ARTHUR RANKIN; HIS PUPPET ANIMATION WAS A HOLIDAY HALLMARK
By PAUL VITELLO
FEB. 5, 2014
His death was confirmed by Maury Laws, the former musical director of Rankin/Bass Productions, which was founded by Mr. Rankin and Jules Bass in 1960.
“Rudolph,” based on the song popularized by Gene Autry in 1949 and narrated by Burl Ives, made its debut on NBC in 1964 and has been seen on network television every year since, most recently on CBS. It was the first of more than a dozen animated holiday specials produced by Rankin/Bass from 1964 to 1985, many of which have remained perennial favorites.
Mr. Rankin, who wrote the scripts and sketched the characters, based his most successful films on popular holiday songs, casting Hollywood stars in the leading voice roles. Greer Garson narrated “The Little Drummer Boy” (1968) and Jimmy Durante “Frosty the Snowman” (1969). “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (1970) featured the voice of Fred Astaire as a North Pole mailman. Both Danny Kaye and Vincent Price lent their voices to the Easter special “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” (1971). “The Little Drummer Boy Book II” (1976), with Ms. Garson and Zero Mostel, was nominated for an Emmy Award as outstanding children’s special.
Mr. Rankin’s stop-motion films were painstakingly handmade. Collaborating with Japanese puppet makers who fashioned each figure from wood, wire and wool — Rudolph was about five inches tall, Santa about nine inches — the filmmakers shot thousands of still photos of the incremental movements involved in every gesture each character made. Running them together at 24 frames a second created the whimsical, herky-jerky effect of dolls being moved by invisible hands. Mr. Rankin called it Animagic.
“He was a big fan of ‘King Kong’ as a kid — special-effects animations like that,” said Mr. Laws, who wrote the musical scores for many Rankin/Bass productions. “He wanted every detail right. Also, he had exquisite taste.”
Arthur Gardner Rankin Jr. was born into a theatrical family in Manhattan on July 19, 1924. His mother, Marian Mansfield, was a singer and actress in film and on the New York stage in the 1930s and ’40s. His father, also an actor, was the son of Harry Davenport, a well-known character actor in the movies of that era.
Mr. Rankin was an art director at ABC before he and Mr. Bass teamed up in 1955 to make television commercials, forming the company Videocraft International. They changed its name to Rankin/Bass Productions when they began making animated films for television.
Their first syndicated television series, “The New Adventures of Pinocchio,” made its debut in 1960. Their other television projects included the specials “The Ballad of Smokey the Bear” (1966) and “The Wacky World of Mother Goose” (1967). They also made the stop-motion animated feature “Mad Monster Party,” released in 1967.
In the early 1970s, working with Motown, the company co-produced the Jackson Five’s Saturday-morning cartoon series. The company’s animated version of “The Hobbit” was telecast in 1977.
In 1982, Mr. Rankin and Mr. Bass co-directed “The Last Unicorn,” a conventionally animated theatrical feature film based on the novel by Peter S. Beagle; its voice cast included Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin and Robert Klein. Reviewing the film in The New York Times, Janet Maslin described it as “an unusual children’s film in many respects, the chief one being that it is unusually good.”
The partners went on to produce “ThunderCats,” a cartoon series about a group of catlike humanoid aliens, which was syndicated from 1985 to 1987, and “The Wind in the Willows,” a 1987 made-for-television animated version of the children’s classic. In 2001, Mr. Rankin collaborated with the writer Peter Bakalian to produce “Santa, Baby!,” based on the song made popular by Eartha Kitt and featuring the voices of Gregory Hines, Patti LaBelle and Vanessa Williams. It was his last children’s holiday special.
Mr. Rankin is survived by his wife, Olga, and two sons, Todd and Gardner.
ANNE HEYMAN, RWANDA RESCUER
By DOUGLAS MARTINFEB. 8, 2014
“It popped out of my head: They should build youth villages,” she told The New York Times last year.
Ms. Heyman, a South African-born lawyer who had given up her legal career in New York to devote herself to philanthropy, was thinking of how Israel, as a new nation state in the late 1940s, had welcomed and cared for tens of thousands of children who had been orphaned by the Holocaust. The Israelis set up residential communities called youth villages to nurture them.
“Israel had a solution to the orphan problem,” Ms. Heyman, a supporter of Jewish causes, told The Jerusalem Post last year. “Without a systemic solution, this is a problem that won’t solve itself.”
Ms. Heyman knew no one in Rwanda and little about the country, but she plowed ahead, raising more than $12 million; recruiting expert help from Rwanda, Israel and the United States; winning the support of the Rwandan government; and acquiring 144 acres in a setting of lakes and hills in eastern Rwanda. She then built a village of 32 houses for orphaned teenagers, setting it high on a hill, she said, “because children need to see far to go far.”
She died on Jan. 31 at a hospital in Delray Beach, Fla., after falling from a horse while competing in a masters jumper competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla. She was 52.
