The world was shaken yesterday by the news that rock icon (and occasionally actor and filmmaker) Prince died unexpectedly at the age of 57. Sadly, his wasn’t the only notable passing this week.
Born Prince Rogers Nelson, the musician was known for most of his career simply as Prince, aside from that interlude where he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and insisted that everyone refer to him as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” Although his death is a much greater loss for the music world than the film community, he acted a handful of times, most famously in the 1984 star vehicle ‘Purple Rain‘. Judged only by its drama parts, the 1984 film may not be particularly good, but its careful image-crafting and musical performance scenes were a hell of a showcase for the singer at the height of his artistic power.
Following that hit, Prince starred in two more movies and directed both. Unfortunately, neither 1986’s ‘Under the Cherry Moon’ nor 1990’s loose ‘Purple Rain’ sequel ‘Graffiti Bridge’ would prove as successful as his first attempt. In fact, both were notorious flops. Perhaps humbled by those failures, or perhaps simply recognizing that his strengths lay elsewhere, he left behind acting and filmmaking to focus on music. In addition to his staggering album sales and numerous Grammy nominations and wins, his songs have been featured in hundreds of movies and TV shows. When Tim Burton asked him to compose and perform songs for his 1989 blockbuster ‘Batman‘, Prince produced an entire soundtrack album that hit the top of the Billboard charts.
At present, an official cause of death has not yet been determined. Early reports claimed that he suffered from the flu, but more recent rumors suggest that drugs may have also been involved. The results of an autopsy are not expected for a few days.
British filmmaker Guy Hamilton made an indelible mark on the cinema landscape by directing the James Bond mega-hit ‘Goldfinger‘ in 1964. While the first couple of Bond movies (both directed by Terence Young) were big box office hits, the sensational success of ‘Goldfinger’ made the character an enduring worldwide pop culture icon. The film is still widely regarded by fans as the best of all the Bond movies, which is a very impressive feat considering the franchise’s longevity.
Hamilton would return to direct three more Bond entries – ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, ‘Live and Let Die‘, and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun‘ – but none were quite as good, or as popular, as ‘Goldfinger’. Hamilton had a prolific career outside of Bond as well, helming such titles as the Cold War spy thriller ‘Funeral in Berlin’ and the World War II adventure pictures ‘Battle of Britain‘ and ‘Force 10 from Navarone‘. He died on Wednesday at the age of 93.
Finally, even if you don’t recognize the name Kit West right away, you’ve undoubtedly enjoyed his work as a special effects artist in movies such as ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘, ‘Return of the Jedi‘ or ‘Dune‘. He took home an Oscar for ‘Raiders’, and was nominated twice more for ‘Young Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Dragonheart‘. A master of mechanical effects, West continued to work as recently as ‘The Bourne Supremacy‘ (2004), ‘Doom‘ (2005) and ‘City of Ember’ (2008). He passed away on Saturday at age 80.