David Corio

Jayne Cortez performing in New York in 1994. Her work was known for its power and outrage.


Published: January 3, 2013

  • Jayne Cortez, a poet and performance artist whose work was known for its visceral power, its political outrage and above all its sheer, propulsive musicality, died on Dec. 28 in Manhattan. She was 78.

Her death, at Beth Israel Medical Center, was from heart failure, her son, the jazz drummer Denardo Coleman, said.

One of the central figures of the Black Arts Movement — the cultural branch of the black power movement that flourished in the 1960s and ’70s — Ms. Cortez remained active for decades afterward, publishing a dozen volumes of poetry and releasing almost as many recordings, on which her verse was seamlessly combined with avant-garde music.

She performed on prominent stages around the world, including, in New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Museum of Modern Art and Carnegie Hall.

Ms. Cortez’s work was beyond category by virtue of embodying so many categories simultaneously: written verse, African and African-American oral tradition, the discourse of political protest, and jazz and blues. Meant for the ear even more than for the eye, her words combine a hurtling immediacy with an incantatory orality.

Starting in the 1960s, Ms. Cortez began performing her work to musical accompaniment. For the past three decades she toured and recorded with her own band, the Firespitters, whose members include her son, from her first marriage, to the saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman.

As performed, Ms. Cortez’s poems were not so much set to music as they were a part of the music. They were chanted more than recited, employing carefully calibrated repetitions, shifts in tempo and modulations of vocal tone.

It was as if her verse, which often took on large, painful subjects like racism and misogyny, had become an instrument itself — an instrument, Ms. Cortez felt strongly, to be wielded in the service of social change.

In one of her best-known works, “If the Drum Is a Woman,” for instance, she indicts violence against women. (The title invokes Duke Ellington’s 1956 composition “A Drum Is a Woman”):

why are you pounding your drum into an insane babble

why are you pistol-whipping your drum at dawn

why are you shooting through the head of your drum

and making a drum tragedy of drums

if the drum is a woman

don’t abuse your drum don’t abuse your drum

don’t abuse your drum

Sallie Jayne Richardson, always called Jayne, was born on the Army base at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., on May 10, 1934. (The year of her birth is often misreported as 1936.) Her father was a career soldier who would serve in both world wars; her mother was a secretary.

Reared in Los Angeles, young Jayne Richardson reveled in the jazz and Latin recordings that her parents collected. She studied art, music and drama in high school and later attended Compton Community College. She took the surname Cortez, the maiden name of her maternal grandmother, early in her artistic career.

In the summers of 1963 and 1964, Ms. Cortez worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, registering black voters in Mississippi. It was this work as much as anything, she later said, that caused her to regard art and political action as an indivisible whole.

She gave her first public poetry readings with the Watts Repertory Theater Company, a Los Angeles ensemble she founded in 1964. Ms. Cortez, who had homes in Manhattan and Dakar, Senegal, was also a founder of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa, established in 1991.

Ms. Cortez’s marriage to Mr. Coleman ended in divorce in 1964, after 10 years. Besides her son, she is survived by her second husband, Melvin Edwards, a prominent sculptor whom she married in 1975; a sister, Shawn Smith; three stepdaughters, Ana, Margit and Allma Edwards; and a grandson.

Her volumes of poetry, many illustrated by Mr. Edwards, include “Festivals and Funerals” (1971), “Coagulations” (1984) and “Jazz Fan Looks Back” (2002); her albums include “Everywhere Drums” (1990) and “Taking the Blues Back Home” (1996).

Ms. Cortez, who taught at universities throughout the United States, including Rutgers, was among the artists featured — others include Amiri Baraka, Charles Bukowski, John Cage and Allen Ginsberg — in Ron Mann’s esteemed 1982 documentary film, “Poetry in Motion.”

Despite her work’s eclecticism, Ms. Cortez was comfortable invoking a single genre to describe it, precisely because that genre was itself so encompassing.

“Jazz isn’t just one type of music, it’s an umbrella that covers the history of black people from African drumming to field hollers and the blues,” she told The Weekly Journal, a black newspaper in Britain, in 1997. “In the sense that I also try to reflect the fullness of the black experience, I’m very much a jazz poet.”




“Fireweed: a Political Autobiography”/Temple University Press

Gerda Lerner and her husband, Carl, in 1966, at her graduation from Columbia with a doctorate.


Published: January 3, 2013

  • Gerda Lerner, a scholar and author who helped make the study of women and their lives a legitimate subject for historians and spearheaded the creation of the first graduate program in women’s history in the United States, died on Wednesday in Madison, Wis. She was 92.

Andy Manis for The New York Times

Gerda Lerner in her office in Madison, Wis., in 2002.

Her death was confirmed by Steve J. Stern, a history professor and friend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Dr. Lerner had taught for many years.

