Her daughter, Lisa Brothers Arbisser, confirmed the death.
Dr. Joyce Brothers, as she was always known professionally — a full-name hallmark of the more formal times in which she began her career — was widely described as the mother of mass-media psychology because of the firm, pragmatic and homiletic guidance she administered for decades via radio and television.
Historically, she was a bridge between advice columnists like Dear Abby and Ann Landers, who got their start in the mid-1950s, and the self-help advocates of the 1970s and afterward.
Throughout the 1960s, and long beyond, one could scarcely turn on the television or open a newspaper without encountering her. She was the host of her own nationally syndicated TV shows, starting in the late 1950s with “The Dr. Joyce Brothers Show” and over the years including “Ask Dr. Brothers,” “Consult Dr. Brothers” and “Living Easy With Dr. Joyce Brothers.”
She was also a ubiquitous guest on talk shows like “The Tonight Show” and on variety shows like “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.”
She was a panelist on many game shows, including “What’s My Line?” and “The Hollywood Squares.” These appearances had a fitting symmetry: It was as a game-show contestant that Dr. Brothers had received her first television exposure.
Playing herself, or a character very much like herself, she had guest roles on a blizzard of TV series, from “The Jack Benny Program” to “Happy Days,” “Taxi,” “Baywatch,” “Entourage” and “The Simpsons.”
She also lectured widely; had a call-in radio show, a syndicated newspaper column and a regular column in Good Housekeeping magazine; and wrote books.
Dr. Brothers arrived in the American consciousness (or, more precisely, the American unconscious) at a serendipitous time: the exact historical moment when cold war anxiety, a greater acceptance of talk therapy and the widespread ownership of television sets converged. Looking crisply capable yet eminently approachable in her pastel suits and pale blond pageboy, she offered gentle, nonthreatening advice on sex, relationships, family and all manner of decent behavior.
It is noteworthy, then, that her public life began with fisticuffs. The demure-looking, scholarly Dr. Brothers had first come to wide attention as a contestant on “The $64,000 Question,” where she triumphed as an improbable authority on boxing.
Joyce Diane Bauer was born in Brooklyn on Oct. 20, 1927, and reared in Queens and Manhattan. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell, with a double major in home economics and psychology, followed by a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia.
In the late 1940s and early ’50s, Dr. Brothers taught psychology at Hunter College. By the mid-’50s, while her husband, Milton J. Brothers, was pursuing a medical residency, she had left the academy to stay home with their baby daughter.
Milton Brothers’s residency paid $50 a month. Joyce Brothers, who had a steel-trap memory, decided to supplement their income by appearing on a quiz show. She settled on “The $64,000 Question,” produced in New York and broadcast on CBS. On the show, contestants answered a string of increasingly difficult questions in fields of their choosing.
Dr. Brothers quickly saw that the show prized incongruous matches of contestant and subject: the straight-backed Marine officer who was an expert on gastronomy; the cobbler who knew all about opera. What she decided, would be more improbable than a petite psychologist who was a pundit of pugilism?
She embarked on weeks of intensive study, a process little different, she later said, from preparing to write a doctoral dissertation. She made her first appearance on the show in late 1955, returning week after week until she had won the top prize, $64,000 — only the second person, and the first woman, to do so. She later won the same amount, also for boxing knowledge, on a spinoff show, “The $64,000 Challenge.”
In the late 1950s, amid the quiz-show scandals (which included revelations that contestants on some shows, “The $64,000 Question” among them, had been fed correct answers), Dr. Brothers was called before a grand jury. In an exercise that was curiously reminiscent of her appearances on the shows, she was peppered with arcane boxing questions to test her authentic knowledge of the subject. She passed handily, and no taint of the scandal attached to her.
In 1956, as a result of her performance on “The $64,000 Question,” Dr. Brothers was invited to be a commentator on “Sports Showcase,” a television show on Channel 13 in New York, which had not yet become a noncommercial station. One show led to another, and before the decade was out she was a television star.
If, in later, years, Dr. Brothers’s public image had acquired the faint aura of camp, it was leavened by her obvious awareness of that fact — and her corresponding ability to laugh at herself in public. (Who without such self-knowledge would have agreed, as she did, to appear on both “The David Frost Show” and “The $1.98 Beauty Show,” a late-’70s Chuck Barris game show-cum-parody?)
But for the most part, Dr. Brothers displayed a far more serious side: More than once, she dissuaded suicidal callers to her radio show from ending their lives, keeping them on the line with encouraging talk until their phone numbers could be traced and help dispatched.
In her book “Widowed” (1990), she wrote candidly of her own suicidal despair after her husband’s death from cancer, and her eventual resolve to go on with her life.
