IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-17-2010

BARBARA BILLINGSLEY, TV’S JUNE CLEAVER

By MICHAEL POLLAK

Published: October 16, 2010

Barbara Billingsley, who as June Cleaver on the television series “Leave It to Beaver” personified a Hollywood postwar family ideal of the ever-sweet, ever-helpful suburban stay-at-home mom, died Saturday. She was 94.
October 17, 2010

Associated Press

The Cleaver family on “Leave it to Beaver,” from left: Tony Dow as Wally, Barbara Billingsley as June, Hugh Beaumont as Ward and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver.

October 17, 2010

Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley and Tony Dow at a a celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Leave It to Beaver” in 2007.
A family spokeswoman, Judy Twersky, said that Ms. Billingsley had died of polymyalgia, a rheumatoid disease, at her home in Santa Monica, Calif.

From 1957 to 1963 and in decades of reruns, the glamorous June, who wore pearls and high heels at home, could be counted on to help her husband, Ward (Hugh Beaumont), get their son Theodore, better known as Beaver (Jerry Mathers), and his older brother, Wally (Tony Dow), out of countless minor jams, whether an alligator in the basement or a horse in the garage.

Baking a steady supply of cookies, she would use motherly intuition to sound the alarm about incipient trouble (“Ward, I’m worried about the Beaver”) in their immaculate, airy house in the fictional town of Mayfield. (The house appeared to have no master bedroom, just a big door from which Ward and June occasionally emerged, tying their bathrobes.)

Along with the mothers played by Harriet Nelson (“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”), Donna Reed (“The Donna Reed Show”) and others, Ms. Billingsley’s role became a cultural standard, one that may have been too good to be true but produced fan mail and nostalgia for decades afterward, from the same generation whose counterculture derided the see-no-evil suburbia June’s character represented.

Ms. Billingsley, who had nothing but respect for June Cleaver, was a former model and career actress who was married three times and spent part of her career as a working single mother (of two boys, at that).

Yes, she acknowledged 40 years later, her role was a picture-perfect reflection of the times. “We were the ideal parents because that’s the way he saw it,” she said, describing the show as the world seen through the eyes of a child. (The pearls, incidentally, covered up a hollow in her neck. In the beginning of the show, she wore flats; the heels were an attempt to stay taller than the growing boys.)

June was no pushover; she could be quite a disciplinarian, Ms. Billingsley said in 2000, during an interview for the Archive of American Television. “She was a loving, happy stay-at-home mom, which I think is great,” she said. Ms. Billingsley also said that women who stay at home to care for their children may find in it the best — and most important — job they’ll ever have.

Ms. Billingsley was born Barbara Lillian Combes on Dec. 22, 1915, in Los Angeles, where she attended George Washington High School. She left Los Angeles Junior College to appear in a short-lived Broadway play, “Straw Hat.” She took her stage name from her first husband, Glenn Billingsley, a nephew of Sherman Billingsley, the proprietor of the Stork Club in Manhattan. They had two sons.

After working as a fashion model, Ms. Billingsley returned to Los Angeles, acted in local plays and was signed to a contract by MGM. In the 1940s and early ’50s, her film roles were mostly small. Her movies included “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952) with Kirk Douglas, “Shadow on the Wall” (1950) with Ann Sothern and “Three Guys Named Mike” (1951) with Jane Wyman.

Of “Leave It to Beaver,” she later recalled, “It was a happy experience for me, and very timely,” adding that there was never a fight on the set in seven years. After the show ended its run in 1963, Ms. Billingsley, by then typecast, saw few acting roles. .

Her show business career was revived in 1980 by the movie comedy “Airplane!” in which she played a sweet passenger who communicates in “jive” with two streetwise black passengers — an ironic comment on her previous incarnation as America’s white-bread mom. After that there were guest appearances on “Mork & Mindy,” “Amazing Stories,” “The Love Boat,” “Murphy Brown,” “Roseanne” and other shows. From 1984 to 1991 Ms. Billingsley was the voice of the nanny in the animated series “Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.”

In 1983 she reprised her role as June in a television movie, “Still the Beaver,” which reunited her with many members of the original “Leave It to Beaver” cast (but not Hugh Beaumont, who died in 1982). That led to a cable series known first by that name and then as “The New Leave It to Beaver.” She also had a small part in the 1997 feature-film version of “Leave It to Beaver.”

