The man who made Deep Throat and the man who was Deep Throat Gerard Damiano and Mark Felt both died last year. So did one half of the Kingston Trio (explanation to come). So, seven weeks apart, did the two stars of an Oscar-winning movie from a half-century ago. All were part of the passing parade of 2008: the entertainers whom New York cable-access guru Ed Grant refers to as "deceased artistes."
In its 2008 Farewell package, TIME paid homage to the top tier of notables, all sorely missed. Other, longer tributes to actors Richard Widmark and Suzanne Pleshette, film directors Damiano, Jules Dassin, Youssef Chahine and Robert Mulligan, playwright Harold Pinter, actress-chanteuse Eartha Kitt, FX wizard Stan Winston and movie critics Gary Carey and Manny Farber, as well as the uncategorizable Forrest J Ackerman were published upon the deaths of these worthies and can be found through Google or on TIME's search engine.
The brief sketches that follow are meant to remind readers of the breadth and depth of pop culture, and the impact, ephemeral or lasting, made by some of actors, directors, writers, musicians and other show people who died in 2008. They deserve long goodbyes, but these haiku sendoffs will have to do. The Internet Movie Database lists more than 2,000 celebrities who got their final call last year; alas, most of them didn't make my final cut. I just wish I could say this list is as definitive as Rex Reed's, in this week's New York Observer. Says Reed: "If I've left anyone out, you don't need to know them anyway."
Roy Scheider, 75, with mournful eyes and the granite jaw of a Toltec deity, had a great movie '70s. He fought the great white shark in Jaws; he helped Gene Hackman search for Frog One In The French Connection; he smoked up a storm and underwent terminal angst as Bob Fosse's surrogate in All That Jazz. To Scheider's tough guy, Mel Ferrer, 90, was Mr. Soulful Softie, scoring as the hobbled puppeteer opposite Leslie Caron in Lili and as Prince Andrei in War and Peace, where he costarred with the fourth of his five wives, Audrey Hepburn. Before movies he went to Princeton, edited a newspaper, wrote a children's book, was a radio disc jockey and danced on Broadway. Ferrer's signature movie role was in El Greco (1966), for which his long features and noble bearing admirably suited him.
Brash was the tone for several actors who died last year. Van Johnson, 92, was the boy-next-door type, wooing such luscious ingenues as Elizabeth Taylor, Esther Williams, June Allyson and Janet Leigh. But he laced his altar-boy grin with a terrier's raspy impatience; he was the Chris Matthews of 1940s MGM. A trash-talking, proto-rapping musical-comedy star of a later era, Rudy Ray Moore, 81, created the street-smut sasser Dolemite as part of his stand-up act, then used the character as the hero of a legendarily transgressive 1975 blaxploitation epic. Stick around for the kung-fu hookers.
Beverly Garland, 82, played it steely in '50s B movies (she starred in five early Roger Corman cheapies), then sweet as Fred MacMurray's wife on My Three Sons. A cut-rate Barbara Stanwyck, she deserved better scripts than she got. In Edgar G. Ulmer's meat-B noir classic Detour (1945), Ann Savage, 87, invested her sharp features and scraping-chalk voice in, unquestionably, the harshest, most conniving bitch in movie history. More than 60 years later, Guy Maddin cast her as another harridan-hellion his mother in the recent "docu-fantasia" My Winnipeg.
Nina Foch (rhymes with posh, not gauche), 84, made an early splash as the put-upon heroine in the clever melodrama My Name Is Julia Ross, but her keen features and cutting voice soon typecast her as spoilsports and other frosty types. We hope that, wherever she is now, she's getting better parts. Anita Page, 98, starred in The Broadway Melody, the first talking picture to win an the best-picture Oscar. She was also the last surviving star to have attended the first Oscar ceremony in 1929. Evelyn Keyes, 91, played Scarlett O'Hara's sister Suellen in Gone With the Wind and had the female lead in the 1941 hit Here Comes Mr. Jordan, remade by Warren Beatty as Heaven Can Wait. Better known for her string of rocky marriages: to directors Charles Vidor and John Huston and bandleader Artie Shaw. It was her fourth trip to the altar, Shaw's eighth.
Edie Adams, 81, starred in two Broadway shows (Wonderful Town and Li'l Abner), played the Fairy Godmother to Julie Andrews' Cinderella in a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical for TV and hawked Muriel Cigars ("Why don't you pick one up and smoke it some time?"). She lent a pert glamour to the TV shows of immortal zany Ernie Kovacs, whom she married in 1956 and lost in a car crash in 1962. Lois Nettleton, 82, was married to another midcentury comedy genius, radio spieler Jean Shepherd; but her forte, when she got the chance to display it, was in elevated drama: as Blanche in a 1973 Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, and in her Emmy-winning role as Susan B. Anthony in The American Woman: Portraits of Courage.
A week before Heath Ledger's passing, Brad Renfro died. A poor kid from Knoxville, he was cast at 10 as the lead in a John Grisham thriller The Client, revealing a natural, winsome poise that made viewers of the hit film want to adopt him. Someone responsible should have. This sensitive waif starred in Bryan Singer's film of the Stephen King Apt Pupil, but over the years his rap sheet proved longer than his movie résumé. Constantly in trouble on drug-related charges, Renfro died of a heroin overdose at 25.