Favorite Native American, Egyptian, Klingon, Michael Ansara, Dies

Michael Ansara, 91, TV, screen, and voice actor best known for his portrayal of Cochise in the American television series “Broken Arrow”has taken his Final Taxi.  Another popular role was that of Klingon Commander Kang on three different Star Trek TV series.  He was one of only a handful of actors to boldly go from “Star Trek [the Original Series]” to “Deep Space Nine” to “Voyager” – playing the exact same character on each of them.

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Ansara played Kane in the 1979–81 series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart on the NBC series, Law of the Plainsman. He guest starred on many of the most well-known television series of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” “The Rifleman,” “The Untouchables,” “Perry Mason,” “The Outer Limits,” “Ben Casey,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Lost in Space,” “Bewitched,” “The Fugitive,” “The Mod Squad,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Hawaii 5-0” and “Kojak.” 

In later years he took on several voice acting roles, providing the voice for Mr. Freeze in “Batman: The Animated Series” and General Warhawk in the Rambo cartoon.  Ansara was married for 16 years to Barbara Eden who is best known for her role in the hit sitcom, “I Dream of Jeannie”.  They even acted together in that series three times.

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Ginny Tyler, voice actress & Disney legend, passes away at 86

My wife Marlesa and I recently saw the Wes Anderson film, “Moonrise Kingdom.”   It really brought back a lot of memories to both of us about growing up in the 60’s. Most notable were the scenes with the children listening to “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” on an old portable record player. This theme was repeated several times throughout the movie.  When one of the characters runs away from home she ‘borrows’ her brothers’ record player – leaving him an IOU – and takes it with her.  I remember those pre-ipod days of absolutely longing to carry my records wherever I went.

My parents gave me an allowance growing up, and almost all my money went into buying vinyl 45s. I can remember going to the downtown Sears and Roebuck store and shuffling through children’s records till I found one I couldn’t live without. These particular records didn’t have the big hole in the center that required a plastic spindle insert like other 45s, but instead were shaped with small hole in the center, just like a full-sized vinyl LP.

Most of what I collected were stories based on Disney movies or recordings of their characters singing songs.  Many of these records featured a particular female voice that I can still hear in my mind. It was the voice of Ginny Tyler, one of the Disneyland Storytellers.

Ginny Tyler has taken her final taxi at the age of 86.

Tyler was born Merrie Virginia Erlandson and adopted  her stage name Tyler when she started out in radio. She moved on to become host of a children’s show in Seattle, Washington.  Around 1950, she moved to Los Angeles and started narrating albums for Disney.  During that time she made friends with Art Clokey and became part of the group that made the breakthrough stop motion animation cartoon “Gumby.” Tyler voiced several characters on the children’s show.  This lead to another stop motion animation cartoon popular in the 60’s called  “Davey and Goliath.”

Disney tapped  Tyler to narrate short films for the “Mickey Mouse Club”  in the 1960’s. She would take older footage and update it with her more modern voice.  Also for Disney she voiced the two female squirrels in “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) and sang several parts of animated animals in “Mary Poppins” (1964).  A large movie role came for Tyler in 1967 when she worked alongside Rex Harrison in “Doctor Dolittle.” She voiced the part of Polynesia – the parrot who spoke over  two thousand languages (including Dodo and Unicorn.)

I will fondly remember her for the super-hero cartoons of my childhood.  In 1966 she worked for two seasons on Space Ghost. Tyler played the voice of Space Ghost’s sidekick Jan who was always the damsel in distress. Switching gears, she was also the female villain Black Widow.  In 1978 she voiced Sue Richards aka The Invisible Girl in The Fantastic Four cartoon. 

For years Ginny Tyler’s voice was a part of my life.

After the movie ‘Casper’ came out on DVD, I wanted to turn my children onto the old Casper TV shows from the 1960s. As we settled down with the popcorn and I hit the play button on the DVD player, I was pleasantly surprise to find the sweetly not-too-scary voice of Casper done by none other than Tyler. A haunting voice from my childhood that I’ll always remember….

The Puppet Master – Van Snowden

Last night my daughter wanted to watch an older horror movie. Lucky we have streaming video from Netflix and they recently added several in that genre. We ended up watching “Child’s Play”, the movie where the spirit of a murderer takes over a kid’s toy doll and goes on a killing spree. The movie worked because the little doll, Chucky, looked real and alive. This was all done by puppetry of Van Snowden.

One of Hollywood’s most sought after puppeteers, Van Snowden has taken his Final Taxi at age 71.

If you grew up watching any of the Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning TV shows then you have seen his work. Staring out as a puppeteer on H.R. Pufnstuf, Snowden played the mayoral dragon for several year.Later he also worked in “Sigmund & the Sea Monsters,” “Lidsville,””The Bugaloos,”” The Krofft Supershow,” and my favorite “Land of the Lost.”

