This postcard of a Cuban hearse has been listed on EBay, listed as Buy It Now at $20.
Queen of the Dead – dateline June 18, 2012
• Production designer J. Michael Riva, 63, died on June 7. Modern filmgoers know him as the man behind the “look” of the Lethal Weapon, Spider-Man, Charlie’s Angels and Iron Man films (as well as The Color Purple, Dave, The Goonies, Ordinary People and others). But we die-hard fans also know him as one of three grandsons of the great Marlene Dietrich. His mother (“that howwible Mawia Wiva”) suffered from “I want to be my mother” syndrome and wrote a vicious memoir, which I recommend you read with one eyebrow raised cynically, and then go straight for Steven Bach’s excellent Dietrich bio (bypassing, of course, anything by Charlotte Chandler or David Bret). Michael Riva laughed about the glamour of production design to NPR in 2009: “Tony, in the Iron Man armor, pukes in a toilet. I design a toilet. My big job for the day. After that I can go home. My kids ask me, ‘What’d you do today, Dad?’ I designed a toilet!”
• I loved the ’80s: I was young and cute and the clothes looked great on me. Shoulder-pads, rock-candy jewelry, pencil skirts, spike heels. And much of that look was due to Nolan Miller, who died June 6, age 79. Nolan became a costume designer through the kindness of Joan Crawford, who befriended him in the 1950s when he was a florist, and sponsored his early career (Miller designed her personal wardrobe for the rest of her life). Miller designed clothes for Dynasty, The Colbys, Green Acres, Hotel, Honey West, Vega$; his old-style glamour was reminiscent of Travis Banton and Jean Louis, and he bedizened such small-screen heroines as Krystle and Alexis Carrington, Honey West, Lisa Douglas and Jennifer Hart (the gowns of Morticia Addams and Ginger Grant are often attributed to Miller, though they do not officially appear on his résumé).
• Sam Ducker’s General Store has closed for good—96-year-old Frank Cady died on June 8. Cady (one of those people who was born middle-aged) had an impressive character-acting career in movies: The Next Voice You Hear, Ace in the Hole, When Worlds Collide, as Eileen Heckart’s poor husband in The Bad Seed. But we all know and love him as storekeep Sam Drucker from Paul Henning’s Hick Trifecta The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and especially the brilliant Green Acres. I will go to my grave proclaiming Green Acres one of the best, absurdist, po-mo comedies ever. I mean, Alfred Lord and Ralph Waldo Monroe? Drobny the Hungarian Resistance Duck? Arnold and Cynthia’s inter-species romance? References to everyone from Anna Held to Gilda Gray to Anna May Wong? Love that show. Plus, Oliver and Lisa were the hottest TV couple outside of Gomez and Morticia. Cady himself said in 1990, “The only thing I resent is people calling it a corny show. It’s highly sophisticated, and it’s timeless, as I think all the reruns are establishing.”
• When Ann Rutherford died at 94 on June 11, she was one of the last cast members from Gone With the Wind—coincidentally, I just had lunch in Paris with another, Olivia de Havilland (and you had better believe I am going to casually drop that into every conversationfor the next month, including at the laundromat and the deli). Rutherford never really rose above starlet status, despite her role as Scarlett’s sister Carreen O’Hara. MGM also committed an aggravated case of Mickey Rooney upon her: she played Polly in a dozen Andy Hardy films, between 1937 and 1942, so you have to give her credit for surviving that with her sanity intact. She was also seen in such 1930s-40s films as A Christmas Carol (as Christmas Past), These Glamour Girls, Badlands of Dakota, Happy Land, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Adventures of Don Juan; her second husband (1953 till his 1991 death) was TV producer William Dozier. Late in life, she expressed a self-appraisal that is sweet and touching in its modesty: “Oh, I suppose, if you were a Helen Hayes, it might mean something if you left the business. You’d be depriving the show world of something. I’m depriving that world of nothing.”