IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-11-2015


OCT. 5, 2015

Grace Lee Boggs in “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” a film that premiered on PBS last year. Credit LeeLee Films, Inc.

Grace Lee Boggs, one of the nation’s oldest human rights activists, who waged a war of inspiration for civil rights, labor, feminism, the environment and other causes for seven decades with an unflagging faith that revolutionary justice was just around the corner, died on Monday at her home in Detroit. She was 100.

Her death was confirmed by Alice Jennings, her friend and legal trustee.

Born to Chinese immigrants, Ms. Boggs was an author and philosopher who planted gardens on vacant lots, founded community organizations and political movements, marched against racism, lectured widely on human rights and wrote books on her evolving vision of a revolution in America.

Her odyssey took her from the streets of Chicago as a tenant organizer in the 1940s to arcane academic debates about the nature of communism, from the confrontational tactics of Malcolm X and the Black Power movement to the nonviolent strategies of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and finally to her own manifesto for change — based not on political and economic upheavals but on community organizing and resurgent moral values.

Ms. Boggs and her husband, James. Credit LeeLee Films, Inc.

I think that too much of our emphasis on struggle has simply been in terms of confrontation and not enough recognition of how much spiritual and moral force is involved in the people who are struggling,” Ms. Boggs told Bill Moyers in a PBS interview in 2007. “We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently.

Many of her ideas were explored in “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” a documentary that was part of a film project by the director Grace Lee about people who shared her name. It premiered on PBS in 2014.

Early in her career, Ms. Boggs translated works by Karl Marx. She joined and quit the Workers Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Trotskyite movement, and collaborated with the revolutionaries C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya and others in tortuous dialectical analyses that described the Soviet Union variously as “a degenerated workers’ state,” a “state capitalist” system and “autonomous Marxism.”

Early in her career, Ms. Boggs translated works by Karl Marx. She joined and quit the Workers Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Trotskyite movement, and collaborated with the revolutionaries C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya and others in tortuous dialectical analyses that described the Soviet Union variously as “a degenerated workers’ state,” a “state capitalist” system and “autonomous Marxism.”

In 1953, she moved to Detroit and married James Boggs, a black autoworker, writer and radical activist. The city, with its large black population, racial inequalities and auto industry in its postwar heyday, seemed poised for changes, and the couple focused on African-Americans, women and young people as vanguards of a social movement.

For years they also identified closely with Black Power advocates across the country. Malcolm X stayed with them on visits to Detroit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was said to have monitored their activities. When arson fires and rioting erupted in the city in 1967, Ms. Boggs described the violence as a rebellion against rising unemployment and police brutality.

“What we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest of a people against injustice,” she told Mr. Moyers. But the violence, she said, also became “a turning point in my life, because until that time I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution.

Ms. Boggs eventually adopted Dr. King’s nonviolent strategies and in Detroit, which remained her base for the rest of her life, fostered Dr. King’s vision of “beloved communities,” striving for racial and economic justice through nonconfrontational methods. As Detroit’s economy and population declined sharply over the years, Ms. Boggs became a prominent symbol of resistance to the spreading blight.

She founded food cooperatives and community groups to support the elderly, organize unemployed workers and fight utility shut-offs. She devised tactics to combat crime, including protests outside known crack houses, and in columns for a local weekly newspaper, The Michigan Citizen, she promoted civic reforms.

In 1992, she co-founded Detroit Summer, a youth program that still draws volunteers from all over the country to repair homes, paint murals, organize music festivals and turn vacant lots into community gardens. In 2013 she opened the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, a charter elementary school.

Grace Lee was born above her father’s Chinese restaurant in Providence, R.I., on June 27, 1915. Her father, Chin Lee, later owned a popular restaurant near Times Square in Manhattan. Although illiterate in English, her mother, Yin Lan Lee, was a strong feminist role model.

Grace Lee grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. A brilliant scholar, she enrolled at 16 at Barnard College, graduated in 1935 with a degree in philosophy, and in 1940 earned a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College.

Influenced by the German philosophers Kant and especially Hegel, a precursor of Marx, she resolved to devote her life to change in a nation of inequalities and discrimination against minorities and women. In 1941, discouraged about prospects for a college teaching position, she found a library job at the University of Chicago, and she was soon organizing protests against slum housing.

In 1945 she published her first book, “George Herbert Mead: Philosopher of the Social Individual,” about the American scholar regarded as a founder of social psychology.

