From time to time in The Underworld, I'll refer to a little club (which exists solely in my head) made up of actors and actresses who served time in a 1970s disaster movie (I also include 1980, since those were usually filmed in '79.) This was a period in which audiences couldn't get enough of watching stars in peril! These people, whether I like, love or loathe them, have a special distinction in my heart due to their participation in a genre I have been obsessed with my whole life. This past year, we lost a fair number of folks who had membership in this club and so, because of my affection for them and for my love of "In Memorium" tributes, I'm going to do a brief (and belated) recap of them as we send them off to that big burning high-rise or disabled plane in the sky!
Chief among those we lost last year, in this or any other category, is Ernest Borgnine. An Oscar-winner for 1955's Marty, that was only one of many, many compelling and fascinating roles that he played in his sixty-year career. From Here to Eternity (1953) and The Catered Affair (1956) spring to mind, but still only scratch the surface. Seen below in my favorite shot of him from The Poseidon Adventure (1972), in which he gave a brawny, blustery performance, as well as the far less successful 1980 film When Time Ran Out..., he also starred in the 1977 Irwin Allen TV-movie Fire! He was ninety-five when renal failure claimed him.
Airport, surveying the damage caused by a mad bomber and (amusingly) informing pilot Dean Martin of some of the passengers "puking." Married for forty-five years to former Miss America-turned-actress Mary Ann Mobley, he died of natural causes at the age of seventy-four.
The Hindenburg. He died of natural causes at the age of eighty-nine, but was still working steadily and will have two films released this year!
When Time Ran Out..., Karras played an oil rigger and part-time cockfighting aficionado who is confronted with a tidal wave caused by the eruption of a nearby volcano. He died of kidney failure at age seventy-seven and, sadly, had been suffering from dementia, possibly caused by all those head injuries he incurred on the football field.
Two Minute Warning. However, a crazed sniper ensures that the outcome of the game will never be known and that more than a few lives are lost in the bargain. Klugman died of prostate cancer at age ninety.
The Concorde: Airport '79, opposite pilots Alain Delon and George Kennedy.
The Big Bus. Hagman was eighty-one when he died of complications for the treatment of throat cancer.
Once is Not Enough (1975) passed away all too soon last year of leukemia. She was only fifty-nine. In 1978, she starred in the telefim Ski Lift to Death along with Don Johnson, Charles Frank, Howard Duff and Veronica Hamel. The story concerned a disabled lift that threatened to plunge a variety of skiers to their deaths at any given moment. We salute these departed performers who faced a wide variety of disasters (and, in some cases, sharp-tongued critics!) during their acting careers.