Today we pay tribute to the sitcom actors, producers, writers and composers who passed away in 2009. We've lost stars from The Golden Girls, Mister Ed, My Little Margie, 227, and many more who are greatly missed. We've also listed some other notable TV deaths that we covered on the blog this year. They are listed in alphabetical order. The links go to their Internet Movie Database entry where you can view a full list of their credits.
Frank Aletter was an American stage, film, and television actor. Aletter starred in three programs in the 1960s. Bringing Up Buddy, a CBS sitcom during the 1960-1961 season, featured Aletter with Enid Markey and Doro Merande, who portrayed his overprotective spinster aunts to Aletter's character, Buddy Flower, a bachelor stockbroker. Aletter's first wife, Lee Meriwether, a former Miss America, guest starred in one of the episodes. After Bringing Up Buddy, Aletter guest starred in ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors!, CBS's anthology The Lloyd Bridges Show, and NBC's medical drama The Eleventh Hour.
In the 1964-1965 season, Aletter appeared in The Cara Williams Show, with Cara Williams as his television wife. The two worked at the same company in violation of policy that employees could not marry each other and maintain their employment. The show hence focused on how they kept their marriage secret.
Aletter also appeared in It's About Time, a Sherwood Schwartz series on CBS in 1966-1967. In the fall of 1970, he had a supporting role in the NBC sitcom Nancy. He passed away on May 13, 2009 of cancer. Mr. Aletter was 83.
Bea Arthur, the tall, deep-voiced actress whose razor-sharp delivery of comedy lines made her a TV star in the hit shows Maude and The Golden Girls and who won a Tony Award for the musical Mame, died on April 25, 2009. Arthur died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side. Arthur first appeared in the landmark comedy series All in the Family as Edith Bunker's outspoken, liberal cousin, Maude Finley. She proved a perfect foil for blue-collar bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), and their blistering exchanges were so entertaining that producer Norman Lear fashioned Arthur's own series, known of course as Maude. Maude scored with television viewers immediately on its CBS debut in September 1972, and Arthur won an Emmy Award for the role in 1977. The show ended in 1978, as Bea thought it was time for the show to end after six seasons. Then came The Golden Girls from 1985-1992, and it was another groundbreaking comedy, finding surprising success in a television market increasingly skewed toward a younger, product-buying audience. She played Dorothy Zbornak, one of four older friends living in Miami. The show moved to CBS in 1992-93 and was titled The Golden Palace, but Bea didn't sign on for it. Bea did guest star in a two-part episode. In 2003, Lifetime reunited the cast for the special The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Memories. And in 2008, the cast reunited again on the 2008 TV Land Awards accepting the Pop Culture Award.
Even before television, Bea had a major career in plays on Broadway. Arthur's biggest Broadway triumph came in 1966 as Vera Charles, Angela Lansbury's acerbic friend in the musical "Mame," directed by Tony-winning director Gene Saks, who was also her husband of 28 years. They divorced in 1978. During 2001 and 2002 she toured the country in a one-woman show of songs and stories, ... And Then There's Bea.
In between Maude and The Golden Girls, Bea had a failed sitcom. In 1983, she starred in the ABC sitcom Amanda's, an Americanized version of John Cleese's hilarious Fawlty Towers. She was cast as owner of a small seaside hotel with a staff of eccentrics. It lasted a mere 10 episodes, with three episodes unaired.
She was also in films. Among the movies she graced were That Kind of Woman (1959), Lovers and Other Strangers (1970), Mel Brooks' The History of the World: Part I (1981), For Better or Worse (1995). Her TV movies include the ABC TV movie My First Love in 1988 and the NBC TV movie P.O.P. in 1984.
Among her guest appearances on television are the The Golden Girls spin-off Empty Nest, Ellen, Beggars & Choosers, Dave's World, a.k.a. Pablo, Laugh-In, and she appeared on a rare special recap episode of Soap as an "angel." In recent years, Arthur made guest appearances on shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm, Futurama and Malcolm in the Middle. The latter was very popular. Watch a video celebration of her life and career. Ms. Arthur was 86.
Carl Ballantine was an American actor, magician and comedian. Billing himself as "The Great Ballantine," "The Amazing Ballantine" or "Ballantine: The World's Greatest Magician," his vaudeville-style comedy routine involved transparent or incompetent stage magic tricks, which tended to flop to the wisecracking Ballantine's mock chagrin.
Ballantine is probably best remembered as Lester Gruber, one of the PT boat sailors in the ABC sitcom McHale's Navy (1962-1966), starring with Ernest Borgnine, Joe Flynn and Tim Conway. He made his only appearance on Broadway as Lycus the slave merchant in the 1972 revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Phil Silvers. His most recent feature film appearance was in Aimee Semple McPherson, a 2006 biopic about the female evangelist. He died of natural causes on November 3, 2009 at his Hollywood, California home. He is survived by his daughters actress Sara Ballantine and Molly and his sister Esther Robinson. Mr. Ballantine was 92.
