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In Memoriam 2001

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JOHN SPRINGER 4.25.1916-10.30.2001

As this veteran publicist told it, his ca-reer took off when he was promoted from copywriter at RKO in 1948 to take over for the head of magazine publicity, who had been fired for patting Myrna Loy on the fanny and sending an unrequested hooker up to Robert Ryan’s hotel room. By 1962, he was an independent press agent to Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, Montgomery Clift, and Bette Davis, and had become renowned for his dedication to his clients’ public and private lives (he orchestrated Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh’s clandestine 1951 wedding, keeping it a secret from the press and the actors’ respective studios). Springer, who died of heart failure in Manhattan, was also treasured for being a gentleman in an industry that rewards outrageousness and volume, and for his calm in even the biggest Hollywood hurricane: At one point during Richard Burton and Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra romance, he not only repped them both but also Burton’s deserted wife, Sybil, her new husband, and Debbie Reynolds.

ANTHONY QUINN 4.21.1915-6.3.2001

Upon Anthony Quinn’s death of respiratory failure in Boston, several publications—EW included—went with the most obvious headline: ”The Mighty Quinn.” Indeed, Quinn’s achievements—both on screen and off—were grand, even by Hollywood standards; in his 86 years, Quinn fathered 13 children, had three wives, and won two Oscars. The half-Mexican, half-Irish Quinn was an aspiring architect-turned-boxer-turned-saxophonist before earning a role in the 1936 play Clean Beds. His mixed heritage helped his career, as he could inhabit any number of ethnic bloodlines—his most famous being the impassioned title character in the career-defining 1964 film Zorba the Greek. Toward the end of his career, Quinn’s personal life overshadowed his film work. He caused as much of an uproar as an 81-year-old can when, in 1996, he had a son with his ex-secretary. It was a fitting final chapter for a man who capped his 1972 memoir, The Original Sin, by running into a desert canyon, repeating one word over and over: Love.

KATHLEEN FREEMAN 2.17.1923-8.23.2001

Pick any film or TV comedy over the past 50 years that had a crusty, loudmouthed, meddling neighbor/coworker/mother-in-law. Odds are that role was played by Freeman…and if it wasn’t, it should’ve been. From the put-upon female foil in The Nutty Professor and 10 other Jerry Lewis movies to Sister Mary Stigmata in The Blues Brothers to Peg Bundy’s mom in Married…With Children, her brash tones were familiar to every generation. Freeman was literally a born performer, her parents a vaudeville team (who gave her her stage debut at 2), and the lifelong pro showed her love for performing until the end: Five days before her death from lung cancer in Manhattan, she did two shows on Broadway in The Full Monty.

TROY DONAHUE 1.27.1936-9.2.2001

”If Troy Donahue could be a movie star,” goes the lyric from A Chorus Line, ”then I could be a movie star.” By the time that line was first sung in 1975, Donahue (who was born Merle Johnson Jr. and died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif.) was an easy punchline, his teen-dream refulgence (ignited by 1959’s A Summer Place) long eclipsed by hard living and the declining popularity of surfer studs. Speaking in 1971 of the red windbreaker he once popularized, he said: ”I wanted to burn it.” He spent the rest of his career (outside of The Godfather Part II, a wash of B movies and self-parodies) doing just that.

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