2001 Necrology: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On

Special Features   2001 Necrology: Playbill On-Line Recalls Theatre Folk Who Passed On
A director in a famed theatre family. A celebrated actress of the 1950s who worked too little on the stage. A character man who would play a TV martian. An African-American actress who broke boundaries. An impish actor known for light comedy and serious drama on stage and screen.

A director in a famed theatre family. A celebrated actress of the 1950s who worked too little on the stage. A character man who would play a TV martian. An African-American actress who broke boundaries. An impish actor known for light comedy and serious drama on stage and screen.

The deaths of William Hammerstein, Kim Stanley, Ray Walston, Gloria Foster and Jack Lemmon made headlines on Playbill On-Line in 2001, and as the year draws to a close we reflect back on the varied human losses the theatre suffered in the past year. Those who passed in the last 12 months include lyricist Joe Darion, actor Carroll O'Connor, composer Albert Hague, arranger-orchestrators Ralph Burns and Jack Elliott, actresses Kathleen Freeman and Beatrice Straight, director Herbert Ross, and more.

(After this piece went to bed before the New Year holiday, it was announced that veteran actress Eileen Heckart had died Dec. 31 after a battle with cancer, at age 82.)

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 that keeps us thinking, laughing and crying.

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 2001. *

Eileen Heckart, 82, the gravel-voiced character actress remembered for recreating her stage performance of a grieving mother in the film, "The Bad Seed," and playing an ailing grandmother in Off-Broadway's The Waverly Gallery in 2000 (it was her stage farewell, and she earned a Special Tony Award that year, for career acheivement), Dec. 31, after a battle with cancer, in Connecticut.

Sir Nigel Hawthorne, 72, British actor known for TV's "Yes, Minister," the film, "The Madness of King George" (and the play which inspired it, The Madness of King George III) and London and Broadway's Shadowlands, Dec. 26, of a heart attack.

Jan Kott, 87, the Polish critic, professor and dramaturg, author of "Shakespeare Our Contemporary," Dec. 22.

Lester Persky, 76, a producer who got Tennessee Williams' Slapstick Tragedy on the Broadway stage in 1966 and later produced film versions of the stage hits Equus and Hair, Dec. 16 of complications from heart surgery.

Roy Brocksmith, 56, a versatile New York and regional character actor (with credits at the Guthrie Theatre, The Public Theater and Lincoln Center Theater) who also tried his hand at directing and playwriting and founded a regional theatre (California Cottage Theatre), Dec. 16 in Los Angeles after a long battle with diabetes.

Rachel Gurney, 81, the British actress who appeared in Broadway's Breaking the Code and The Dresser, but more widely known as the Edwardian matriarch, Lady Marjorie, on TV's "Upstairs, Downstairs."

Marlene Rasnick, 57, an improv theatre actress, director and teacher who created her own works and became widely known as a spokesperson for the medicinal use of marijuana after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Nov. 18, in Los Angeles.

Vaughn McBride, 66, a playwright and regional theatre actor with credits at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Long Wharf Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse and elsewhere, Nov. 24 of cancer in Salt Lake City.

Gardner McKay, 69, an actor plucked from obscurity to star in TV's "Adventures in Paradise," but who later became distinguished as the author of one of regional theatre's most popular plays, Sea Marks, Nov. 21 in Honolulu, after a battle with prostate cancer.

Ralph Burns, 79, the Tony Award-winning orchestrator who helped bring the brassy, tinny sound to the Broadway musical, Chicago, and the jubilant roar to Funny Girl, Nov. 21 of complications from a stroke and pneumonia.

Albert Hague, 81, the Tony Award-winning composer who wrote music for the Gwen Verdon vehicle, Redhead, and Plain and Fancy, and later found acting fame as Prof. Shorofsky in the film and TV series, "Fame," Nov. 12 in a California hospital.

Peggy Mount, 86, West End actress known for battleaxe roles on stage and screen and work with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Edward Padula, 85, the Tony Award-winning producer of Bye Bye Birdie, Nov. 1 of a heart attack suffered during a reading of a new play he had written.

Anthony Shaffer, 75, the playwright (and twin of Peter Shaffer) who won a 1971 Tony Award for his delicious theatrical thriller, Sleuth, and wrote the film "The Wicker Man," which he was adapting for the stage, Nov. 6 in London, of a heart attack.

Diana van der Vlis, 66, Toronto-born actress who earned a Tony Award nomination playing a young heiress in The Happiest Millionaire in 1956-57, Oct. 22 in a Missoula, MT, hospital.

