JUANITA MOORE, OSCAR NOMINEE FOR ‘IMITATION OF LIFE’
Ms. Moore in “Imitation of Life” with, from left, Karin Dicker, Terry Burnham and Lana Turner.
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: January 3, 2014
- Juanita Moore, who earned an Academy Award nomination in 1960 for the single major film role she ever landed, then fell through the cracks of a Hollywood system with little to offer a black actress besides small parts as maids and nannies, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. She was 99.
Her death was confirmed by her grandson, Kirk Kelleykahn, an actor and dancer.
Ms. Moore received a best supporting actress nomination for her role in the 1959 film “Imitation of Life,” in which she played opposite Lana Turner in a story about two single mothers, one black and one white. It was only the fifth time an African-American performer had been nominated for an Oscar.
The two women begin ostensibly as social equals living under the same roof, but their lives diverge along racial and class lines. Ms. Turner’s character becomes a famous actress; Annie Johnson, played by Ms. Moore, becomes her housemaid.
The last film that the filmmaker Douglas Sirk directed in Hollywood, “Imitation of Life” was widely dismissed as campy melodrama at the time. Its treatment of the intense suffering caused by racial bias, including a subplot in which Annie’s light-skinned daughter renounces her to live as a white person, was seen as unbelievable. (“If by accident we should pass in the street,” the daughter, played by Susan Kohner, tells her, “please don’t recognize me.” Ms. Kohner was also nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar.)
But the film has since been re-evaluated and given high marks by many film historians and critics for the subtlety of its social criticism and psychological insight.
Ms. Moore’s performance, in particular, has earned her generations of new fans, said Foster Hirsch, a professor of film at Brooklyn College who has organized several academic conferences on “Imitation of Life.”
“She delivers an astounding performance,” Mr. Hirsch said. “She does a death scene that still reduces audiences to tears — I have seen it many times.”
But after she was nominated for an Oscar, Ms. Moore told The Los Angeles Times in 1967, the work seemed to dry up. “The Oscar prestige was fine, but I worked more before I was nominated,” she said. “Casting directors think an Oscar nominee is suddenly in another category. They couldn’t possibly ask you to do one or two days’ work.”
It would be a decade more before black actresses like Ms. Moore would be considered for major roles, Mr. Hirsch noted.
Ms. Moore was born in Greenwood, Miss., on Oct. 19, 1914, and raised in South Central Los Angeles, the youngest of Harrison and Ella Moore’s eight children. After graduating from high school and spending a few months at Los Angeles City College, she decamped for New York in search of a stage career.
She became a dancer. Throughout the 1930s and ’40s she performed in the elaborate stage shows of nightclubs in Harlem, including the Cotton Club, and in Paris and London, before returning to Los Angeles. She studied acting at the Actors’ Laboratory and began getting small, uncredited parts in films, like that of a maid and an African tribeswoman. She was already in her mid-30s by the times she made her film debut, in Elia Kazan’s “Pinky” (1949), also a film about race. (Throughout her career she hid her true age, saying she had been born in 1922.)
After “Imitation of Life,” she appeared in television dramas and in films including “Walk on the Wild Side” and “The Singing Nun.” She appeared on Broadway in James Baldwin’s play “The Amen Corner” in 1965 and in a London production of “A Raisin in the Sun.” And she was active on the Los Angeles stage, performing with the Ebony Showcase Theater and the Cambridge Players.
Mr. Kelleykahn, her grandson, is her only immediate survivor. Ms. Moore’s first husband, the dancer Nyas Berry, died in 1951. Her second husband, Charles Burris, a Los Angeles bus driver, died in 2001.
Sam Staggs, author of the 2009 book “Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of ‘Imitation of Life,’ ” said in a phone interview on Friday that Ms. Moore’s performance was the major reason for the film’s box-office success (it was one of the most successful movies made to that point by Universal Studios).
