Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Week of Goodbyes

DEBORAH CROMBIE: What a week. First, David Bowie, dead at 69, just three days after releasing his final album.  Then, Thursday, Alan Rickman, also dead at 69, also from cancer.

The mourning for David Bowie here in the UK has been enormous and public. He was not only a talented artist, but an icon, a hero to generations of those who felt different. Hundreds of people gathered around the mural painted on the side of Morley's department store in Brixton (his birthplace), singing, crying, and leaving flower tributes. There have been retrospectives in every newspaper and every television station.

But while I shared in the nostalgia, I didn't have a huge emotional connection to Bowie.

Alan Rickman was a different matter. I ADORED Alan Rickman. From the first time I saw him, stealing the screen as Hans Gruber in Die Hard. He played the good, the bad, the silly, the complicated, all with such joy and finesse. (And, yes, you can play villains joyously, if you are Alan Rickman...) Some of the performances I loved best: Jamie, the dead cellist in Anthony Minghella's Truly, Madly, Deeply; The deliciously evil Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Price of Theives; Bad Harry in Love Actually; and of course, the multi-layered Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. JK Rowling has said she had Rickman in mind from the beginning. She certainly wrote Snape for him from the time he was cast in the first film. They grew into one another, Snape and Rickman, and Rickman always knew what part Snape was meant to play. 

There are too many more movies to name. I only wish I'd seen him on the stage. That voice, so instantly recognizable in film--can you imagine having heard  him live?

Actor friends of mine in London have described him as kind, generous, and funny. He was actor's actor, a pro, never a movie star.

I am heartbroken at his passing.

REDS, have these deaths hit you hard, too? 

HALLIE EPHRON: I agree, it was a tough week. Huge talents. Gone.

What strikes me so about David Bowie's music is how much he's a storyteller (Major Tom to Ground Control...) and a brave one at that. Alan Rickman was one of my all time favorite actors. Love Actually! Of course. And he made Professor Snape human. And a brilliant comedian (check out one of my favorite silly great movies, Galaxy Quest). He was one of those performers that you felt like you knew personally.


RHYS BOWEN: I was shocked, but not overwhelmingly shocked by David Bowie's passing. After all, one suspects that rock stars have toyed with drugs during their lives. They certainly lived stressful lives, touring, performing late at night, coping with public adoration. I'll always think of David Bowie as the evil being in Labyrinth. He scared my kids so much. 

But then to read about Alan Rickman only a few days later was shattering to me. I always had such a soft spot for Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Poor noble guy, always trying to do the right thing, but luckily triumphing in the end for once. And then Love Actually, not such a good guy. And Snape--what a wonderful character.  It's events like these that remind me how transient life is and how foolish it is to waste a single moment worrying about unimportant things.At least these two leave a legacy!

LUCY BURDETTE: I was a huge David Bowie fan. I went to see him at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia in the early seventies. His performance and costumes were electric! (And I confess to ducking into the men's room with my pals to smoke LOL.) I know all the words to the songs of that era, but my favorite is ch-ch-ch-changes.

Most amazing was how hard he worked in his last year and a half. He was deathly ill and yet fiercely productive. I am in awe of that. I would have probably just laid on the couch...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: When we saw the new star wars movie, as soon as I saw Kylo Ren, I thought--oh, twenty years ago, that character would have been played by Alan Rickman. He had such a look, and such a brand, and so inhabited his characters. You could always see why he was chosen for each part. And we loved him for that. And right, Rhys, he was so awful/hateful/perfect in Love, Actually.

As for David Bowie. Ground Control to Major Tom (Space Oddity) is the SADDEST song ever. It's a top ten for me. I wasn't so attached to him personally, I was in a different era, but I bow to his constant motion, and re-invention. He was always exploring--music, and himself, and boundaries of it all.

Both men handled it so gracefully at the end.  May we all be as caring and careful and elegant--and strive to leave even a fraction of their legacy.  And yes, every day matters.   "Check ignition, and may God's love be with you..."

DEBS: You are all so spot on. Storytellers, both in their own ways, whether by creating characters or inhabiting them. And so graceful, both of them.

Dear READERS, do you have a favorite Bowie song, or a favorite Rickman film? Share with us, please.


  1. I don't think we're ever prepared for this sort of news . . .
    I enjoyed Alan Rickman's Harry Potter films, but especially enjoyed Love Actually and Galaxy Quest . . . .

  2. It has indeed been a sad week. May they RIP.

  3. I had the honor of seeing the great Alan Rickman onstage many years ago at the Edinburgh Festival. He was extraordinary; charismatic, brilliant and you couldn't take your eyes off him. And that voice! He was one of my favorite actors and his death hit me very hard. Bowie's did, too, but I felt more connected to Rickman. He was a very fine actor - one of the best. Favorite roles: Truly, Madly, Deeply and Sense and Sensibility. Gone much, much too soon.

  4. My favorite Bowie song will always be Heroes and my favorite Rickman Character will always be Hans Gruber from Die Hard. Both of these wonderful artists left us such a legacy and were gone too soon. I will miss them both!!

