PERNELL ROBERTS, WHO PLAYED ELDEST SON ON ‘BONANZA’
Roberts quit the popular western at the height of its popularity. He later starred in the TV series ‘Trapper John M.D.’
|Members of the Cartwright family on “Bonanza” were played, from left, by Dan Blocker, Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts and Michael Landon. (NBC)|
His death after a two-year battle with cancer was confirmed by his wife, Eleanor Criswell.
Roberts became a star as Adam Cartwright, the heir apparent of the fictional Ponderosa ranch, a role he filled from the show’s debut in 1959 until 1965, when he left the cast despite the series’ immense popularity. “Bonanza” remained on the air for eight more years without him.
The longest-running TV western after “Gunsmoke” and the first to be broadcast in color, “Bonanza” broke the mold for its genre with its emphasis on character development over gunplay. The cast was headed by Lorne Greene, who played thrice-widowed patriarch Ben, and also featured Dan Blocker as the lovably oafish middle son, Hoss, and Michael Landon as the hot-headed youngest son, Little Joe.
Roberts was the well-educated and mature brother, who played Adam with a suave manner that won a legion of fans. He found the role unfulfilling, however, and left the show at its peak, a decision that caused him to be “scratched off by most of his contemporary fellow actors as some kind of a nut,” Times critic Hal Humphrey wrote in 1967.
Roberts had several complaints, chief among which was the relationship between Ben Cartwright and his grown sons. “Isn’t it just a bit silly for three adult males to get Father’s permission for everything they do?” Roberts said in the Washington Post a few years before he departed the cast. “I have an impotent role. Everywhere I turn, there’s the father image.”
A political liberal who later took part in civil rights protests, he also chafed at the mostly white complexion of the cast. The notable exception was Victor Sen Yung, who played a stereotypical Chinese house servant.
Born May 18, 1928, in Waycross, Ga., Roberts grew up poor on the edge of the state’s Okefenokee Swamp. In high school, he played the horn and acted in school and church plays.
He attended Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland but did not earn a degree from either institution, and he served in the Marine Corps band at Quantico, Va.
He began his theatrical career in 1950 at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C, where he performed in more than a dozen plays. In 1952 he moved to New York City and appeared in one-act operas and ballets with the North American Lyric Theater.
In 1955 he won a Drama Desk Award as the best off-Broadway actor for his performance in “Macbeth.” On Broadway he appeared with Joanne Woodward in “The Lovers.”
In 1957 he arrived in Hollywood and won roles in three movies, including “Desire Under the Elms” (1958), which starred Sophia Loren, Anthony Perkins and Burl Ives.
True stardom eluded him, however, until he landed the part of Cartwright’s No. 1 son in NBC’s “Bonanza.”
He helped his TV family maintain the ranch and fight off desperadoes and other scoundrels for six years, during which he also was given the opportunity to show off his singing voice a number of times.
But he frequently clashed with the show’s writers and producer “about the scripts, character development and other things” and grew so unhappy about “artistic compromises” that he became, as one headline described his decision, a “Bonanza Deserter.” His character was written out of the show.
Some of Roberts’ first television roles after leaving “Bonanza” were on rival westerns, including “Gunsmoke,” “The Big Valley” and “The Virginian.”
He also appeared on other leading series of the 1970s, such as “Hawaii Five-O” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.”
His comeback role was Dr. John McIntyre in the CBS drama “Trapper John, M.D.” based on the character from the popular comedy “MASH.”
His work in “Trapper John” earned Roberts an Emmy nomination for best dramatic actor in 1981.
After the show ended in 1986, he made guest appearances on other series and TV movies, narrated a documentary and hosted the short-lived “FBI: The Untold Stories” (1991). He retired in the late 1990s.
A son from his first marriage, Chris, died in 1989. He is survived by Criswell, his fourth wife. Services will be private.
Roberts said in several interviews that he harbored no regrets about abandoning “Bonanza,” which he said he left “for my own good.”
He outlived the other Cartwrights: Blocker died in 1972, Greene in 1987 and Landon in 1991.
Louis R. Harlan, whose definitive two-volume biography of Booker T. Washington convincingly embraced its subject’s daunting complexities and ambiguities and won both the Bancroft Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, died Jan. 22 in Lexington, Va. He was 87.
The cause was liver failure, said his wife, Sadie.