Wendy Blair died of cancer on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 in North Hollywood. Blair enjoyed a long career in the entertainment industry, having served as the first female junior executive at CBS Television City in the mid-1950s. Known for being analytical and extremely organized, she worked as an associate producer and producer on a number of popular television series. Among the series she worked on as an associate producer are Three's Company, and both of its spin-off series The Ropers and Three's a Crowd, as well as several variety shows and specials for companies including Dick Clark Productions and Sid and Marty Krofft Enterprises, such as Dr. Shrinker.
Her other producer credits include pilots and series such as What a Country! in 1986, I Married Dora in 1987, Mutts in 1988, and Where's Rodney? in 1990. She later segued from working in production to serving as the manager of business operations for The Smothers Brothers and was active in this role until the beginning of 2009. Now, Joanne McCracken has taken over. Blair was a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America and was a founding member of the Association of Associate Producers (which later merged with the PGA). Blair was devoted to her family and family traditions. Ms. Blair was 70.
Marilyn Borden was an actress and singer, half of the acting duo the Borden Twins with her late sister Rosalyn (d. 2003) when they began an early acting career at age 3. They later appeared on numerous TV programs, including their best-remembered appearances as Teensy and Weensy, twin daughters of the sheriff, in a classic episode of I Love Lucy entitled "Tennessee Bound" (1955), starring country music legend Tennessee Ernie Ford. They also made guest appearances on CHiPs, Maude and The Ropers.
Marilyn Borden died of congestive heart failure in Modesto, California on March 25, 2009. Ms. Borden was 76.
Linda Day - TV director Linda Day passed away on October 23, 2009 from leukemia and breast cancer. Linda was the first woman to receive steady employment as a TV director. To her credit are more than 50 different series and 350 episodes including Married... with Children (for which she did the pilot and continued for more than two years), Archie Bunker's Place, Dallas, Kate & Allie, Alice, WKRP, Benson, Newhart, Too Close for Comfort, The Facts of Life, Diff'rent Strokes, It's Your Move, Double Trouble, Small Wonder, Gimme a Break, Throb, Women in Prison, Major Dad, Top of the Heap, Teacher's Only, Mad About You, Who's the Boss?, Baby Talk, Almost Home, Thea, The Nanny, Unhappily Ever After, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Clueless. And that's just some of the shows! During the 1980's and part of the 1990's, Linda was one of the top 5 television directors currently then working. She was survived by her husband, L. Steve Varnum; her daughter, Heidi Gutman and her sister, Nancy Riley. Ms. Day was 71.
Dom DeLuise - Prolific actor, comedian, film director, television producer, chef, and author Dom DeLuise died peacefully surrounded by his wife and three sons on May 24, 2009 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. He had been hospitalized and was suffering from kidney failure and respiratory problems following a long battle with cancer.
Deluise appeared in many movies and TV shows, Broadway plays and provided his voice to characters for numerous animated features in a career that spanned over 45 years. Mel Brooks cast him in many of his movies, including The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie, History of the World Part I, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Spaceballs as the voice of Pizza the Hutt. In the 1970s and 1980s, he frequently co-starred with Burt Reynolds in the films The Cannonball Run and Cannonball II, Smokey and the Bandit II, The End and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He lent his voice to animated features such as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, All Dogs Go to Heaven and Oliver & Company. He was a frequent guest on game shows and hosted Candid Camera from 1991-1992.
His early sitcom appearances included The Munsters, Please Don't Eat the Daisies and The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. In 1973, he starred in the short-lived Lotsa Luck as bachelor Stanley Belmont who was the custodian of a New York City bus company's lost-and-found department. The cast included Kathleen Freeman, Wynn Irwin, Beverly Sanders and Jack Knight. In 1987-1988, he starred in the first-run syndication sitcom The Dom DeLuise Show with George Wallace, Maureen Murphy, Angela Aames and Michael Chambers. He appeared with his sons--Peter, Michael and David DeLuise--in a 1997 episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun. They had previously appeared together in a 1994 episode of seaQuest DSV.
In later years he began a second career as a popular chef and cookbook author. He always had a love of food and authored 1988's Eat This — It Will Make You Feel Better! and 1997's Eat This Too! It'll Also Make You Feel Good. He also wrote seven books for children, including 1993's Charlie the Caterpillar. In recent years he was a regular contributor to a syndicated home improvement radio show, On The House with The Carey Brothers, giving listeners tips on culinary topics.
