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Category: actresses

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

Yvette Vickers memorial set for Friday


A memorial service for actress Yvette Vickers, 82, will be held at noon Friday at All Saints Episcopal Church, 504 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills. She was best known for her role in two late-1950s cult horror films "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" and "Attack of the Giant Leeches."

Vickers was found dead April 27 at her Benedict Canyon home. Her body's mummified state suggested that she could have been dead for close to a year, police said. The county coroner's office said she died of natural causes, specifically heart disease caused by hardening of the arteries, but did not determine when she died.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Yvette Vickers  "proved to have the perfect look for 1950s drive-in films, along with episodic television," according to film historian Alan K. Rode. Credit: Times file photo 


Yvette Vickers dies at 82; former actress and Playboy playmate

Yvette Vickers: The B-movie actress really was 82. Here's how we figured it out.

Gunter Sachs, German photographer who was married to Brigitte Bardot in '60s, commits suicide [Updated]

Gunter Sachs, a German-born photographer known for his playboy lifestyle and brief marriage to Brigitte Bardot, committed suicide in Switzerland. He was 78.

[Updated at 11:03 a.m.: In a statement released Sunday by his family at his request, Sachs said he chose to end his life after concluding that he was suffering from an incurable degenerative disease affecting his memory and ability to communicate.

"I have always stood up to big challenges," the statement said. It provided no details on the timing or circumstances of his death, but German weekly Focus reported that Sachs shot himself Saturday at his home in the exclusive Swiss Alpine resort of Gstaad.]

Sachs was born in 1932 into the wealthy industrialist family behind the Opel auto line. He used his inheritance to fund a glamorous lifestyle that fascinated many in postwar Germany. He also made a name for himself as a photographer and documentary filmmaker.

German tabloids reported extensively on his affairs with film stars and friendships with artists such as Andy Warhol. He was married to Bardot from 1966 to 1969.

Sachs is survived by his third wife, Mirja Larsson, and their sons, Christian and Alexander, and son Rolf from his first marriage.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Brigitte Bardot and Gunter Sachs in Tahiti in 1966. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Yvette Vickers: The B-movie actress really was 82. Here's how we figured it out.

VickersWhen I first started writing about Yvette Vickers, who died a sad death alone in her Benedict Canyon home, I thought she was 74, based on at least five references that agreed on the year she was born: 1936.

My colleague Andrew Blankstein, who spoke with police and neighbors about the unusual circumstances of her death, posted a blog item that gave her age as 82. His sources: Police and a neighbor, he told me, “who said she talked to the husband, who said 82.”

Except there wasn’t a husband when Vickers, a B-movie actress, died some time in the last year.

Actresses, more than anyone I write about, “prevaricate” about their age. Running down the real birth year can be elusive, but I’ve successfully turned to passenger logs from long-ago ship voyages and the 1930 census to nail down a date.

In Vickers’ case, Times librarian Kent Coloma came through, the second time around. Earlier in the day he said voter registration records listed 1939 as her birth year. That didn’t agree with any research, but it was a clue that Vickers may have treated her age as an elastic number.

Coloma took another crack at it, and, through the “Historical Person Locator,” a vast database of public records, came back with “8/1928,” which means she was 82. That date was given added credence when Vickers’ first husband, Don Prell, returned my call and said with certainty that she was born in 1928.

But Prell couldn’t clear up another fuzzy figure -- the precise number of times Vickers had been married and divorced. “At least twice,” he said.


Yvette Vickers dies at 82; former actress and Playboy playmate

Body of former Playboy playmate Yvette Vickers found in her Benedict Canyon home

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Yvette Vickers, who was best known for appearing in the B-movies "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" and "Attack of the Giant Leeches," was found dead April 27. Credit: Los Angeles Times file

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

Houdini assistant Dorothy Young dies at 103

Dorothy Young, the last surviving stage assistant of illusionist Harry Houdini and also an accomplished dancer, died Sunday at her home in a retirement community in Tinton Falls, N.J. She was 103.

Young's death was announced by Drew University, where she was a prominent donor and patron of the arts.

Young joined Houdini's company as a teenager after attending an open casting call during a family trip to New York. During her year with Houdini's stage show in the mid-1920s, she played the role of "Radio Girl of 1950," emerging from a large mock-up of a radio and performing a dance routine.

Young went on to become a professional dancer, performing in several movies. She also published a novel inspired by her career.

-- Associated Press

Actress Jane Russell, star of Howard Hughes' 'The Outlaw,' dies at 89 [Updated]

Actress Jane Russell, who became a star with the 1943 release of "The Outlaw," Howard Hughes' challenge to the Hollywood production code, has died. She was 89.

[Updated at 3:47 p.m. Russell died Monday at her home in Santa Maria, said her son Buck Waterfield. He did not give the cause.]

Russell went on to play Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in "The Paleface" (1948), and she starred with Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

As former Times staff writer Claudia Luther explains in her obituary of the actress, "Russell's provocative performance in 'The Outlaw' — and the studio publicity shots posing her in a low-cut blouse reclined on a stack of hay bales — marked a turning point in moviedom sexuality. She became a bona fide star and a favorite pinup girl of soldiers during World War II. Troops in Korea named two embattled hills in her honor. ...

"Meanwhile, Hughes brilliantly publicized the film, issuing Russell-in-the-haystack posters with such lines as 'How Would You Like to Tussle With Russell?' and 'Mean! Moody! Magnificent!' In one publicity stunt, a skywriter wrote 'The Outlaw' in the sky and then carefully drew two circles with a dot in the center of each."

Some readers will remember Russell as a pitchwoman for Playtex bras, for "full-figured women."