Mr. Harlan, a white Southerner, made race relations and Southern history his field of inquiry after attending a guest lecture by John Hope Franklin at Johns Hopkins University in the 1940s. When the historian Marquis James died in 1955 before he could embark on a planned biography of Washington, Mr. Harlan took up the task.
It took him nearly three decades to finish it, in large part because at the same time he was editing, with Raymond L. Smock, a 14-volume edition of Washington’s papers, published between 1972 and 1988.
“Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856-1901” was published by Oxford University Press in 1972 and won the Bancroft Prize the following year. “Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915,” published by Oxford in 1983, won both the Bancroft Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1984. “It was the first really three-dimensional work that went into the secret life, the private world, of the most famous black man of his time,” said Mr. Smock, the author of “Booker T. Washington: Black Leadership in the Age of Jim Crow” (Ivan R. Dee, 2009).
Louis Rudolph Harlan was born on July 13, 1922, near West Point, Miss. Three years later his father lost the family farm and the Harlans moved to Decatur, Ga.
While studying history at Emory University, Mr. Harlan enlisted in the Navy, which allowed him to complete his degree before entering midshipman’s school in 1943. As an officer on an infantry landing craft, he took part in the invasions of Normandy and southern France before being posted to Enewetak atoll in preparation for an invasion of Japan.
He wrote about his wartime experiences in a memoir, “All at Sea: Coming of Age in World War II” (1996).
After leaving the Navy with the rank of lieutenant, Mr. Harlan earned a master’s degree in history at Vanderbilt University in 1948 and a doctorate at Johns Hopkins in 1955. His first book, “Separate and Unequal: Public School Campaigns and Racism in the Southern Seaport States, 1901-1915,” was published in 1958.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a sister, Harriett, of Tallahassee, Fla.; two sons, Louis, of Ronceverte, W.Va., and Benjamin, of Secondcreek, W.Va.; and a grandchild.
In 1965, after teaching at East Texas State College in Commerce and at the University of Cincinnati, Mr. Harlan accepted a full professorship at the University of Maryland, within easy reach of Washington’s papers. He retired in 1992. Many of his essays were collected by the University Press of Mississippi in “Booker T. Washington in Perspective” (1988).
Critics praised Mr. Harlan’s skill at capturing Washington’s elusive character and getting a read on a personality that “had vanished into the roles it had played,” as he once put it.
“He was attuned to the age of segregation, he worked hard behind the scenes to change the system, but he found it impossible to change it while accepting it at the same time,” he told The New York Times in 1984. “He was like the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit who becomes what he does.”
J. D. SALINGER, ENIGMATIC AUTHOR OF ‘THE CATCHER IN THE RYE’
Mr. Salinger’s literary representative, Harold Ober Associates, announced the death, saying it was of natural causes. “Despite having broken his hip in May,” the agency said, “his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year. He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death.”
Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”
“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, “Catcher” became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.
With its cynical, slangy vernacular voice (Holden’s two favorite expressions are “phony” and “goddam”), its sympathetic understanding of adolescence and its fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world, the novel struck a nerve in cold war America and quickly attained cult status, especially among the young. Reading “Catcher” used to be an essential rite of passage, almost as important as getting your learner’s permit.
The novel’s allure persists to this day, even if some of Holden’s preoccupations now seem a bit dated, and it continues to sell more than 250,000 copies a year in paperback. Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon in 1980, even said the explanation for his act could be found in the pages of “The Catcher in the Rye.” In 1974 Philip Roth wrote, “The response of college students to the work of J. D. Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times but, instead, has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on today between self and culture.”
Many critics were more admiring of “Nine Stories,” which came out in 1953 and helped shape writers like Mr. Roth, John Updike and Harold Brodkey. The stories were remarkable for their sharp social observation, their pitch-perfect dialogue (Mr. Salinger, who used italics almost as a form of musical notation, was a master not of literary speech but of speech as people actually spoke it) and the way they demolished whatever was left of the traditional architecture of the short story — the old structure of beginning, middle, end — for an architecture of emotion, in which a story could turn on a tiny alteration of mood or irony. Mr. Updike said he admired “that open-ended Zen quality they have, the way they don’t snap shut.”
Mr. Salinger also perfected the great trick of literary irony — of validating what you mean by saying less than, or even the opposite of, what you intend. Orville Prescott wrote in The New York Times in 1963, “Rarely if ever in literary history has a handful of stories aroused so much discussion, controversy, praise, denunciation, mystification and interpretation.”