People came in droves to watch in the dark and weep, Mr. Staggs said: “There are many, many people alive today who remember crying at her performance, but who could not tell you her name.”
“There are many, many people alive today who remember crying at her performance, but who could not tell you her name.”
I certainly remember her name.
Such a beautiful, classy, and refined lady in her films.
And, oh what an indelible impression she made in the film “Imitation of Life”:
She was one of a kind and she will be missed.
Rest in peace, Ms. Moore.
Rest in peace.
DR. W.V. CORDICE, A SURGEON WHO HELPED SAVE DR. KING
Published: January 3, 2014
- On Sept. 20, 1958, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then emerging as the leader of the civil rights movement, was autographing copies of his new book in a Harlem department store when a woman approached to greet him. He nodded without looking up. Then she stabbed him in the chest with a razor-sharp seven-inch letter opener.
Dr. King, then 29, was taken to Harlem Hospital, where three surgeons went to work. The blade had missed his aorta by millimeters, and doctors said a sneeze could have caused him to bleed to death. After mapping out a strategy, they used a hammer and chisel to crack Dr. King’s sternum, and repaired the wound in two and a half hours.
On Dec. 29, the last surviving surgeon from that hospital team, Dr. W. V. Cordice Jr., died at 94 in Sioux City, Iowa, his granddaughter Jennifer Fournier said. He had moved to Iowa in November to be near family.
“I think if we had lost King that day, the whole civil rights era could have been different,” Dr. Cordice said in a Harlem Hospital promotional video in 2012.
New York’s governor at the time, W. Averell Harriman, who raced to the hospital to observe the surgery, had requested that black doctors be involved if at all possible, Hugh Pearson reported in his 2002 book, “When Harlem Nearly Killed King.” Dr. Cordice and Dr. Aubré de Lambert Maynard, the hospital’s chief of surgery, were African-American. The third surgeon, Dr. Emil Naclerio, was Italian-American.
Over the years, Dr. Maynard was widely credited with saving Dr. King — and he accepted that credit — but in a 2012 interview with the public radio station WNYC, Dr. Cordice said that he and Dr. Naclerio had performed the surgery.
“We were not going to challenge him, because he was the boss,” Dr. Cordice said of Dr. Maynard.
Alan D. Aviles, the president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, suggested that Dr. Cordice’s modesty may also have kept him from getting the credit he deserved. “It is entirely consistent with his character that many who knew him may well not have known that he was also part of history,” Mr. Aviles said in a statement.
At the time of the stabbing, Dr. King was promoting his book “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story,” which recounted the successful boycott he helped lead to desegregate buses in Montgomery, Ala. His assailant was a mentally disturbed black woman who blamed Dr. King for her woes. Dr. King forgave her and asked that she not be prosecuted. He later learned that she had been committed to a hospital for the criminally insane.
John Walter Vincent Cordice Jr. was born in Aurora, N.C., on June 16, 1919. His father, a physician, worked for the United States Public Health Service there, fighting the flu epidemic of 1918. The family moved to Durham, N.C., when John was 6. He graduated from high school a year early, and then from New York University and its medical school.
With the outbreak of World War II, he interrupted his internship at Harlem Hospital to serve as a doctor for the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed group of African-American pilots. After the war, and after completing the internship, he held a succession of residencies. In 1955-56 he studied in Paris, where he was part of the team that performed the first open-heart surgery in France.
Dr. Cordice later became chief of thoracic and vascular surgery at Harlem Hospital, the position he held when he treated Dr. King. He went on to hold the same post at Queens Hospital Center. He was president of the Queens Medical Society in 1983-84.
Dr. Cordice, who lived in Hollis, Queens, for many years before moving to Iowa, is survived by his wife of 65 years, the former Marguerite Smith; his daughters, Michele Boykin, Jocelyn Basnett and Marguerite D. Cordice; his sister, Marion Parhan; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Dr. Naclerio died in 1985, Dr. Maynard in 1999.
