CultureGeeks Pick the Best Movies of 2019
Farewell to kings: Neil Peart 1952-2020

RIP: Those we lost in 2019

List and commentary compiled by Jason R. Tippitt. Rest in peace, shining stars.

 

Jan. 2: Darwin Bromley, 68, was founder of Mayfair Games, which produced the DC Heroes role-playing game, an RPG based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and board games.

Jan. 4: Louisa Moritz, 82, a Cuban-American actress who played Rose in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starred in the comedy anthology Love, American Style, and was the first woman to formally accuse Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct.

Jan. 12: Batton Lash, 65, an American cartoonist who was co-creator of the long-running independent comic series Supernatural Law and author of the 1994 one-shot Archie Meets The Punisher. More recently, he was a libertarian blogger.

Jan. 15: Carol Channing, 97, a singing and dancing star of stage and film whose credits included Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Jan. 16: Lorna Doom, 61, bassist for the punk band The Germs both in its 1970s heyday and during its 2005-09 reunion.

Jan. 18: Boo, 12, a Pomeranian renowned as “The World’s Cutest Dog.” He had more than 17 million followers on Facebook and starred in four photo-books as well as appearing on the red carpet with Kristen Bell one time.

Jan. 19: Ted McKenna, 68, a Scottish rock ’n’ roll drummer with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, the greatest ‘70s band you’ve likely never heard about if you’re a fellow American; and Tony Mendez, 78, a former CIA agent whose exploits were recounted in part in the film Argo.

Jan. 25: Dušan Makavejev, 86, a Serbian film director whose works included W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971, a look at communism and sexual politics) and The Coca-Cola Kid (1985, a romantic comedy starring Eric Roberts).

Feb. 3: Kristoff St. John, 52, an actor best known for his long stint on the soap opera The Young & the Restless.

Feb. 7: Albert Finney, 82, an English actor who made it all seem effortless and played everyone from Winston Churchill (The Gathering Storm, 2002) to Kilgore Trout (Breakfast of Champions, 1999) to the foundling Tom Jones (1963) and Hercule Poirot (Murder on the Orient Express, 1973).

Feb. 9: Tomi Ungerer, 87, an Alsatian artist and writer who did children’s books (Flat Stanley) and adult works, autobiography and fantasy, and whose illustration extended to theatre and film (Dr. Strangelove, 1964; Monterey Pop, 1968).

Feb. 12: W.E.B. Griffin, 89, a prolific author of mystery and military novels — 38 books in six series under that name alone, with 11 other pen names and three other variants on his real name used to write even more.

Feb. 16: Bruno Ganz, 77, a Swiss-born star of German television and film whose works included the last-days-of-Hitler film Downfall and Wim Wenders’ classic Wings of Desire.

Feb. 18: Toni Myers, 77, an award-winning documentarian. She took full advantage of the IMAX format in films such as Blue Planet (1990), Hubble (2010), and A Beautiful Planet (2016).

Feb. 21: Beverley Owen, 81, who originated the role of Marilyn on the 1960s horror sitcom The Munsters before leaving Hollywood to become a wife, mother, and scholar (earning a master’s degree in early American history in 1989); and Peter Tork, 77, an actor and musician best known as the keyboardist and bass player for The Monkees.

Feb. 26: Jeraldine Saunders, 95, who channeled her experiences as the first known female cruise ship directors into a memoir that spawned the TV series The Love Boat. She was also a nationally syndicated horoscope writer.

Feb. 27: Nathaniel Taylor, 80, an American comic best remembered for his long recurring role as “Rollo” on Sanford & Son and its spinoffs Grady and Sanford.

March 4: Keith Flint, 49, a dancer and sometime motorcycle racer turned frontman of the English alternative-dance group The Prodigy; and actor Luke Perry, 52, the former teen idol (Beverly Hills 90210 and the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who at the time of his death was the only tether attaching The CW’s Archie Comics-based Riverdale to anything resembling sanity.

March 8: George Morfogen, 85, an American character actor best remembered for the original V miniseries and as a long-term cast member on the prison drama Oz, where he portrayed one of the two oldest men in the cell block.

March 16: Dick Dale, 81, the undisputed king of surf rock guitar; and actor Richard Erdman, 93, whose career went back to Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Stalag 17 (1953) but also included his dry turn as the insult-slinging student Leonard on the sitcom Community.