Milton Brothers, an internist who specialized in diabetes treatment, died in 1989. Besides her daughter, an ophthalmic surgeon, Dr. Brothers is survived by a sister, Elaine Goldsmith; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Her other books include “The Brothers System for Liberated Love and Marriage” (1972) and “How to Get Whatever You Want Out of Life” (1978). Had it not been for “The $64,000 Question,” Dr. Brothers might well have remained a scholar whose publications ran toward “An Investigation of Avoidance, Anxiety, and Escape Behavior in Human Subjects as Measured by Action Potentials in Muscle,” as her doctoral dissertation was titled.
But in an era when few women managed to have high-profile public careers, Dr. Brothers was able to transform a single night — Dec. 6, 1955, the night of her $64,000 question — into more than five decades of celebrity.
The question was a multipart interrogation that caused the show to run 30 seconds long. Her responses, given from an isolation booth, conveyed the agility of her mind, the capacity of her memory and the ferocity of her determination.
That night Dr. Brothers supplied, among other impeccable answers, the name of the glove Roman gladiators wore (cestus), Primo Carnera’s opponent in his heavyweight title defense of 1933 (Paolino Uzcudun) and the name of the essayist (William Hazlitt) who wrote about having seen Bill Neat defeat Thomas Hickman on Dec. 11, 1821.
WILLIAM MILES, MAKER OF DOCUMENTARIES ABOUT BLACK HISTORY
Director William Miles, right, next to Nina Rosenblum, during the filming of “Liberators.”
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: May 18, 2013
William Miles, a self-taught filmmaker whose documentaries revealed untold stories of black America, including those of its heroic black soldiers and of life in its signature neighborhood, Harlem, where he himself grew up, died on May 12 in Queens. He was 82.
Washington University Film and Media Archive
The cause was uncertain, but Mr. Miles had myriad health problems, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia, said his wife of 61 years, Gloria.
Mr. Miles was part historical sleuth, part preservationist, part bard. His films, which combined archival footage, still photographs and fresh interviews, were triumphs of curiosity and persistence in unearthing lost material about forgotten subjects.
His first important film, “Men of Bronze” (1977), was about the 369th Infantry Regiment, an all-black combat unit that the Army shipped overseas during World War I but, because of segregationist policies, fought under the flag of France. Serving with great distinction, the unit spent more time in the front-line trenches than any other American unit. Collectively, it was awarded the Croix de Guerre and came to be known as the Harlem Hellfighters and also the Black Rattlers.
The 369th began as the 15th New York National Guard Infantry Regiment, and decades later, after Mr. Miles had himself joined a National Guard unit in Harlem, he stumbled on a dusty storage room containing flags, helmets photographs and other relics from the 369th.
He subsequently found well-preserved film footage of the regiment at the National Archives, and he tracked down living members of the unit using a technique he often employed to generate information about the past: He walked the streets of Harlem, stopping where groups of elderly residents gathered to talk and started asking questions.
The film, which was shown on public television, depicted the black soldiers as fiercely patriotic and courageous while offering an oddly good-natured — and moving — critique of American racism.
Mr. Miles’s best-known work was “I Remember Harlem,” a four-hour historical portrait of the neighborhood that had its premiere on public television over four consecutive nights in 1981.
“I was walking around Harlem, where I grew up, and noticed how many of the old theaters and familiar buildings were missing,” Mr. Miles said in an interview in The New York Times, talking about his inspiration for the film. “I went back to my old elementary school, and on the next corner there was another man standing and looking at the building, too.”
The man, he realized, was an old classmate.
“He said to me, ‘I remember Harlem,’ and I thought: I remember Harlem, you remember Harlem, a lot of people remember Harlem.”
Born in Harlem on April 18, 1931, Mr. Miles grew up on West 126th Street, behind the Apollo Theater, where, as a teenager, he occasionally ran the film projector. He graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School and for a while attended City College.
As a young man, he worked downtown as a shipping clerk for a distributor of educational films and then at Killiam Shows, a company that restored silent films; there, Mr. Miles learned mechanical skills like repairing film and clipping segments for use in commercials. During this time he met Richard Adams, who also worked at Killiam, and who became a cameraman and film editor for several of Mr. Miles’s films, including “Men of Bronze.”
“Bill had collaborators of all kinds,” Mr. Adams wrote in an e-mail on Thursday, “but only he had the vision and the persistence, and a genius for spotting archival images.”
One of Mr. Miles’s films, “Liberators” (1992), about black army units that helped to free Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II, was partly inspired by a letter he spotted in The Times from Benjamin Bender, a Jewish survivor of Buchenwald. “The recollections are still vivid — ” Mr. Bender wrote of the day of liberation, April 11, 1945, “black soldiers of the Third Army, tall and strong, crying like babies, carrying the emaciated bodies of the liberated prisoners.”