DeLuise is survived by his wife and actress Carol Arthur, actor sons Peter, Michael and David, his sister, Anne, and grandchildren Riley, Dylan and Jake. You can read more information on his official site. Mr. DeLuise was 75.
Farrah Fawcett, who soared to fame as a national sex symbol in the late 1970s on television's Charlie's Angels and in a swimsuit poster that showcased her feathery mane and made her a generation's favorite pinup, died on June 25, 2009. Fawcett, whose celebrity overshadowed her ability as a serious actress, was diagnosed with a rare anal cancer in 2006, died about 9:30 a.m. PT at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica.
Three months after she was declared cancer-free in 2007, doctors at UCLA Medical Center told her the cancer had returned, spreading to her liver, and she repeatedly sought experimental treatment in Germany.
As an actress, Fawcett was initially dismissed for her role as Jill Munroe in Charlie's Angels, one of the "jiggle" series on ABC in the late 1970s. Fawcett quit the series that brought her initial fame in 1977 after a single season, saying producers were preventing her from growing as an actress. With Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, Fawcett played a private investigator. She returned for 6 episodes as a special guest star.
She transformed her career and some popular perceptions in 1984 with The Burning Bed, a NBC television movie about a battered wife that brought her the first of three Emmy nominations. She further established herself as an actress in the play and later feature film Extremities in 1986, about a rape victim who takes revenge on her attacker. In 1989 she starred in the ABC TV mini-series Small Sacrifices opposite Ryan O'Neal, giving her an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination. Her other Golden Globe nominated roles on TV-movies include ABC's Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story and NBC's Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story.
Among Farrah's other cedits includes the short lived CBS sitcom in 1991 called Good Sports starring her and boyfriend Ryan O'Neal, and guest appearances on many other TV series over the years such as Mayberry RFD, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun, The Partridge Family, Owen Marshall, The Girl with Something Extra, McCloud, Apple's Way, Marcus Welby, S.W.A.T., The Brady Bunch Hour, The Battle of the Network Stars, Larry Sanders Show, Ally McBeal, and So noTORIous. And recurring appearances on Harry-O, The Six Million Dollar Man, Spin City, and The Guardian. She had her own reality series in 2005 on TV Land called Chasing Farrah, where she made her last rounds on talk shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Show with David Letterman, Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Regis & Kelly. During the 2006 Emmy Awards, the same year she was diagnosed with cancer, she and her fellow Charlie's Angels paid tribute to the late Aaron Spelling on stage. Recently she documented Farrah's Story for NBC about her daily life with anal cancer. Ms. Fawcett was 62.
Larry Gelbart, the award-winning writer whose sly, sardonic wit helped create such hits as Broadway's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the film Tootsie, and of course television's M*A*S*H, died on September 11, 2009. Gelbart died at his Beverly Hills home after a long battle with cancer. He is likely best remembered for the long-running TV show about Army doctors during the Korean War. Gelbart won an Emmy for M*A*S*H and was nominated for writing but quit during the show's fourth season, saying he was "totally worn out."
Gelbart's Broadway show, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, written with Burt Shevelove, was a runaway hit. It was based loosely on the Roman plays of Plautus with songs by Stephen Sondheim.
His films Oh, God! with George Burns as a philosophical deity, and Tootsie, with Dustin Hoffman as a cross-dressing actor, both brought him Academy Award nominations, and the HBO movie Barbarians at the Gate, about Wall Street chicanery, brought another Emmy.
Gelbart's other television work was creating the short-lived CBS sitcom Roll Out! in 1973. It starred Stu Gilliam and Hilly Hicks, and featuring Ed Begley, Jr. and Garrett Morris, the series was set in France during World War II and was loosely based on the 1952 film Red Ball Express. Instead of Army medics, Roll Out! highlighted the pratfalls of the supply drivers of the 5050th Quartermaster Trucking Company of the U.S. Third Army's Red Ball Express, whose staff was mainly African American.
Gelbart was also known for writing the first television pilot for Three's Company in 1976, which today is known as "The Larry Gelbart Pilot." The pilot never aired originally, but has been on DVD and aired on cable on TV Land. In 1980, Larry had another show that didn't last too long. The series was for NBC titled United States and starred Beau Bridges. It was a show about Richard and Libby Chapin and their two children Dylan and Nicky. The show differed from other sitcoms in that there might not be closure to problems after a frank discussion and the subjects discussed were not common to other sitcoms.
In 1983, Larry came back to M*A*S*H in the spin-off AfterMASH. It only lasted two seasons and had the Korean War ended with Colonel Potter, Sergeant Klinger, and Father Mulcahy finding themselves together once again, this time at a veteran's hospital.