After her divorce from Glenn Billingsley in 1947, Ms. Billingsley married Roy Kellino. After Mr. Kellino’s death in 1956, she married Dr. William Mortenson, a general practitioner. They remained married until Dr. Mortenson died in 1981. “Our family after I married Dr. Bill turned out to be like” the Cleavers, she said in 2000.

She is survived by her two sons, Drew Billingsley of Granada Hills, Calif., and Glenn Billingsley Jr. of Phillips Ranch, Calif.

Many of Ms. Billingsley’s later guest appearances were either as June Cleaver or in roles that made wry references to her. But she said she turned down scripts if they made fun of June.

“She’s been too good to me to play anything like that,” she said

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Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver. Always cool, calm, collected and ever loving with  Ward, and the boys—Wally, and the Beav.

June, always so stylish in her dresses and high heels, as she went about her housework wearing those pearls, where she never worked up a sweat washing, cooking, ironing, vacuuming, and dusting.

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June, who years later in the movie Airplane would put a jive turkey in his place for spurning her help.

Barbara Billingsley, an actress who was loved and admired by millions of devoted fans. An actress who gave so many memories and joys to those would always picture her as the epitome of elan and sophistication.

Rest in peace, Ms. Billingsley.

Rest in peace.

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BELVA PLAIN, NOVELIST

By ELSA DIXLER

Published: October 17, 2010

Belva Plain, who became a best-selling author at age 59 and whose multigenerational family sagas of Jewish-American life won a loyal readership in the millions, died on Tuesday at her home in Short Hills, N.J. She was 95.
October 18, 2010

New Jersey Star-Ledger

Belva Plain

Her daughter, Barbara Plain, confirmed her death.

Ms. Plain’s first novel, “Evergreen,” published in 1978, spent 41 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list in hardcover and another 20 in paperback, and was made into a miniseries by NBC in 1985.

It follows the story of Anna, a feisty, red-headed Jewish immigrant girl from Poland in turn-of-the-century New York, whose family saga continues through several decades and three more books.

Strong-willed women, many of them Jewish and red-haired as well, appear again and again in Ms. Plain’s fiction. Some of her novels use historical settings — “Crescent City,” published in 1984, was set in the Jewish community of Civil War-era New Orleans. Other books tell stories about contemporary issues, sometimes inspired by the headlines — divorce (“Promises”), adoption (“Blessings”), child sexual abuse (“The Carousel”) or babies accidentally switched at birth (“Daybreak”). All of them are full of passion, but there is very little explicit sex.

According to her publisher, more than 25 million copies of her books are in print, and they have been translated into 22 languages. Twenty of the novels have appeared on The New York Times best-seller list.

The critics were often unimpressed by Ms. Plain’s novels. In a review of “Harvest” in 1990, Webster Schott described Ms. Plain’s books as “easy, consoling works of generous spirit, fat with plot and sentiment, thin in nearly every other way and almost invisible in character development.”

Such opinions did not stop millions from enjoying her books; readers’ comments on Amazon often speak of them as “big, cozy reads.” That would have pleased Ms. Plain, who saw nothing wrong with being entertaining. “Even the real geniuses, like Dostoyevsky, entertained,” she said.

Belva Plain’s own story sounds like something out of a novel. When “Evergreen” became an overnight success, she was a 59-year-old grandmother. But she was not a novice; Ms. Plain had been writing for much of her life.

Born Belva Offenberg in New York City on Oct. 9, 1915, she was a third-generation American of German Jewish descent; her father was a builder. She attended the Fieldston School and graduated from Barnard College in 1939 with a degree in history. She sold her first story to Cosmopolitan (“a very different magazine then,” she told an interviewer) when she was 25, and contributed several dozen to various women’s magazines until she had three children in rapid succession. (“I couldn’t have done both,” she explained.)

She married Dr. Irving Plain, an ophthalmologist, in 1941; he died in 1982. Besides her daughter Barbara, Ms. Plain is survived by another daughter, Nancy Goldfeder; a son, John; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Well groomed and conservatively dressed, she looked far younger than her age. Ladylike was an adjective often applied both to Ms. Plain and her books. (“Oh,” she once responded to an interviewer who had used it, “I certainly hope you don’t mean prissy.”) For her own reading, Ms. Plain preferred the classics, and spoke of rereading the novels of Anthony Trollope. Many modern novels, she thought, were “sleazy trash.”

