IN REMEMBRANCE: 5-4-2014

EFREM ZIMBALIST, JR., STAR OF ’77 SUNSET STRIP’ AND ‘THE F.B.I.’

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in the television series “The F.B.I.” in 1968. Credit ABC, via Getty Images

His son, Efrem Zimbalist III, confirmed the death, saying that his father had been outside watering his lawn when a handyman found him lying in the grass.

“He was healthy, playing golf three days a week, and always in his garden,” his son said.

Mr. Zimbalist personified the suave and unflappable leading man as an Ivy League-educated private eye on the lighthearted “77 Sunset Strip” and as a stalwart agent who always got his man on “The F.B.I.,” which ran for nine seasons and made him a household name. “The F.B.I.” was unquestioning in its support of the agency it depicted, and both on screen and off, Mr. Zimbalist became its unofficial symbol.

His life imitated his art. Politically conservative, he was a strong defender of J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I.’s director, and a close friend of Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Zimbalist at the Hollywood History Museum in 2003, with the golden gun from “The F.B.I.,” the television show he starred in. Credit Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images

Although he had some success in movies, big-screen stardom eluded him; he did his most memorable work on television, a medium he sometimes resented but always understood.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was born on Nov. 30, 1918, in New York City. In a 1959 interview with The New York Times, he said his unusual surname was good for at least one thing: “It’s kept me out of westerns. I can’t imagine a Hopalong Zimbalist.”

He was proud of his name, and of his heritage. His father, born in Russia, was a violinist and composer who became the director of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His mother was the concert soprano Alma Gluck.

After graduating from prep school, Mr. Zimbalist attended Yale University, where he led the life of a bon vivant. He was expelled, reinstated and expelled again for low grades, and he amassed, by his account, thousands of dollars of debt at New Haven haberdasheries and gourmet shops.

He then worked as an NBC page (a fellow page was Thomas Merton, who would achieve literary fame after he became a Trappist monk) and studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, where Gregory Peck was also a student.

In 1941, he enlisted in the Army. He received the Purple Heart after being wounded in the battle of Hürtgen Forest, on the German-Belgian border.

After returning to New York, he made his Broadway debut in “The Rugged Path,” starring Spencer Tracy. Later roles included one opposite Eva Le Gallienne in “Hedda Gabler.”

Mr. Zimbalist augmented his budding stage career by producing three lyric operas by Gian Carlo Menotti. The double bill of “The Medium” and “The Telephone” was a popular success, and “The Consul” won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1950.

That year Mr. Zimbalist’s wife of five years, Emily, died of cancer, and he stopped acting to work for his father at the Curtis Institute. In 1954, he returned to New York, where he appeared on the NBC soap opera “Concerning Miss Marlowe.” That led to a contract with Warner Brothers and roles in a handful of movies, most notably “Band of Angels,” starring Clark Gable.

When Mr. Zimbalist was first approached to star in “77 Sunset Strip,” he resisted. “I fought doing this series for six months, but I lost,” he told Time magazine in 1959. By then the show was a certifiable hit, but Mr. Zimbalist was ambivalent about the work.

“As long as they don’t bounce me back a hundred years into a Wyatt Earp episode, I may survive,” he said. “I am in no position to say as much for the viewer.”

Despite his mixed feelings, Mr. Zimbalist remained the stable center of the series, which won a Golden Globe in 1960. He and Roger Smith starred as private eyes but found themselves both playing straight man to the show’s most popular character, Kookie, a jive-talking parking attendant played by Edd Byrnes.

“77 Sunset Strip” was on the air until 1963, although in its final season, Mr. Zimbalist was the only original cast member left. He was soon back on television again, this time more willingly.

“I didn’t choose to make my first series, but I did my second,” he wrote in his memoir, “My Dinner of Herbs” (Limelight, 2003), “and the rewards from both have been something I wouldn’t willingly forgo.”

“The F.B.I.,” on the air from 1965 until 1974, provided a respite from the social upheaval of the era and captured the imagination of viewers, if not the respect of critics. As Inspector Lewis Erskine, stalker of cheats, Communists and counterfeiters, Mr. Zimbalist was a stoic and dignified presence. With its emphasis on procedure and its impersonal characters, the series prefigured crime dramas like the “Law & Order” franchise.