As a young man Mr. Salinger yearned ardently for just this kind of attention. He bragged in college about his literary talent and ambitions, and wrote swaggering letters to Whit Burnett, the editor of Story magazine. But success, once it arrived, paled quickly for him. He told the editors of Saturday Review that he was “good and sick” of seeing his photograph on the dust jacket of “The Catcher in the Rye” and demanded that it be removed from subsequent editions. He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail. In 1953 Mr. Salinger, who had been living on East 57th Street in Manhattan, fled the literary world altogether and moved to a 90-acre compound on a wooded hillside in Cornish. He seemed to be fulfilling Holden’s desire to build himself “a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life,” away from “any goddam stupid conversation with anybody.”
He seldom left, except occasionally to vacation in Florida or to visit William Shawn, the almost equally reclusive former editor of The New Yorker. Avoiding Mr. Shawn’s usual (and very public) table at the Algonquin Hotel, they would meet under the clock at the old Biltmore Hotel, the rendezvous for generations of prep-school and college students.
After Mr. Salinger moved to New Hampshire his publications slowed to a trickle and soon stopped completely. “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam,” both collections of material previously published in The New Yorker, came out in 1961 and 1963, and the last work of Mr. Salinger’s to appear in print was “Hapworth 16, 1924,” a 25,000-word story that took up most of the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker.
In 1997 Mr. Salinger agreed to let Orchises Press, a small publisher in Alexandria, Va., bring out “Hapworth” in book form, but he backed out of the deal at the last minute. He never collected the rest of his stories or allowed any of them to be reprinted in textbooks or anthologies. One story, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” was turned into “My Foolish Heart,” a movie so bad that Mr. Salinger was never tempted to sell film rights again.
Befriended, Then Betrayed
In the fall of 1953 he befriended some local teenagers and allowed one of them to interview him for what he assumed would be an article on the high school page of a local paper, The Claremont Daily Eagle. The article appeared instead as a feature on the editorial page, and Mr. Salinger felt so betrayed that he broke off with the teenagers and built a six-and-a-half-foot fence around his property.
He seldom spoke to the press again, except in 1974 when, trying to fend off the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories, he told a reporter from The Times: “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
And yet the more he sought privacy, the more famous he became, especially after his appearance on the cover of Time in 1961. For years it was a sort of journalistic sport for newspapers and magazines to send reporters to New Hampshire in hopes of a sighting. As a young man Mr. Salinger had a long, melancholy face and deep soulful eyes, but now, in the few photographs that surfaced, he looked gaunt and gray, like someone in an El Greco painting. He spent more time and energy avoiding the world, it was sometimes said, than most people do in embracing it, and his elusiveness only added to the mythology growing up around him.
Depending on one’s point of view, he was either a crackpot or the American Tolstoy, who had turned silence itself into his most eloquent work of art. Some believed he was publishing under an assumed name, and for a while in the late 1970s, William Wharton, author of “Birdy,” was rumored to be Mr. Salinger, writing under another name, until it turned out that William Wharton was instead a pen name for the writer Albert du Aime.
In 1984 the British literary critic Ian Hamilton approached Mr. Salinger with the notion of writing his biography. Not surprisingly, Mr. Salinger turned him down, saying he had “borne all the exploitation and loss of privacy I can possibly bear in a single lifetime.” Mr. Hamilton went ahead anyway, and in 1986, Mr. Salinger took him to court to prevent the use of quotations and paraphrases from unpublished letters. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and to the surprise of many, Mr. Salinger eventually won, though not without some cost to his cherished privacy. (In June 2009 he also sued Fredrik Colting, the Swedish author and publisher of a novel said to be a sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye.” In July a federal judge indefinitely enjoined publication of the book.)
Mr. Salinger’s privacy was further punctured in 1998 and again in 2000 with the publication of memoirs by, first, Joyce Maynard — with whom he had a 10-month affair in 1973, when Ms. Maynard was a college freshman — and then his daughter, Margaret. Some critics complained that both women were trying to exploit and profit from their history with Mr. Salinger, and Mr. Salinger’s son, Matthew, wrote in a letter to The New York Observer that his sister had “a troubled mind,” and that he didn’t recognize the man portrayed in her account. Both books nevertheless added a creepy, Howard Hughesish element to the Salinger legend.
