Two of the original cast members of both Oklahoma! and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; the producer who spent half his career getting the musical Chicago to the silver screen; half of the songwriting team that wrote Promises, Promises; the surviving half of a songwriting team that stopped producing musicals more than 60 years ago; one of the founders of the Off-Broadway movement; the author of one of the most anticipated plays of the spring 2012 Broadway season; and an eccentric English acting great who found a way to be odd even in death. Joan Roberts, Celeste Holm, Ben Gazzara, R.G. Armstrong, Marty Richards, Hal David, Richard Adler, Theodore Mann, Nora Ephron and Nicol Williamson, respectively, were among the stage professionals that we lost — or, in the case of Williamson, learned we had lost — in 2012.
At year's end, Playbill remembers them and others who enriched our lives through their commitment to the stage.
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. Jack Klugman, 90, who brought a straight-forward, salt-of-the-earth quality to scores of roles over a long career, and became famous as the television embodiment of Neil Simon's Oscar Madison, Dec. 24 at his home in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles.
Charles Durning, 89, a portly character actor who came into his own during his middle years, playing an endless array of comic and dramatic roles in every entertainment medium, Dec. 24 in New York.
Shana Dowdeswell, 23, a Zimbabwe-born actress who matured into young-adult roles (including Denver Center Theatre Company's Two Things You Don't Talk About at Dinner and Off-Broadway's Distracted) after working on stage as a child since age 8, including the title role in Paper Mill Playhouse's The Diary of Anne Frank, on Dec. 12 after being struck by a car in New York City.
Marty Richards, 80, the colorful and high-living stage and film producer who was among the backers of the Academy Award-winning 2002 film of the musical Chicago, and whose Broadway credits included Sweeney Todd, Crimes of the Heart and La Cage aux Folles, on Nov. 26 in New York.
Larry Hagman, 81, the actor son of musical theatre star Mary Martin who shot to international fame by playing villainous oil baron J.R. Ewing on the 1980s TV soap opera "Dallas," on Nov. 23 at Medical City in Dallas.
Valerie Eliot, 86, the widow of poet T.S. Eliot and custodian of his literary estate, whose permission made it possible for Andrew Lloyd Webber to create the musical Cats, on Nov. 9 in London.
Robert Litz, 62, who wrote plays that were produced Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway and elsewhere, on Oct. 10 at his home in Los Angeles.
Ulrich Franzen, 91, the architect who built Houston's Alley Theatre's first permanent home, on Oct. 6 in Santa Fe, NM.
Noel Friedman, 91, a director, actor, teacher and playwright, on Sept. 29.
Herbert Lom, 94, a prolific and versatile film and stage actor who became best known for playing the frustrated boss of Peter Sellers' bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the "Pink Panther" film series, on Sept. 27 at his home in London.
Billy Barnes, 85, the composer and lyricist whose topical material was featured in a series of revues in the 1950s and '60s, on Sept. 24 in his home in Los Angeles.
Manny Fox, 77, a producer and director who worked with a host of American theatre and musical artists and was one of the producers of the hit 1980s musical revue Sophisticated Ladies, on Sept. 23 in Phoenix, AZ.
Dorothy Ateca Carter, 94, an African-American stage actress who starred in three pre-Civil Rights-era plays, including a Broadway adaptation of the novel "Strange Fruit," on Sept. 14 in New York City.
Jaylee Mead, 83, the philanthropist who, with her husband Gilbert, gave millions of dollars to arts organizations throughout the Washington, DC, area, on Sept. 14 in Washington, DC.
Jerome Kilty, 90, an actor who, as director and playwright, created several epistolary dramas, including Dear Liar, on Sept. 9 following a car accident in Weston, CT.
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Hal David, 91, the pop, movie and musical theatre lyricist who wrote words to composer Burt Bacharach's music in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises, and for a slew of hit songs, on Sept. 1 in Los Angeles.
Marianne Challis, 58, an award-winning cabaret singer and one of Broadway's busiest voice teachers, on Aug. 29 at her apartment and voice studio in Manhattan.
Phyllis Diller, 95, the outrageous stand-up comic who was one of the first women to find wide success in her field, and who also appeared in plays and musicals, on Aug. 20 at her home in Brentwood, CA.
Lee Silver, 91, a longtime executive at the theatre-owning Shubert Organization who began his career as a journalist, on Aug. 15 at Cedar Manor in Ossining, NY.
William Windom, 88, a stage and television actor who found brief critical fame as the star of the television series "My World and Welcome to It," on Aug. 16 at his home in Woodacre, CA.
Ron Palillo, 63, who fashioned an indelible impression as an awkward Brooklyn teen in the 1970s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," and also appeared on stage, on Aug. 14 in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.
