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Remembering Michael Cimino, Abbas Kiarostami and More Reel-Important People We

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.


Hector Babenco (1946-2016) – Brazilian Filmmaker. He was nominated for an Oscar for directing Kiss of the Spider Woman. His other movies include IronweedCarandiruAt Play in the Fields of the Lord and Pixote. He also acts in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls. He died of a heart attack on July 13. (THR)

Chief David Bald Eagle (1919-2016) – Native American Actor. He was a technical advisor for and appears in Dances With Wolves. Earlier he was an advisor to stars such as John Wayne and was a stunt double for Errol Flynn. He died on July 22. (BBC)

Michael Cimino (1939-2016) – Filmmaker. He won two Oscars for directing and producing The Deer Hunter (see below) and was also nominated for co-writing the screenplay. His other movies includ Heaven’s GateYear of the Dragon, The Sunchaser and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. He also co-wrote Silent Running and Magnum Force. He died on July 2. (Variety)

Ron Cummins (1942-2016) – Character Actor. He appears in Ghostbusters IIDog Day AfternoonRunning Scared and Tango & Cash. He died of myeloid leukemia on July 1. (THR) 

Gloria DeHaven (1925-2016) – Actress, Singer. She starred in many MGM musicals, including Summer HolidaySummer Stock, Three Little Words (see below) and Two Girls and a Sailor, plus Modern Times, Two-Faced WomanOut to Sea and The Thin Man Goes Home. She died on July 30. (THR)

Jack Davis (1924-2016) – Cartoonist. He was mostly known as a Mad magazine artist but also produced iconic movie posters for The Long GoodbyeKelly’s HeroesThe Bad News BearsInspector ClouseauThe Rusians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, among many more. He died of complications from a stroke on July 27. (NYT)

Abdul Sattar Edhi (1928-2016) – Pakistani Humanitarian. He is the subject of the acclaimed documentary These Birds Walk (see below). He died of renal failure on July 8. (Al Jazeera)

Lisa Gaye (1935-2016) – Actress, Dancer. She co-starred in the rock and roll musicals Rock Around the Clock (see below) sand Shake, Rattle & Rock and appears in The Glenn Miller Story and Magnificent Obsession. She died on July 14. (THR)

Seamon Glass (1925-2016) – Character Actor. Known for playing tough guys, the former boxer appears memorably in Deliverance, The RoseSleeper and more and was a stunt man for Spartacus. He died on July 12. (THR)

Robin Hardy (1929-2016) – British Director. His movies include The Wicker Man and The Wicker Tree (see him discuss directing below). He died on July 1. (THR)

Youree Dell Harris (1962-2016) – Actress. She was best known as “Miss Cleo” on commercials for the Psychic Readers Network hotline. She is one of the main subjects of the recent documentary Hotline (see below). She died of cancer on July 26. (TMZ)

Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016) – Iranian Filmmaker. One of the masters of Iranian cinema (see him discuss cinema below), he wrote and directed the films Close-UpCertified CopyThe Wind Will Carry UsLike Someone in LoveThrough the Olive TreesTenTaste of Cherry, which won the Palme d’Or, and many more. And he wrote Jafar Panahi’s Crimson Gold and The White Balloon. He died of gastrointestinal cancer on July 4. (Guardian) 

Tim LaHaye (1926-2016) – Author. He wrote the Left Behind series of novels that were turned into a film franchise starring Kirk Cameron and then was rebooted with Nicolas Cage. He died of a stroke on July 25. (THR)

Garry Marshall (1934-2016) – Producer, Writer, Director, Actor. In addition to creating many TV shows of the 1970s, including the Happy Days shared universe of sitcoms, he directed the popular movies Pretty WomanRunaway BrideBeachesOverboardExit to EdenValentine’s DayMother’s DayNew Year’s EveThe Princess DiariesThe Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, The Flamingo KidFrankie and Johnny and Raising Helen, some of which he also co-wrote. As an actor, he appears in GoldfingerLost in America (see below) and his sister Penny Marshall’s movies A League of Their Own and Jumpin’ Jack Flash. He died of pneumonia on July 19. See our full obituary and tribute here.

John McMartin (1929-2016) – Actor. He was mostly known for Broadway, but he memorably appears in KinseyAll the President’s MenSweet Charity and Pennies From Heaven. He died of cancer on July 6. (Variety)

Joe Napolitano (1948-2016) – Director, Assistant Director. He was the First AD on the Brian De Palma movies Blow OutScarfaceBody DoubleWise Guys and The Untouchables plus The Fisher KingParenthood and Throw Momma from the Train. He died of cancer on July 23. (Variety)

Noel Neill (1920-2016) – Actress. She was the first woman to play Lois Lane on the big screen, in 1948’s serial Superman and its 1950 sequel, Atom Man vs. Superman. She played the same role on TV’s The Adventures of Superman and later had a cameo as young Lois Lane’s mother in the 1978 Superman (see below) and had a role in Superman Returns. Her other movies include An American in ParisGentlemen Prefer BlondesThe Greatest Show on Earth and The Blue Dahlia. She died on July 3. (THR)

Marni Nixon (1930-2016) – Singer. She provided the singing voices for Deborah Kerr in The King and I and An Affair to Remember, Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (hear below). She can also be heard voicing animated characters in Watership Down and Disney’s Alice in WonderlandMulan and Mary Poppins and supplementing Marilyn Monroe’s voice for Gentleman Prefer Blondes. And she played Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music. She died of breast cancer on July 24. (NYT)

Julie Payne (1951-2016) – Producer. She worked alongside Ridley Scott as an assistant or producer of some sort on such movies as Thelma & LouiseG.I. JaneGladiator1492: Conquest of Paradise and A Good Year. She died of cancer on June 15. (THR)

Shawshank tree (d. 2016) – Tree. An iconic part of The Shawshank Redemption (see below), the white oak was somewhere between 180 and 200 years old. It died after being knocked over by strong winds on July 22. (CNN)

Jay Torrez (1980/1981-2016) – Stunt Man. His movies include Terminator SalvationSicarioMachete2 GunsThe Scorch TrialsGamerCrank: High VoltageObserve and ReportWhiskey Tango Foxtrot, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and the upcoming The Magnficent Seven. He died of heat stroke on July 10. (KOAT-ABC)

Clifford Vaughs (1937-2016) – Prop Builder. He designed the main chopper motorcycles used in Easy Rider. He died on July 2. (American Iron)

Matt Villines (1977-2016) – Filmmaker. As one half of the duo Matt and Oz, he co-directed many comedy shorts and sketches for Funny or Die, including The Wire: The Musical (watch below) and Saturday Night Live plus the unreleased feature Brothers in Law. He died of cancer on July 9. (Variety)

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