Christopher Plummer dead at 91; prolific Canadian actor won an Oscar, two Tony Awards and two Emmy awards

February 5, 2021

by John Larson

Oscar-winning Canadian actor Christopher Plummer died at his Connecticut home on February 5, 2021. He was 91. According to the Associated Press, Plummer’s manager Lou Pitt announced the death and said that Plummer’s third wife, Elaine Taylor, was by Plummer’s side when he passed away.

Plummer’s most famous movie role was as Captain von Trapp in 1965’s “The Sound of Music.” He was a prolific actor who worked steadily in movies and television since the early 1950s. He had a role in a movie or TV show almost every year since 1953.

Born in Toronto on December 13, 1929, Plummer was the only child of stockbroker John Orme Plummer and secretary Isabella Mary Plummer, who eventually divorced. He began acting in plays while in high school. Plummer continued his theater work after high school and branched into radio and television. His first film role was in 1958’s “Stage Struck.”

Plummer won his first and only Oscar (for Best Supporting Actor) for the 2011 movie “Beginners.” It was his first Oscar nomination. He was 82 when he won the Academy Award, making him the oldest Oscar winner in Academy Award history.

He also received Oscar nominations in the Best Supporting Actor category for 2009’s “The Last Station” and 2017’s “All the Money in the World.” Plummer famously replaced Kevin Spacey in the role of J. Paul Getty in “All the Money in the World,” after Spacey’s #MeToo scandal caused Spacey’s scenes to be reshot with Plummer in the role.

His other well-known movies in the last 30 years before his death included 2019’s “Knives Out,” 2011’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” 2009’s “Up,” 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind,” 1999’s “The Insider,” 1995’s “12 Monkeys” and 1992’s “Malcolm X.”

Plummer won two Emmy Awards: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for 1976’s “Arthur Hailey’s The Moneychangers” and Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for 1994’s “The New Adventures of Madeline.” And from 1959 to 2011, he received five other Emmy nominations.

He was also a busy actor in theater, having appeared frequently on Broadway and at Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. He won two Tony Awards: Best Actor in a Musical for 1974’s “Cyrano” and Best Actor in a Play for 1997’s “Barrymore.”

Plummer was married three times. His first marriage to actress Tammy Grimes lasted from 1956 to 1960, and produced his only child, actress Amanda Plummer, who was born in 1957. After his divorce from Grimes, he married second wife Patricia Lewis in 1962, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1967. Plummer had been married to his third and last wife Taylor since 1970.

Cicely Tyson dead at 96; Emmy-winning actress broke racial barriers for African American entertainers

January 28, 2021

by Carla Hay

Emmy-winning actress Cicely Tyson died on January 28, 2021. She was 96. According to the Associated Press, no further details were released about her death, which was announced by her family through Tyson’s manager Larry Thompson. The family issued this statement: “With a heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon. At this time, please allow the family their privacy.”

Tyson broke racial barriers for African American entertainers. She was one of the first black actresses to be nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Her nomination was for the 1972 movie “Sounder.” (Diana Ross was also Oscar-nominated for Best Actress for a 1972 movie: “Lady Sings the Blues.”) Tyson’s last movie role was in filmmaker Tyler Perry’s 2020 Netflix drama “A Fall From Grace.”

Tyson was also the first African American woman to win two Emmys in the same year: For her starring role in the 1974 TV-movie “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” she was awarded Emmys for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and for Actress of the Year – Special. She then went on to win a third Emmy (for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special), for the 1994 miniseries “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.” Throughout her career, Tyson received 16 Emmy nominations, including three wins. Her last five Emmy nominations were for her guest appearances on the drama series “How to Get Away With Murder.”

She also excelled in theater, including winning a Tony Award in 2013, at the age of 88, for Best Leading Actress in a Play, for the revival of “The Trip to Bountiful.” Tyson starred in and produced a TV-movie version of “The Trip to Bountiful,” which earned her two Emmy nominations. Her memoir “Just as I Am” was published on January 26, 2021—just two days before her death.

Tyson, who gave birth to a daughter at age 17, was married twice, with both marriages ending in divorce. She and her first husband, Kenneth Franklin, were married in 1942, separated 18 months later, and didn’t officially divorce until 1956. Tyson had a volatile, on-again/off-again relationship with jazz legend Miles Davis, whom she began dating in the 1960s. Davis and Tyson married in 1981 and divorced in 1988.

