BEA ARTHUR, STAR OF TWO TV COMEDIES
, who used her husky voice, commanding stature and flair for the comic jab to create two of the most endearing battle-axes in television history, Maude Findlay in the groundbreaking situation comedy “Maude” and Dorothy Zbornak in “The Golden Girls,” died Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was coy about her age, and sources give various dates for her birth, but a family spokesman, Dan Watt, said in an e-mail message she was 86.
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Bea Arthur in the show “Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends” at the Booth Theater in New York in January 2002. More Photos »
From left, Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White in the NBC television show ‘The Golden Girls’ in 1990. More Photos >
The cause was cancer, Mr. Watt said.
Ms. Arthur received 11 Emmy Award nominations, winning twice — in 1977 for “Maude” and in 1988 for “The Golden Girls.”
She was a seasoned and accomplished theater actress and singer before she became a television star and a celebrity in midcareer, and she won a Tony Award
in 1966 for playing Angela Lansbury
’s best friend, the drunken actress Vera Charles, in “Mame
But while she was successful on stage, on television she made history. “Maude,” which was created by Norman Lear
as a spinoff from “All in the Family,” was broadcast on CBS during the most turbulent years of the women’s movement, from 1972-78, and in the person of its central character, it offered feminism less as a cause than as an entertainment.
was a woman in her 40s living in the suburbs with her fourth husband, Walter (played by Bill Macy), her divorced daughter, Carol (Adrienne Barbeau), and a grandson. An unabashed liberal, a bit of a loudmouth and a tough broad with a soft heart, she was, in the parlance of the time, a liberated woman, who sometimes got herself into trouble with boilerplate biases just the way her cultural opposite number, Archie Bunker, did. She was given a formidable physicality by Ms. Arthur, who was 5 feet 9 ½ inches and spoke in a distinctively brassy contralto.
The show was considered a sitcom, but like “All in the Family,” it used comedy to take on serious personal issues and thorny social ones — alcoholism, drugs, infidelity.
“We tackled everything except hemorrhoids,” Ms. Arthur said, sounding much like Maude, in a 2001 interview
with the Archive of American Television, a collection of video oral histories compiled by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In the show’s first season, Maude, at the age of 47, learned she was pregnant; her distress was evident.
“Mother, what’s wrong? You’ve got to share this with me,” Carol says. Maude’s response is typical, with barbs aimed both inward and outward, delivered by Ms. Arthur with a flash of simultaneous anger, despair and humor: “Honey, I’d give anything to share it with you.”
The two-part episode
was broadcast in November 1972, two months before Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court
case that made abortion legal nationwide, was decided. By the episode’s conclusion, Maude, who lived in Westchester County in New York, where abortion was already permitted, had chosen to end the pregnancy. Two CBS affiliates refused to broadcast the program, and Ms. Arthur received a shower of angry mail.
“The reaction really knocked me for a loop,” she recalled in a 1978 interview in The New York Times. “I really hadn’t thought about the abortion issue one way or the other. The only thing we concerned ourselves with was: Was the show good? We thought we did it brilliantly; we were so very proud of not copping out with it.”
“The Golden Girls,” an immensely popular show
that was broadcast on NBC
from 1985-92 and can still be seen daily in reruns, broke ground in another way. Created by Susan Harris (who wrote the “Maude” abortion episode), it focused on four previously married women sharing a house in Miami, and with its emphasis on decidedly older characters, it ran counter to the conventional wisdom that youthful sex appeal was the key to ratings success.
Which is not to say “The Golden Girls” wasn’t sexy. Like “Maude,” it was a comedy that dealt with serious issues, especially those involved with aging, but also matters like gun control, gay rights and domestic violence. And like “Maude,” it could be bawdy. The women were all active daters and, to different degrees, openly randy. As Dorothy, Ms. Arthur was coiffed and clothed in a softer, more emphatically feminine manner than she had been in “Maude,” but she was no less sharp-tongued, and she and the show’s other stars — Rue McClanahan, Betty White
and Estelle Getty
(who, though younger than Ms. Arthur, played Dorothy’s mother) — were frequently praised for portraying the lives of older women as lively, uncertain, dramatic and passion-filled as those of college sorority sisters.