Returning to New York, she immersed herself in radical politics, joined socialist groups and wrote for leftist publications. But it was her marriage to Mr. Boggs and her move to Detroit that transformed her political philosophies into life as an activist.

Ms. Boggs and her husband, who died in 1993, had no children. No immediate family members survive.

Her other books included “Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century” (1974, with Mr. Boggs), “Women and the Movement to Build a New America” (1977), “Living for Change: An Autobiography” (1998) and “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century” (2011, with Scott Kurashige).

In her last book, Ms. Boggs aligned herself with revolutionaries in the spirit of Thoreau, Gandhi and Dr. King. “We are not subversives,” she wrote. “We are struggling to change this country because we love it.”




OCT. 6, 2015

PARIS — Chantal Akerman, the Belgian director whose ruminative, meticulous observation of women’s inner lives, often using long takes, made her a pioneer in feminist and experimental filmmaking, died here on Monday. She was 65.

Chantal Akerman at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard in 1998. Credit Evan Richman for The New York Times

Sylviane Akerman, her sister and only immediate survivor, confirmed her death, saying the cause was not immediately known.

Friends said that Ms. Akerman had been in a dark emotional state after the death of her mother last year, and that she had had breakdowns. She had recently been hospitalized for depression, returning home to Paris 10 days ago, her sister said.

Gilles Jacob, the former head of the Cannes Film Festival, wrote in a Twitter post that Ms. Akerman “could not stand to live one more second,” echoing friends and relatives of Ms. Ackerman’s, who told European news outlets that the death was a suicide.

Ms. Akerman’s latest film, “No Home Movie,” is currently showing at the New York Film Festival, which she had been expected to attend. Her most commercial film, “A Couch in New York,” about an apartment swap between a New York psychologist and a young Parisian woman, starring William Hurt and Juliette Binoche, was released in 1996.

Juliette Binoche, William Hurt and Edgar the dog in “A Couch in New York,” a 1996 film directed by Chantal Akerman. Credit BMG Independents

Born in Brussels on June 6, 1950, to Holocaust survivors from Poland, Ms. Akerman was inspired to begin making films as a teenager after seeing Jean-Luc Godard’s “Pierrot le Fou” (1965), a genre-crossing depiction of alienation and romantic abandon.

She was 25 when she made her groundbreaking “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975). That film, which runs more than three hours, follows a widowed housewife as she prepares food, does chores and receives a gentleman who pays her for sex. The minimalist repetition builds quietly to a traumatic climax.a new way of telling stories, a new way of telling time,” said Nicola Mazzanti, the director of the Royal Belgian Film Archive. “There are filmmakers who are good, filmmakers who are great, filmmakers who are in film history. And then there are a few filmmakers who change film history.”

Directors like Todd Haynes, Sally Potter and Michael Haneke have credited Ms. Akerman as a major influence. J. Hoberman, a former film critic for The Village Voice, likened her to Mr. Godard and to the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, calling her “arguably the most important European director of her generation.”

From the outset, Ms. Akerman was captivated by the violence that can erupt from the quotidian. Her first film, “Saute Ma Ville” (“Blow Up My City”), was a 13-minute black-and-white short that she made at 18 after dropping out of film school in Belgium. With a voice-over of cheerful humming and singing, the film shows her dancing about her kitchen, then leaning her head on gaslit burners before the screen goes dark and the room explodes.

Angst and alienation permeate Ms. Akerman’s films, which numbered more than 40. She sought to break free of linear narratives and direct explication in both her cinematic essays and her documentary work, preferring instead to leave essential things unsaid. The generational trauma of the Holocaust was a continuing theme, though below the surface. In recent decades she explored her own Jewish identity.

“No Home Movie” captures long conversations between Ms. Akerman and her ailing mother, Natalia, an Auschwitz survivor who died in 2014.

Delphine Seyrig in the 1975 film “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.” Credit Paradise Films

Making the film, which circles around her mother’s inability to talk about her experience at the death camp, took a heavy emotional toll on Ms. Akerman. “I think if I knew I was going to do this, I wouldn’t have dared to do it,” she told The New York Times in a recent interview.

“No Home Movie” was booed at a press screening at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, although it was well received at a public screening.

“Many people never understood her cinema,” Mr. Mazzanti said. He likened some critical comments to the way some people look at a drip painting by Jackson Pollock “and say, ‘I could do that.’ ”

Her most recent feature film was “Almayer’s Folly” (2011), an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s first novel, which she shot in Cambodia. She also directed “The Captive” (2000), an adaptation from Proust, whose work, she said, had always been important to her.