Mr. Zimbalist also kept a hand in music, writing an eight-part choral setting of the 150th Psalm, among other works. Mr. Zimbalist’s father converted from Judaism to Christianity when he came to the United States, and the family embraced the Episcopal faith. Raised an Episcopalian, Mr. Zimbalist was a frequent contributor to the Trinity Broadcast Network. Mr. Zimbalist’s later television work included a recurring role on the detective series “Remington Steele,” which starred his daughter Stephanie. He also provided voices for cartoon series like “Batman” (he was Alfred, the butler) and “Spider-Man” (he was Dr. Octopus).

He played a blinded airline pilot in the film “Airport 1975” and spoofed his own sophisticated image in the comedy “Hot Shots!” (1991). His most memorable movie appearance was as Audrey Hepburn’s husband in the 1967 thriller “Wait Until Dark.”

Mr. Zimbalist’s second wife, Loranda Stephanie Spalding, died in 2007. In 2012, his daughter from his first marriage, Nancy, died of cancer.

Besides his daughter from his second marriage, Stephanie, and his son, Mr. Zimbalist is survived by four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In 2008, a few weeks before he turned 90, Mr. Zimbalist was given a surprise birthday party by his daughter Stephanie. Guests included many of his friends and former co-stars, among them James Garner, Rhonda Fleming and his “77 Sunset Strip” colleague Mr. Smith. The entertainment was a selection of clips from his career. “I feel,” Mr. Zimbalist said at the time, “like I was in heaven for a day and back.”

Correction: May 3, 2014
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the day of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s death. It was Friday, not Saturday. It also misstated Mr. Zimbalist’s religious background. His father, not Mr. Zimbalist, was born into the Jewish faith and converted to Christianity. And it misspelled the surname of the actress Mr. Zimbalist played opposite in “Hedda Gabler” on Broadway. She was Eva Le Gallienne, not Le Galliene.SOURCE

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AL FELDSTEIN, THE SOUL OF MAD MAGAZINE

Al Feldstein in 1972. Credit Jerry Mosey/Associated Press

His wife, the former Michelle Key, confirmed the death. In recent years, he was a wildlife and landscape painter in Montana, outside Livingston.

Mr. Feldstein had been a writer and illustrator of comic books when he became editor of Mad four years into its life and just a year after it had graduated from comic-book form to a full-fledged magazine.

The founding editor, Harvey Kurtzman, established its well-informed irreverence, but Mr. Feldstein gave Mad its identity as a smart-alecky, sniggering and indisputably clever spitball-shooter of a publication with a scattershot look, dominated by gifted cartoonists of wildly differing styles.

Sources disagree about Mad’s circulation when Mr. Feldstein took over; estimates range from 325,000 to 750,000. But by the early 1960s, he increased it to over a million, and a decade later it had doubled.

Photo

The December 1974 issue featured a Nixon-Agnew parody of “The Sting.” Credit E.C. Publications

He hired many of the writers and artists whose work became Mad trademarks. Among them were Don Martin, whose cartoons featuring bizarre human figures and distinctive sound effects — Katoong! Sklortch! Zazik! — immortalized the eccentric and the screwy; Antonio Prohias, whose “Spy vs. Spy” was a sendup of the international politics of the Cold War; Dave Berg, whose “The Lighter Side of …” made gentle, arch fun of middlebrow behavior; and Mort Drucker, whose caricatures satirized movies like Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” (“Henna and Her Sickos” in Mad’s retelling).

Another hire, George Woodbridge, illustrated a Mad signature article written by Tom Koch: a prescient 1965 satire of college sports, criticizing their elitism and advocating the creation of a game that could be played by everyone. It was called 43-Man Squamish, “played on a five-sided field called a Flutney.” Position players, each equipped with a hooked stick called a frullip, included deep brooders, inside and outside grouches, overblats, underblats, quarter-frummerts, half-frummerts a full-frummert and a dummy.

“The offensive team, upon receiving the Pritz, has five Snivels in which to advance to the enemy goal,” Mr. Koch wrote, part of a nonsensical and hopelessly complicated instruction manual that nonetheless inspired the formation of squamish teams on campuses across the country.

In his second issue, Mr. Feldstein seized on a character who had appeared only marginally in the magazine — a freckled, gaptoothed, big-eared, glazed-looking young man — and put his image on the cover, identifying him as a write-in candidate for president campaigning under the slogan “What — me worry?”

At first he went by Mel Haney, Melvin Cowznofski and other names. But when the December 1956 issue, No. 30, identified him as Alfred E. Neuman, the name stuck. He became the magazine’s perennial cover boy, appearing in dozens of guises, including as a joker on a playing card, an ice-skating barrel jumper, a totem on a totem pole, a football player, a yogi, a construction worker, King Kong atop the Empire State Building, Rosemary’s baby, Uncle Sam, General Patton and Barbra Streisand.