Ms. Plain’s work routine involved making detailed outlines of her books and then writing them in longhand in spiral notebooks, rarely using a typewriter and never a computer. A disciplined worker, she wrote for several hours in the morning five days a week. She produced a 500- or 600-page novel every year or so.

Ms. Plain was fiercely private about her life, but she spoke about her novels, often to Jewish groups.

“I got sick of reading the same old story, told by Jewish writers, of the same old stereotypes — the possessive mothers, the worn-out fathers, all the rest of the neurotic rebellious unhappy self-hating tribe,” she said. “I wanted to write a different novel about Jews — and a truer one.”

SOURCE

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JOAN SUTHERLAND, FLAWLESS SOPRANO

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI

Published: October 11, 2010

Joan Sutherland, one of the most acclaimed sopranos of the 20th century, a singer of such power and range that she was crowned “La Stupenda,” died on Sunday at her home in Switzerland, near Montreux. She was 83.
B
October 12, 2010

Bob Ganley/NBC

Joan Sutherland in 1965 in her signature role Lucia di Lammermoor. She helped restore bel canto operas to popularity. More Photos »

Related

October 11, 2010

Associated Press

Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti in “I Puritani” at the Metropolitan Opera in 1976. More Photos »

Her death was confirmed by her close friend the mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.

It was Italy’s notoriously picky critics who dubbed the Australian-born Ms. Sutherland the Stupendous One after her Italian debut, in Venice in 1960. And for 40 years the name endured with opera lovers around the world. Her 1961 debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” generated so much excitement that standees began lining up at 7:30 that morning. Her singing of the Mad Scene drew a thunderous 12-minute ovation.

Ms. Sutherland’s singing was founded on astonishing technique. Her voice was evenly produced throughout an enormous range, from a low G to effortless flights above high C. She could spin lyrical phrases with elegant legato, subtle colorings and expressive nuances. Her sound was warm, vibrant and resonant, without any forcing. Indeed, her voice was so naturally large that at the start of her career Ms. Sutherland seemed destined to become a Wagnerian dramatic soprano.

Following her first professional performances, in 1948, during a decade of steady growth and intensive training, Ms. Sutherland developed incomparable facility for fast runs, elaborate roulades and impeccable trills. She did not compromise the passagework, as many do, by glossing over scurrying runs, but sang almost every note fully.

Her abilities led Richard Bonynge, the Sydney-born conductor and vocal coach whom she married in 1954, to persuade her early on to explore the early-19th-century Italian opera of the bel canto school. She became a major force in its revitalization.

Bel canto (which translates as “beautiful song” or “beautiful singing”) denotes an approach to singing exemplified by evenness through the range and great agility. The term also refers to the early-19th-century Italian operas steeped in bel canto style. Outside of Italy, the repertory had languished for decades when Maria Callas appeared in the early 1950s and demonstrated that operas like “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Bellini’s “Norma” were not just showcases for coloratura virtuosity but musically elegant and dramatically gripping works as well.

Even as a young man, Mr. Bonynge had uncommon knowledge of bel canto repertory and style. Ms. Sutherland and Mr. Bonynge, who is four years younger than she, met in Sydney at a youth concert and became casual friends. They were reacquainted later in London, where Ms. Sutherland settled with her mother in 1951 to attend the Royal College of Music. There Mr. Bonynge became the major influence on her development.

Ms. Sutherland used to say she thought of herself and her husband as a duo and that she didn’t talk of her career, “but of ours.”

In a 1961 profile in The New York Times Magazine she said she initially had “a big rather wild voice” that was not heavy enough for Wagner, although she did not realize this until she heard “Wagner sung as it should be.”

“Richard had decided — long before I agreed with him — that I was a coloratura,” she said.

“We fought like cats and dogs over it,” she said, adding, “It took Richard three years to convince me.”

In her repertory choices Ms. Sutherland ranged widely during the 1950s, singing lighter lyric Mozart roles like the Countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and heavier Verdi roles like Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera.” Even then, astute listeners realized that she was en route to becoming something extraordinary.

In a glowing and perceptive review of her performance as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” at Covent Garden in London in late 1957, the critic Andrew Porter, writing in The Financial Times, commended her for not “sacrificing purity to power.” This is “not her way,” Mr. Porter wrote, “and five years on we shall bless her for her not endeavoring now to be ‘exciting’ but, instead, lyrical and beautiful.”

