It’s sad when someone passes away, but it’s nice to give pause and recognize those we have lost. Even if we’ve never actually met any of these people, we have shared moments with them in our own way:
Sir Christopher Lee
Sir Christopher Lee celebrated his 93rd birthday this year and passed soon after. Lee’s first film role was in 1948’s Corridor of Mirrors. He got his stride as a full-fledged movie star in the 1950s, starring in the Hammer Films series of horror movies. He made his mark in 1958’s Dracula, starring in the title role. Other standout films from early in his career include 1973’s The Wicker Man and 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. He continued his career into the 2000s, starring in the Star Wars prequels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and 2012’s Dark Shadows.
The original Avenger, Patrick Macnee, also passed away at 93 this year. Macnee began his career in London’s West End while still in his teens. He landed The Avengers role in 1961, making him a household name. Following the series, which ran from 1961 to 1969, Macnee starred in films like 1985’s A View to Kill and kept busy with multiple cameos in popular TV series like Columbo, Dial M for Murder, Battlestar Galactica, The Littlest Hobo, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, Hart to Hart and Magnum P.I.
Cynthia Lennon, the First Lady of Beatlemania, passed away at 75. Cynthia met John Lennon at Liverpool College in 1957, right when he started a band to become The Beatles, and the two married in 1962. She’s mother to their son Julian. The two divorced in 1968 when John left her for his second wife Yoko Ono. Even so, Cynthia remained supportive of her former husband, telling BBC News in 2009, “He was not to be confronted, let’s put it that way. You either loved him or you hated him, and that’s still the same now, even though he’s not here. You either loved him or you hated him, but you could not ignore him.”
Musician Andy Fraser passed away at 62. He had a brief stint as bass player in the British band Free, joining the group at the wee age of 15. He not only performed but also wrote for the band, like the well-known song “All Right Now,” which he turned out in less than ten minutes. Friend and Free drummer Simon Kirke described the moment of inspiration, saying, “It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing ‘All Right Now.’ He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”
British singer, TV star and broadcaster Cilla Black died at the age of 72. Black grew up in Liverpool and with a little help from her friends The Beatles, her singing career kicked off. John Lennon introduced Black to her first manager, and from there she began performing, racking up hits like “Anyone Who had a Heart,” “You’re My World,” and “Alfie.” She had a kinship with her live TV audiences, which didn’t go unnoticed. She made the natural transition from singing on TV to becoming a presenter, hosting TV shows like Surprise, Surprise and Blind Date.
Prolific fantasy writer Terry Pratchett joined his “friend” Death at 66. His Twitter page announced his passing, in the voice of Death, “At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.” Pratchett wrote of Death as a character and theme throughout his novels, like in the Discworld series, his last novel The Shepherd’s Crown, and Good Omens, co-written with friend Neil Gaiman. Pratchett averaged two novels per year, so there are many more titles to add to his list of accomplished works. Rather than trying to include them all, we’ll leave you with 30 Pratchett quotes to live by.
Blues legend Riley B. King, better known as B.B. King, passed away at the age of 89. The idolized guitarist and singer had an international following, with early recordings like “Miss Martha King/Take a Swing with Me,” and “How Do You Feel When Your Baby Packs Up and Goes/I’ve Got the Blues.” In 1951 his record Three O’Clock Blues became a No. 1 hit. He made many memorable performances, including collaborations with U2 and Mick Jagger, with the likes of Eric Clapton and John Lennon regarding themselves fans of the great talent. The King of Blues won 30 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Irish-American actress Maureen O’Hara passed away at 95. O’Hara’s first film was in 1938’s The Playboy, which had her playing a secretary. She soon moved into more expansive roles like in 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1941’s How Green Was My Valley, and 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street. As her career progressed, so did her reputation of being the Queen of Technicolor, paying homage to her vibrant locks and strong features.
