Thursday, March 27, 2008

They come in threes

News items (courtesy of
- 3/18 -- Director Anthony Minghella Dies at 54: Director Anthony Minghella, who won an Academy Award for directing the 1996 epic The English Patient, has died at age 54, his agent announced today. Variety reports that a spokesman for Mr. Minghella said he suffered a brain hemorrhage on Tuesday morning at Charing Cross Hospital in London, while in for a routine neck operation.
- 3/19 -- Oscar Winner Paul Scofield Dead at 86: British actor Paul Scofield, who won an Oscar for his performance as Sir Thomas More in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons died of leukemia on Wednesday at the age of 86.
- 3/24 -- Actor Richard Widmark Dies: Hollywood actor Richard Widmark has died at the age of 93. The Minnesota-born star enjoyed a career spanning more than four decades, during which he made over 70 films.

And so the morbid and often-quoted maxim of celebrity death -- "The come in threes" -- proves out once again (yes, this is a ghoulish entry)...

What's interesting about these three deaths, tho, is the symetry of careers and profile of all three of these gentlemen. Minghella, who (as noted above) is probably best known for his epic adaptation of Michael Ondaajte's "The English Patient," was a singular auteur and film visionary who, because he was not as prolific as some of his contemporaries, was probably overlooked on most people's list of great writers and directors. But I challenge you to find me someone who take books as esotreric and literary as "The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," and "Cold Mountain" and make them into films that are a feast for the eyes and compelling films to boot.

And if you really want to be wowed by a director's vision, track down a DVD of his production of Minghella's mounting of "Madama Butterfly" in 2006 at the Met in NY (here's the New Yorker's review from October of '06 --

Paul Scofield, a contemporary of the mid-20th century English master actors like Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Alec Guinness, and Ralph Richardson, is the answer to a trivia question (along with seven other actors): Who has won an Oscar and a Tony Award for performing performing the same role on film and stage? Scofield took the honors for his portrayal of Sir Thomas More in "A Man For All Seasons."

Although not as well-known as his contemporaries, Scofield was a giant of the London stage, and was called by many the finest actor of his generation, yet stayed out of the spotlight. The playwright Arthur Miller (The Crucible, All My Sons, Death of a Salesman) considered him to be the finest English-speaking actor. To most people, he's probably best known for playing the patrician father of Ralph Fiennes' character in "Quiz Show" or the ghost of Hamlet's dead father in Mel Gibson's version of "Hamlet"... Had Scofield been more self-aggrandizing (like Olivier or Gielgud, for example), he would probably have been a giant of the American film scene as well. The Boston Globe's Mark Feeney wrote a great appreciation of Scofield's career here --

Lastly, Richard Widmark was a virtually unknown radio actor when he made his explosive debut in "Kiss of Death" as, well, a lunatic (see the original 1947 version and not the late '90s remake with David Caruso and Nicholas Cage). Widmark would go on to star in some 40-odd other movies, including westerns, noirs, and historical dramas (his prosecuting attorney in "Judgement at Nuremberg" saw him go toe-to-toe with Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster), and became a reliable presence for both tough-guy and hero roles.

Funnily enough, Widmark, who was nominated for a supporting Oscar his role in "Kiss of Death" but lost to Edmund Gwenn (who won for his portrayal of Santa Claus in "Miracle on 34th Street"), was also Sandy Koufax's father-in-law. The AP wrote an appreciation of his life and career here --

RIP gentlemen... your talents and contributions will be missed, but will live forever in our memories and DVD players.

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