In Memoriam: Playbill.com Remembers Those We Lost in 2005

By Kenneth Jones
02 Jan 2006

From Top: Arthur Miller and August Wilson.
From Top: Arthur Miller and August Wilson.

As 2006 dawns following a year's worth of grim 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 2005.

Ossie Davis. T. Edward Hambleton. Betty Lee Hunt. Lillian Lux. Peter Zeisler. Arthur Miller. Fifi Oscard. Barbara Bel Geddes. Frederic B. Vogel. Ted Tulchin. Tom Patterson. John Raitt. Jilline Ringle. Charles Antalosky. Teresa Wright. John Mills. August Wilson. Benjamin Mordecai.

They all died in 2005. Some names you know, some had no international profile. They all made an impact.

Whether their contributions were felt 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.

This necrology was culled from the 2005 pages of Playbill.com 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.



Vincent Schiavelli, 57, a constantly employed character actor whose singularly strange face made him a memorable presence to theatre, television and film audiences for three decades, Dec. 26 of lung cancer at his home in Polizzi Generosa, Sicily.

Michael Vale, 83, actor who for 15 years played the sleep-deprived Dunkin' Donuts pitchman Fred the Baker, and who appeared as Xanthias in the Yale premiere of Sondheim and Shevelove's The Frogs, Dec. 24 of complications from diabetes.

T. Edward Hambleton, 94, the courtly but determined man who ran New York's Phoenix Theater from 1953 to 1983, Dec. 18.

Stanley "Ted" Tulchin, 79, the Broadway and London producer who was one of the producers of the current Sweeney Todd revival in New York City (as well as Off-Broadway's Dinner With Friends, Fortune's Fool and The Unexpected Man), Dec. 18.

Enzo Stuarti, 86, the Italian-born tenor (also known as Larry Laurence and Larry Stuart) who sang in concert halls and on Broadway, Dec. 16 of congestive heart failure.

John Spencer, 58, the theatre, film and TV actor known for playing the White House chief of staff Leo McGarry on TV's "The West Wing," Dec. 16 after a heart attack.

Kalman Ruttenstein, 69, the fashion director of Bloomingdale's whose passion for the theatre often spilled over to window displays and in-store campaigns at the Manhattan retail institution, Dec. 8 of complications of lymphoma.

Jean Parker, 90, actress who followed Judy Holliday into the role of Billie Dawn in the Broadway hit comedy Born Yesterday, Nov. 30 of complications from a stroke.

Frederic B. Vogel, thought to be in his eighties, a Broadway producer who was also founding director of the Commercial Theater Institute, an intensive training program for aspiring producers, Nov. 29 of complications from lung cancer.

Katharine Sergava, 95 or 96, a dancer and actress who portrayed Laurey in Agnes de Mille's dream ballet in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma!, Nov. 26 at her home in Manhattan.

Constance Cummings, 95, the Seattle-born actress who made a name for herself on stage and screen in the U.S. and England, and won a 1979 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for portraying a stroke victim whose world — and speech — is broken in Wings, Nov. 23 in Oxfordshire, England.

Harold Stone, character actor (born into a Yiddish stage family) who both acted and directed on Broadway and gave support in countless films and television shows, Nov. 18 of natural causes.

Fifi Oscard, 85, an agent of actors, authors, directors and playwrights for 50 years, most prominently through her Fifi Oscard Agency in New York City, Nov. 12.

Keith Andes, 85, the handsome baritone who was leading man to Lucille Ball in the Broadway musical Wildcat, Nov. 11, a suicide.

Graham Payn, 87, the actor who was Noel Coward's partner, literary executor and chronicler in biographical books, Nov. 4, in Switzerland.

Skitch Henderson, 87, the conductor and musical director who banged the drum loudly for American popular music, Nov. 1 of natural causes at his home in New Milford, CT.

Maurice Rosenfield, 91, a prominent Chicago-based civil liberties lawyer who, in the course of a 65-year career became a producer of feature films and award-winning Broadway shows (including Barnum and Singin' in the Rain), Oct. 30 of heart failure.

Gloria Willis Shenefelt, 80, a n actress who was seen on stock, regional and New York stages, including Totem Pole Playhouse and Bucks Country Playhouse, Oct. 29 of heart failure.

Paula Laurence, 89, actress who worked with the likes of Orson Welles, Moss Hart, Ethel Merman and Cole Porter during a career that lasted nearly 70 years, Oct. 29 at St Luke's following a brief decline in health.