March 22: Scott Walker, 76, an American-born singer-songwriter (born Noel Scott Engel) who joined the “family” band The Walker Brothers (not siblings, none of them named Walker) to record “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More,” “Take It Easy on Yourself,” and other pop, folk, and even country songs that did a lot better in Britain and Europe than in the U.S. As a solo artist, his increasingly avant-garde works featured lush arrangements, more than a few covers of the Belgian chanson artist Jacques Brel, a baritone voice that begs the listener to stop and pay attention, and exploration of unusual sounds and departures from traditional ideas of what a song even is. Admirers included David Bowie, Marc Almond, Brian Eno, Pulp, and Radiohead.

March 29: Mark Alessi, 65, a venture capitalist who from 1998-2004 was the publisher of the comics company CrossGen, which he founded. The company was an innovator in digital coloring and notable for starting out with a well-planned shared universe that had room for fantasy, mystery, and science fiction elements. It ended the way many startups do, with some creators unpaid and some stories unfinished, but works like Ruse later found a brief second life after Marvel Comics bought the rights to the company’s catalog.

April 3: Shawn Smith, 53, was a fixture in the Seattle alternative rock scene, working as a solo artist and singing in the bands Brad, Satchel, and Pigeonhed. But I best heard his aching, high vocals through his work as a background singer for the Afghan Whigs and as a vocalist in Whigs frontman Greg Dulli’s project the Twilight Singers.

April 9: James D. Hudnall, 61, was a comic book writer whose included the creator-owned Espers and long runs on Alpha Flight and Strikeforce Morituri for Marvel Comics. In more recent years, he spent time as a libertarian blogger.

April 12: Georgia Engel, 70, a comedic actress best remembered for her recurring roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Everybody Loves Raymond.

April 14: Bibi Andersson, 83, a Swedish actress and collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman (Wild Strawberries, 1957; The Seventh Seal, 1957; Persona, 1966).

April 16: Fay McKenzie, 101, an American actress who performed in silent films as a child and continued into the talking films.

April 17: Kazuo Koike, 82, the Japanese manga writer whose works included the influential Lady Snowblood and Lone Wolf & Cub.

April 23: Terry Rawlings, 85, a British film editor whose works included Alien, Blade Runner, and Chariots of Fire.

 April 26:  Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, 76, an actor perhaps best remembered as a self-hating police officer in John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood.

April 28: John Singleton, 51, the film director and TV producer whose other works included the cars-and-crime drama 2 Fast 2 Furious and the cable crime drama Snowfall.

April 30: Peter Mayhew, 74, was the British giant and gentleman who inhabited the Chewbacca costume for every Star Wars film up to The Force Awakens.

May 4: Rachel Held Evans, 37, was a top-selling Christian author and blogger, a leading voice of the evangelical center and left.

May 11: Nan Winton, 93, British broadcaster who became the first female newsreader for the BBC; and Peggy Lipton, 72, a co-star of the crime drama The Mod Squad who later became beloved to another generation as cafe owner Norma Jennings in Twin Peaks, a role she reprised in the 2017 cable TV revival. She was also the mother of actress Rashida Jones.

May 12: Machiko Kyō, 95, a Japanese actress whose main work was done in the 1950s, including her co-starring role as the samurai’s wife in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950).

May 13: Doris Day, 97, an American actress and singer who spent her later years as an animal rights activist.

May 14: American actor and comedian Tim Conway, 85; and internet celebrity Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat, 7. And while it may seem to be giving Mr. Conway short shrift to mention them in the same paragraph, he seemed like a humble and affable man and I bet he’d be amused by the juxtaposition.

May 17: Herman Wouk, 103, American author, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny and later saw his novels The Winds of War and War and Remembrance adapted into epic television miniseries at the height of that genre.

May 30: Leon Redbone, 69, was a Cypriot-American singer-songwriter and actor whom I’d wrongly assumed might be Cajun because of his style of comic jazz. Along with his musical hits, he appeared in the film Elf and sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Zooey Deschanel before performing that song would put a man on the informal sex offenders registry of the collective subconscious.

May 31: Roky Erickson, 71, was a singer-songwriter who fronted the Austin, Texas-based 13th Floor Elevators, one of the best ‘60s psychedelic rock bands you’ve probably never heard of.

