While I have singled out Peter O'Toole with a screencap below, I do not mean to slight the other classic movie personalities who've passed or whose passings have been reported this weekend. Earlier in the week Eleanor Parker died at age 91; the headlines emphasized her now best-known role in The Sound of Music, but she had been twice nominated for an Oscar and her real place in history was probably earned by one of those roles, in the pioneer women-in-prison Caged. A contemporary more closely identified with film noir was Audrey Totter, who has died at age 95. I remember her best for her role as Richard Basehart's wicked wife in John Berry's Tension. No sooner had I read of O'Toole's death than, scrolling down the Google News headlines, I saw that Joan Fontaine had passed at age 96. She was the second-earliest surviving winner of the Best Actress Oscar, having won it for Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion after arguably earning it for their Rebecca the previous year. The younger sister of Olivia de Havilland, who kept the family name and now takes over her place on the chronological list, Fontaine had also been the oldest surviving film dance partner of Fred Astaire (in A Damsel in Distress). In movies, she was snubbed by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in favor of the British Army in Gunga Din, tormented by yet smitten with Orson Welles in Jane Eyre, snubbed yet in love for life with Louis Jourdan in Max Ophuls's Letter From an Unknown Woman, but taken by Robert Taylor in preference to a young Elizabeth Taylor in Ivanhoe. Her place in film history is secure without bringing up family gossip. Finally, within the last hour it's been reported that Tom Laughlin died last Thursday at the age of 82. For a moment in the 1970s Laughlin, who'd been working since the 1950s in films as diverse as South Pacific and Robert Altman's The Delinquents, became a pop-culture icon in the form of Billy Jack, the high-kicking Indian 'Nam vet who first appeared in 1967's Born Losers (but was conceived by Laughlin earlier) and evolved into a kind of counterculture superhero before the auteur's career suddenly went up in smoke. His most recent work of note was a quixotic run for President, but he kept up hopes of reviving Billy Jack until the end.
The morbidly funny thing about this is that Turner Classic Movies released their annual "Remembers" tribute reel for this year's departed a few years ago, up-to-date enough to include Parker but criticized by some for an apparent snub of modern star Paul Walker. TCM will certainly have occasion to rectify any snub, for the sad fact is that the tribute reel seriously needs an update now.