Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Departure From Columbia 409

Two years ago I did something a little different in that I paid tribute to all the performers we lost the prior year who had been featured in my beloved 1970s disaster movies. I didn't do it last year (even though we lost Miss Karen Black in 2013!), but this year I couldn't help noticing that in 2014 three participants from 1974's Airport 1975 flew away to that great beyond in the sky. So I'm belatedly giving them a little send off.

First up, in alphabetical order, is funnyman Sid Caesar. Though he got his start in the movies in the mid-1940s, it was really television that put him on the map. His legendary spoofs and skits on Your Show of Shows (1950-1954) along with many other variety show performances assured him a spot in TV history.

As you can see below, he was a rather nice looking guy in his youth.
He, however, got the most mileage out of screwing up his face into zany expressions for comedic effect.
Never afraid of being (in fact, eager to become) a buffoon for the cameras, he worked like a dog on the weekly, LIVE ninety-minute show.
Shown with him here is his partner in crime from Your Show of Shows, Imogene Coca, who some of you may recall as the crotchety Aunt Edna in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983.) (In real life, Caesar had one of showbiz's most successful marriages, lasting nearly sixty-seven years and ending only with her death in 2010.)
Caesar was paired closely in Airport 1975 with Miss Myrna Loy. He played an eager-beaver bit actor who was proud that a movie he'd recently appeared in was being shown on the flight.
She played a lady who enjoyed having a beverage or two, specifically a boilermaker (a combination of beer and whisky!)
Caesar's other memorable films included It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Silent Movie (1976) and Grease (1978), to name a few. He was ninety-one when he died of natural causes on February 12th, 2014.
Next up is Ed Nelson. Nelson started out with bit roles in low-budget, mid-1950s movies, many by director Roger Corman. Among the prestigious titles he toiled in are Swamp Women (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), Teenage Cave Man (1958) and The Brain Eaters (1958.)

He proceeded to steady work in television, appearing on countless episodes of various popular dramas, adventures, crime shows and westerns.
In 1964, he landed the principal male role on the prime time soap opera Peyton Place (on which he appeared until 1969.) He's seen here with costars Mia Farrow and Dorothy Malone.
The goings on of the small, yet elegant, town of Peyton Place gripped viewers as the series ran twice a week (and, for a time, three times per week!)
The cast changed quite a bit over the course of the show, but Nelson was on for the entire run (along with Barbara Parkins and - except for a period of illness - Malone.)
Nelson's role in Airport 1975 is small (and his face is obscured during much of it due to the heavy fur around his hood, his helmet and the goggles he wears.)
He plays the Air Force major who attempts to dangle from a cable attached to a high-speed helicopter and insert himself into the cockpit of the disabled airplane (which has a gaping hole on one side caused by a mid-air collision.)
Nelson continued to be a fixture on television through the '70s, '80s and '90s. Like Caesar, he had a very successful marriage (and six children), the sixty-three-year union only coming to an end upon his death of heart failure on August 9th at the age of eighty-five.
Lastly, we come to Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Zimbalist first began acting on the stage. Then, after an earlier abortive attempt in the movies (partly halted due to his wife's terminal illness from cancer), he began working in them with more frequency in the late-1950s.

Among his movies were Too Much, Too Soon (1958) with Dorothy Malone, The Crowded Sky (1960), in which he flew a small jet into Dana Andrews' passenger liner - the exact opposite of what happens in Airport 1975, and By Love Possessed (1961) opposite Lana Turner.
He also played Jane Fonda's love interest in the hooty 1962 film The Chapman Report.
However, TV was his primary bread and butter. He starred on the highly successful detective series 77 Sunset Strip from 1958-1964.
Then he proceeded to the even more successful and long-running series The F.B.I. (1965-1974), as seen here with hunky William Reynolds.
In 1967, he played Audrey Hepburn's husband in the thriller Wait Until Dark.
His role in Airport 1975 was that of the stalwart pilot whose facial expression reflects the oncoming small plane, piloted by Dana Andrews, that is headed right for them.
As a result, he is badly injured, blinded, yet insists he be kept conscious in order to help provide possibly helpful information to the stewardess who's been left to fly the aircraft. Zimbalist's remarriage was one that lasted fifty-one years and yielded his third child, daughter Stephanie, who became a successful actress in her own right (notably with Remington Steele, 1982-1987.) When he died of natural causes on May 2nd, he was ninety-five years of age.

These three gentlemen enjoyed longevity in career, marriage and life and in the wacky, warped universe that is Poseidon's Underworld, they are immortal because they were hired to work on a sometimes tacky, often silly, sequel to a Hollywood blockbuster. But that is life in the Underworld. We worship what we want, no matter what the surface dwellers might think! We thank them for being part of our universe.


Gingerguy said...

Nice posting, I never realized Efram was so handsome. Also I think I know Ed Nelson from "Dark Shadows" he played a con artist. BTW Poseidon, "The Big Cube" is finally on Netflix!

Anonymous said...

Even though Sid Caesar is a TV icon, I was more familiar with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. I tried not miss The F.B.I. even if I couldn't follow the plot; the intro fascinated me. Although not a very expressive actor, he was a solid presence in Wait Until Dark and The Chapman Report, one of George Cukor's misfires. And of course I saw him in Airport 75!
I even thought for a while that he had produced Ben-Hur!
I never watched Your Show of Shows before cable and YouTube, much after I saw him in Grease, and I loved it. Supposedly Joe Bologna based his character in My Favorite Year on Sid. Is it true?
Sorry to say I wasn't familiar with Ed Nelson, but I am now.