Familiarly known as Bea, Ms. Arthur was billed in the theater and on television as Beatrice, but the name was one she made up. She was born Bernice Frankel in New York City on May 13, 1922, according to Mr. Watt. But she preferred to be called B — “I changed the Bernice almost as soon as I heard it,” she said — and later expanded it to Beatrice because, she said, she imagined it would look lovely on a theater marquee. The name Arthur is a modified version of the name of her first husband, the screenwriter and producer Robert Alan Aurthur.
When she was a child, her family moved to Cambridge, Md., on the Eastern Shore, where her parents ran a small women’s clothing store, and she dreamed of being a chanteuse
and an actress, and entertained her friends with imitations of Mae West
. She attended Blackstone College, a two-year school in Virginia, and later studied to be a medical technician, then eventually moved to New York to study acting with Erwin Piscator at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research. Among her classmates were Tony Curtis
, Walter Matthau
and the actor and director Gene Saks
, whom she married in 1950. (He directed her in “Mame.”) They divorced in 1978; their two sons, Matthew and Daniel, survive her. She had two granddaughters.
Ms. Arthur worked regularly Off Broadway and in summer stock, appearing as Lucy Brown in Marc Blitzstein’s adaptation of “The Threepenny Opera
” at the Theater de Lys in 1954.
And in 1955, in a well-received musical tidbit, “Shoestring Revue,” she was seen for the first time by the man who would become a lifelong friend and professional benefactor, Norman Lear.
She also sang in nightclubs and worked occasionally on television, appearing on “Kraft Television Theater” and other shows featuring live drama. On Broadway, in 1964, she played Yente, the matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof.” In the movies, she appeared in the comedy “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970), and in a reprise of her stage performance as Vera Charles, she appeared in “Mame” (1974), again directed by her husband, this time alongside Lucille Ball
In 1971, she was living in New York but visiting her husband, who was directing a movie, “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” in Los Angeles, when Mr. Lear persuaded her to do a guest spot on “All in the Family.” The role he created for her, Maude Findlay, was a cousin of Edith Bunker, Archie’s wife (Jean Stapleton
), who arrives to care for the family when everyone gets sick. Her tart sparring with Archie (Carroll O’Connor
, with whom she had worked on stage, in a play called “Ulysses in Nighttown”) was a hit with viewers. Almost immediately CBS ordered up a new series from Mr. Lear, with Ms. Arthur’s Maude at the center of it. It changed her life.
“I think we made television a little more adult,” Ms. Arthur said. “I really do.”
THE REV. TIMOTHY D. WRIGHT, GOSPEL SINGER
The Rev. Timothy D. Wright, a Grammy
-nominated gospel singer and composer who filled his recordings, and his Brooklyn church, with his rolling, booming baritone, died on Friday. He was 61 and lived in Roosevelt, N.Y., on Long Island.
The Rev. Timothy D. Wright.
His death at a veterans’ hospital in the Bronx was confirmed by his son David.
Pastor Wright, the founder of the Grace Tabernacle Christian Center Church of God in Christ, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, had been hospitalized since July 4, when his car was struck head-on by a car going in the wrong direction on Interstate 80 near Loganton, Pa. His wife, Betty Wright, 58, the co-pastor of Grace Tabernacle, and their 14-year-old grandson, D. J. Wright, were killed. Known to many fans as “the godfather of gospel,” Pastor Wright recorded 12 albums and composed many of the songs on them. His 1994 album, “Come Thou Almighty King,” recorded with the New York Fellowship Mass Choir, reached the Top 20 on the Billboard gospel charts and was nominated for a Grammy for best traditional soul gospel album. Five years later Pastor Wright received another Grammy nomination in the same category for “Been There Done That,” recorded with the B/J Mass Choir and featuring Myrna Summers.
“He had a huge, raucous voice that he maintained well into his 50s, long after most such voices are shot,” Anthony Heilbut, author of “The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times” (Limelight Editions, 1997), said in an interview on Friday.
He also managed, Mr. Heilbut continued, “to split the difference between the older style that he was raised in — the rollicking shouts and bluesy moans of traditional gospel — with the more jazz- and pop-influenced sounds of contemporary gospel.”
“And he was not merely a singer and a choir director,” Mr. Heilbut added, “but well known as a composer of gospel songs.”
In 1976 Pastor Wright formed the Timothy Wright Concert Choir; among its albums were “Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” and “Do You Know the Light?” Previously, according to “Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Encyclopedia,” by Bill Carpenter, he had composed songs for musicians like Mattie Moss Clark and the Rev. Isaac Douglas.
