hollow" and also provided voices for the director's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Corpse Bride."

Gough also appeared in commercials, including spots for Diet Coke in which he sent up his Alfred character (seen above in YouTube clip).

-- Reuters

One year ago: Peter Graves of ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Airplane!’

 Peter Graves was a television star who made light of his image in a memorably comic movie role.

Graves was known to a generation of television viewers as James Phelps in the show "Mission: Impossible." But he joined other actors known for their serious images—Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack—in the 1980 spoof "Airplane!"

He almost didn't do it.

"I read it and thought, 'Gee, this is dangerous,' " Graves told The Times in late 2009. "It was in terrible taste."

But the film's producer, Howard Koch, urged him to meet with the young filmmakers, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, who told him that they wanted somebody of stature and dignity to play the role "absolutely straight," Graves recalled.

"They say you are supposed to stretch as an actor, so let's go stretch it," he said.

Graves, who starred in more than 70 television series and feature films, typically playing the straight-laced hero, died a year ago at 83.


--Keith Thursby




Peter Graves dies at 83

Classic Hollywood: 60 years in show business 

Photos: A look back at Graves' career

Hollywood walk of fame







One year ago: Merlin Olsen, Ram who jumped to TV

New olsenOlsen murphyMerlin Olsen wasn't just a football player, although he was a very good one.

After 15 seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Rams' famed "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line, Olsen became a familiar face on television as an actor, broadcaster and commercial spokesman. His ability to excel in more than one field didn't surprise people who played and worked with him.

"I was amazed by his size (6 feet 5 and 275 pounds) just like everybody else, but more than that at his great intelligence," former CBS analyst Irv Cross, who played three years with Olsen on the Rams, told The Times in 1982. "His ability to analyze the game was something everybody on the team recognized. It was just unbelievable that any one person would be gifted in so many ways."

He was a three-time academic All-American at Utah State University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in finance in 1962 and a master's in economics in 1970.

Olsen, who died a year ago at age 69, was the NFL's most valuable player in 1974 and appeared 14 times in the Pro Bowl. He then spent 15 seasons as an analyst for NBC and CBS and acted in such television shows as "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy."

"Merlin's own character was such that you adapted it to his [television] character," said Kent McCray, producer of "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy," a 1981-83 series that starred Olsen as a frontiersman disguised as a priest who was trying to help a group of orphans. "In many instances, it was difficult for him to get mad. ... It's impossible to think of him as one of the Fearsome Foursome."


Merlin Olsen dies at 69

Olsen helped make the Rams fun to watch on defense

Sam Farmer column: Olsen made quite a first impression on Rams

Photos: A look at Olsen's careers in sports, acting and broadcasting

-- Keith Thursby

Photos: (top) Merlin Olsen grabs quarterback Archie Manning in a 1972 game. Credit: Associated Press

(bottom) Olsen acts in "Father Murphy" in 1981. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: former teen idol Corey Haim

HaimTwo decades after being hailed as a teen idol and a promising actor, Corey Haim was on a reality television show with a familiar costar.

Haim, whose 1980s roles included "Lucas" and "The Lost Boys," was reunited in 2007 with fellow former child actor Corey Feldman on an A&E reality show called "The Two Coreys." They worked together in "The Lost Boys," among several films.

Haim had a long struggle with drugs. "I lived in L.A. in the '80s which was not the best place to be," he told Britain's the Sun in 2004. "I did cocaine for about a year and a half, then it led to crack."

When Haim died a year ago at age 38, police first said the cause was an apparent overdose. "This is a tragic loss of a wonderful, beautiful, tormented soul," Corey Feldman said at the time on his blog.

Nearly two months after Haim's death, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said the actor died of pneumonia and had an enlarged heart.

Haim was born in Toronto in 1971 and started working in commercials at 10. His role in "Lucas" as a teenager in love with an older girl was "one of the most three-dimensional, complicated, interesting characters of any age of any recent movie," critic Roger Ebert wrote.

Other roles included the movies "Murphy's Romance" and "License to Drive" and the television series "Roomies."


Corey Haim dies at 38

Haim is left out of memorial tribute at Oscars

Photos: A look at Haim's career

'The Two Coreys'

'Lucas' trailer

--Keith Thursby


Photo: Corey Haim in the 1987 NBC comedy "Roomies." Credit: Associated Press

Corey Haim left out of this year's Oscar tribute

Corey Haim Putting together the “In Memoriam” tribute for the Academy Awards “is the single most troubling element of the Oscar show every year, because more people die each year than can possibly be included in that segment,” Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences told the Associated Press last year in a story on how the segment is produced.

This year's omission that sent the Internet abuzz: Corey Haim, a teen idol from the 1980s who starred in “License to Drive” and  “The Lost Boys.” Haim, who struggled with drug addiction, died last March at 38.

Among the 30 or so who made the cut: Dennis Hopper, Lynn Redgrave, Blake Edwards, Tony Curtis, Jill Clayburgh, Leslie Nielsen and Lena Horne, the latter of whom was given special recognition by actress Halle Berry.

The most glaring omissions from last year’s Oscar tribute: Farrah Fawcett and Bea Arthur.

Trimming the list of names for the segment “gets close to agonizing by the end,” Davis said in the AP story. “You are dropping people who the public knows. It’s just not comfortable.”

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Corey Haim at a "Lost Boys" reunion in 2008 at the Viper Room in West Hollywood. Credit: Nathan Nowack /Associated Press


Reviews: Oscars show was the 'worst ever' -- and, oh, yes, 'marvelous' too

Oscars ceremony was one of the shortest in recent times

Poll: What did you think of the Oscars show?

Red carpet photos

Oscars scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars



Comedian Charlie Callas dies in Las Vegas

Charlie Callas, a versatile comedian and sidekick whose zany faces and antics made him a regular for more than four decades on television, in films and on casino stages, died Thursday in a Las Vegas hospice, said his son Mark Callas.

Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said the death was from natural causes.

Callas toured with Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones, and had a screen part with Jerry Lewis in "The Big Mouth" in 1967.

His facial expressions and rapid-fire comedy also made Callas a favorite on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

He also worked with Mel Brooks and was the voice of Elliot in Disney's "Pete's Dragon."

The complete Times obituary by Dennis McLellan is here.

-- Associated Press


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