In recent years Larry has been interviewed for TV Land Confidential, Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, Inside TV Land: The Dick Van Dyke Show, M*A*S*H: 30th Anniversary Reunion, and most recently Biography: Three's Company. He was also at the TV Land Awards earlier this year. Mr. Gelbart
Henry Gibson, a wry comic character actor whose career included Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Nashville and Boston Legal, died September 14, 2009 at his home in Malibu after a brief battle with cancer.
Gibson's breakthrough came in 1968 when he was cast as a member of the original ensemble of NBC's top-rated Laugh-In, on which he performed for three seasons. Each week, a giant flower in his hand, he recited a signature poem, introducing them with the catch phrase that became his signature: "A Poem, by Henry Gibson."
After Laugh-In, he played the evil Dr. Verringer in The Long Goodbye (1973), the first of four films in which he appeared for director Robert Altman. Their second collaboration came in Nashville (1975), in which Gibson earned a Golden Globe nomination and a National Society of Film Critics supporting-actor award for his performance as unctuous country singer Haven Hamilton. He also wrote his character's songs.
In television, Gibson's recent work included a five-season stint as cantankerous Judge Clarence Brown on ABC's Boston Legal and providing the voice for sardonic, eye-patched newspaperman Bob Jenkins on Fox's animated series King of the Hill.
His previous TV work include appearances on The Joey Bishop Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, My Favorite Martian, The Dick Van Dyke Show, F-Troop, Bewitched, Love American Style, Fantasy Island, The Dukes of Hazzard, Smurfs, Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, The Love Boat, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Newhart, Evening Shade, MacGyver, Sisters, Coach, The John Larroquette Show, Maggie Winters, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Early Edition, Charmed, Becker, Malcolm in the Middle, and the short-lived Cracking Up. Mr. Gibson was 73.
Steven Gilborn was a great character actor that has appeared on many sitcoms and TV series. He was best known for playing the father of Ellen DeGeneres' character on Ellen. He died of cancer in North Chatham, N.Y., on January 2, 2009. Gilborn also played the math teacher Mr. Collins on The Wonder Years and appeared on MANY sitcoms and TV shows including Rodney, According to Jim, Out of Practice, Complete Savages, 8 Simple Rules, Damages, The Bernie Mac Show, Still Standing, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Malcolm in the Middle, Two Guys and a Girl, NYPD Blue, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Get Real, Action, Maggie Winters, The West Wing, The Practice, Living Single, Boy Meets World, NewsRadio, Mad About You, ER, Empty Nest, Coach, Lois & Clark, Hearts Afire, Dream On, Blossom, Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Vegas, L.A. Law, The Torkelsons, The Golden Girls, Matlock, Knots Landing, Perfect Strangers, Who's the Boss?, Kate & Allie, Columbo and Law & Order. Since 1983 he has been on about everything as you can see. His film credits include Nurse Betty, Doctor Doolittle, The Brady Bunch Movie, The Night Shift and the TV movie The Dreamer of Oz. Mr. Gilborn was 72.
Thomas Hill was an actor and director on stage for decades before starting in film in the mid 1960s and on television in the 1980s. One of Hill's most prominent recurring roles was as Jim Dixon on the 1980s TV series Newhart. Hill also appeared as King Baaldorf in the short-lived 1980s series Wizards and Warriors. His TV movie roles include Father Andrew Doyle in the 1984 NBC miniseries V: The Final Battle. He had guest appearances on such shows as St. Elsewhere, Remington Steele, The Facts of Life, Married... with Children, Coach, and Law & Order. He died April 20, 2009. Mr. Hill was 81.
Connie Hines passed away on December 18, 2009 at her Beverly Hills home from complications of heart problems. She was best known for her role as Wilbur's (Alan Young) wife on the popular 1960s television sitcom Mister Ed. She has not acted since the early '70s, so many younger viewers probably don't know who she is, unless they caught an episode or two of Mister Ed on TV. She guest starred on series such as The Millionaire, The Untouchables, Bronco, Sea Hunt, Perry Mason, Bonanza, Love American Style, and The Mod Squad. As you can see, she was in a lot of dramas, but her regular role on the comedy Mister Ed is what everyone knows her for. Ms. Hines was 79.
Cheryl Holdridge, the beautiful blond actress who first gained fame as a Mouseketeer on TV's The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s, has died. Holdridge died on January 6, 2009 at her home in Santa Monica after a two-year battle with lung cancer. After The Mickey Mouse Club, the actress played Julie Foster, Wally's girlfriend, on Leave it to Beaver and guest starred on series such as The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Donna Reed Show, Dr. Kildare, The Rifleman, Bachelor Father, My Three Sons, Bewitched, Dennis the Menace, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Wagon Train, and reprised her role as Julie Foster on the '80s revival of Leave it to Beaver called Still the Beaver. Cheryl hasn't acted much since the '60s, but will be remembered for her work on these '50s and '60s TV series from classic TV fans. Ms. Holdridge was 64.
