As 2014 comes to a close, we take a moment at Geeks Of Doom to remember all the fallen entertainment figures in film and television who left us this year. This year, we gave a farewell to a large array of heavyweights, cult heroes, pioneering figures, and sentimental favorites who were among those who have passed on in a physical sense, but leaving the memories, the ones that they made in the past and the ones each of their fans have in regards to them.
The legendary funnyman, who dazzled and electrified audiences globally for over four decades with his bizarre, unorthodox, unpredictable, and manic sense of humor, shocked the same globe when he had committed suicide on August 11th. Like James Gandolfini’s tragic and sudden death the year prior, the passing of Robin Williams put a shadow and heavy heart over the entire Hollywood community, comic community, and legions of loyal fans, most of whom have followed him since the beginning as Mork on Mork and Mindy, through films like Good Morning, Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, Aladdin, and Jumanji, and in his final offerings, like this year’s Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb). It’s still hard to realize and accept that he’s gone.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
The cherubic, unkempt-looking actor had a career in which he was regarded as one of the best of his of anyone else’s generation. With a style that was like a chameleon, Philip Seymour Hoffman could easily slip into any role he took on and made it his own, such as the title role in Capote, The Hunger Games, and Boogie Nights. His influence will remain broad, his visionary craft a sight to behold on screen forever and ever. He was only 46 years old when he was found dead of a heroin overdose in his Manhattan apartment on February 2nd.
Rugged, handsome, everyman James Garner, who had a career as unique as they come, died on July 19th of natural causes at the age of 86. From his memorable turns in the television shows Maverick and The Rockford Files to many theatrical productions, Garner had a folksy, down-to-earth relaxed style which solidified his legend.
A master craftsman of the stage and screen, director, writer, and comedian Mike Nichols wore many hats throughout his career and successfully so. Best remembered as the director of the anti-establishment classic The Graduate, there really wasn’t much entertainment terrain that Mike Nichols didn’t tread down deftly and influentially. He passed away on November 19th at the age of 86.
The acerbic, machete tongue of Joan Rivers cajoled, delighted, and playfully insulted audiences for more than half a century. Rivers, who had a career that started in the 1960s and found its peaks in the 1980s when she was undoubtedly the hottest comedian in America (with her “Can We Talk?” catchphrase), sliced sacred cows with the precision of a ninja, and in doing so, she became one of the most legendary female comedians of all time. She was still highly active in the business when she slipped into a coma following cardiac arrest on August 28th and died on September 4th. Rivers was 81 years old.
Glen A. Larson
A wizard of creating one-hour action-packed television programs for mainly young teenage boys as the key demographic, producer Glen A. Larson carved his niche in the annals of television with such programs as Knight Rider and the original Battlestar Galactica, two programs which are still highly regarded in the metaphoric geek hall of fame. He also produced the more decidedly adult, but same kind of pulpy fun program, Magnum P.I. Larson was 77 when he died from esophageal cancer on November 14th.
Academy Award-winning director Richard Attenborough, who helmed such lauded productions as Gandhi and Chaplin and may be best remembered to later generations for his role as the billionaire owner of Jurassic Park in the franchise of the same name, died after falling down a flight of stairs on August 24th. He was 90.
Richard Kiel, the tall lumbering gentle giant of a man, had a presence that allowed him to become an instantly recognizable figure in many of the productions he had appeared in on the small and silver screens. He’s best remembered as “Jaws” in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Kiel was 74 years old when he died on September 10th.
Marilyn Burns was the star of one of the most classic, unnerving, and intense films ever made in the horror genre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The horror flick, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014 and remains one of the genre’s best and most unsettling films, was helped immensely by the performance of Burns, who was able to rise her character above what could have been a pulpy, William Castle-style mess of a horror film, to one of sheer terror. She died on August 5th at the age of 65.