In the mid-1960s, armed with a doctorate in history from Columbia University and a dissertation on two abolitionist sisters from South Carolina, Dr. Lerner entered an academic world in which women’s history scarcely existed. The number of historians interested in the subject, she told The New York Times in 1973, “could have fit into a telephone booth.”

“In my courses, the teachers told me about a world in which ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn’t exist,” Dr. Lerner told The Chicago Tribune in 1993. “I asked myself how this checked against my own life experience. ‘This is garbage; this is not the world in which I have lived,’ I said.”

That picture changed rapidly, in large part because of her efforts while teaching at Sarah Lawrence College in the early 1970s. In creating a graduate program there, Dr. Lerner set about trying to establish women’s history as a respected academic discipline and to raising the status of women in the historical profession. She also began gathering and publishing the primary source material — diaries, letters, speeches and so on — that would allow historians to reconstruct the lives of women.

“She made it happen,” said Alice Kessler-Harris, a history professor at Columbia. “She established women’s history as not just a valid but a central area of scholarship. If you look at any library today, you will see hundreds of books on the subject.”

Gerda Hedwig Kronstein was born on April 30, 1920, in Vienna, where her father, Robert, owned a large pharmacy. Her mother, the former Ilona Neumann, a free-spirited bohemian at heart, tried unsuccessfully to reconcile her budding career as an artist with her duties as a housewife and mother. This struggle made a marked impression on her daughter.

Immediately after Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Dr. Lerner’s father, a Jew, was tipped off that he was about to be arrested. As a hedge, he had started a pharmacy in Liechtenstein, and there he fled, whereupon the Gestapo arrested his wife and daughter to force his return. Five weeks later, after he sold his Austrian assets for a nominal sum, his wife and daughter were released and left for Liechtenstein as well.

“It was the most important experience of my life, because I didn’t think that I was going to come out alive,” Dr. Lerner told The Chicago Tribune in 1993.

A more thorough investigation by the Gestapo might have revealed that their young prisoner had been doing underground work for the Communists for several years.

Through a marriage of convenience, Gerda Kronstein made her way to New York, where she worked in menial jobs and trained at Sydenham Hospital in Harlem as an X-ray technician. As a saleswoman at a Fifth Avenue candy store, she was fired after she reported her employers to the Labor Department for paying their factory workers less than the minimum wage.

In 1941, she married Carl Lerner, a theater director and Communist who helped her polish her halting English by having her repeat tongue-twisters like “Mae West is wearing a vest.” The couple moved to Hollywood, where Mr. Lerner became an apprentice film editor.

Dr. Lerner placed a short story based on her jail experience, “Prisoners,” in The Clipper, a liberal literary journal, joined the Communist Party and began working with community groups to organize supermarket boycotts and neighborhood child care centers.

“I was unduly intense, super-serious, incapable of small talk or the kind of friendly gossip that hold acquaintances together,” she wrote in “Fireweed: A Political Autobiography” (2002). “My perfectionism, insistence on anti-fascist commitment in word and deed, and general ‘heaviness’ as a person set me apart from others.”

Because of his politics, Mr. Lerner found it increasingly hard to find work in Hollywood, so in 1949 the couple returned to New York, where he became a top film editor, working on “Twelve Angry Men,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “Klute” and other films. In 1964, the two collaborated on the film “Black Like Me,” based on the 1961 book by the Southern white journalist John Howard Griffin that recounted his experiences disguised as a black man in the Deep South. Mr. Lerner directed, and together they helped adapt the book for film.

Mr. Lerner died in 1973 after a long illness that Dr. Lerner wrote about in “A Death of One’s Own” (1978). Her survivors include a sister, Nora Kronstein; a daughter, Stephanie Lerner; a son, Dan; and four grandchildren.

Dr. Lerner, with great difficulty, found a publisher for “No Farewell” (1955), a novel about the coming of fascism to Austria, but by the late 1950s she faced uncertain prospects as a writer. With thoughts of writing a historical novel, she began researching the lives of Sarah and Angelina Grimké, daughters of a wealthy plantation owner, who traveled throughout the United States proselytizing for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

The novel never materialized, but her research led to a new career. She began taking history courses at the New School for Social Research, where, while still an undergraduate, she taught “Great Women in American History.” It was one of the first courses ever given in the United States on women’s history.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from the New School in 1963, she enrolled at Columbia, her work on the Grimké sisters in hand, to study women’s history. Bending the rules, the university allowed her to complete her master’s and doctorate in three years. In 1967, she published “The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina: Rebels Against Slavery.”

At Sarah Lawrence, where Dr. Lerner began teaching history in 1968, she was the driving force behind what is widely credited as the first graduate program in women’s history in the United States, established in 1972.

At the same time, after writing the textbook “The Woman in American History” (1971), Dr. Lerner began gathering documentary material that would allow other scholars to write women’s history. Her material was published in two important sourcebooks, “Black Women in White America: A Documentary History” (1972) and “The Female Experience: Documents in American History” (1976).