Cloris Leachman dead at 94; actress was an Emmy winner and Oscar winner

January 27, 2021

by Carla Hay

Actress/comedienne Cloris Leachman died in her sleep at her home in Encinitas, California, on January 26, 2021. She was 94. The Associated Press reported that Leachman’s publicist Monique Moss announced Leachman’s death and that Leachman’s daughter Dinah Englund was at Leachman’s side when Leachman passed away.

Leachman was a versatile entertainer who starred in numerous TV shows and movies. On TV, her best known role was as Phyllis Lindstrom in the 1970s TV series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoff “Phyllis.” She won eight Emmy Awards, including two for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Leachman also had roles in the TV shows “Lassie,” “The Facts of Life,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” She became one of the oldest contestants on “Dancing With the Stars,” when she competed on the show in 2008.

Her best-known films included “Young Frankenstein,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Last Picture Show” (for which she won an Oscar) and the animated “The Croods” movies. Although most of her roles were supporting roles, she made an impact as a talented character actress. She also made her mark on stage in theater roles, including the the original Broadway production of “South Pacific,” a Broadway production of “As You Like It” and a 1990s touring musical revival of “Showboat.”

Leachman was born on April 30, 1926, in Des Moines, Iowa. She was the eldest of three daughters and was named after her mother Cloris. Her father Berkeley Claiborne “Buck” Leachman owned a lumber company. A former Miss America contestant (she was Miss Illinois), Cloris attended Northwestern University in the School of Education.

She later studied at Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York City, and she began acting in theater before branching out into television and movies. Her first movie appearance was as an extra in 1947’s “Carnegie Hall” and didn’t have her first real speaking role in a movie until 1955’s “Kiss Me Deadly.”

Cloris was married to film director/producer George Englund from 1953 until their divorce in 1979. They had five children: Adam, Bryan, Dinah, George and Morgan. She is survived by all of her children, except for Bryan, who died in 1986 at age 30.

Larry King dies after getting COVID-19; influential talk show host was 87

January 23, 2021

by John Larson

Larry King, who was best known for hosting the talk show “Larry King Live” on CNN, died at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, on January 23, 2021. He was 87. King was being treated for COVID-19 for the past several weeks.* His death was announced on Twitter by his company Ora Media. Before coming down with COVID-19, King had had several other health issues over the years, including heart attacks, diabetes and lung cancer.

King was a longtime host in radio and television. He reached his greatest fame as the host of CNN’s “Larry King Live” from 1985 to 2010. The show featured a wide variety of guests, including famous entertainers, politicians, business leaders and non-famous people. There are very few celebrities in King’s era whom he didn’t interview. After leaving CNN, King founded Ora Media and hosted a self-titled talk show on the Internet. Jimmy Kimmel, Oprah Winfrey, Piers Morgan (who briefly replaced King on CNN) and Craig Ferguson are among the entertainers who have cited King as a major influence in being a talk show host.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 19, 1933, King was one of two children of restaurant owner/defense-plant worker Aaron Zeiger and garment worker Jennie (Gitlitz) Zeiger, who emigrated to the United States from Belarus. King started his broadcasting career in radio and eventually had a nationally syndicated radio talk show called “The Larry King Show,” which could be heard on Mutual Broadcasting from 1978 to 1985. He left the show to host “Larry King Live” on CNN.

King had a chaotic personal life, with seven wives. His first marriage was annulled, and his next five marriages ended in divorce. His estranged seventh wife, Shawn King (formerly known as singer/actress Shawn Southwick), whom Larry married in 1997, had an on-again/off-again relationship with him. The estranged couple first filed for divorce in 2010, but cancelled those legal proceedings. Larry filed for divorce from her in 2019, but the divorce was never finalized at the time of his death.

Larry is survived by his sons Chance and Cannon (from his marriage to Shawn) and his son Larry Jr., whose mother was King’s second ex-wife Annette Kaye.

The King family has had several tragic deaths within a short period of time. In July 2020, Larry’s son Andy passed away of a heart attack age 65. In August 2020, his 51-year-old daughter Chaia died of lung cancer.

*January 27, 2021 UPDATE: In an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Shawn King said that Larry King died of sepsis, an infection complication that he got after he recovered from COVID-19.

Pierre Cardin dead at 98; French designer was a pioneer in 20th century fashion

December 29, 2020

by Daphne Sorenson

Pierre Cardin (Photo courtesy of Utopia)

Pierre Cardin, a pioneering French fashion designer of the 20th century, died on December 29, 2020, at the age of 98. According to Associated Press: “The French Academy of Fine Arts announced Cardin’s death in a tweet. He had been among its illustrious members since 1992. The academy did not give a cause of death or say where the designer died.”

