2013: Remembering The Stars We Lost

Before turning the page completely on this year, I am taking a moment today to remember the luminaries who departed. The world may have most colossally mourned Nelson Mandela, but for me the emotion-slashing losses were more of the TCM variety: Peter O’Toole of course, and Joan Fontaine, both of whom proved the rule that more celebrities die at Christmas than at any time of year: the relentless stress is overwhelming. It was the lesser known actors whose disappearance touched me most: Deanna Durbin, the child star who decades ago retired to Paris (the city where divas — Marlene Dietrich, Maria Callas — go to draw the blinds for good); Esther Williams, whose ability to emerge from the waves with both make-up and smile intact was otherworldly; and, most of all, Eleanor Parker (pictured), whom the media associated with “The Sound of Music” and that show’s December live-TV smash adaptation, but whom I will always link with “Caged,” one of the greatest grittiest dramas in old-Hollywood history, in which Parker played Marie Allen, who entered jail all nervous and hetero but who, thanks to the toughening of a sadistic matron (the incomparable Hope Emerson) and an old-school-butch lesbian (Betty Garde), emerged from the pokey transformed. Rest in peace, Marie.

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