In 1980, she joined the history department at Wisconsin-Madison, where she created the university’s doctoral program in women’s history. She retired from Wisconsin in 1991. In 1981, she became the first woman in 50 years to be elected president of the Organization of American Historians. The Lerner-Scott Prize, named in honor of her and Anne Firor Scott, another pioneer in women’s history, has been given annually since 1992 for the best doctoral dissertation on women’s history in the United States.

Dr. Lerner wrote two ambitious studies on women and society: “The Creation of Patriarchy” (1986) and “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness” (1997). Many of her essays were collected in “The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History” (1979) and “Why History Matters” (1997).

“I want women’s history to be legitimate, to be part of every curriculum on every level,” she wrote in “Living With History/Making Social Change” (2009), a collection of autobiographical essays. “I want people to be able to take Ph.D.’s in the subject and not have to say they are doing something else.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.





Published: January 13, 2013

  • Eugene C. Patterson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Atlanta Constitution during the civil rights conflicts of the 1960s and later the managing editor of The Washington Post and editor of The St. Petersburg Times in Florida, died on Saturday in St. Petersburg. He was 89.

The Tampa Bay Times, via Associated Press

Eugene C. Patterson in 1984. Mr. Patterson edited The St. Petersburg Times in Florida.

Cherie Diez/Tampa Bay Times, via Associated Press

Mr. Patterson in August 2012. He had been sick since last February.

The cause was complications of cancer, said George Rahdert, Mr. Patterson’s lawyer and longtime friend, who said he had been sick since last February.

In 41 years as a reporter, editor and news executive, Mr. Patterson, who won the 1967 Pulitzer for editorial columns, was one of America’s most highly regarded journalists — a plain-talking, hard-driving competitor known for fairness and integrity as the nation confronted racial turmoil, divisions over the Vietnam War and new ethical challenges in journalism.

Mr. Patterson succeeded the celebrated Ralph McGill as editor of The Constitution, and from 1960 to 1968 was a voice of conscience and progressive politics on the editorial page. He wrote thousands of columns, many of which addressed white Southerners directly, like letters from home, and cumulatively painted a portrait of the South during the civil rights struggle.

Raised on Georgia farm and a tank commander in World War II, he worked at small-town newspapers in Texas and Georgia as a young man, and although he moved up to wire service jobs in New York and London, he had been steeped in the droll wit and down-home sociability of the South.

There were no simple solutions to the racial problems, and he offered none. Instead, he drew poignant scenes of suffering and loss to condemn violence and miscarriages of justice. And he explored themes of courage and questions of responsibility that went beyond mindless acts of racism to challenge a people with traditions of decency.

At the ruins of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where a bomb killed four girls on Sept. 15, 1963, he crafted his most famous column, “A Flower for the Graves.” Walter Cronkite was so moved that he asked Mr. Patterson to read it on the “CBS Evening News.”

It began: “A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her. Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.”

He also protested the Georgia legislature’s refusal to seat Julian Bond, the black civil rights leader, for opposing American involvement in Vietnam and supporting draft resisters. His exclusion was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 1966, and Mr. Bond served 20 years in the legislature.

Mr. Patterson joined The Washington Post in 1968 as managing editor, succeeding Benjamin C. Bradlee, who became executive editor. The two led the newsroom in June 1971 when The Post followed The New York Times in publishing the Pentagon Papers, the secret study of American duplicity in Indochina. Nixon administration challenges to both publications were struck down in a historic Supreme Court ruling.

Later in 1971, Mr. Patterson left The Post and taught for a year at Duke University. In 1972 he became editor of The St. Petersburg Times (now known as The Tampa Bay Times) and two sister publications, The Evening Independent in St. Petersburg and Congressional Quarterly, covering the government in Washington. After the death of the publications’ owner, Nelson Poynter, in 1978, he became the company’s chairman until his own retirement in 1988.

Under Mr. Patterson, The Times’s liberal traditions flourished on Florida’s largely conservative west coast, with foreign and national news reports and strong investigative articles. In 1976, he insisted that news of his own arrest on a drunken-driving charge appear on Page 1 to show that the paper could be as hard on its own as it was on others.

Eugene Corbett Patterson was born on Oct. 15, 1923, in Adel, Ga., to William C. and Annabel Corbett Patterson. He grew up on a farm, did office work for The Adel News, edited a campus newspaper at North Georgia College at Dahlonega and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia at Athens, graduating in 1943.

He joined the Army in World War II, became a tank platoon commander in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After Germany’s defeat he sailed for the Pacific, but learned on the way of Japan’s surrender. He became an Army pilot after the war, but left the service in 1947 to go into journalism.

In 1950, he married Mary Sue Carter. She died in 1999. Mr. Patterson, who lived in St. Petersburg, is survived by their daughter, Mary Patterson Fausch, and three grandchildren.