Shirley Temple, the precocious pint-sized star of Hollywood during the 1930s, passed away on February 10th. She was 86. Delighting audiences during that difficult decade, which was knee-deep in a Depression and the beginnings of World War II, Temple was a harmless, innocuous comet of talent who could sing and tap dance with the best of them, and was a top box office draw throughout most of the peak of her career. In later years, she became a diplomat, appointed to various positions by various Presidents for global outreach.
Venerable funnyman Harold Ramis, who had a flair for comedy direction with classic movies like Caddyshack and Groundhog Day, and who wrote and acted in other hysterical productions like Ghostbusters and Stripes, died on February 24th at the age of 69. Still terribly missed by ions and ions of comedy fans around the world, Ramis was, as the Todd Rundgren album is titled, “a wizard, a true star.”
One of the great comedians to ever grace the planet, Sid Caesar kept America laughing for almost 70 years, whether it be with his hilarious program Your Show of Shows during TV’s Golden Age of the 1950s, or as Coach Calhoun in Grease to later audiences. There was something always congenial and warming to go along with the side-splitting comedy once one gazed their eyes upon the rubbery, loose yet strong presence of Caesar. He died at the age of 91 on February 12th.
Ann B. Davis
Remembered forever in television history as Alice the maid on the lightweight chuckler sitcom The Brady Bunch, Ann B. Davis had had an Emmy-winning comedy career prior to working on that program, but she nonetheless became stereotyped in the role anyway, something which didn’t seem to bother her one bit, and in fact, became something she actually welcomed in her career. She was 88 when she died on June 1st from complications from a fall.
Swiss painter and sculptor H.R. Giger, best remembered for helping to bring to fruition the sinister and surrealistic Alien in the 1979 claustrophobic classic Sci-Fi thriller of the same name, died on May 12th. He was 74. Also known, somewhat controversially, for imagery that contained elements that were sexually stark mixed with gothic sensibilities, Giger’s work is at once stunning, stark, and horrifying.
With his instantly recognizable voice, which amassed him a fortune as a national radio DJ on America’s Top 40 to countless voiceover cartoon work — he voiced the kid-friendly hippie Shaggy on Scooby Doo — Casey Kasem became as much of an American institution in terms of what was going on in popular music as Dick Clark was. He was 82 when he died from Lewy Body Dementia on June 15th.
Audiences fondly remember the performance of legendary actor Eli Wallach in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, but that epic spaghetti-Western was only a small facet of the kind of work the actor could do on screen. Multi-faceted and skilled in the method approach to acting, Wallach defied genres and appeared in such films as Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part III, John Huston’s The Misfits (which was Marilyn Monroe’s last vehicle), and especially as part of a memorable ensemble cast in The Magnificent Seven. Wallach was 98 when he died at his home in New York of natural causes on June 24th.
Don Pardo was one of the most memorable announcers who ever graced the profession. Mainly working for NBC, and best known for his work as the original announcer of Jeopardy and Saturday Night Live, there was a friendly yet urgent quality to Pardo’s work, and he had the kind of vocal vernacular and rhythm to his voice that could even make announcing the weather sound important and seriously professional. Pardo was still doing announcing work for SNL, albeit taped in advance at that point, when he died at the age of 96 on August 18th.
A veteran of the theater, JJ Murphy had been working on the HBO smash series Game of Thrones when he tragically died four days into filming the show’s fifth season. The actor had appeared in various films and this year’s Dracula Untold when he died on August 8th at the age of 86.
Elizabeth Pena had found success as an actress in the 1980s, first with her role in the story of ill-fated musician Richie Valens in La Bamba, and then with Tim Robbins in Adrian Lyne’s hallucinogenic classic on-edge cinematic tale Jacob’s Ladder. She had been prolific with projects in recent years, appearing in Modern Family and Matador on television along with other film roles. Pena died at the age of 55 on October 14th.