Joan Roberts, 95, the soprano who originated the iconic role of Laurey in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, on Aug. 13 in Stamford, CT.
Al Freeman, Jr., 78, an African-American stage actor of dignity and range who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, on Aug. 9 in Washington, DC.
Pyotr Fomenko, 80, a rebellious and respected Russian stage director who often ran afoul with Soviet authorites, on Aug. 9 in Moscow.
Dale C. Olson, 78, an entertainment industry publicist, on Aug. 9, at the Burbank Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center.
Joan Stein, 59, who produced plays on Broadway and Off-Broadway, on Aug. 3 in Los Angeles.
Gore Vidal, 86, the prolific man of letters who produced dozens of novels, memoirs, plays (including The Best Man), essays and screenplays, and was a voluble and unrestrained cultural commentator, July 31, of complications from pneumonia, at his home in Los Angeles.
R.G. Armstrong, 95, an actor who appeared in the original Broadway productions of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Orpheus Descending, on July 27 in Studio City, CA.
Lupe Ontiveros, 69, an actress who acted on Broadway in the musical Zoot Suit, on July 26 in Whittier, CA.
Sherman Hemsley, 74, who appeared in the original Broadway cast of Purlie, but was best known for his role as George Jefferson on the popular comedy series "The Jeffersons," on July 24 in El Paso, TX.
Simon Ward, 70, the English actor noted for his performance as Winston Churchill in the 1972 film "Young Winston," on July 20 in London.
Celeste Holm, 95, a theatre and film actress who, through a small but select collection of indelible mid-20th century stage and cinema performances — including Oklahoma! and "All About Eve" — achieved the somewhat legendary status in show business circles, on July 15 at her apartment in New York City on July 15.
Ernest Borgnine, 95, the craggy-faced, gravel-voiced actor who made a career out of playing various versions of the Everyman, both good and bad, on July 8 in Los Angeles.
Andy Griffith, 86, the stage and screen actor who carved out a particularly American television persona as the beloved star of the series "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," as well as the stage hit No Time For Sergeants, on July 3 at his home in Dare County, NC.
Jack Richardson, 77 who had a sudden, but fleeting, impact on the New York theatre scene with two notable Off-Broadway plays in the early '60s, on July 1 in Manhattan.
Don Grady, 68, who was best known for playing one of Fred MacMurray's sons on the long-running television sitcom "My Three Sons," on June 27 in Thousand Oaks, CA.
Nora Ephron, 71, the Academy Award-nominated writer and director of "Heartburn," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," who brought her wit and intelligence to projects in a variety of writing fields, including a handful of plays (her Lucky Guy will premiere on Broadway this spring), on June 26 in Manhattan. James Grout, 84, a British stage, television and radio performer who won a Tony Award nomination for his sole Broadway appearance, playing a histrionic playwright in the 1965 Tommy Steele musical Half a Sixpence, on June 24 in Purton, England.
Richard Adler, 90, who with partner Jerry Ross wrote the classic and tuneful workplace musicals Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game, on June 21 at his Southhampton home.
Victor Spinetti, 82, whose fame as a successful British stage actor was trumped by the distinction of having appeared in three of the five films The Beatles made, on July 18 in Monmouth, Wales.
Susan Tyrrell, 67, an actress whose willfully erratic career included an Oscar-nominated turn in the 1972 John Huston film "Fat City," on June 16 in Austin, TX.
Jeremy Nussbaum, 70, an entertainment lawyer who represented theatre artists such as Tom Meehan and John Weidman, on June 12.
Stephen Brockway, 39, a stage actor who appeared in national tours of Broadway shows, on June 11 in Amagansett, NY.
Steve Ben Israel, 74, a regular participant in the unconventional productions of The Living Theatre who continued to exercise the troupe's artistic ethos even as the bohemian 1950s and '60s atmosphere that fostered and supported it fell away, on June 4 in Manhattan.
Edgar Freitag, 80, a Broadway producer recently represented by the New York productions of Memphis, Porgy and Bess, Nice Work If You Can Get It and End of the Rainbow, on May 30 in New York City.
William Hanley, 80, who after a brief heyday as a playwright in the 1960s became a successful writer of television movies and mini-series, on May 25 after suffering a fall in his home in Ridgefield, CT.
Carrie Smith, 86, a jazz and blues singer who achieved stage fame as one of the stars of the Broadway musical revue Black and Blue, on May 20 at the Lillian Booth Actors Home of the Actors Fund in Englewood, N.J.
Henry Denker, 99, a prolific writer who over a long career wrote numerous plays, novels, teleplays and radio plays, on May 15 at his home in Manhattan.
