Remembering Juraj Herz—and More

Before we lost Milos Forman and Vittorio Taviani over the weekend, the Slovak Spectator reported that Juraj Herz, the Czech actor and director best known for his 1968 film The Cremator, had passed away at the age of eighty-three. Just last October, he presented the film at the Cinematek in Brussels (image above).

“Herz had studied puppetry and theatre before coming to filmmaking and was a friend and collaborator of Jan Ŝvankmajer,” wrote Virginie Sélavy in a 2008 review of The Cremator for Electric Sheep. “Not surprising then that a similar brand of Mitteleuropa murkiness and dark, jarring surrealism pervades what remains Herz’s most acclaimed work.” The film was banned Czechoslovakia where it wouldn’t be seen again until 1989.

Daniel Bird for Kinoeye in 2002: “Herz’s palette is predominantly grotesque, and, as in the films of Fellini (described by Herz as his ‘only love’) . . . , visual and narrative excess becomes a formal strategy. Expressionist madness is played as comedy in Spalovač mrtvol [The Cremator]; in Morgiana [1971], the doppelganger device is loaded to the point of absurdity; whilst themes of social decadence and moral decay are played out of a physically sick body in Petrolejové lampy (Oil Lamps, 1971),” which screened in Competition at Cannes.

Also . . .

R. Lee Ermey has passed away at the age of seventy-four. “Best known for his performance as foul-mouthed Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket [1987], Ermey built his acting career on playing hard-nosed military-types who have a habit of screaming at subordinates,” writes Sam Barsanti at the A.V. Club. “He popped up as an angry military guy in Miami Vice,Kim Possible, the Starship Troopers spin-off Roughnecks,Space: Above and Beyond,Body Snatchers,SpongeBob Squarepants,The Frighteners,Scrubs,X-Men: The Last Stand,Toy Story,House, and The Simpsons (playing the memorably named Col. Leslie ‘Hap’ Hapablap).”

“Choi Eun-hee, one of South Korea’s most famous actors, who was abducted and made to make films in North Korea during the 1970s and 80s, has died aged ninety-one,” reports Martin Belam for the Guardian. “During a visit to Hong Kong in 1978, Choi was allegedly lured on to a boat and transferred to a cargo ship destined for North Korea, under the orders of Kim Jong-il, an avid film fan. Her husband, the film director Shin Sang-ok, was taken there soon after. The couple remained trapped in the country for eight years, making several films together under the instruction of Kim, who would later become North Korea’s leader.” This incredible story has been recounted in Paul Fischer’s 2015 book, A Kim Jong-Il Production, and in Robert Cannan and Ross Adam’s 2016 documentary, The Lovers and the Despot.

“Mitzi Shore, who founded the Los Angeles stand up comedy club The Comedy Store in 1972, has died,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “She became a matriarch for a generation of comedians who began their careers on her stage and went on to become superstars. Comedians who graced her stage include Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Freddie Prinze, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Chevy Chase, Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay and Jim Carrey.” Shore was eighty-seven.

“Harry Anderson, the actor and magician best known for his eight-year run as Judge Harry Stone on the NBC sitcom Night Court, has died,” and Katie Rife has more at the A.V. Club. Anderson was sixty-five.

“Eugene Francis, an actor, writer and longtime SAG Foundation board member who broke into show business in 1940 as one of the East Side Kids, has died,” reports David Robb for Deadline. “He was 100. Francis played Algernon ‘Algy’ Wilkes alongside Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan in the 1940 films Boys of the City,That Gang of Mine, and Pride of the Bowery, and 1941’s Flying Wild.

Actor and comedian Chuck McCann has died at the age of eighty-three, reports Kirsten Chuba for Variety. “He had guest roles throughout the 1970s on Little House on the Prairie,Bonanza,The Bob Newhart Show,Diff’rent Strokes,Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Columbo. On the big screen, McCann had a notable supporting gig in 1968’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and was featured in Herbie Rides Again,Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

“Gerald Ayres, a former Columbia Pictures executive who produced Jack Nicholson's The Last Detail and wrote the screenplay for George Cukor's final film,” Rich and Famous (1981) with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen, has died. Mike Barnes in the Hollywood Reporter: “Ayres also produced Cisco Pike (1972), starring Kris Kristofferson, Gene Hackman and Karen Black, and wrote and produced Foxes (1980), which starred Jodie Foster in a coming-of-age-tale set in the San Fernando Valley.” Ayres was eighty-two.

Barnes also reports that Kirk Simon, “the veteran Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentarian who was behind projects centering on Dr. Jane Goodall, Placido Domingo and the Pulitzer Prize, has died.” He was sixty-three.

J. D. McClatchy, “an American poet known for work whose cool formal sheen belied the roiling emotion below its surface,” has passed away at the age of seventy-two. Margalit Fox for the New York Times: “The author of eight volumes of poetry, Mr. McClatchy was considered one of the country’s foremost men of letters. He was also a prolific editor, anthologist, translator and critic, as well as the author of a string of acclaimed opera librettos, among them Our Town, for Ned Rorem’s setting of Thornton Wilder’s enduring drama of village life, and the Metropolitan Opera’s condensed English-language production of Mozart’s Magic Flute, designed by Julie Taymor.” He was seventy-two. The Paris Review has posted a remembrance by Chris Ware, close friend of McClatchy’s husband, the great designer Chip Kidd.

“Gillian Ayres, who has died aged eighty-eight, was one of Britain’s most significant abstract painters,” writes Tim Hilton for the Guardian.

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