Neuman became the symbol of Mad, his goofy countenance often intruding, Zelig-like, into scenes from the political landscape and from popular television shows and movies. He signaled the magazine’s editorial attitude, which fell somewhere between juvenile nose-thumbing at contemporary culture and sophisticated spoofing.

Mad made fun of itself as well. The staff was referred to on the masthead as “the usual gang of idiots,” and the magazine warned readers not to take it seriously even as it winkingly promoted its importance. Its irreverence made it especially popular with teenagers — many comedians have confessed to slavering over issues in their adolescence — and in its tone and fearless targeting of sacred cows it anticipated social satire vehicles like The Harvard Lampoon, National Lampoon, “Saturday Night Live,” “The Simpsons,” “South Park” and The Onion.

Albert Bernard Feldstein was born on Oct. 24, 1925, in Brooklyn, to Max and Beatrice Feldstein. His father made dental molds. Attracted to drawing as a boy, Al won a poster contest sponsored by the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

He attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan and, after graduating, took classes at the Art Students League. He also worked part time for a studio that produced comic books. During World War II, he served stateside in the Army Air Forces.

After the war, Mr. Feldstein was a freelance writer and illustrator before going to work for William M. Gaines, the publisher of EC, short for Educational Comics and, later, Entertaining Comics. At EC, Mr. Feldstein created Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Tales From the Crypt and several other horror and suspense titles.

Mr. Gaines also published a comic book, full of irreverent and sometimes juvenile humor, called Mad, the brainchild of Mr. Kurtzman, and a second humor-based comic, Panic, an offshoot of Mad, edited by Mr. Feldstein.

The early 1950s were a grim time for comic books. Moralizing newspaper columnists and eventually Congress attacked them as having a corrupting influence on America’s youth. When Mr. Feldstein’s horror books were singled out, EC nearly went out of business, and in 1955 Mr. Feldstein temporarily lost his job.

Mad began to flourish under Mr. Kurtzman, but he and Mr. Gaines clashed, and when Mr. Kurtzman left in 1956, Mr. Gaines hired Mr. Feldstein to replace him. He was its editor until 1985.

By then Mad was a victim of its own success. With its brand of satire increasingly available in many other publications and on television, its circulation had been in decline for a decade. Mr. Gaines, who died in 1992, sold the magazine in the early 1960s to the Kinney Parking Company, which went on to buy Warner Brothers and the company now known as DC Comics as well.

Today, Mad, published by the DC Entertainment division of Warner Communications, has a much lower circulation than it did at its peak, but an active and popular website.

After his retirement from Mad, Mr. Feldstein pursued a painting career in Montana and had exhibitions in galleries in the West.

His first marriage, to Clair Szep, ended in divorce. His second, to Natalie Sonia Sigler, ended with her death in 1986.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, two stepsons, a stepdaughter and five step-grandchildren.

As editor of Mad, Mr. Feldstein had a palpable influence on popular culture at large. To cite just one example, in 1965 Mad published letters and photographs from college students who said they had been inspired by the squamish article to field teams. (Whether this was true or not is difficult to prove.) One letter writer, from Marquette University, said the school had its own squamish team, and that “at last tally, we have lost two Deep Brooders and one Dummy, who were suspended for sportsmanlike conduct during the course of play.”

Correction: May 1, 2014
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the subject’s surname in the headline. As the article correctly noted, he is Al Feldstein, not Goldstein.  
Correction: May 3, 2014
An obituary on Thursday about Al Feldstein, the longtime editor of Mad magazine, using information from his family, referred incorrectly to his survivors. He is survived by two daughters, two stepsons, a stepdaughter and five step-grandchildren — not five children, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren and two step-grandsons. The obituary also misstated the middle name of Mr. Feldstein’s second wife. She was Natalie Sonia Sigler, not Natalie Lee Sigler.SOURCE

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PAUL ROBESON, JR., ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR

Mr. Robeson in 1998, accepting a Grammy for his father. Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press

The cause was lymphoma, his daughter, Susan Robeson, said.

Mr. Robeson wrote two books about his father and created an archive of his writing and films. He aimed to teach new generations about his father’s radical politics and criticized those he thought misrepresented his life, including a 1978 Broadway play starring James Earl Jones, which he protested.