Beatrice Terry, 52, a theatre director who was the associate director on several Broadway shows, on May 15 at her home in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Steve Roland, 83, an actor at home in Broadway shows, TV commercials and smoky clubs over a long career, on April 26 at his home in New York City.
Bart Kahn, 46, a dresser and stage manager who worked on Broadway, on April 19.
Paul Bogart, 92, a prominent television director who brought a number of well-known plays to the screen, on April 15 in Chapel Hill, NC.
John Arden, 82, a British playwright with a pungent political conscience who rose to prominence in the 1950s with Serjeant Musgrave's Dance and was often likened to an English answer to Bertolt Brecht, on March 28 in Galway.
Ulu Grosbard, 83, a Belgian-born American stage director who brought a naturalistic touch, intelligence, a low profile and unending patience to premieres by Frank D. Gilroy, David Mamet and Arthur Miller, on March 18 in Manhattan.
Donald Smith, 79, a major figure in the cabaret world who produced the engagements for the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room for the decade beginning in 1982, on March 13.
Tom Murrin, 73, the long-time theatre critic for Paper magazine, and a downtown playwright and performance artist, on March 12 in New York.
Leonardo Cimino, 94, a character actor whose distinctive, wizened features kept him in demand throughout his long stage and film career, on March 3 at his home in Woodstock, NY.
Milton Stanzler, 91, a founding member of Trinity Repertory Company in Rhode Island, on March 6 in Providence, RI
Robert B. Sherman, 86, the American songwriter who, with his brother Richard, wrote the cheerful, upbeat scores to several memorable family films like "Mary Poppins," on March 5 in London.
Davy Jones, 66, who gained lasting worldwide fans as the cute, diminutive, self-effacing English member of the manufactured 1960s pop group The Monkees, but was also the original Artful Dodger of the London and Broadway musical Oliver!, on Feb. 29 in Stuart, FL.
Howard Kissel, 69, a critic who covered New York's theatre scene for nearly four decades, on Feb. 24 in Manhattan.
Dick Anthony Williams, 77, a stage and film actor who was twice nominated for a Tony Award, on Feb. 16 in Los Angeles.
Dory Previn Shannon, 66, a lyricist, composer and singer who wrote songs for film soundtracks in the 1960s, often in collaboration with her then husband, Andre Previn, and later became a noted recording artist, on Feb. 14 at her home in Massachusetts.
Daniel C. Gerould, 83, a professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature at CUNY's graduate Center who held the Lucille Lortel Chair in Theatre, on Feb. 13.
Phil Bruns, 80, a supporting player in theatre, television and film, perhaps best known for his role on the 1970s cult series "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," on Feb. 8 in Los Angeles. Istvan Csurka, 77, a Hungarian playwright whose achievements on the stage were overshadowed and undermined by his vocal advocacy of nationalistic and bigoted politics, on Feb. 4 in Budapest.
Ben Gazzara, 81, an intense actor of stage and film who created the role of Brick in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, on Feb. 3 in New York.
Jean Banks, 77, the senior director of jazz and musical theatre at BMI and an unseen but influential figure in the theatre world, on Feb. 2 in her Lower East Side home.
Ian Abercrombie, 77, a British actor of stage, film and television, on Jan. 26 in Hollywood, CA.
Patricia Neway, 92, who won the Tony Award for her role as the Mother Abbess in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music, on Jan. 24 in Vermont on Jan. 24.
James Farentino, 73, a stage and film actor with a tough, masculine image, and a frequently tumultuous offstage life, on Jan. 24 in Los Angeles.
Nicol Williamson, 73, a British stage and film actor of great range, talent and fire who was as well known for his brash antics offstage as he was for his work as a performer, and whose death was not announced for more than a month after it had happened, on Dec. 16, 2011, in Amsterdam.
Earle Gister, 77, who, as associate dean, chair of the Acting Department, and the first Lloyd Richards Professor of Acting during his two-decade tenure at the Yale School of Drama, was a highly influential figure in the acting world, on Jan. 22 in New Haven.
|Photo by Brianne Boland|
Marcia Gardner, 66, a longstanding figure at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, on Jan. 20 at her home in Alexandria, VA.
Bradshaw Smith, 56, who as the videographer of "Broadway Beat" indefatigably chronicled the New York theatre scene, on Jan. 16.
Bill Schelble, 81, a theatre press agent with a long string of stage credits, on Jan. 9 in Milwaukee.
Mary C. Henderson, 83, a leading historian of the American theatre and author of the seminal texts "Theatre in America" and "The City and the Theatre," on Jan. 3 at her home in Congers, NY.
David Wheeler, 86, a stage director, educator and important figure in the Boston theatre community, on Jan. 4 in Boston.
Given the expanse of the international theatre community, this list is not intended to be complete.
Playbill.com's obituary section can be found here.