  5. I think the Let's Dance album really showcased (for me), Bowie's willingness to explore music--he was accused of 'selling out,' etc., but he went on to embrace the digitalization of music and to thrive right to the very end--sort of like one of my other music heroes--Johnny Cash. And oh, he was so sexy in Let's Dance!

    But, Alan Rickman stole my heart in Truly, Madly, Deeply, ("What are you doing?" she asks, and he replies, "Warming my lips." Ahhh!)and I never looked back. For anyone who has not seen the film Snowcake, I urge you to look for it. Alan Rickman with Sigourney Weaver in a Canadian production. His humanity and his humor reached out, I think, in every role he played.

  6. Flora, what is Snowcake?

    And I'm off to listen to Heroes…I don't think I know it!

  7. And I forgot to say, the boys brought Alan's passing to my attention--for them, he was an icon through fully half their lives as one Harry Potter movie after another came out.

  8. Hank, Snowcake is a gem of a movie--I don't want to give any details of plot, etc., because I want everyone to come to it the way I did--"oh, Alan Rickman with Sigourney Weaver--I've got to check this out" and all of my friends were glad I did, because I passed the movie on to them, too.

  9. And yesterday I read that Annette Funicello died at 70. Another icon of her era.

  10. Celebrity deaths rarely stun me. This week was different.

    Davie Bowie was...shocking on some level. Perhaps because I didn't even know he was ill. His all the "famous" songs were slightly before me, but Changes, Under Pressure (which I guess is actually a song by Queen), and Heroes - I'll stop and listen to them any time. And of course, the iconic Jareth in Labyrinth.

    Rickman...that stopped me in my tracks. When I saw it online, all I could think is that it was a gigantic, cruel, hoax. But no. Another one who I didn't even know was ill. You've mention so many of his perfect roles - he was one of the actors I would go to a movie of him reading the phone book. That voice! I found a YouTube recording of him reading Shakespeare's sonnet 130 and it was so perfect. You could tell the words meant so much to him. And he was perfect as the voice of the Blue Caterpillar in the Johnny Depp Alice in Wonderland and Marvin the Depressed Robot in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I think Rickman was the best part of that one and Prince of Thieves). I heard he recorded the voice over for the Caterpillar for the upcoming Alice movie before he died.

    My daughter said it perfectly: This week sucked. I feel like I've lost a chunk of my childhood (at 15, Severus Snape is Rickman's defining role for her, although she is also a fan of Love, Actually and she knew more Bowie than I thought).


  11. This week has been sad. Enormously sad. I was a little stunned, frankly, by some of the comments I've read on Facebook from people criticizing those of us who have reacted with sadness to the deaths of these two icons. Why shouldn't we? They touched our lives. They touched lives in personal ways. And then I watched the Willie Nelson Gershwin Tribute last night and knowing that he, at age 82, won't be with us forever saddened me immensely. I have seen Willie Nelson in concert probably 15 times or more. Why we love certain celebrities is, again, a personal reaction and one without explanation oftentimes. And anyway - why should we explain it and to whom? This article is, I think, excellent and worth reading -

  12. I envisioned the dying Rickman saying to his loved ones, "Forgive me," and their saying, "Oh, not yet," and his final word being "Imperative" as he galloped off to wherever we go.

  13. Sad, sad week. One of my favorite David Bowie songs is the one he wrote in a 24-hour frenzy with Queen's Freddie Mercury, "Under Pressure." Bowie and Mercury together are complete genius. Here's a link to them singing it sans musical accompaniment. If there's a rock and roll heaven, those two are jamming it.

    And, as Labyrinth was a big hit with my kids when they were growing up, David Bowie will forever be the Goblin King in our house. We even have a giant poster of him in this role, a joke gift from my daughter to my son when they were older.

    Alan Rickman. Again, genius. Anything he was in was better for it, as he was such an enormous talent. His range was limitless. I could listen to his voice all day long, so rich and smooth. Even though he was a not-so-nice character in Love Actually, one of my favorite movies, he nailed it so perfectly that you loved him anyway. Die Hard, Galaxy Quest, Sense and Sensibility. All wonderful. The ones that have to be my favorite though are the Harry Potter movies, as Harry Potter was such a force in our household, with my son and I reading the books together and going to see the movies together. Snape is just a character that lives in our hearts and minds, always. Last year for Christmas, a very talented Katie Fox made a woodburning of Snape for me to give my son as a present. It was fantastic.

  14. David Bowie was just always there, from my younger days through my kids and now grandkids. Everybody knows David Bowie, and how shocking and sad.

    But Alan Rickman, just seemed to sneak up on me. Probably not a coincidence that he was in so many of the movies I love, whether he was the evil character you hated or the one who made you cry. Maybe not such a famous movie, but he is delightfully bad as Marston in Quigley Down Under.

    And take a listen on YouTube to "Alan reads Shakespeare's Sonnet 130." The voice.