Mr. Patterson was a reporter for The Temple Daily Telegram in Texas and The Macon Telegraph in Georgia in 1947 and 1948 and worked for United Press in Atlanta in 1948, in New York in 1949 and in London as bureau chief from 1953 to 1956. He then became vice president and executive editor of The Atlanta Journal and The Constitution, both owned by Cox Enterprises, and four years later was named editor of The Constitution.From 1964 to 1968, Mr. Patterson was vice chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, an appointee of President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1977 and 1978, and served from 1974 to 1985 on Columbia’s Pulitzer Prize Board, selecting winners of those prestigious awards in journalism and the arts.

U.S. Army, via Associated Press

Mr. Patterson, center, was a tank commander in World War II.

In 1981, Mr. Patterson was one of the few board members who opposed a feature-writing Pulitzer for Janet Cooke of The Washington Post for an article about an 8-year-old heroin addict, which proved to be a hoax. He objected because the article was about an anonymous boy and relied on unnamed sources. The Pulitzer was returned, Ms. Cooke resigned, and the episode was a profound embarrassment for The Post.

Mr. Patterson also scoffed at the idea of journalists posing as someone else to get a story. “If this becomes the standard for news coverage in America, then we have set a standard that young reporters are going to follow, and misrepresenting oneself, misleading, camouflaging one’s identity, will become a way of life,” he said in a discussion on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

In a newsroom with his sleeves rolled up or at an awards ceremony in a tuxedo, he carried himself with military bearing, a stocky, barrel-chested man with the rolling gait of James Cagney, whom he resembled in style and grit. Colleagues said he seemed always to be on the verge of a smile or a good idea.

“Every day you had to have an idea,” he said in 2003 of his column-writing years. “You kept your pockets stuffed with quotations and ideas and turns of thought, famous sayings that you could credit and work into your columns. At laundry time, you had an awful lot of chewed-up paper in your pockets.”

In 2002, a collection of his columns for The Constitution was published as a book, “The Changing South of Gene Patterson: Journalism and Civil Rights, 1960-1968.” He was the author of “Patton’s Unsung Armor of the Ardennes: The Tenth Armored Division’s Secret Dash to Bastogne” (2008). A chair in journalism was established in his name at Duke, where he was a trustee from 1988 to 1994.

In a 2008 interview with Florida Trend magazine, Mr. Patterson remembered a day when his daughter, Mary, then 9, called him at The Constitution. She was sobbing. Someone had shot her dog in the backyard. He hurried home. “I kept telling my daughter, ‘Look, we don’t know who shot her,’ ” he recalled. “But my daughter said she knew — that it was ‘somebody who doesn’t like what you’ve been writing in the paper.’ ”

“I tried to explain to her,” he said. “It was tough for a child.”

But there was no turning back. “You had to address the issue of race relations because the civil rights marchers were in the streets, the sit-ins were going on, the riots, the fire hoses, the police dogs, the killings,” he said. “This had to be addressed and not simply by reporting it, but by editors who would stand up and say what we had been doing was wrong, and we had to change.”




William B. Ritchie

Kenojuak Ashevak, whose prints and drawings helped introduce Inuit art to much of the world.


Published: January 12, 2013

  • OTTAWA — Kenojuak Ashevak, a once-nomadic artist from Canada’s Arctic regions whose prints and drawings helped introduce Inuit art to much of the world, died on Tuesday at her home in Cape Dorset on West Baffin Island in the northern territory of Nunavut. She was 85.

The cause was lung cancer, The Canadian Press news agency reported.

Kenojuak (pronounced ken-OH-jew-ack), as she was universally known, is probably best remembered for “The Enchanted Owl,” a 1960 print showing an owl with wildly exaggerated feathers and a piercing stare. It became one of Canada’s most famous works of art, appearing on a Canadian stamp in 1970 commemorating the centennial of the Northwest Territories.

Like many Inuit, Kenojuak, who developed her art from the embroidery that she learned as a child, lived in one camp after another in eastern Canada’s far north well into the 1950s. She and her first husband, Johnniebo Ashevak, also an artist, eventually settled in Cape Dorset on Baffin Island so that their children could go to school.

There she became part of a group of artists receiving guidance from the Canadian government and the Hudson’s Bay Company, which hoped to develop arts and crafts in the village. The effort was led by James A. Houston, a Toronto artist and writer who had studied printmaking in Japan. The government had named him area administrator for West Baffin Island and charged him with fostering the production of art to provide an income to the Inuit after their fur trade had declined.

In 1959, prints from the region were sold at a Hudson’s Bay Company department store in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in what would become an annual presentation of works. Kenojuak contributed new work until 2012.

Her renown grew after the release in the 1960s of “Kenojuak,” a film produced by the National Film Board of Canada and nominated for an Academy Award for best short documentary. Commissions followed, and Kenojuak, who spoke only Inuktitut, was invited to travel widely for exhibitions of Inuit art in Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Seattle and Ottawa, among other places.