The cause was cardiac arrest brought on by a head injury, said Marisha Mistry, a spokeswoman for Liquidnet, an Internet stock-trading company founded by Ms. Heyman’s husband, Seth Merrin. Ms. Heyman had homes in Florida, Manhattan, Westchester County, N.Y., and Israel.
When the village for orphans opened in 2008, a long line of teenagers, alone and shattered, stood in the blazing sun holding paper bags containing all their possessions. Entire families of some had been wiped out, and they had no photographs. Some did not know their birthdays, or even what their real names were.
At first, almost all who came had been orphaned by the genocide committed in 1994 by ethnic Hutus against the minority Tutsis and the Tutsis’ moderate Hutu supporters. Later, children of parents who had died of AIDS began arriving. Other vulnerable children were also taken in.
Ethiopian Jews who had grown up at a youth camp in Israel were the first counselors. Housemothers were hired locally to make the houses into homes, often the first the youths had known. Many of the women had lost their husbands and children to genocide.
Today the village houses about 500 youths, who go to high school, work on a farm, learn trades, record gospel music and, most of all, feel a sense of belonging.
The camp was named Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. “Agahozo” is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “a place where tears are dried.” Shalom is Hebrew for peace. Reflecting this thought, residents do not identify themselves along tribal lines.
Ms. Heyman, who made Hebrew the first language of her own children in New York, saw Agahozo-Shalom as an expression of her Zionist ideals.
“It is a way for us to share those values with the non-Jewish world,” she told The Jerusalem Report in 2007.
Emmanuel Nkundunkundiye, 21, a recent graduate of the village school, told the Jewish American newspaper The Forward, “The Holocaust is the same history that we face, the same tragedy.”
Anne Elaine Heyman was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 16, 1961, the second of four children, and was raised in Cape Town. She moved with her family to Boston at 15 and became active in Young Judea, a Zionist youth movement. She spent a year of high school in Israel in a Young Judea program and met her future husband there.
She is survived by him; their sons Jason and Jonathan; their daughter, Jenna; and her parents, Sydney and Hermia Heyman.
Ms. Heyman began her career as an activist and philanthropist while at home with her children. She volunteered for Dorot, a Manhattan-based organization that serves the elderly, and became its chairwoman.
One of her first steps in her Rwandan mission was linking up with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which had set up youth villages in the Americas, Europe and Africa. Her principal model was the village of Yemin Orde, one of 50 youth villages in Israel. It has taken in orphans and other needy children from around the world.
She also built one of the largest solar energy plants in sub-Saharan Africa; it contributes power to the rest of Rwanda as well.
Ms. Heyman had plans to make the village self-sustaining, so that major western donors, like her husband’s company, would not always be needed.
Called “Mom,” “Grandmother” and an angel by the youths, she came to the village four or five times a year, staying for several days or more.
Agahozo-Shalom’s announcement of Ms. Heyman’s death quoted a Rwandan proverb: “Death is nothing so long as one can survive through one’s children.”
CHRISTOPHER JONES, ACTOR WHO QUIT FIELD
By PAUL VITELLOFEB. 8, 2014
The cause was gallbladder cancer, said Paula McKenna, his longtime companion.
Mr. Jones made only a few films, but his talent and star power drew comparisons with James Dean, whose brief career his own mimicked in some ways. Like Dean, Mr. Jones studied at the Actors Studio, worked on Broadway and in television, and projected an aura of wild yearning and raw energy, which he showed in films like “Wild in the Streets,” (1968) and “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970).
No one seemed to know why Mr. Jones dropped out of the movie-star business. Speculation ranged across several possible explanations: a troubled personal history, a rebel’s rejection of the strict regimen of filmmaking, his shock when a loved one was murdered because of her fame.
Mr. Jones told an interviewer in 2007 that he had been having an affair with the actress Sharon Tate when she and four others were viciously killed on Aug. 9, 1969, by members of the Charles Manson cult in the California home of Ms. Tate’s husband, the director Roman Polanski, who was away. Mr. Jones was filming “Ryan’s Daughter” in Ireland at the time.
His year there was one of the worst of his life, he told The Chicago Tribune. He was traumatized and depressed over Ms. Tate’s death and at odds with his co-star, Sarah Miles. “I had absolutely no desire to do anything for a long time,” he said.
He appeared in only one more film — “Mad Dog Time,” a 1996 comedy in which he had a small role — as a favor to a friend, Larry Bishop, the film’s director.
Yet directors and agents sought him out for years. Ron Howard once offered him a part, Ms. McKenna said. Quentin Tarantino sent him the script of “Pulp Fiction” while casting it.
“I didn’t know who he was,” Mr. Jones said in 2000. “And I wasn’t interested.”
He made his living in later years as a painter and sculptor, Ms. McKenna said, and became deeply involved in bringing up his children, five they shared and two from previous relationships. “He wanted to be there, the way he never had it,” she said.