Snowden was asked by Paul Rueben ( aka Pee Wee Herman) to be lead puppeteer on his show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

He worked a great deal in horror movies in places where you would not know puppets were used. Many times it was rats, lizards, bats or squid tentacles. In fact Snowden was the one responsible for the movements of the Crypt Keeper in the TV horror anthology “Tales From the Crypt.”

Some of Snowden’s film work includes “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” (1991), “BeetleJuice” (1988), “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” (1992), “Alien:Resurrection” (1997), “Starship Troopers” (1997) and “The XFiles” (1998).

The 81st Annual Academy Award Obit List

I watched the Academy Awards last night and waited for the segment that I enjoy watching every year. This is when the Oscars salute the people who have taken the Final Taxi in the last year. They usually have film clips that we can see on our TV screens and play music in the background but this year they did something different by have Queen Latifah sing the song “I’ll Be Seeing You.” She did a wonderful job but the attention was more on her than on those who died during the year. We did not see many of the names due to this.
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In case you missed seeing who was in the tribute last night here is the list:

Cyd Charisse
Bernie Mac
Bud Stone (executive)
Ollie Johnston (animator)
Van Johnson
J. Paul Huntsman (sound)
Michael Crichton
Nina Foch
Pat Hingle
Harold Pinter
Charles H. Joffe (producer)
Kon Ichikawa (director)
Charles H. Schneer (producer)
Abby Mann (screenwriter)
Roy Scheider
David Watkin (director of photography)
Robert Mulligan (director)
Evelyn Keyes
Richard Widmark
Claude Berri (director)
Maila Nurmi (Known onscreen as Vampira)
Isaac Hayes
Leonard Rosenman (composer)
Ricardo Montalban
Manny Farber (film critic)
Robert DoQui
Jules Dassin (director)
Paul Scofield
John Michael Hayes (screenwriter)
Warren Cowan (publicist)
Joseph M. Caracciolo (producer)
Stan Winston (special effects)
Ned Tanen (producer, executive)
James Whitmore
Charlton Heston
Anthony Minghella (director, producer)
Sydney Pollack
Paul Newman

At first I was a little taken back not seeing Heath Ledger’s name on that list. He had just won Best –Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight an hour earlier. Then I remembered that he was on the 2007 list from last year.

There were several others that should have been on that list last night.

First for me was the ‘voice’ of Hollywood- Don LaFontaine. Time was that you could not go to a movie and not hear a preview without hearing his voice. He provided the narration to thousands of movie trailers over the past three decades.

Mel Ferrer, an actor, director, producer in over 100 productions, was also left off the list. Missing as well was John Phillip Law who will be most known as the blind angel in “Barbarella” but I enjoyed his roles in “Jason and the Argonauts” & “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.”

I can never think about Hammer horror films without thinking of Hazel Court so she was missed and also the sexy Eartha Kitt was not listed.

I think the Academy has something about comedians as they forget about them every year. We did not get to see the films that George Carlin was in or those of Harvey Korman, I can see Korman in his scene from Blazing Saddles where he is talking to the band of villains he has hired to destroy Rock Ridge. “Men, you are about to embark on a great crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the west. Now you men will only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor….”
It’s a shame Harvey was not remembered on this night.

Also missing was Patrick McGoohan who most people know from TV’s The Prisoner. He stared in over 30 feature films including as King Edward in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”, the warden in Clint Eastwood’s “Escape From Alcatraz” and the villain Roger Devereau in “Silver Streak.”

The slap in the face to me was forgetting Anita Page, the last surviving silent film star. This would have be a time to reflect on the early days of the Academy. She starred with Hollywood legends such as Lon Chaney Sr., Robert Montgomery, Ramon Novarro, Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton and Clark Gable. She was also the last living attendee of the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.

I wish one year someone at the Academy Awards would pay tribute to these people who helped pave the way for the actors who received the Oscar last night.

PODCAST: Estelle Reiner, Orderer of Orgasms

Actress and singer Estelle Reiner took her Final Taxi at age 94. Reiner was the wife of Carl Reiner and the mother of directors Rob and Lucas Reiner and writer Annie. Estelle Reiner was a renowned jazz singer and also acted in several films. Most people remember her for delivering a single line in her son Rob’s film “When Harry met Sally.” Following the scene in the restaurant where Meg Ryan shows Billy Crystal how easy it is for a woman to fake an orgasm, Ms. Reiner says to her waiter “I’ll have what she’s having.” Ms. Reiner’s other film and TV credits include “Hot to Trot,” Mel Brooks’ version of “To Be or Not to Be,” “The Man with Two Brains,” “Fatso” and “Marathon.”
Liten to MP3  http://memberdata.wildvoice.com/RonNasty/media/Final_Taxi_Day6_Reiner.mp3