She also collaborated on a mural that was hung in the Canadian Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. In 1981 her art and life were the focus of a limited edition book, “Graphic Arts of the Inuit: Kenojuak.”

Kenojuak moved from stone printing into other techniques and eventually added sculpture and stained glass to her work, all in a bold graphic style that favored images of birds.

With Mr. Houston’s help, the Cape Dorset artists founded what is now known as the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative to manage their print making and market their work.

Kenojuak “was very important to the group’s success,” said Christine Lalonde, the associate curator of indigenous art at the National Gallery of Canada. “She also had an enormous influence on the generations that followed her in Cape Dorset.”

Kenojuak — whether she had a surname at birth is not clear; she later took her first husband’s — was born on Oct. 3, 1927, in a camp about 90 miles east of Cape Dorset on Baffin Island. Her first husband died in 1972. Two subsequent marriages, to Itigajuaqujaku Pii and Joanasie Igiju, also ended with her husbands’ deaths.

A family member said Kenojuak is survived by six children, 37 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

William B. Ritchie, the studio manager for the cooperative, said that the broad popularity of Kenojuak’s work did not escape the notice of her Inuit peers.

“A lot of the other artists embellished their work to look like her’s,” he said.

During the last months of her life, he said, Kenojuak produced a series of four-by-six-foot drawings from her bed.





Published: December 31, 2012

  • James Brown was Soul Brother No. 1 and, for a while, Marva Whitney was Soul Sister No. 1.

via Gilles Petard/Redferns

Marva Whitney sang duets with James Brown in the ’60s, but also performed solo.

That was the nickname Mr. Brown gave her when she was a singer in the James Brown Revue and a solo artist on his King Records, turning out brassy, rowdy empowerment anthems that would come to be prized by funk savants, sample-chasing hip-hop producers and record collectors.

As part of the James Brown Revue, Ms. Whitney, who died on Dec. 22 at 68, had her own featured segment during its shows and sang duets with Mr. Brown, her vocals effortlessly intense. After joining the revue in 1967, she was with Mr. Brown in some of his most momentous shows during a tumultuous 1968, including performances in Vietnam for American soldiers and in Boston on the night after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While making her name alongside Mr. Brown, Ms. Whitney was becoming a lesser star on her own, shaped by Mr. Brown’s heavy production hand. Her breakthrough solo single was the urgent shout “Unwind Yourself,” which gained new life as the sample behind the seminal hip-hop breakbeat record “The 900 Number” by DJ Mark the 45 King.

Ms. Whitney’s biggest solo hit was a response to the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.” Her recording, “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who to Sock It to),” released in 1969, became the title track of her lone studio album. (It was also later sampled by Public Enemy, N.W.A. and EPMD, among other artists.)

Mr. Brown had an on-the-fly but exacting recording style, and the tensions that resulted made recording the album “hell,” Ms. Whitney told the Village Voice in 2010. He also pushed her into recording more flamboyant material than she was inclined to choose on her own, and he shelved an album of jazz standards she recorded, titled “I Sing Soul.” It remains unreleased.

Ms. Whitney was popular enough to land on the cover of Jet magazine, but her fame waned after she left Mr. Brown’s camp in late 1969 despite a string of singles on the T-Neck and Forte labels. In the 1980s she performed as part of the J.B. All Stars, a group of former members of Mr. Brown’s bands. At various times they included Bobby Byrd, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Lyn Collins.

The classic funk and soul revival of the last decade also gave Ms. Whitney new life. She released an album in 2006, “I Am What I Am,” with the Japanese funk outfit Osaka Monaurail, and played about 75 shows in the last five years. In 2009, she had a stroke onstage in Australia.

Marva Ann Manning was born into a musical family on May 1, 1944, in Kansas City, Kan. She began singing professionally as part of the Manning Gospel Singers. She also sang with the gospel group the Alma Whitney Singers and a local R&B group, Tommy & the Derby’s. In 1967, after an audition with Mr. Brown’s bandleader Pee Wee Ellis, Ms. Whitney was hired. She had turned down tours with Bobby Bland, Joe Tex and Little Richard.

In recent years she collaborated with Charles Waring on an autobiography, “God, the Devil & James Brown: Memoirs of a Funky Diva,” which is to be published this year.

Ms. Whitney died of complications of pneumonia in her hometown, said DJ Pari, who was her manager from 2004 through her retirement last year. She is survived by her mother, Willa Mae Manning; five brothers, Ray Jr., Raymond, Melvin, Marvin and Winfred; two children, Sherry Whitney and Ellis Taylor Jr.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.





Keystone/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

Herbert Lom, left, with Peter Sellers in 1976 on the set of “The Pink Panther Strikes Again.”


