19 January 2012
Obituary round-up 2011
Film historian Robert J.E. Simpson pauses to reflect on the lives and careers of members of the extended Hammer family that left us in 2011.
Born on 23 November 1916 in Kuala Lumpur, veteran actor Michael Gough is perhaps best known to modern audiences for playing the role of Alfred Pennyworth in the Batman movies of the 1980s and 90s. He made his debut for Hammer as Arthur Holmwood in the company’s celebrated version of Dracula under director Terence Fisher. It would be the start of a long association with the horror genre including memorable parts in Horrors of the Black Museum (1959), Konga (1961) and Horror Hospital (1973).
In 1962 he played the fiendish Lord Ambrose d’Arcy in Hammer’s under-rated take on The Phantom of the Opera, again for director Fisher. His last work for Hammer would be alongside Dennis Waterman in ‘Eve’, part of the Journey to the Unknown television series.
His long career embraced stage and screen, including stints at the Old Vic, and roles in Doctor Who, The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes and several Ken Russell films.
Thanks to director Tim Burton, beginning with Batman (1989) Gough was in the spotlight once more, now well into his 70s. Still working in his 90s, he stepped out of retirement to appear in Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999), Corpse Bride (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010), all of which also featured his Dracula co-star Christopher Lee.
He died on 17 March 2011 in London, at the age of 94.
Paul (born Jeremy Paul Roche in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex on 29 July 1939) was the son of actress Joan Haythorne and producer Dominic Roche. While studying English at Oxford he sold his first screenplay and promptly dropped out of university after being offered a three-year deal with ATV.
His work for television was diverse, including episodes of Danger UXB, The Duchess of Duke Street, Upstairs Downstairs, Tales of the Unexpected, Lovejoy and Midsomer Murders. However, it would be his contributions to Granada’s Sherlock Holmes adaptations that he will no doubt be remembered for. Working on the series between 1984 and 1994 he penned nine scripts, and the acclaimed West End stage play The Secret of Sherlock Holmes in 1988, which also starred Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. The play was revived to much praise in 2010.
‘Poor Butterfly’, an instalment of Journey to the Unknown, was Paul’s first contribution to Hammer series in 1968. It centred on an artist invited to a fancy dress party by a stranger where he meets a girl who is desperate to escape the house and a marriage to a man she does not love.
Paul’s second contribution to the company, Countess Dracula, is perhaps better known. A reworking of the legends of Countess Bathory, the film suffered critically from the titular association with Hammer's other Dracula pictures. In fact, Paul's story is more concerned with political intrigue, rich in production design, and adorned with the dressing of a horror picture.
Paul died on 3 May, aged 71.
Terence Longdon (born Hubert Tuelly Longdon, 14 May 1922) had a long and successful career as a character actor, and while his name may not be familiar to most fans of British film and television, his face is undoubtedly so. His sole credit for Hammer came at the start of his film career, as Alan Whitcomb in the courtroom thriller Never Look Back (1952).
He would become a regular performer in British comedies, including the Carry On series, appearing in the first in the series, Carry On Sergeant (which like Hammer’s I Only Arsked! drew influence and casting elements from television sitcom The Army Game).
He died 23 April 2011 aged 88.
Born 7 August 1932, the son of actors Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Helen Pickard, Edward Hardwicke’s film career began at the age of 10 when he appeared in A Guy Named Joe (1943) in Hollywood alongside Spencer Tracey.
His lengthy career included stage, television and film work, but it would be his collaboration with Jeremy Brett on Granada’s Sherlock Holmes adaptations of the 1980s and 1990s that he will be best remembered. Hardwicke took on the role of Dr John Watson following the departure of David Burke at the end of the second series in 1986, staying through to the end of the series in 1994, as well as appearing in the stage play The Secret of Sherlock Holmes (written by Jeremy Paul) in 1988.
Hardwicke made an uncredited appearance as an outlaw in Hammer's Men of Sherwood Forest (1954) at the start of his film career, and had a small but crucial part, as Dr. Yarrow, in the 'Paper Dolls' episode of Journey to the Unknown (1968).
He died 16 May 2011.
