CARLO RAMBALDI, MOVIE MAESTRO OF SPECIAL EFFECTS, INCLUDING ‘ALIEN
By Daniel E. Slotnik
Published: August 10, 2012
- Carlo Rambaldi, a special-effects virtuoso who won two Academy Awards for his work on Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and a special achievement award from the Motion Picture Academy for John Guillermin’s 1976 remake of “King Kong,” died Friday in southern Italy. He was 86.
Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press
Carlo Rambaldi in 2002 with an Italian film award.
E.T., the Oscar-winning Mr. Rambaldi’s most famous creation.
His death was announced by Mario Caligiuri of the Calabria region’s cultural affairs council.
Mr. Rambaldi was adept at designing monsters, from the terrestrial to the decidedly not. His expertise in techniques including puppetry and mechanical and electronic engineering allowed him to breathe life into the most fantastic movie creatures of the 1970s and ’80s.
He designed and built an eyeless animatronic head that realized H. R. Giger’s parasitic beast in “Alien” and the benign, musical aliens of Mr. Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He also collaborated on animatronic masks, suits and a 42-foot-tall ape for “King Kong.” But his crowning achievement was “E.T.”
In “E.T.” an alien is marooned on Earth, where he befriends a lonely boy named Elliott who helps him to contact his home planet and return to space. For the movie to succeed, audiences would have to identify with, and love, a prop.
So Mr. Rambaldi used steel, polyurethane, rubber, and hydraulic and electronic controls to create an alien so ugly it was beguiling, with outsize eyes based on his cat’s and wizened skin (in some scenes E.T. was played by an actor in a suit). The alien was capable of 150 separate moves, like wrinkling his nose, furrowing his brow and extending his neck.
“Carlo Rambaldi was E.T.’s Geppetto,” Steven Spielberg said in a statement on Friday.
The movie has grossed nearly $800 million worldwide, proving that special effects could endear as well as titillate and horrify.
“The success of ‘E.T.’ means that it no longer is important that you have Marlon Brando or John Travolta,” Mr. Rambaldi told The New York Times. “If the special effect is created very well, most people don’t think whether it’s mechanical or not — they’re thinking about the story.”
Carlo Rambaldi was born in Vigarano, Italy, in 1925. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna and had a successful career as an artist before he started working on films. His first creation was a fire-breathing dragon in the 1957 Italian film “Sigfrido.”
The producer Dino de Laurentiis reached out to Mr. Rambaldi for help with the special effects in “King Kong.” He moved to the United States in the mid-1970s and stayed more than a decade, working on films like David Lynch’s “Dune” and Richard Fleischer’s “Conan the Destroyer.”
His last credited work was “Primal Rage,” a 1988 horror film directed by his son Vittorio.
Mr. Rambaldi was a traditionalist who disliked the advent of computerized special effects.
“The mystery’s gone,” he told an Italian news service. “It’s as if a magician had revealed all of his tricks.”
Information about Mr. Rambaldi’s survivors was not immediately available.
Mr. Rambaldi was susceptible to the charms of his creations, especially “E.T.,” even though he knew the tricks behind them.
“When I finally saw the finished movie,” he said, “even I cried a little.”
ROY S. BRYCE-LAPORTE, WHO LED BLACK STUDIES PROGRAM AT YALE
Published: August 8, 2012
- Roy S. Bryce-Laporte, a sociologist who led one of the nation’s first African-American studies departments, at Yale University, and did research that advanced understanding of blacks who came to the United States voluntarily rather than as slaves, died on July 31 in Sykesville, Md. He was 78.
Roy S. Bryce-Laporte
His brother, Herrington J. Bryce, said that the cause was undetermined, but that he had had a series of small strokes.
Professor Bryce-Laporte was named director of Yale’s new department of African-American studies in 1969, when colleges and universities were recruiting black students and searching for ways to include their culture, history and other concerns in the curriculum.
Students participated in the selection of Professor Bryce-Laporte. One of them, Donald H. Ogilvie, praised him as “not all academician and not all activist,” adding that Professor Bryce-Laporte was “still angry.”
Professor Bryce-Laporte taught a core course in the new program, “The Black Experience: Its Changes and Continuities,” which spanned the history of New World blacks from pre-slavery recruitment in Africa to 20th-century slums. He emphasized that black studies must address hot-button topics like racial stereotyping while retaining academic rigor.