Morton Lachman was a comedy writer and producer who worked for Bob Hope for more than twenty years and subsequently produced sitcoms for television, including All in the Family and Kate & Allie. He was also the co-creator (with Sy Rosen) and executive producer of Gimme A Break!, which ran from 1981 to 1987 on NBC. He won two Emmy awards — one in 1978 for his work on All in the Family, and one in 1974 for his direction of an episode of The ABC Afternoon Playbreak. He died on March 17, 2009 of a heart attack and diabetes. Mr. Lachman was 90.
David Lloyd was an American Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and producer for television. He wrote for many popular and award-winning sitcoms, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier and Wings. Lloyd wrote the Emmy-winning "Chuckles Bites the Dust", an episode of the long-running Mary Tyler Moore Show. He won an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series" in 1976. He died on November 10, 2009 from prostate cancer at his home in Beverly Hills, California. Mr. Lloyd was 75.
Ed McMahon, a fixture on U.S. late-night television for 30 years as the full-throated announcer and sidekick for the late Johnny Carson on NBC's The Tonight Show, died on June 23, 2009.
The veteran TV personality, best known for his nightly introduction of Carson in a deep, booming voice with the drawn-out line, "Heeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" died at a Los Angeles-area hospital early this morning with his wife and loved ones by his side. McMahon had been battling pneumonia and other illnesses for about the past month. Ed and Johnny first worked together in 1957 as announcer and host on the daytime game show Who Do You Trust? The duo moved to the Tonight Show in 1962 when Carson succeeded Jack Paar for three decades, stopping in 1992 when Carson retired as host. Ed was also famous for his "Hi-oooooh!" line.
Among his other roles, he was with Dick Clark on the TV series and specials TV Bloopers And Practical Jokes on NBC from 1982 until 1998. He was also host of the successful weekly syndicated series Star Search, which began in 1983 and ended in 1995.
He has appeared on many sitcoms as himself over the years such as Here's Lucy, ALF, Full House, Who's the Boss?, Roseanne, Living Single, Malcolm & Eddie, The Simpsons, Suddenly Susan, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Popular, That '80s Show, Family Guy, It's All Relative, and Scrubs.
He has also appeared on TV series as a character as well, such as an earlier episode of Here's Lucy, Ellen Queen, Newhart, Burke's Law, Nurses, and Baywatch. He had a regular role on the short-lived comedy called The Tom Show starring Tom Arnold on The WB in the 1997-98 season.
In recent years was co-host for TV Land's ALF Hit Talk Show and co-host in 2003 for a handful of episodes for Jimmy Kimmel Live!. And last summer he and his family appeared on Celebrity Family Feud battling the The Kardashians, Deion & Pilar Sanders, Tiki Barber's families.
He is survived by his wife, Pamela, and five children. Mr. McMahon was 86.
Vic Mizzy, who composed the indelible theme music for The Addams Family and Green Acres died on October 17, 2009 in Los Angeles. For the The Addams Family theme, which became a long-remembered part of '60s pop culture, Mizzy played the harpsichord and sang the vocal parts (overdubbing his own voice three times) and coached the actors during the main-title sequence (including on-camera finger-snapping by the actors). The equally iconic Green Acres theme was performed by stars Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. Mizzy also wrote all the underscore for both series. His theme for Addams was reprised in the 1990s feature films. Mizzy also had many other 1960s and '70s sitcom themes that also included The Pruitts of Southampton, The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, Captain Nice, The Don Rickles Show and Temperature's Rising. He also wrote underscores for TV's Richard Boone Show and Quincy along with several TV movies including Terror on the 40th Floor. His film scores included the William Castle films The Night Walker and The Busy Body; five Don Knotts films: The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Love God? and How to Frame a Figg; and other films including The Caper of the Golden Bulls, Don't Make Waves and Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady?. Mr. Mizzy was 93.
Ricardo Montalban, the suave leading man who was one of the first Mexican-born actors to make it big in Hollywood and who was best known for his role as Mr. Roarke on ABC's Fantasy Island, has died. Montalban died January 14, 2009 at his Los Angeles home of congestive heart failure. Beginning in the mid-1950s, he made the first of many TV appearances. In addition to his role as Chief Satangkai in the 1978 ABC miniseries How the West Was Won, he appeared in the Dynasty spinoff The Colbys on ABC in the late 1980s. More recently, he did a voice on the Disney Channel's animated series Kim Possible. He has also appeared on an episode or two of Family Guy, The Brothers Garcia, The Golden Palace, Chicago Hope, Dream On, Murder She Wrote, Police Story, Hawaii Five-0, Here's Lucy, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and many more! He was also a fixture on the game show Win, Lose or Draw in the late '80s. But it was Fantasy Island that created his lasting image in front of the Hollywood cameras. Elegantly attired in a white suit and black tie, Montalban created such an iconic -- albeit somewhat kitschy -- figure that he often reprised the character insubsequent films and television shows.
