As 2012 draws to an end, it’s time to say farewell to some of the classic film actors we lost this year. Many, like Andy Griffith, Jack Klugman and Larry Hagman, were best known for their famous TV characters, but they also starred in film classics, including “12 Angry Men,” “Fail-Safe” and “A Face in the Crowd.” We also say goodbye to one of the last remaining cast members from “Gone With the Wind” and a western star who was in eleven John Wayne movies.
Peter Breck was best known for playing Nick Barkley on the 1960s Western “The Big Valley,” but he also starred in the 1963 Samuel Fuller cult film “Shock Corridor” as a journalist who goes undercover in a mental institution. He died Feb. 6 in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the age of 82.
Ben Gazzara, who played a man with an “irresistible impulse” to commit murder in the 1959 courtroom thriller ‘Anatomy of a Murder,’ died at age 81 on Feb. 13. He had been battling pancreatic cancer at the Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. He also appeared in five John Cassavetes films including “Opening Night” and “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.”
Ann Rutherford, whose most famous role was as Scarlett O’Hara’s youngest sister in the classic “Gone With the Wind,” died at age 94 of heart problems on June 11. She also starred in several films in the Andy Hardy series as Mickey Rooney’s love interest, Polly Benedict.
Susan Tyrrell, an Oscar nominee for the 1972 movie “Fat City,” died at age 67 on June 16. The cause of her death was not revealed, but she suffered from a rare blood disease called essential thrombocytosis, which led to having both her legs amputated below the knee. Her other films include Andy Warhol’s “Bad” in 1977 and John Waters’s 1990 musical “Cry-Baby.”
Andy Griffith was beloved for his long-running role as Sheriff Andy Taylor on his 1960s series “The Andy Griffith Show,” but he also made a splash in films, starring as a musician who becomes an overnight star in Elia Kazan’s 1957 drama “A Face in the Crowd.” He also appeared in “No Time for Sergeants” (1958) and “Hearts of the West” (1975) as a western star opposite Jeff Bridges. His last film role was as “Old Joe” in the indie romance “Waitress.” The 86-year-old died in North Carolina on July 3. His “Andy Griffith” co-star Ron Howard tweeted in his honor: “His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations and shaped my life. I’m forever grateful. RIP Andy.”
Ernest Borgnine, who won an Academy Award for his lead in the 1955 film “Marty,” died July 8 of renal failure at the age of 95. He was also known for his role as Fatso Judson opposite Frank Sinatra in “From Here to Eternity.” His other films include “The Wild Bunch,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Flight of the Phoenix,” and “The Dirty Dozen.” He never stopped acting: One of his last films was “Red” in 2010.
Herbert Lom, who portrayed Inspector Clouseau’s nemesis in the “Pink Panther” films, died at age 95 on Sept. 27. The Czech-born actor played the neurotic, obsessed Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus from “A Shot in the Dark” in 1964 through “Son of the Pink Panther” in 1993. His other films include “Spartacus,” “El Cid,” “The Ladykillers” (also with Sellers) and as Napoleon in “War and Peace” (1956). He also played Christopher Walken’s doctor in the 1983 thriller “Dead Zone,” based on the Stephen King novel.
Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions football player who went on to star in the sitcom “Webster,” also appeared in several films, including “Blazing Saddles” (as Mongo, the cowboy who punches a horse), “Porky’s,” “Victor/Victoria” and “Against All Odds.” He died Oct. 10 in Los Angeles. He was 77.
Larry Hagman was best known as the scheming J.R. Ewing on TV’s “Dallas,” but he also appeared in several notable films, often as military or political figures. He was in the 1964 comedy “Ensign Pulver,” the 1964 thriller “Fail-Safe” and the 1965 Pearl Harbor drama “In Harm’s Way.” He also appeared in “The Group,” “Harry and Tonto,” “Mother, Jugs & Speed,” “The Eagle Has Landed,” “Superman,” “S.O.B.” and “Nixon.” His last film role was as Gov. Fred Picker in 1998’s “Primary Colors.” The actor, who also starred in “I Dream of Jeannie,” died Nov. 23 from complications of throat cancer.
Jack Klugman passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 90 on Dec. 24. He’s best known for playing Oscar Madison on the “The Odd Couple” in the ’70s and as the title character on the medical drama “Quincy M.E,” but he also appeared in landmark films of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. He was one of the jurors in “12 Angry Men,” Jack Lemmon’s AA sponsor in “Days of Wine and Roses,” and a policeman in “The Detective.” A long-time smoker, Klugman was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974. During treatment, he lost a vocal cord which left him with a raspy voice. The cause of his death was not announced.
Charles Durning, who was Oscar-nominated for his supporting roles in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “To Be or Not to Be,” died at age 89 on Dec. 24. He was also known for his roles as a corrupt cop in “The Sting” and as Jessica Lange’s father (who unknowingly woos an in-drag Dustin Hoffman) in “Tootsie.” The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor was honored in 2008 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.
Harry Carey, Jr., a character actor who appeared in several John Ford westerns, died Dec. 27 at the age of 91. He appeared in the Ford films “3 Godfathers,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Rio Grande,” “Mister Roberts,” and “The Searchers.” In 1994, Carey wrote a book about his experiences working with Ford called Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company. He co-starred with John Wayne in eleven films, starting with “Red River” in 1948 and ending with “Cahill U.S. Marshal” in 1973. He made four films with director Howard Hawks: “Red River,” “Monkey Business,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” and “Rio Bravo” although his scenes in the last film were cut. In 2003, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.