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Category: actresses

Liz Smith looks back on Eddie Fisher


Longtime entertainment columnist Liz Smith recalls Eddie Fisher's personal and professional life in Monday's column, calling him "Poor Eddie."

Eddie Fisher died last week, age 82. All the obits pictured him with Miss Taylor, or else ran the famous shot of Eddie standing in between the opulent Widow Todd and his pert, trim wife, Debbie. Within weeks of this picture being taken, Eddie had been "taken." He was the property of Miss Elizabeth Taylor. His wonderful singing voice and huge pre-scandal popularity were duly noted, but the collapse of his career and reputation overshadowed all tributes.

Not only does Smith recount the 1950s pop music idol's marriages to Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor and Connie Stevens, but she also has an Eddie Fisher-Jackie Kennedy anecdote. Read the rest of Liz Smith's column here, and click here for Dennis McLellan's obituary of Fisher that appeared in The Times.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: At the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas on April 3, 1957, Eddie Fisher poses with his current wife, Debbie Reynolds, right, and his future wife, Elizabeth Taylor, left. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Actress Gloria Stuart, the elder Rose in 'Titanic,' dies at 100


Gloria Stuart, a 1930s Hollywood leading lady whose first significant role in nearly 60 years — as the  centenarian survivor of the Titanic in James Cameron's 1997 Oscar-winning film about the ill-fated ocean liner — earned her an Academy Award nomination, has died. She was 100.

Stuart, a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild who later became an accomplished painter, died Sunday night at her West Los Angeles home, her family said.

Stuart had been diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago.

The actress, who was born July 4, 1910, was honored with an “Academy Centennial Celebration With Gloria Stuart” at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills in July.

Gloria Stuart in 1934 As a glamorous blond actress under contract to Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox in the 1930s, Stuart appeared opposite Claude Rains in James Whale's “The Invisible Man” and with Warner Baxter in John Ford's “The Prisoner of Shark Island.”

She also appeared with Eddie Cantor in “Roman Scandals,” with Dick Powell in Busby Berkeley's “Gold Diggers of 1935” and with James Cagney in “Here Comes the Navy.” And she played romantic leads in two Shirley Temple movies, “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.”

But mostly she played what Stuart later dismissed as “stupid parts with nothing to do” — “girl reporter, girl detective, girl nurse” — and “it became increasingly evident to me I wasn't going to get to be a big star like Katharine Hepburn and Loretta Young.”

After making 42 feature films between 1932 and 1939, Stuart's latest studio contract, with 20th Century Fox, was not renewed. She appeared in only four films in the 1940s and retired from the screen in 1946.

By 1974, “the blond lovely of the talkies” had become an entry in one of Richard Lamparski's “Whatever Became of ... ?" books.

Writer-director Cameron's $200-million “Titanic” changed that.

As Rose Calvert, Stuart played the 100-year-old Titanic survivor who showed up after modern-day treasure hunters searching through the wreckage of the sunken ship found a charcoal drawing of her wearing a priceless blue diamond necklace.

Stuart's performance framed the 1997 romantic-drama that starred Leonardo DiCaprio as lower-class artist Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet as the upper-class young Rose.

In “Gloria Stuart: I Just Kept Hoping,” her 1999 autobiography written with her daughter Sylvia Thompson, Stuart said that after reading the script, “I knew the role I had wanted and waited for all these many years had arrived! I could taste the role of Old Rose!”

At 87, Stuart became the oldest actress ever nominated for an Academy Award.

In 2000, several hundred fans gathered on Hollywood Boulevard next to the Egyptian Theatre for the unveiling of Stuart's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A complete obituary will follow at

-- Dennis McLellan

Photos, from top: Gloria Stuart at her home in July. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times. Stuart in the 1934 film "I Like It That Way." Credit: Cinecon


Love at first sight for William 'Hopalong Cassidy' Boyd

Boyd Grace Bradley Boyd, who died Tuesday at age 97 at her home in Dana Point, was a 23-year-old Hollywood actress when she met the love of her life, William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd, in 1937. Boyd proposed to her three days later, and they were married three weeks after they met.

The marriage lasted 35 years, until William Boyd's death at age 77 in 1972.

During a 1995 appearance at the Lone Pine Film Festival, Grace Boyd recalled how quickly she discovered that Hoppy's appeal was not just to the young fans of his westerns.

“Believe me,” she said, “I used to have to fight the women off with a club. They'd be crawling under the bed in hotels because he really was a very handsome man. He had skin like a baby and very high coloring on his face, and his eyes were that light, piercing china blue — with black eyebrows and platinum-colored hair. He started to turn gray when he was 19. It was one of those family traits. In the old days, they used to put brown makeup in his hair.”

Read the full obituary of Grace Bradley Boyd.

Also available is the Times obituary of William Boyd from 1972.

— Dennis McLellan

Photo: William Boyd, who played "Hopalong Cassidy," and Grace Bradley Boyd on their wedding day in 1937.