Mr. Robeson worked for many years as a Russian translator and served as a personal aide to his father. In his later years, he wrote books about politics and race, as well as a two-part biography of his father.

He admired his father and noted their similar political views in an interview with The New York Times in 1993 when he published his first book, “Paul Robeson Jr. Speaks to America.”

“I follow in my father’s cultural tradition,” he said, “and like him, I am a black radical.”

Paul Robeson Jr., at age 14, with his parents, Paul Sr. and Eslanda, in Enfield, Conn., in 1941. Credit Frank Bauman/Look Magazine, via Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library

Mr. Robeson was born on Nov. 2, 1927, in Brooklyn, the only child of Paul and Eslanda Robeson. As a boy, he traveled with his parents to Europe and lived with his grandmother in Moscow, where he became fluent in Russian and attended the same public school, he said, as Joseph Stalin’s daughter.

After his father’s death in 1976, Mr. Robeson began to collect his father’s correspondence, recordings and photographs for an archive, part of which is housed at Howard University.

When the play “Paul Robeson,” opened on Broadway in 1978, Mr. Robeson and several African-American leaders, including Maya Angelou and Julian Bond, published a letter in Variety calling it a “pernicious perversion of the essence of Paul Robeson.” The play, written by Phillip Hayes Dean, who died earlier this month, did not emphasize Mr. Robeson’s socialist views, they argued, in order to appeal to a mass audience.

The show closed after 77 performances, but it returned to Broadway in 1988 and 1995, with Avery Brooks in the title role. During the first revival, Mr. Robeson said that the production had improved but added, “I still feel the character as written is a counterfeit.”

Mr. Robeson served as a consultant for several films about his father, including a 1999 documentary for the PBS series “American Masters.”

His first book on his father, published in 2001, followed an earlier biography by Martin Duberman. It read “like Paul Jr.’s attempt to correct the story of his father’s life as told by Duberman,” a review in The New York Times said. “In the end, however, it adds little and omits a great deal from the earlier biography.”

Besides his daughter, Mr. Robeson is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and a grandson.

Mr. Robeson was tall and athletic like his father; both men played football in college. While they had much in common, he said one difference was that he was a member of the Communist Party from 1948 to 1962 while his father never joined the party. (During the McCarthy era, his father faced F.B.I. surveillance after he criticized the government.)

Asked whether it was difficult being in his father’s shadow, Mr. Robeson said that his father once told him: “If you want to be somebody, you’re going to have to be yourself. You can’t copy anybody else, especially me.”

“So I never remember having any need to compete with him,” Mr. Robeson said. “He gave me a sense of being my own man.”

SOURCE

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BOB HOSKINS, AN ACTOR WHO COMBINED CHARM AND MENACE

Bob Hoskins with Jessica Rabbit and Roger Rabbit from the 1988 film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Credit Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Amblin Entertainment

A spokeswoman, Clair Dobbs, released a statement by his family on Wednesday saying that he had died in a hospital, where he had been treated for pneumonia. No other details were given. A much-honored, Oscar-nominated actor, Mr. Hoskins announced his retirement in August 2012 after learning he had Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Hoskins virtually stumbled into acting and then found early acclaim as the kind of ruthless British gangster he played in 1980 in his startling breakthrough feature, “The Long Good Friday,” and later in Neil Jordan’s 1986 film “Mona Lisa,” a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. But his filmography also included more playful roles.

He was the pirate Smee in two variations of “Peter Pan” — Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” in 1991 and “Neverland,” a British television production, in 2011. He played Cher’s unlikely love match in “Mermaids” (1990). And he voiced Charles Dickens’s Old Fezziwig in the 2009 animated version of “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Mr. Hoskins with Cher in “Mermaids” (1990). Credit Orion Pictures, via Photofest

It was Mr. Zemeckis who cast Mr. Hoskins as the cartoon-hating pulp-fictional detective Eddie Valiant in the landmark hybrid “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Mr. Hoskins shared the screen with animated characters, including the voluptuous Jessica Rabbit, voiced by Kathleen Turner.

In a 2009 interview with The Telegraph of London, Mr. Hoskins said his doctor had advised him to take five months off after finishing the film.

“I think I went a bit mad while working on that,” he said. “Lost my mind. The voice of the rabbit was there just behind the camera all the time. You had to know where the rabbit would be at every angle. Then there was Jessica Rabbit and all these weasels. The trouble was, I had learnt how to hallucinate.”