Published: September 27, 2012

  • Herbert Lom, the versatile Czech-born actor who could play Napoleon Bonaparte or a witch hunter with equal aplomb but who was perhaps best known as Peter Sellers’s frustrated boss in the Pink Panther franchise, died on Thursday at his home in London. He was 95.

His son Alec confirmed his death, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Lom gained more attention as a reliable character actor than as a suave leading man, although he was both. His deep-set, mesmerizing eyes made him the perfect villain in a series of minor films in the early 1940s, and he went on to excel after World War II and in the 1950s and ’60s in small roles in a variety of genres. In a career of more than five decades he appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows.

He was born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in 1917 to upper-class parents in Prague. (Various sources give his date of birth as Jan. 9 or Sept. 11.) He became a theater actor and made one movie in his native Czechoslovakia before emigrating to London in 1939, just before the Nazis invaded (and shedding about 40 letters from his name along the way). His parents survived and later joined him in London, but his girlfriend died in a concentration camp.

He began his English-speaking acting career at the Old Vic and other stage companies before landing some impressive film roles, thanks to an appealingly exotic accent and a sultry gaze. From the outset he was able to avoid being typecast as the lecherous but irresistible villain, unlike many other European actors who went to Hollywood in the 1940s.

Mr. Lom’s first major Hollywood success was Jules Dassin’s noir masterpiece “Night and the City” (1950), in which he played a chilling but remorseful gangster.

But he flourished in comedy as well, notably alongside Sellers and Alec Guinness in “The Ladykillers” (1955) and later as the twitchy, long-suffering Chief Inspector Dreyfus, who is eventually driven insane by Sellers’s bumbling Inspector Clouseau. He played Dreyfus in seven Pink Panther movies, from “A Shot in the Dark” (1964) to “Son of the Pink Panther” (1993), which was made 13 years after Sellers’s death and starred Roberto Benigni as Clouseau’s son.

Mr. Lom also starred with Robert Mitchum and Rita Hayworth in “Fire Down Below” (1957) and played a hoodlum on the make in prewar London in “No Trees in the Street” (1959). He played Napoleon Bonaparte twice, in “The Young Mr. Pitt” (1942) and in King Vidor’s ambitious “War and Peace” (1956). He appeared in epics — as a pirate who offers to help get the slaves out of Italy in “Spartacus” (1960) and as the Muslim leader Ben Yussuf in “El Cid” (1961) — and in horror movies.

Mr. Lom had the title role in a not very successful remake of “The Phantom of the Opera” (1962); he was Van Helsing in “Count Dracula” (1970), one of many movies starring Christopher Lee as the notorious vampire; and he played a bloodthirsty witch hunter in 18th-century Austria in the ultragory German-made “Mark of the Devil” (1970), which developed a cult following for its explicit torture scenes. Audiences were handed “stomach distress bags” at cinemas around the world.

Onstage, Mr. Lom originated the role of the king in the original London cast of the musical “The King and I” in 1955. On television, he appeared in the British series “The Human Jungle” in 1963 and 1964 and on “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in 1967.

His two most notable films in the 1980s were “Hopscotch” (1980), a spy spoof with Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson, and David Cronenberg’s “Dead Zone” (1983), in which he played a neurologist to a psychic patient, played by Christopher Walken.

Among the low points of his career was his performance in the disastrous 1985 remake of “King Solomon’s Mines,” which earned him a nomination for a Razzie Award, given to the worst that Hollywood has to offer. He had few roles after the 1980s; his last on-screen appearance was a 2004 episode of the British TV series “Marple.”

Mr. Lom also wrote two historical novels, “Enter a Spy: The Double Life of Christopher Marlowe” and “Dr. Guillotine: The Eccentric Exploits of an Early Scientist,” set during the French Revolution, which was optioned as a movie but never made.

Private and reclusive for most of his life, Mr. Lom was married and divorced three times. Besides his son Alec, survivors include a daughter, Josephine, and another son, Nick. “You know, I always do my best, no matter the quality of the film,” Mr. Lom once told an interviewer. “One thing I hate is when directors come to me before shooting a take and say, ‘Herbert, give me your best!’ And I think: ‘But it’s my job to give my best. I can’t give anything else.’ ”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 16, 2012

An obituary on Sept. 28 about the actor Herbert Lom contained several errors regarding movies in which he appeared. The 1945 film “The Seventh Veil,” in which he played a psychiatrist, is British, not American, and thus was not among Mr. Lom’s “first Hollywood successes.” The pirate played by Mr. Lom in “Spartacus” offers to help slaves escape from Italy, but they never do; he does not lead them out of the country. And the character played by Christopher Walken in “The Dead Zone,” a patient of the doctor played by Mr. Lom, has visions of future events; he is not telekinetic (able to move objects with his mind).