John Springer, 85, the gracious, respected veteran New York City press agent who represented Broadway shows, films and legendary figures of the stage and screen (Garland, Burton, Taylor, Bacall, among others) for over 40 years, Oct. 30 of congestive heart failure at New York Hospital.

Ruth Goetz, 89, the co-writer of Broadway's The Heiress, the popular psychological romance based on Henry James' "Washington Square," Oct. 12 at the Actors' Fund Home in Englewood, NJ.

Herbert Ross, 74, the Broadway choreographer who would become a director (Broadway's Chapter Two) and helm a clutch of Neil Simon movies, plus the dance-related "Footloose" and "The Turning Point," Oct. 9 of heart failure.

Norris Houghton, 92, a designer, educator, author, producer and director, one of the major figures of the early days of Off-Broadway, when he co-founded the nonprofit Phoenix Theatre in 1953, Oct. 9 in Manhattan.

Edmund J. Cambridge, 80, an actor and director who staged Lonne Elder II's Ceremonies in Dark Old Men Off-Broadway in 1969 and helped found the Negro Ensemble Company, Aug. 18 in New York City.

Gloria Foster, 64, an imposing and uncompromising stage actress who, during the 1960s and '70s, played many roles (Medea, Madame Ranevskaya, Mary Tyrone) previously inaccessible to African-Americans, Sept. 29 at her Manhattan home.

Tommy Hollis, the Broadway actor who was a strong voiced Booker T. Washington of Broadway's Ragtime, and a veteran of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars, Sept. 13 of heart attack in New York City (his death was originally reported by colleagues as Sept. 9).

Don Nelsen, 75, a writer and critic for the New York Daily News for the better part of four decades, Sept. 9.

Barbara Matera, 72, a costume maker whose career spanned five decades and included the founding of the costume shop, Barbara Matera, Ltd., in 1968, Sept. 12 of a cerebral hemorrhage in Manhattan.

Kathleen Freeman, 82, the crusty and lovable character actress who was Tony Award-nominated for The Full Monty and leaves behind scores of film roles, Aug. 23, of lung cancer, at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

Jack Elliott, 74, a Hollywood conductor, composer and arranger — and a Broadway orchestrator and dance arranger for such musicals as Fiorello! and Tenderloin — Aug. 18 of a brain tumor.

Kim Stanley, 76, the widely-admired, Tony Award-nominated actress who distinguished herself in the 1950s in William Inge's Picnic and Bus Stop on Broadway, and earned two Academy Award nominations, Aug. 20 in Sante Fe, NM, after a long illness.

Sally Gracie, 80, a film, TV and Broadway actress once married to actor Rod Steiger, Aug. 13 in her Manhattan home.

Betty Cashman, 90, an actress, acting coach and public speaking teacher (known for Betty Cashman Drama Studios) who worked with stars of the stage, screen and political arena, Aug. 15 in New York City.

Dame Dorothy Tutin, 70, the British actress who played stage and screen roles over a 50-year career (she was Goneril to Olivier's Lear in a 1984 TV production), Aug. 6 of leukemia in London.

Christopher Hewett, 80, the affable British actor who played Captain Hook to Sandy Duncan's Broadway Peter Pan in 1979-80, and who was TV's "Mr. Belvedere," Aug. 3 at his Los Angeles home.

Steve Barton, the American actor-singer who had a vibrant stage career in Europe and originated the role of Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera in London and also sang it — and, eventually, the title role — on Broadway, July 21 in Germany, of suicide.

Sylvia Williams, 59, the actress who starred as “Big Bertha” Williams in Vernel Bagneris’ musical One Mo’ Time, July 17 in New Orleans, after a battle with cancer.

Dama Frances Lumley Bell, 95, a longtime Stratford, Ontario, resident who championed the founding of the Stratford theatre festival and later became a board member and tireless advocate, July 6.

Scott Merrill, 82, the actor who played the lead role of Macheath in the legendary 1954 Off-Broadway production of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, June 28 in Branford, CT.

Lowell Matson, 79, the director-professor who founded the theatre department at Staten Island's Wagner College, a breeding ground for Broadway talent, June 8 of a brain aneurysm in Valhalla, NY.

Jack Gwillim, the British stage actor who was Col. Pickering in the 1981 Rex Harrison revival of My Fair Lady, July 2 at the age of 91, in Los Angeles.

Jill Charles, 52, artistic director of Vermont's Dorset Theatre Festival, of cancer.