Born on July 7, 1922 as Pietro Costante Cardin in San Biagio di Callalta, Italy (near Venice), he moved to France with his family when he was a child. While living in France, he began going by the first name Pierre.

At the age of 14, he began is fashion career as a clothier apprentice. He moved to Paris in 1945 and worked for fashion house of Paquin, as well as for designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1947, he became head of Christian Dior’s tailleure atelier. And by 1950, Cardin began his own fashion house.

Cardin was best known pioneering “mod” fashion of the late 1960s and the 1970s. One of his best known creations was to combine the concepts of miniskirts and maxiskirts by having short dresses or skirts with cascading designs. He was also one of the first fashion designers to license his brands worldwide for not just clothes and accessories but also fragrances, luggage and other household items. At the time of his death, Cardin’s company (which remained privately owned) still held hundreds of licenses, although he had sold off many licenses over the years.

In his personal life, Cardin never married or had children. He reportedly had affairs mostly with men and sometimes with women. His most high-profile relationship was a four-year romance in the 1960s with French actress Jeanne Moreau.

Cardin was the subject of the documentary “House of Cardin” (directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes), which made the rounds at several film festivals in 2019 and was released in several countries (including the U.S.) in 2020. It is unknown at this point who will inherit Cardin’s vast fortune and how this inheritance will affect the leadership of his company.

Alex Trebek dead at 80; longtime ‘Jeopardy!’ host battled pancreatic cancer

November 8, 2020

by John Larson

Alex Trebek, who was best known for hosting the trivia game show “Jeopardy!,” died at his Los Angeles home on November 8, 2020. In 2019, he announced that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, but that he would continue to host the show. The Associated Press reported that Sony Pictures Television, the production company behind the syndicated “Jeopardy” announced that Trebek was with family members when he died.

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, on July 22, 1940, Trebek graduated from the University of Ottowa in 1961. He began his career that year as an employee for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He became a news reader for CBC national radio news and then became a correspondent for CBC Radio and CBC Television.

Trebek moved into the entertainment television as the host of the Canadian music program called “Music Hop” in 1963. In 1966, he began hosted his first TV game show: quiz show called “Reach for the Top.” He continued to work for CBC for the remainder of the 1960s and through the early 1970s. During this time period, he hosted the game show “Strategy” and the morning radio show “I’m Here Til 9.”

In 1973, Trebek moved to the United States, where he hosted several game shows over several decades, including “To Tell the Truth,” “The Wizard of Odds,” “Double Dare,” “High Rollers,” “Battlestars” and “Classic Concentration.”

The original incarnation of “Jeopardy!” was on NBC from 1964 to 1975, with Art Fleming as the host. Trebek began hosting a revival of “Jeopardy” in 1984. Trebek’s last episode as host of “Jeopardy!” is set to premiere in December 2020.

Trebek, who became a U.S. citizen in 1998, was married twice. His marriage to first wife Elaine Trebek Kares ​ lasted from 1974 to 1981, and ended in divorce. During their marriage, Trebek adopted Kares’ son Nicky. Trebek married his second wife Jean Currivan-Trebek in 1990. They had two children together: Matthew and Emily.

Trebek is survived by his three children and widow Jean Currivan-Trebek.

Sean Connery dead at 90; Oscar-winning actor was the original James Bond

October 31, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sean Connery, the Oscar-winning Scottish actor who was best known for being the first James Bond in the movies, died of natural causes at his home in the Bahamas. He was 90. According to the Associated Press: “Connery’s wife and two sons said he ‘died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family’ in the Bahamas, where he lived. Son Jason Connery said his father had been ‘unwell for some time.'”

Born on August 25, 1930, in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, Connery had working-class roots. His father Joseph was a factory worker and truck driver, while his mother Euphemia (also known as Effie) was a house cleaner. After a stint in the Royal Navy as teenager, Connery had various jobs, including being a truck driver, a lifeguard and a model. In the early 1950s, Connery became a bodybuilder who competed in the Mr. Universe contest, before he decided to try acting on a whim.

With no formal training, he landed a role as a chorus boy in a British stage production of “South Pacific.” He first film role was a small part as a gangster in the 1957 movie “No Road Back.”

Connery’s most iconic role was as James Bond, a British playboy spy, based on the character of Ian Fleming’s novels. Connery was the first actor to portray James Bond in movies, beginning with 1962’s “Dr. No” and continuing with 1963’s “From Russia With Love,” 1964’s “Goldfinger,” 1965’s “Thunderball,” 1967’s “You Only Live Twice,” 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever” and 1983’s “Never Say Never Again.”