Published: December 24, 2012

Jack Klugman, the rubber-mugged character actor who leapt to television stardom in the 1970s as the slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison on “The Odd Couple” and as the crusading forensic pathologist of “Quincy, M.E.,” died on Monday at his home in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles. He was 90.

ABC, via Associated Press

Jack Klugman, right, in 1972 as Oscar Madison in the ABC sitcom “The Odd Couple,” opposite Tony Randall as Felix Unger.                            More Photos »

United Artists, via Everett Collection

Jack Klugman as Juror No. 5 in the film “12 Angry Men” (1957).                            More Photos »

NBCUniversal, via Getty Images

Mr. Klugman as the title character in the NBC series “Quincy, M.E.”                            More Photos »

His death was confirmed by his stepson Randy Wilson.

At one time a heavy smoker, Mr. Klugman had survived throat cancer, which was diagnosed in 1974. After a vocal cord was removed in 1989, his voice was reduced to a gravelly whisper.

Mr. Klugman, who grew up in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood in Philadelphia, wasn’t a subtle performer. His features were large and mobile; his voice was a deep, earnest, rough-hewed bleat. He was a no-baloney actor who conveyed straightforward, simply defined emotion, whether it was anger, heartbreak, lust or sympathy.

That forthrightness, in both comedy and drama, was the source of his power and his popularity. Never remote, never haughty, he was a regular guy, an audience-pleaser who proved well-suited for series television.

Mr. Klugman was already a decorated actor in 1970 when he began co-starring in “The Odd Couple,” a sitcom adaptation of Neil Simon’s hit play about two divorced men — friends with antagonistic temperaments — sharing a New York apartment. (A film version was released in 1968 with Walter Matthau reprising his Broadway performance as Oscar.)

Opposite Mr. Klugman’s Oscar, an outgoing slob with a fondness for poker, cigars and sexy women, was Tony Randall as the pretentious fussbudget Felix Unger (spelled Ungar in the play and the film).

Mr. Klugman had played the part before: he had replaced Mr. Matthau for a few months on Broadway and had originated the role in London.

He also had more than 100 television credits behind him, including four episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and a 1964 episode of the legal drama “The Defenders,” in which he delivered an Emmy Award-winning performance as a blacklisted actor.

In the movies he had been the nouveau-riche father of a Jewish American princess (Ali MacGraw) in “Goodbye, Columbus” (1969); a police colleague of Frank Sinatra’s in “The Detective” (1968); Jack Lemmon’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor in “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962); and a murder-trial juror, alongside Henry Fonda, in “12 Angry Men” (1957).

In his solo moment in that film, his character, known only as Juror No. 5, recalls growing up in a tough neighborhood and instructs his fellow jurors in the proper use of a switchblade, a key element in their deliberations.

The “Odd Couple” series made Mr. Klugman a celebrity, but not immediately. During its five-year run, it never cracked the Top 20 in the Nielsen prime time ratings. Some critics said Mr. Klugman and Mr. Randall were always operating in the long shadows of the actors who came before them in the roles: besides Mr. Matthau as Oscar, Mr. Lemmon (film) and Art Carney (Broadway) had played Felix. But after “The Odd Couple” went into seemingly perpetual reruns, it earned a huge new following.

Mr. Klugman won two Emmys for the show and Mr. Randall one, and they eventually became the Oscar and Felix most identified with the roles.

Quincy, M.E.” was as sincere a drama as the “The Odd Couple” was a loopy comedy, and though it is not remembered as fondly, its initial run, from 1976 to 1983, was far more successful. The title character, the medical examiner for Los Angeles County (Quincy’s first name was never revealed), was inspired by the real medical examiner at the time, Thomas T. Noguchi, known familiarly as “the coroner to the stars,” who performed autopsies on Marilyn Monroe, Robert F. Kennedy, Natalie Wood and John Belushi, among others.

Quincy, a forensic pathologist, was as much a crusading detective as he was a doctor. The show often focused on social problems — abuse of the elderly by their children, for example. (Mr. Klugman occasionally wrote for the show and fought with network executives over its content.) And it could be preachy. But it achieved high ratings and even made an impact on health-care policy.

A 1981 episode, about a young man with Tourette’s syndrome, drew attention to so-called orphan drugs, medications that drug companies ignore as unprofitable because the conditions they treat are relatively rare. The House Subcommittee on Health and Environment invited Mr. Klugman to Washington to testify on the issue.

“How many cries before they get heard?” Mr. Klugman said of those with rare disorders. “We are not talking about orphan drugs; we’re talking about orphan people.”

The Orphan Drug Act, offering economic incentives to pharmaceutical companies for developing such drugs, was passed in 1983.

Mr. Klugman’s path to success was serendipitous. He was born in Philadelphia on April 27, 1922, the youngest of six children of immigrants from Russia. Most sources indicate that his name at birth was Jacob, though Mr. Klugman said in an interview that the name on his birth certificate is Jack.

