Blücher!

The late, great American stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author Gene Wilder sadly passed away 29 August 2016. He was born June 11 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, He adopted “Gene Wilder” for his professional name at the age of 26, later explaining, “I had always liked Gene because of Thomas Wolfe’s character Eugene Gant in Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. And I was always a great admirer of Thornton Wilder.”

Wilder first became interested in acting at age 8, when his mother was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and the doctor told him to “try and make her laugh.”At the age of 11, he saw his sister, who was studying acting, performing onstage, and he was enthralled by the experience. He asked her teacher if he could become his student, The day after Wilder turned 13, he called the teacher, who accepted him; Wilder studied with him for two years. His mother Jeanne Silberman sent him to Black-Foxe, a military institute in Hollywood, where he was bullied and sexually assaulted, After an unsuccessful short stay at Black-Foxe, Wilder returned home and became increasingly involved with the local theatre community. At age 15, he performed for the first time in front of a paying audience, as Balthasar (Romeo’s manservant) in a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Gene Wilder graduated from Washington High School in Milwaukee in 1951. Wilder then studied Communication and Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity.

Following his 1955 graduation from Iowa, he was accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England. After six months of studying fencing, Wilder became the first freshman to win the All-School Fencing Championship. he returned to the U.S., living with his sister and her family in Queens. Wilder enrolled at the HB Studiolm Wilder was drafted into the Army on September 10, 1956. At the end of recruit training, he was assigned to the medical corps and sent to Fort Sam Houston for training. wanting to stay near New York City to attend acting classes at the HB Studio, he chose to serve as paramedic in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Valley Forge Army Hospital, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Sadly In November 1957, his mother died from ovarian cancer.

He was discharged from the army a year later and returned to New York and obtained A scholarship to the HB Studio. Wilder’s first professional acting job was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he played the Second Officer in Herbert Berghof’s production of Twelfth Night. He also served as a fencing choreographer. After three years of study with Berghof and Uta Hagen at the HB Studio, Charles Grodin told Wilder about Lee Strasberg’s method acting. Grodin persuaded him to leave the studio and begin studying with Strasberg in his private class.NSeveral months later, Wilder was accepted into the Actors Studio. After joining the Actors Studio, he slowly began to be noticed in the off-Broadway scene, thanks to performances in Sir Arnold Wesker’s Roots and in Graham Greene’s The Complaisant Lover, for which Wilder received the Clarence Derwent Award for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Nonfeatured Role.”

Wilder made his screen debut in the TV series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962. Although his first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder’s first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The Producers concerns a down and out producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), who was once the toast of Broadway, but now trades sexual favours with old ladies for cash. Max’s new accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), offhandedly muses that if Max found investors for a new production that turned into a flop, he could legally keep all the extra money. So The duo create the worst play possible, titled “Springtime for Hitler”, with a terrible director and a hippie-freak star, however things don’t go to plan

The Producers was the first in a series of collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles in which Gene Wilder plays a washed-up gunslinger called the Waco Kid who assists a new sheriff (Cleavon Little) deal with a greedy, unscrupulous Railway Owner named Hedly Lamarr (Harvey Korman), who is trying to obliterate the town of Rock Ridge using illegal means, so he can put a railway through it

Wilder also co-wrote the hilarious horror spoof Young Frankenstein in which he plays respected medical lecturer Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the the Grandson of the scientist Victor von Frankenstein, who learns that he has inherited his infamous grandfather’s estate in Transylvania. Arriving at the castle, Dr. Frankenstein soon begins to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of servants Igor (Marty Feldman), Inga (Teri Garr) and the fearsome Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). After he creates his own monster (Peter Boyle), new complications ensue with the arrival of the doctor’s fiancée, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn). Young Frankenstein garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Wilder also appeared in Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) The film tells the story of Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) who wins a Golden Ticket found in a Wonka Chocolate bar enabling him to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with four other children from around the world who have also received Golden tickets, namely the obese Augustus Gloop, gum chewing Violet Beauragard, a bossy spoiled brat named Veruca Salt  and the Television obsessed Mike Teevee.