Mr. Salinger was controlling and sexually manipulative, Ms. Maynard wrote, and a health nut obsessed with homeopathic medicine and with his diet (frozen peas for breakfast, undercooked lamb burger for dinner). Ms. Salinger said that her father was pathologically self-centered and abusive toward her mother, and to the homeopathy and food fads she added a long list of other enthusiasms: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism, Christian Science, Scientology and acupuncture. Mr. Salinger drank his own urine, she wrote, and sat for hours in an orgone box.
But was he writing? The question obsessed Salingerologists, and in the absence of real evidence, theories multiplied. He hadn’t written a word for years. Or, like the character in the Stanley Kubrick film “The Shining,” he wrote the same sentence over and over again. Or like Gogol at the end of his life, he wrote prolifically but then burned it all. Ms. Maynard said she believed there were at least two novels locked away in a safe, though she had never seen them.
Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan on New Year’s Day, 1919, the second of two children. His sister, Doris, who died in 2001, was for many years a buyer in the dress department at Bloomingdale’s. Like the Glasses, the Salinger children were the product of a mixed marriage. Their father, Sol, was a Jew, the son of a rabbi, but sufficiently assimilated that he made his living importing both cheese and ham. Their mother, Marie Jillisch, was of Irish descent, born in Scotland, but changed her first name to Miriam to appease her in-laws. The family was living in Harlem when Mr. Salinger was born, but then, as Sol Salinger’s business prospered, moved to West 82nd Street and then to Park Avenue.
Never much of a student, Mr. Salinger, then known as Sonny, attended the progressive McBurney School on the Upper West Side. (He told the admissions office his interests were dramatics and tropical fish.) But he flunked out after two years and in 1934 was packed off to Valley Forge Military Academy, in Wayne, Pa., which became the model for Holden’s Pencey Prep. Like Holden, Mr. Salinger was the manager of the school fencing team, and he also became the literary editor of the school yearbook, Crossed Swords, and wrote a school song that was either a heartfelt pastiche of 19th-century sentiment or else a masterpiece of irony:
Your sorrow has no shame;
To march no more midst lines of gray;
No longer play the game.
Four years have passed in joyful ways — Wouldst stay those old times dear?
Then cherish now these fleeting days,
The few while you are here.
In 1937, after a couple of unenthusiastic weeks at New York University, Mr. Salinger traveled with his father to Austria and Poland, where the father’s plan was for him to learn the ham business. Deciding that wasn’t for him, he returned to America and drifted through a term or so at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. Fellow students remember him striding around campus in a black chesterfield with velvet collar and announcing that he was going to write the Great American Novel.
Mr. Salinger’s most sustained exposure to higher education was an evening class he took at Columbia in 1939, taught by Whit Burnett, and under Mr. Burnett’s tutelage he managed to sell a story, “The Young Folks,” to Story magazine. He subsequently sold stories to Esquire, Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post — formulaic work that gave little hint of real originality.
In 1941, after several rejections, Mr. Salinger finally cracked The New Yorker, the ultimate goal of any aspiring writer back then, with a story, “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” that was an early sketch of what became a scene in “The Catcher in the Rye.” But the magazine then had second thoughts, apparently worried about seeming to encourage young people to run away from school, and held the story for five years — an eternity even for The New Yorker — before finally publishing it in 1946, buried in the back of an issue.
Meanwhile Mr. Salinger had been drafted. He served with the Counter-Intelligence Corps of the Fourth Infantry Division, whose job was to interview Nazi deserters and sympathizers, and was stationed for a while in Tiverton, Devon, the setting of “For Esmé — with Love and Squalor,” probably the most deeply felt of the “Nine Stories.” On June 6, 1944, he landed at Utah Beach, and he later saw action during the Battle of the Bulge.
In 1945 he was hospitalized for “battle fatigue” — often a euphemism for a breakdown — and after recovering he stayed on in Europe past the end of the war, chasing Nazi functionaries. He married a German woman, very briefly — a doctor about whom biographers have been able to discover very little. Her name was Sylvia, Margaret Salinger said, but Mr. Salinger always called her Saliva.