Timothy Donald Wright was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn on June 17, 1947. His father, John Cleveland Wright, was a Pentecostal minister. Besides his son David, Pastor Wright is survived by four other sons, Danny, Donny, Derrick and Dwayne; two brothers, James and L. C. Wright; and 13 grandchildren.
Timothy Wright was enraptured by gospel music as a youngster. At 12, he was playing piano for the choir at Washington Temple Church of God in Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a large congregation led by the Rev. Frederick D. Washington. Timothy was a protégé of the pastor’s wife, Ernestine B. Washington, a renowned gospel singer known as “the songbird of the East.” By his early 20s, he was music director of Washington Temple Church. He was ordained by Pastor Washington in the late 1970s, and in 1990 he founded Grace Tabernacle.
Three years ago, during a convocation at his church, Pastor Wright recorded “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
It has since become known as the Katrina song. It tells of an old woman who lost everything in the 2005 hurricane but still held to her faith.
“He sang it in the old style,” Mr. Heilbut said, “because when times are bad, people keep returning to the old themes and beats.”
CATHERINE MURRAY DI MONTEZEMOLO, DOYENNE OF FASHION AND SOCIETY
Catherine Murray di Montezemolo, a fashion editor and fixture of Southampton society who helped shape the look of postwar American sportswear by promoting designers like Anne Fogarty and Claire McCardell in the pages of Vogue, died Wednesday in Greenport, N.Y. She was 83.
Bill Cunningham/The New York Times
Catherine Murray di Montezemolo, at a benefit for Southampton Hospital in 2002.
Her death was caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said her sister Patricia Murray Wood.
Mrs. di Montezemolo, known as Cathy, worked at Vogue for more than 30 years, many of them alongside Diana Vreeland. A mentor to designers, she championed their work and advised them on what looks she thought were right for the moment, though she also made her displeasure known if she thought something was vulgar or depraved. Those standards, her friends said, were probably a result of her strict Roman Catholic upbringing in Southampton.
Catherine Bradley Murray was born on Sept. 18, 1925, the fourth of seven children of John Francis and Jeanne Durand Murray. Her father was a commissioner of the Port of New York Authority, as it was then known. Her grandfather, Thomas E. Murray, was an electrical engineer whose multiplicity of inventions rivaled Thomas Edison
’s. One was the radiator model used throughout the Empire State Building
. His fortune enabled the Murrays to be among the earliest summer residents of Southampton, where they owned several adjoining properties.
Mrs. di Montezemolo’s upbringing was both privileged and stylish. She was hired at Vogue, where many of her friends worked, around 1943, when she was 18, after she graduated from the Convent of the Holy Child in Suffern, N.Y. Good-looking and athletic — she was one of the first dedicated students of Joseph Pilates — she married Alessandro di Montezemolo, an Italian nobleman who ran the risk and insurance subsidiary of the Marsh & McLennan Companies and was later its chairman, in 1958.
Besides Mrs. Wood, Mrs. Montezemolo is survived by two other sisters Jeanne Vanderbilt and Elizabeth Conniff. Mr. di Montezemolo died in 2003.
At one point, the di Montezemolos owned three homes in Southampton in addition to several apartments of varying styles in Manhattan, but Mrs. di Montezemolo was known for a lack of pretension. Indeed, she liked things that looked imperfect, and kept her hair its naturally white shade, giving her a distinctive look in photographs from the 1960s, when she would sometimes wear outlandish clothes or a big black straw hat to the office.
Lauren Hutton recalled in a 1994 interview that in her early days as a model, Eileen Ford, her agent, wanted her to fix the gap in her teeth and straighten her nose. But Mrs. di Montezemolo, who often championed young models, told Ms. Hutton not to bother and to go see Mrs. Vreeland right away.
“Cathy knew that Vreeland liked odd-looking girls,” Ms. Hutton said in the interview.
Mrs. di Montezemolo was also one of the first to spot the talent of the designer Giorgio Sant’Angelo in the early 1960s. She showed some of his colored Lucite bracelets to Mrs. Vreeland, who pushed him to expand into ready-to-wear.
Donald Brooks, Anne Fogarty, Sydney Wragge and many other designers counted on her eye.
