Van Johnson, a film actor whose affable charm and boyish good looks helped turn him into a major Hollywood star during World War II, died Friday in Nyack, N.Y. He was 92.
Van Johnson starred with Lana Turner in “Weekend at the Waldorf” in 1945.
Mario Suriani/Associated Press
Mr. Johnson in 1985.
His death, at the Tappan Zee Manor assisted living facility, was announced by a spokesman, Daniel Demello, of Shirley Herz Associates in New York.
Mr. Johnson won praise in his first dramatic role, as the pilot whose story is told in “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”
(1944). He drew good notices for his work in “The Caine Mutiny,” Edward Dmytryk
’s 1954 adaptation of the Herman Wouk novel, in which he played the naval lieutenant who is compelled to relieve the erratic Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart
) of command while at sea. And critics liked him as well the following year in Dmytryk’s adaptation of Graham Greene
’s novel “The End of the Affair,”
he which Mr. Johnson played an illicit lover opposite Sarah Miles.
But it was his wartime film career that catapulted Mr. Johnson to fame, and it gave him a boy-next-door image that he could never live down. He was the red-haired, freckle-faced soldier, sailor or B-25 bomber pilot who used to live down the street in a dozen MGM movies between 1942 and 1946. He attracted hordes of bobby-soxers during the war years. Indeed, the numbers of screaming teen-aged girls who swooned for Mr. Johnson were second only to those who threw themselves at Frank Sinatra
Mr. Johnson got his big break in “A Guy Named Joe”
(1943), playing a young fighter pilot who acquires an older pilot (Spencer Tracy
) as his guardian angel after the older man is killed in a crash.
In real life, it was Mr. Johnson who was almost killed in an automobile accident that occurred midway through the movie’s production. It was obvious by then that his charming, likable screen presence would make him a star. During the months Mr. Johnson was hospitalized, both Tracy and his co-star, Irene Dunne
, refused to allow the studio to recast the part.
Mr. Johnson had supporting roles in movies like “The War Against Mrs. Hadley”
(1942) and “Madame Curie”
(1943), but “A Guy Named Joe” gave him two things: a lot of publicity and a steel plate in his head that kept him from being drafted at a time when major MGM stars like Robert Taylor
, Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable
were joining the armed services. The film was a huge box-office success.
In 1944, a time when actors worked under contract in a studio caste system, Mr. Johnson was promoted from featured player to MGM’s official star list. He was paired with Miss Williams in “Thrill of a Romance”
(1945) and with Lana Turner
in “Weekend at the Waldorf”
(1945). At studio premieres and parties, he wore red socks with his tuxedo, a trademark.
By 1945, Mr. Johnson was second behind Bing Crosby
on the list of the Top 10 box-office stars chosen yearly by the nation’s theater owners. In 1946, he was third. Then Hollywood’s bit male stars came back from the war, and he dropped off the list.
Like many MGM stars of that era, including June Allyson
, with whom he starred in four films, Mr. Johnson did not find his contract burdensome. He was never known to have asked for a raise or turned down a part he was told to play.
In 1985, he said of his years at MGM: “It was one big happy family and a little kingdom. Everything was provided for us, from singing lessons to barbells. All we had to do was inhale, exhale and be charming. I used to dread leaving the studio to go out into the real world, because to me the studio was the real world.”
Mr. Johnson said he wasn’t even upset when the studio head L.B. Mayer learned that he was living with a young actress and insisted that he move out: “That was the way of the studio.”
In his 12 years at the studio, Mr. Johnson had acted and mostly starred in nearly 50 movies. But as he once asked a reporter rhetorically: “How long can you go on being the boy next door?”
He was born Charles Van Johnson on Aug. 25, 1916, in Newport, R.I. His mother, an alcoholic, deserted the family when he was a boy, and he was dutifully but coldly raised by the dour Swedish-American father, a plumber, for whom he was named. According to his stepson, Ned Wynn, when Mr. Johnson became a star, he invited his father to California and proudly took him to the famous Chasen’s restaurant. Charles Johnson refused to eat anything but a tuna fish sandwich.
“Van was devastated,” Mr. Wynn wrote in a memoir, “We Have Always Lived in Beverly Hills.” “He had wanted to show his father that now, after years of a gray, loveless, miserly life, he was a star, he could afford steak. And the old bastard had beaten him down one more time.”
As soon as he graduated from high school in 1935, Mr. Johnson fled to New York. He sang, danced and played the violin, and after several months got a job touring New England as a substitute dancer. He first set foot on a Broadway stage in the successful revue “New Faces”
in May 1936.
After “New Faces” closed, his career was a mosaic of chorus boy jobs, resort hotel gigs and finally, nightclub work in “Eight Young Men of Manhattan” at the Rainbow Room, an act built around Mary Martin
He was an understudy to Desi Arnaz
and Eddie Bracken in George Abbott’s Broadway musical “Too Many Girls,”
which earned him a small role in Abbott’s “Pal Joey,”
which earned him two trips to Hollywood. Columbia didn’t like his screen test, but Warner Bros.
offered him a contract at $300 a week, gave him the leading role of a cub reporter opposite Faye Emerson in “Murder in the Big House (1942), and dropped him after six months.
He was on his way back to New York when Lucille Ball
, whom he knew from his years of bouncing around the East Coast, took him to the MGM casting director Billy Grady. He made his debut as a young soldier in the Clark Gable-Lana Turner drama “Somewhere I’ll Find You”
(1942). He was the pilot who survived in “Pilot No. 5”
(1943), the soldier who died in William Saroyan’s “Human Comedy” (1943) and the sailor who had his choice of June Allyson or Gloria DeHaven in “Two Girls and a Sailor.”
He also replaced Lew Ayres
in the successful Dr. Kildare series, which was renamed the Dr. Gillespie series for the co-star, Lionel Barrymore
, after Ayres announced he was a conscientious objector. Mr. Johnson shocked MGM and dismayed his fans in 1947 when he stole the wife of his best friend, the MGM character actor Keenan Wynn. But by the time he married Evie Wynn, he was too big a star for the studio to punish. They had a daughter, Schuyler, in 1948, separated in 1962 and were divorced in 1968. Mr. Johnson did not remarry.
The actor’s screen image was all laughter and sunshine. “Cheery Van,” he later defined himself ironically. Actually, the deprivations of his childhood cast long shadows, and he was, by nature, moody and morose. “His tolerance of unpleasantness was minuscule,” his stepson wrote. “If there was the slightest hint of trouble with one of the children, or with the house, the car, the servants, the delivery of the newspaper, the lack of ice in the silver ice bucket, the color of the candles on the dining room table, Van immediately left the couch, the dinner table, the pool, the tennis court, the party, the restaurant, the vacation, and strode off to his bedroom.”