Billie Mae Richards and fellow 'Rudolph' voice actor ended up as neighbors in Toronto

Decades after Billie Mae Richards and Paul Soles gave respective voice to two nonconformists – Rudolph and elf Hermey – in the 1964 holiday classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the Canadian actors became neighbors in the Performing Arts Lodge, a Toronto housing development for actors and artists.

“It’s a great place to be, the only place for misfits anyway,” Richards joked to the Chicago Tribune in 2002.

Soles called it a “great community” where people “take care of each other.”

Richards, who died Friday at age 88, had lived in the lodge for about 15 years before moving in with a daughter in nearby Burlington more than two years ago.

Memorial donations may be made to the Performing Arts Lodge Toronto. For more information, go to Performing Arts Lodge website.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Video: Rudolph and Hermey sing “Fame and Fortune” in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Credit: / YouTube

Ten years ago: Loretta Young

image from A Golden Age film actress who collaborated with a long roster of leading men, on screen and off, won an Oscar and then made a successful jump to early TV, Loretta Young died at age 87 on Aug. 12, 2000.

"Young's gritty determination to be a star -- and her hardheaded business sense -- kept her in front of the cameras for decades after most stars from Hollywood's Golden Age had faded into nostalgia," noted her Times obituary. Young, a devout and demonstrative Catholic, may have been equally hardheaded -- at least in public statements -- about Judy Lewis, the girl Young adopted in 1937 but who was long rumored to be her biological daughter with Clark Gable. (Lewis made that claim herself in a 1994 autobiography.)

Loretta Young -- then going by her birth name, Gretchen -- debuted in the movies at age 4, as a child weeping on an operating table. Her ambition was evident almost from the start: "She would run to the front of the pack during crowd scenes to make sure her face flashed prominently," the obituary recalled. "I was always sure," she reportedly said, "that I was going to be a big star, not just an actress."

A big star she was: She made nearly 100 movies, and her role as a Swedish immigrant in "The Farmer's Daughter" (1947) won her an Academy Award. After another Oscar nomination for "Come to the Stable," she moved to television in the '50s and '60s, then turned to charity work. The obituary goes into more depth on Young's contradictions -- the twice-divorced actress wouldn't say the word "divorce" on screen -- and her third marriage, as an octogenarian.

-- Michael Owen

Photo: Loretta Young in an undated file photo. Credit: Reuters

One year ago: Ruth Ford

Ruthford Ruth Ford was a Broadway actress who was once a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre and also appeared in numerous films and in television. She died one year ago.

Ford appeared in such plays as William Faulkner's "Requiem for a Nun" (1959), originally a book that she helped the author adapt for the stage. She also acted in "No Exit" (1946), "Miss Julie" and "The Stronger" (1956).

The Mississippi native moved in the 1930s to New York, where she interacted with a community of artists and writers on the Upper West Side. In 1938, she made her debut on Broadway in the Welles-directed revival of "Shoemaker's Holiday."

In 1941 she moved to Hollywood, filling her career with more than two dozen film appearances during the next five years, including playing President Wilson's daughter in "Wilson." Most her roles, however, were in B movies, and in 1946 she returned to New York.

For more on the actress, read Ruth Ford's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Ruth Ford. Credit: 20th Century Fox

One year ago: Gale Storm

Gale-stormGale Storm came to Hollywood in 1939 at age 17 as Josephine Cottle, a pert and pretty Houston high school senior who was a finalist in the nationwide "Gateway to Hollywood" talent contest. She left not only with a new name but also with three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Storm's biggest claim to fame was her roles in two popular 1950s situation comedies, "My Little Margie" and "The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna." She also appeared in movies and was a hit singer.

Storm, who died one year ago, started her career with "Tom Brown's School Days" in 1940, and appeared in 36 movies during the next dozen years. Among her film credits, which included musical comedies, film noir dramas and westerns, are starring roles in films such as "Freckles Comes Home," "Where Are Your Children?," "Campus Rhythm," "G.I. Honeymoon," "Sunbonnet Sue," "Swing Parade of 1946," and "It Happened on 5th Avenue."

Her film career was in a slump during the early '50s, but she got her second break after a call from producer Hal Roach Jr., who wanted her for the lead in a proposed TV series, "My Little Margie." That role put her center stage in American culture. A 1953 poll of the most popular TV stars listed Storm at No. 2, behind TV comedy queen Lucille Ball. It also led to a music career that saw several of her songs become Top 20 hits.

"My whole life has been a pattern of success," Storm told The Times in 1981. "So many marvelous things that I would never even have dreamt of wishing for [have] happened to me."

For more, read Gale Storm's obituary published by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Gale Storm. Credit: Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson

MJackson FawcettMJ Minutes after I put the final touches on actress Farrah Fawcett’s obituary – a story that I originally wrote almost three years earlier – an in-house e-mail flashed on my screen that said something akin to: “Pop singer Michael Jackson is dead.” Unbelievable.

Two major pop-culture figures had died within hours of each other, sending the media into overdrive. Like everyone else, we were astonished. Luckily, we were also prepared.

