In Memoriam 2004: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On

News   In Memoriam 2004: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On As 2004 comes to a close following a grim year's worth of reports about deaths from war, natural disasters and terrorism, those of us who cling to the theatre as a life raft to help us navigate the stormy world can't help but think of those from our own community who left us in 2004.
From Top: Alan King; Tony Randall; Marlon Brando; Christopher Reeve; Howard Keel; Cy Coleman; Jerry Orbach
From Top: Alan King; Tony Randall; Marlon Brando; Christopher Reeve; Howard Keel; Cy Coleman; Jerry Orbach

You might think about a composer whose muscular show tunes quickened your pulse and lightened your sadness; you may recall a character actor who was at home both in musicals and on a certain TV police drama; you'll look back at the life of a TV and movie star with a passionate mission for a national theatre; or ponder the influence of two performers — an actress who became a legendary teacher, and a brutish actor who heralded a new age of naturalistic acting when he cried, "Stella!"

The respective passings of Cy Coleman, Jerry Orbach, Tony Randall, Uta Hagen and Marlon Brando all made headlines on Playbill On-Line in 2004. As the year draws to a close we reflect on the varied losses the theatre suffered in the past year.

Whether their work was seen locally, regionally, nationally or around the world, the writers, producers, advocates, actors, composers, musicians, lyricists, directors, technicians and designers of the following list contributed to the welfare of the art form. Some you know, some had no international presence. But their sparks fly upward.

This necrology was culled from the pages of the past year of Playbill On Line, but is by no means meant to be a complete list of the countless theatre people who left us — and left us inspired — in the past 12 months.

I.M. Hobson , 58, an actor who appeared on Broadway (the original Amadeus on Broadway) and at many regional theatres, Dec. 29, 2004, in an automobile accident. Beatrice Winde, 79, a Tony Award-nominated actress (of the musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death) and director, Jan. 3 of cancer at her home in New York.

Donald Leight, 80, the obscure jazz trumpet player whose life was dramatized in his son Warren's Tony Award-winning play, Side Man, Jan. 3 at a Manhattan hospital.

Spalding Gray, actor and monologuist respected for his autobiographical solo shows, such as Swimming to Cambodia, Jan. 10, a suicide, in New York City. He went missing Jan. 10; his body was found in the East River in March.

Uta Hagen, 84, the legendary actress of the original Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf who commanded the respect of theatregoers and students alike (she penned "Respect for Acting," an essential for acting students), Jan. 14 at her Manhattan home.

Ron O'Neal, 66 the actor who briefly became an international star in the film "Superfly" after producers saw his performance in the Charles Gordone Off-Broadway and Broadway play No Place to Be Somebody, Jan. 14 of cancer in Los Angeles.

Ray Stark, 88, the Tony Award-nominated producer who brought the musical, Funny Girl, to Broadway, and later to the movies (his mother-in-law was Fanny Brice), Jan. 17 of heart failure in West Hollywood.

Bernard Punsly, 80, the last surviving member of the quintet of young Broadway and Hollywood actors known as "The Dead End Kids" (so named because of their work in the 1935 social drama, Dead End), Jan. 20 in Torrence, CA.

Ann Miller, 80, the leggy tap dancer of film musicals who had a late-career stage life in Broadway's Sugar Babies, in stock and in a Paper Mill Playhouse revival of Follies (singing "I'm Still Here," preserved on a cast album), Jan. 22.

Patricia Falkenhain, 77, a Obie Award-winning actress with many Off-Broadway, regional and stock credits, including the Phoenix Theatre in New York City, Jan. 5 of a heart attack at her home in Maine.

Charles Brown , 57, a two time Tony Award nominee for Home and King Hedley II, Jan. 8, at his home in Cleveland.

Tanny McDonald , 67, a New York and regional actress who appeared in the 2002 Laguna Playhouse national tour of Copenhagen, Jan. 25 after long battle with melanoma, in the Bronx.

Robert Harth , 47, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, Jan. 30 of a heart attack in his Manhattan home.

Jason Raize Rothenberg , 28, the handsome young actor who played Simba in Broadway's The Lion King, Feb. 2, a suicide, in Yass, Australia.

Jan Miner , the theatre, film and TV actress whose best-known character shocked women in a fictional manicure shop on television (in Palmolive commercials — "You're soaking in it!"), Feb. 15 in a Bethel, Connecticut, health care facility.

Gant Gaither , 86, biographer of Grace Kelly who produced a half-dozen plays on Broadway during the late 1940s and early 1950s, Feb. 16 at his Palm Springs home.

