Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Saying Goodbye 2013 Edition

This is the time of year when my mailbox fills with "Best of" issues. Pictures, moments, headlines, events of the year nearly gone are recounted yet again. One of the features I always enjoy in a melancholy way is the remembrances of those who have died in the past year. Several TV news shows do this as well. Cracked  on Line does a nice piece overlooked deaths of the year. Most award shows do one as well, but year in and year out TCM Remembers is tops.

  This post is my version of the year end tribute.  I have to say I'm not the one to write about Nelson Mandela or Margaret Thatcher because I don't know what to say that hasn't been said again and again already. Its the writers and athletes and performers, especially actors, that I am drawn to.  It's a good thing to remember those who have gone who gave us pleasure while they were with us.  Two I wrote about at the time of their passing: Seamus Heaney and Roger Ebert. Here are a few more of the public figures I will most miss who took final curtains in 2013. Most of them had long fulfilling lives of that gave a lot of people a lot of joy.

Stan Musial-When I went to St Louis last year for my cousin's wedding I promised The Boy I would go to Busch Stadium and get him a Cardinals Tshirt. I also took pictures of all the statues of Cardinals greats that are in front of the stadium. But standing alone, as he should, larger than life, as he was,  is a statue of the great Stan Musial. A few months after I took this photo, Mr Musial died, at the age of 93.  He was a class act in every possible way, playing his entire career with the Cardinals, married to the same woman for 72 years. In over 3000 major league games, he was never ejected. As Bob Costas said “It seems that all Stan had going for him was more than two decades of sustained excellence as a ballplayer and more than nine decades as a thoroughly decent human being. Where is the single person to truthfully say a bad word about him?"

Or you can just go with what it says on the statue:
"Here stands baseball's perfect warrior.
Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

Jane Henson--The Muppets' mom. What else can I say?

Allan Arbus--The man who gave MASH Dr Sidney Freedman. If I ever have to seek psychiatric help, I hope its someone of the same compassionate dignity as Sidney--a role Mr Arbus didn't merely act, but inhabited.

Richard Matheson--He wrote several of the best Twilight Zone episodes, the original Night Stalker movies, and the novels I am Legend and Hell House, the latter made into one of my favorite horror films, in short the cultural touchstones of my youth.

Ray Harryhausen--I don't remember how old I was when I first saw The 7th Voyage of Sinbad or Jason and the Argonauts, but long before I studied movies seriously I saw the animation work of Ray Harryhausen and knew I was looking at something special. His films often used mythological themes, or tales from the Arabian Nights. The absolute master of stop motion, he work couldn't be equaled, let alone bettered, with most special effects wizards of today turning to CGI instead.   Here is what might be his masterpiece: the skeleton sword fight from Jason.

I started writing this about a month ago, thinking I had already seen enough loss for one year. Then on December 14th, Peter O'Toole died.  Mr .O'Toole had been one of my favorite actors since I was a child, and saw Lawrence of Arabia and The Lion in Winter for the first time.  Really great acting, to me, has a touch of divine madness to it.  Most actors these days seem too self conscious and buttoned down to reach for the crazed heights, but he did it again and again.  At the same time he was capable of quiet wordless acting in which the eyes said it all. Besides he was Irish. Here's my favorite O'Toole scene from The Lion in Winter.

So  that is my list of public person I will miss most who died this year.  I'm sure you have a list too.  Before we move on to the new year, it's good to say one more "Thank You" and Goodbye". 


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