Miriam Karlin (born Miriam Samuels) was a politically active Jewish actress, perhaps best known for her roles in television sitcoms - notably The Rag Trade in the 1960s, and So Haunt Me in the 1990s. Karlin wasctive in actors’ union Equity, as well as campaigning for the Anti-Nazi League, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Karlin earned two credits for Hammer - as Mrs. Lack in Watch It, Sailor! (1961) and as a charwoman in Hammer's Phantom of the Opera (1962). Audiences outside the UK will probably remember her best as the lady who is killed by a giant sculpture of a phallus in Stanley Kubrick's The Clockwork Orange (1971).
Born 23 June 1925. Died 3 June 2011
Born Arthur Dickinson Massé in Ontario, Canada on 7 July 1932, Massie retired from a promising acting career in his 40s to become a respected theatre teacher at the University of South Florida, reputedly hardly ever discussing his earlier work. On his retirement in 1996 he was named professor emeritus, and retired to Nova Scotia where he died on 9 June 2011.
It was all a long way from the turn of the 1960s when Massie’s flame shone bright, nominated for a “most promising newcomer” BAFTA Award for his role in the Anthony Asquith film Orders To Kill in 1958.
His casting in Hammer’s The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960) marked a change in direction for the company, shifting from an increasing preoccupation with graphic monsters to something more cerebral. Massie would play both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as was the cinematic custom. Rather than present Hyde to audiences as a physical grotesque, Wolf Mankowitz's script reinvented Hyde as a confident, young, handsome man, contrasting with the insecure, beared, aged Jekyll. Massie’s considered performance failed to meet audience expectations, but watching the film today Massie’s Jekyll/Hyde relationship can be seen as an intelligent response to psychoanalytic ideas about man’s true self.
It is perhaps little surprise that Hammer’s Slave Girls (aka. Prehistoric Women) should have featured so prominently among tributes to Michael Latimer. In spite of its outrageous scenario, and some fabulously camp performances, Latimer just about keeps his head as the straight man, inverting cinematic stereotyping by being the helpless victim to a crowd of vicious tribal women headed by Martine Beswick.
While Slave Girls became a cult favourite, Latimer, who was born in Calcutta and trained at RADA, carried on working in film and television notching up a string of credits including The Avengers, The Sweeney and Van der Valk.
In 1980 he would return to the Hammer studios under Roy Skeggs for the Hammer House Of Horror television series, as Dr. Bradley in the cannibalistic tinged ‘The Thirteenth Reunion’.
Michael Latimer, born 6 September 1941, died 25 June 2011.
A cousin to Laurence Olivier, Sheila Burell (born 9 May 1922) had a long and illustrious career on stage and screen, making her theatrical debut in 1942 in The Patsy.
Burell’s fourteen year relationship with Hammer films was dominated by the noir-like thrillers the company specialised in after the Second World War. Her Hammer debut (and indeed that of her film career) was in the murder mystery The Man In Black (1949) where she plays the viciously conniving (if a little dim) step-daughter of Sid James, conspiring with her mother to see him dead.
Further appearances followed in Cloudburst, The Rossiter Case (both 1951), and Women Without Men and Blonde Bait (1956). Several years later she received a major role in Freddie Francis’ Paranoiac (1963) as Aunt Harriet.
She died 19 July 2011.
Christopher Elwin Neame (not to be confused with the actor Christopher Neame who appeared in Dracula 1972 AD) was a writer and producer, the son of the acclaimed film director Ronald Neame.
For Neame, born in Windsor on Christmas Eve 1942, the film industry was inescapable – the third of four generations of the family working in the business. Early work as a camera assistant on This Sporting Life and The Wrong Arm of the Law (both 1963) was followed by an extensive period with Hammer Films, working his way up from third assistant director to production manager.
In 2003 Neame published the first volume of his autobiography entitled Rungs On A Ladder, which focussed on his time with Hammer films.
He died on 12 June 2011 at his home in France.
As third assistant director – Frankenstein Created Woman (1967); as second assistant director – Quatermass and the Pit (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968); as unit manager – 'The Last Visitor', 'Girl of My Dreams' (both part of Journey to the Unknown, 1968); as production manager – Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), On the Buses (1970), Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972), Fear in the Night (1972), Demons of the Mind (1972), Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974).