Bart Howard , 88, the composer-lyricist whose songs were heard in lesser-known musicals and revues, but who achieved famed with "Fly Me to the Moon," Feb. 21 of a stroke in Carmel, NY.

Mary Bryant, 71, tough and protective longtime Broadway press agent who handled the works of director Hal Prince (including all of the Prince shows with Stephen Sondheim, and, in the last 10 years, shows produced by Livent, Inc.), Feb. 22, of a brain hemorrhage at her home in Hillsdale, NY.

Carl Anderson , 58, the actor and singer who was Golden Globe Award-nominated for playing Judas in the film, "Jesus Christ Superstar," and appeared in Broadway's Play On! and a tour of Superstar, Feb. 23 after a battle with leukemia.

Pedro Bloch , 89, a Brazilian playwright and physician who had one Broadway credit - a four-performance run of Conscience in 1952 - Feb. 23 of a lung disorder in Rio de Janeiro.

John Randolph, 88, the accomplished character actor whose career included Broadway collaborations with Orson Welles and the Lunts, as well as a Tony Award-winning performance in Neil Simon's Broadway Bound, Feb. 24 at his home in Hollywood.

Jerome Lawrence, 88, the playwright known for Auntie Mame, Inherit the Wind, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and First Monday in October , all collaborations with fellow writer Robert E. Lee (who died in 1994), Feb. 29 at his home in Malibu, CA.

Anthony John Lizzul , 48, managing director of the Vortex Theatre Company, the Off-Off-Broadway troupe in residence at the Sanford Meisner Theatre, where he also acted, Feb. 25, apparently of natural causes; he was founded dead in the theatre's lobby.

Davey Marlin-Jones, 71, a director-professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas who was the first artistic director of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (and a theatre and movie critic on TV stations owned by Post Newsweek), March 2 in Las Vegas.

Mercedes McCambridge, the intense, dark-eyed character actress who was regarded as one of the best of her generation by many of her colleagues-including Orson Welles, who once called her "the world's greatest living radio actress"-March 2, of natural causes, in San Diego.

Paul Winfield , 62, the Emmy Award-winning actor whose one Broadway credit was Ron Milner's Checkmates in 1988, but who worked regionally, March 7 of a heart attack.

Michael Mindlin Jr., 80, a production associate of producer David Merrick on Broadway's The World of Suzie Wong, Gypsy and other shows, and a publicity and ad executive in film, March 7 of lung cancer in New York City.

Robert Pastorelli , 49, the character actor known as the house painter, Eldin, on TV's "Murphy Brown," and who played Mitch opposite Glenn Close in Trevor Nunn's A Streetcar Named Desire for the National Theatre, March 8, of a drug overdose, in his home in the Hollywood Hills.

Joan Cullman, 72, a Tony Award-winning producer who co-produced the Broadway premiere of the French and British hit, Art , March 18 of a heart attack at her winter home in Jamaica.

Arthur W. Lithgow , 88, a director, actor, administrator and producer with a wide array of regional theatre credits, including work when resident theatre was in its infancy, March 23 of congestive heart failure at home in Amherst, MA. He was the father of actor John Lithgow.

Peter Ustinov, 82, the portly, bearded Renaissance man of British theatre (and an Oscar winner in films), who carried on simultaneous careers as actor, director, playwright and all-around wit for half a century, March 28 in Switzerland.

T.H. McCulloh, 69, a playwright and theatre critic whose work appeared in Backstage West, the Los Angeles Times and Dramalogue, March 28 of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles.

Jan Sterling, actress who replaced Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn in the Broadway production of Born Yesterday and was featured in the New York premiere of Noël Coward's Present Laughter, March 28 in Los Angeles. She was in her early 80s.

Leonard Reed , 97, a tap dancer noted for co-creating (with partner Willie Bryant) the "Shim Sham Shimmy" dance routine, April 5 in California.

Eileen Darby Lester , 87, a photographer who documented hundreds of Broadway shows by taking their production shots, March 30 at a Long Island nursing home.

Victor Argo , 69, the actor who recently played Santiago, the owner of the cigar factory in Broadway's Anna in the Tropics , April 7 of lung cancer at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan.

David Clarke , 95, a Broadway, stock and film actor who appeared in such movies as "Adam's Rib," "The Set-Up," "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery" and "The Asphalt Jungle," April 18 at a hospice in Arlington, VA.

Carl Samuelson, 77, co-founder of Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center, the famed upstate New York camp (of the film "Camp") that embraces starry-eyed kids — and helped spawn stars — April 20 of natural causes in Delray Beach, FL.

Mark Swain Upchurch, 47, a talent agent for Leading Artists Inc., April 26 of a heart attack in New York City.

