Obituaries for Sept. 2, 2009

Four Hollywood veterans pass away

James Dennett, a charter member of the Chicago chapter of the DGA, died Aug. 11 of lung cancer at his Topanga Canyon home in Los Angeles. He was 75.

Trained in the theater, Dennett's organizing skills caught the attention of Chicago's nascent film industry. In 1966, he co-founded the Film Group with Mike Gray and Bill Cottle. The studio produced Howard Alk's documentaries "American Revolution 2" (1969) and "The Murder of Fred Hampton" (1971).

In 1972, Dennett began working in Hollywood as an assistant director and production manager on films including "Stoney Island" (1978), "The China Syndrome" (1979), "Wavelength" (1983) and "The Fugitive" (1993) and TV shows including ABC's "Starman."

Dennett was a mentor to many in the industry; "Fugitive" director Andrew Davis, a fellow Chicagoan, said Dennett gave him his first job.

A memorial service in Hollywood is planned for Sept. 27.

John Bentley, an actor who married soap star Noele Gordon on "Crossroads" in the U.K. daytime serial's biggest story line, died Aug. 13 in Petworth, Sussex, England after a long illness. He was 92.

Bentley joined the show in 1965 playing smooth operator Hugh Mortimer. He became a favorite of housewives and in 1975, his character married Meg Richardson (Gordon), the widowed matriarch of the Crossroads Motel.

More than 18 million people tuned in to see the episode.

Two years after the wedding, Bentley was fired in 1977. Writers killed him off as a victim in an international terrorist plot, which Bentley described as "ridiculous."

Bentley starred opposite Errol Flynn, Dirk Bogarde and John Mills in films. He had the title role in "Calling Paul Temple" (1948), "Paul Temple's Triumph" (1950) and "Paul Temple Returns" (1952), which ran at the same time as the Temple radio series starring Peter Coke.

Francisco "Paco" Rodriguez, who held major executive positions in the international departments of MGM and Fox, died Aug. 18 in Los Angeles. He was 86.

Rodriguez, who was fluent in English, Spanish, Japanese and Italian, worked for MGM and Fox in Los Angeles, Mexico City, Spain and Italy. He retired from Fox in 1992.

Survivors include three daughters, Rosa, Liliana and Isabel; a son, Francisco Jr.; and nine grandchildren. Ingrid, his wife of more than 56 years, died in 2001.

June Gilham, a negative cutter for more than four decades, died Aug. 19 in Woodland Hills. She was 83.

Gilham worked on "Sounder" (1972) and the Oscar-winning "On Golden Pond" (1981) and spent 25 years at Filmation, working on shows like "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids."

She began her career as a makeup artist for director Roger Corman.
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