Canadian director Silvio Narizzano’s career traversed everything from thriller to comedy, following on from his feature debut at Hammer on Fanatic (1965) (aka. Die! Die! My Darling!). Fanatic remains an often overlooked picture from the company in spite of a strong cast and curious plotting. Stefanie Powers plays a spoiled girl who is imprisoned by the religiously fanatical mother of her dead former fiancé, played by Tallulah Bankhead, who plans to cleans and kill the girl so she can be with the deceased fiancé in heaven.
Filming was made difficult with the star - Tallulah Bankhead in her last feature role - intoxicated throughout the shoot. Narizzano also coaxed a curiously memorable performance from a young Donald Sutherland as the mentally retarded Joseph.
Born 8 February 1927, died 26 July 2011.
Without Jimmy Sangster’s input, there is a distinct possibility that Hammer might never have steered towards and made a success of the horror genre, caught up as the company was with low-budget thrillers and adaptations of BBC Radio serials. But Sangster's gothic scripts captured the imagination of cinema-goers the world over, and cemented a relationship that continues to this day.
Jimmy Sangster worked his way up through the ranks of the film industry, coming to Hammer as a first assistant director, eventually producing and directing outright as well as writing.
His association with Hammer continued in retirement through countless festival appearances, interviews, and contributions to laserdisc and DVD releases of his films.
He died on 19 August 2011.
Robert L. Lippert Jr.
Born in California on 28 February 1928, Lippert Jr. lived life to the full; he embraced careers in both the restaurant and film industries, and was a successful aviator. His father Robert L. Lippert Sr (1909 – 1976) had embarked on a production/distribution deal with the original Exclusive Films (Hammer’s sister company and distribution arm) in 1951, with Lippert providing the American star and often the scripts, while Hammer carried out production duties. In return Exclusive would distribute Lippert’s films in the UK and Lippert would distribute Hammer/Exclusive’s films in the US.
At the 1950s commenced Lippert Jr found himself working as an assistant film editor on fare like Sam Fuller’s The Steel Helmet (which Exclusive handled in the UK) and the Academy Award-winning High Noon. In time he would find himself promoted to producer for the Lippert pictures.
He died 29 September 2011 aged 83.
Robert L. Lippert Jr films distributed by Exclusive Films – As assistant editor: Bandit Queen (1951), The Steel Helmet (1951), Roaring City (1951), Pier 23 (1951), The Jungle (1952), The Tall Texan (1953); as producer: The Great Jesse James Raid (1954), Sins Of Jezebel (1954), Fangs Of The Wild (1955), The Big Chase (1955).
Australian actress Diane Cilento made two appearances for Hammer, as Janette in the 1952 drama Wings of Danger, and as the tortured Denise Colby in the 1960 mystery The Full Treatment (aka Stop Me Before I Kill!) based on the novel by Ronald Scott Thorn.
Cilento made a strong impression on fans of horror as the schoolteacher Miss Rose, in the non-Hammer film The Wicker Man in 1973.
Previously married to Andrea Volpe and Sean Connery, she died at her home in Australia on 6 October 2011 and is interred in London, with her third husband Anthony Shaffer.
Born in Trinidad on 7 December 2010, Ros was credited with bringing Latin music to the UK, having moved to the country to study at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1940, after playing with the likes of Fats Waller, Ros formed his own rhumba band. The exotic rhythms of the group offered something fresh and exciting to war-torn Londoners and Ros would soon find himself in great demand. In 1951 he opened his bought the Coconut Grove later renaming it the “Edmundo Ros Dinner and Supper Club”, which was reputedly only open to those mentioned in the pages of Who’s Who.
His club's entertainment style was captured by Michael Carreras for Hammer’s The Edmundo Ros Half Hour in 1957 – one of a number of musical shorts produced by the music-loving Carreras as supplemental material for Hammer. Ros performed with his Latin Orchestra, and other guests included Inez del Carmen, the Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang and the Buddy Bradley Dancers.
After retiring in 1975, Ros moved to Alicante, Spain with his second wife, Susan.
In 1994, just shy of his 85th birthday a new television documentary presented by Michael Nyman, I Sold My Cadillac To Diana Dors, was aired on Channel 4 in the UK (repeated by the BBC following Ros’ death), which included footage from the Hammer short. The story goes that one of the production companies working on the documentary, Rosetta, were based in Hammer House in Wardour Street in the offices previously occupied by Hammer Films and they uncovered the print of The Edmundo Ros Half Hour in a cupboard, which formed a significant boost to the final documentary.