Jack Lemmon, 76, the affable, sweet-faced actor known for such films as "Some Like It Hot" and "The Apartment," and a 1985 Broadway revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night (which earned him a Tony nomination), June 27 of cancer.

Mario Joaquin Torres, 30, a past cast member with the New York and touring productions of Stomp, June 20 in an accidental drowning in Amsterdam.

John Herbert, 74, the Canadian playwright whose gay-themed Fortune and Men's Eyes was an Off Broadway sensation that became known around the world, June 22 at his Toronto home.

Carroll O'Connor, 76, the Broadway and film actor who was best known for playing the bigoted Archie Bunker on TV’s controversial sitcom, "All in the Family," and a number of stage roles, including his own play, A Certain Labor Day, June 21 of a heart attack in Los Angeles.

Joe Darion, 90, the Tony Award-winning lyricist of Man of La Mancha, one of the major international hits from the American musical theatre, June 16 in New Hampshire.

Jerry Sterner, 62, the playwright who had one of the biggest Off-Broadway hits of the 1980s with Other People's Money, June 11, of a heart attack at his home in Brooklyn.

Anthony Quinn, 86, the bull-like film actor who scored a Broadway stage smash in a 1983 revival of the musical, Zorba, June 3 of respiratory failure in a Boston hospital.

Arlene Francis, 93, the buoyant, likable actress who worked in the theatre, in movies and on television and radio, and was a staple of the popular TV game show "What's My Line?" for a quarter century, May 31 at a hospital in San Francisco.

Imogene Coca, 92, the comedienne who convulsed audiences with laughter on early television's "Your Show of Shows," and in Broadway’s On the Twentieth Century, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award, June 2 in her residence in Fairfield County, CT.

Francis Ruivivar, 40, a Hong Kong native of Chinese Filipino descent who made Broadway history as the first Asian-American performer to be cast in the role of The Engineer in the musical, Miss Saigon, May 23 in Las Vegas, after a battle with leukemia.

Loften Mitchell, 82, the African-American playwright, librettist and author who was Tony Award-nominated for the book of the 1976 revue, Bubbling Brown Sugar, May 14 in Queens, NY.

Susannah McCorkle, 55, a cabaret singer who interpreted show tunes, jazz and American pop in nightspots and on records, May 19 in Manhattan, of suicide.

Jonathan Bixby, 41, a Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional costume designer currently represented by the New York musical, Urinetown, April 29 of colon cancer.

Jason Miller, 62, the playwright who won the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for That Championship Season, May 13 in Scranton, PA, following a massive heart attack.

Sam Sapienza, 71, proprietor of the popular Broadway theatre district restaurant, Sam's, May 3 on the same Manhattan street — 45th — where the eatery under his name served tourists, theatregoers and theatre people since 1988.

Fred Alley, and actor, lyricist and book writer whose Richard Rodgers Award-winning musical, The Spitfire Grill, would have its New York premiere in fall 2001, and co-founder of American Folklore Theatre, May 1, in Door County, WI, of an undiagnosed heart ailment.

Otis L. Guernsey Jr., 82, longtime chronicler of American theatre as editor of the "Best Plays" series, May 2 of pancreatic cancer, at his home in Woodstock, VT.

Maria Karnilova, 80, the former ballet dancer and character actress who landed choice roles in Broadway musicals, including playing Tevye's wife, Golde, in Fiddler on the Roof, April 20 in Manhattan.

Lionel Abel, 90, Off-Broadway playwright and nonfiction scribe who wrote about Jean Genet and translated Jean Paul Sartre, April 19.

Jack Haley Jr., 67, the film producer-director and former husband of Liza Minnelli who paid homage to MGM's golden age by helming "That's Entertainment!" in 1974, April 21 of respiratory failure, in California.

Bob Bogdanoff, 54, artistic director and the resident director of Jan McArt's Royal Palm Festival Dinner Theatre in South Florida for 24 years, April 17 in New York City after the onset of colon cancer.

Michael Ritchie, 62, the noted film director ("Smile," "The Candidate," "The Fantasticks") who first made his mark in the work of entertainment by directing the initial production of Arthur Kopit's Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad, April 16 of prostate cancer.

Josephine Premice, 74, the coarse-voiced actress, dancer and singer who sang salty Yip Harburg lyrics in Broadway's Jamaica, April 13.

Beatrice Straight, 86, a Tony Award-winning Broadway actress (for The Crucible) who was born into high society but stayed linked to classics, new plays and roles in motion pictures ("Network"), April 7 in North Ridge, CA.