June 6: Dr. John, 77, the Louisiana-born piano player and singer-songwriter whose mix of rock, pop, R&B, soul, and Cajun stylings earned him a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

June 12: Bridgette Jordan, 30, who for almost two months in 2011 held the Guinness World Record as the world’s shortest living woman (2’3”); and actress Sylvia Miles, 94, an Academy Award nominee for her performances in Midnight Cowboy and Farewell, My Lovely.

June 15: Italian theater and film director Franco Zeffirelli, 96, whose work included the cinematic Shakespeare adaptations Romeo & Juliet (1968) and The Taming of the Shrew (1967) and the biblical epic Jesus of Nazareth (1977) as a television miniseries.

June 17: Heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, 95, who worked as an artist and fashion designer, also the mother of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

June 22: Novelist Judith Krantz, 91, who worked as a reporter and fashion magazine editor until she started writing novels around the age of 50.

June 23: Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dave Bartholomew, 100, a trumpeter turned songwriter who penned such hits as “I’m Walkin’” and “Ain’t That a Shame” (with Fats Domino) and “I Hear You Knockin’”); and Stephanie Niznik, 52, an actress best known for her role on the TV drama Everwood.

June 26: French actress Édith Scob, 81 (Eyes Without a Face, 1960); and American actor Max Wright, 75 (ALF on TV, All That Jazz at daring theaters).

July 1: Sid Ramin, 100, an American composer and arranger who provided the score for West Side Story, among other films.

July 6: American actor Cameron Boyce, 20 (Disney’s made-for-TV Descendants series); Brazilian singer-songwriter, guitarist and bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto, 88; and American actor Eddie Jones, 84, who played Jonathan Kent on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

July 9: American comedic actor Rip Torn, 88, whose career spanned more than 60 years.

July 18: At least 36 people died in an arson fire at Kyoto Animation in Japan.

July 19: Rutger Hauer, 75, a Dutch actor who often played the heavy in films such as Blade Runner, Nighthawks, and The Hitcher but also played a romantic lead in the fantasy film Ladyhawke and founded an AIDS awareness organization.

July 22: Art Neville, 81, the eldest of the musical Neville Brothers and a founder of the legendary New Orleans band The Meters.

July 23: Chaser, 15, an American Border Collie who had the largest non-human memory ever tested; and Danika McGuigan, 33, Irish actress who starred in the sitcom Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope and the film dramas Philomena and The Secret Scripture.

July 24: Trudy, 63, an American gorilla who was the world’s oldest in captivity.

Aug. 1: D. A. Pennebaker, 94, a documentarian with a love of music whose camera captured a young Bob Dylan (Don’t Look Back, 1967), the Summer of Love (Monterey Pop, filmed in 1967 and released in 1968), and the majesty of David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars, a 1979 film based on his 1973 tour).

Aug. 5: Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, 88.

Aug. 8: Puerto Rican comics artist Ernie Colón, 88, whose work included the Native American fantasy saga Arak, Son of Thunder, and the fantasy series Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, for DC Comics, Marvel Comics’ superhero cleanup comedy Damage Control, and work for Harvey Comics on kids’ characters such as Richie Rich and Casper, the Friendly Ghost.

Aug. 16: Peter Fonda, 79, a second-generation actor and screenwriter (Easy Rider, 3:10 to Yuma) who spent his last few years throwing out political firebombs.

Aug. 25: Clora Bryant, 92, an American jazz trumpeter who had been a member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first racially integrated all-female band in the United States, during the 1940s. A League of their Own made a great movie and revived the memory of women’s baseball — why hasn’t this story been turned into a movie musical yet?

Aug. 30: Valerie Harper, 80, a longtime television comedy actress (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda) who made a late-in-life resurgence as a Dancing with the Stars contender while also battling cancer.

Sept. 3: Child model turned actress Carol Lynley, 77 (Harlow, 1965; Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965; The Poseidon Adventure, 1972).

Sept. 9: Robert Frank, 94, a Swiss-American photographer whose book The Americans (published in France in 1968, in the U.S. in 1969) provided an outsider’s look at American life across the socioeconomic spectrum. He also directed an unreleased documentary of the 1972 Rolling Stones tour whose title I can’t use here because this is a family blog.

Sept. 10: Jeff Fenholt, 68, the original star of the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar, who was the lead singer for a couple of bands before becoming a televangelist.