Long after World War II was over, Mr. Johnson was still fighting it: in ““Command Decision”
(1948) as a staff sergeant; as a happy-go-lucky private in William Wellman
’s excellent recreation of the Battle of the Bulge, “Battleground”
(1949); and as a prejudiced army lieutenant in charge of a group of Japanese-American soldiers in “Go For Broke” (1951).
After floundering for more than a decade after he left MGM, Mr. Johnson made the mistake of turning down the Eliot Ness role in the television series “The Untouchables”
— Robert Stack
got the role — but he found frequent work on television all the same for decades, making guest appearances on a wide range of shows, from “Batman” in the ’60s (he played The Minstrel) to “Murder, She Wrote” in the ’80s. He also had a small part in Woody Allen
’s 1985 film “The Purple Rose of Cairo.”
Mr. Johnson had lived at Tappan Zee Manor, an assisted living facility, for the last seven years. Before that he lived at 405 East 54th Street in Manhattan. He had been estranged from his daughter for many years, his spokesman, Mr. Demello, said, adding that he had no other information on survivors.
In the 1970s Mr. Johnson began a second career in summer stock and dinner theater. When he turned 60, he told a reporter that he had beaten cancer twice and was so booked up with summer theater jobs that he never got home to his Manhattan penthouse and his two cats.
At 69, he went back to New York and Broadway to replace Gene Barry
as Georges in “La Cage aux Folles,” playing the role for a year. At 75, with his red hair turned white and his figure grown rotund, he toured as Captain Andy in “Show Boat.”
“These are supposed to be my September years,” Mr. Johnson told an interviewer. “I’m supposed to be at home enjoying them, but I still love to tour.”
Spencer Tracy had given him two pieces of advice: to take up painting as a hobby and never to read reviews. He traveled everywhere with a paint box and with his embroidery, a hobby he chose for himself.
When Mr. Johnson was a few years shy of 80, he mused: “Maybe Garbo and Crawford and Marlene had the right idea. Get out of the damned spotlight while you can still be remembered for your earlier glories, not as some old relic.”
But he never took his own advice.
‘THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO’ 1944 (TRAILER):
RICHARD TOPUS, A PIGEON TRAINER IN WORLD WAR II
In January 1942, barely a month after Pearl Harbor, the United States War Department sounded a call to enlist. It wasn’t men they wanted — not this time. The Army was looking for pigeons.
Richard Topus helped American spies and the military in the swift, silent use of birds in wartime.
To the thousands of American men and boys who raced homing pigeons, a popular sport in the early 20th century and afterward, the government’s message was clear: Uncle Sam Wants Your Birds.
Richard Topus was one of those boys. He had no birds of his own to give, but he had another, unassailable asset: he was from Brooklyn, where pigeon racing had long held the status of a secular religion. His already vast experience with pigeons — long, ardent hours spent tending and racing them after school and on weekends — qualified him, when he was still a teenager, to train American spies and other military personnel in the swift, silent use of the birds in wartime.
World War II saw the last wide-scale use of pigeons as agents of combat intelligence. Mr. Topus, just 18 when he enlisted in the Army, was among the last of the several thousand pigeoneers, as military handlers of the birds were known, who served the United States in the war.
A lifelong pigeon enthusiast who became a successful executive in the food industry, Mr. Topus died on Dec. 5 in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the age of 84. The cause was kidney failure, his son Andrew said.
Richard Topus was born in Brooklyn on March 15, 1924, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. Growing up in Flatbush, he fell in love with the pigeons his neighbors kept on their rooftops in spacious coops known as lofts. His parents would not let him have a loft of his own — they feared it would interfere with schoolwork, Andrew Topus said — but he befriended several local men who taught him to handle their birds. Two of them had been pigeoneers in World War I, when the United States Army
Pigeon Service was formally established.
Pigeons have been used as wartime messengers at least since antiquity. Before the advent of radio communications, the birds were routinely used as airborne couriers, carrying messages in tiny capsules strapped to their legs. A homing pigeon can find its way back to its loft from nearly a thousand miles away. Over short distances, it can fly a mile a minute. It can go where human couriers often cannot, flying over rough terrain and behind enemy lines.
By the early 20th century, advances in communications technology seemed to herald the end of combat pigeoneering. In 1903, a headline in The New York Times confidently declared, “No Further Need of Army Pigeons: They Have Been Superseded by the Adoption of Wireless Telegraph Systems.”
But technology, the Army discovered, has its drawbacks. Radio transmissions can be intercepted. Triangulated, they can reveal the sender’s location. In World War I, pigeons proved their continued usefulness in times of enforced radio silence. After the United States entered World War II, the Army put out the call for birds to racing clubs nationwide.
Tens of thousands were donated.
In all, more than 50,000 pigeons served the United States in the war. Many were shot down. Others were set upon by falcons released by the Nazis to intercept them. (The British countered by releasing their own falcons to pursue German messenger pigeons. But since falcons found Allied and Axis birds equally delicious, their deployment as defensive weapons was soon abandoned by both sides.)
But many American pigeons did reach their destinations safely, relaying vital messages from soldiers in the field to Allied commanders. The information they carried — including reports on troop movements and tiny hand-sketched maps — has been widely credited with saving thousands of lives during the war.
Mr. Topus enlisted in early 1942 and was assigned to the Army Signal Corps, which included the Pigeon Service. He was eventually stationed at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, one of several installations around the country at which Army pigeons were raised and trained. There, he joined a small group of pigeoneers, not much bigger than a dozen men.
Camp Ritchie specialized in intelligence training, and Mr. Topus and his colleagues schooled men and birds in the art of war. They taught the men to feed and care for the birds; to fasten on the tiny capsules containing messages written on lightweight paper; to drop pigeons from airplanes; and to jump out of airplanes themselves, with pigeons tucked against their chests. The Army had the Maidenform Brassiere Company make paratroopers’ vests with special pigeon pockets
The birds, for their part, were trained to fly back to lofts whose locations were changed constantly. This skill was crucial: once the pigeons were released by troops in Europe, the Pacific or another theater, they would need to fly back to mobile combat lofts in those places rather than light out for the United States. Mr. Topus and his colleagues also bred pigeons, seeking optimal combinations of speed and endurance.