“Black studies is the way by which respect is to be given to blacks and to knowledge about blacks,” he said in an article in The New York Times in 1969.
In an interview on Tuesday, the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who has written influentially on the black experience, said that as a Yale freshman he was inspired by Professor Bryce-Laporte to become a professor himself. “A different model was available to me,” he said.
Professor Gates said Professor Bryce-Laporte had urged students to involve themselves in activities like writing for the college newspaper and joining secret societies as steps to acquiring influence in the larger society. He said Professor Bryce-Laporte told students, “You’ve been chosen, you’ve been blessed.”
Sidney W. Mintz, chairman of the committee that created Yale’s black studies curriculum, called Professor Bryce-Laporte “the first manager of the futures” of the outstanding black students drawn to Yale. He advised them to cultivate discipline, no matter how eager they were to change the world.
“You have to be adults,” he said, according to Professor Mintz, now research professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University.
Yale’s program went beyond that of some colleges by studying blacks in the entire Western Hemisphere, an approach that meshed with Professor Bryce-Laporte’s research focus. He wrote articles and contributed to books on the African diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean. He examined how some sought new lives in the United States, and how some of them returned to the places in the Western Hemisphere they had left. The bulk of earlier research had concerned blacks brought unwillingly to the United States as slaves.
In 1986, when the centennial of the Statue of Liberty was being celebrated, Professor Bryce-Laporte curated an exhibit at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Manhattan that focused on black immigration. He collected old photographs, diaries and certificates of nationality given to laborers. “If there is a forgotten or overlooked fact of black history, it is migration,” he said in an interview with The Times.
Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte was born in Panama City on Sept. 7, 1933, and earned an associate’s degree from the University of Panama. He moved with his family to the United States and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He next did advanced studies at the University of Puerto Rico, then went to the University of California, Los Angeles, to complete a Ph.D. in sociology.
Before moving to Yale, where he taught for three years, he was an assistant sociology professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York. After his time at Yale, he led a varied career that included being a Woodrow Wilson International Scholar and the first director of the Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies at the Smithsonian Institution.
At Colgate University, Professor Bryce-Laporte was John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur professor of sociology and anthropology, and director of the Africana and Latin American Studies Program. He taught a course called “Total Institutions” in which he compared plantation slavery with social life in prisons and asylums.
Professor Bryce-Laporte, who had dual American and Panamanian citizenship, was married to Dorotea Lowe Bryce, who died in 2009. In addition to his brother, he is survived by his companion, Marian D. Holness; his sons, Robertino and Rene; his daughter, Camila Bryce-Laporte Morris; his sisters, Celestina Carter and Yvonne St. Hill; and three grandsons.
MARVIN HAMLISCH, COMPOSER WHOSE NOTES STRUCK GOLD
By ROB HOERBURGER
Published: August 7, 2012
- Marvin Hamlisch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who imbued his movie and Broadway scores with pizazz and panache and often found his songs in the upper reaches of the pop charts, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 68 and lived in New York.
Alex J. Berliner/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, via Associated Press
Mr. Hamlisch with Barbra Streisand.
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
A scene from the final performance of the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line” in 1990. Marvin Hamlisch won a Tony Award for his score to the show.
He collapsed on Monday after a brief illness, a family friend said.
For a few years starting in 1973, Mr. Hamlisch spent practically as much time accepting awards for his compositions as he did writing them. He is one of a handful of artists to win every major creative prize, some of them numerous times, including an Oscar for “The Way We Were” (1973, shared with the lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman), a Grammy as best new artist (1974), and a Tony and a Pulitzer for “A Chorus Line” (1975, shared with the lyricist Edward Kleban, the director Michael Bennett and the book writers James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante).
All told, he won three Oscars, four Emmys and four Grammys. His omnipresence on awards and talk shows made him one of the last in a line of celebrity composers that included Henry Mancini, Burt Bacharach and Stephen Sondheim. Mr. Hamlisch, bespectacled and somewhat gawky, could often appear to be the stereotypical music school nerd — in fact, at 7 he was the youngest student to be accepted to the Juilliard School at the time — but his appearance belied his intelligence and ability to banter easily with the likes of Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. His melodies were sure-footed and sometimes swashbuckling. “One,” from “A Chorus Line,” with its punchy, brassy lines, distills the essence of the Broadway showstopper.