Dr. King wrote thank-you letters to all three surgeons. In his last public speech before his assassination in 1968, he reflected on the implications of his surviving the stabbing.
“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting in at lunch counters,” he said. “If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in interstate travel.
“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Ala., aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream I had.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: January 4, 2014
An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect age for Dr. W. V. Cordice Jr. He was 94, not 95.
PHIL EVERLY, HALF OF A PIONEER ROCK DUO THAT INSPIRED GENERATIONS
Saying Farewell to a Rock Icon: Phil Everly, as half of the Everly Brothers, inspired the Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, Simon and Garfunkel and many others who recorded their songs and tried to emulate their ringing vocal alchemy.
By JON PARELES
Published: January 4, 2014
- Phil Everly, whose hits with his older brother, Don, as the Everly Brothers carried the close fraternal harmonies of country tradition into pioneering rock ’n’ roll, died on Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 74.
The group’s official website said he died in a hospital near his home in Southern California. His son Jason said the cause of death was complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
With songs like “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “When Will I Be Loved?,” which was written by Phil Everly, the brothers were consistent hitmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They won over country, pop and even R&B listeners with a combination of clean-cut vocals and the rockabilly strum and twang of their guitars.
They were also models for the next generations of rock vocal harmonies for the Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, Simon and Garfunkel and many others who recorded their songs and tried to emulate their precise, ringing vocal alchemy. The Everly Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986.
The Everlys brought tradition, not rebellion, to their rock ’n’ roll. Their pop songs reached teenagers with Appalachian harmonies rooted in gospel and bluegrass. Their first full-length album, “The Everly Brothers” in 1958, held their first hits, but the follow-up that same year, “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us,” was a quiet collection of traditional and traditional-sounding songs.
They often sang in tandem, with Phil Everly on the higher note and the brothers’ two voices virtually inseparable. That sound was part of a long lineage of country “brother acts” like the Delmore Brothers and the Monroe Brothers. In an interview in November, Phil Everly said: “We’d grown up together, so we’d pronounce the words the same, with the same accent. All of that comes into play when you’re singing in harmony.”
Paul Simon, whose song “Graceland” includes vocals by Phil and Don Everly, said in an email on Saturday morning: “Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.”
The Everly Brothers’ music grew out of a childhood spent singing. Phillip Everly was born in Chicago on Jan. 19, 1939, the son of a Kentucky coal miner turned musician, Ike Everly, and his wife, Margaret. The family had left Kentucky, where Don Everly was born in 1937, for musical opportunities in Chicago. They soon moved on to Iowa, where Ike Everly found steady work playing country music on live radio. In Shenandoah, Iowa, Ike Everly got his own show — at 6 a.m. on the radio station KMA — and in 1945, “Little Donnie” and the 6-year-old “Baby Boy Phil” started harmonizing with their parents on the air. They went to school after they performed.
The Everly family moved on to radio shows in Indiana and Tennessee. In 1955 the teenage brothers settled in Nashville, where they were hired as songwriters before starting the Everly Brothers’ recording career.
They had a blockbuster in 1957: “Bye Bye Love,” a song written by the husband-and-wife team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. It reached No. 1 on the country chart, No. 2 on the pop chart and No. 5 on the rhythm and blues chart, selling over a million copies. They followed it with another Bryants song, “Wake Up Little Susie,” that was a No. 1 pop hit and another million-seller. For the next few years, they were rarely without a Top 10 pop hit. Among them were “All I Have to Do Is Dream” in 1957, “Bird Dog” and “Devoted to You” in 1958, “(Till) I Kissed You” in 1959, and, in 1960 “Let It Be Me,” “Cathy’s Clown” (written by Don and Phil Everly) and “When Will I Be Loved.”
Their hitmaking streak ended in the United States in the early 1960s, lasting slightly longer in Britain. But they continued to tour and make albums, notably the 1968 “Roots,” a thoughtful foray into country-rock that included a snippet of a 1952 Everly family radio show. They had a summer variety series on CBS in 1970.