  15. Naturally I loved SENSE AND SENSIBILITY--Rickman captures the entire character in one line as Marianne lies near death: "Give me employment, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad." But I also saw him on Broadway in SEMINAR, where he plays a possibly unscrupulous but completely enslaving writer teaching four wannabes, all of whom are seduced by him, one way or another. Not a perfect play, but a perfect role for Rickman.

  16. Both men were artists, not just celebrities, which makes their passing worth noting. Bowie was a major part of the soundtrack of my life. I am blown away by his artistry these past 18 months, knowing he was dying.

    Alan Rickman. So sad. TRULY MADLY DEEPLY is one of my favorite movies. I ugly cry at the end of that one. I saw him onstage once, in SEMINAR. Wish I could have seen him in PRIVATE LIVES, which I understand was amazing. Movie wise, will be watching DIE HARD, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (I love that one!) and GALAXY QUEST this weekend.

  17. No one ever mentions the movie Sweeney Todd, but the duet between Alan Rickman and Johnny Depp, when they sing "Pretty Women", is fabulous.

  18. After hearing David Bowie sing with Bing Crosby on Bing's Christmas Special, I always wanted him to come out with an a cappella album -- just to hear that wonderful voice all by itself! My favorite song of his right now is Putting Out the Fire with Gasoline~There was a quote going around on Facebook, something like "the world has existed 4 billion years and you are fortunate enough to have lived at the same time as David Bowie."
    Alan Rickman - I loved him ever since I first saw him in Truly, Madly, Deeply. He brought magic to everything he did (no Harry Potter pun intended). It would have been amazing to see him live on stage.
    Two wonderful and talented me gone much too soon~

  19. I had the chance to see Alan Rickman in PRIVATE LIVES. He was so wonderful. I remember leaving the theater and wishing I'd bought a ticket for the next night too so I could watch him again. It's a quiet weekend, so a Rickman movie marathon sounds like a good plan.

  20. I'm with you. David Bowie was a talented performer but his death didn't really touch me. Alan Rickman is a different matter. His absence really hurts. What a wonderful person and actor he was. My husband and I agree as to his being one of our favorite villains. Remember him as that horrible land owner in Quigley Down Under? Seeing him as the Sheriff of Nottingham still makes me laugh. What a beautiful voice and talent.

  21. A few weeks ago, Mr. Right and I were debating favorite Christmas movies. I chose Love Actually, and he chose Die Hard. (?!!?) You can see why we get along so well. And then we had our own mini Harry Potter marathon -- we'd somehow missed the last 3 movies. We had no idea he was ill, of course -- so glad we had our own little home tribute.

    Both Rickman and Bowie had such wise things to say about art -- they were teachers as well as performers and storytellers.

  22. David Bowie was certainly a talented musical icon. But Alan Rickman was one of my all-time favorite actors. I especially loved him in "Truly,Madly,Deeply" and an off-beat British comedy film "Blow Dry" that no one mentioned. It also starred Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Nighy (sigh) and a young Josh Hartnett. Yes, truly a sad week that touched most of our lives.

  23. Oh, yes, Lynn, I remember Blow Dry and loved it! Of course, with Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy, how could it not be entertaining. Rickman and Nighy are two actors that I would watch any movie they're in just because they're in it. I feel a movie marathon coming on soon.

  24. Thanks for all the recommendations, everyone. If I weren't in London, I'd be having a Rickman retrospective and listening to Bowie.

    Funny, I imagine that David Bowie knew what an impact he had on people's lives. He'd had legions of adoring fans for forty years.

    But I wonder if Alan Rickman knew how much he was treasured?

  25. Just saw Galaxy Quest in homage. Must search out Blow Dry (just the name...). And re-see Truly, Madly...Thought he was eternal. Such a powerful presence. Thanks, Debs, for the chance to mourn together.

  26. I'm catching up to the blog after a few days away.....

    My Alan Rickman story: I spent the summer of 1974 traveling through Europe with a good friend as part of a larger group of college students. We ended up in London, and our aim there was to see as much theatre as we could. We saw Diana Rigg and Alec McCowen in Pygmalion (wonderful), Good Companions with John Mills and Judi Dench (terrible awful play, but good acting), Sherlock Holmes with John Wood and Tim Pigott-Smith, a production of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, The Mousetrap, and we arrived at Measure for Measure at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art twenty minutes late and at the back entrance, but we pleaded and they let us in. The actor playing Angelo was fantastic, amazing, and sympathetic; he was clearly far far better than the rest of the student actors and really left them in the dust. We only got one program between us and Shelley kept it, so it wasn't until twenty years later when we got together to reminisce about that summer that I realized Angelo had been played by Alan Rickman. I was so glad I'd had the opportunity to see him on stage.

  27. I am also so very sad to have lost Alan Rickman. One of my favorite roles of his was in Dogma - how was it possible to play a literally non-sexual, angelic being and still be so sexy?! And he brought such powerful, tragic dimension to Severus Snape. I just heard him reading one of Shakespeare's sonnets (the link has been all over Facebook). It's stunning. What a loss...