Arthur Cantor, 81, the Broadway and Off-Broadway producer who put A Thousand Clowns, The Tenth Man, Beau Jest and On Golden Pond on the New York boards, April 8 of a heart attack in New York City.

Brother Theodore, 94, the pitch-dark comic Off-Off Broadway monologuist with white hair who became widely known for his appearances on David Letterman's TV show, April 5 in Manhattan.

Joseph Leon, 82, the Broadway, TV and film actor who took on the title role in Arnold Wesker's The Merchant on the road and on Broadway after the death of original star Zero Mostel, March 25 in Florida.

Norman Rodway, 72, a longtime actor with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, March 13 in Oxfordshire, following a stroke.

Glenna Syse, 73, a respected Chicago theatre critic who covered arts and entertainment for the Sun-Times over three decades, March 4, of a brain tumor.

Lee Winston, 60, an actor and singer who appeared in Broadway's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Carmelina, as well as operas, tours and regional productions, March 17 of an apparent heart attack.

Peggy Converse, 95, an actress who appeared on Broadway and throughout North America in stock and touring productions (on a thousand stages), March 2 in her Los Angeles home.

Ann Sothern, 92, the versatile actress and singer of musical comedy, movies and two early television sitcoms, March 15 at her home in Ketchum, Idaho.

Edward Winter, 63, the Tony Award-nominated actor of the original Cabaret and Promises, Promises, and of TV's "M*A*S*H," March 8 in Woodland Hills, CA, of Parkinson's Disease.

William Hammerstein, 82, the director and producer who was the eldest child of Oscar Hammerstein II, and directed the 1979 Broadway revival of his father's Oklahoma!, March 9 of complications following a stroke suffered Jan. 6.

Portia Nelson, 80, the actress, cabaret singer and songwriter whose tunes were celebrated in the award winning Manhattan cabaret show, This Life, in fall 2000, March 6 at her Manhattan home.

Radie Harris, 96, one of the last of the old-style showbiz columnists — she wrote the "Broadway Ballyhoo" column for The Hollywood Reporter — of the kind typified by Walter Winchell, Feb. 23 at a hospital in Englewood, NJ.

Stanley Kramer, 87, the film director who helmed the movie versions of "Judgment at Nuremberg" and "Inherit the Wind," Feb. 19 of pneumonia, at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA.

Richard Woods, 77, a stage actor with a long list of Broadway credits, including Deathtrap, Sail Away, Coco and more, Jan. 16 in Englewood, NJ.

Sandy Baron, 64, the Broadway, TV and film actor who was also a stand-up comic, whose credits included Tchin-Tchin, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Arturo Ui, Generation and the title role, Lenny Bruce, in Lenny, Jan. 21 at a Los Angeles nursing home.

Freddy Wittop, 89, the Netherlands-born costume designer who won a Tony Award for creating the parade of "Sunday clothes," and more, in Hello, Dolly!, Feb. 2 after a brief illness, in Atlantis, FL.

L. Robert Charles, 72, the general sales director for Playbill magazine and a 30-year veteran of the magazine's advertising sales staff, Feb. 10 in Manhattan after a battle with cancer.

David Heneker, 94, the British lyricist and composer who wrote songs for Half a Sixpence and Irma La Douce, musicals that were part of the 1960s British invasion of American-dominated musical theatre, Jan. 30 in Wales.

Harvey J. Klaris, 61, a lawyer and investment banker who was a producer of Broadway's Nine and The Tap Dance Kid, and a former co-owner of Sardi's restaurant, Jan. 12 of heart failure.

Al Waxman, 65, the actor and director who distinguished himself at the Stratford Festival in Ontario and was known for TV's "Cagney & Lacey," Jan. 17 after surgery in Toronto.

Stan Freeman, 80, the theatre composer, performer and musical director who was co-lyricist and composer for Broadway's I Had a Ball and Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, Jan. 13, in his Hollywood home, of complications from emphysema.

Edward Mangum, 87, longtime Director of Theater at St. Edward's University in Texas, who helped found Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in 1950, Jan. 10 at the South Austin Medical Center in Austin, TX.

Michael Williams, 65, the distinguished British stage and television actor ("A Fine Romance") and husband of actress Dame Judi Dench, Jan. 11 at his London home after a long bout with cancer.

Ray Walston, 86, the actor who made a charming devil in Broadway's Damn Yankees, a scowling seabee named Luther Billis in South Pacific (on stage and in the film version) and a quirky alien in TV's "My Favorite Martian," Jan. 1, after a short illness.

— By Kenneth Jones

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