“A Chorus Line,” a backstage musical in which Broadway dancers told their personal stories, started as a series of taped workshops, then evolved into a show that opened at the Public Theater in 1975 and moved to Broadway later that year. It ran for 6,137 performances, the most of any Broadway musical until it was surpassed by “Cats.”
“I have to keep reminding myself that ‘A Chorus Line’ was initially considered weird and off the wall,” Mr. Hamlisch told The New York Times in 1983. “You mustn’t underestimate an audience’s intelligence.” The lyricist Alan Jay Lerner called “A Chorus Line” “the great show business story of our time.”
Mr. Hamlisch had a long association with Barbra Streisand that began when, at 19, he became a rehearsal pianist for her show “Funny Girl.” Yet he told Current Biography in 1976 that Ms. Streisand was reluctant to record what became the pair’s greatest collaboration, “The Way We Were,” the theme from the 1973 movie of the same name in which Ms. Streisand starred with Robert Redford.
“I had to beg her to sing it,” he said. “She thought it was too simple.”
Mr. Hamlisch prevailed, though, and the song became a No. 1 pop single, an Oscar winner and a signature song for Ms. Streisand. They continued to work together across the decades; Mr. Hamlisch was the musical director for her 1994 tour and again found himself accepting an award for his work, this time an Emmy.
Ms. Streisand said in a statement through her publicist that the world will always remember Mr. Hamlisch’s music, but that it was “his brilliantly quick mind, his generosity and delicious sense of humor that made him a delight to be around.”
Mr. Hamlisch had his second-biggest pop hit with “Nobody Does It Better,” the theme from the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me,” written with the lyricist Carole Bayer Sager. Carly Simon’s recording of the song reached No. 2 in 1977. Thom Yorke, the lead singer of the band Radiohead, which has performed the song in concert more recently, called it “the sexiest song ever written.”
Yet for all Mr. Hamlisch’s pop success — he and Ms. Bayer Sager also wrote a No. 1 soul hit for Aretha Franklin, “Break It to Me Gently” — his first love was writing for theater and the movies. His score for “The Sting,” which adapted the ragtime music of Scott Joplin, made him a household ubiquity in 1973.
Despite the acclaim he often said he thought his background scores were underappreciated. He said he would love for an audience to “see a movie once without the music” to appreciate how the experience changed. He would go on to write more than 40 movie scores.
Marvin Frederick Hamlisch was born June 2, 1944, in New York . His father, Max, was an accordionist, and at age 5 Mr. Hamlisch was reproducing on the piano songs he heard on the radio; Juilliard soon followed. According to his wife, Terre Blair, he was being groomed as “the next Horowitz,” but when all the doors were closed and everyone was gone he would play show tunes. He performed some concerts and recitals as a teenager at Town Hall and other Manhattan auditoriums, but soon gave up on the idea of being a full-time performer.
“Before every recital, I would violently throw up, lose weight, the veins on my hands would stand out,” he told Current Biography.
He had no such reaction, though, when his song “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” with lyrics by Howard Liebling, became a Top 20 hit in 1965 for Lesley Gore, when Mr. Hamlisch was 21. The movie producer Sam Spiegel heard him playing piano a few years later at a party and as a result Mr. Hamlisch scored his first film, “The Swimmer.”
Mr. Hamlisch soon moved to Los Angeles, and the successes snowballed. But he remained a New Yorker through and through. He once said he liked New York because it was the one place “where you’re allowed to wear a tie.”
Mr. Hamlisch is survived by Ms. Blair, a television broadcaster and producer, whom he married in 1989.
After “A Chorus Line,” Mr. Hamlisch scored another Broadway hit, “They’re Playing Our Song,” based on his relationship with Ms. Bayer Sager (who wrote the lyrics), in 1979. It ran for 1,082 performances. After that, the accolades subsided but the work didn’t. He worked with various lyricists on subesequent musicals, including “Jean Seberg” (1983), which was staged in London but never reached Broadway, and “Smile” (1986), which did reach Broadway but had a very brief run. His most steady work continued to come from the movies. He wrote the background scores for “Ordinary People,” “Sophie’s Choice” and, most recently, “The Informant.” His later theater scores included “The Goodbye Girl” (1993), “Sweet Smell of Success” (2002) and “Imaginary Friends” (2002). He had also completed the scores for an HBO movie based on the life of Liberace, “Behind the Candelabra,” and for a musical based on the Jerry Lewis film “The Nutty Professor,” which opened in Nashville last month.