Her other films include “News From Home” (1977), a cinematic version of letters home from her time in New York; “A Whole Night” (1982), about the tug of war between lovers; and a number of travelogues, which took her to post-Communist Eastern Europe in “From the East” (1993), the American South in “South” (1999) and Israel in “Over There” (2006).

Ms. Akerman also worked in video. Her 2007 video installation, “Women From Antwerp in November,” which depicts moody women smoking in that Belgian city, was shown at the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York as well as in London.

Ms. Akerman joined City College in New York as a visiting lecturer in 2011 but was not teaching this semester.

Mr. Mazzanti recalled asking Ms. Akerman how she had edited “Hotel Monterey,” her 1972 silent film about a Lower Manhattan hotel.

“She said: ‘I was breathing, and then at one point I understood it was the time to cut. It was my breathing that decided the length of my shots,’ ” he said. “That’s Chantal Akerman. She breathed through the films. She was cinema.”

Correction: October 6, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the name of one of Ms. Akerman’s films. It is “Women From Antwerp in November,” not “Women From Antwerp.” Because of an editing error, the earlier version also misidentified the institution that Ms. Akerman joined as a visiting lecturer. It is City College of New York, not City College of London.

Correction: October 7, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to the showing of Ms. Akerman’s “No Home Movie” at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland at which it was booed. It was a press screening, not a premiere.
OCT. 7, 2015
Kevin Corcoran, a child actor for Walt Disney in the 1950s and ’60s who appeared in films like “Old Yeller” before moving behind the camera to work in production, died on Tuesday in Burbank, Calif. He was 66.

Kevin Corcoran in the 1957 Disney film “Old Yeller.” Credit Walt Disney Productions

The cause was colorectal cancer, his niece Karnel Watkins said.

Known as Moochie (a nickname supposedly bestowed by Walt Disney himself) during much of his performing career, Mr. Corcoran began acting soon after he could walk, usually playing an irrepressible, high-pitched youngster in television shows like “The Ford Television Theater” in the early 1950s.

“He was the quintessential bratty kid brother or mischievous moppet,” the critic Donald Liebenson wrote about Mr. Corcoran in The Los Angeles Times in 2000.

He was first called Moochie in 1956 on “Adventures in Dairyland,” a serial shown on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” and went by that name in films like “The Shaggy Dog” (1959) and other Disney serials, including “Moochie of Pop Warner Football” and “Moochie of the Little League.”

Mr. Corcoran also played characters not named Moochie in three family-oriented films released in 1960: “Pollyanna,” with Hayley Mills and Jane Wyman; “Swiss Family Robinson,” with John Mills and Dorothy McGuire; and “Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With a Circus,” with James Drury and a chimpanzee.

Three years earlier he had made audiences sob in “Old Yeller,” the coming-of-age story of two farm boys (Mr. Corcoran and his fellow Disney child star Tommy Kirk) whose beloved dog becomes rabid; Fess Parker played their father. Mr. Corcoran and Mr. Kirk reprised their roles in a sequel, “Savage Sam” (1963).

By the late 1960s Mr. Corcoran was ready to leave acting. He told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2012 that he knew it was time to quit when a director and producer were unable to delineate a character they wanted him to play.

“Then it hit me,” he said. “You know what? I know more about making movies than the guy making this picture. I’m done acting.”

Mr. Corcoran stayed in show business, but on the other side of the camera. He worked in different capacities, usually as an assistant director, on shows that ranged far from Disney fare, including “Baywatch” and “Sons of Anarchy.”

Kevin Anthony Corcoran was born in Santa Monica, Calif., on June 10, 1949, to Kathleen and William Henry Corcoran. He was discovered on the MGM lot, where his father worked as a security guard.

Most of his seven siblings acted — without undue pressure, he said.

“My folks were very down to earth,” Mr. Corcoran said in 2000. “Some people’s families are in the delicatessen business. My family was in the picture business.”

Mr. Corcoran graduated from a Roman Catholic high school in Los Angeles before receiving a bachelor’s degree in theater from California State University, Northridge.

In 1972 he married Laura Soltwedel, with whom he lived in Los Angeles. She survives him, as do three sisters, Che Keene, Noreen Corcoran and Kerry del Villar, and a brother, Hugh.



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