Alan King , 76, the film and stage actor and comedian whose last major role in New York was playing Hollywood royalty in Mr. Goldwyn, May 9 of lung cancer.

Virginia Capers , 78, the actress who won a Tony Award in 1974 for her portrayal of a tough but loving family matriarch in the Broadway musical Raisin , May 6 in Los Angeles.

Tony Randall, 84, the star of a string of 1950s Doris Day films and the 1970s television sitcom "The Odd Couple," who late in life realized a dream by founding the National Actors Theatre, May 18 in his sleep at NYU Medical Center due to complications from a prolonged illness.

June Carroll, 86, a lyricist whose songs were performed in the New Faces revues on Broadway between the 1930s and 1960s, May 16 of complications from Parkinson's Disease in a nursing home in Culver City, CA.

Woody Shelp, 77, who created hats for more than 140 Broadway shows and scores of films and television productions, May 26 after a long illness.

Archie Smith, 86, a longtime Broadway and regional actor and instructor whose home turf was Denver Center Theatre Company, June 9 of Parkinson's Disease at his Denver home.

Irene Manning, 91, an actress, soprano and writer who appeared in musicals and operettas in London, in stock and on Broadway, May 28 of congestive heart failure at her home in California.

Gary Stevens, 88, one of the last surviving show business publicists to have operated in the years before and after World War II, when Times Square was the epicenter of American culture, May 17 of a heart attack at his Manhattan home.

Doris Dowling, 81, a throaty brunette star of the 1940s Broadway stage (Panama Hattie, New Faces of 1943) and Hollywood films, June 18 in Los Angeles.

Marlon Brando, 80, the Streetcar Named Desire and "On the Waterfront" actor perhaps most associated with the naturalistic new style of American acting that emerged after World War II, July 1 at a Los Angeles hospital.

Peter Barnes, 73, the British playwright who penned The Ruling Class and Red Noses, embracing slapstick, surprise and hectic comedy, July 1 of a heart attack.

Ron Milner, 66, the Detroit African-American playwright whose Checkmates had a run on Broadway in fall 1988, and whose handful of plays were produced regionally as well, July 9 of complications from liver cancer at a Detroit area hospital.

Phoebe Brand Carnovsky, 96, widow of actor Morris Carnovsky and one of the original acting company members of The Group Theatre in the 1930s, July 3 at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan.

Isabel Sanford, 86, widely known for her Emmy Award-winning turn as Louise Jefferson on TV's "The Jeffersons," July 9 of natural causes at a Los Angeles hospital.

Frances Hyland, 77, a Canadian actress who spent 10 seasons with the Stratford Festival in Ontario and appeared on stage in England and the U.S., July 11 at a Toronto hospital.

Thomas Hammond, 80, longtime producer, entertainment lawyer, and manager who represented Bernadette Peters and Bette Davis, July 1 in Granite City, IL, after a long illness.

Fay Wray, the blonde beauty who was the undoing of a beast called King Kong in the famous motion picture (she also had three Broadway credits), Aug, 8 of natural causes in New York City Aug. 8.

Frank Maxwell, 87, a character for more than 60 years who was also active in the acting unions AFTRA , SAG and Actors' Equity Association, Aug. 4 of heart disease at his Santa Monica, CA, home.

Elmer Bernstein, 82, film composer who also scored Broadway musicals How Now Dow Jones and Merlin, at his home in Ojai, CA.

Charles Eaton, 94, one of two surviving members of a once famous family of stage performers called "The Seven Little Eatons," Aug. 22 in Norman, OK.

Peter Woodthorpe, 72, the eccentric and opinionated British actor who created roles in landmark plays by Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, Aug. 13.

Fritha Goodey, 32, the British actress who was scheduled to star with David Suchet in an upcoming Cambridge production of Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy, found dead with stab wounds at her home in Notting Hill, London, Sept. 8.

Michael Hartig, 68, a longtime New York theatrical agent (Hartig Hilepo Agency, Ltd.), Sept. 7 pf heart failure following a long illness at St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan.

Ralph G. Allen, 70, the theatre professor and historian whose passion for the American burlesque form led to the creation of Broadway's Sugar Babies, Sept. 9 of heart disease and diabetes in Manhattan.

Caitlin Clarke, 52, a Broadway actress and teacher who appeared in Strange Interlude, Titanic and Circle in the Square's Arms and the Man and The Marriage of Figaro, Sept. 9, after a battle with cancer, at home in Sewickley, PA.

Fred Ebb, the Tony Award-winning lyricist of Cabaret, Zorba, The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Chicago, Sept. 11 after a long illness.

John Hammond, 67, a New York arts journalist (TheaterWeek, and more) and chronicler of gay causes, Sept. 12 of cancer at the Toronto Western Hospital in Ontario.