Ros gave his last public performance that same year and was given an O.B.E. in the New Year Honours list in 2000. He died on 21 October 2011 just a few weeks shy of his 101st birthday.
Suffolk-born Sue Lloyd started her career as a dancer, having won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School at Sadler’s Wells, before joining Lionel Blair’s dance troupe. Her glamorous, statuesque appearance led to a modelling career before she turned her hand to acting. Notable appearances included Jean in the influential spy drama The Ipcress File (1963) with Michael Caine, the sequel Bullet to Beijing (1995), and Joan Collins vehicle The Bitch (1978). She is perhaps best remembered for her lengthy stint as Barbara Hunter in British soap opera Crossroads.
Hammer credits: French girl in Hysteria (1965), Barbara Rossiter in'The Madison Equation' (Journey To The Unknown episode, 1969), Miss Peach in That’s Your Funeral (1972).
Born 7 August 1939, died 20 October 2011.
Australian-born Don Sharp had apparently never seen a horror film before he directed Kiss of the Vampire for Hammer, and yet the result is one of the most acclaimed Hammer horrors of the period, filled with iconic moments and a memorable pre-credit sequence. Sharp would return to helm The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964) and Rasputin The Mad Monk (1966), and the 'Guardian Of the Abyss' episode of Hammer House Of Horror in 1980. He would also film The Brides of Fu Manchu for producer Harry Alan Towers at Hammer's Bray Studios in 1966.
Born 19 April 1921, died 14 December 2011.
The marriage of the On the Buses franchise and Hammer Films, legendary producer of horror films, might have seemed unusual at first glance, but the union proved profitable for the company at a time when gothic horror was falling out of favour with audiences and the entire British film industry was taking a nose-dive.
Ronald Wolfe (born Harvey Ronald Wolfe Luberoff 8 August 1922) found lasting success through his writing partnership with Ronald Chesney, beginning with BBC Radio’s Educating Archie in 1958, a bizarre concept that saw a ventriloquist comedy act transferred to the radio waves (think about it...).
In 1961 they created the working class comedy The Rag Trade for BBC television, starring Peter Jones, Miriam Karlin (see above) and future On The Buses star Reg Varney.
Several other projects followed before hitting on the On The Buses formula, a sitcom centred on bus driver Stan (Reg Varney) and his family. Rich in innuendo, the series ran between 1969 and 1973. Despite falling foul of the politically correct sensibilities of the 1990s, the series continues to find an audience on satellite television in the UK.
During the 1950s Hammer had regularly picked up British radio (and later television) serials for adaptation, and following the end of several major distribution deals the company looked towards the home grown market again in the early 1970s. On The Buses (1970) picked up the familiar characters from the television series and thrust them on the big screen, eventually becoming Britain’s top box office film for 1971.
[Popular anecdote relates that On The Buses even surpassed the 1971 James Bond offering, Diamonds Are Forever. Which it did for 1971, but largely because On The Buses was released in the UK in the summer of 1971, while Diamonds didn't hit cinema screens until 31 December that year. Kudos to the marketing executive that picked up on that technically accurate, but misleading, information and passing it into accepted cinema history].
Two follow-ups were quickly mounted, Mutiny On The Buses (1972) and Holiday On The Buses (1973); plans were also in place for a fourth in the series (provisionally known as 'Still At It On The Buses' – there was no subtlety with the Buses franchise) before the well ran dry.
With audiences becoming more selective with their horror, Wolf and Chesney’s films (which they co-wrote, and co-produced) offered a lifeline to the struggling Hammer, and sparked a series of comedy film adaptations which would continue through to 1980.
Wolfe died on 18 December 2011, aged 89.
With the ranks of Hammer alumni diminishing every year, it seems only appropriate that we mark their passing, and their contributions, with some small acknowledgement. From this point on, round-ups will be posted on the site, roughly once a quarter, alongside the usual notices on the Hammer social networking profiles.
If anyone has been inadvertently missed, or you have any other comments, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: 20 January 2012