A Different Kind of Writer
Back in New York, Mr. Salinger moved into his parents’ apartment and, having never stopped writing, even during the war, resumed his career. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” austere, mysterious and Mr. Salinger’s most famous and still most discussed story, appeared in The New Yorker in 1948 and suggested, not wrongly, that he had become a very different kind of writer. And like so many writers he eventually found in The New Yorker not just an outlet but a kind of home and developed a close relationship with the magazine’s editor, William Shawn, himself famously shy and agoraphobic — a kindred spirit. In 1961 Mr. Salinger dedicated “Franny and Zooey” to Shawn, writing, “I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors, to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.”
As a young writer Mr. Salinger was something of a ladies’ man and dated, among others, Oona O’Neill, the daughter of Eugene O’Neill and the future wife of Charlie Chaplin. In 1953 he met Claire Douglas, the daughter of the British art critic Robert Langdon Douglas, who was then a 19-year-old Radcliffe sophomore who in many ways resembled Franny Glass (or vice versa); they were married two years later. (Ms. Douglas had married and divorced in the meantime.) Margaret was born in 1955, and Matthew, now an actor and film producer, was born in 1960. But the marriage soon turned distant and isolating, and in 1966, Ms. Douglas sued for divorce, claiming that “a continuation of the marriage would seriously injure her health and endanger her reason.”
Besides his son, Matthew, Mr. Salinger is survived by Ms. O’Neill and his daughter, Margaret, as well as three grandsons. His literary agents said in a statement that “in keeping with his lifelong, uncompromising desire to protect and defend his privacy, there will be no service, and the family asks that people’s respect for him, his work and his privacy be extended to them, individually and collectively, during this time.”
“Salinger had remarked that he was in this world but not of it,” the statement said. “His body is gone but the family hopes that he is still with those he loves, whether they are religious or historical figures, personal friends or fictional characters.”
As for the fictional family the Glasses, Mr. Salinger had apparently been writing about them nonstop. Ms. Maynard said she saw shelves of notebooks devoted to the family. In Mr. Salinger’s fiction the Glasses first turn up in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” in which Seymour, the oldest son and family favorite, kills himself during his honeymoon. Characters who turn out in retrospect to have been Glasses appear glancingly in “Nine Stories,” but the family saga really begins to be elaborated upon in “Franny and Zooey,” “Raise High the Roof Beam” and “Hapworth,” the long short story, which is ostensibly a letter written by Seymour from camp when he is just 7 years old but already reading several languages and lusting after Mrs. Happy, wife of the camp owner.
Readers also began to learn about the parents, Les and Bessie, long-suffering ex-vaudevillians, and Seymour’s siblings Franny, Zooey, Buddy, Walt, Waker and Boo Boo; about the Glasses’ Upper West Side apartment; about the radio quiz show on which all the children appeared. Seldom has a fictional family been so lovingly or richly imagined.
Too lovingly, some critics complained. With the publication of “Franny and Zooey” even staunch Salinger admirers began to break ranks. John Updike wrote in The Times Book Review: “Salinger loves the Glasses more than God loves them. He loves them too exclusively. Their invention has become a hermitage for him. He loves them to the detriment of artistic moderation.” Other readers hated the growing streak of Eastern mysticism in the saga, as Seymour evolved, in successive retellings, from a suicidal young man into a genius, a sage, even a saint of sorts.
But writing in The New York Review of Books in 2001, Janet Malcolm argued that the critics had all along been wrong about Mr. Salinger, just as short-sighted contemporaries were wrong about Manet and about Tolstoy. The very things people complain about, Ms. Malcolm contended, were the qualities that made Mr. Salinger great. That the Glasses (and, by implication, their creator) were not at home in the world was the whole point, Ms. Malcolm wrote, and it said as much about the world as about the kind of people who failed to get along there.
HOWARD ZINN, HISTORIAN
Proudly, unabashedly radical, with a mop of white hair and bushy eyebrows and an impish smile, Mr. Zinn, who retired from the history faculty at Boston University two decades ago, delighted in debating ideological foes, not the least his own college president, and in lancing what he considered platitudes, not the least that American history was a heroic march toward democracy.
Almost an oddity at first, with a printing of just 4,000 in 1980, “A People’s History of the United States” has sold nearly two million copies. To describe it as a revisionist account is to risk understatement. A conventional historical account held no allure; he concentrated on what he saw as the genocidal depredations of Christopher Columbus, the blood lust of Theodore Roosevelt and the racial failings of Abraham Lincoln. He also shined an insistent light on the revolutionary struggles of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers and resisters of slavery and war.
