Monday, April 7, 2008

Legends and others from the passing parade

CHARLTON HESTON was Moses. No one else could have played the part in 'The Ten Commandments' with such commanding presence.
Then, of course, his movie classics also include 'Ben Hur' and 'El Cid', which are landmarks in cinematic history. And then his confrontational real-life role as the president of National Rifle Association (NRA), which still has ramifications on the American public even today.
However, besides Heston, who died on Saturday, there's another passing, which has shocked movie-goers in the past few weeks and that's Richard Widmark at age 93. He was Tommy Udo, the cackling killer, in the 1947 flick, 'Kiss of Death.' He will always be remembered as the dastardly villain, who shoved the elderly wheelchair-bound woman down a flight of stairs.
Few could believe that Widmark was a quiet and very shy man off-screen , who went on to become a TV favourite in the short-lived 'Madigan.'
So thousands of words have noted Heston's and Widmark's departure, but there are others, which certainly deserve being remembered.
One was my mentor and 'teacher', George Gross, fondly remembered as 'The Baron,' a sportswriting legend, who died at his Toronto home.
However, there are other names, which you might have forgotten, who left this plane in the past month or so.
* Jake DeShazer, 95. Perhaps, you have never heard of him, but he participated in the Doolittle Raid on Japan during the Second World War. An angry S. Sgt. DeShazer was the bombardier of the B-25, the 'Bat' (Out of Hell) on that famous bombing run. Later the B-25 ran out of fuel over Ningpo, China and he and others from the Doolittle crew were imprisoned. During his 40 months of captivity, DeShazer asked for a Bible and, in turn, he became a devout Christian. He returned to Japan as a missionary in 1948. Later, the now Rev. DeShazer would meet Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor, and both became Christian missionaries to Japan, according to Wikipedia
* Art Aragon, 80: Before such flamboyant boxing figures such as Muhammad Ali and Oscar De La Hoya, there was the 'Golden Boy.' Although he was married at least four times, Aragon was linked to such Hollywood types as Marilyn Munroe, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren. While he never won a world title, he was a huge draw and loved playing the villain in his gold attire. In the ring, he fought against the likes of Carmen Basilio. Later, he would become a bail bondsman, according to an Associated Press (AP)report.
* George Switzer, 92: Of course, you've heard of the infamous Hope Diamond, but did you associate it with Switzer's name? This esteemed Smithsonian Institute scientist apparently took the diamond to Paris for a 1962 exhibition sewn inside his pants. The diamond, which carried a legacy of bad luck, is now one of the real treasures inside the Smithsonian.
There have been recent deaths certainly worth noting such as:
* Grace Thorpe, 86: A tribal judge and a Second World War vet in the Far East, she was the daughter of the great Olympian Jim Thorpe. She was also noted as a personnel interviewer for Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Japanese occupation. Her father died in 1953.
* Billy Consolo, 73: This light-hitting but slick infielder, was a fixture for 10 years with the Boston Red Sox and other major-league teams. After Sparky Anderson became the Detroit Tigers' manager in 1979, he had his high-school pal join his staff in 1980. Consolo retired in 1992.
* Ivan Dixon, 76: Although an accomplished Broadway actor, Dixon was best remembered as POW Staff Sgt. James Kinchloe in 'Hogan's Heroes.' The Sarge was an electronic genius, who could mimic voices in the TV hit series.


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