During the year, I’ve highlighted the death of notable character actors who made significant contributions to Hollywood’s Golden Age including Patricia Neal, Johnny Sheffield, Joe Mantell, Meinhardt Raabe, and Kevin McCarthy (among others). Because of varying circumstances, I wasn’t able to chat about notable actors who passed away in 2010 that were familiar on screen. Let me take a moment to recognize these familiar names from a rapidly forgotten era.
JEAN SIMMONS - Not content as a simple ingenue, the Britsh-born Jean Simmons challenged her ability (and the audience) by playing a variety of complex characters.
Her resume includes Hamlet (Oscar-nominated), Great Expectations, The Robe, The Actress with Spencer Tracy, Young Bess, Guys and Dolls (a Golden Globe-winner), The Big Country, Spartacus with Kirk Douglas, Elmer Gantry, and The Happy Ending (Oscar-nominated).
She was also wonderful on television in The Thorn Birds (an Emmy-winner), North & South, and an interesting re-make of Dark Shadows. Interestingly, her part was first played by Joan Bennett in the original daytime soap opera. On stage, Simmons received great reviews for her role in A Little Night Music.
FESS PARKER – Best known as Davy Crockett in film and on television, Fess Parker also played home-spun types in Harvey with James Stewart, Island in the Sky, Them!, and Old Yeller.
In the 1960’s, Parker returned to television as Daniel Boone. For his work with Disney, Parker was honored in December, 2004 with his own tribute window on a facade in the Frontierland section at Disneyland.
CAMMIE KING CONLON - A child star, Cammie King only appeared in a three movies. But she is very well remembered as Bonnie Blue Butler, the daughter of Rhett and Scarlett, in Gone with the Wind. She had a role in Blondie Meets the Boss. Her voice was also cast in Bambi.
The actress never worked in another movie. Upon reflecting on her screen career, Conlon often joked, “I peaked at five years of age.”
Her father-in-law, Judd Conlon, was a musical arranger for many Disney films including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.
JOHN FORSYTHE – His authorative voice in Charlie’s Angels, and starring roles in Bachelor Father and Dynasty, soldified John Forsythe as a television icon.
He also had a modest movie career appearing in Destination Tokyo starring Cary Grant, Northern Pursuit with Errol Flynn, The Trouble with Harry (a comedy directed by Alfred Hitchcock), In Cold Blood, Topaz (also by Hitchcock), and …And Justice For All.
Forsythe was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe numerous times. He won two well-deserved awards for his efforts.
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