While making Fantasy Island" Montalban also gave one of his best movie performances -- as Khan Noonian Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), a follow-up to a beloved 1967 Star Trek television episode, "Space Seed," that also featured Montalban. Among his other movie credits include Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, and Cannonball Run II. Mr. Montalban was 88.
Brittany Murphy died in Los Angeles on December 20, 2009 after suffering cardiac arrest in her bathroom, officials said. Brittany provided the voice of Luanne on the Fox animated series King of the Hill. While she was known more for her movie roles, Brittany got her start on television. She co-starred on the short-lived sitcom Drexell's Class in 1991-92. She also co-starred on the sitcom Almost Home in 1993, which was a follow-up series of The Torkelsons. Among her other TV roles were guest shots on Murphy Brown, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Blossom, Party of Five, Frasier, Sister Sister, Boy Meets World, The Marshal, seaQuest DSV, Murder One, Nash Bridges, and Clueless. She got her big break on the big screen movie Clueless, which lead to movies such as Drop Dead Gorgeous, Girl Interrupted, Don't Say a Word, 8 Mile, Just Married, Uptown Girls, Sin City, Happy Feet, and more. She has a few films still yet to be released. Ms. Murphy was only 32.
Harve Presnell, whose booming baritone graced such Broadway musicals as The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Annie, and in many TV roles has died. The actor died June 30, 2009 of pancreatic cancer at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
He appeared in many TV series in his career. He was a regular on the series The Pretender, and guest starred in many series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ryan's Hope, Nash Bridges, Grace Under Fire, Star Trek Voyager, George & Leo, Two Guys and a Girl, The Outer Limits, Payne, Dawson's Creek, Frasier, The Practice, Charmed, Monk, ER, and was Lois Lane's father on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also appeared on all episodes of the short-lived sitcom Andy Barker, P.I. He appeared on the original pilot of Hope & Faith as Hope and Faith's father, but it never aired. His final role was a guest shot on Cold Case this past March.
Although he was best known for his roles in musical theater, Presnell also is remembered as William H. Macy's father-in-law in the Coen brothers' 1996 film
Fargo. Among his other movies were When the Boys Meet the Girls, The Glory Guys, Paint Your Wagon, Saving Private Ryan, Mr. Deeds, Patch Adams, Face/Off, and recently on Evan Almighty. He also won a Golden Globe in 1965 for Most Promising Male Newcomer, shared with George Segal and Topol.
He is survived by his second wife, Veeva, six children and several grand children. Mr. Presnell was 75.
Alaina Reed Hall who is best remembered for her role as Rose from the '80s sitcom 227 has passed away. Alaina passed away on December 17, 2009 sfter a battle with breast cancer. Prior to landing the role of Rose on 227, Alaina played Olivia, Gordon's younger sister, on Sesame Street for 12 years from 1976-1988. 227 aired on NBC from 1985-1990 and was taped in Los Angeles, while Sesame Street was taped in New York, so Alaina decided to leave Sesame Street due to the cross-country travel.
Alaina also guest starred on many other TV series such as Baby I'm Back, Herman's Head, Reading Rainbow, A Different World, Blossom, Friends, The Drew Carey Show, Lois & Clark, Between Brothers, The Steve Harvey Show, NYPD Blue, Ally McBeal, NewsRadio, Any Day Now, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and ER. Alaina also had voice roles on two animated series, Sonic the Hedgehog and Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego? Alaina also was a co-star on a short lived sitcom for The WB in 1995 called Cleghorne! that also starred Ellen Clegorne, Garrett Morris and Sherri Shepherd. While she was known for her TV roles, she also appeared in a few big screen movies such as Death Becomes Her and Cruel Intentions. Ms. Reed Hall was 63.
Veatrice Rice, the quiet but foul-mouthed on-air security guard on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, died on January 21, 2009. Though she is not a sitcom star, she was great in comedy. I was heavily shocked when I saw the tribute they aired. I had no idea she was sick, but found out she was battling cancer. I did notice she started wearing a wig this past fall, but didn't think much of it. Veatrice will be heavily missed. She was part of a trio of on-air security personalities (herself, Guillermo and Uncle Frank). She was great with Guillermo and Uncle Frank and her bits with them, especially the SNN: The Worst "___" Team on Television will be heavily missed. She also had great solo bits on the show such as her "make your own" instructions, her bits with the Land o Lakes Butter lady, her interview with John McCain, and her impression as Sarah Palin. And who can forget her "sex tape" with Ryan Phillipe? We leave you with the on-air tribute they did. Miss V was 59 and leaves behind her husband John.