After the war, Mr. Topus earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Hofstra University
. While he was a student, he earned money selling eggs — chicken eggs — door to door and afterward started a wholesale egg business. In the late 1950s, Mr. Topus became the first salesman at Friendship Food Products, a dairy company then based in Maspeth, Queens; he retired as executive vice president for sales and marketing. (The company, today based in Jericho, N.Y. and a subsidiary of Dean Foods, is now known as Friendship Dairies.)
In the 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Topus taught marketing at Hofstra; the C. W. Post campus of Long Island University
; and the State University of New York
, Farmingdale, where he started a management-training program for supermarket professionals. In later years, after retiring to Scottsdale, he taught at Arizona State University
and was also a securities arbitrator, hearing disputes between stockbrokers and their clients.
Besides his son Andrew, of Chicago, Mr. Topus is survived by his wife, the former Jacqueline Buehler, whom he married in 1948; two other children, Nina Davis of Newton, Mass.; and David, of Atlanta; and four grandchildren.
Though the Army phased out pigeons in the late 1950s, Mr. Topus raced them avidly till nearly the end of his life. He left a covert, enduring legacy of his hobby at Friendship, for which he oversaw the design of the highly recognizable company logo, a graceful bird in flight, in the early 1960s.
From that day to this, the bird has adorned cartons of the company’s cottage cheese, sour cream, buttermilk and other products. To legions of unsuspecting consumers, Andrew Topus said last week, the bird looks like a dove. But to anyone who really knew his father, it is a pigeon, plain as day.
ROBERT CHANDLER, A CREATOR OF THE ’60 MINUTES’ FORMAT
Robert Chandler, a former CBS
executive who played a crucial role in creating the highly rated and critically acclaimed weekly newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” died Thursday at his home in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 80.
Associated Press, Undated
The cause was heart failure, his son Doug said.
Mr. Chandler was a producer and director of documentaries and election coverage in 1966 when his colleague Don Hewitt
proposed a new format: a newsmagazine with several segments rather than the standard hourlong documentary.
“In the formative years, he was our biggest fan at CBS,” Mr. Hewitt, who was executive producer of “60 Minutes” for 36 years, said in an interview on Friday. “Chandler pushed ‘60 Minutes’ to replace ‘CBS Reports’ when Fred Friendly and Dick Salant were not enthusiastic about the idea of a weekly newsmagazine.”
Mr. Friendly was president of CBS News from 1964 to 1966 and Mr. Salant led the division from 1966 to 1979. The first “60 Minutes” was broadcast on Sept. 24, 1968.
“Bob played a very important part in setting up the format,” Mr. Hewitt said, “and now almost everybody in the world, certainly in Europe and Asia, has a weekly newsmagazine.”
By 1973, Mr. Chandler was vice president for public affairs broadcasting and Mr. Hewitt’s boss, with budget oversight and a voice in story selection.
As director of the network’s election unit in the late 1960s, Mr. Chandler created and operated the CBS News Poll. In that capacity, he negotiated the 1976 partnership that established The New York Times/CBS News Poll. He also supervised the network’s coverage of elections and conventions from 1968 through 1974.
Among the documentaries that Mr. Chandler produced, co-produced or wrote in his 22 years at CBS were “Under Surveillance” (1971), a report on the government’s surveillance of dissenters, and “The People of South Vietnam: How They Feel About the War” (1967).
In 1975, Mr. Chandler was promoted to vice president for administration and assistant to the president of CBS News. He retired from the network in 1985, but later worked at NBC
and, in 1990, was executive producer of a two-hour PBS
documentary, “Learning in America: Schools That Work.”
Robert Zuckerkandle was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 25, 1928, one of two sons of Louis and Minnie Gurin Zuckerkandle. (He chose Chandler as a pen name before legally changing his last name.)
Mr. Chandler earned a degree in economics in 1949 at City College of New York
, where he was also editor of the college newspaper. In his sophomore year he met Eleanor Reiff; they were married in 1951.
After college, Mr. Chandler was hired by Variety as a music reporter. He served in the United States Army
in Germany from 1951 to 1953, then returned to Variety to cover radio and television. In 1961, MGM hired him as publicity director for its television division.
Two years later, he joined CBS as public relations director for the news division. In addition to his wife and his son Doug, Mr. Chandler is survived by another son, Larry; his brother, Martin; and one grandchild.
RON CAREY, WHO LED TEAMSTERS REFORMS
, a parcel truck driver from Queens who became president of the Teamsters
union and led a successful strike by 185,000 workers against United Parcel Service, but was then ousted in a campaign finance scandal, died on Thursday in Queens. He was 72.
He died of lung cancer at New York Hospital Queens, said Ken Paff, a longtime friend and supporter.
Mr. Carey, one of the most prominent labor leader of the 1990s, having run on an anti-corruption platform to capture the presidency of a union long notorious for Mafia connections.
A wiry man with a smoldering intensity and a strident voice, Mr. Carey initially developed a reputation as Mr. Clean by vowing to root out corruption from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which was the nation’s largest private-sector union, with 1.4 million members, when he took its helm in 1992.
After having faced death threats during the election campaign, Mr. Carey vowed to restore honesty and eliminate the union leadership’s luxurious trappings. He sold the union’s two private jets, cut the president’s salary by one-third and removed from union locals more than 70 leaders who were found to be corrupt.
In 1997, in the biggest strike in more than a decade, he led a 15-day walkout against U.P.S., generating huge public support for the union. When the Teamsters emerged victorious, many union leaders hailed Mr. Carey as having turned around labor’s sagging fortunes; he got U.P.S. to back off demands for pension concessions, to convert thousands of part-time jobs to full time and increase part-timers’ wages for the first time in 15 years.
Just days after the strike ended, a federal union overseer moved to overturn Mr. Carey’s 1996 re-election victory over James P. Hoffa
, son of the famous Teamsters leader. The overseer asserted that Mr. Carey and his aides had arranged to contribute more than $750,000 in union money to several liberal organizations, while donors to those groups contributed more than $100,000 to Mr. Carey’s re-election campaign in exchange. Federal law prohibits using union money on behalf of a union candidate.
In 1998, a court-appointed review board expelled Mr. Carey from the union. It did not find that he had participated in the scheme, instead finding that he had breached his fiduciary duties by not detecting the scheme and stopping it.
Ronald Robert Carey was born in Manhattan on March 22, 1936, the second of five sons of Joseph and Loretta Carey. His father was a United Parcel driver for 40 years.
He graduated from Haaren High School in Manhattan and was offered a swimming scholarship to St. John’s University
. After turning it down, he joined the Marines
and served from 1953 to 1955. At 18, he married the girl who lived upstairs, Barbara Murphy.