Bob Hoskins, with his strong Cockney accent and take-no-shit kind of manic energy he infused into his many film roles, died from pneumonia on April 29th at the age of 71. From roles in films like the oft-remembered live-action married with animation Who Framed Roger Rabbit, to narrative driven films like Mona Lisa and The Long Good Friday, to the dazzling Pink Floyd: The Wall and the bizarre surrealistic comedy/wonderment in Terry Gilliam’s expansive masterpiece Brazil, Hoskins as a thespian of the silver screen covered all bases and then some.
The pint-sized star who carried major wallop and moxie in Hollywood, Mickey Rooney was one of the most beloved and multi-talented figures to ever grace the entertainment industry. Whether it was with Judy Garland in the famed Andy Hardy series of the early 20th century, to National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor, to singing and dancing on Broadway in Sugar Babies later in his life, to the bevy of beautiful women he married, Mickey Rooney was in a way Dean Martin before Dean Martin. He was 91 when he died of natural causes on April 6th.
Character actor James Rebhorn was a familiar face on many film and television productions for decades. Seinfeld fans will remember him best as the prosecutor on the final episode of that classic sitcom. Rebhorn died at the age of 65 on March 21st after a long battle with Melanoma.
With a cinematic image invoked in stone to the cult masses who remember him as Cyrus, the leader of the entire gang network in the 1979 Walter Hill pulp masterpiece The Warriors, which includes his intoning booming proclamation of “Can You Dig It?!,” Roger Hill has earned his place in film lore. He died on February 20th at the age of 65.
John Henson, son of Jim Henson, who was part of a group who shepherded his father’s company after Jim’s passing in 1990, himself died at the age of 53 on Feb 14th. Henson had been a puppeteer and had performed as such in several Muppet-themed productions.
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Arthur Rankin Jr., who along with Jules Bass, created and revolutionized “animagic,” which was stop-motion animation used to create such holiday and perennial classic television specials as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town among many others. Rankin died in Bermuda on January 30th at the age of 89.
As the Professor on Gilligan’s Island, the ridiculous banal comedy that became one of the most profitable and best remembered television programs of all time, Russell Johnson was in many ways one of the more sane characters in the motley crew of zany characters who were stuck on the desert island for three seasons on CBS in the mid 1960s. Johnson, like the rest of the characters and the show itself, became a pop cultural iconic symbol for generations of young viewers as reruns ran endlessly in syndication. Johnson died at the age of 89 on January 16th.
Sir Run Run Shaw
Shaw, who was instrumental in not only having a hand in the genesis of the Chinese movie and TV industry, was also responsible for creating scores of motion pictures, the paramount of the Kung-Fu genre Five Fingers of Death being the absolute standout. Extremely influential as a businessman and a successful producer the world over, Shaw was 106 years old when he died in his home in Hong Kong on January 7th.
One of the last shining lights of the Golden Era of Hollywood back in the first half of the 20th Century, Lauren Bacall, with her icy, stunning look, voice that could make men weak in the knees with the simplest utterance, cool as a cucumber demeanor, and vixen appeal made her one of more seemingly intelligent sex symbols that ever came out of Hollywood. If that doesn’t convince you of what a white hot legend she was, she was once Humphrey Bogart’s wife. Nuff said. She died at the age of 89 on August 12th.
We also remember the following In Memoriam, for their contributions to the entertainment industry and to the art:
Dave Madden (actor, The Partridge Family)
Larry D. Mann (voice actor, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer TV special)
James Avery (actor, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Ralph Waite (actor, The Waltons)
Peaches Geldof (model, daughter of humanitarian and musician Bob Geldof)
Jan Hooks (comedian, SNL cast member)
Marcia Strassman (wife of Gabe Kaplan’s character on the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter)
Maya Angelou (acclaimed poet, dancer, actress and singer)
Ruby Dee (legendary actress, mainly coupled with her late actor/husband Ossie Davis)
Menshach Taylor (actor, Designing Women)
Elaine Stritch (star of Broadway)
Polly Bergen (actress, singer)
Richard Bull (actor, Little House on the Prairie, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea)
David Brenner (comedian, multiple appearances as a host during Johnny Carson’s tenure on The Tonight Show)