Romance novelist Jackie Collins passed away at 77. She followed in her actress sister Joan‘s footsteps, arriving in Hollywood in the 1960s from England. Jackie lived the life and rather than just being a party girl, she made a living by writing about her experiences and what she saw. She was not shy to put it out there; with her 1968 debut novel entitled The World is Full of Married Men. Other titles include 1983’s Hollywood Wives, 1990’s Lady Boss, and 2007’s Drop Dead Beautiful. Collins wrote about strong women making their own lives, not sitting around waiting for a man to save them.
Horror film writer and director Wes Craven died at the age of 76. Craven’s first film was the revenge thriller The Last House on the Left in 1972. He was the creator of the relentless Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series and the innovator behind the Scream series, sending up the horror genre. Just hearing his name gives us chills, and he’d probably be delighted to know his job was done well.
Welsh actor Roger Rees passed away at the age of 71. You may remember Rees as the suave businessman Robin Colcord who caught Rebecca’s (Kirstie Alley) eye on Cheers or as the British ambassador Lord John Marbury on The West Wing. Of course, we can’t forget his portrayal of the Sheriff of Rottingham in Mel Brooks‘ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. In addition to the popular characters he portrayed on screen, Rees was an accomplished stage actor, winning both a Tony and Olivier Award for his role as Nicholas Nickleby in the 1982 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.
Omar Sharif died at the age of 83. He portrayed Sherif Ali in the 1962 British-American film Lawrence of Arabia, opposite Peter O’Toole. Sharif won two Golden Globes and an Oscar nomination for his role as Sherif. In 1965 he took on the title role in Doctor Zhivago (opposite Julie Christie), which also won him a Golden Globe. He later starred opposite Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl and Julie Andrews in The Tamarind Seed.
Leonard Nimoy passed away at 83. Nimoy was the original Mr. Spock, starring in the TV series Star Trek from 1966 through 1969. He starred in film adaptations of the TV series in the 1980s, made guest appearances in the reboot of the series in The Next Generation and returned as Spock Prime in 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. He lent his voice to The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Big Bang Theory cameos. His most recent TV role was as Dr. William Bell in the sci-fi series Fringe (2009-2012).
Documentarian Albert Maysles died at the age of 88. Albert and his brother David were considered pioneers in filmmaking, based on their choice not to interview their subjects but rather step back and observe. The brothers worked together on films like Gimme Shelter, documenting the Rolling Stones‘ 1969 tour and 1975’s Grey Gardens, an examination of two socialites who had become recluses. David Maysles died at the age of 54 in 1987.
R&B singer Percy Sledge passed away at the age of 73. Sledge made his presence known with his 1966 No. 1 song “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Other hits included “Take Time to Know Her,” “Warm and Tender Love,” and “It Tears Me Up.” Sledge was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2005.
Ben E. King
Another R&B great, Ben E. King, died two weeks after Sledge, at the age of 73. King sang the longstanding “Stand By Me.” His song was used in the 1986 film by the same name. He also was a member of The Drifters, contributing to songs like “Supernatural Thing” and “There Goes My Baby.”
Actress Geraldine McEwan passed at 82. McEwan took on the role of Agatha Christie‘s Miss Marple, starring in 12 ITV films from 2004 to 2009. She also starred in films like The Dance of Death, opposite Laurence Olivier and Love’s Labour’s Lost, with Kenneth Branagh. In addition to her TV and film career, McEwan worked on stage, starring in productions including Love for Love, The Entertainer and A Flea in Her Ear.
Anita Ekberg died at the age of 83. The Swedish-Italian actress starred in 1960’s La Dolce Vita as Sylvia Rank. She was in Italy, already working on a film for Paramount, when director Federico Fellini spotted the former Miss Sweden beauty queen. The Vatican wasn’t too happy with her and co-star Marcello Mastroianni getting romantic in the Trevi Fountain, but she held her head high, and in an interview following the release of the film, said, “I’m very proud of my breasts, as every woman should be.” Ekberg also starred in Call Me Bwana in 1956 and Bob Hope‘s Paris Holiday in 1957.
Thank you for sharing your talents with us — rest in peace.Read More