He is survived by his wife, along with their five children, Ronald, of Babylon, N.Y., Sandra Perrone of Smithtown, N.Y., and Daniel, Pamela Casabarro and Barbara Marchese, all of Queens. He is also survived by 13 grandchildren.
Concerned that he could not support a family on Marine wages, Mr. Carey became a U.P.S. driver in Queens in 1956. Two years later, he became a shop steward with Teamsters Local 804, becoming its secretary in 1965 and president in 1967.
In his 24 years as head of that 7,000-member local, he developed a reputation as being clean as he sought to disassociate himself from the parent union’s mob-influenced leadership. Moreover, he barred the local’s officers from putting relatives on the payroll and insisted that they visit the truck yard daily.
He also won a reputation for delivering at the bargaining table, becoming one of the first local leaders to win his members a pension after 25 years of employment, regardless of their retirement age. With a reputation as a fighter; he led walkouts of 9 to 13 weeks in 1968, 1971 and 1974.
Steven Brill’s 1978 book, “The Teamsters,” catapulted him to national attention, devoting a chapter to him and describing him as an honest, exemplary leader.
He ran for the union’s presidency in 1991 against two longtime insiders, winning with 48.5 percent of the vote, a narrow victory that encouraged what he called the old guard to challenge him at every turn. Asserting that union dues were to help union members, not union leaders, he angered many officials by barring them from drawing multiple salaries.
The court-appointed review board expelled Mr. Carey from the Teamsters in 1998. Mr. Carey insisted that decision was wrong. Then in January 2001, federal prosecutors indicted him, not on charges of participating in the campaign financing scheme, but of lying to investigators that he knew nothing about it. In October 2001, after a four-week trial, a jury found him not guilty.
Throughout that trial and the years afterward, Mr. Carey insisted that he was not corrupt and that he had known nothing about the campaign scheme conducted by his aides.
He said that if aides had informed him of the scheme, “I would have stopped that dead in its tracks.”
BETTIE PAGE, QUEEN OF PINUPS
, a legendary pinup girl whose photographs in the nude, in bondage and in naughty-but-nice poses appeared in men’s magazines and private stashes across America in the 1950s and set the stage for the sexual revolution of the rebellious ’60s, died Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 85.
Courtesy of Everett Collection
Bettie Page, with trademark heels and bangs, in the 1950s. More Photos »
Courtesy of Everett Collection
Bettie Page, with trademark heels and bangs, in the 1950s. More Photos >
Her death was reported by her agent, Mark Roesler, on Ms. Page’s Web site, bettiepage.com.
Ms. Page, whose popularity underwent a cult-like revival in the last 20 years, had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia and was about to be released Dec. 2 when she suffered a heart attack, said Mr. Roesler, of CMG Worldwide. She was transferred in a coma to Kindred Hospital, where she died.
In her trademark raven bangs, spike heels and killer curves, Ms. Page was the most famous pinup girl of the post-World War II era, a centerfold on a million locker doors and garage walls. She was also a major influence in the fashion industry and a target of Senator Estes Kefauver’s anti-pornography investigators.
But in 1957, at the height of her fame, she disappeared, and for three decades her private life — two failed marriages, a fight against poverty and mental illness, resurrection as a born-again Christian, years of seclusion in Southern California — was a mystery to all but a few close friends.
Then in the late 1980s and early ’90s, she was rediscovered and a Bettie Page renaissance began. David Stevens, creator of the comic-book and later movie character the Rocketeer, immortalized her as the Rocketeer’s girlfriend. Fashion designers revived her look. Uma Thurman
, in bangs, reincarnated Bettie in Quentin Tarantino
’s “Pulp Fiction,” and Demi Moore
, Madonna and others appeared in Page-like photos.
There were Bettie Page playing cards, lunch boxes, action figures, T-shirts and beach towels. Her saucy images went up in nightclubs. Bettie Page fan clubs sprang up. Look-alike contests, featuring leather-and-lace and kitten-with-a-whip Betties, were organized. Hundreds of Web sites appeared, including her own, which had 588 million hits in five years, CMG Worldwide said in 2006.
Biographies were published, including her authorized version, “Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend,” (General Publishing Group) which appeared in 1996. It was written by Karen Essex and James L. Swanson.
A movie, “The Notorious Bettie Page,” starring Gretchen Mol
as Bettie and directed by Mary Harron
for Picturehouse and HBO
Films, was released in 2006, adapted from “The Real Bettie Page,” by Richard Foster. Bettie May Page was born in Jackson, Tenn., the eldest girl of Roy and Edna Page’s six children. The father, an auto mechanic, molested all three of his daughters, Ms. Page said years later, and was divorced by his wife when Bettie was 10. She and some of her siblings were placed for a time in an orphanage. She attended high school in Nashville, and was almost a straight-A student, graduating second in her class.
She graduated from Peabody College, a part of Vanderbilt University
in Nashville, but a teaching career was brief. “I couldn’t control my students, especially the boys,” she said. She tried secretarial work, married Billy Neal in 1943 and moved to San Francisco, where she modeled fur coats for a few years. She divorced Mr. Neal in 1947, moved to New York and enrolled in acting classes.
She had a few stage and television appearances, but it was a chance meeting that changed her life. On the beach at Coney Island in 1950, she met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer and photographer, who assembled her first pinup portfolio. By 1951, the brother-sister photographers Irving and Paula Klaw, who ran a mail-order business in cheesecake, were promoting the Bettie Page image with spike heels and whips, while Bunny Yeager’s pictures featured her in jungle shots, with and without leopards skins.
Her pictures were ogled in Wink, Eyeful, Titter, Beauty Parade and other magazines, and in leather-fetish 8- and 16-millimeter films. Her first name was often misspelled. Her big break was the Playboy centerfold in January 1955, when she winked in a Santa Claus cap as she put a bulb on a Christmas tree. Money and offers rolled in, but as she recalled years later, she was becoming depressed.
In 1955, she received a summons from a Senate committee headed by Senator Kefauver, a Tennessee Democrat, that was investigating pornography. She was never compelled to testify, but the uproar and other pressures drove her to quit modeling two years later. She moved to Florida. Subsequent marriages to Armond Walterson and Harry Lear ended in divorce, and there were no children. She moved to California in 1978.
For years Ms. Page lived on Social Security benefits. After a nervous breakdown, she was arrested for an attack on a landlady, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a California mental institution. She emerged years later as a born-again Christian, immersing herself in Bible studies and serving as an adviser to the Billy Graham
In recent years, she had lived in Southern California on the proceeds of her revival.