According to his official Web site, Mr. Hamlisch held the title of pops conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and others.
In more recent years, Mr. Hamlisch became an ambassador for music, traveling the country and performing and giving talks at schools. He often criticized the cuts in arts education.
“I don’t think the American government gets it,” he said during an interview at the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, Calif. “I don’t think they understand it’s as important as math and science. It rounds you out as a person. I think it gives you a love of certain things. You don’t have to become the next great composer. It’s just nice to have heard certain things or to have seen certain things. It’s part of being a human being.”
Despite all his honors, Mr. Hamlisch was always most focused on, and most excited about, his newest project. Ms. Blair said. And, she said, he was always appreciative of his gift: “He used to say, ‘It’s easy to write things that are so self-conscious that they become pretentious, that have a lot of noise. It’s very hard to write a simple melody.’ ”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 7, 2012
An earlier version of this article said that Alan Jay Lerner was a composer; he was a lyricist.
JUDITH CRIST, A BLUNT AND INFLUENTIAL FILM CRITIC
Published: August 7, 2012
- Judith Crist, one of America’s most widely read film critics for more than three decades and a provocative presence in millions of homes as a regular reviewer on the “Today” show, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 90.
Her death was confirmed by her son, Steven.
Ms. Crist came to prominence when film was breaking with the conventions of the Hollywood studio era while experiencing a resurgence in popularity. She championed a new generation of American directors like Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen and new actors like Robert De Niro and Faye Dunaway.
Her commentary had many homes: The New York Herald Tribune, where she was the first woman to be made a full-time critic for a major American newspaper; New York magazine, where she was the founding film critic; and TV Guide, which most defined her to readers. Her reviews appeared there for 22 years at a time when the magazine reached a peak readership of more than 20 million.
She was the “Today” show’s first regular movie critic, a morning fixture on NBC from 1963 to 1973. And she wrote for Saturday Review, Gourmet and Ladies’ Home Journal.
A Harris Poll of moviegoers in the 1960s cited her as their favorite critic. When TV Guide decided to dismiss her in 1983 to replace her column with a computerized movie summary, executives told her that they might beg her to return in six months. The magazine was deluged with letters and asked her back three weeks later. She was given a raise and stayed until 1988.
Her zingers could be withering. In March 1965, she panned three major releases in a single “Today” appearance: “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (“A kind of dime-store holy picture”), “Lord Jim” (“A lot of heavy five-cent philosophy”) and “The Sound of Music” (“Icky-sticky”).
Reviewing Anne Bancroft’s performance as a troubled wife in the 1964 film “The Pumpkin Eater,” Ms. Crist wrote in The Herald Tribune, “She seems a cowlike creature with no aspirations or intellect above her pelvis.” Of “The Sound of Music,” a box-office smash in 1965 and one of the most popular films of all time, she said, “The movie is for the 5-to-7 set and their mommies who think the kids aren’t up to the stinging sophistication and biting wit of ‘Mary Poppins.’ ”
She kicked up storms almost immediately after the paper made her its movie critic in 1963. Six weeks after her appointment, her scathing review of “Spencer’s Mountain,” starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara, led Warner Brothers and Radio City Music Hall, where the film was shown, to briefly withdraw their advertising. The Herald Tribune’s publisher stood behind her. The ads soon returned.
Her put-down of “Cleopatra” the next month “as a monumental mouse” added to her notoriety. There were threats, soon forgotten, to ban her from screenings. The critic Roger Ebert told The Chicago Tribune in 1999 that the movie industry’s retaliation for her commentary “led to every newspaper in the country saying, ‘Hey, we ought to get a real movie critic.’ ”
Ms. Crist eschewed pretension, but never explanation. Though she had disagreements with Pauline Kael of The New Yorker, she generally avoided the kind of intellectual dueling that Ms. Kael engaged in with Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice. Her job, she said, was to expand on the “Wow!” or the “Yuck!” a moviegoer might utter. The author and editor Richard R. Lingeman, writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1968, said her “level of discourse” was more that of Consumer Reports than of Partisan Review.
Her enthusiasm for film cut across all genres. In a 1985 interview with The Christian Science Monitor, she insisted that a true movie fan takes James Bond as seriously as “the grand auteurism of Bergman.”
