EmptyGeorge Furth, an actor and Tony-winning playwright, died Aug. 11 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica. He was 75.
Furth won his Tony for the book of the 1970 musical "Company," with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. He also wrote such Broadway plays as "Twigs" and "Precious Sons" and the books for "The Act" and "Merrily We Roll Along."
Furth and Sondheim also co-wrote the 1996 Broadway play "Getting Away With Murder."
Furth had a long career as a character actor, including memorable roles as a devoted railroad employee who refuses to open a safe in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and Van Johnson in "Blazing Saddles" ("Sheriff! Mongo's back! He's tearing up the whole town!").
He appeared in more than 85 films and TV show episodes ranging from "Going My Way" in 1962 to "Bulworth" in 1998 and including "Shampoo," "All in the Family" and "Happy Days."
Peter Kass, a Broadway director and protege of playwright Clifford Odets who was admired for his work as acting teacher, died Aug. 4 of heart failure in New York. He was 85.
At age 25, Kass was handpicked by Odets to direct the original production of "The Country Girl" in New Hampshire; he then was given a role in the production when Odets directed the showbiz play on Broadway in 1950. Kass later directed the Broadway production of Odets' "Night Music."
Kass' other Broadway credits include Lorraine Hansberry's "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," starring Rita Moreno, and "Nathan Weinstein, Mystic Connecticut." Off-Broadway, he directed "Side Street Scenes," written by his son, former "Seinfeld" writer Sam Henry Kass.
From 1956-60, the Brooklyn-born Kass served as master acting teacher at Boston University, then held the same position at the NYU School of the Arts from 1965-82. His students included Olympia Dukakis, Maureen Stapleton, Faye Dunaway, Val Kilmer and John Cazale.
Kass also wrote and directed the 1962 film "Time of the Heathen."
Jud Taylor, a prolific TV director who served as president of the DGA from 1981-83, died Aug. 6 in New York. He was 76.
Taylor served as a DGA vp from 1977-81 and a national board member from 1977-83. He was honored in 2003 with the Robert B. Aldrich Award for extraordinary service to the guild.
"Jud's presidency was significant for the advances he made in affirmative action provisions for women and minorities," DGA president Michael Apted said.
Taylor directed more than 40 made-for-TV movies, receiving an Emmy nomination for 1977's "Tail Gunner Joe," which starred Peter Boyle as Sen. Joseph McCarthy. He also directed numerous episodes of TV series including "Star Trek," "The Fugitive," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Law & Order: SVU."
Ruth Engelhardt, one of the first female executives in the entertainment industry and a WMA employee for more than 59 years, died July 23 in Los Angeles. She was 86.
Engelhardt joined WMA as a legal secretary in 1949, became an agent in 1976 and worked her way up to head of the agency's TV business affairs department in the 1980s. She is credited with helping define the terms of television contracts during the advent of the medium.
Engelhardt was the first agent to become president of the Los Angeles Film Development Committee, helping draft the organization's bylaws that promote increased filming in the Los Angeles area and the state overall.
Victor Hugo Rascon Banda, a playwright and former president of the Mexican version of the WGA, died July 31 of leukemia in Mexico City. He was 59.
For nearly a decade, Rascon Banda was head of SOGEM, which protects authors' rights in film, television and theater. A writer of more than 50 plays and the award-winning novel "Contrabando," he was considered one of Mexico's most important contemporary dramatists.
Bill Saunders, former president of 20th Century Fox TV International, died July 22 of cancer in Monte Carlo. He was 85.
The Britain native got his start at Fox Films in London. In 1966, Saunders moved to Paris and served as a vp until 1983, when he was transferred to Los Angeles in the studio's international TV department. He became president six years later.
Saunders retired in 1992 and spent the rest of his life in Monte Carlo as a member of the international advisory board for the annual Monte Carlo TV festival.
Sally Insul, a film and TV character actor, died Aug. 4 of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 92.
The Chicago native appeared in more than 50 films and TV shows, including the movies "Click," "Old School," "L.A. Confidential" and "Primary Colors" and the TV shows "Seinfeld," "Frasier," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "My Name Is Earl."
Robert Hazard, a songwriter and musician who wrote the 1983 Cyndi Lauper hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," died Aug. 5 after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was 59.
Hazard, born Robert Rimato, led the band Robert Hazard and the Heroes, a fixture in Philadelphia clubs through the mid-'80s. In his autobiography, he wrote that he got his big break in 1982 when music journalist Kurt Loder, who was in town to review a Rolling Stones concert, happened to stop into a bar where he was performing. His song "Escalator of Life" became a minor pop hit soon after.