Tribute: Glen Campbell

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We bid a sad farewell to Glen Campbell, who has died at age 81 from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. The Rhinestone Cowboy was at the top of the country and pop charts and had some success as an actor as well, appearing with John Wayne in “True Grit.” He hosted a popular television variety series as well.

Here he sings one of his hits, “Southern Nights,” with Jerry Reed.

The New York Times wrote:

At the height of his career, Mr. Campbell was one of the biggest names in show business, his appeal based not just on his music but also on his easygoing manner and his apple-cheeked, all-American good looks. From 1969 to 1972 he had his own weekly television show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” He sold an estimated 45 million records and had numerous hits on both the pop and country charts. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

Decades after Mr. Campbell recorded his biggest hits — including “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston” (all written by Jimmy Webb, his frequent collaborator for nearly 40 years) and “Southern Nights” (1977), written by Allen Toussaint, which went to No. 1 on pop as well as country charts — a resurgence of interest in older country stars brought him back onto radio stations.

Like Bobbie Gentry, with whom he recorded two Top 40 duets, and his friend Roger Miller, Mr. Campbell was a hybrid stylist, a crossover artist at home in both country and pop music.

His final tour, as he struggled with memory loss, was documented in the touching film “I’ll Be Me.”

May his memory be a blessing.

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Music Tribute

Tribute: Jeanne Moreau

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We mourn the loss of Jeanne Moreau, one of the most enchanting performers in film history, who has died at age 89. The Washington Post’s Adam Bernstein captured her exquisite screen presence, dubbing her “the thinking man’s femme fatale.”

There was the dry, husky voice that hinted at a million smoked Gauloises. There were the dark eyes, carnal and enigmatic. There was the brooding, slightly downward curve of her lips, a sultry pout that could flash capriciously into a beguiling smile. She was playful and dangerous….Critics and audiences found Ms. Moreau spellbinding, particularly in roles in which she embodied liberated sexuality or in which her outward composure masked boundless complexity. Movie scholar David Shipman once described her as the “art-house love goddess.”

She exemplified the French “New Wave” of filmmaking, intimate and provocative. One of her best-remembered performances is in “Jules and Jim,” the story of a love triangle. She enchanted her audience the way her character enchanted her two co-stars.

A.O. Scott talks about the film here, calling Moreau “incomparably alluring.”

May her memory be a blessing.

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Actors Tribute

Tribute: Voice Actress June Foray

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We mourn the passing of June Foray, just shy of her 100th birthday. You might not have heard of her, but I am certain you heard her voice, or, I should say, her voices. She was one of the most versatile actresses in Hollywood history. She provided the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Natasha the spy, and Dudley Do-right’s Nell Fenwick. She played Tweetie Bird’s owner, Granny and Cindy Lou Who. She appeared in “Mulan,” “The Flintstones,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Rugrats,” and “The Twilight Zone” (playing a creepy talking doll). She was also Chatty Cathy, a somewhat less creepy talking doll. She was Jokey Smurf. Animation expert Mark Evanier wrote:

Most of all, she was June Foray, a talented workaholic who for decades, drove into Hollywood every weekday early in the morning and went from recording session to recording session until well after dark. Everyone hired her because she was always on time, always professional and what she did was always good. It was her good friend, director Chuck Jones who said, “June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray.”

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Actors Tribute

Tribute: George Romero

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We mourn the loss of writer/director George Romero, a towering figure in the history of American film. The influence of his “Night of the Living Dead” is immeasurable. Not only did he invent an entirely new genre of zombie films, but it was a major breakthrough for independent films, and, as “Rosemary’s Baby” would do later, it was an original re-imagining of the horror genre by virtue of its setting, in this case not a spooky castle or a haunted mansion but the American countryside. Equally important, the film, released in 1968, one of the most tumultuous years in American history, was utterly revolutionary in having a black man as its hero. The political overtones in his films continued in, for example, “Dawn of the Dead,” again using the setting, this time a shopping mall, to make some sharp points about mindless consumerism.

May his memory be a blessing.

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Directors Horror Tribute

Tribute: Jonathan Demme

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We mourn the loss of director Jonathan Demme, who died yesterday of cancer. A filmmaker of exceptional warmth, humanity, and range, his loss has been felt sharply, and it has been touching to see how many journalists and critics began their appreciations by talking about his kindness and courtesy as well as his award-winning films, including “Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” “Rachel Getting Married,” “Something Wild,” “Handle With Care,” and “Married to the Mob,” along with documentaries and concert films like “Stop Making Sense” and “Neil Young: Heart of Gold.”

At rogerebert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote about the music that was an essential part not just of Demme’s films but of the lives of the characters in those films. One of “Philadelphia’s” most striking scenes has an ailing lawyer played by Tom Hanks describing his love for “La Mama Morta.”

He had a musical performer’s spirit. It shone through all his movies, even when they weren’t officially about music. He never made an according-to-Hoyle musical where characters burst into song and dance, although he got reasonably close with the World War II romantic drama “Swing Shift,” about a riveter who falls in love with a musician, and 2015’s “Ricki and the Flash,” starring Meryl Streep as a rock and roller who abandoned her family to chase musical stardom. But there were points where all of his movies threatened to morph into musicals—even the nightmarish thriller “The Silence of the Lambs” and the earnest message picture “Philadelphia,” both of which feature scenes in which a leading character is seized by the spirit of the classical music he’s listening to and pretends to conduct it.

I loved the way Demme so clearly loved his characters, not just the leads but every single person who inhabited his films. May his memory be a blessing.

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Directors Tribute
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