She became an international sensation after her career-defining performance in the title role of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Covent Garden — its first presentation there since 1925 — which opened on Feb. 17, 1959. The production was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by the Italian maestro Tullio Serafin, a longtime Callas colleague, who elicited from the 32-year-old soprano a vocally resplendent and dramatically affecting portrayal of the trusting, unstable young bride of Lammermoor.

Mr. Porter, reviewing the performance in The Financial Times, wrote that the brilliance of Ms. Sutherland’s singing was to be expected by this point. The surprise, he explained, was the new dramatic presence she brought to bear.

“The traces of self-consciousness, of awkwardness on the stage, had disappeared; and at the same time she sang more freely, more powerfully, more intensely — and also more bewitchingly — than ever before.”

This triumph was followed in 1960 by landmark portrayals in neglected bel canto operas by Bellini: Elvira in “I Puritani” at the Glyndebourne Festival (the first presentation in England since 1887) and “La Sonnambula” at Covent Garden (the company’s first production in half a century).

Ms. Sutherland’s American debut came in November 1960 in the title role of Handel’s “Alcina” at the Dallas Opera, the first American production of this now-popular work. Her distinguished Decca recording of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” with an exceptional cast conducted by John Pritchard, was released in 1961, the year of her enormously anticipated Metropolitan Opera debut in that same work, on Nov. 26.

At Ms. Sutherland’s first appearance, before she had sung a note, there was an enthusiastic ovation. Following the first half of Lucia’s Mad Scene in the final act, which culminated in a glorious high E-flat, the ovation lasted almost 5 minutes. When she finished the scene and her crazed, dying Lucia collapsed to the stage floor, the ovation lasted 12 minutes.

Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Harold C. Schonberg wrote that other sopranos might have more power or a sweeter tone, but “there is none around who has the combination of technique, vocal security, clarity and finesse that Miss Sutherland can summon.”

Even for some admirers, though, there were limitations to her artistry. Her diction was often indistinct. After receiving steady criticism for this shortcoming, Ms. Sutherland worked to correct it, and sang with crisper enunciation in the 1970s.

She was also sometimes criticized for delivering dramatically bland performances. At 5-foot-9, she was a large woman, with long arms and large hands, and a long, wide face. As her renown increased, she insisted that designers create costumes for her that compensated for her figure, which, as she admitted self-deprecatingly in countless interviews, was somewhat flat in the bust but wide in the rib cage. Certain dresses could make her look like “a large column walking about the stage,” she wrote in “The Autobiography of Joan Sutherland: A Prima Donna’s Progress” (1997).

Paradoxically, Mr. Bonynge contributed to the sometimes dramatically uninvolved quality of her performances. By the mid-1960s he was her conductor of choice, often part of the deal when she signed a contract. Trained as a pianist and vocal coach, he essentially taught himself conducting. Even after extended experience, he was not the maestro opera fans turned to for arresting performances of Verdi’s “Traviata.” But he thoroughly understood the bel canto style and was attuned to every component of his wife’s voice.

Yet if urging her to be sensible added to her longevity, it sometimes resulted in her playing it safe. Other conductors prodded Ms. Sutherland to sing with greater intensity: for example, Georg Solti, in an acclaimed 1967 recording of Verdi’s Requiem with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Chorus, and Zubin Mehta, who enticed Ms. Sutherland into recording the title role in Puccini’s “Turandot,” which she never sang onstage, for a 1972 recording. Both of these projects featured the tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who would become an ideal partner for Ms. Sutherland in the bel canto repertory. Ms. Sutherland’s fiery Turandot suggests she had dramatic abilities that were never tapped.

Joan Alston Sutherland was born on Nov. 7, 1926, in Sydney, where the family lived in a modest house overlooking the harbor. The family garden and the rich array of wildflowers on the hillside near the beach inspired her lifelong love of gardening.

Her mother, Muriel Sutherland, was a fine mezzo-soprano who had studied with Mathilde Marchesi, the teacher of the Australian soprano Nellie Melba. Though too shy for the stage, Ms. Sutherland’s mother did vocal exercises every day and was her daughter’s principal teacher throughout her adolescence.

