Reel-Important People is a monthly column that highlights those individuals in or related to the movies that have left us in recent weeks. Below you’ll find names big and small and from all areas of the industry, though each was significant to the movies in his or her own way.
Tommy Allsup (1931-2017) Guitarist. Best known for playing for Buddy Holly and not being on the plane that crashed and killed the singer and others. He appears in Honkytonk Man and the upcoming documentary The Man from the Rio Grande. He is portrayed by Stephen F. Schmidt in La Bamba. He died on January 11. (THR)
John Berger (1926-2017) – Art Critic, Novelist. His BBC docu-series of Ways of Seeing films (see below) and subsequent book are essentials for media literacy. He also co-wrote the Alain Tanner movies The Salamander, Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 and The Middle of the World. He died on January 2. (The Guardian)
William Peter Blatty (1928-2017) – Writer, Producer, Director. He won an Oscar for his screenplay for The Exorcist (see below), based on his own novel, and was nominated as a producer of the same movie. He also won Best Screenplay Golden Globes for The Exorcist and The Ninth Configuration, which he also produced and directed and which was also based on his own novel. He later wrote and directed The Exorcist III and last year’s Legion and worked as a writer on A Shot in the Dark, The Great Bank Robbery, The Omega Man and Darling Lili. He died of multiple myelonma on January 12. See our full obituary post here.
Anne Brebner (1923-2017) – Casting Director. She worked on American Graffiti, THX 1138, Bullitt, The Right Stuff, Escape from Alcatraz, Freebie and the Bean and Harold and Maude. She died on January 13. (THR)
Eugene Cernan (1934-2017) – Astronaut. He was the last man on the Moon, so of course the documentary about him is titled The Last Man on the Moon (see below). He also appears in In the Shadow of the Moon and lent his voice to For All Mankind. In the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, he’s portrayed by Daniel Hugh Kelly. He died on January 16. See our full obituary post here.
Mike Connors (1925-2017) – Actor. Best known as the star of TV’s Mannix, he also appears in The Ten Commandments, Sudden Fear, Island in the Sky and Good Neighbor Sam. He died on January 26. (THR)
Paula Dell (1926-2017) – Stunt Person. A pioneer for women stunt performers, she worked on Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, Mystery Men, Logan’s Run, Camelot, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Silent Movie, Above the Law, Earthquake and Johnny Dangerously. She died on January 9. (THR)
Miguel Ferrer (1955-2017) – Character Actor. He memorably co-starred in RoboCop (see below), Hot Shots! Part Deux, Iron Man 3, Traffic, Point of No Return, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and TV’s Twin Peaks, as well as the movie spinoff Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. He also voiced characters in Mulan and Rio 2. He died of throat cancer on January 19. See our full obituary post here.
Barbara Hale (1922-2017) – Actress. Best known for TV’s Perry Mason, she also appears in the movies Airport, The Giant Spider Invasion, Big Wednesday and The Seventh Victim. She died on January 26. (Variety)
John Hurt (1940-2017) – Actor. He was nominated for Oscars for his supporting role in Midnight Express and his lead role in The Elephant Man. He also won the Golden Globe for the former. His other movies include Alien, The Field, An Englishman in New York, 10 Rillington Place, V for Vendetta (see below), Melancholia, Jackie, Love and Death on Long Island, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 1984, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, A Man for All Seasons, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Snowpiercer, Only Lovers Left Alive, the last two Harry Potter movies and so many more. He also narrates Dogville, Manderlay and The Tigger Movie and voiced characters in Watership Down, Plague Dogs, The Black Cauldron and the 1978 version of The Lord of the Rings. He died of pancreatic cancer on January 25. See our full obituary post here.
George Kosana (1935-2017) – Actor, Production Manager. He plays the sheriff in Night of the Living Dead and appears in There’s Always Vanilla and The Booby Hatch. He actually died on December 30. (THR)
Bill Marshall (1939-2017) – Producer. He co-founded the Toronto International Film Festival and was a leader of numerous organizations in the Canadian film industry. He also produced the movies Innocence, Outrageous!, The Silver Brumpy, Felicity, Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns and others. He died on January 1. (Deadline)
Robert Ellis Miller (1932-2017) – Director. His movies include the Oscar-nominated The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Reuben, Reuben, plus Sweet November, Any Wednesday and Brenda Starr. He died on January 27. (Variety)
Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017) – Actress. She’s best known for starring on TV’s Mary Tyler Moore and The Dick Van Dyke Show but also received a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for her lead performance in Ordinary People. Her other movies include Flirting With Disaster, Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Elvis vehicle Change of Habit. She died of diabetes on January 25. See our full obituary post here.
Frank Pellegrino (c. 1944-2017) – Actor. He was a regular on HBO’s The Sopranos and appears in Goodfellas, Cop Land, Mickey Blue Eyes, Manhattan Murder Mystery, It Could Happen to You, Celebrity and Knockaround Guys. He died of lung cancer on January 31. (THR)
Richard Portman (1934-2017) – Sound Re-Recordist, Foley Artist. He won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter and was nominated for The Godfather, Kotch, The Candidate, Paper Moon, Young Frankenstein, The Day of the Dolphin, Funny Lady, Coal Miner’s Daughter, On Golden Pond and The River. His other movies include Star Wars, Nashville, Willy Wonka & the Chcoclate Factory, Harold and Maude, Silent Running, Papillon, Splash, Fletch, L.A. Story, The Monster Squad, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and New York, New York. He died on January 28. (Variety)
Om Puri (1950-2017) – Indian Actor. He appears in Gandhi (see below), Charlie Wilson’s War, The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Ghost in the Darkness, Wolf, Code 46, East Is East and the Indian films Rang De Basanti, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Don, Don 2 and many more. He died of a heart attack on January 6. (THR)
Emmanuelle Riva (1927-2017) – French Actress. She was nominated for an Oscar for her lead performance in Amour. She also starred in Hiroshima Mon Amour, Three Colors: Blue, Venus Beauty, Skylab, Kapo and Leon Morin, Priest. She died of cancer on January 27. (THR)
Tony Rosato (1954-2017) – Actor. An alum of Saturday Night Live in the early ’80s, he also appears in the movies The Silent Partner, Switching Channels, Mystery Date and Sicilian Vampire. He died of a heart attack on January 10. (THR)
David Shepard (1940-2017) – Preservation Producer. He is credited with restoring most of the silent films on video today, from Georges Melies films through the end of the era. His actual credits include his work on The General, The Navigator, Seven Chances, Metropolis, Greed, The Thief of Bagdad, The Lost World, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Black Pirate and tons of Chaplin shorts. He died January 31. (THR)
Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka (1943-2017) – Wrestler, Actor. Best known as a WWE Hall of Famer, he also starred in the cult movie The Half-Life Horror from Hell or: Irradiated Satan Rocks the World! (see below) and appears in Queen City and Buffalo Bushido. He died of stomach cancer on January 15. (Variety)
Alan Surgal (1916-2017) – Writer. He wrote the screenplay for Arthur Penn’s Mickey One. He died on January 3. (THR)
Frank Tidy (1933-2017) – Cinematographer. He shot The Duelists, Under Siege, Chain Reaction, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Hoodlum, Hot Pursuit, Sweet Liberty and The Butcher’s Wife. He died on January 27. (THR)
Mary Webster (1935-2017) – Actress. She starred in The Tin Star, Master of the World and The Delicate Delinquent. She died on January 23. (THR)
Francine York (1936-2017) – Actress. She starred in The Nutty Professor, The Disorderly Orderly and The Family Man. She died of cancer on January 6. (THR)