The film, produced and directed by Mr. Miles and Nina Rosenblum, was nominated for an Academy Award, but its accuracy was subsequently questioned. Its overall point of the film — that blacks who fought racism at home to be allowed to serve their country, then witnessed the discriminatory horrors of the Holocaust — was not in dispute, but critics said that the film went awry in giving credit to a particular unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, part of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army, for the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald. (The 761st was present at the liberation of the Gunskirchen camp in Austria.) Public television stations ceased showing the film.
In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Rosenblum said they had discovered, too late, that one of the interviewees in the film had lied about being a liberator, but she defended the film as essentially accurate, saying that Army records were inconclusive and that Mr. Miles was a scrupulous documentarian who was shattered by the controversy. “It was the only film he ever made that had its veracity questioned,” Ms. Rosenblum said. “And I can tell you he tried everything to make the research complete. He was putting black history on the map in a way it hadn’t been, and this was such a terrible blow. We still feel like the film, except for one guy, is valid. If the Army records are so good, tell me: Who liberated Benjamin Bender at Buchenwald?”
Mr. Miles married the former Gloria Darlington in 1952, after having known her since they were classmates in elementary school. His other survivors include two daughters, Brenda Moore and Deborah Jones, and three grandchildren.
Last fall, the veteran Democratic Congressman Charles B. Rangel, whose district includes Harlem, entered a testimonial to Mr. Miles in the Congressional Record. Speaking on the House floor, Mr. Rangel gave a summary of Mr. Miles’s work, which includes films about black athletes, black astronauts, black cowboys, and the writer James Baldwin.
“Join me in a very special congressional salute to Harlem’s historian and black filmmaker, William ‘Bill’ Miles,” Mr. Rangel said, “a titan of a man who has documented the history and contributions of African-Americans and the black American experience with film, camera and a lens.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 19, 2013
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of a company where Mr. Miles worked. The company was Killiam Shows, not Killian.
CHRISTINE WHITE, KNOWN FOR ‘TWILIGHT ZONE’ ROLE
CBS, via Photofest
Christine White with William Shatner in the 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
By WILLIAM YARDLEY
Published: May 18, 2013
Julia Wilson wore pearls and a face of reassurance as she and her husband, Robert, took their seats on an airplane operated by Gold Star Airways half a century ago. Robert Wilson had just been released from a sanitarium. Six months earlier he had suffered a mental breakdown — on an airplane.
“Honey, you are cured,” Mrs. Wilson told her anxious husband as they fastened their seat belts. “That Dr. Martin wouldn’t let you fly if you weren’t — would he?”
The Wilsons believed they were heading home. Viewers that night in 1963 were forewarned of their real destination: “The Twilight Zone.”
The episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” based on a short story by Richard Matheson, portrays a man’s descent from anxiety into startling but possibly lifesaving violence as he takes action to stop a “gremlin” that he — and only he — can see on the plane’s left wing tampering with an engine in the middle of a stormy flight. The show became a classic — remade in a movie, honored in song and spoofed on “Saturday Night Live,” “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “The Simpsons.”
It was dominated by the increasing terror of Mr. Wilson, played by William Shatner; the ghoulish camp of the gremlin, played by Nick Cravat, who was not credited; and the increasingly strained composure of Mrs. Wilson, played by Christine White.
Ms. White died on April 14 at 86 in a nursing home in Washington, according to adeath notice published May 11 in The Carroll County Times in Maryland.
Her role in the 25 minutes that comprise “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” may not have been as prominent as those of Mr. Shatner or Mr. Cravat. But it was central to the episode and perhaps the most memorable part she played in her quarter-century acting career.
Christine Lamson White was born on May 4, 1926, in Washington. She received a degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1947. She performed in plays in college and moved to New York after she graduated to pursue a career in theater. By the early 1950s she was in Hollywood, where she appeared in movies and television shows well into the 1970s, including “Bonanza,” “The Rifleman,” “The Untouchables” and “Father Knows Best.” Her survivors include numerous nieces and nephews.
In “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” viewers look to Julia Wilson to know what to make of her husband. While he worries, she dozes on sleeping pills. When he continues to see the gremlin out the window to his left, he turns to his wife, calm and determined to be supportive, to his right. At one point he begs her to tell the flight crew what he is seeing even though, when she looks out, or others do, the gremlin is nowhere in sight.
“I know it’s asking a lot,” he says. “It’s like asking you to advertise your marriage to a lunatic.”
Resolved to be devoted, she responds, “I’ll tell them. You just sit tight, and I’ll tell them.”