Friday, January 29, 2021

Final Words

• Iowa-born actress Cloris Leachman, who passed away on January 27, was so well known for her roles in comedies such as the 1974 movie Young Frankenstein and TV sitcoms on the order of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis, and The Facts of Life, that it’s easy to neglect her many crime and mystery contributions. Don’t forget, though, that Leachman played the desperate, under-dressed woman who private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) finds running down a desolate country road at the start of Kiss Me Deadly (1955). She went on to win parts on Johnny Staccato, Hawaiian Eye, The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, The Defenders, Perry Mason, The Name of the Game, Mannix, and Ironside. In addition, Leachman portrayed the duplicitous Anna Sage—“The Woman in Red”—in the 1973 flick Dillinger. Just glancing through her lengthy catalogue of performance credits shows the significance of Cloris Leachman’s impact on modern entertainment. She reportedly died of natural causes at age 94. The Web site Vintage Everyday has posted a series of Leachman photographs from the 1960s and ’70s.

• The Columbophile pays tribute to Italian-American actor Bruce Kirby, who featured in nine episodes of Columbo, initially as a lab attendant in 1973’s “Lovely But Lethal,” but most often in the shoes of “gullible” Los Angeles police sergeant George Kramer. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) notes that Kirby was seen as well in installments of Ironside, Banacek, McCloud, Toma, Harry O, Kojak, The Rockford Files, In the Heat of the Night, Murder, She Wrote, and The Sopranos. He was 95 when he died on January 24.

• In her too-brief obituary of Sharon Kay Penman, Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph mentions that that British author composed “nine critically acclaimed historical novels: The Sunne in Splendour, Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, The Reckoning, When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, Devil’s Brood, Lionheart, and A King’s Ransom. Her tenth historical novel, The Land Beyond the Sea, was published in March of 2020. She also wrote four medieval mysteries. Her first was The Queen’s Man, the queen in question being Eleanor of Aquitaine, a finalist for an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America. Her other mysteries: Cruel as the Grave, Dragon’s Lair, and Prince of Darkness.” Penman was 75 and had been “having various health issues for some time” before she finally succumbed to pneumonia on January 22.

• Last but not least, the demise of Cicely Tyson (she perished yesterday at 96) has provoked Bill Koenig of The Spy Command to remind us that, in addition to her better-remembered, award-winning performances on both the large and small screens, Tyson “made her presence known during television shows created during the 1960s spy craze.” He recalls her guest spots on I Spy and Mission: Impossible. He might have mentioned, too, as Tyson’s IMDb page does, her roles on Naked City, Judd for the Defense, The F.B.I., Burt Reynolds’ B.L. Stryker, and the 1994-1995 NBC legal drama, Sweet Justice.

1 comment:

Joe Cisneros said...

Thank you for mentioning the great Sharon Kay Penman. Her novels are the gold standard for English Medieval historical fiction. One quibble, she wasn't English, but instead was actually an American, who wrote about English history.