William Frank Jones was born in Jackson, Tenn., on Aug. 18, 1941. His father was a grocery store clerk. His mother was an artist who entered a mental hospital when he was 4 and died there when he was 19. Mr. Jones and his older brother, Bobby Joe, ended up in an orphanage.
When he came of age, Mr. Jones joined the Army then went AWOL and spent six months in jail. Finding his way to New York, he worked odd jobs, studied painting, met artists and landed a small role in the 1961 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’s “The Night of the Iguana.”
In 1965 he married Susan Strasberg, the daughter of the acting coaches Lee and Paula Strasberg. That same year he was cast in the starring role of the television series “The Legend of Jesse James,” which lasted one season. He and Ms. Strasberg divorced in 1968.
Besides Ms. McKenna, Mr. Jones is survived by his brother; four sons, Seagen, Tauer, Jeromy and Christopher, and three daughters, Calin, Delon and Jennifer Jones.
Mr. Jones’s second film, the low-budget satire “Wild in the Streets,” which remains a cult favorite, struck a nerve in a year of political upheaval and brought Mr. Jones’s looks and charisma to wide attention. In quick succession he was cast in “Three in the Attic” (1968), a tale of infidelity that also starred Yvette Mimieux; “The Looking Glass War” (1969), a spy thriller based on a John le Carré novel; and “Brief Season,” a story of star-crossed love.
His stardom peaked in 1969 when David Lean, the director of “Doctor Zhivago,” cast him as the romantic lead in “Ryan’s Daughter.” Mr. Jones portrayed a brooding British army officer who becomes involved with an Irish woman (Ms. Miles) married to an older man (Robert Mitchum).
The movie was a box-office hit but received mixed reviews, and Lean himself considered it a disappointment, according to Kevin Brownlow’s biography of him. He and Mr. Jones had many conflicts on the set, but despite that, he told Mr. Brownlow, he found something special about Mr. Jones.
“He had this extraordinary quality of screen personality,” Lean said, “which I always find terribly difficult to describe, or even to understand.”
GLORIA LEONARD, PUBLISHER AND PORNOGRAPHY STAR
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIKFEB. 5, 2014
- Gloria Leonard, who became a pornographic film star in her 30s and then a men’s magazine publisher and a prominent spokeswoman for her industry, died on Monday in Waimea, Hawaii. She was 73.
The cause was a stroke, her daughter, Robin Leonardi, said.
Ms. Leonard took a decidedly atypical path into pornographic movies in the 1970s, a time many in the industry now regard as its golden age, when films had story lines and actors enjoyed some crossover appeal with mainstream audiences. She was a divorced single mother, much older than most starlets and had held other jobs, including as a Wall Street broker and publicist.
“I was a fairly liberated lady, and I figured this would be the supreme test of just how liberated I really was,” she told The Miami Herald in 1983.
Her first credited role was in “The Opening of Misty Beethoven” (1976), Radley Metzger’s erotic reimagining of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion.” She went on to appear in dozens of films, including “Odyssey: The Ultimate Trip” (1977), directed by Gerard Damiano of “Deep Throat” fame, and “All About Gloria Leonard” (1978), based on her memoirs, which she also directed.
Ms. Leonard’s background in public relations, as well as her high profile on screen, led to her hiring as the publisher of the men’s magazine High Society in 1977, a job she held for more than a decade while continuing to appear in and direct films.
One feature she introduced to the magazine showcased risqué photos of celebrities like Jodie Foster and Goldie Hawn, usually lifted from film stills. “We were sued by a number of celebrities, including Barbra Streisand and Ann-Margret, and we won every case,” Ms. Leonard said in an interview with The Rialto Report, a website and podcast dedicated to pornographic cinema. A sultry recording of her voice on an answering machine previewing the magazine’s next issue proved so popular that it inspired the magazine’s Living Centerfold Telephone Service, one of the first phone-sex lines, in 1983. About 500,000 to 700,000 callers each day paid to listen to recorded messages on answering machines.
Ms. Leonard defended the pornography industry and her participation in it, appearing on talk shows and in debates on college campuses with feminists who regarded the business as misogynistic.
“I said the whole point of the women’s movement is for women to choose whatever they want to do,” she said “Why should my choice be considered any less or more valid than your choice?”
Ms. Leonard was born Gale Sandra Klinetsky in the Bronx on Aug. 28, 1940. Her first two marriages ended in divorce. She was separated from her third husband, Bobby Hollander, a producer and director of pornographic films, when he died in 2002.
After she left High Society, Ms. Leonard was the administrative director of the Adult Film Association from 1989 to 1992. In 1998 she became president of the Free Speech Coalition, a pornography industry trade group. At her death she lived in Hawi, Hawaii.
Besides her daughter, Ms. Leonard is survived by a granddaughter.
Ms. Leonard said that she had no regrets about her career, but that she thought the sex-film industry had been cheapened by the ubiquity of video. Anyone with a video camera “can rent a hotel room and make a porno these days,” she told The Rialto Report. She added, “I don’t know that anyone will remember the girls of today’s porn.”