Mr. Hoskins received a number of prestigious acting awards over his four-decade career, including the Bafta award, the Golden Globe and the Cannes Film Festival prize as best actor for “Mona Lisa,” in which he played an ex-convict hired by a crime boss to act as chauffeur and bodyguard for a high-priced call girl (Cathy Tyson).

He also received an International Emmy Award for episodes of “The Street” (2009); the Canadian Genie Award for the director Atom Egoyan’s “Felicia’s Journey” (1999), based on the William Trevor novel; and a Screen Actors Guild nomination as part of the cast of Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” (1995)in which he played J. Edgar Hoover.

 Mr. Hoskins with Cathy Tyson in “Mona Lisa” (1986). Credit Island Pictures

Survivors include his wife, the former Linda Banwell; their children, Rosa and Jack; and two children, Alex and Sarah, from his first marriage, to Jane Livesey.

Robert William Hoskins was born on Oct. 26, 1942, in the historic Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds, to which his mother, Elsie Lillian, had been evacuated during heavy bombing in World War II. An only child, he was reared in London, where his father, Robert, was a bookkeeper and his mother was a cook at a nursery school.

After leaving school at 15, he worked as a porter, truck driver and window cleaner. He took a course in accounting but dropped out.

Then, in 1968, he accompanied a friend to an acting audition where he was mistaken for a candidate and was asked to read for a part. He was offered the lead.

As soon as he started acting, he said, he knew it was for him.

Bob Hoskins in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” (1991). Credit Murray Close/Tri-Star Pictures

“I fit into this business like a sore foot into a soft shoe,” he told The Telegraph in 2009. “But when I started I thought, ‘Christ, I ought to learn to act now I’m doing this for a living.’ I was a completely untrained, ill-educated idiot. So I read Stanislavsky, but I thought it was all so obvious. Same with Strasberg. He just seemed to be saying look busy. Impress the boss. I soon realized actors are just entertainers, even the serious ones.”

He would find success on television, in Dennis Potter’s 1978 BBC mini-series “Pennies From Heaven”; onstage, playing Nathan Detroit in the wildly successful 1982 revival of “Guys and Dolls,” directed by Richard Eyre, at the National Theater in London; and on film, in “Mona Lisa” as well as Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” (1985) and Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” (1984), in which he played the British-born gangster Owney Madden.

The 1990s, however, brought projects that he considered the low points of his career. In one, he replaced Danny DeVito in “Super Mario Bros.,” a 1993 film he dismissed as “a nightmare.” (He once joked that Mr. DeVito might play the title role should a movie ever be made about Mr. Hoskins’s life.) Another disappointment was “The Secret Agent,” Christopher Hampton’s 1996 adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel. Mr. Hoskins blamed 20th Century Fox for not adequately supporting the film, which drew poor reviews.

“I was very proud of it,” he said in a 1998 interview with the British newspaper The Independent. “Conrad is merciless. He don’t give you any sympathy for any of the characters. It’s very slow, it’s very laborious, but very good.

“Fox killed it stone dead. I think they thought they were getting a Victorian James Bond. But if you look at Conrad and you look at me, you know different.”

Bob Hoskins in 2009. Credit Daniel Deme/European Pressphoto Agency

He went on to star in “TwentyFourSeven,” a 1997 film directed by Shane Meadows, a portly and bald man whom Mr. Hoskins described as his fellow “cube.” He played Alan Darcy, a loner who organizes idle working-class youths into a boxing club.

It was a role Mr. Hoskins called “a wonderful study in loneliness.”

“To play a character as tough as this and yet to portray this socially crippled character was the biggest challenge I’ve had in years,” he added. “I’ll tell you this. This film is more important to me than anything I’ve ever done.”

One of the more widely circulated and humorous anecdotes about Mr. Hoskins involved a film he wasn’t in at all: Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” (1987).

During preparation for filming, Mr. Hoskins had been asked to come to Los Angeles to talk about playing Al Capone, a part that eventually went to Robert De Niro. In fact, as Mr. Hoskins told the story, Mr. De Palma was quite straightforward about the fact that he really wanted Mr. De Niro, but that Mr. De Niro’s price was creating consternation at Paramount. Mr. Hoskins was engaged as a backup, in the event the studio could not come to terms with Mr. De Niro.

Sometime afterward, Mr. Hoskins received a check for £20,000 and a thank-you note from Mr. De Palma.

“I phoned him up,” Mr. Hoskins recalled, “and I said, ‘Brian, if you’ve ever got any other films you don’t want me in, son, you just give me a call.’ ”

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