February 10, 2012

GWTW memorabilia lost in Henry County blaze

A chunk of "irreplaceable" southern history apparently went up in flames overnight when fire raced through a Henry County storage facility.

The blaze broke out before midnight Thursday at Hudson Self Storage on Hudson Bridge Road near I-75.

Several storage units were heavily damaged, including a 20-by-12-foot storage bay leased by the Clayton County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

Inside that unit was “highly, highly collectible” Gone With the Wind memorabilia from the Road to Tara museum, said Frenda Turner, a vice president with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, who came to the fire scene Friday to survey the damage.

Turner said that items not currently on display at the Jonesboro museum were stored at the facility.

“We had an awful lot of items that were from the Herb Bridges collection,” Turner told the AJC. Bridges is a noted collector of memorabilia from the book and movie.

“One thing that comes to mind, there were large circular poster-type boards that were used at the 1939 premier,” she said.

Turner said she feared that most of the items, which she called "irreplaceable," were destroyed, “if not by fire, by water.”

“We’re very anxious to find out the extent of the damage to the facility we have our items in,” she said.

Late Friday morning, firefighters continued to pour water on hot spots, while investigators from Henry County and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked to determine what sparked the blaze.

One person was possibly injured in the blaze. That person was being interviewed by arson investigators after showing up at Henry Medical Center for treatment of burns at about the same time that the fire was reported, Henry fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett said.

February 06, 2012

Actor Peter Breck dead at 82

The actor who played a son of ranch owner Barbara Stanwyck on the 1960s Western "The Big Valley," has died. Peter Breck was 82.

Breck died Monday in Vancouver, British Columbia, after a long illness, his wife, Diane, announced on the website The Big Valley Writing Desk.

A native of Haverhill, Mass., Breck was also a regular on the TV Westerns "Maverick" and "Black Saddle." He had guest roles on series from the 1950s through the early 2000s including "Perry Mason," ''The Virginian" and "Fantasy Island."

His film appearances include "Thunder Road," ''I Want to Live!" and "Benji."

Breck was best known for his role as hot-tempered rancher Nick Barkley on "The Big Valley," which aired from 1965 to 1969.

He and his wife were longtime Vancouver residents.

February 03, 2012

Actor Ben Gazzara dead at 81

Actor Ben Gazzara, known for his brooding tough-guy presence in dozens of films, television shows and stage productions over his long career, died of pancreatic cancer on Friday at a Manhattan hospital, his lawyer said. He was 81.

The New York-born performer died Friday afternoon at Bellevue Hospital Center, with members of his family at his side, according to his attorney, Jay Julien.

Born Biagio Anthony Gazzara to Italian immigrant parents, the young actor began his career in live theater, most notably in the role of Brick in the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," directed by Elia Kazan.

A three-time Tony nominee for his stage work, Gazzara made his film debut as a sociopathic military academy cadet in the 1957 drama "The Strange One," followed by his breakout role as an accused killer in Otto Preminger's 1959 hit courtroom drama "Anatomy of a Murder."

His character in that film, Army Lieutenant Frederick Manion, claims in his defense to have killed a bartender in a fit of rage because the victim had raped and beaten his wife. Jimmy Stewart starred as Gazzara's lawyer.

Best known for playing emotionally complex men and villains, Gazzara went on to work with numerous high-profile Hollywood directors, including John Cassavetes, with whom he collaborated on several films, including the 1976 gangster drama "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie."

His credits also included a role as porn-film producer Jackie Treehorn in the Coen Brothers' 1998 cult comedy classic "The Big Lebowski" and a supporting role in the 1999 remake of the art-heist drama "The Thomas Crown Affair," starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo.

On television, Gazzara starred for two seasons, 1965 to 1968, on the NBC prime-time drama "Run for Your Life." He played a wealthy, successful lawyer, Paul Bryan, who quits his practice after learning he has a terminal illness and then embarks on a globe-trotting quest for adventure before he dies.

The role earned him two Emmy nominations as best actor in a lead dramatic role. He picked up a third Emmy nod for his 1985 role in the made-for-TV movie "An Early Frost," and won an Emmy for his supporting work in the 2002 HBO television film "Hysterical Blindness."

He earned Tony nominations for his appearances in three Broadway productions of the 1970s, a revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and his dual roles in a double bill of the plays "Hughie" and "Duet."

Gazzara was married three times, with his first two marriages ending in divorce. He is survived by his third wife, Elke, and daughter Elizabeth.