Tony Adams, 52, the veteran film and stage producer whose credits include Blake Edwards' "Pink Panther" movies, "S.O.B., "10," and the film and stage versions of "Victor/Victoria," Oct. 22 after a stroke.

Betty Lee Hunt, 85, press agent who was a tub-thumper for everything from the original production of Picnic in the 1950s to As Is in the 1980s, Oct. 11 at her home in Manhattan.

Louis H. Aborn, 93, the longtime president of Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., the famed company that licenses Broadway musical scripts and scores to stock, amateur and professional theatres, Oct. 9.

August Wilson, 60, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of an epic cycle of dramas about the African-American experience in the 20th century, Oct. 2 after a battle with cancer.

David Nillo, 89, who danced in and then choreographed several Broadway musicals over a 30-year period beginning in 1946, Sept. 28.

Joel Hirschhorn, 67, the composer-lyricist-librettist who was Tony Award nominated for his scores for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982) and Copperfield (1981), Sept. 18 of a heart attack.

Sid Luft, 89, the producer and ex-husband of Judy Garland who brought the singing star to Broadway, Sept. 15 after a heart attack.

Robert Wise, 91, Academy Award-winning producer-director who brought the musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music to life for film audiences, died Sept. 14 of heart failure.

Susan MacNair, 65, a Tony Award nominee for co-producing the musical Ballroom, Aug. 31 after a long illness.

Brock Peters, 78, the Tony Award nominated singer and actor known for films, plays and musicals (Broadway's Lost in the Stars) — including playing the role of the cornered defendant in Hollywood's "To Kill a Mockingbird" — Aug. 23 of complications of pancreatic cancer.

Lewis Harmon 94, a former Broadway press representative and company manager (whose associations reached back to the original Show Boat) and a summer stock theatre producer, Aug. 14 at his home in Manhattan.

James Booth, 77, a British actor who was a contemporary of Albert Finney, Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole, and who made a splash on the British stage playing "cheerful cockneys" in the 1960s, Aug. 11.

Al Carmines, 69, one of the seminal forces of the Off-Off Broadway movement as founder of Off-Off-Broadway's Judson Poets' Theatre and composer of Off-Broadway musicals, Aug. 11.

Carl Harms, 94, actor, puppeteer and long-time board member of Actors' Equity Association who helped steer the union for more than 50 years, Aug. 11 after a short illness.

Barbara Bel Geddes, 82, the actress who originated the role of antsy, hungry Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof decades before she played the more composed matriarch Miss Ellie Ewing on TV's "Dallas," Aug. 8 of cancer.

Jane Lawrence Smith, 90, a Broadway actress who appeared in the original run of Oklahoma! and was the widow of architect and sculptor Tony Smith, Aug. 5 at her home in Greenwich Village.

Donald Brooks, 77, costume designer who first impressed on Fashion Avenue before making a career in the theatre (Broadway's No Strings) , Aug. 1 of complications from a heart attack suffered in July.

Hildegarde, 99, the cabaret singer columnist Walter Winchell deemed "The Incomparable Hildegarde," July 29.

Robert Wright, 90, composer-lyricist who, with writing partner George Forrest, penned lyrics and wrote music for Kismet, Grand Hotel, Song of Norway and other musicals, July 27 of natural causes at his Miami home.

Danny Simon, 85, a comedy writer and teacher of comedy writing whose talent to amuse ran in the family (he was Neil Simon's brother, and their relationship helped inspired some of Neil's plays) July 26 following complications from a stroke.

Ford Rainey, 96, the actor whose craggy, commanding looks led him to play judges, outdoorsmen and presidents over a six-decade-plus career, July 25 of complications brought on by a series of strokes.

George D. Wallace, 88, an actor whose resume included B-movie serials and Broadway musicals (Pipe Dream), July 22 of complications from injuries received in a fall.

Geraldine Fitzgerald, 91, the Dublin-born actress and director who was Tony Award nominated for her direction of Mass Appeal in 1982, July 17 of a respiratory infection after battling Alzheimer's disease for 10 years.

Michael Gibson, 60, the two-time Tony Award-nominated orchestrator who had a long working relationship with composer John Kander, July 14 in New Jersey after a battle with lung cancer.

Dan Crawford, 62, the American-born, London-based theatre producer who founded and ran the King's Head pub theatre in Islington since 1972, July 13 of cancer.

Drusilla Gaye Sturges, an actress and dancer (also known as Dru Alexandrine) who appeared on Broadway and taught in New York state, July 9 at her home in Chappaqua, NY.