Ms. Sutherland’s father, William, a Scottish-born tailor, had been married before. His first wife died during the influenza epidemic after World War I, leaving him with three daughters and a son. Ms. Sutherland was the only child of his second marriage. He died on the day of Ms. Sutherland’s sixth birthday. He had just given her a new bathing suit and she wanted to try it out. Though feeling unwell, he climbed down to the beach with her and, upon returning, collapsed in his wife’s arms. Joan, along with her youngest half-sister and their mother, moved into the home of an aunt and uncle, who had sufficient room and a big garden in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra.

It was Italy’s notoriously picky critics who dubbed the Australian-born Ms. Sutherland the Stupendous One after her Italian debut, in Venice in 1960. And for 40 years the name endured with opera lovers around the world. Her 1961 debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” generated so much excitement that standees began lining up at 7:30 that morning. Her singing of the Mad Scene drew a thunderous 12-minute ovation.

Ms. Sutherland’s singing was founded on astonishing technique. Her voice was evenly produced throughout an enormous range, from a low G to effortless flights above high C. She could spin lyrical phrases with elegant legato, subtle colorings and expressive nuances. Her sound was warm, vibrant and resonant, without any forcing. Indeed, her voice was so naturally large that at the start of her career Ms. Sutherland seemed destined to become a Wagnerian dramatic soprano.

Following her first professional performances, in 1948, during a decade of steady growth and intensive training, Ms. Sutherland developed incomparable facility for fast runs, elaborate roulades and impeccable trills. She did not compromise the passagework, as many do, by glossing over scurrying runs, but sang almost every note fully.

Her abilities led Richard Bonynge, the Sydney-born conductor and vocal coach whom she married in 1954, to persuade her early on to explore the early-19th-century Italian opera of the bel canto school. She became a major force in its revitalization.

Bel canto (which translates as “beautiful song” or “beautiful singing”) denotes an approach to singing exemplified by evenness through the range and great agility. The term also refers to the early-19th-century Italian operas steeped in bel canto style. Outside of Italy, the repertory had languished for decades when Maria Callas appeared in the early 1950s and demonstrated that operas like “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Bellini’s “Norma” were not just showcases for coloratura virtuosity but musically elegant and dramatically gripping works as well.

Even as a young man, Mr. Bonynge had uncommon knowledge of bel canto repertory and style. Ms. Sutherland and Mr. Bonynge, who is four years younger than she, met in Sydney at a youth concert and became casual friends. They were reacquainted later in London, where Ms. Sutherland settled with her mother in 1951 to attend the Royal College of Music. There Mr. Bonynge became the major influence on her development.

Ms. Sutherland used to say she thought of herself and her husband as a duo and that she didn’t talk of her career, “but of ours.”

In a 1961 profile in The New York Times Magazine she said she initially had “a big rather wild voice” that was not heavy enough for Wagner, although she did not realize this until she heard “Wagner sung as it should be.”

“Richard had decided — long before I agreed with him — that I was a coloratura,” she said.

“We fought like cats and dogs over it,” she said, adding, “It took Richard three years to convince me.”

In her repertory choices Ms. Sutherland ranged widely during the 1950s, singing lighter lyric Mozart roles like the Countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and heavier Verdi roles like Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera.” Even then, astute listeners realized that she was en route to becoming something extraordinary.

In a glowing and perceptive review of her performance as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” at Covent Garden in London in late 1957, the critic Andrew Porter, writing in The Financial Times, commended her for not “sacrificing purity to power.” This is “not her way,” Mr. Porter wrote, “and five years on we shall bless her for her not endeavoring now to be ‘exciting’ but, instead, lyrical and beautiful.”

She became an international sensation after her career-defining performance in the title role of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Covent Garden — its first presentation there since 1925 — which opened on Feb. 17, 1959. The production was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by the Italian maestro Tullio Serafin, a longtime Callas colleague, who elicited from the 32-year-old soprano a vocally resplendent and dramatically affecting portrayal of the trusting, unstable young bride of Lammermoor.

Mr. Porter, reviewing the performance in The Financial Times, wrote that the brilliance of Ms. Sutherland’s singing was to be expected by this point. The surprise, he explained, was the new dramatic presence she brought to bear.

“The traces of self-consciousness, of awkwardness on the stage, had disappeared; and at the same time she sang more freely, more powerfully, more intensely — and also more bewitchingly — than ever before.”
gifts, she pegged her as a mezzo-soprano. At 16, facing the reality of having to support herself, Ms. Sutherland completed a secretarial course and took office jobs, while keeping up her vocal studies. She began lessons in Sydney with Aida Dickens, who convinced her that she was a soprano, very likely a dramatic soprano. Ms. Sutherland began singing oratorios and radio broadcasts and made a notable debut in 1947 as Purcell’s Dido in Sydney.

