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

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by TOH!
December 24, 2013 11:00 AM
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Peter O'Toole
Peter O'Toole

As part of our "TOH! Remembers" series, our contributors look back on the leading men the film community lost this year, from Peter O'Toole to James Gandolfini, Paul Walker and more.

Who: James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini

Born: September 18, 1961 in Westwood, New Jersey

Died: June 19, 2013 in Rome, Italy

Known for: His thrice-Emmy-winning performance as troubled mob boss Tony Soprano on HBO's "The Sopranos"

Career breakout: A nasty, woman-beating proto-Soprano in Tony Scott's "True Romance" (1993).

High Point: The eight-year, six season run of "The Sopranos" was nothing but high points for Gandolfini, who was lavished with innumerable accolades for his iconic and untouchable performance as the existentially adrift paterfamilias. Enormously respected by peers and admired by pundits -- including NY Mag TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, who interviewed the actor back in the show's early glory days -- Gandolfini took on a wide range of film roles during and after the series. But he didn't just recreate Tony Soprano time and again. Imposing yet kind-eyed, Gandolfini voiced a shaggy gentle giant in Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are," wisecracked as a pushy lieutenant in "In the Loop" and, most recently, played a mild-mannered bachelor and single dad in Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said."

Low Point: While vacationing in his ancestral nation with his son, Gandolfini died suddenly of a heart attack at age 51, just a few months before "Enough Said" would premiere at TIFF.

Yes, it's true: He was planting trees when Sidney Lumet phoned and offered Gandolfini his first movie role, which was a small part in 1992's "A Stranger Among Us." --Ryan Lattanzio


Who: John Kerr

John Kerr

Born:  November 15, 1931

Died: February 2, 2013

Known for: Two movies, “Tea and Sympathy” (1956) and “South Pacific” (1958) and two decades of solid work in television

Career Breakout: After appearing in three Broadway plays that altogether lasted a total of four months, Kerr hit boxoffice gold as a sensitive boy in a boarding school who is derided by the other boys as a “sissy” because he is more interested in books than in sports.  “Tea and Sympathy” lasted almost two years on Broadway, and Kerr won the 1954 Tony Award as best featured actor in a play.

High Point: The ending of the movie version of “Tea and Sympathy” when Deborah Kerr as the wife of a brutal housemaster at the school gives herself to the boy with the oft-quoted line, “When you speak of this in future years – and you will – be kind.”

Low Point: Kerr won a 1957 Golden Globe as “Most Promising Newcomer” in a three-way tie with Paul Newman and Anthony Perkins.  After his performance as the doomed lieutenant in “South Pacific,” his career eventually turned into roles in endless television series.

Yes, it’s true: He turned down a chance to play Charles Lindbergh in “The Spirit of St. Louis” (1957) because of Lindbergh’s support of Nazi Germany during the 1930s.  And in the late 1960s he went to law school at UCLA and then practiced law in Encino for 30 years, although he was also a regular on “The Streets of San Francisco” TV series during the 1970s. --Aljean Harmetz

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