Sept. 11: Outsider artist and lo-fi musician Daniel Johnston, 58, whose struggles with mental illness were highlighted in the documentary film The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005); and Mardik Martin, 84, an American screenwriter of Armenian descent, born in Iran to Iraqi parents, which made him the perfect person to write three quintessentially American films for Martin Scorsese in the 1970s: Mean Streets (1973), New York, New York (1977) and Raging Bull (1980).

Sept. 13: American singer and songwriter Eddie Money, 70, though regrettably not before he had to see William Shatner sing a few bars of “Two Tickets to Paradise” in a Priceline ad.

Sept. 15: Rock & Roll Hall of fame inductee Ric Ocasek, 75, of The Cars.

Sept. 17: Journalist and commentator Cokie Roberts, 75, of ABC News and NPR; and actress and TV host Suzanne Whang, 56 (House Hunters for HGTV, From Here on OUT for here! TV, the first LGBTQ-centered sitcom created for an LGBTQ-focused TV network in the U.S.).

Sept. 21: Actor Aron Eisenberg, 50, who played Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Sept. 23: Robert Hunter, 78, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee whose lyrics found a home in the repertoire of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, and others. He was inducted with the Dead as the only non-musician so to enter the Hall of Fame. And rightly so: “Ripple” may be the most beautiful tune ever recorded in American popular music.

Sept. 25: Linda Porter, 86, an actress who started her career in earnest when others might be looking forward to retirement and found a series regular role on the sitcom Superstore and made appearances in the 2017 Twin Peaks revival (as a casino regular who has her lucky day) and the science fiction buddy epic Dude, Where’s My Car?

Oct. 1: Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, 80, a blues guitarist whose approach to playing was described by one viewer as “ballistic.”

Oct. 2: Kim Shattuck, 56, an American punk and alternative guitarist and singer who headed the band The Muffs and was part of the reformed Pixies until complications of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) ended her ability to perform.

Oct. 3: Dana Fradon, 97, a prolific cartoonist for The New Yorker and former husband of longtime DC Comics artist Ramona Fradon (who worked on the Doom Patrol and Metamorpho’s odd adventures, among other things); and Philip Gips, 88, a graphic designer and film poster artist whose work helped promote Alien and Rosemary’s Baby.

Oct. 4: Diahann Carroll, 84, broke ground as the star of the TV show Julia, the first show centered around a black character who was not a domestic worker, co-starred in the primetime soap Dynasty, and in later years recurred on the USA Network crime drama White Collar.

Oct. 6: Jazz-trained English drummer Ginger Baker, 80, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame who performed with supergroups Cream and Blind Faith; and American actor and comedian Rip Taylor, 88.

Oct. 11: Actor Robert Forster, 78, the star of Medium Cool and Disney’s The Black Hole who went away for a while but enjoyed a career resurgence after appearing in Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown; and Alexei Leonov, 85, the Russian cosmonaut who exited Voskhod 2 to perform the first spacewalk.

Oct. 29: John Witherspoon, 77, an American actor who appeared in the comedy Friday, on the TV sitcom The Wayans Bros., and provided the voice of Grandpa on The Boondocks.

Oct. 30: Canadian playwright Bernard Slade, 89 (Same Time Next Year) who also worked in television, contributing scripts for The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family.

Nov. 2: Brian Tarantina, 60, an actor whose credits included the dramedies Gilmore Girls and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Nov. 5: Laurel Griggs, 13, a child actress who appeared in the musical Once and on Saturday Night Live as well as Woody Allen’s film Café Society.

Nov. 7: Robert Freeman, 82, an English photographer and graphic designer who worked extensively with the Beatles.

Nov. 13: Journalist and comics critic Tom Spurgeon, 50, was an award-winning editor of the magazine The Comics Journal and the online The Comics Reporter.

Nov. 19: Tom Lyle, 66, was an American comics artist whose clean lines helped bring Spider-Man, the late 1980s version of the DC character Starman, and others to life. Remembrances on Facebook (full disclosure: he was a contact there) painted a picture of a friendly convention figure, always eager to chat with fans and fellow pros.

Nov. 20: Former Minnesota Vikings player Fred Cox, 80, who was also a co-inventor of the ubiquitous Nerf football; and Doug Lubahn, 71, who contributed bass guitar to three of The Doors’ studio albums but turned down the opportunity to tour with the band, citing other commitments.

