The brief career and shocking death of actor Frank Wolff

FROM WASP WOMAN TO SERGIO LEONE CLASSIC

Frank Wolff began his acting career in the late 1950s with roles in several films directed by low-budget horror cult maestro Roger Corman.*

In 1960 he moved to Rome and became a popular character actor in more than fifty Italian-made movies, mostly crime flicks and Spaghetti Westerns.

Early in his European career, he landed a second-billed role as Vartan Damadian, the Armenian friend of the central character in the 1963 Elia Kazan film America, America. The movie received a ‘Best Picture’ nomination at the Academy Awards.

Remembering actor Frank Wolff
Frank Wolff in ‘America, America’

His most memorable, albeit briefest role was the friendly farmer Brett McBain who is gunned down in Sergio Leone’s 1968 classic Once Upon a Time in the West.

One of his last roles was playing a police commissioner in the 1972 Fernando Di Leo film Milano calibro 9. 

His brief, struggling movie career — and his life — ended in a Hilton Hotel room in Rome on December 12, 1971. Frank Wolff committed suicide by cutting his throat. He was 43.


* I’m happy to report that, as of this writing, Roger Corman is still alive at 95.


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Jonathan Brandis — Too young to die

Jonathan Brandis hanged himself

“I want to be remembered as an actor who put in some good work in the beginning of his career and even better work at the end.”

THE END CAME TOO SOON

On November 11, 2003, former child star and ‘SeaQuest’ regular Jonathan Brandis was found hanged in his Los Angeles apartment.

He died the following day. He was 27 years old. Another member of the 27 Club — creative icons who died at age 27. They include rock musicians Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and the famous graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Jonathan left no suicide note. Friends said he had been depressed over his fading career and was drinking heavily. They said he was crushed when his appearance in the 2002 drama ‘Hart’s War’ was cut to practically nothing.

“My biggest fear as an actor is being mediocre.”

FANS WANTED TO DIE TOO

His death came as a shock to his young fans. Several said they wanted to kill themselves. Others said his presence on the screen helped them through their own depression.

One fan wrote on social media: “He was my first childhood crush and was a hero to me. I would always watch NeverEnding Story, he got me through really tough times, I will love him forever for that.”

Jonathan Brandis began his career as a child model and made his acting debut in 1982 as Kevin Buchanan on the ABC soap opera ‘One Life to Live.’

He was in Stephen King’s 1990 supernatural horror miniseries ‘It,’ and that same year starred as Bastian Bux in ‘The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter.’

At the age of 17 he landed the role of boy genius Lucas Wolenczak in the 1993-96 TV series ‘SeaQuest DSV.’ He was the only actor to appear in all 57 episodes.

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Troubled gig ends with .38-caliber slug

Addiction destroyed Gig Young

GIG YOUNG BATTLED BOOZE AND VALIUM ADDICTION — AND LOST

On the afternoon of October 19, 1978, in his Manhattan apartment, American actor Gig Young pointed a .38 caliber snub-nosed revolver at the back of his wife’s head and pulled the trigger. Kim Schmidt died instantly. She was 31.

Then he stuck the gun in his mouth and blew his brains out. He was 64. They had been married three weeks — the actor’s fifth wife. Police said it was either a suicide pact or murder-suicide. There was no note.

Addiction destroyed Gig Young
Gig Young and Kim Schmidt

Gig Young won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as the heartless marathon dance emcee in the 1969 psychological drama They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

The highly acclaimed movie starred Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin and Susannah York and was directed by Sydney Pollack. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Gig Young was the only winner.

Alcohol and pills destroyed Gig Young’s career. He collapsed on the set of the comedy Blazing Saddles on his first day of shooting and was fired by director Mel Brooks. 

He was hooked on the tranquilizer Valium, taking seven pills a day, washed down with booze.

Addiction destroyed Gig Young
Ronnie Howard and Gig Young in The Twilight Zone’s ‘Walking Distance’

Through all this he managed to keep working, including a famous role in a Twilight Zone episode called Walking Distance where he goes back to his home town and meets his former boyhood self.

But it all ended in Suite 1BB of the Osborne Apartments on West 57th Street in New York City with a .38-caliber bullet.


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