7. Maureen O’Hara (1920 – 2015) in Miracle on 34th Street
Another actor with a remarkable career, Maureen O’Hara began acting in the 1930s and appeared in many classic films including the original “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in 1939 and “How Green Was My Valley” in 1941.
In 1947, O’Hara had returned to Ireland and was forced to return to the United States to film “Miracle on 34th Street” (which was originally called “The Big Heart”) due to her contract. She quickly embraced the role once she read the script. Funny that young Natalie Wood actually thought Edmund Gwenn was Santa Claus and was amazed when he showed up at the wrap party when filming was completed without his beard.
After “Miracle”, O’Hara continued to appear in such films as “The Parent Trap”, “The Quiet Man” and “McClintock!” both opposite John Wayne. In 1968, she married General Charles Blair and retired from acting to be a wife and mother. She did come out of retirement to play John Candy’s mother in the comedy “Only the Lonely” in 1991. In 2014, she finally received a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
8. Director Wes Craven (1939 – 2015) of A Nightmare on Elm Street
Wesley Earl Craven was oe of the greatest horror director of all time introducing us to horror classics like “The Last House on the Left”, “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Swamp Thing” before giving us his greatest creation, burned dream haunter Freddy Krueger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in 1984 which he both wrote and directed.
One of the ingenious aspects of the film is that Freddy is talked about and hinted at more than he is actually present on screen. Freddy only has around seven minutes of screen time in the first film which was also the film debut of Johnny Depp. The movie actually saved distributor New Line Cinema and subsequently was often referred to as “the house that Freddy built”.
He left directing the rest of the series until he came up with the ingenious idea of bringing Freddy back in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” where the curse and legend of Freddy Krueger is plaguing original heroine Heather Langenkamp in her real life. The film marked a great end to the series. Craven then reinvented himself again and gave us “Scream” in 1996 which would define the rest of his career.
9. Dick Van Patten (1928 – 2015) in Spaceballs
Dick Van Patten had a long career of mostly television work. He got the lead in the 1970s family drama “Eight is Enough” since he was friends with the president of ABC at the time. He was actually offered the role of Dr. Adam Bricker on “The Love Boat”, a role that eventually went to his friend, Bernie Kopell, but decided to star in “Eight is Enough” instead. His character on that show, Tom Bradford, ranks #33 in TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time”.
Van Patten’s film work includes “Freaky Friday” with Jodie Foster and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”. In “Spaceballs”, he plays the father of barely awake Prince Valium, King Roland, who is desperate to get his son married to Princess Vespa, only to have her stolen by hero “Lone Starr”. Whatever you do, try not to damage the Mercedes!
10. Geoffrey Lewis (1935 – 2015) in Bronco Billy
Veteran character actor Geoffrey Lewis is probably best well known for the many films he did with Clint Eastwood including “High Plains Drifter”, “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”, “Any Which Way You Can” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. He was the father of ten children including “Cape Fear” actress Juliette Lewis. He also made many television appearances including the “Alice” spinoff “Flo”.
In Bronco Billy, he plays a member of a modern wild west show that travels from town to town trying to keep the act together while their audiences become smaller and smaller. He once said “I work with the director and the other actors, but I figure that is about two inches of something that is a yard long. The other 34 inches is what I have to do myself”.
11. Richard Dysart (1929 – 2015) in The Thing
Another veteran character actor, Richard Dysart was a veteran and had served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He had a long career of television in films roles including appearing in “Pale Rider” with Clint Eastwood, “Meteor” with Sean Connery and Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street”. He is probably best known for appearing on the television show “L.A. Law” from 1986 – 1994. In fact, he was the only actor to appear in every episode.
In “The Thing”, he plays Doc Copper, the lone physician who has to try and figure out what is happening when members of an outpost on Antarctica discover they have an unwanted guest among them. The greatest moment of his career is the chest defibrillation scene. Doc is trying to revive a fallen comrade only to have his chest open into a mouth and remove his hands before mutating into “The Thing” once again. The first time viewing that scene is so amazing. Everyone should watch it again right now!
12. Anita Ekberg (1931 – 2015) in La Dolce Vita
Swedish actress Anita Ekberg is best known for Fellini’s 1960 classic, “La Dolce Vita” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. She was a former Miss Sweden in 1960. Fellini gave Ekberg her big break in the film. The famous “fountain” scene was filmed when the water was still cold and Ekberg stood in the freezing water for hours without complaining.
At one point, “Vita” was film critic Roger Ebert’s favorite film of all time having admitted to seeing it over 25 times. Ekberg was reunited with Fellini in 1987 when she appeared in “Intervista”. Unfortunately, a few well publicized divorces, a burglary and fire at her home left her without much money in her golden years.
13. Rod Taylor (1930 – 2015) in The Time Machine
Austrailian actor Rod Taylor is best known for playing H.George Wells in the 1960 sci-fi classic, “The Time Machine”. Director George Pal had wanted to do a follow up film, but it never materialized. Taylor was also was great in Hitchcock’s “The Birds” in 1963.
Did you know he also played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s “inglorious Basterds”? He had to be convinced by Tarantino to take this role since he had retired from acting. Sadly, Taylor fell at his home shortly before his death and had to be hospitalized. He had a heart attack and died a few weeks later.