“She would go to the designers’ ateliers and help them with their designs,” recalled Polly Mellen, who, when she first worked at Vogue, shared an office with Mrs. di Montezemolo. “Cathy was really a voice for the designers, without pumping herself up.”
Mrs. di Montezemolo was also the original college editor of Vogue, said Gillis MacGill Addison, a former fashion model who remained close to her. For much of her career she championed designers who made clothes for young women and students.
After she left Vogue in the late 1970s, Mrs. di Montezemolo worked briefly for an advertising agency and also designed her own collection, called Noi, in Milan. In the 1980s, she was the fashion director for Lord & Taylor until her retirement to Southampton, where she remained active in charities; she was a board member of Southampton Hospital and the Southampton Fresh Air Home.
JACK CARDIFF, FILM DIRECTOR AND CINEMATOGRAPHER
Jack Cardiff, an Oscar-winning British cinematographer and director who drew inspiration from Rembrandt
’s use of light and shadow to convey his visions and those of directors like Hitchcock, as well as the allure of actresses like Monroe, died on Wednesday at his home in Ely, England. He was 94.
Richard Drew/Associated Press
Jack Cardiff with his Oscar.
George Cannon/Eagle-Lion Films, via Photofest
Jack Cardiff was cinematographer of the film “The Red Shoes.”
The British Film Institute announced his death.
Mr. Cardiff nurtured a love for vivid color that began with boyhood awe at the paintings of the masters and flowered when he was chosen by the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation as the first technician to shoot a British film in the new medium. That movie was “Wings of the Morning” (1937), starring Henry Fonda
He then used color to devastating effect in films directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Their 1947 picture “Black Narcissus,” which told the sexually tense story of a group of nuns in the Himalayas, displayed an extreme contrast between red and green that Mr. Cardiff said was inspired by van Gogh
. He won an Academy Award for cinematography for that movie.
“The Red Shoes,” which came out the next year, was even more daring in its visual presentation. It contained a 15-minute ballet sequence in which he changed the speed of a camera to make it appear that a dancer was hovering in the air before landing. Another magical moment came when a newspaper morphed into a dancing man.
Other films for which Mr. Cardiff was credited as cinematographer, photographer or director of photography included “Under Capricorn” (1949), “The Black Rose” (1950), “The African Queen” (1951), “The Magic Box” (1952), “The Barefoot Contessa” (1954), “War and Peace” (1956), “The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957), “Legend of the Lost” (1957) and “The Vikings” (1958).
He worked with a dazzling array of stars that included Marlene Dietrich
, Laurence Olivier
, Errol Flynn
and Ava Gardner
, and was particularly known for his ability to bring out the special facets of beauty in fabulous-looking women. According to an article in The London Evening Standard in 2000, Marilyn Monroe
once wrote him: “Dear Jack, If only I could be the way you have created me! I love you, Marilyn.”
Mr. Cardiff directed 15 pictures, mainly in the 1960s and ’70s, including his adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers,” for which he was won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. Freddie Francis
won an Oscar for the film’s cinematography.
Mr. Cardiff was nominated for Academy Awards in cinematography for “War and Peace” and “Fanny” (1962). In 2001 he received an honorary Oscar for his life’s work. He was the first cinematographer to be honored for artistic achievement rather than technical merit.
He also had the distinction of directing the only movie ever to use a process called Smell-O-Vision: “Scent of Mystery” (1960). The process injected 30 different smells into a theater’s seats when triggered by the soundtrack. It didn’t work very well.
One movie Mr. Cardiff directed has maintained a persistent cult following, despite initial pans by many critics. It is “The Girl on a Motorcycle” (1968), which tells the story of a woman (played by the singer Marianne Faithfull
, who was Mick Jagger
’s girlfriend at the time) who leaves her meek husband, wearing only a fur-lined leather jumpsuit, to ride across Europe and meet up with the lover who gave her the motorcycle as a wedding present. Even critics who hated the film praised Mr. Cardiff’s photography.
Mr. Cardiff’s parents were vaudeville performers who were on tour when he was born in Yarmouth, England, on Sept. 18, 1914. He soon appeared onstage himself. He made his first movie appearance at age 4 in “My Son, My Son” (1918) and acted regularly in silent films as a child. His education was spotty, as his family moved every week or so and he had to keep switching schools. He began visiting art museums when he was around 9 and was first captivated by Rembrandt, then Caravaggio
, then the Impressionists, whose love affair with light entranced him.