Wilder is also known for his four films with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991). Wilder also directed and wrote several of his own films, including The Woman in Red (1984). The tragic death of his third wife actress Gilda Radner, from ovarian cancer also led to his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda’s Club. After 2003 Wilder turned his attention to writing. He produced a memoir in 2005, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art; a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love? (2010); and the novels My French Whore (2007), The Woman Who Wouldn’t (2008) and Something to Remember You By (2013). Gene wilder has left behind some truly memorable performances in many fantastic films.

Sir Peter Scott CH CBE DSC and bar MID FRS FZS

British naturalist ornithologist, conservationist, painter, naval officer sportsman. and explorer Sir Peter Scott CH, CBE, DSC and Bar, MID, FRS, FZS Sadly passed away on 29 August 1989. He was born in London 14th September 1909 , The only child of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott and sculptor Kathleen Bruce and was only two years old when his father died. Robert Scott, in a last letter to his wife, advised her to “make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games.” and his godfather was J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. He was educated at Oundle School and Trinity College, Cambridge, initially reading Natural Sciences but graduating in the History of Art in 1931. Like his mother, he displayed a strong artistic talent and had his first exhibition in London in 1933. His wealthy background allowed him to follow his interests in art, wildlife and many sports, including sailing and ice skating. He represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland at sailing in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal in the O-Jolle class dinghy.

During World War II, Scott served in the Royal Navy, emulating his father. He served first in destroyers in the North Atlantic but later moved to commanding the First (and only) Squadron of Steam Gun Boats against German E-boats in the English Channel. He is also partly credited with designing ‘shadow camouflage’, which disguised the look of ship superstructure. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery. In 1948, he founded the organisation with which he was ever afterwards closely associated, the Severn Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) with its headquarters at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. In the years that followed, he led ornithological expeditions worldwide, and became a television personality, popularising the study of wildfowl and wetlands. His BBC natural history series, Look, ran from 1955 to 1981 and made him a household name. He wrote and illustrated several books on the subject, including his autobiography, The Eye of the Wind (1961). In the 1950s, he also appeared regularly on BBC radio’s Children’s Hour, in the series, “Nature Parliament”. Scott was also one of the founders of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly called the World Wildlife Fund), and designed its panda logo. His pioneering work in conservation also contributed greatly to the shift in policy of the International Whaling Commission and signing of the Antarctic Treaty, the latter inspired by his visit to his father’s base on Ross Island in Antarctica. Scott was a long-time Vice-President of the British Naturalists’ Association, In June 2004, Scott and Sir David Attenborough were jointly profiled in the second of a three part BBC Two series, The Way We Went Wild, about television wildlife presenters and were described as being largely responsible for the way that the British and much of the world views wildlife.Scott’s life was also the subject of a BBC Four documentary called “Peter Scott – A Passion for Nature” produced in 2006

During his life he won many awards, In 1943, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) “for skill and gallantry in action with enemy light forces”, and was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1942 King’s Birthday Honours. He was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1953 Coronation Honours. In the 1987 Queen’s Birthday Honours, he was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) “for services to conservation”.He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 1973 for his contribution to the conservation of wild animals. He had been a founder of the World Wildlife Fund, a founder of several wetlands bird sanctuaries in Britain, and an influence on international conservation. He received the WWF Gold Medal and the J. Paul Getty Prize for his work And he along with Sir David Attenborough inspired me, to take a great interest in nature and wildlife, which, I still find absolutely fascinating.

James Hunt

British Motor Racing legend James Hunt was Born 29 August 1947, He began his racing career in touring car racing, Hunt progressed into Formula Three where he attracted the attention of the Hesketh Racing team and was soon taken under their wing. Hunt’s often action-packed exploits on track earned him the nickname “Hunt the Shunt”. Hunt entered Formula One in 1973, driving a March 731 entered by the Hesketh Racing team.

He went on to win for Hesketh, driving their own Hesketh 308 car, in both World Championship and non-Championship races, before joining the McLaren team at the end of 1975. In his first year with McLaren, Hunt won the 1976 World Drivers’ Championship, and he remained with the team for a further two years, although with less success, before moving to the Wolf team in early 1979. Following a string of races in which he failed to finish, Hunt retired from driving halfway through the 1979 season.

