"Rest in Peace"
From time to time, when an actor, film maker or creative artists dies, I will write a brief post about my appreciation of their work. Nothing hyperbolic, stating how they’ve been a major influence in my life. Just a few simple thoughts about how I and society perceived them and what I enjoy about their careers. If I was more of a sports fan or strongly affiliated to a specific political ideology, I suppose I’d cover more sports men and women, politicians and public figures. But I write about what I like, so naturally those in the film and television industry feature more. I don’t consider my personal musings to be anything more than just that. Western society is still very uncomfortable with the subject of death, plus the partisan nature of the internet can also lead to odd reactions when people express grief or remorse over “celebrities”. Comments like “you didn’t know them” or accusations of virtue signalling often accompany genuine expressions of sympathy and sadness. But I retain a somewhat old fashioned and possibly even quaint notion that if someone’s work has brought me pleasure and enjoyment, it seems only logical and polite to acknowledge that.
I’ve been somewhat busy of late and subsequently have missed during the month of July the immediate opportunity to write about several actors passing (don’t really like that phrase but its socially acceptable, so we’ll go with it). Hence, I decided to create a regular “column” to coin an old print media term, so I can ensure that I don’t miss covering anyone I want to in the future. It won’t be anything very different to the individual tributes I’ve written previously. It will just sometimes cover several people for reasons of editorial convenience. In this post I’d like to quickly reference the death of three actors and present a few thoughts on their respective body of work.
Freddie Jones (12th September 1927 – 9th July 2019): Freddie Jones was a stalwart of British Television during my youth in the seventies. He was versatile and could easily slip into a broad spectrum of roles from The Emperor Claudius in the BBC Drama The Caesars to Sir George Uproar in the children’s comedy, The Ghosts of Motley Hall. As I got older, I became aware of his wider work in film and was both shocked and impressed with his powerful performance as circus ringmaster Bytes in The Elephant Man. Jones unlike some actors with a more traditional and formal background, was not averse to appearing in genre movies. During the eighties he provided notable support in Dune, Firestarter and Firefox. If you’ve read any other novels by Craig Thomas, Jones was perfect for the spymaster Kenneth Aubrey. But for me, my fondest memories are of Freddie Jones playing the seer Ynyr in Krull. He excelled in these sorts of roles where he played venerable and slightly irascible characters, who would share their wisdom and steer events. His ability to project his voice, robustly deliver his lines and then pause and display inner reflection where hallmarks of his acting skills.
David Hedison (20th May 1927 – 18th July 2019): Roundabout the age of 11, If I got home from school on time and didn’t dawdle, I’d be in time to watch reruns of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It was the sort of show that the younger me found engaging. Submarines, undersea monsters, action and peril. David Hedison played Captain Lee Crane co-starring with Richard Basehart. Despite not doing as much TV and cinema after the show was cancelled, Hedison often appeared in the things that I watched. North Seas Hijack, The Naked Face and the questionable Meggido: The Omega Code 2. The common link was Roger Moore whom he worked with on Live and Let Die. David Hedison had the distinction of playing CIA operative Felix Leiter on two occasions. On the second he fell foul of a shark in License to Kill. His body was left on a couch with a note stating, “he disagreed with something that ate him”. Although he enjoyed the role, he didn’t feel it did much for his career. "Felix is a fairly one-dimensional character, you never get into any depth. It was running around, bang bang, getting wet, screaming and yelling, and all kinds of fun, but not serious acting". Hedison also played the scientist André Delambre in the original version of The Fly.
Rutger Hauer (23rd January 1944 - 19th July 2019): I think the great Guillermo del Toro summed up the best exactly what made the late Rutger Hauer so special. Describing him as "an intense, deep, genuine and magnetic actor that brought truth, power and beauty to his films". Naturally the role of Roy Batty in Blade Runner tends to be what most people instantly recall when thinking of the actor and to a degree, this iconic performance does tend to eclipse his other work. But let us not overlook his charismatic and worrying performance as John Ryder in The Hitcher. Hauer excelled in these niche and quirky roles. He brought an inherent charm and air of menace when playing characters on the edge. Naturally a lot of his earlier work in Dutch cinema is not as well known to mainstream audience but collaborations with Paul Verhoeven established him as a serious and versatile actor. His international film and television work reflected this status but his US film output was often more action orientated. Yet as an actor Hauer seemed to be happy with both perceptions of him and would commit entirely to whatever material he chose. And he certainly chose some eclectic material. Recently he appeared in the low-key British sitcom Porters, where he played a quirky, philosophical hospital orderly. If I had to choose a standout performance from his body of work, although I’d be tempted to go with his dry and amusing role in Blind Fury, I feel that he demonstrated his acting chops whole heartedly in the TV miniseries, Escape from Sobibor. Despite the constraints of television at the time, this was a difficult subject and Hauer delivers with conviction. Oh and he had the coolest kiss-off line in Wanted: Dead or Alive, when he dispatched Gene Simmons.