He gravitated from acting to working as a member of the crew for directors including Alexander Korda and Alfred Hitchcock
. He had risen to second-unit cameraman when Mr. Powell noticed him and hired him to photograph his next film. That did not happen for three years, but Mr. Cardiff did shoot that film, “A Matter of Life and Death” (1946).
At one point in the filming Mr. Powell said he wished he could come up with a different look. Mr. Cardiff promptly asked him to look through the camera and then went to the front and breathed on the lens so that it went foggy. The effect was a gradual coming into focus. “Michael was absolutely delighted,” Mr. Cardiff said in an interview with The Independent in 2005.
When Technicolor came to England to recruit an English person to learn how to use its new technique, Mr. Cardiff was asked to apply. He acknowledged that his technical knowledge was meager, but was able to answer immediately when asked, “Which side of the face did Rembrandt light?”
It was a complete guess, he said in an interview with the British actor Paul Merton, but he pointed to a side and said, “Except when he does etchings; then it’s the other side.” He got the job.
Mr. Cardiff is survived by his wife, Nikki, their son, Mason, and his sons John, Rodney and Peter from a previous marriage.
In the 1970s and ’80s Mr. Cardiff returned to cinematography, including action pictures with Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Sylvester Stallone
. During the filming of “Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985), Mr. Stallone told Mr. Cardiff where to position a light. Later, privately, Mr. Cardiff firmly told the actor never to advise him on lighting again, The Guardian reported in 2001.
“I’m sorry,” Mr. Stallone said. “I’m out of line. I’m out of line.”
KEN ANNAKIN, DIRECTOR OF FAMILY FARE AND WAR MOVIES
Ken Annakin, a film director with a flair for both light comedy and sweeping action films, a combination he melded in what may be his most famous movie, “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines,” died Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 94.
From left, Tommy Kirk, Dorothy McGuire, John Mills and James MacArthur in Disney’s “Swiss Family Robinson.”
He died of natural causes, said his daughter, Deborah Peters.
Starting as a cameraman in Britain on training films for the Royal Air Force in World War II, Mr. Annakin went on to direct more than 40 feature films for the British screen and Hollywood.
His 1965 comedy about the early days of aviation, the full title of which is “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew From London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes,” starred Stuart Whitman as an American flier racing for a prize awarded by a British newspaper. It intertwined romance, cheating and international conflicts with soaring flight scenes. It earned Mr. Annakin an Oscar nomination, with Jack Davies
, for best screenplay.
Comedies were Mr. Annakin’s specialty in his early directing days. One hit from those years was “Miranda” (1948), with Glynis Johns as a mermaid caught by a doctor on a fishing trip; her tail reappears whenever she gets wet. In 1948 and ’49 Mr. Annakin directed a series of films about a down-to-earth British family, the Huggetts.
One of the first live-action Disney movies was Mr. Annakin’s “Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men,” with Richard Todd
as Robin Hood. Shot in England and released in the United States in 1952, it entered many more childhood memories when it was shown on television in 1955. Another Disney film directed by Mr. Annakin was the 1960 version of “Swiss Family Robinson,” with John Mills
, Dorothy McGuire and James MacArthur.
Some of Mr. Annakin’s work was more serious. In 1957 he directed “Across the Bridge,” in which Rod Steiger
played a Wall Street swindler hiding in Mexico using the identity of a man he had murdered. Mr. Annakin’s daughter said “Across the Bridge” was her father’s favorite film.
In 1962 Mr. Annakin was one of the four directors of “The Longest Day,” the sprawling World War II epic about the invasion of Normandy. He directed the scenes involving British and French troops. In 1965 he was the sole director of “Battle of the Bulge,” with Henry Fonda
Among Mr. Annakin’s other directing credits are “The Biggest Bundle of Them All” (1968), a comedy heist movie set in Italy; “The Call of the Wild” (1972), starring Charlton Heston
; and “The Pirate Movie” (1982), an adaptation of “The Pirates of Penzance” starring Kristy McNichol
and Christopher Atkins.
Kenneth Cooper Annakin was born in Beverley, in Yorkshire, England, on Aug. 10, 1914. His daughter said he was an only child who left his parents as a teenager and never told her his parents’ names. Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 49 years, the former Pauline Carter; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
After dropping out of school, Mr. Annakin traveled to Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He returned to England and sold insurance and cars, then joined the RAF.
