Remembering Rochefort, Lenzi, and More

Even as we mourn the loss of Danielle Darrieux, we need to remember a few more names and faces that have left their marks on cinema, and we begin with French actor Jean Rochefort. “I am absolutely stunned,” writes Terry Gilliam in Facebook post, “especially as we are in the final stages of editing The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. He was the first and utterly iconic Don Quixote, the beginning of the film’s long journey. . . . His was the face and spirit of The Knight of the Mournful Countenance.”

Ronald Bergan for the Guardian: “Rochefort’s distinctive, cadaverous looks were part of French cinema from the late 1950s onwards, though it took him nearly two decades to gain international renown. However, in the 70s, he firmly established a reputation as a comedy star of sex farces (most of them directed by Yves Robert) and black comedies.” Rochefort, who worked with Claude Chabrol, Bertrand Tavernier, and Patrice Leconte—the image above is from Ridicule (1996)—was eighty-seven.

Bergan also remembers Anne Jeffreys, whose career “can be divided into three distinct domains. In the 1940s she was the spirited heroine of low-budget westerns and B-picture thrillers; from the 50s onwards she appeared on television in soap operas and sitcoms, including the supernatural comedy series Topper (1953-55), in which she was known as the ‘ghostess with the mostest,’ and the long-running General Hospital; and she was a singing star in Broadway musicals, notably as Lilli Vanessi in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate (1950-51).” Jeffreys was ninety-four.

From Alessandra Vitali of La Repubblica comes word that Umberto Lenzi has passed away at the age of eighty-six. The IMDb lists sixty-five directorial credits and the entry on Lenzi at Wikipedia suggests the range of genres and subgenres he worked in: “Italian international co-production peplums, Eurospy films, spaghetti westerns, Macaroni Combat movies, Poliziotteschi films, cannibal films and giallo murder mysteries.” In 2013, one Jonny Dead posted an annotated list at Blood Sucking Geek of Lenzi’s top ten horror films. Coming in at #1: Seven Blood Stained Orchids (1972). Cannibal Ferox (1981), though, may be his most notorious film. Fernando F. Croce: “Consciously positioning itself as the final entry in the loose Cannibal troika, the film reverses Cannibal Apocalypse and Cannibal Holocaust by opening in the kind of New York City glimpsed solely by Euro sleazemeisters (five-o’clock-shadow lighting across skyscrapers, ‘Save their souls’ signs, dubbed-in incantations of the word ‘shithead’) before abruptly heading over to the jungles.”

“Tom Alter, an Indian-born character actor of American descent who spent his career playing Westerners in Bollywood films,” has died, aged sixty-seven, reports Amisha Padnani for the New York Times. “With light skin, blue eyes and blond hair, which later turned bright white, Mr. Alter was an incongruous figure in Bollywood. But he spoke Hindi and Urdu fluently, making him a natural fit for roles like slick diplomats, British colonials, priests and police officers. . . . He appeared in more than 300 films and a handful of television shows and plays.”

“Tim Quill, an actor who appeared in numerous films and TV shows ranging from Hamburger Hill and NYPD Blue to Scandal and Argo, has died,” reports Dino-Ray Ramos for Deadline. Quill was only fifty-four.

And from Deadline’s Greg Evans: “William Tepper, who starred in Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut Drive, He Said and accompanied Nicholson to the 1971 Cannes Film Festival,” was sixty-nine.

Variety’s Pat Saperstein remembers Nora Johnson, “who wrote the screenplay for The World of Henry Orient with her father, writer-director Nunnally Johnson.” She was eighty-four.

And Ruth Stein remembers Judy Stone, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, “who for two decades was a passionate and articulate advocate for the world of cinema outside Hollywood,” has passed away at the age of ninety-three.

Finally for now, Adam Sternbergh for Vulture: “It may seem hyperbolic to say that no non-Canadian can truly understand the importance of Gord Downie, because it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.” Downie, who died on Tuesday at the age of fifty-three after a long battle with brain cancer, “was the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, a band that is iconic in Canada and mostly known outside of Canada for being iconic in Canada. . . . But Downie. Oh, Gord Downie. What a glorious genius.”

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