Passings: Sherman Hensley, Tom Davis, Ginny Tyler, Simon Ward, Frank Pierson, Chad Everett

When I began this site I really hadn’t planned on posting so many obituaries. Nonetheless, it just seems right that we pay tribute to important folks who affected the 1970s.

I’m sad to say that six actors and writers have died over the past few days that we should remember; Sherman Hemsley, Tom Davis, Ginny Tyler, Simon Ward, Frank Pierson and Chad Everett.

Sherman Hemsley

Sherman Hemsley on the debut episode of The Jeffersons, January, 1975

Sherman Hemsley, star of The Jeffersons (1975-1985), died today at the age of 74. Hemsley was simply perfect as brash entrepreneur, George Jefferson, and you may also remember his 1970s appearances on All in the Family (where the Jefferson character originated), The Love Boat and The Incredible Hulk.

Entertainment Weekly Quote:

“You can credit producer Norman Lear for helping to conceive the character, first in All in the Family and then as a spin-off in The Jeffersons, but it was clearly Hemsley’s performance that fueled its power. Hemsley had come up through the theater, in straight dramas as well as musicals (he came to George Jefferson initially fresh from a run in the raucous, Ossie Davis-derived Broadway musical Purlie), and Jefferson brought a rhythmic musicality in the way George moved onscreen. His erect posture conveyed George’s pride, his perpetually affronted expression was a mask against the injustices, correctly perceived or imagined, by George; his harsh voice was the sound of a man who would not be denied his place in the world.”

Sherman Hemsley in The Jeffersons (Season 3, September, 1976)

Tom Davis

SNL years: Jane Curtin, Al Franken, Tom Davis and Gilda Radner

Tom Davis died Thursday, July 19th at the much-too-young age of 59. Davis (with his comedy partner, Al Franken) was a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live from the show’s inception in 1975 through 1985 and again during a second stint from 1986-94. Davis won multiple Emmy awards for his writing, both on SNL and for The Paul Simon Special in 1977.

Even at the young age of nine (and up) I watched SNL and was a fan of Davis. Whenever he and Franken would appear onscreen I knew something clever and funny was about to occur. Thank you, Mr. Davis.

NY Times Quote:

“In addition to writing, (Davis) produced shows in his second stint. He also collaborated with (Dan) Aykroyd and Bonnie and Terry Turner to write the film ‘Coneheads’ (1993). (The ‘Conehead’ characters, he wrote in his memoir, were inspired by a trip Mr. Davis and Mr. Aykroyd took to Easter Island, famous for its towering stone statues.) With Mr. Franken he wrote and starred in the film ‘One More Saturday Night’ (1986).”

Ginny Tyler

Ginny Tyler circa 1960s

Ginny Tyler, best-known for her stint as a Mouseketeer and for her voice over work on various Disney projects died Friday, July 13 at the age of 86. Not only did Tyler voice characters in Mary Poppins and The Sword in the Stone, but in the 1970s, you listened to Tyler portray The Invisible Girl on The Fantastic Four (1978) animated series and Sally Hansen on endless reruns of Davey and Goliath.

LA Times Quote:

“A graduate of the University of Washington drama school, Tyler started out on radio before hosting a children’s television show in Seattle. By the late 1950s, she had moved to Los Angeles and was soon narrating albums for Disney…As one of the ‘Disneyland Storytellers,’ Tyler had already narrated such records as ‘Bambi’ and ‘Babes in Toyland’ and would become known for voicing animal characters. In one better-known role, she gave voice to Polynesia the Parrot, who helps teach Rex Harrison to talk to the animals in the 1967 film ‘Dr. Dolittle.'”

Simon Ward

Simon Ward as ‘Young Winston’, 1972

Actor Simon Ward passed away Friday, July 20th at the age of 70. In recent years Ward appeared as Bishop Gardiner on The Tudors TV series. From Ward’s work in the 1970s, you’ll likely remember his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Young Winston (1972) and appearances in films such as The Three Musketeers (1973), Ace’s High (1976) and Zulu Dawn (1979).

Huff Post UK Quote:

“The statement from Shepherd Management said: ‘The son of a car salesman from Beckenham, Kent, Ward wanted to be an actor from an early age and joined the National Youth Theatre at the age of 13 and stayed there for eight years. Ward went on to train at RADA and became one of the most respected and admired actors of his generation.

“His big break in the theatre came in 1967 when he played the lead in Joe Orton’s play Loot which led to television and film work.”

Simon Ward in Young Winston

Frank Pierson

Writer/Director Frank Pierson. Photo: ITV News/Press Association

Screenwriter, director and producer, Frank Pierson, died Monday, July 23rd at the age of 87. In the 1970s, Pierson wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and directed A Star is Born (1976) and King of the Gypsies (1978).

Yahoo! News Quote:

“Perhaps Pierson’s most famous line was for ‘Cool Hand Luke’: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

He most recently worked as a writer and consulting producer on TV’s ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Good Wife.’

Pierson served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which released the news of his death Monday, from 2001 to 2005 and served as governor of its writers branch for 17 years.”

Chad Everett

Chad Everett in Medical Center circa 1969

As I was finishing writing this long post news came in that actor Chad Everett passed away, today, Tuesday, July 24th at the age of 75. Everett was best-known for playing Dr. Joe Gannon on Medical Center, which had a long, successful run on TV from 1969 to 1976.

LA Times Quote:

“Everett’s daughter told the Associated Press that he died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles after a year-and-a-half-long battle with lung cancer.

Perhaps best known for his role as surgeon Dr. Joe Gannon, the actor was twice nominated for a Golden Globe for his perfomances on ‘Medical Center.’ The series ran seven seasons and, at the time, tied with ‘Marcus Welby, M.D.’ for longest-running medical drama.”

Chad Everett in Medical Center (Intro)

Photo credits: Ginny Tyler via 3news.co.nz, Frank Pierson via ITV News.

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