In 2002 Queen Elizabeth named Mr. Annakin an officer of the Order of the British Empire.
SANTHA RAMA RAU, WHO WROTE OF INDIAN LANDSCAPE AND INDIAN PSYCHE
Santha Rama Rau, an Indian-born, Western-educated journalist whose work helped demystify the Indian subcontinent for American readers in the decades after World War II and India’s independence, died Tuesday in Amenia, N.Y. She was 86 and lived in Amenia, in Dutchess County, and in Manhattan.
United Press International, circa 1962
Santha Rama Rau
The cause was cardiopulmonary failure, said her son, Jai Bowers.
Ms. Rama Rau wrote novels and adapted the E. M. Forster
novel “A Passage to India” for the stage, but she was largely a travel writer, a chronicler of journeys in Asia, Africa and the former Soviet Union for publications like The New Yorker
, Harper’s, Holiday and The New York Times Magazine. Many of her stories, written with stylish simplicity in the first person, were collected as books that read almost as autobiography. The titles included “East of Home” (1950), “View to the Southeast” (1957) and “My Russian Journey” (1959). She also wrote an autobiography, “Gifts of Passage” (1961), that reads like almost like a travelogue.
“It is a short but extraordinarily dramatic flight,” she wrote in that book, of a trip from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to Kabul, Afghanistan. “The Hindu Kush is the wildest and most forbidding part of the Himalayas, so high that the plane flies between, not over, the mountains, and from the cabin you look up to see the snow-capped, treacherous peaks.
Below you is a harsh and bony map of precipitous valleys and rocky ravines — a landscape utterly without comfort, and on too immense a scale to be anything but daunting.”
Her best known works were about her home country, including “This Is India” (1953), a tour through the Indian landscape and the Indian psyche, and a Time
-Life cookbook, “The Cooking of India” (1970).
“Our job — those of us lucky to have lived in these two countries — is to interpret them to one another,” she said in an interview with The Wichita Beacon in Kansas after the publication of “This Is India.” “If we can make ourselves — the Indians — real people to the Americans, we shall have done more than our politicians are able to do.”
Vasanthi Rama Rau was born in Madras, India, on Jan 24, 1923. Her father, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, was a high-ranking civil servant in India’s finance department who later became ambassador to Japan and to the United States. Her mother, Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, was a crusader for women’s reproductive rights and a founder of the International Planned Parenthood Federation
When Santha was a girl, her father was stationed in England. It was a trip back to India at 16, with her mother and her sister, Premila, that inspired her first book, “Home to India,” published in 1945, shortly after she graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
Though a youthful book, it immediately established the voice of an educated discoverer — observant, amused, self-deprecating, instructive without being pedantic — that would characterize her work even when she matured:
“The first words my grandmother said to me when I returned to Bombay after 10 years’ absence were, ‘My dear child, where in India will we find a husband tall enough for you?’
“ ‘I don’t think I need to worry about that for some time,’ I suggested. ‘I’m only 16.’
“ ‘That’s nearly twice as old as I was on my wedding day.’ ”
After her 1977 marriage to Gurdon Wattles, a legal officer at the United Nations
, she was known in her private life as Santha Rama Rau Wattles. He died in 1995. A previous marriage, to Faubion Bowers, a linguist and writer who was an expert on Kabuki, the stylized classical theater of Japan, ended in divorce. Both marriages afforded her the opportunity to travel widely.
“They had a vagabond type of existence,” her son, Mr. Bowers, said of his parents, though he acknowledged they were affluent vagabonds.
In addition to her son, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., she is survived by four stepchildren: Stuart Scadron-Wattles of Seattle, Joshua Wattles of Los Angeles, Arabella Wattles Teal of Washington and Katherine Wattles of Athens; a granddaughter; and four stepgrandchildren.
Ms. Rama Rau’s adaptation of “A Passage to India,” Forster’s 1924 novel about the impact of colonialism on both the British and the Indians, was endorsed by Forster himself. It played successfully on the West End in London, ran for 109 performances on Broadway in 1962 and was used by the director David Lean
as source material his 1984 film. Her work on it was central to what she understood to be her responsibility, her family said — namely to explain herself and India to a world that was curious about both.
“She was such an unusual person,” said her stepdaughter Ms. Teal, “that there was almost no occasion on which she didn’t attract attention, just by being herself.”