His father, Max, was a house painter who died when Jack was 12. His mother, Rose, was a milliner who worked out of the family home in hardscrabble South Philadelphia, where Jack grew up shooting pool, rolling dice and playing the horses. His interest in acting was kindled at 14 or 15 when his sister took him to a play, “One Third of a Nation,” a “living newspaper” production of the Federal Theater Project about life in an American slum; the play made the case for government housing projects.

“I just couldn’t believe the power of it,” he said of the production in an interview in 1998 for the Archive of American Television, crediting the experience for instilling in him his social-crusading impulse. “I wanted to be a muckraker.”

After a stint in the Army — he was discharged because of a kidney ailment — Mr. Klugman returned to Philadelphia but racked up a debt to loan sharks who were so dangerous that he left town. He landed in Pittsburgh, where he auditioned for the drama department at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University).

“They said: ‘You’re not suited to be an actor. You’re more suited to be a truck driver,’ ” he recalled. But this was 1945, the war was just ending and there was a dearth of male students, so he was accepted. “There were no men,” he said. “Otherwise they wouldn’t have taken me in.”

After two years at Carnegie he left for New York, where he led the poverty-stricken life of an aspiring actor, taking bit parts in summer stock and hole-in-the-wall New York productions, occasionally selling pints of blood to pay the rent. He roomed for a while with Charles Bronson, who introduced him to vigorous exercise.

It was a good thing. A strong physique was the first requirement in Broadway auditions for “Mister Roberts,” a World War II comedy about life on a Navy cargo ship. Mr. Klugman passed the test when he stripped off his shirt. He was hired as an understudy and for 15 months worked alongside Fonda, the star of the show, who took him under his wing. Mr. Klugman gave Fonda credit for helping him to get crucial early roles, including the one in “12 Angry Men.”

Mr. Klugman also appeared in a 1952 revival of Clifford Odets’s “Golden Boy,” which starred John Garfield and Lee J. Cobb, and the musical “Gypsy,” in which he was paired with Ethel Merman, playing Herbie, the reluctant theatrical agent who loves Merman’s Momma Rose.

In 1953, Mr. Klugman married the actress Brett Somers. They separated in 1974 (she played Oscar Madison’s former wife on “The Odd Couple”) but were never divorced. She died in 2007. Their two sons, Adam and David, survive him. In 2008 Mr. Klugman married his longtime partner, Peggy Crosby. She survives him as well, as do two stepsons, Mr. Wilson and Phil Crosby Jr., and two grandchildren.

Mr. Klugman returned to the theater in the 1980s, touring in a one-man show based on the life of Lyndon B. Johnson and replacing Judd Hirsch on Broadway as a crusty, bench-sitting old man in Herb Gardner’s play “I’m Not Rappaport.” He also starred in the television series “You Again?,” in which he played a long-divorced man whose 17-year-old son (John Stamos) moves in with him. The show lasted two seasons.

After his vocal cord surgery, Mr. Klugman was prepared to devote himself to raising racehorses, a longtime side pursuit; one of his horses, Jaklin Klugman, finished third in the 1980 Kentucky Derby. But with therapy he regained his voice and returned to the stage, appearing with Mr. Randall in a benefit performance of “The Odd Couple” in 1991.

He and Mr. Randall also reunited for a 1997 revival of “The Sunshine Boys,” Neil Simon’s comedy about a couple of crotchety old vaudevillians, produced on Broadway by Mr. Randall’s repertory company, the National Actors Theater. In 2005, the year after Mr. Randall died, Mr. Klugman published “Tony and Me,” a memoir.

Mr. Klugman, who always said he preferred acting in the theater, recalled initially turning down the television role in “The Odd Couple.” He wanted to do a play instead. But when the play quickly closed, he reconsidered; he needed the money.

Even so, Mr. Klugman wasn’t known as a comic actor, and by then Mr. Randall wanted Mickey Rooney for the role of Oscar. It took the producer, Garry Marshall, to persuade Mr. Randall that Mr. Klugman was right for the part. He had seen Mr. Klugman do comedy, Mr. Marshall said, referring to his performance in “Gypsy.”

“He said, ‘I saw you with Ethel Merman, and she was singing to you and spitting all over you,’ ” Mr. Klugman said, recalling Mr. Marshall’s explanation for casting him. “ ‘And you never showed it. That’s a good actor that doesn’t show the spit.’ That’s why he gave me the part.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 28, 2012

Because of an editing error, an obituary on Tuesday about the actor Jack Klugman misstated, in some editions, the area of Philadelphia where he grew up. It was South Philadelphia, not the South Side. (There is no neighborhood by that name in Philadelphia.)



Interactive Notable Deaths of 2012

Remembering Etta James, Joe Paterno, Whitney Houston, Anthony Shadid, Andrew Breitbart, Dick Clark, Adam Yauch, Donna Summer, Neil Armstrong and others who died this year.




Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s