Michael "Mickey" Ross - TV producer/writer/director Michael "Mickey" Ross, best known for his work on hit sitcoms All in the Family, The Jeffersons and Three's Company, died on May 26, 2009 in Los Angeles from complications of a stroke and heart attack. Ross, along with business partners Don Nicholl & Bernie West, made his mark in the 1970's with the breakout CBS TV sitcom, All in the Family, for which he won a writing Emmy in 1973. They were nominated two other times, another one for All in the Family and one for Three's Company. The trio were known as "NRW" until the death of Don Nicholl in 1980. So now only Bernie West remains from this historical team.
Mickey also was part of the creation for ABC's Three's Company spin-offs The Ropers and Three's a Crowd. He also wrote for Maude, another All in the Family spin-off. In 1976 NRW also created and produced the short-lived sitcom The Dumplings for NBC starring James Coco. Mickey also directed many episodes of Three's Company. NRW also wrote the pilot episode for Chico and the Man.
Before all of his hit series were born, he was a part of many shows in the '50s and '60s such as The Garry Moore Show, The Perry Como Show, Sid Ceasar's Hour and The Martha Raye Show. The latter is how he developed a relationship with Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, later forming All in the Family. And decades later in 1998, Mickey appeared on screen for an interview on the E! True Hollywood Story for Three's Company.
Aside from his TV work, Ross and his wife founded the Michael and Irene Ross Program in Jewish Studies at The City College of New York -- Ross's (and Bernie West's) alma mater. Our good friend and author of the Three's Company book Chris Mann tells me he loved farce comedy and that's how he viewed Three's Company with John Ritter as the ultimate farceur. Mickey rejoins Don Nicholl now up in the heavens recreating TV comedy. Mr. Ross was 89.
Soupy Sales, the rubber-faced comedian whose anything-for-a-chuckle career was built on 20,000 pies to the face and 5,000 live TV appearances across a half-century of laughs, has died. Sales died on October 22, 2009 at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx, New York, said his former manager and longtime friend, Dave Usher. Sales had many health problems and entered the hospice the previous week, Usher said. The comic's pie-throwing schtick became his trademark, and celebrities lined up to take one on the chin alongside Sales. During the early 1960s, stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine received their just desserts side-by-side with the comedian on his television show. His greatest success came in New York with The Soupy Sales Show in 1976 -- an ostensible children's show that had little to do with Captain Kangaroo and other kiddie fare. Sales' manic, improvisational style also attracted an older audience that responded to his envelope-pushing antics. His sitcom credits included Hennessey, The Beverly Hillbillies, Love American Style, Love Boat, Wings and Boy Meets World. He appeared on many game shows as well such as What's My Line, I've Got a Secret, The Match Game, Hollywood Squares, Body Language, and more. Mr. Sales was 83.
Ron Silver - Award-winning actor and activist Ron Silver, who was Emmy-nominated for his recurring role on the hit television drama The West Wing, died on March 15, 2009 after a two-year ordeal of esophageal cancer. His portrayal of White House strategist Bruno Gianelli on The West Wing was perhaps his best known part in recent years, but he earned another Emmy nomination for the murder thriller Billionaire Boys Club, a TV miniseries from 1987.
He had a recurring role on the TV hospital drama Chicago Hope and a regular role on the sitcom Veronica's Closet, and he won acclaim for playing lawyer Alan Dershowitz in the film Reversal of Fortune. Among his other TV credits include guest-starring on sitcoms such as Rhoda, Big Eddie, Trying Times, and regular roles on short-lived sitcoms The Stockard Channing Show and Baker's Dozen. He guest starred on many TV dramas as well such as The Practice, Crossing Jordan, Law & Order, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Wiseguy, Hill Street Blues, The Rockford Files, McMillan & Wife and a regular role on the short-lived Skin on Fox.
He was also known for his work on Broadway. He won a 1988 Tony Award for his performance in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow. Mr. Silver was 62.
Arnold Stang was an American comic actor who played a small and bespectacled, yet brash and knowing big-city type. Stang worked on New York-based network radio shows as a boy, appearing on children's programs such as The Horn and Hardart Hour and Let's Pretend. By 1941, he had graduated to teenaged roles, appearing on The Goldbergs. Director Don Bernard hired him in October that year to do the commercials on the CBS program Meet Mr. Meek but decided his voice cracking between soprano and bass would hurt the commercial so he ordered scriptwriters to come up with a role for him. He next appeared on the summer replacement show The Remarkable Miss Tuttle with Edna May Oliver in 1942 and replaced Eddie Firestone Jr. in the title role of That Brewster Boy when Firestone joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943.
