Mercedes McCambridge (1916–2004)
Mercedes McCambridge, who won an 1949 Oscar and later provided the raspy voice of the demon-possessed girl in The Exorcist, died from natural causes on March 2 at an assisted-living facility in La Jolla. She was 87.
Her strong, radio-trained voice made her an ideal film portrayer of hard-driving women. She received the Academy Award as supporting actress for her screen debut in All the King's Men, playing the secretary and mistress of populist Southern governor Willie Stark. Because of her great vocal skills, McCambridge was hired to portray The Demon in William Friedkin's 1973 smash hit The Exorcist. After weeks of what she called the hardest work she had done for a film, she had been promised prominent mention in the credits. But when she attended the preview, her name was missing. As she left the theatre in tears, Friedkin tried to explain that there had been no time to insert her credit. The Screen Actors Guild intervened and forced her inclusion in the credits.
Among her later films: Giant (1956—her second Academy nomination as supporting actress), A Farewell to Arms (1957), Touch of Evil (1958—with her radio cohort Orson Welles), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Cimarron (1960), 99 Women (1969), Thieves (1977), The Concorde—Airport '79 (1979). In the early 1990s, Neil Simon called with an offer to play the grandmother in Lost in Yonkers on Broadway and on the road. McCambridge's return to the New York theatre proved triumphant, and she performed the play 560 times.
Mary Selway (1936–2004)
Mary Selway, renowned as Britain's top casting director, died April 21 in London following a long battle with cancer. She was 68.
Some suggest that Selway, a 36-year veteran of casting, played a major part in the careers of half the actors and directors in the industry. In 2001 her work was acknowledged with BAFTA's Michael Balcon Award for outstanding contribution to British film. Women in Film awarded her in 1999 for outstanding creativity. Among her more than 100 film credits are the Harry Potter series, The Libertine, Love Actually, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Gosford Park, Thunderbirds, Vanity Fair, Notting Hill, and Beyond the Sea. Other directors with whom she has worked include Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski, Ridley Scott, Sydney Pollack, Bertrand Tavernier, Nicolas Roeg, and James Cameron.
Eben C. Henson (1924–2004)
Eben C. Henson, who founded a summer stock theatre and counted John Travolta among the aspiring actors he recruited, died Sunday. He was 81. Henson's son, filmmaker Robby Henson, said the cause of death was heart failure.
Eben Henson was a budding actor on Broadway and in film in the late 1940s when he was called home to his native Danville by his ailing father. He continued to do occasional film and stunt work but mainly built the outdoor theatre, relying on used lumber and abandoned materials. Pioneer Playhouse has staged over 300 productions before more than 500,000 people since its founding, the family said. Henson, invariably wearing a Southern string tie, would make a recruiting trip to New York each year to audition and sign aspiring actors. Travolta, Bo Hopkins, Lee Majors, and Jim Varney were among his finds.
The playhouse, which typically does five productions each summer, was the subject of a Robby Henson documentary, Summerstock, in 2002.