Services are set for 11 a.m. March 12 at Pacific Christian Church, 3435 Santa Maria Way, Santa Maria.

Instead of flowers, her family suggests donations in her name to Care Net Pregnancy & Resource Center, 121 W. Battles, Santa Maria, CA 93458; or CASA of Santa Barbara County, 120 E. Jones St., Suite 130, Santa Maria, CA 93454. 

The full obituary of Jane Russell can be found here.

What is your favorite Jane Russell movie memory?


Jane Russell's Hollywood star

-- Claire Noland



Actress Annie Girardot, symbol of French feminist movement, dies at 79

Annie French film star Annie Girardot, whose sensitive 1970s portrayals of downtrodden women earned her a reputation as the antithesis of Brigitte Bardot, died Monday in Paris. She was 79 and had Alzheimer's disease.

Born in Paris in 1931, Girardot studied to be a nurse before becoming one of France's most prolific actresses with more than 120 films to her name, including Luchino Visconti's 1960s neo-realist classic "Rocco and his Brothers," in which she played doomed prostitute Nadia.

"Today, French cinema is mourning one of its most likable, most distinguished and most remarkable people," Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand told reporters.

A symbol of the feminist movement in France for her roles playing strong-willed women struggling against the odds, her everyday-woman image stood in stark contrast to the pouting pinups of the time and endeared her to a legion of female fans.

"All women identified with her," Jean Rochefort, a French actor of the same epoch, told iTele television.

Girardot won a French Cesar Award for best actress for her role as an overworked doctor, abandoned by both husband and lover, in the 1976 film "Dr. Francoise Gailland."

After several years' absence from the screen, her return in the 1990s with "Les Miserables" earned her a best supporting actress Cesar, as did her role as Isabelle Huppert's tyrannical mother in the 2002 Michael Haneke film "The Piano Teacher."

She married Italian actor Renato Salvatori, her costar in "Rocco and his Brothers," with whom she had a daughter. They had a stormy relationship and later separated, but never divorced.

-- Reuters

Photo: Annie Girardot in 1972. Credit: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images


Maria Schneider, star of 'Last Tango in Paris' and 'The Passenger,' dies at 58

French actress Maria Schneider, whose role as Marlon Brando's lover in "Last Tango in Paris" won her lifelong fame but also an image that she found difficult to shake off, has died. She was 58.

Le Figaro newspaper quoted her family as saying she had died Thursday morning in Paris after a long illness.

The daughter of French actor Daniel Gelin and a Parisian bookshop owner, Schneider was 19 when she was cast opposite Brando, who was 48.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" was controversial at the time of its release in 1972 for its sexual content, and Schneider later struggled with her image as a sex symbol, refusing to appear in a nude scene ever again.

"I was too young to know better," Schneider said in a 2007 interview with Britain's Daily Mail newspaper. "Marlon later said that he felt manipulated, and he was Marlon Brando, so you can imagine how I felt. People thought I was like the girl in the movie, but that wasn't me.

"I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol -- I wanted to be recognized as an actress and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown."

Although Schneider appeared opposite Jack Nicholson in "The Passenger" in 1975 (see YouTube clip below), her subsequent acting career consisted mostly of undistinguished, low-budget European films such as "Memoirs of a French Whore" (1979) and "Mama Dracula" (1980).

The complete Times obituary is here.

-- Reuters

Photo: Maria Schneider with director Bernardo Bertolucci, left, and co-star Marlon Brando during the filming of "Last Tango in Paris." Credit: United Artists Corp.



Actress Susannah York dies at 72

York British actress Susannah York, one of the leading stars of British and Hollywood films in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has died. She was 72.

York died of cancer Saturday at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said her son, actor Orlando Wells.  He said York went into the hospital on Jan. 6 after experiencing shoulder pain.

York had a distinguished career in film, television and on stage, but she is best remembered for her early film roles, when she had an immediate impact in 1963 as Albert Finney's love interest in the memorable period piece romp “Tom Jones.”

With its tongue-in-cheek sensuality and gentle send-up of the British aristocracy, the film is remembered as an early landmark in ‘60s cinema, and York's unmistakable presence added to its appeal. Her long blond hair, stunning blue eyes and quick-witted repartee brought her a string of excellent roles.

York was nominated for an Oscar for the 1969 film “They Shoot Horses, Don't They?” and also starred in “A Man for All Seasons” in 1966.

She acted with major stars such as Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, George C. Scott and many others, stirring some controversy with her portrayal of a lesbian in the 1968 drama “The Killing of Sister George.”

In 1972 York won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. Her film work tailed off as London's swinging '60s era faded into cultural history, but she did play Superman's mother in several of the films.

She moved on to television and stage work, which included several one-woman shows.

Wells said his mother also had a passion for writing.

“She wrote two children's books, which is great for her grandchildren and something we will pass on to them,” Wells said.

York was born in London and studied at the storied Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which has tutored many of Britain's top actors.

In addition to her son, York had a daughter, Sasha ,with her husband, Michael Wells, before they divorced. She is survived by her children and several grandchildren.

More later at

--Associated Press

Photo: Susannah York in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Credit: Associated Press

Looking back at TV legends who left us in 2010

It's late December, when year-end retrospectives pop up all over. We previously cited the TCM Remembers 2010 video clip, and The Times obit department keeps a running list of notable names we covered during the year. Here's something new from the Archive of American Television, which produces excellent long-form video interviews with influential television figures. Now you can browse interviews with prominent TV folk who died in 2010, including Robert Culp, Barbara Billingsley, Tom Bosley, Stephen J. Cannell, Art Linkletter and others.

Tell us who you'll miss the most.

-- Claire Noland



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