Stang moved to television at the start of the Golden Age. He had a recurring role in the TV show The School House on the DuMont Television Network in 1949. He was a regular on Eddie Mayehoff's short-lived situation comedy Doc Corkle in fall of 1952. Then, he made a guest appearance on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater on May 12, 1953 and joined him as a regular the following September, often berating or heckling the big-egoed star for big laughs. Stang also had guest roles on several variety shows of the day including The Colgate Comedy Hour.
As a voice actor for animated cartoons, Stang provided the voice for Popeye's pal Shorty (a caricature of Stang), Herman the mouse in a number of Famous Studios cartoons, Tubby Tompkins in a few Little Lulu shorts, the famous Hanna-Barbera lead character Top Cat (modeled explicitly on Phil Silvers's Sgt. Bilko), and Catfish on Misterjaw. He also provided many extra voices for the Cartoon Network series Courage the Cowardly Dog. On television, he appeared in commercials for the Chunky candy bar, where he would list all of its ingredients, smile and say, "Chunky, what a chunk of chocolate!" He provided the voice of the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee in the 1980s and was also a spokesman for Vicks Vapo-Rub. He died of pneumonia in Newton, Massachusetts, on December 20, 2009. Mr. Stang was 91.
Gale Storm, whose wholesome appearance and perky-personality made her one of early television's biggest stars on the comedy My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show, died Saturday on June 27, 2009 at a convalescent hospital in Danville, CA. My Little Margie debuted on CBS as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy in 1952. It quickly became an audience favorite and moved to its own slot on NBC that fall. The premise was standard sitcom fare: Charles Farrell was a business executive and eligible widower, Storm was his busybody daughter who protected him from predatory women. After the series ended its 126-episode run in 1955, she moved on to The Gale Storm Show, which lasted until 1960 on CBS and later on ABC. This time she played Susanna Pomeroy, a trouble-making social director on a luxury liner.
After her comedies, she moved on to become a singer basically, but she did have some TV roles as well. She guest starred on Burke's Law, The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote. Ms. Storm was 87.
Kim Weiskopf, a TV comedy writer whose credits included Three's Company and Married...with Children, died of pancreatic cancer on April 22, 2009 at his home in Encino. He launched his career in the early 1970s, with longtime writing partner Michael S. Baser, he wrote for series such as One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Melba, Carter Country, We Got It Made, and Good Times, the latter show leading to their first staff-writing position.
The writing duo went on to write and produce three seasons of ABC's Three's Company before being hired to create the TV series 9 to 5 for ABC, which was based on the movie. They then developed an updated, syndicated version of the '70s series What's Happening!! called What's Happening Now!!, though he had never worked with the original series.
Weiskopf's also wrote and produced for Rachel Gunn, R.N., Full House and Married...with Children, without Baser. Kim appeared in interviews for the E! True Hollywood Story episodes of both Three's Company and Married...with Children. He had an uncredited appearance on Married...with Children on an episode playing Lucky the Dog in a 1996 episode. Mr. Weiskopf was 62.
James Whitmore, the many-faceted character actor who delivered strong performances in movies, television and especially the theater with his popular one-man shows about Harry Truman, Will Rogers and Theodore Roosevelt, has died. The Emmy and Tony winning actor was diagnosed with lung cancer the week before Thanksgiving 2008 and died on February 6, 2009 at his Malibu home. Now he wasn't known really for TV sitcoms, but he did appear on quite a few. In fact, one of his ex-wives was a sitcom star. Mr. Whitmore was married to Audra Lindley of Three's Company fame in the '70s. Even after they divorced in 1979, they remained friends and appeared with each other in the big screen movies Zoo Ship in 1985 and The Relic in 1997. When they were married, they appeared in the TV movie The Canterville Ghost in 1974 and such plays as The Magnificent Yankee, On Golden Pond, The Visit, Foxfire and Love Letters, among others.
In the early '70s he starred on the sitcom Temperatures Rising. Set at the Capital General Hospital in Washington D.C., follows the adventures of the no-nonsense chief of surgery Dr. Vincent Campanelli (James Whitmore) and his all-nonsense staff. He guest starred on the sitcom A Minute With Stan Hooper in 2003. Among his other credits include series regular in dramas The Law and Mr. Jones, Mister Sterling, and My Friend Tony. In 2000 he won an Emmy for outstanding guest actor in a dramatic series for The Practice. Among his other guest appearances include CSI, Burke's Law, Riptide, The White Shadow, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, The Big Valley, Rawhide, Dr. Kildare, Route 66, Twilight Zone, Ben Casey, and more. His other big screen credits include The Shawshank Redemption, The Majestic, Give 'em Hell, Harry, and Battleground. The latter saw him earn Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
His legacy continues with his children and grandchildren, among them are grandson Matty Whitmore who was on Survivor: Gabon. Mr. Whitmore was 87.