Occasionally, she gave interviews in her gentle Southern drawl, but largely stayed out of the public eye — and steadfastly refused to be photographed.
“I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 2006. “I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.”
LAWRENCE R.DEVLIN, CIA OFFICER WHO BALKED LUMUBA/CONGO PLOT
Lawrence R. Devlin, who as the Central Intelligence Agency
’s station chief in Congo in 1960 avoided carrying out an order to assassinate the ousted prime minister, Patrice Lumumba
, died Dec. 6 at his home in Locust Grove, Va. He was 86.
Lawrence R. Devlin in the early 1960s when he was station chief in Congo.
Andrew Cutraro/Aurora Select, for The New York Times
Mr. Devlin this year at his home in central Virginia.
The cause was emphysema, said his daughter, Maureen Devlin Reimuller.
Recruited to the C.I.A. while studying at Harvard after service in World War II, Mr. Devlin served in some of the most dangerous hot spots of the cold war, earning renown and decorations within the agency for his work in Africa and later as station chief in Laos during the Vietnam War. The C.I.A. station in Vientiane, Laos, with 300 officers, was one of the largest at the time.
Mr. Devlin particularly treasured the memories of his service in Léopoldville, Congo, despite at times being jailed, beaten and threatened with execution. He was the boss of a small C.I.A. operation during a brutal postcolonial struggle for power, a story he recounted in a 2007 memoir, “Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone” (Public Affairs).
In an episode that came to symbolize American excesses in the third world, Mr. Devlin, then 38, received word that he would be getting a visit from “Joe from Paris” with an important message. The messenger turned out to be Sidney Gottlieb, the agency’s top poison expert, who passed on orders he said had been approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
to kill Lumumba, who the United States feared might ally the mineral-rich Congo with the Soviet Union.
“Morally I thought it was the wrong thing to do,” Mr. Devlin said in an interview with The New York Times this year. “And I thought it was a very dangerous thing to do,” risking retaliatory violence and damage to the United States’ standing, he said.
By his account, Mr. Devlin chose not to openly defy the order, believing he would be replaced by a more willing assassin. Instead, he said, he stalled. After Lumumba was slain by Congolese political opponents, Mr. Devlin said, he took from his safe the poison toothpaste Mr. Gottlieb had delivered to him and threw it in the Congo River.
The assassination plot was investigated in the 1970s by a Senate committee headed by Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho. The panel raised some doubts about Mr. Devlin’s version of events, saying agency cables portrayed him as taking an “affirmative, aggressive attitude” toward the assassination assignment. Mr. Devlin said he pretended to go along but never planned to carry the plot out.
Eugene Jeffers, who served as Mr. Devlin’s deputy in Congo and on other assignments, said his boss kept the assassination order from him at the time to protect him but later gave the same account he would consistently tell over the next four decades.
Mr. Jeffers recalled Mr. Devlin’s cool in the chaos after the coup backed by the C.I.A. that overthrew Lumumba. Once, approached by a trigger-happy Congolese soldier, Mr. Devlin defused a potentially lethal confrontation by calmly offering the soldier a cigarette, Mr. Jeffers said.
Lawrence Raymond Devlin was born June 18, 1922, in Concord, N.H., and grew up in San Diego. He attended San Diego State University for two years before enlisting in the Army in 1943, and he served for two years in North Africa and Italy and met his first wife, Colette, an ambulance driver with the French forces.
After finishing at San Diego State
, he went to Harvard, where he worked toward a doctorate in international relations and was recruited for the C.I.A. He retired from the agency in 1974.
After the death of his first wife in 1984, he married Mary Rountree, who survives him. Besides his daughter from his first marriage, Maureen, of Great Falls, Va., who followed him into the C.I.A., his survivors include a stepson, Ashley Rountree of Paris; a stepdaughter, Meredith Rountree of Austin, Tex.; two grandchildren; and a stepgrandchild.
For many years after his government career, Mr. Devlin worked in Africa and Washington for Maurice Tempelsman, the diamond merchant best known as the companion of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
“I knew all the ministers of mines,” Mr. Devlin said in the interview. “In short, I was in a better position to negotiate than people who knew a lot about diamonds.” When he came across valuable information, he said, he passed it to old friends in the C.I.A.
JAN KEMP, EXPOSED FRAUD IN GRADES OF PLAYERS
Jan Kemp, a former English instructor whose lawsuit against the University of Georgia
in the 1980s drew national attention to preferential treatment of college athletes unable to meet academic standards, died on Dec. 4 in Athens, Ga. She was 59.
The New York Times
Dr. Jan Kemp won a lawsuit against the University of Georgia.
The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her son, Will, told The Associated Press.
While coordinator of Georgia’s remedial English program, Dr. Kemp was among several faculty members who had complained that officials at Georgia intervened in the fall of 1981 to enable nine football players to pass a remedial English course in which they had received failing grades. The athletes remained eligible to play for Georgia against Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1982.
Dr. Kemp was demoted in 1982 and dismissed the next year. She filed suit, maintaining that she had been ousted because of her complaints, a violation of her constitutional right to free speech.
In Atlanta Federal Court in January 1986, university officials defended their actions concerning the football players, saying the athletes had been admitted to the regular curriculum because they were making progress in their studies. Dr. Kemp, they said, was dismissed for disruptive conduct and for failure to conduct adequate scholarly research.
O. Hale Almand Jr., a lawyer for the defense, offered a justification for the favorable treatment accorded the athletes, citing a hypothetical player. “We may not make a university student out of him,” he told the jury, “but if we can teach him to read and write, maybe he can work at the post office rather than as a garbageman when he gets through with his athletic career.”
The jury found that Dr. Kemp had been dismissed illegally and awarded her more than $2.5 million (later reduced to $1.08 million) for lost wages, mental anguish and punitive damages. She was later reinstated.
The university’s president, Dr. Fred C. Davison, announced his resignation in March 1986.
The board of regents of the University System of Georgia issued a report in April implicating Dr. Davison and the Georgia athletic department, headed by Vince Dooley, who was also the football coach, in a pattern of academic abuse in the admission and advancement of student-athletes over the previous four years. Both Dr. Davison and Mr. Dooley denied improper conduct, but Georgia tightened academic standards for its athletes.
Dr. Kemp, a native of Griffin, Ga., received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a doctorate in English education from Georgia, where she began teaching in 1978. She retired from her second stint as a faculty member in 1990.
In addition to her son, she is survived by her daughter, Margie Kemp.
Although Dr. Kemp was ultimately vindicated, she said she suffered emotional turmoil from the dispute and twice attempted suicide in 1982.