After retiring from racing in 1979, Hunt became a media commentator and businessman, commenting on Grands Prix for the BBC. He was known for his knowledge, insights, dry sense of humour and his criticism of drivers who, he believed, were not trying hard enough, which in the process brought him a whole new fanbase and He was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame on 29 January 2014. Sadly Hunt tragically died 15 June 1993 after suffering a heart attack.

Alex Griffin-Neds Atomic Dustbin

Alex Griffin the Bass Player with Ned’s Atomic Dustbin was born 29 August 1971. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, were formed in 1988 by lead singer John Penney while he was still at sixth form college in November 1987. The band took their name from an episode of The Goon Show. The band were unusual for using two bass players in their lineup: Alex Griffin played melody lines high up on one bass, and Mat Cheslin played the regular bass lines on the other. This gave the band a tense and highly driven sub-hardcore sound featuring distorted effects-laden guitar and energetic drums. The band was formed while at sixth form college and they recorded their first album while some of the members were still teenagers. This led to a strong teenage fanbase with a reputation for enjoying crowd surfing and moshing at their gigs. The band were also noted (and occasionally ridiculed) for their early image which consisted of uniformly crimped hair and a predilection for sporting shorts and band/skateboard T-shirt

In the early 1990s they had several hit singles, including “Happy”, “Kill Your Television” and “Not Sleeping Around”. Together they released three successful albums (God Fodder, Are You Normal? and Brainbloodvolume).The Neds” (as their fans referred to them) were also well known for their own distinctive T-shirt designs, reportedly producing over 86 different designs within three years (1987–1990). Alex left when The band split up in 1995 after record company problems.

However Penney formed a new band, Groundswell, initially with former Ned’s Atomic Dustbin guitarist Rat. The band released a few singles, and played some successful shows, but did not have much commercial success. After Groundswell split he completed a degree course, and now works as Media officer for Wolverhampton Civic Hall, while lecturing part-time and writing a weekly column titled ‘Up Penneyscope’ for local newspaper The Express & Star.In 2000 he reformed Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (with an altered line up including Andy King (bass) and Martin Warlow (guitar) for occasional gigs. The band completed a five date tour in 2004, and Penney continued to play occasional gigs with the band.Ned’s Atomic Dusbin reformed with original line-up for a re:united gig at the London Astoria in December 2008 and then a home gig in Wolverhampton. Penney recently contributed vocals to a song by Wolverhampton rock musician and free software advocate, Jono Bacon and still lives within walking distance of the Swan Hotel in Stourbridge.

Gary Gabelich

American motorsport driver and Land Speed Record Holder Gary Gabelich was born 29 August 1940. During the 1960’s Gary worked and drove a split window 1960 era VW kombi delivery van for Vermillion’s Drug store . He lived with his parents in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach, CA during this time. He later went to work for North American Aviation which became North American Rockwell after a 1967 merger with Rockwell-Standard. Gary started in the mail room and stayed for 9 years in various positions from staff assistant before becoming a part-time test subject for Project Apollo in the years 1968 & 1969. Gary served as an Apollo test astronaut in 1968-1969 as stated on the plaque his family dedicated to him in 2001.

Unlike the actual astronauts, he was not flying the capsules, but testing their long-term viability in weightless conditions, their tolerance and performance under conditions of extreme lateral forces and, though they seldom spoke of it on televised moon shots, the toilet facilities. Gabelich was Mercury Seven astronaut Wally Schirra’s exact size and he did a lot of space checkout for him and testing of capsules and equipment before they were man-rated for operational use. Project Mercury ended in the early 1960s and Wally Schirra went on to become commander of Apollo 7

Gabelich broke the Land Speed Record by achieving average speeds of 622.407 mph (1,001.667 km/h) over a flying mile and 630.388 mph (1,014.511 km/h) over a flying kilometer on 23 October 1970. The thrust used during this attempt was between 13,000 pounds (5,900 kilograms) and 15,000 pounds (6,800 kilograms). A top speed of approximately 650 mph (1,050 km/h) was momentarily attained during one run. However The FIA rules dictate that a land speed mark is recognized only after two runs through the FIA measured kilometer and mile courses. The two corresponding speeds are then averaged for the official time and speed. Additionally both runs must be made within one hour. Gabelich averaged 629.412 mph (1,013 km/h) on his first run and 631.367 mph (1,016 km/h) on his second run for an average speed of 630.388 mph (1,015 km/h) establishing a new kilometer FIA LSR. The mile FIA LSR was the first exceeding 1,000 km/h (621 mph) and remained unbeaten until 1983, when Richard Noble broke it driving Thrust 2. The faster kilometer FIA LSR remained unbroken for 27 years until ThrustSSC went supersonic in 1997.

In 1969 Gabelich established a quarter mile Drag boat record of 200.44 mph (323 km/h) This is not the same as the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) Water Speed Record (WSR) in which Donald Campbell broke 200 mph (322 km/h) on 23 July 1955 in the Bluebird K7. Sadly Gabelich was seriously injured in the crash of an experimental 4 wheel drive Funny Car in 1972 that careered out of control at 180 mph (290 km/h) during a quarter mile run almost severing his left forearm and broke his left leg so severely that more than a year later he still wore a cast. This incident ended his racing career and he never raced again, concentrating instead on a new supersonic vehicle.

In the early 1980s he established the “Rocketman Corporation” with Tom Daniel. The objective was to design and build a vehicle capable of reaching speeds in the 800 mph (1,287 km/h) range. This conceptual vehicle was named “American Way” but the project was cut short by his untimely death in January 1984 in a motorcycle crash.Gary Gabelich was part of the cast in the 1977 movie “Joyride to nowhere” and he made a documentary,”One Second from Eternity: The History of the Land Speed Record” in 1971. Gary and his family appeared on the Family Feud with Richard Dawson, where he presented the key to the city of Long Beach, California. to Mr Dawson. In 2008 Gary was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame in front of the Convention Center on Pine Avenue. He was represented at the ceremony by his wife Rae, a Long Beach City Councilwoman who retired in 2012 after 8 years service. On 23 October 1970 Gary Gabelich set the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Land Speed Record (LSR) with the rocket car Blue Flame on October 23, 1970, on a dry lake bed at Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah. Blue Flame, was fueled with natural gas and when driven by Gary Gabelich it achieved the world land speed record on Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on October 23, 1970. The vehicle set the FIA world record for the flying mile at 622.407 mph (1,001.667 km/h) and the flying kilometer at 630.388 mph (1,014.511 km/h).

Sir Richard Attenborough

The Late, great actor, Producer, Director and entrepreneur Richard Samuel Attenborough, Baron Attenborough, CBE was Born 29 August 1923, Richard was the elder brother of David Attenborough, the naturalist and broadcaster, and the late John Attenborough, who was an executive at Alfa Romeo before his death in 2012.

Attenborough first appeared in shows at Leicester’s Little Theatre, Dover Street, prior to him going to RADA, where he is still Patron. Attenborough’s film career began in 1942 in an uncredited role as a deserting sailor in theNoël Coward/David Lean production In Which We Serve, a role which would help to type-cast him for many years as spivs or cowards in films like London Belongs to Me(1948), Morning Departure (1950) and his breakthrough role as a psychopathic young gangster in the film of Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock (1947), a part that he had previously played to great acclaim at the Garrick Theatre in 1942. In 1949 exhibitors voted him the 6th most popular British actor at the box office. Early in his stage career, Attenborough starred in the West End production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which went on to become the world’s longest-running stage production. Both he and his wife were among the original cast members of the production, which openedin 1952 at the Ambassadors Theatre and as of 2012 is still running at the St Martins Theatre.

Attenborough worked prolifically in British films for the next thirty years, including roles in The Great Escape as RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (“Big X”), Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and Guns at Batasi (1964), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. In 1965 he played Lew Moran opposite James Stewart in The Flight of the Phoenix and in 1967 and 1968, he won Golden Globe Awards for The Sand Pebbles and Doctor Dolittle starring Rex Harrison. He played John Christie in 10 Rillington Place (1971) and the ruthless General Outram, in The Chess Players he also ppeared Otto Preminger’s version of The Human Factor (1979) and as John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) and the popular film’s sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). He also starred in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street (1994) as Kris Kringle

In the 1950s, Attenborough formed the production company, Beaver Films, with Bryan Forbes and worked as producer on projects including The League of Gentlemen (1959), The Angry Silence (1960) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).His feature film directorial debut was the all-star screen version of the hit musical Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) and his acting appearances became sporadic as he concentrated more on directing and producing. He later directed two epic period films: Young Winston (1972), based on the early life of Winston Churchill and A Bridge Too Far (1977), an all-star account of Operation Market Garden in World War II. He won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Director and as the film’s producer, the Academy Award for Best Picture for his historical epic, Gandhi and another Golden Globe, this time as Best Director, for the same film in 1983, a project he had been attempting to get made for 18 years. Attenborough also directed the screen version of the musical A Chorus Line (1985) and the anti-apartheid drama Cry Freedom (1987), based on the life and death of the prominent anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko and the experiences of Donald Woods. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for both films.His most recent films as director and producer include Chaplin (1992) starring Robert Downey, Jr., as Charlie Chaplin and Shadowlands(1993), based on the relationship between C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, (the star of the latter was Anthony Hopkins, who had appeared in four previous films for Attenborough: Young Winston, A Bridge Too Far, Magic and Chaplin.

In the late 90’s he appeared as Sir William Cecil in the historical drama Elizabeth (1998), Jacob in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and as “The Narrator” in the film adaptation of Spike Milligan’s comedy book Puckoon (2002). He made his only appearance in a Shakespeare film when he played the British ambassador who announces that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead at the end of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (1996). Between 2006 and 2007 Attenborough spent time in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working on his last film Closing the Ring, a love story set in Belfast during the Second World War and starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer and the late great Pete Postlethwaite .He is also he former President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He won two Academy Awards for Gandhi in 1983 and has also won four BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globe Awards. As an actor he is perhaps best known for his roles in Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, 10 Rillington Place, Miracle on 34th Street and Jurassic Park.

After 33 years of dedicated service as President of the Muscular Dystrophy campaign, Attenborough became the charity’s Honorary Life President in 2004 and they also, established the Richard Attenborough Fellowship Fund.Attenborough is also the patron of the United World Colleges movement and frequently visited the United World College of Southern Africa (UWCSA) Waterford Kamhlaba. With his wife, they founded the Richard and Sheila Attenborough Visual Arts Centre. He also founded the Jane Holland Creative Centre for Learning at Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland in memory of his daughter. He passionately believes in education. Waterford was one of his inspirations for directing Cry Freedom. He was elected to the post of Chancellor of the University of Sussex on 20 March 1998, replacing The Duke of Richmond and Gordon. He stood down as Chancellor of the university following Graduation in July 2008. He was also a lifelong supporter of Chelsea Football Club, And served as a director of the club from 1969–1982 and between 1993 and 2008 held the honorary position of Life Vice President. On 30 November 2008 he was honoured with the title of Life President at the club’s stadium, Stamford Bridge. He was also head of the consortium Dragon International Film Studios, which was constructing a film and television studio complex in Llanilid, Wales, nicknamed “Valleywood”.

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and a Knight Bachelor in 1976 and in 1993 he was made a life peer as Baron Attenborough, of Richmond upon Thames. In 1992 he had been offered a Peerage by Neil Kinnock, then head of the Labour Party, but refused it as he felt unable to commit to the time necessary. In 1983, Attenborough was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolence Peace Prize by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. In 1992 he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize for his life’s work by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation in Hamburg.On 13 July 2006, Attenborough, along with his brother David, were awarded the titles of Distinguished Honorary Fellows of the University of Leicester “in recognition of a record of continuing distinguished service to the university” on 20 November 2008, Attenborough was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Drama from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow. He was also an Honorary Fellow of Bangor University for his contributions to film making.Pinewood Studios paid tribute to his body of work by naming a purpose-built film and television stage after him. The Richard Attenborough Stage has an area of 30,000 sq ft. In his absence due to illness, Lord Puttnam and Pinewood Chairman Lord Grade officially unveiled the stage on 23 April 2012.