In 1951, with prize money from winning a prestigious vocal competition, she and her mother moved to London, where Ms. Sutherland enrolled at the opera school of the Royal College of Music. The next year, after three previous unsuccessful auditions, she was accepted into the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and made her debut as the First Lady in Mozart’s “Zauberflöte.”

In the company’s landmark 1952 production of Bellini’s “Norma,” starring Maria Callas, Ms. Sutherland sang the small role of Clotilde, Norma’s confidante. “Now look after your voice,” Callas advised her at the time, adding, “We’re going to hear great things of you.”

“I lusted to sing Norma after being in those performances with Callas,” Ms. Sutherland said in a 1998 New York Times interview. “But I knew that I could not sing it the way she did. It was 10 years before I sang the role. During that time I studied it, sang bits of it, and worked with Richard. But I had to evolve my own way to sing it, and I would have wrecked my voice to ribbons had I tried to sing it like her.”

In 1955 she created the lead role of Jenifer in Michael Tippett’s “Midsummer Marriage.”

During this period Ms. Sutherland gave birth to her only child, Adam, who survives her, along with two grandchildren and Mr. Bonynge, her husband of 56 years.

Immediately after her breakthrough performances as Lucia in 1959, Ms. Sutherland underwent sinus surgery to correct persistent problems with nasal passages that were chronically prone to becoming clogged. Though it was a risky operation for a singer, it was deemed successful.

In the early 1960s, using a home in southern Switzerland as a base, Ms. Sutherland made the rounds, singing in international opera houses and forming a close association with the Met, where she ultimately sang 223 performances. These included an acclaimed new production of “Norma” in 1970 with Ms. Horne in her Met debut, singing Adalgisa; Mr. Bonynge conducted. There was also a hugely popular 1972 production of Donizetti’s “Fille du Régiment,” with Pavarotti singing the role of Tonio.

Though never a compelling actress, Ms. Sutherland exuded vocal charisma, a good substitute for dramatic intensity. In the comic role of Marie in “La Fille du Régiment,” she conveyed endearingly awkward girlishness as the orphaned tomboy raised by an army regiment, proudly marching in place in her uniform while tossing off the vocal flourishes.

Ms. Sutherland was plain-spoken and down to earth, someone who enjoyed needlepoint and playing with her grandchildren. Though she knew who she was, she was quick to poke fun at her prima donna persona.

“I love all those demented old dames of the old operas,” she said in a 1961 Times profile. “All right, so they’re loony. The music’s wonderful.”

Queen Elizabeth II made Ms. Sutherland a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1978. Her bluntness sometimes caused her trouble. In 1994, addressing a luncheon organized by a group in favor of retaining the monarchy in Australia, she complained of having to be interviewed by a foreign-born clerk when applying to renew her passport, “a Chinese or an Indian — I’m not particularly racist — but find it ludicrous, when I’ve had a passport for 40 years.” Her remarks were widely reported, and she later apologized.

In retirement she mostly lived quietly at home but was persuaded to sit on juries of vocal competitions and, less often, to present master classes. In 2004 she received a Kennedy Center Honor for outstanding achievement throughout her career. In 2008, while gardening at her home in Switzerland, she fell and broke both legs, which led to a lengthy hospital stay.

Other sopranos may have been more musically probing and dramatically vivid. But few were such glorious vocalists. After hearing her New York debut in “Beatrice di Tenda” at Town Hall, the renowned Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão, herself beloved for the sheer beauty of her voice, said, “If there is perfection in singing, this is it.”

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GENERAL JOHNSON, SINGER AND WRITER OF HIT R&B SONGS

By PETER KEEPNEWS

Published: October 15, 2010

General Johnson, who provided the distinctive lead vocal for the Chairmen of the Board’s 1970 Top 10 hit, “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” and went on to become a successful rhythm-and-blues songwriter, died Wednesday in suburban Atlanta. He was 69 and lived in East Point, Ga.
October 16, 2010

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

General Johnson, about 1970.

His death was announced on the group’s official Web site, chairmenoftheboard.com. The cause was complications of lung cancer, his family said.