Notwithstanding her travails, she made her point.
“All over the country, athletes are used to produce revenue,” she told The New York Times a month after the trial. “I’ve seen what happens when the lights dim and the crowd fades.
They’re left with nothing. I want that stopped.”
ROBERT PROSKY, ACTOR OF WIDE RANGE AND ACUMEN
Robert Prosky, a craggy-faced, heavyset character actor who after 23 years in regional theater became a familiar face on Broadway, in movies and on television, notably as a gruff desk sergeant in the later years of “Hill Street Blues,” died on Monday in Washington. He was 77.
The character actor Robert Prosky as the Maharal in the Manhattan Ensemble Theater’s 2002 production of “The Golem.”
The cause was complications of heart surgery, his son John said.
Mr. Prosky — who was nominated for two Tony awards
for his work on Broadway and appeared in popular movies like “The Natural” (1984), “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) and “Broadcast News” (1987) — epitomized the versatility of a consummate character actor; within one year he played the head the C.I.A.
and the K.G.B.
Mr. Prosky’s immediate success in 1984 on “Hill Street Blues” as the replacement for the beloved desk sergeant played by Michael Conrad, who had died, reflected his acting acumen. Mr. Prosky created a wholly new character, one who combined aggressiveness, defensiveness and a penchant for ridiculous accidents. This scrupulously honed persona became synonymous with the new sergeant’s signature line: “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.”
The Sunday Mail, a London newspaper, said that Mr. Prosky’s acting gave the transition “the smoothness of a first-class magic act.”
Mr. Prosky, who appeared in 220 plays, 38 movies and hundreds of television shows, developed his craft at the Arena Stage in Washington, a regional theater admired for range and ambition. His two exquisite portrayals of Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” there are still talked about. In 1980 Mel Gussow wrote in The New York Times that Mr. Prosky represented “a certification of the effectiveness of the American regional theater movement.”
He loved the live stage, both its diversity of roles and its exhilarating urgency. In an interview with The Washingtonian in 1993, he said, “That uncertainty, that living in the moment is the essence of the actor’s craft.”
In 1982 he turned down the role of Coach in “Cheers” — and a big pile of money — because he could not stand the thought of playing the same role for the seven years specified in the contract. (Nicholas Colasanto got the part.)
Mr. Prosky appeared in a half-dozen Broadway plays and was nominated for Tony awards for playing a fast-talking salesman in “Glengarry Glen Ross” in 1984-85 and a Soviet disarmament negotiator in “A Walk in the Woods” in 1988.
His gift for portraying stark emotion was suggested in Frank Rich’s review of “Glengarry” in The Times: “There’s no color in the salesman’s pasty, dumbstruck face — just the abject terror of a life in which all words are finally nothing because it’s only money that really talks.”
This portrayal reflected Mr. Prosky’s meticulous preparation. He and other stars interviewed a range of salespeople from Fuller Brush salesladies to slick operators peddling tax shelters
Robert Joseph Prosky was born as the only son of a grocer on Dec. 13, 1930, in what he termed a “Polish ghetto” in Philadelphia. He acted in high school, but earned a degree in economics from Temple University
. He joined the Air Force, but got a hardship discharge to help with the family store when his father died suddenly.
While working at the store, he participated in amateur theater and won a talent contest. That led to a two-year course at the American Theater Wing in New York. He joined the Arena Theater and thereafter worked only as an actor.
At 49 he broke into movies when the director Michael Mann
cast him in his film “Thief” (1981). In an interview with The Washington Post in 1992, Mr. Prosky said, “At an age when most men’s options are closing, mine were opening.”
Other movies in which he appeared included “Christine” (1983); “Things Change” (1988); “Rudy” (1993); “Hoffa” (1992); and “Dead Man Walking” (1995). Part of his vast television work was playing Kirstie Alley
’s father both in an episode of “Cheers” and in the series “Veronica’s Closet.”
In recent years Mr. Prosky toured with two of his sons, John and Andrew, both actors, in “The Price,” an Arthur Miller
play. This year the three appeared in a presentation of the play in Washington.
Mr. Prosky is also survived by his wife, the former Ida Hove, an anthropologist; another son, Stefan, a microbiologist; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Prosky’s skills as an actor were as finely turned as the handcrafted wooden pens he made as a hobby. As a personality, he disappeared in his roles, telling The Washingtonian that people on the street approached him as “a long-lost cousin or something.”
“Sometimes I have to tell them I’m an actor,” he continued. “Then I’m suddenly in this ridiculous position, enumerating my credits to a complete stranger.”
DENNIS YOST, SINGER FOR THE CLASSICS IV
Dennis Yost, the lead singer with the rock group the Classics IV, which in the late 1960s and early ’70s challenged the then-ascendant music of drugs and protest with a more laid-back, softer sound in Top 10 hits like “Spooky,” “Stormy” and “Traces of Love,” died on Sunday in Hamilton, Ohio. He was 65.
Michael Ochs/Getty Images
Dennis Yost, front row right, with members of the Classics IV in 1970. Mr. Yost called the group “the first soft-rock band.”
The Classics IV Web site (crystalhorizon.com/Classics_IV
) announced the death. Mr. Yost had been hospitalized since suffering a brain injury in a fall in 2006. The cause was respiratory failure, a hospital spokesman told The Associated Press.
The music of the Classics IV has been called hard to define, because of its changing lineup. Unquestionably, it lacked the hard edge that characterized much of rock during the years of the group’s success, 1968 to 1974. Later singles, like “Everyday With You Girl,” placed higher on easy-listening charts than on rock charts.
In an interview with The Tennessean newspaper in 2002, Mr. Yost called the Classics IV “the first soft-rock band.” But this did not mean the band specialized in cheery up-tempo pop: “Stormy,” which reached No. 5 in 1968, and “Traces,” which hit No. 2 in 1969, were downright melancholy.
Mr. Yost’s throaty, resonant baritone defined the sound. Buddy Buie, who with guitarist J. R. Cobb wrote many of the group’s songs, said in an interview with Mix magazine in April that Mr. Yost drew passion from his youthful devotion to R&B and doo-wop and had been a James Brown
“Dennis had one great voice,” Mr. Buie told Mix, “a voice that filled up the whole spectrum. It was so round, so full.”
Mr. Yost moved to Jacksonville, Fla., from Detroit when he was 7, and in high school played drums for a group called the Echoes. He sometimes sang as he played the drums.
After the Echoes broke up, he joined a band called Leroy and the Moments in the mid-1960s. With his arrival, that group changed its name, inspired by Mr. Yost’s Classic drum kit. It became the Classics and specialized in cover versions, mostly of Top 40 hits.