Other notable films featuring Connery in a starring or co-starring role include 1964’s “Marnie,” 1974’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1987’s “The Untouchables.” It was first and only Oscar nomination. He was also the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement at the 1995 Golden Globe Awards. Connery’s last role in a live-action film was in 2003’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” His last role as an actor was in the 2012 animated movie “Sir Billi.”

Connery was married twice. His first marriage to Australian actress Diane Cilento lasted from 1962 to 1973 and ended in divorce. Their son Jason, who was born in 1963, became an actor and a director. Connery married his second wife Micheline Roquebrune in 1975, and they remained married until his death. Connery is survived by his wife Micheline. brother Neil and son Jason.

Eddie Van Halen, influential guitarist of rock band Van Halen, dead of cancer at age 65

October 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

On October 6, 2020, Eddie Van Halen, who is widely considered one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time, died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California, after a long battle with lung cancer and throat cancer. He was 65. His son and only child, Wolfgang Van Halen, made the announcement on his official Twitter account. Wolfgang’s statement read: “I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodwijk Van Halen, has lost his long arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”

Born on January 26, 1955, Eddie and his older brother Alex Van Halen were Dutch immigrants whose parent settled in Pasadena, California, in 1962. Their father Jan was a musician, and their mother Eugenia was a homemaker. The Van Halen brothers (who eventually became U.S. citizens) formed their namesake band in Pasadena in 1972. By 1974, the band’s classic lineup consisted of lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen, lead singer David Lee Roth, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony. Eddie was a self-taught guitarist whose “fretboard tapping” style of playing was considered hugely influential to countless guitar players.

Van Halen’s self-titled 1978 album was an instant smash, yielding the hit singles “Runnin’ With the Devil” and a cover version of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” The band went on to have numerous multiplatinum albums and hit singles for the rest of its career, most notably the “1984” album (which had the No. 1 single “Jump”) and 1991’s Grammy-winning “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album, which was best known for the chart-topping song “Right Now.”

Roth parted ways with the band in 1985, when he launched a solo career, and he was replaced by Sammy Hagar, who was fired in 1996. Van Halen announced a reunion with Roth in 1996, but that reunion did not turn into an album or tour, as Roth acrimoniously split with the band again. Gary Cherone was Van Halen’s lead singer from 1996 to 1999. Cherone recorded only one album with the band: 1998’s “Van Halen III,” which was a commercial disappointment, compared to other Van Halen albums.

Eddie underwent hip-replacement surgery in 1999, which led to the band Van Halen going on hiatus until 2003, when Hagar reunited with the band. Hagar was fired again in 2005. Bass player Anthony was fired in 2006, and he was replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang.

Eddie married actress Valerie Bertinelli in 1981. Their son Wolfgang was born in 1991. The couple officially divorced in 2007, after being separated since 2001. Eddie married publicist Janie Liszewski in 2009. In several media interviews, Eddie (who was a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict) credited Liszewski with helping him stay clean and sober since 2008. However, he still admitted to indulging in his addiction to nicotine.

In 2007, Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and reunited with Roth for a successful tour that launched later that year. Roth stayed in Van Halen’s final lineup, which toured off and on until 2015. Van Halen’s last studio album of new songs was 2012’s “A Different Kind of Truth.” In 2012, Eddie was diagnosed with diverticulitis. His battle with cancer had been going on for several years before it was officially made public in 2019.

Chadwick Boseman dead at 43; acclaimed star of ‘Black Panther’ battled colon cancer

August 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Chadwick Boseman (Photo courtesy of ABC/Image Group LA) 

Chadwick Boseman, the charismatic and critically acclaimed actor who starred in the 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther,” died of colon cancer at his Los Angeles home on August 28, 2020. He was 43. In a public statement issued by his family, Boseman had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016, but he never revealed this diagnosis to the public, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to starring in “Black Panther,” Boseman had roles in other Marvel superhero movies such as 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.” He also starred as several African American icons in biopics, such as baseball player Jackie Robinson in the 2013 movie “42,” singer James Brown in 2014’s “Get on Up” and Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s “Marshall.” He also starred in the cop drama “21 Bridges,” which was his first movie in which he was a producer. Boseman’s last two film roles were for Netflix: He portrayed a Vietnam War soldier in the 2020 drama “Da 5 Bloods” (directed and co-written by Spike Lee) and co-starred with Viola Davis in the drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which does not have a release date yet.