John Seitz, 67, the bluff, barrel-chested character actor who spent much of his long stage career in the small black box theatres of lower Manhattan, winning two Obie Awards along way, July 4 in Baltimore.

Ernest Lehman, 89, the screenwriter to helped expand The Sound of Music and West Side Story to the big screen, July 2 of an apparent heart attack.

Christopher Fry, 97, one of the last modern playwrights to find success writing entirely in verse (The Lady's Not for Burning), June 30 in Chichester, England.

John Fiedler, 80, the thin-voiced Broadway character actor (National Actors Theatre's A Little Hotel on the Side) more widely known as nervous Mr. Peterson in TV's "The Bob Newhart Show" and (in voiceover) worrywart Piglet in Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" cartoons, June 25.

Charles Vincent "Bud" White, Jr., 86, a character actor who appeared on Broadway, in films and on TV, June 20.

Tom Aston, 66, a director, designer, writer and educator who helped found the theatre department at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and worked recently with Meadow Brook Theatre on campus, June 16 after a battle with leukemia.

Phil Ford, 85, the trouper who appeared on Broadway (Funny Girl), in nightclubs and in summer stock (often with wife and later ex-wife Mimi Hines) for many years, June 15 in Nevada.

Lane Smith, 69, the character actor who played James Lingk in the 1984 Broadway production of Glengarry Glen Ross, and would later play editor Perry White in a "Superman" TV series, June 13 of complications from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

Ron Randell, 86, an Australian-born actor who ended up working in Hollywood and on Broadway, June 11 of complications of a stroke.

Lillian Lux, 86, a star of the Yiddish theatre and matriarch of the Burstein theatre family, June 10 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan.

Dana Elcar, 77, the actor best known for his long-running role on the series "MacGyver," but with a rich history on stage, June 10.

Anne Bancroft, 73, the Tony Award winning actress (and Mel Brooks' wife) who played tough, warm and funny roles throughout a respected stage and screen career, from The Miracle Worker to "The Turning Point," June 6 of uterine cancer.

Oscar Brown, Jr., 78, an actor, composer, singer in Chicago and New York theatre, who wrote about society's fringes, including street gangs, May 29.

Eddie Albert, 99, character actor of Broadway's Miss Liberty and Oklahoma!, and TV's "Green Acres," May 26 at his home near Pacific Palisades, CA.

Stephen Elliott, 86, the handsome patrician Tony-nominated character actor at home in classics by Shakespeare, Ibsen and Schiller, or in TV soaps such as "Dallas," May 21 of congestive heart failure.

Howard Morris, 85, the character actor known for everything from cartoon voices and "The Andy Griffith Show" to musicals (the 1960s Finian's Rainbow revival) and Shakespeare, May 21.

Richard Lewine, 94, a Broadway composer and television producer who conceived the Broadway revue, Rodgers & Hart, wrote songs for the revue Fools Rush In, produced the 1957 TV musical "Cinderella," and ran the Rodgers & Hammerstein office following the death of composer Richard Rodgers, May 19.

Mark Trent Goldberg, executive director of The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust, May 18, suddenly of a heart attack.

Frank Gorshin, 72, the actor, comedian and impressionist known for playing the frisky Riddler in the 1960s TV series "Batman," and George Burns in the solo play Say Goodnight Gracie (for which he won the Outer Critics Circle Award), May 17 after a battle with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia.

Cindy Bandle, 49, the respected press director of Goodman Theatre who helped the theatre grow to national prominence since 1985, May 9, after a battle with cancer.

Benjamin Mordecai III, 60, the Broadway producer associated with some of the most esteemed American plays of the last 25 years, including the works of August Wilson, May 8 after a long illness.

Philip A. Campanella, 56, composer and musical director who worked with Manhattan cabaret artists and Roundabout Theatre Company, May 5 of arterial thrombosis.

Elisabeth Fraser, 85, an actress who started on Broadway in 1940 and later appeared in films and TV (as Sgt. Bilko's girlfriend in TV's "The Phil Silvers Show"), May 5 of congestive heart failure.

Mason Adams, 86, the paternal theatre (The Man Who Had All the Luck), film and TV character actor (he was Charlie Hume on "Lou Grant") whose voice was so warm he was heard on commercials for Smucker's jams, April 26 of natural causes at his home on the Upper East Side.

Sir John Mills, 97, one of Britain's most famous stage, film and TV actors, who survived most of his contemporaries —including Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Alec Guinness — and the father of the actresses Hayley and Juliet Mills, April 23.