Nov. 21: American cartoonist Gahan Wilson, 89, was the morbidly funny heir to Charles Addams’ legacy and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Collier’s and Playboy.

Nov. 26: Howard Cruse, 75, an underground comix legend who broke ground for LGBTQ creators and content in the 1970s-80s. His debut graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby (1995) is one of those rare books that made me a better person for having read it, helping instill an empathy in me that my raising as a heterosexual Southerner had not; the book wasn’t an autobiography, but Cruse’s own Southern childhood helped inform the story.

Nov. 29: American Songwriters Hall of Famer Irving Burgie, 95, wrote the national anthem of Barbados (“In Plenty and in Time of Need”) but is probably better known to Americans for the songs he wrote for calypso legend and activist Harry Belafonte, including “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”

Dec. 1: Lil Bub, 8, an American cat who became an internet celebrity; and actress Shelley Morrison, 83, who most recently appeared on Will & Grace but whose career went back to The Flying Nun and a turn on General Hospital.

Dec. 2: Television writer D. C. Fontana, 80, a pioneer for women in the writers’ room of science fiction series with her time on the original Star Trek series; and Kenneth Allen Taylor, 65, a philosopher and radio broadcaster (co-host of “Philosophy Talk,” available as a free podcast).

Dec. 5: George Laurer, 94, invented the Universal Product Code (aka “the bar code”) that is now found on almost any mass-produced item you can think of and was debated in the church of my childhood as possibly being the Mark of the Beast mentioned in Revelation.

Dec. 6: Actor Ron Leibman, 82, won the Tony Award in 1993 for his performance as Roy Cohn in the play Angels in America.

Dec. 8: René Auberjonois, 79, a 1970 Tony Award winner who appeared that same year in the film M*A*S*H and later won over more fans with his starring TV roles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Boston Legal; and Caroll Spinney, 85, a longtime Sesame Street puppeteer (Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch) who was also an author and cartoonist.

Dec. 9: Pete Frates, 34, a former Boston College baseball player whose diagnosis with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) inspired him to create the Ice Bucket Challenge, which became a viral fundraiser and awareness booster for research into the disease.

Dec. 12: Danny Aiello, 86, an Italian-American actor whose far-ranging career included The Godfather, Part II, the Spike Lee joint Do the Right Thing, and wooing Cher in Moonstruck.

Dec. 13: PHASE 2, 64, was a spray-paint graffiti artist most active in New York during the 1970s, and the next time you see big balloon-like letters painted on a wall or a railroad car, you’re seeing the innovation he brought to the form; they’re called “softies,” by the way.

Dec. 14: John Briley, 94, was an American screenwriter whose works included Gandhi (which won him an Academy Award), Cry Freedom (about martyred South African anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko), and Marie (about a Tennessee parole official who lost her job after refusing to free inmates who had bribed the governor). Does there seem to be a theme there, of heroic individuals facing down corrupt systems?

Dec. 22: Born Richard Alpert, the spiritual teacher Ram Dass, 88, had been a psychologist pioneering in the research of LSD before he became a yogi; his Be Here Now is a classic on meditation and mindfulness.

Dec. 25: TV producer Lee Mendelson, 86, helped bring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang to our television screens; and William Greider, 83, wasn’t just any economic reporter — he was the economic reporter for Rolling Stone at one point.

Dec. 26: Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman, 88, was behind such shows as Hello Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles; actress Sue Lyon, 73, entered show business as a model at the age of 13 and later played the title role in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Lolita. She was older than the character was in the book — a change made to accommodate the Hayes Code — but still too young when it came out to legally watch the movie.

Dec. 27: Radio personality Don Imus, 79, saw his career end after one too many occasions of not taking my dad’s advice — just because you can do something (or in his case, say something), that doesn’t mean you should; and trumpeter Jack Sheldon, 88, played on The Merv Griffin Show but is better known to my generation as a voice actor in the animated Schoolhouse Rock! series and singing “I’m Just a Bill,” which was meant to teach children about how laws are written and passed, though it’s a bit light on the bribes and childish fits.

Dec. 29: British comic actor and musician Neil Innes, 75, worked with Monty Python, including writing songs with Eric Idle for their Beatles parody The Rutles in the 1970s.

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