Born on November 29, 1976, in Anderson, South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University in 2000, with a bachelor of fine arts degree in directing. Two important mentors he had during his college years were Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington (who reportedly paid for Boseman’s college tuition) and actress Phylicia Rashad, who was one of his teachers at Howard. Boseman was also a graduate of Digital Film Academy and aspired to be a director.

Boseman made his film debut in 2008’s “The Express.” Before getting starring roles movies, he had roles in TV shows and in theater, most notably in the 2010 short-lived NBC series “Persons Unknown” and in a recurring role in 2008 and 2009 in the ABC Family series “Lincoln Heights,” which was on the air from 2007 to 2010. But he was best known for playing African king superhero T’Challa in “Black Panther,” which was the second highest-grossing film of 2018 in the world (with $1.3 billion in ticket sales), second to “Avengers: Infinity War,” which had worldwide ticket sales of $2 billion. Of the $1.3 billion that “Black Panther” had in worldwide ticket sales, $700 million were ticket sales in the U.S., making “Black Panther” the highest-grossing film in the U.S. in 2018.

“Black Panther” won numerous awards, including three Oscars: for costume design, production design and original score. Boseman and the rest of “Black Panther” stars won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and the movie won several NAACP Image Awards. A sequel to “Black Panther” had been announced to be released in 2022, but had not begun filming at the time that Boseman passed away. As of now, it’s unclear what will happen to the movie because of Boseman’s death. Also in limbo is the movie “Yasuke,” in which Boseman had the title role, but the movie hadn’t begun filming at the time of his death.

The Boseman family statement says: “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From ‘Marshall’ to ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ August Wilson’s ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ and several more—all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in ‘Black Panther.’”

Boseman is survived by his wife Taylor Simone Ledward and his parents Leroy and Karen Boseman.

Olivia de Havilland dead at 104; legendary actress won two Oscars and fought for artist work rights

July 26, 2020

by Rachel Grant

Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland died of natural causes at her home in Paris on July 26, 2020. She was 104. According to Variety, de Havilland’s former lawyer Suzelle M. Smith commented, “She died peacefully in Paris.”

Some of the best-known films that de Havilland starred in were 1939’s “Gone With the Wind,” 1941’s “Hold Back the Dawn,” 1946’s “To Each His Own,” 1948’s “The Snake Pit” and 1949’s “The Heiress.” She won Academy Awards for Best Actress for “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress.” She also received Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress for “Gone With the Wind” and Best Actress for “Hold Back the Dawn” and “The Snake Pit.”

Born on July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, de Havilland was raised in the United Kingdom. Her father, Walter de Havilland, was an English professor who later became a patent attorney, while her mother was actress Lilian Fontaine. Because both of  her parents were British, she had dual citizenship.

Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine was Olivia de Havilland’s younger sister by one year. The two sisters had a notorious rivalry/feud, off and on, for years. They remained estranged when Fontaine died in 2013, at the age of 96. They are the only sisters to have won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Fontaine won her Oscar for 1941’s “Suspicion,” in the same year that de Havilland was Oscar-nominated in the Best Actress category for “Hold Back the Dawn.”

In 1943, de Havilland filed a groundbreaking lawsuit against Warner Bros. Pictures, with her lawsuit claiming that she was no longer bound to work for Warner Bros. after seven years, based on California Labor Code that forbids an employer-employee contract to last for more than seven years after the employee first began working for the employer. In 1945, de Havilland won the lawsuit, which set a precedent for what’s known as the De Havilland Law, which limits an employer-employee contract to no more than seven years from the time that an employee begins working for the employer.

In addition to her movie career, de Havilland also made her mark as an actress in theater and on television. She starred in Broadway productions such as such as 1951’s “Romeo and Juliet,” 1952’s “Candida” and 1962’s “A Gift of Time.” Her notable TV appearances included the 1979 miniseries “Roots: The Next Generations” and the 1986 miniseries “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna,” a project for which she received a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy nomination.

As for her personal life, de Havilland was married and divorced twice. Her first marriage to screenwriter/novelist Marcus Goodrich lasted from 1946 to 1953. Her second marriage to journalist Pierre Galante was from 1955 to 1979. Her son Benjamin (from her marriage to Goodrich) died of lymphoma in 1991, at the age of 42. She is survived by her attorney daughter Gisele Galante Chulak, who was born from de Havilland’s marriage to Galante.