Ruth Hussey, 93, the Academy Award-nominated actress ("The Philadelphia Story") who appeared in Broadway's Goodbye, My Fancy and State of the Union, April 19 of complications following an appendectomy.

Mark D. Vaughan, 35, a St. Louis-based Equity actor and director who, at age 15, founded Characters & Company, a theatre company in the St. Louis area, April 19 after a long illness.

Margo Skinner, actress who played the role of Miss Poppenghul, the harried secretary of movie mogul David O. Selznick, in the spring run of Manhattan Theatre Club production of Moonlight and Magnolias, found dead in her apartment April 11, during the run of the play.

Paul Henning, 93, who lived to see his screenplay for the 1964 film "Bedtime Story" inspire a 1988 remake "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," which in turn begat the Broadway musical of the same name.

Charles Antalosky, 67, a sweet-natured mustachioed character actor who appeared in Broadway's Sly Fox in 2004, and was a Barrymore Award winner in Philadelphia, his home for many years, March 23 after a battle with cancer.

Barney Martin, 82, the character actor with a hangdog expression who played the beleaguered Amos Hart in the original Broadway production of the musical Chicago, March 21 after a fight with cancer.

Bobby Short, 80, one of the cabaret world's most revered performers and a living symbol of a bygone brand of late-night New York style, March 21 of leukemia.

Ralph Roseman, 80, a longtime Broadway general manager and producer who had worked for many years to support the resident Hedgerow Theatre in Philadelphia, March 16.

Tom Dillon, 86, president emeritus of the entertainment industry charity The Actors' Fund of America and a veteran performer in many areas of show business, March 14 of natural causes at The Actors' Fund Home in Englewood, NJ.

Helon Blount Kaldenberg, 76, a Broadway actress who appeared in The Most Happy Fella, Woman of the Year and Follies, March 7 after a long illness.

Teresa Wright, 86, sensitive and independent actress who etched a series of piercing performances in Hollywood films during and about the World War II period, March 6 after a heart attack.

James "Jim" W. Tyler, Jr., 76, a Broadway orchestrator who created the brassy sound of La Cage aux Folles, and worked on many more musicals, March 5.

Jilline Ringle, 40, a Barrymore Award-nominated actress-singer who was a bright spot in theatres and cabarets in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cape May, NJ, Feb. 28 after an illness.

Tom Patterson, 84, the visionary Canadian who had the idea to create a theatre festival in the Ontario town of Stratford, Feb. 23 at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto after a long illness.

Trude Rittmann, 96, the respected dance and vocal arranger for Broadway artists Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Irving Berlin, Jerome Robbins and Agnes de Mille, Feb. 22 of respiratory failure.

Heath Lamberts, 63, the character actor and farceur known for many classic roles in major North American theatres, as well as for creating Cogsworth in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast, Feb. 22 of cancer.

John Raitt, 88, actor-singer whose strapping frame and powerful baritone made him a charismatic star of the Broadway musical stage in the 1940s and '50s (including creating the leading roles in Carousel and The Pajama Game), Feb. 20 of complications of pneumonia.

Dan O'Herlihy, 85, whose long career took him from the Dublin stage to Broadway to countless Hollywood films, Feb. 17.

Arthur Miller, 89, the morally-sensitive author of the landmark drama Death of Salesman — as well as The Crucible, A View From the Bridge, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The Price and All My Sons — and widely regarded as America's greatest living playwright, Feb. 10 of cancer, pneumonia and a heart condition.

Ossie Davis, 87, the Tony Award-nominated actor-playwright and icon of 20th century African-American theatre, found dead Feb. 4 in his hotel room in Miami.

Sherri Marie Nierman, 29, a respected regional theatre stage manager who worked with Human Race Theatre Company, among other troupes, Jan. 29 as a result of a car accident in Dayton, Ohio.

Dick Gallagher, 49, a trusted accompanist, musical director and Off-Broadway composer (for What Not, Whoop-Dee-Doo! and — his greatest hit — When Pigs Fly) ,Jan. 20 in Manhattan after a long illness.

Richard Clarke, 70, the dignified-looking British character actor with a score of Broadway credits, Jan. 7 of colon cancer.

Peter Zeisler, 81, a major name in the resident not-for-profit theatre community as one of the founders of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the longtime executive director of the Theatre Communications Group, Jan. 16 of heart failure at his home in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

Ruth Warrick, 88, one of the grand ladies of TV soap operas (including "All My Children") whose career included her movie debut with "Citizen Kane" as well as a flirtation with Broadway and work in stock, Jan. 15 of complications from pneumonia.