The group was signed to Capitol Records in 1966 and made its debut with a song called “Pollyanna.” The Four Seasons resented the song, finding it too close to their style, according to the online All Music Guide (allmusic.com
), and successfully sought to have its airplay reduced in New York. Around the same time, a Brooklyn group called the Classics had a single on the charts and fought vigorously for the name.
So Mr. Yost’s group became the Classics IV and moved to Atlanta, appearing often in bars with its Top 40 repertory. By this time, Mr. Yost had stopped playing the drums and just sang.
Moving to Imperial Records, then part of Liberty Records, the group recorded “Spooky,” originally an instrumental number for which Mr. Buie and Mr. Cobb later wrote lyrics.
In a realization of perhaps the biggest dream in rock ’n’ roll, a bar band got lucky. The song was popular on a Louisville radio station, then became a national hit in the winter of 1967-68. The group changed its name again, to Dennis Yost & the Classics IV.
Some members left in 1970 to work in recording sessions and form what became the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The popularity of the Classics IV waned. Mr. Yost became a solo act without great success, and then pursued other business interests.
In the 1980s, he became a hit on the rock nostalgia circuit. He had to fight a protracted legal battle to get the Classics IV name back after a former manager sold it to another group.
Mr. Yost is survived by his wife, Linda Yost, and five children.
WARREN ROBBINS, WHOSE COLLECTION LED TO A SMITHSONIAN
Warren M. Robbins, whose $15 purchase of a carved-wood figure of a man and woman representing the Yoruba people of Nigeria became the seed of the Smithsonian Institution
’s National Museum of African Art, died on Thursday in Washington. He was 85 and lived in Washington.
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
His death was confirmed by Kimberly Mayfield, a spokeswoman for the museum.
Mr. Robbins was a cultural attaché for the State Department when he bought that statue, but not in Africa. He was wandering the streets of Hamburg, Germany, one day in the late 1950s when he stepped into an antiques shop and was smitten by the carved figure. A year later, for $1,000, he bought 32 other pieces of African art — masks, textiles and other figures — at another Hamburg shop.
Only in 1973 did he finally visit the continent whose art had enraptured him. By then he had built a collection of more than 5,000 pieces and opened a museum with a staff of 20.
At first, the museum was just a private project. Mr. Robbins had returned to Washington in 1960 with the original 33 objects, bought a house on Capitol Hill, lined some rooms with tropical plants to evoke rain forests and placed his collection on display.
Soon, he said, “the word got out, in an article in The Washington Post, that there was a crazy guy with an African art collection who had never been to Africa.” People started knocking on his door and he welcomed them.
For a time, he found some opposition to a white man’s operating a museum of art by black people. “I make no apologies for being white,” Mr. Robbins told The Post. “You don’t have to be Chinese to appreciate ancient ceramics.”
By 1963, struck by the idea of creating a real museum, Mr. Robbins bought half of another house on Capitol Hill, for $35,000. The abolitionist Frederick Douglass had lived in that house from 1871 to 1877. The first exhibition included Mr. Robbins’s collection and two groups of borrowed objects, from the Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon and the University of Pennsylvania
As his collection grew, Mr. Robbins raised money and bought the rest of the Douglass house, renaming it the Museum of African Art. He later bought an adjoining town house; then another and another. Eventually, he assembled 9 townhouses, 16 garages and 2 carriage houses.
In the mid-1970s, concerned about the permanence of his museum, Mr. Robbins began lobbying friends in Congress to have the Smithsonian take over the collection. It did not hurt that his museum had been the site for many of their political fund-raising events. The Smithsonian accepted the collection in 1979, and eight years later it was moved to the National Mall and renamed the National Museum of African Art.
“With little money, through the largesse of friends and collectors and an undeterred dream, Robbins established what would become one of the world’s preeminent museums for exhibiting, collecting and preserving African art,” Sharon Patton, the current director of museum, said in a statement on Monday.
The collection, now consisting of approximately 9,100 objects representing nearly every area of the African continent, includes headdresses, pottery, copper reliefs, musical instruments, baskets, carved-wood maternity figures, objects used by healers and frightening masks used in ceremonies that mark a boy’s passage to manhood. It also houses more than 32,000 volumes on African art, history and culture.
There were interwoven motives for Mr. Robbins’s mission to bring African art to the public. One was his support of civil rights; the other was to clarify the influence of African art on Western art.
“I had the feeling that if the public knew what the specialist knew, it could become a foundation for equal regard, for white people to have respect for a significant black people’s culture,” he told The New York Times in 1987.
Warren Murray Robbins was born in Worcester, Mass., on Sept. 4, 1923, the youngest of 11 children of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of New Hampshire
in 1945 and a master’s degree in history from the University of Michigan
in 1949. Before becoming a State Department cultural affairs officer, he taught children of Americans living in Europe.
In February, Mr. Robbins married Lydia Puccinelli; she is his only immediate survivor.
Mr. Robbins didn’t just collect African art; sometimes he returned it.
In 1966, a century-old statue of a bearded figure called Afo-A-Kom, regarded as sacred by the people of the tiny West African kingdom of Kom, was stolen from a mountain-top village in Cameroon. Seven years later, after a two-month investigation by The New York Times, it was found in the possession of a Manhattan gallery owner.
Mr. Robbins raised money to buy the statue, then led the party that brought it back to its homeland. As Nsom Nggue, then the king, received the returned icon, men in brightly colored tribal dress stabbed the air with spears and women, waving fronds, chanted and swayed.
ELMER VALENTINE, OWNER OF ROCK CLUBS
Elmer A. Valentine, a self-described crooked cop who fled Chicago to start a new life on the Sunset Strip by opening the Whisky a Go Go, one of the most celebrated clubs in the history of rock music, died Dec. 3 in the Studio City section of Los Angeles. He was 85.
Elmer Valentine across from the Rainbow and Roxy in 2000.
The cause was heart failure after four years of numerous ailments, said Lou Adler, Mr. Valentine’s business partner.
Whisky a Go Go was a nondescript former bank building at the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Clark Street in West Hollywood that became musical legend in the 1960s. The Byrds
, the Doors
, the Kinks
, the Who, the Mamas and Papas and Sonny and Cher, among many other stars, performed there.
dropped by to play pool, Jimi Hendrix
to jam. When the Beatles arrived in Los Angeles in 1964 on their first American tour, the Whisky was the place they wanted to see. At the urging of his daughters, President Lyndon B. Johnson
made a reservation — but never showed up.