Yet many of her largest bouquets went to auteurs like Truffaut, Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray and David Lean. Her American favorites included Stanley Kubrick, John Cassavetes and Robert Altman.
Her knife could cut both ways. In reviewing “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” Kubrick’s satirical 1964 masterpiece, she called Kubrick a “boy genius.” But four years later she said his film “2001: A Space Odyssey” would be “pithy and potent” — if it were cut in half.
Ms. Crist’s acidity provoked the director Billy Wilder to say, “Inviting her to review one of your pictures is like inviting the Boston Strangler to massage your neck.”
Judith Klein was born in Manhattan on May 22, 1922. Her family moved to Montreal when she was an infant, and she spent her first 12 years there before moving back to New York.
Her father, Solomon Klein, had business interests in furs and jewelry but lost everything in the Depression. He became a traveling salesman and invented things, according to an essay she wrote in Time magazine in 2008. Her mother, the former Helen Schoenberg, was a librarian and translator.
Ms. Crist was 5 when she saw her first movie, “7th Heaven,” a silent film with an Oscar-winning performance by Janet Gaynor. But she became a “movie nut,” she said, when she saw Charlie Chaplin’s “Gold Rush” (1925). She began sneaking out to the movies, telling her mother that she was swimming at the Y or studying at the library.
Ms. Crist said she might have made Phi Beta Kappa at Hunter College in Manhattan had she not cut class so many times to go to the movies. She went on to do graduate work in 18th-century English literature at Columbia, teach at Washington State University, become a civilian English instructor for the Air Force and attend the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia, finishing her degree in 1945.
Her first job at The Herald Tribune was assistant to the women’s editor. After becoming a general-assignment reporter, she won a George Polk Award in 1951 for her education coverage.
She saw her first “blue” movie as the only woman covering Senate hearings on pornography in New York in 1945. Her male colleagues insisted that she leave the room during their private screening of the film in question, “Breaking In Blondie.” The unbuttoning scene was just beginning when she had to leave.
Her pocketbook gave her an advantage, however, while covering a news conference for a new Marilyn Monroe film. When Monroe broke a shoulder strap, Ms. Crist supplied her with a safety pin and was granted an exclusive interview.
She began writing theater reviews in 1957 while continuing to cover news. Three years later she became arts editor. During a newspaper strike in 1963 she reviewed theater and movies for WABC. Her aptitude for the medium was noticed by the “Today” show producers who later hired her. After the strike’s end, and after meeting with The Tribune’s editor, James Bellows, and publisher, John Hay Whitney (known as Jock), she became The Tribune’s movie critic on April 1, 1963. She wrote that she was immediately “famous” six weeks later for her “Spencer’s Mountain” review, which described the film as “sheer prurience and perverted morality disguised as piety.”
When the film’s producer and theater threatened advertisement cuts, The Herald Tribune stood firmly behind her on First Amendment grounds.
As movies veered toward more explicit sexuality, she could be critical.
“I’m tired of bare breasts, buttocks and bellies,” she said in an interview with Newsweek in 1967. “I’m not a bluenose, but this penchant for flesh is moronic and unhealthy. It’s a big shill.”
Ms. Crist, who taught at the Columbia journalism school for more than 50 years, continuing until this February, also held a small film festival in Tarrytown, N.Y. It began in 1971 and included appearances by famous directors and actors, as well as showings of still-unreleased movies. Woody Allen used it as a model for his fictional film festival in “Stardust Memories.” She ended it in 2006.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Ms. Crist reviewed films for Coming Attractions magazine. She continued to write on other topics, including an article on TV dinners for Gourmet magazine in 2000.
Ms. Crist published a collection of reviews, “The Private Eye, the Cowboy, and the Very Naked Girl: Movies From Cleo to Clyde” (1968) and edited, designed or contributed to several more books.
She is survived by her son, editor and publisher emeritus of The Daily Racing Form and a former reporter for The New York Times. Her husband, William B. Crist, a public relations counselor, died in 1993.
Ms. Crist said a critic must be an egomaniac. But she went on to say a larger job requirement was passion, perhaps even love, for what movies are, do and can be.
“Amid all the easily loved darlings of Charlie Brown’s circle, obstreperous Lucy holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “She fusses and fumes and she carps and complains. That’s because Lucy cares. And it’s the caring that counts.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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