Jerome Chodorov, 93, the playwright whose My Sister Eileen inspired the musical Wonderful Town, Sept. 12.

Jacques Levy, 69, the lyricist, director and teacher who staged the naughty long-running revue, Oh! Calcutta! , as well as the musical Doonesbury and Off Broadway's America Hurrah, Sept. 30 of cancer in Manhattan.

Dr. Gichora Mwangi, 38, a Kenyan teacher, actor, playwright, director and an influential force in his East African theatre, Sept. 24.

Iggie Wolfington, 84, the portly character actor who snagged a 1958 Tony Award nomination for playing Prof. Harold Hill's pal, Marcellus Washburn, Sept. 20 of natural causes in Southern California.

Hildy Parks, 78, the producer, writer, actress and model who collaborated with husband Alexander H. Cohen to produce The Tony Awards for two decades, Oct. 7 due to complications from a recent stroke, at the Actors' Fund home in Englewood, NJ.

Wally Harper, 62, the respected pianist, arranger, composer and musical director who had a long association with the singer Barbara Cook, Oct. 8 after a long illness.

Christopher Reeve, 52, the actor whose work on soaps and on stage was eclipsed when he played the Man of Steel in the motion picture "Superman," and its sequels, Oct. 10 of heart failure in a Mount Kisco, NY, hospital. A decade ago, he suffered a spinal cord injury in a riding accident.

John Stix, 83, a theatre and film director, acting teacher, and faculty member of The Juilliard School since 1974, Oct. 2 of complications after a heart attack, at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

Jim Morgan, 63, a Kleban Award-wining lyricist who wrote songs for Quilt, a Musical Celebration, Oct. 10 of lung cancer at Cabrini Medical Center Hospice in Manhattan.

Andrew V. Yelusich, 50, Denver Center Theatre Company's resident costume and set designer, Oct. 28 after a long battle with cancer, at home in Denver.

James H. Binger, 88, the chairman and co-founder of Jujamcyn Theatres, which operates Broadway theatres including the Virginia and the Al Hirschfeld, Nov. 3 at his home in Minneapolis.

Howard Keel, 85, the handsome high baritone who sang musical theatre's great roles in the film versions of Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun, Kismet and Kiss Me, Kate (and appeared in stock and in the Broadway musical Saratoga), Nov. 7 of color cancer in Palm Desert, CA.

Cathy Wydner, 43, an actress who played a variety of musical theatre roles between Broadway, tours and resident theatres (she was a Peggy Sawyer in Broadway's 42nd Street and Mother in a tour of Ragtime), Nov. 5 of cancer in California.

Cy Coleman, 75, the Tony Award-winning Broadway composer who rose from child classical pianist to jazz player to master of the catchy show tune, penning music for Sweet Charity, Little Me, On the Twentieth Century, City of Angels, Barnum, The Will Rogers Follies, I Love My Wife and The Life, Nov. 18 of a heart attack in Manhattan.

Gregory Mitchell, 52, a Broadway actor appearing with Mikhail Baryshnikov in Forbidden Christmas, or the Doctor and the Patient, Nov. 18 following a heart attack he suffered days earlier while in mid-performance in a show at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC.

Ronald Bryden, 77, a literary adviser to the Shaw Festival in Canada, and one of the leading theatre critics in the English-speaking world, Nov. 22 of complications following recent heart surgery.

Mark Arvin, 40, a Broadway and ballet dancer who appeared in such musicals as Movin' Out, Sweet Smell of Success, Fosse and Swing! , Dec. 5 in Dallas, following a year in a coma following complications from a heart procedure.

Henny Backus , 93, the actress-author who was the widow actor Jim Backus, and appeared on Broadway and in WPA productions as Henrietta Kaye, Dec. 9 after a series of strokes in Los Angeles.

Susan Sontag , 71, perhaps the most renowned American intellectual and essayist of the latter 20th century, and an occasional playwright and theatre director, Dec. 27 of acute myelogenous leukemia at New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Peggy Phillips , 88, a theatrical press agent during the Golden Age of Broadway, when she repped such works as Angel Street, South Pacific and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Dec. 27 of complications from a stroke, in Dana Point, CA.

Jerry Orbach , 69, the Tony Award-winning star of Promises, Promises and other musicals, including Carnival, Chicago, The Fantasticks and 42nd Street — and an Emmy-winner for TV's "Law & Order" — Dec. 28 of prostate cancer in New York City.

Sylvia Herscher, 91, Broadway agent, general manager, music publisher and producer, who received a special 2000 Tony Award honor for her life's work, Dec. 29 in New York.

Today’s Most Popular News: