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TOH! Remembers the Leading Ladies the Film Community Lost in 2013

Thompson on Hollywood By TOH! | Thompson on Hollywood December 26, 2013 at 11:00AM

As part of our "TOH! Remembers" series, our contributors look back at the leading ladies the film community lost in 2013, from Jean Stapleton to Joan Fontaine, Karen Black, Eileen Brennan and more.
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Joan Fontaine in "Suspicion"
Joan Fontaine in "Suspicion"

As part of our "TOH! Remembers" series, our contributors look back at the leading ladies the film community lost in 2013, from Jean Stapleton to Joan Fontaine, Karen Black, Eileen Brennan and more.

Who: Annette Funicello

Annette Funicello
Annette Funicello

Born: Oct. 22., 1942

Died: April 8, 2013 after suffering complications from multiple sclerosis

Known for:  The sweet-natured early bloomer was the first crush of many a Baby Boomer lad as a member of the original Mouseketeers on the Disney TV show "The Mickey Mouse Club" (1955-59). She then segued into teen idol-dom opposite crooner Frankie Avalon in a series of popular Beach Party films in the early ’60s.

Career breakout: Funicello was discovered in 1955 by Walt Disney himself after he spotted the budding 12-year-old ballerina dancing in Swan Lake at a Burbank recital. She was the last of the 24 young performers hired as a Mouseketeer – and would soon become the most famous.

High point: The striking brunette “queen of teen” would receive up to 6,000 fan letters a week while "The Mickey Mouse Club" was on the air. She had her own serial on the variety show – simply titled "Annette" – and her rendition of the ballad "How Will I Know My Love" during a hayride scene led to a recording career.

Low point: While reteaming with Avalon in the film spoof "Back to the Beach" in 1987, Funicello began showing signs of multiple sclerosis. She kept her debilitating condition under wraps until 1992, after press reports wrongly accused her of alcohol abuse. 

Yes, it’s true: Funicello was the inspiration for Paul Anka’s 1960 hit "Puppy Love." --Susan Wloszczyna

 

Who: Bonnie Franklin

Bonnie Franklin

Born: January 6, 1944

Died: March 1, 2013

Known for: Demolishing TV taboos by playing a divorced single mother of two who actually had a sex life.

Career breakout: “One Day at a Time”

High Point: Emmy nomination for her role as Ann Romano

Low Point: Was scheduled to perform Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” in Santa Barbara last April, but was forced to withdraw because of illness.

Yes, it’s true: Tony-nominated for creating the role of Bonnie in “Applause,” she upstaged star Lauren Bacall with her rendition of the title song. --John Anderson

 

Who: Deanna Durbin

Born: Dec. 4, 1921

Died: April 20, 2013

Deanna Durbin

Known for:  Her name might draw a blank for even avid film lovers these days, but the sunny teen singing sensation of the ’30s and ’40s who was dubbed “The Winnipeg Sweetheart” once topped Shirley Temple as a box-office sensation and was supposedly Winston Churchill’s favorite movie star.

Career breakout:  Durbin, an operatic soprano, was discovered in junior high by MGM.  When the studio opted to sign Judy Garland as a youthful musical talent instead, Durbin was picked up by the financially troubled Universal. She was quickly cast in her big-screen debut, "Three Smart Girls" (1936),  a comedy about a trio of siblings who scheme to reconcile their parents. The movie became a surprise hit, saving the studio from bankruptcy, and was nominated for a best-picture Oscar.

High point: Durbin would headline her second film, 1937’s "One Hundred Men and a Girl" (also a best-picture nominee),  alongside the esteemed conductor Leopold Stokowski. The plot – about a girl who helps her dad organize an orchestra with fellow out-of-work musicians – provided the template for the actress’s plucky can-do public persona. It is said that Churchill would watch the star’s most popular outing as a way to celebrate British victories during World War II.

Low point: After being honored with a juvenile Oscar in 1939 and becoming the highest-paid woman in the United States at age 21, Durbin began to resent being typecast as “Little Miss Fixit” – especially after going through the first of two divorces by the time she was 22. She fought for script approval but audiences weren’t  as receptive to her more adult roles. In 1949, she left Hollywood behind forever after marrying French director Charles David, who whisked her away to his native country.

Yes, it’s true: Churchill wasn’t her only noteworthy fan. Holocaust diarist Anne Frank also admired Durbin. Two photos of the actress were found on Anne’s “movie wall” in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis. --Susan Wloszczyna

This article is related to: Obit, Features, Features


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.