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Gone But Not Forgotten: Larry Hagman, Deborah Raffin,

Lucille Bliss & Martin Richards

December 6, 2012

The recent passing of several entertainment related figures whose work at times crossed over into the world of film has prompted yet another tribute column. Though these individuals made their biggest marks areas outside of film, their contributions warrant acknowledgement here. Without further fanfare here is a look at these legacy these four people have left behind.

Larry Hagman, who died in Dallas, Texas at age 81 from complications of throat cancer several weeks ago, will forever be known in the annals of popular culture for the two television series that he starred in, I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas. His death is doubly sad taking into account that the actor’s career was in a bit of resurgence due to the successful resurrection of the Dallas television show on the cable channel TNT.

Larry Hagman & Barbara Eden in ‘Jeannie’

Hagman, as most of you know, was born the son of stage and screen star Mary Martin, who became a household name with her performance as Peter Pan. Martin and Hagman’s father divorced when he was very young. He was sent to live in California to live with his grandmother and eventually drifted into acting. One of his first roles was in the 1964 cold war thriller, Fail Safe. In addition to his stints on those iconic television shows, Hagman appeared on the big screen in such films as Harry and Tonto, Superman, The Eagle Has Landed, Oliver Stone’s Nixon, and Mike Nichols’ film of the best-selling novel Primary Colors.

Deborah Raffin, who died on November 21 at age 59 of leukemia in Los Angeles, was the daughter of an actress and born in Los Angeles.

Deborah Raffin

The stunning blonde was spotted in an elevator by a talent scout and forged a decent sized career both on television and on the big screen. She appeared in such films as Once is Not Enough, a big-screen adaptation of the Jacqueline Suzanne bestseller; the TV movie, Nightmare in Badham County (which was a big hit when released theatrically in China); Death Wish 3, and the memorable 1970s horror films, The Sentinel and God Told Me To.  Modern audiences will know her best as Aunt Julie on Seventh Heaven. Raffin and her husband Michael Vine founded books on tape in 1985—an unheard of concept at the time—and made quite a profit for themselves before selling the enterprise in 1997.

Raffin was also the second choice (behind Susan Dey) for the lead role of Sandy in the film adaptation of Grease. That all changed when producer Allan Carr met Olivia Newton-John at a party thrown by Helen Reddy. 

Lucille Bliss, who died at age 96 in Costa Mesa, California, on November 8 from natural causes, was best known as the voice of Smurfette on the beloved Smurfs animated show.

Martin Richards

The show was a staple on the NBC Saturday morning lineup for many years in the early 1980s, but by the time of that show’s success Bliss was already thirty some years into a career that had begun in 1950, beginning with her contribution as the voice of Anastasia in the Disney version of Cinderella. Among Bliss’ other film contributions were an appearance in the 1987 film Assassination and voiceover work in The Secret of Nimh and the Dreamworks Studio’s 2005 film Robots.

Martin Richards, who died November 26 in New York City, was best known as Broadway producer. Two of his more notable projects were the Broadway stagings of Sweeney Todd and Chicago. That latter production would net Richards an Academy Award for Best Picture when it was mounted as a theatrical film in 2002. Other films that Richards produced include The Shining, Fort Apache-The Bronx, Some of My Best Friends Are, and The Boys From Brazil.

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