A full four years earlier, my colleague Elaine Woo suggested we prepare what we call an “advance obituary” on Jackson. Usually, candidates for obituaries written ahead of time are relatively old, or in Fawcett’s case, known to be seriously ill. We have quite a few such stories in the queue, part of the dance the obituary staff does with death as we try to be ready for the next big name.

In mid-2005, Jackson, at 46, was neither old or known to be ill. But he had appeared extraordinarily fragile that year, and years of plastic surgery had turned his face into a bizarre landscape. Something seemed off, so Woo got to work.

The day that Jackson died, Woo was out of the office, so Geoff Boucher, who was covering pop music for The Times, stepped in to give shape to the Michael Jackson obituary on deadline.

As the next day’s front page showed, Jackson’s death eclipsed Fawcett’s. “King of Pop is dead at 50” said the Times’ banner headline. Fawcett, dead at 62, an actress who was a generation’s pin-up, made the bottom of the page.

Here in Obits, where we keep company with a life-size model skeleton (currently dressed as a college grad), we remember June 25, 2009, as a day of celebrity death like no other – and tip our collective hat to advance planning.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Left photo: Farrah Fawcett meets television critics at a 1999 news conference in Pasadena. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Right photo: Michael Jackson is shown during his 1996 "HIStory" tour in the photograph that ran with his obituary on the front page of The Times. Credit: Simon Kwong / Reuters

Robert Radnitz: Cicely Tyson says he helped call attention 'to the plight of blacks in America'

Cicely Tyson, who starred with Paul Winfield in "Sounder," sent this e-mail via a spokesman in response to a request for comment on the death of Robert B. Radnitz, who produced the film:

Bob Radnitz, along with Marty Ritt, Paul Winfield and John Alonzo were all weavers of this tapestry, named Cicely Tyson. They gifted me with an opportunity to build a platform, through my work, that called attention to the plight of blacks in America, especially Women.

I will be eternally grateful to Bob Radnitz for recognizing the need for a movie like Sounder at the time when we were being bombarded with negative images thru Blacksploitative films.

He has left us a Legacy to be cherished.

My prayers are with his loved ones.

To read Radnitz's obituary, click here.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Rue McClanahan, Blanche on 'The Golden Girls,' dies at 76

Rue McClanahan, a stage actress who later gained fame on the TV sitcom "The Golden Girls" alongside co-stars Bea Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty, died early Thursday of a stroke, according to her manager Barbara Lawrence. She was 76.

She had been treated for breast cancer in the late 1990s.

Arthur died in 2009 and Getty in 2008. Betty White keeps rolling at age 88, recently appearing on "Saturday Night Live."

Click here for an extensive interview McClanahan did with the Archive of American Television.

We'll have a full obituary later at

-- Claire Noland

Carla Zilbersmith in new documentary, 'musical comedy about dying'

ZilbersmithSinger-actress-comedian Carla Zilbersmith's death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on Monday at her home in Berkeley came less than two weeks after a documentary about her, "Leave Them Laughing," had its world premiere at the Hot Docs international documentary festival in Toronto.

The film by Academy Award-winning director John Zaritsky won the Special Jury Prize for Canadian documentary.

(A trailer for the film can be viewed at

Zaritsky told The Times that he first heard about Zilbersmith in late 2008 when he read one of her jokes about dying in a Canadian newspaper's end-of-year list of memorable quotes.

He went on to find samples of her singing and comedy performances on YouTube and then "discovered this beautifully written blog of hers" -- -- before speaking to her about doing the documentary.

Zaritsky said he describes "Leave Them Laughing" as a " 'musical comedy about dying' because it includes numerous jokes by Carla about dying and becoming disabled and also it has loads of songs that she wrote and performs in the documentary."

But the film is also poignant, he acknowledged, "because it's based on her blog. Interspersed with all the music and the comedy are pretty insightful blog entries she wrote about the process of dying and facing death that are quite moving."

Click here to read the complete obituary.

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Carla Zilbersmith performing at the Coronet Theatre in West Hollywood in 2006. Credit: Michael Lamont / Coronet Theatre

Doris Eaton Travis, Ziegfeld Follies girl, dies at 106

Doris Eaton Travis, the last of the legendary Ziegfeld Follies chorus girls, who wore elaborate costumes for the series of lavish Broadway theatrical productions in the early 1900s, died Tuesday. She was 106.

New York public relations firm Boneau/Bryan-Brown announced her death but did not give the cause.

Interest in the 5-foot-2 centenarian piqued after a 1997 reunion with four other Ziegfeld Follies Girls for the reopening of the New Amsterdam Theatre, where she danced about 80 years earlier.

"I was the only one who could still dance," she said then.

Even after more than 90 years as a hoofer, dancing still came easy to Travis, who appeared in the extravagant Ziegfeld Follies show that enchanted Broadway from 1907 into the 1930s.

"I'm the last of the Ziegfeld Follies girls now," she said when she was 102. "It's an honor in a way. I certainly didn't think that would happen."

Click here to read more.

-- Associated Press


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