As the end of the year grows close, we at TCM look back in loving memory at those who contributed so much to the art of motion pictures and who passed away during the year. Here are the names of some who died during 2020 and have not been previously honored on TCM. We are screening a significant film associated with each to preserve and remember their legacy.
Buck Henry, the witty screenwriter/director/actor, was born in New York City on December 9, 1930 and died on January 8. He was Oscar-nominated for the adapted screenplay of The Graduate (1967) and for co-directing Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty. He won an Emmy award for his writing on the CBS-TV series Get Smart (which he also co-created) and was a frequent host and guest on Saturday Night Live and other TV shows.
Shirley Knight, the luminous young performer who developed into a fine character actress, was born in Goessel, Kansas, on July 5, 1936 and died on April 22. She was Oscar-nominated twice as Best Supporting Actress for her roles in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1962). She was nominated eight times for an Emmy Award and won three.
Fred Willard, the deadpan actor/comedian/writer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 18, 1933 and died on May 15. He made numerous television appearances over the decades and is best remembered in movies for “mockumentaries” including This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000) and For Your Consideration (2006), along with the Anchorman films.
Brian Dennehy, the robust actor of stage and screen, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on July 9, 1938 and died on April 15. He amassed an impressive 180 acting credits and was also outstanding on television and the stage. Movie credits included Cocoon (1985), Presumed Innocent (1990) and Knight of Cups (2015). He won Tony awards for Long Day’s Journey into Night and Death of a Salesman, repeating the latter vehicle on television and winning a Golden Globe award. Dennehy stars in the TCM premiere of The Belly of an Architect (1987).
Jerry Stiller, the much-loved comedian/actor/author, was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 8, 1927 and died on May 11. With a long list of stage, movie and TV credits, he formed half of the Stiller/Meara comedy team with wife Anne Meara. Their son, Ben Stiller, starred with Jerry in several films, including Zoolander (2001) and The Heartbreak Kid (2007). Jerry’s TV credits included Seinfeld and The King of Queens, and he starred in such films as The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), The Ritz (1976) and Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980).
Ennio Morricone, the prolific composer/musician, was born in Rome, Italy, on November 10, 1928 and died on July 6. He composed more than 400 scores for film and television, along with many classical compositions. He won an Oscar for his scoring on The Hateful Eight (2015) and had five other nominations including those for Days of Heaven (1979) and The Mission (1987). His score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) is perhaps his most famous. Alongside Gillo Pontecorvo, Morricone scored the Oscar-nominated The Battle of Algiers (1966).
Diana Serra Cary, aka “Baby Peggy,” the adorable child star, was born in San Diego, California, on October 29, 1918 and died on February 24. Between 1921 and 1924, she acted in more than 150 silent shorts, most of which are now lost. Known during her youthful heyday as “The Million-Dollar Baby,” she later became an author and film historian. Her screening for the night is The Family Secret (1924).
Honor Blackman, the alluring British actress, was born in London on August 22, 1925 and died on April 5. She gained fame as Mrs. Cathy Gale on TV’s The Avengers, the goddess Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964). Blackman also performed on the stage, notably in A Little Night Music. Screening on TCM: The Square Peg (1958).
Diana Rigg, the dynamic actress/author, was born in Yorkshire, England, on July 20, 1938 and died on September 10. She began her career onstage and won a Tony award for Medea in 1994. Like Honor Blackman, Rigg was acclaimed for TV’s The Avengers and as a James Bond leading lady (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969). Rigg’s movies also include Theater of Blood (1973), A Little Night Music (1977) and Evil Under the Sun (1982).
Wilford Brimley, the gruff but lovable character actor, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on September 27, 1934 and died on August 1. Beginning as an extra in Western movies, he progressed to meaty supporting roles in The China Syndrome (1979), Absence of Malice (1981) and Tender Mercies (1983) before taking on a leading role in Cocoon (1985). In later years he turned to work in television and independent films.