But the brothers were growing estranged. In 1973, at a concert in California, Phil Everly smashed his guitar and walked offstage, and Don Everly announced the duo’s breakup. They recorded solo albums for the next decade before reuniting in 1983, with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London that was filmed as a documentary. They returned to the studio for a 1984 album, “EB84,” that was produced by the British pub-rocker Dave Edmunds and included a song written for the Everlys by Paul McCartney; they made two more studio albums in the 1980s.
Among musicians the Everlys had generations of admirers. The Beatles included Everly Brothers songs in their live sets and modeled the vocal harmonies of “Please Please Me” on “Cathy’s Clown.” The Beach Boys recorded the Everlys song “Devoted to You.” Linda Ronstadt had a Top 10 hit with “When Will I Be Loved” in 1975. On his four-album set “These Days” in 2006, the country songwriter Vince Gill recorded a duet with Phil Everly, “Sweet Little Corinna.”
Simon and Garfunkel included “Bye Bye Love” on their “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album, and years later brought together the Everly Brothers to be their opening act for their 2003 “Old Friends” tour. “I loved them both,” Mr. Simon wrote. “Phil was outgoing, gregarious and very funny. Don is quiet and introspective. When Simon and Garfunkel toured with the Everlys in 2003, Art and I would take the opportunity to learn about the roots of rock and roll from these two great historians. It was a pleasure to spend time in their company.”
The Everly Brothers played their last headlining tour in 2005 in Britain. They were also heard together on a 2010 album by Don’s son, Edan Everly, in a dark song about child stardom called “Old Hollywood.”
Phil Everly is survived by his brother and by their mother, Margaret Everly; his wife, Patti; his sons, Jason and Chris; and two granddaughters.
In 2013, younger musicians released two albums of Everly Brothers songs: “What the Brothers Sang” by Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie Prince Billy (the indie rocker Will Oldham), and “Foreverly” by Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, a remake of every song on “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.”
“The Everly Brothers go way back far as I can remember hearing music. Those harmonies live on forever,” Mr. Armstrong posted on Twitter.
“I always thought I’d be the one to go first,” Don Everly wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. “The world might be mourning an Everly Brother, but I’m mourning my brother Phil.”
JAMES AVERY, ‘FRESH PRINCE’ ACTOR
From left, James Avery, Will Smith and Janet Hubert in the popular 1990s NBC sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: January 1, 2014
- James Avery, who played Will Smith’s pompous but well-meaning uncle on the popular 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” died on Tuesday in Glendale, Calif. He was 68.
The cause was complications of heart surgery, said his mother, Florence J. Avery.
Mr. Avery played Philip Banks, a wealthy lawyer (later a judge) who becomes a surrogate father to his street-smart nephew, played by Mr. Smith, on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” seen on NBC from 1990 to 1996.
Reviewing the show in The New York Times early in its first season, John J. O’Connor said Mr. Smith — at the time a popular rapper just beginning his acting career — was “frequently overshadowed by the rest of the cast, particularly James Avery as the father and Karyn Parsons as the older daughter, Hilary.”
A classically trained actor with an imposing physical presence and a resonant voice, Mr. Avery was born on Nov. 27, 1945, in Pughsville, Va., near what is now Suffolk, and grew up in Atlantic City. In the late 1960s, he served in the Navy.
In addition to “The Fresh Prince,” his numerous television credits include “L.A. Law,” “The Closer” and “That ’70s Show.” Among the movies in which he appeared were “Fletch” and “8 Million Ways to Die.”
He was a busy voice artist in animated films and television shows as well. He was the voice of Shredder, the title characters’ nemesis, on the 1987-96 cartoon series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
In addition to his mother, Mr. Avery’s survivors include his wife, Barbara.
Ashley Southall contributed reporting.