On the night the Whisky opened, Jan. 15, 1964, Mr. Valentine pretty much by accident introduced what for years to come was a pop-culture staple: the go-go girl suspended in a cage.
“It was just so popular, right from the very first night,” Mr. Valentine said in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2000. “I tell you, I was just lucky. It was easy. You know what? It was easy.”
The Doors, with Jim Morrison, were the house band, at least until the night they sang “The End,” which Mr. Valentine considered obscene; one night the club had performances by them, Buffalo Springfield
, Love, Van Morrison
and Frank Zappa
Though the club never again reached the level of fame it reached in the 1960s, it became a focus for the punk and new-wave movements in the 1970s, hard rock and metal bands in the 1980s and grunge in the 1990s, when Mr. Valentine sold his interest.
Elmer Aaron Valentine was born on June 16, 1923, in Chicago. He told Vanity Fair that an elementary school teacher told him he would be sent to the electric chair someday. At 14, he bolted home and rode trains and hitchhiked to California. He served in the Army Air Forces in England in World War II.
He became a policeman in Chicago, rising to the rank of detective. After his marriage ended, he said, he ran into what he termed “a little career trouble.” He was indicted on charges of extortion involving collecting bribes on behalf of a captain but was never convicted.
“I used to moonlight running nightclubs for the outfit,” he said to David Kamp, the Vanity Fair writer. “For gangsters.”
He moved to California and joined with partners from Chicago to open a nightclub, P.J.’s, named after the Manhattan bar P. J. Clarke’s. In 1963, visiting Europe with the idea of becoming an expatriate, he happened to visit a discothèque in Paris called Whisky à Go Go and was enthralled by the enthusiastic young dancers.
Mr. Valentine returned to Los Angeles and invested $20,000 of his profits from his share in P.J.’s in what became the Whisky. He gave a one-year contract to Johnny Rivers, then a 21-year-old rocker and bluesman, who turned out to be wildly popular.
The Whisky briefly had satellite franchises in San Francisco and Atlanta. Later, with partners, Mr. Valentine started the Rainbow Bar & Grill and the Roxy Theater, also in West Hollywood, retaining an interest in them until his death.
Mr. Valentine is survived by his daughter, Kimberly Valentine, and a grandson.
In between Mr. Rivers’s three sets, Mr. Valentine wanted to play records as they did at the Whisky in Paris, suspending a D.J. in a glass-walled cage to save space. The mother of the girl who won a contest to be the D.J. would not let her take the job. The cigarette girl, Patty Brockhurst, wearing a slit skirt, was drafted; she spontaneously started dancing. “Thus out of calamity and serendipity was born the go-go girl,” Mr. Kamp wrote.
Mr. Valentine soon installed two more cages and hired two more dancers. One, Joanie Labine, designed what became the official go-go-girl costume, fringed dress and white boots.
NINA FOCH, ACTRESS IN ‘AMERICAN IN PARIS’ AND ‘SPARTACUS’
Nina Foch, the Dutch-born actress who epitomized the cool, aloof blond sophisticate in films and on television for six decades while thriving as an acting teacher, died on Friday in Los Angeles. She was 84 and lived in Los Angeles.
Nina Foch as a Roman patrician in “Spartacus” (1960).
The cause was complications from myelodysplasia, a blood disorder, said her son, Dr. Dirk de Brito.
But Ms. Foch (pronounced fosh) received her highest acting accolades for a lesser-known film, “Executive Suite”
(1954), a drama about corporate power. She received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a grief-stricken secretary.
Ms. Foch, who grew up in New York, made her Broadway debut in “John Loves Mary,”
a comedy about a soldier and his eager bride-to-be, in 1947. Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, called her “an especially attractive young lady with a gift for sincerity.”
She played four more Broadway roles between 1948 and 1960, including Cordelia to Louis Calhern’s King Lear in a 1950 production. She directed “Ways and Means,”
a short play by Noël Coward
, as part of “Tonight at 8:30,”
which had a short Broadway run in 1967.
Nina Consuelo Maud Fock was born in Leyden, the Netherlands, on April 20, 1924. Her father, Dirk Fock, an orchestral conductor, moved to New York in 1928. He was soon involved in a fierce, highly publicized divorce and child-custody battle with his wife, the former Consuelo Flowerton, an American-born actress. Nina ended up living with her mother.
After graduating from the Lincoln School in Upper Manhattan, Ms. Foch attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her first screen appearance, at the age of 19, was in “Wagon Wheels West” (1943), a short. She made her feature film debut the following year in a horror film, “The Return of the Vampire,”
in which she played a professor’s vulnerable granddaughter who had been attacked by a vampire as a child.
“An American in Paris” changed that, establishing her image as a knowing, often controlling character. She played Marie Antoinette in “Scaramouche”
(1952), and the manipulative Helena Glabrus in “Spartacus”
Her television work did much to keep that image alive. Beginning in 1949, with an appearance on “The Chevrolet Tele-Theater” and including a very recent recurring role as David McCallum’s eccentric mother on the CBS series “NCIS,” Ms. Foch could be seen on more than 90 series. The shows ranged in tone from “Studio One” to “That Girl” and “Route 66.”
She appeared in at least a dozen television movies and mini-series. Her best-remembered roles include portrayals of the grim housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (when she was only 38) in an NBC
version of “Rebecca,”
a Nazi-era countess in “War and Remembrance” and an alcoholic socialite in “Tales of the City.”
Directing had always interested her, and she was said to have been an uncredited assistant director and dialogue consultant on “The Diary of Anne Frank”
(1959), set in Amsterdam. In 1996 she and the actress Deborah Raffin were co-directors of “Family Blessings,”
a television movie based on a LaVyrle Spencer novel.
Periodically she returned to film acting, appearing in “Mahogany”
(1975), the AIDS drama “It’s My Party”
(1996) and “How to Deal”
(2003), in which she played a marijuana-smoking grandmother.
“I’ve been busy in my career and all my life,” Ms. Foch said in a 2007 interview. “But I think the biggest thing I’ve done in life is teach. Breaking down every scene, every line, every beat, and putting the piece together. That’s my contribution.”
Ms. Foch married and divorced three times. Her first husband (1954-58) was James Lipton, the host of Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio” series, then an actor. Her second (1959-63) was Dennis de Brito, a television writer, with whom she had her son. In 1966 she married Michael Dewell, a theater producer. They were divorced in 1993, a year before his death.
She is survived by her son, Dr. de Brito, of Los Angeles, and three grandchildren.
SCENE FROM THE MOVIE ‘RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE’ 1944