Such stories are more often recounted in textbooks today; they were not at the time.
“Our nation had gone through an awful lot — the Vietnam War, civil rights, Watergate — yet the textbooks offered the same fundamental nationalist glorification of country,” Mr. Zinn recalled in a recent interview with The New York Times. “I got the sense that people were hungry for a different, more honest take.”
In a Times book review, the historian Eric Foner wrote of the book that “historians may well view it as a step toward a coherent new version of American history.” But many historians, even those of liberal bent, took a more skeptical view.
“What Zinn did was bring history writing out of the academy, and he undid much of the frankly biased and prejudiced views that came before it,” said Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University. “But he’s a popularizer, and his view of history is topsy-turvy, turning old villains into heroes, and after a while the glow gets unreal.”
That criticism barely raised a hair on Mr. Zinn’s neck. “It’s not an unbiased account; so what?” he said in the Times interview. “If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story.”
Few historians succeeded in passing so completely through the academic membrane into popular culture. He gained admiring mention in the movie “Good Will Hunting”; Matt Damon appeared in a History Channel documentary about him; and Bruce Springsteen said the starkest of his many albums, “Nebraska,” drew inspiration in part from Mr. Zinn’s writings.
Born Aug. 24, 1922, Howard Zinn grew up in New York City. His parents were Jewish immigrants, and his father ran candy stores during the Depression without much success.
“We moved a lot, one step ahead of the landlord,” Mr. Zinn recalled. “I lived in all of Brooklyn’s best slums.”
He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and became a pipe fitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he met his future wife, Roslyn Shechter. Raised on Charles Dickens, he later added Karl Marx to his reading, organized labor rallies and got decked by a billy-club-wielding cop.
He joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, eager to fight the fascists, and became a bombardier in a B-17. He watched his bombs rain down and, when he returned to New York, deposited his medals in an envelope and wrote: “Never Again.”
“I would not deny that war had a certain moral core, but that made it easier for Americans to treat all subsequent wars with a kind of glow,” Mr. Zinn said. “Every enemy becomes Hitler.”
He and his wife lived in a rat-infested basement apartment as he dug ditches and worked in a brewery. Later they moved to public housing and he went to college on the G.I. Bill.
He earned a B.A. at New York University and master’s and doctoral degrees at Columbia University. In 1956 he landed a job at Spelman College, a historically black women’s college, as chairman of the history department. Among his students were Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; Alice Walker, the novelist; and the singer and composer Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Mr. Zinn served on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and marched for civil rights with his students, which angered Spelman’s president.
“I was fired for insubordination,” he recalled. “Which happened to be true.”
Mr. Zinn moved to Boston University in 1964. He traveled with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi to receive prisoners released by the North Vietnamese, and produced the antiwar books “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and Democracy” (1968).
He waged a war of attrition with Boston University’s president at the time, John Silber, a political conservative. Mr. Zinn twice organized faculty votes to oust Mr. Silber, and Mr. Silber returned the favor, saying the professor was a sterling example of those who would “poison the well of academe.”
Mr. Zinn’s book “La Guardia in Congress” (1959) won the American Historical Association’s Albert J. Beveridge Award. “A publisher went so far as to publish my quotations, which my wife thought was ridiculous,” Mr. Zinn said. “She said, ‘What are you, the pope or Mao Tse-Tung?’ ”
Mr. Zinn retired in 1988, concluding his last class early so he could join a picket line. He invited his students to join him.
Mr. Zinn wrote three plays: “Daughter of Venus,” “Marx in Soho” and “Emma,” about the life of the anarchist Emma Goldman. All have been produced. His last article was a rather bleak assessment of President Obama for The Nation. “I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote.
Rosyln Zinn died in 2008. Mr. Zinn is survived by a daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, Mass.; a son, Jeff Zinn, of Wellfleet, Mass.; and five grandchildren.
Mr. Zinn spoke recently of more work to come. The title of his memoir, he noted, best described his personal philosophy: “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.”
Released in 1982, “Poltergeist” featured a brief bravura turn by Ms. Rubinstein as Tangina, the clairvoyant summoned to scour a suburban home of spirits. “This house is clean!” Tangina memorably declared after attempting the job. The Washington Post called her performance one of the best by a film actress that year.