Mr. Johnson, whose first name really was General, was best known as a singer but won a Grammy in 1971 for his composition “Patches,” a Top 10 hit for Clarence Carter. He also wrote hits for the Honey Cone (“Want Ads,” “Stick-Up”) and Freda Payne (“Bring the Boys Home”).

He first reached the pop charts in 1961 as the lead singer of the Showmen, whose song “It Will Stand,” which he wrote, was a defiant ode to the power of rock ’n’ roll:

Some folks don’t understand it

That’s why they don’t demand it

They’re out tryin’ to ruin

Forgive them for they know not what they’re doin’.

He moved to Detroit in 1969 to become a member of the Chairmen of the Board, a group being formed by the songwriters and producers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, who had recently left Motown to form their own label, Invictus.

The group’s first single, “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” reached No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart, largely on the strength of Mr. Johnson’s plaintive, boisterous vocal. But after a few more hits, the group broke up.

Mr. Johnson had limited success as a solo artist, and the Chairmen of the Board eventually reunited and found an enthusiastic audience in the South, especially in beachfront communities in North Carolina, where the upbeat brand of rhythm and blues for which the group is known is commonly referred to as beach music.

General Norman Johnson was born in Norfolk, Va., on May 23, 1941, and began singing in church as a young boy. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Julia; two sons, Norman and Antonio; a daughter, Sonya Johnson Payne; his sister, Barbara Lathers; and five grandchildren.

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SIMON MACCORKINDALE, DASHING BRITISH ACTOR

By DAVID BELCHER

Published: October 15, 2010 

Simon MacCorkindale, the dashing British actor who turned heads in the star-studded 1978 film “Death on the Nile” and went on to play villains and charming Englishmen on numerous television shows in Britain and the United States, died on Thursday in London. He was 58.

16, 2010

aramount Pictures, via Everett Collection

Simon MacCorkindale and Lois Chiles in “Death on the Nile” (1978), with stars including Bette Davis, second from right.

The cause was cancer, the BBC reported.

With a dramatic brow, boyish good looks, slick hair combed to one side and an upper-crust British dialect, Mr. MacCorkindale found early success on the London stage after roles in college and regional productions. He made his West End debut in 1974 in a production of “Pygmalion” that starred Diana Rigg and Alec McCowen, which led to several television roles in Britain, including Lucius in the popular mini-series “I, Claudius.”

But his big break came at age 25 when he was cast in “Death on the Nile,” a big-budget screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, in which he played the trophy husband of the heiress, played by Lois Chiles, who is murdered aboard a Nile River cruiser. His co-stars included Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith and Bette Davis.

Following that success, Mr. MacCorkindale moved to the United States in 1980 but refused to fake an American accent to land more roles. He was cast in the title role in the NBC drama “Manimal,” playing a doctor who could change himself into various animals to help the police solve crimes. It lasted only eight episodes in the fall of 1983.

He later had a recurring role as the conniving lawyer to Jane Wyman’s equally conniving Angela Channing in the prime-time CBS soap opera “Falcon Crest.” He also appeared on “Dynasty,” “Hart to Hart” and “The Dukes of Hazzard,” on which he played the snobby British cousin to the country bumpkin Duke brothers.

His biggest TV role, however, was in the British hospital drama “Casualty,” from 2002 until he left the show in 2009 because of his cancer. His film career was less consistent: “Jaws 3-D” and “The Sword and the Sorcerer” were among his only commercially successful movies.

He often returned to the theater as actor and director. Most recently he took over the role of Captain von Trapp in the West End revival of “The Sound of Music” in 2008.

Married from 1976 to 1981 to the actress Fiona Fullerton, he is survived by his second wife, the British actress Susan George, whom he married in 1984. Information on other survivors was not available.

Born Feb. 12, 1952, in Ely, England, the son of a rigid Royal Air Force captain father who sent his young son to the prestigious boarding school Haileybury and Imperial Service College, Mr. MacCorkindale rebelled against his military future to become an actor. Years later, while filming “The Quatermass Conclusion,” the young Mr. MacCorkindale introduced his father to his distinguished co-star John Mills.

“Dad said, ‘I’m actually sitting here with someone who has a perfectly normal life,’ ” Mr. MacCorkindale recalled in a 2008 interview. “ ‘I guess it’s perfectly possible for my son to not end up on skid row.’ ”

SOURCE

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