The old saw about deaths coming in threes appears to have come true over the last couple of days with the passing of three individuals, all noteworthy to the movie world, though in very different ways.
* Al Martino spent most of his career as a well known lounge singer, but his moment of cinema immortality came with his casting as mob-connected singer-actor Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather.” According to this rather sensational obituary in The Telegraph, his life — including even how he obtained the role in the 1972 classic — may have had more in common with Fontaine’s than Frank Sinatra, who most filmgoers assumed was the model for Fontaine. Martino, who got the role after another Italian-American crooner, Vic Damone, dropped out of the running, also appeared in both “Godfather” sequels. He also sang the hit version of the movie’s “Love Theme,” “Speak Softly Love.”
* On Monday, Anne Thompson posted a moving remembrance of her friend, film scholar Anne Friedberg, who died of cancer at age 57 on October 9. She was the chair of the Department of Critical Studies at USC’s film program. She was married to screenwriter Howard Rodman, who heads the screenwriting program at USC, and her past students included critic Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. Ms. Thompson also included a quote from famed magician/writer/character actor (and David Mamet regular) Ricky Jay, so she obviously had her share of interesting friends as well.
* Former MGM and Columbia Studio executive and producer Daniel Melnick also died yesterday from lung cancer at age 77. He oversaw a number of classic and notable films at the studio and also was personally involved with a number of significant hits and a few classics ranging from “Footloose” (a hit, definitely not a classic) and Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” (a classic, not that huge a hit) to Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs,” to “Altered States” and my favorite Steve Martin movie, “L.A. Story.”