Jeff Conaway, character actor Charles Napier and 'Batman' star Michael Gough among those left out of segment on Sunday's show.
By Gil Kaufman
Some people watch the Oscars to see the pretty dresses, look for potential nip slips, revel in the weepy acceptance speeches, root against the leading contenders and yes, a few even tuned in for host Billy Crystal's paint-by-numbers movie spoofs.
But then there are those of us who wait for the annual "In Memoriam" segment that pays tribute to those the movie world has last over the past year, eager to see who has been omitted. In the past two years, that list has included "Airplane!" star Peter Graves and "Lost Boys" actor Corey Haim. In 2010, some fans were outraged that former pin-up and "Charlie's Angels" star Farrah Fawcett (who appeared in films including "Logan's Run" and "Dr. T and the Women") was left out while singer Michael Jackson made the list.
You can't always include everyone, and while this year's list hit the high points with tributes to such greats as Elizabeth Taylor, Whitney Houston, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and director Sidney Lumet, it did, alas, miss a few bold-faced names.
Among the most notable was the classic character actor Charles Napier, who died in October at age 75. From the "Blues Brothers" to "Philadelphia," "Silence of the Lambs," "Rambo: First Blood II" and "The Cable Guy," Napier was the go-to guy for the craggy tough guy with a heart of gold, or steel.
Another star missing from the tribute was Bubba Smith. Though best-known earlier in life as an imposing defensive end who played in two Super Bowls during a nine-year NFL career, Smith reinvented himself in the late 1970s and 1980s as a comedic actor with roles in the six "Police Academy" films as Cadet Moses Hightower and in other comedies including "The Naked Truth" and "The Silence of the Hams." In addition, he posted a slew of TV appearances on series including "Good Times," "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" and "Family Matters."
His later years were marred by a deadly drug addiction, but actor Jeff Conaway earned his spot in Hollywood history by playing the swaggering Kenickie in the smash 1978 movie musical "Grease." He would never reach those heights again on the big screen, appearing in a string of B movies including "Almost Pregnant," "Alien Intruder," "Bikini Summer II" and "L.A. Goddess," but he made his mark again on TV as the lovable Bobby Wheeler in five seasons of the series "Taxi."
For lovers of the rebooted "Batman" big-screen franchise, the omission of character actor Michael Gough was a crime. The Englishman, who appeared in more than 150 movies, began his career in 1948 with a small role in "Anna Karenina" and worked consistently until his death last March at the age of 94, introducing himself to a new generation in 1989 in Tim Burton's "Batman" as unflappable butler Alfred Pennyworth. Gough would reprise the role three more times and end his career with a voice-over part in Burton's 2010 remake of "Alice in Wonderland."
In addition, after leaving her off last year following her death just weeks before the 83rd Oscars, the Academy once again passed over French actress Maria Schneider, who became famous for her career-making (and some say breaking) role as Marlon Brando's sexual obsession in 1972's "Last Tango in Paris." One bigger-than-life star the Academy also managed to miss was the buxom Z-movie superstar Tura Satana, who also passed away just weeks before last year's Oscars. The cult movie object of obsession appeared in Russ Meyer's classic 1965 jigglefest "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" as well as such other drive-in fare as "The Astro-Zombies," "The Doll Squad" and Rob Zombie's 2009 "The Haunted World of El Superbeasto."