Ms. Rubinstein reprised the role of Tangina in “Poltergeist II” (1986) and “Poltergeist III” (1988).
A medical lab technician who became an actress in her late 40s, Ms. Rubinstein made her film debut in 1981 in the comedy “Under the Rainbow.” Her other films include “Frances” (1982), “Sixteen Candles” (1984), “Teen Witch” (1989) and “Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights” (1998). On television she had a recurring role as the sheriff’s dispatcher Ginny Weedon in the CBS series “Picket Fences.”
Ms. Rubinstein was also known for her public advocacy of AIDS education and the rights of little people, the term she preferred. In 1981 she helped found the Michael Dunn Memorial Repertory Theater, whose tallest actor was 4 foot 6. Mr. Dunn, who died in 1973, was a dwarf actor known for the film “Ship of Fools” (1965).
Zelda Rubinstein was born in Pittsburgh on May 28, 1933; she was, she told The Hartford Courant in 2000, “the only one different in appearance” in her family. After studying at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, Berkeley, she became a technician in a blood bank.
At 47 Ms. Rubinstein abruptly decided to change careers, as she explained in The Courant interview.
“I had no idea what I would do next, but I knew it would involve advocacy for those people who were in danger of being disenfranchised,” she said. “I wanted a platform to be visible as a person who is different, as a representative of several varieties of differences. This is the most effective way for me to carry a message saying, ‘Yes you can.’ I took a look at these shoulders in the mirror and they’re pretty big. They can carry a lot of Sturm und Drang on them.”
Such a big presence on the silver screen, from such a tiny lady.
Zelda starred in many movies, but, she will always be remembered for her role of Tangina Barrons in ‘Poltergist’:
Zelda, may you now go into the light. There is peace and serenity in the light.
Rest in peace, Zelda.
Rest in peace.
JAMES MITCHELL, ACTOR, DANCER WAS ‘ALL MY CHILDREN’ STAPLE
He played patriarch Palmer Cortlandt on the soap opera from 1979 until the show’s 40th anniversary episode this month.
|Early in his career, James Mitchell had leading roles in popular Broadway musicals including “Brigadoon” and “Paint Your Wagon.” He also taught movement for actors and theater students at Yale and Drake universities.|
Mitchell died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease complicated by pneumonia, his longtime partner, Albert Wolsky, said Sunday.
FOR THE RECORD:
James Mitchell obituary: The obituary of actor James Mitchell in Monday’s Section A said that Mel Ferrer starred in the film “Deep in My Heart.” Jose Ferrer appeared in the movie. —
Mitchell joined “All My Children” in 1979 as the wealthy patriarch of one of the principal families living in fictional Pine Valley. A biography on the show’s website described Mitchell’s character as “gruff on the outside” but “a self-made millionaire whose love for his family runs to his core.”
His final appearance was earlier this month for the show’s 40th anniversary episode. He was nominated for seven Daytime Emmy Awards for his role.
“He really enjoyed it,” Wolsky said of the soap. “The meaner he could be, the happier he was; actors love to play the villain.”
Mitchell, born Feb. 29, 1920, in Sacramento, had leading roles in such Broadway musicals as “Bloomer Girl,” “Billion Dollar Baby,” “Brigadoon” and “Paint Your Wagon.”
He also performed in touring companies of “Funny Girl” with Carol Lawrence, “The Three Penny Opera” with Chita Rivera and “The King and I” with Ann Blyth.
He appeared with the American Ballet Theatre and with the Agnes de Mille Dance Theater.
Mitchell’s movie roles included “The Turning Point” in 1977 with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine, “The Band Wagon” in 1953 with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, “Oklahoma” in 1955 with Gordon MacRae and “Deep in My Heart” in 1954 with Mel Ferrer and including Charisse, who dances with Mitchell.
He had several television appearances, and his other soap operas credits were “Where the Heart Is” from 1969 to 1973 and “The Edge of Night” in 1956.
Mitchell also taught movement for actors and theater students at Yale and Drake universities. Drake awarded him an honorary doctorate in fine arts.
A memorial will be held at a later date, Wolsky said.
James Mitchell was an icon in his role, and as one of Erica Kane’s (Susan Lucci) many husbands.
He brought style, panache, and elan to his character, as poor Pete Cooney, who rose to great heights as Palmer Courtlandt, a self-made man.
Rest in peace, James.
Rest in peace.